Friday, September 26, 2008

Theology in the Context of World Christianity - Timothy C. Tennent

It's not something you think about every day, and it might not be something you have ever considered, but the center of Christianity has shifted away from the Western world to the global South and East. Initially it was hard for me to wrap my mind around this idea as I read Dr. Tim Tennent's book, but as he systematically and accessibly presents his argument I began to agree, the Church is not what I thought it was. Theological developments are being made by leaps and bounds in other parts of the world, and as thinking Christians in the West we should be looking to other Christian communities, indeed other continents as we "do" theology.

"...The lifeblood of Christianity is found in its ability to translate itself across new cultural and geographic barriers and to recognize that areas that once were the mission field can, over time, become the very heart of Christian vitality, while those areas that were once at the heart can lose the faith they once espoused...places like Lagos, Nigeria, and Seoul, South Korea, where the presence of Christianity at one time seemed almost unimaginable, are today vibrant centers of the Christian faith." (p.6)

Though this text is not brand new (2007), considering it as a textbook it is still new enough to merritt a review, and I was so impressed by Tennent's work I felt I had to mention it here.

There is much to learn from the global Church. It's easy in developed countries, where church is perfected and polished, available in a thousand flavors and expressions, to assume that we have the corner on theology. But as Tennent asserts it is often in those places that seem to be less churched where the Church is often at its most vibrant, relevant, and offering fresh insights on who God is.

This book is completely accessible for lay readers and the general audience. It looks and feels like a textbook but Tennent's passion for his beliefs come through in a powerful way. I would recommend this for Sunday School classes, Missions classes, and if you have an ambitious small group it could be used there as well.

"Those of us from the older northern churches of Christendom must listen attentively to these new southern Christians. We are no longer the only, or even the central, players on the filed. Admittedly, this is not an easy adjustment for us. We are not accustomed to living in a world where the heartlands of Christianity are located in Africa, Latin America and Asia. nevertheless, twenty-first-century Christianity will largely be determined by the faithfulness of those outside our primary sphere of influence. After all, the theology that matters the most is wherever the most Christians are located." (p. 272)

Andrew Rogers is a Promotions Manager for Zondervan. Check by every Friday for his posts on Zondervan's new books and resources.

Friday, September 19, 2008

How to be Evangelical without being Conservative - Roger Olson

"Gradually the impression has sunk into the American mind that being a conservative Christian, being evangelical, and being narrow, rigid, militant, and angry are the same."

So begins Roger Olson in How to be Evangelical without being Conservative.

In this short book Olson manages to tackle a number of religious/social/political issues that are often unnecessarily used to polarize viewpoints, while attempting to redeem words like "evangelical." Each chapter begins by asking a relevant but often unspoken question: What does it mean to "Take the Bible Seriously Without Literalism"? Or to "Celebrate America without Nationalism"? To even to be "Religionless without Secularism"?

As we enter the final stages of the Presidential race I encourage you to read this book. Olson does not present a partisan argument, but encourages readers to think beyond pundit labels and media slant. You may not agree with all of his thoughts, but his reasoned approach and personal tone are worth reading. This book also includes a glowing foreword by Scot McKnight in which he says:

"This book reminds us that the two-option approach so popular in our world today, two options that are held with utter certitude by both sides, is not always the right one. Sometimes, in fact, there is a Third Way, a way that might not be so cocksure and certain, but just might be 'Here I stand, so help me God.'"

Check back every Friday for Andrew's updates on new Zondervan resources for ministry and Bible study! Andrew Rogers is a Promotions Manager for Zondervan.

Friday, September 12, 2008

African Christian Ethics - Samuel Waje Kunhiyop

Zondervan is proud to announce the second book in the "HippoBooks" line, African Christian Ethics by Samuel Waje Kunhiyop.

HippoBooks is a shared imprint among several publishers and partners including Zondervan and African publishing houses. The vision for HippoBooks is to stimulate growth in the African Church by enabling African scholars to address their native realities from an evangelical perspective.

As the world grows smaller through the Internet and easier travel, African issues grow in importance for the Western Church. HippoBooks allow us to get a firsthand look into a larger vision of the body of Christ, and its problems, guided by trustworthy scholars.

If your church has a multi-ethnic congregation, then I would especially recommend this book to you. It's emphasis on understanding cultural sensitivities and it's concise dealing with each topic make it a handy reference tool.

Speaking of the topics, I was particularly intrigued when I saw this book because of the variety of ethical issues it covers: Church and State, War and Violence, Striking, Contraception, Polygamy, Domestic Violence, Incest, Rape, Witchcraft and many more. Often reading a non-western perspective on these topics is enlightening and gets me thinking about the Church and faith issues in new ways.

This would also be great reading for anyone travelling, even just short term. in Africa. It would also be good for students entering a missions program this fall. Kunhiyop's writing is in-depth but not overly academic. (Don't balk at the book's 400 pages, it reads much faster than it looks.)

Thanks to Baker Book House for allowing me to be a guest blogger. Check back next Friday for more news about Zondervan's ministry and Bible study resources. I'll be posting weekly and if you use any of the resources mentioned don't hesitate to leave a comment, we want to know what you think!

Andrew Rogers, Promotions Manager, Zondervan

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Visual History of the English Bible

Donald Blake's new book A Visual History of the English Bible is not only a gorgeous book but it is a stimulating history of the English Bible. Blake surveys the major English Bibles from Wycliffe to the TNIV. Beautiful illustrations are replete throughout and the personal anecdotes of the author's acquisitions of first editions and rare Bibles offer a uniquely personal touch. I especially enjoyed the discussion of the King James Version and the problems surrounding its original publication and the various editorial changes through the years. The discussion of Bible translations starts off fairly neutral but then seems to end up favoring the word-for-word style of translation. A chart provides a comparison of the the major English Bibles with the author's evaluation. Some may question how the KJV rates a "good" on "clarity of reading" which is the same evaluation given for the NASB, Good News Translation, TNIV and other contemporary translations. But this is only a minor quirk compared to the wealth of what this volume offers. This would be a great gift for any pastor or someone with an interest in the English Bible.