New in November

Blind Evolution?

The Nature of Humanity and the Origin of Life

by David Frost

Out on 26/11/2020

In Blind Evolution?: The Nature of Humanity and the Origin of Life, Professor David Frost challenges the dominant worldview derived from Darwin’s evolutionary theories and perpetuated in Richard Dawkins’s atheistic propaganda for Neo-Darwinism: that our universe has ‘at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference’.

Frost deploys recent findings from a range of scientific studies that shake Neo-Darwinism to its foundation. Citing entertaining examples, from the inner workings of a single cell to the animal kingdom at large, from elephants and giraffes to the Japanese pufferfish, Frost maintains that Darwinian premises are wholly inadequate to engage with life or to provide a framework for our experiences of joy and sorrow, the problem of suffering, and the stark realities of good and evil.

Reflecting on the nature of existence, Frost points to a mode of human understanding parallel to scientific enquiry through the path of ‘vision’ accessed via the nous (or spiritual intellect). He argues that ‘vision’ is as much essential to our understanding of creation as is scientific enquiry – reality is best approached through a complementary partnership of both.

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New in October

Hymns and Hymnody: Historical and Theological Introductions: Volume III: From the English West to the Global South

Edited by Mark A. Lamport, Benjamin K. Forrest and Vernon M. Whaley

Out on 29/10/2020

“A remarkable group of scholars provides a perceptive set of essays to orient students to the riches of Christian hymnody throughout the first twenty centuries of Christianity. What a remarkable testimony this is to the Spirit’s work in and through composers and poets throughout the centuries.”

John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary

Hymns, and the music the church sings, are tangible means of expressing worship. While worship is one of the central functions of the church (along with mission, service, education, justice, and compassion) and occupies a prime focus of our churches, a renewed sense of awareness to our theological presuppositions and cultural cues must be maintained to ensure a proper focus in worship.

Hymns and Hymnody: Historical and Theological Introductions is an introductory textbook in three volumes describing the most influential hymnists, liturgists, and musical movements of the church. This academically-grounded resource evaluates both the historical and theological perspectives of the major hymnists and composers that have impacted the church over the course of twenty centuries. Volume 3 engages nineteenth century hymnists to the contemporary movements of the twenty-first century. Each chapter contains five elements: historical background, theological perspectives communicated in their hymns/compositions, contribution to liturgy and worship, notable hymns, and bibliography. The missions of Hymns and Hymnody are to provide biographical data on influential hymn writers for students and interested laypeople, and to provide a theological analysis of what the cited composers have communicated in the theology of their hymns. It is vital for those involved in leading the worship of the church to recognize that what they communicate is in fact theology. This latter aspect is missing in accessible formats for the current literature.

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New in June

Christianity and the Christian Church of the First Three Centuries

by Ferdinand Christian Baur and Peter C. Hodgson (editor)

Out on 25/06/2020

“No historical theologian has contributed more than Baur to a rational understanding of Christian origins and history. Professor Hodgson is his outstanding English-language interpreter. His introduction and, with Robert Brown, lucid translation of this most important synthesis invites fresh assessments of modern New Testament scholarship by revisiting the origins of that discipline’s dominant paradigm.”

Robert Morgan, University of Oxford

Christianity and the Christian Church of the First Three Centuries, the first volume in Baur’s five-volume history of the Christian Church, is the most influential and best known of his many groundbreaking publications in New Testament, early Christianity, church history, and historical theology. In it, Baur discusses such matters as the entrance of Christianity into world history, the teaching and person of Jesus, the tension between Jewish Christian and gentile Christian interpretations and their resolution in the idea of the Catholic Church, the opposition of Gnosticism and Montanism to Catholicism, the development of dogma or doctrine in the first three centuries, Christianity’s relation to the pagan world and the Roman state, and Christianity as a moral and religious principle.

This new translation is translated by Robert F. Brown and Peter C. Hodgson.

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Church and World: Eusebius’s, Augustine’s, and Yoder’s Interpretations of the Constantinian Shift

by Simon P. Schmidt

Out on 25/06/2020

“There is no debate that significant shifts happened in theology, ethics, and the relationship of church and world following the advent of Constantine as the first ‘Christian emperor’. The only debate is how we are to understand these changes. This carefully researched and well-organized book is ideal to move this conversation forward. Even where readers disagree – and at places I certainly do – Schmidt carries the discussion forward through a careful naming of the pertinent issues.”

Mark Thiessen Nation, Professor of Theology Emeritus, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, author of Mem>John Howard Yoder: Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Convictions

The question of how the church is to exist ‘in but not of the world’ is a much contested current theological debate. To provide answers true to the context in which the Western church now finds itself, it is worth investigating how the question has been answered in the past. In determining what to do today, we must understand how we got here in the first place.

Church and World looks to the fourth century, at the beginning of which people were persecuted for being Christians, and persecuted for not being Christians by the end. The change during the century raised fundamental questions about the relationship between church and state and nature of good government, which are as pressing today as they have ever been. Simon P. Schmidt offers an academic investigation of how three paradigmatic theologians interpreted this so-called Constantinian shift: Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260–339), Augustine of Hippo (354–430), and John Howard Yoder (1927–1997). Surprising similarities between the theology of Eusebius and Yoder become apparent, along with the underlying theological structures of how to interpret what it looks like to be a community that follows Christ.

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New in May

Theology as Repetition: John Macquarrie in Conversation

by Stephen Foster

Out on 28/05/2020

“Originating in a series of conversations, this book exemplifies the method of ‘doing theology’ that is at the heart of this seminal international scholar’s philosophy. Using it as a means of bridging the gap between the Christian faith tradition and postmodern secularism, a basis is provided for addressing the crises that address us today. Macquarrie provides foundations by retrieving the tradition, but leaves us with pertinent questions to pursue.”

Vincent Strudwick, University of Oxford

Theology as Repetition revisits and argues for a revival of John Macquarrie’s philosophical theology. Macquarrie was a key twentieth-century theological voice and was considered a foremost interpreter and translator of Martin Heidegger’s philosophy. He then somehow fell from view. Macquarrie developed a new style of theology, grounded in a dialectical phenomenology that is a relevant voice in responding to recent trends in theology. The development of this book is partly chronological and partly thematic, and does not want to be either deductive or inductive in argument, but rather reflects Macquarrie’s phenomenologically styled new theology. The first part situates Macquarrie in relation to thinkers from the radical theology of the 1960s through to the postmodernists of the late twentieth century, while the second part explores the intersection of key themes in Macquarrie’s theology with the thinking of Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, and representative postsecular and postmodern figures, including Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-Luc Marion.

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Alexei Khomiakov: The Mystery of Sobornost

by By Artur Mrówczynski-Van Allen, Teresa Obolevitch and Pawel Rojek (editors)

Out on 28/05/2020

“Highly recommended. This volume brings to light the great relevance of Alexei Khomiakov to our postmodern context. We are indebted to the continued and frutiful collaboration of Mrówczynski-Van, Obolevitch, and Rojek.”

Aaron Riches, Benedictine College, Aitchison, Kansas

Alexei Khomiakov (1804–1860), a great Russian thinker, one of the founders of the Slavophile school of thought, nowadays might be seen as one of the precursors of critical thought on the dangers of modern political ideas. The pathologies that Khomiakov attributes to Catholicism and Protestantism – authoritarianism, individualism, and fragmentation – are today the fundamental characteristics of modern states, of the societies in which we live, and to a large extent, of the alternatives that are brought forth in an attempt to counter them. Khomiakov’s works, therefore, might help us take on the challenge of rescuing Christian thought from modern colonisation and offer a true alternative, a space for love and truth, the living experience of the church. Alexei Khomiakov serves as a step on the path toward recovering the church’s reflection on its own identity as sobornost’, the community that is the living body of Christ, and can be the next step forward toward recovering the capacity for thought from within the church.

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Persononal Reality: The mergentist Concept of Science, Evolution, and Culture (Volume One)

by Daniel Paksi

Out on 28/05/2020

“Addressed to current controversy concerning the origin and explanation of biological life and human culture, Hungarian philosopher Daniel Paksi aims to establish a coherent, scientifically grounded concept of evolutionary emergence as a more viable alternative to both reductionist materialism(s) and ontological dualism(s), providing a sounder conceptual foundation for cultural meaning. Paksi’s argument draws on philosopher-scientist Michael Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge and Samuel Alexander’s Space, Time, and Deity. Developed in dialogue with previous efforts toward this goal, Paksi articulates a hopeful intellectual vision for humankind in the twenty-first century.”

Dale Cannon, Western Oregon University

Western civilization was built on the concept of God. Today modern science, based on the critical method and so-called objective facts, denies even the existence of our soul. There is only matter: atoms, molecules, and DNA sequences. There is no freedom; there are no well-grounded beliefs. The decline of Western civilisation is not the simple consequence of decadence, hedonism, and malevolence. Modern critical science has liberated us from the old dogmas but failed to establish our freedoms, values, and beliefs.

However, human knowledge is not objective but personal. We are the children of evolution. Everybody sees the world from his own personal point of view anchored into his or her body. We use our evolutionary skills and cultural heritage to recognise and acknowledge the personal facts of our reality, freedom, and most important natural beliefs, respect and speaking the truth. In reality, even science itself is based on our personal knowledge. Only our false conceptual dichotomies paralyse our thinking.

God or matter? There is a third choice: the emergence of life and human persons. This is the only way to defend our freedoms and the Christian moral dynamism of free Western societies.

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Author Interview: Paul Gifford Towards Reconciliation

“The most stimulating and enlightening book I have read for ages, opening up René Girard in a compelling way.”

-Angela Tilby, Canon Emeritus of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford and Canon of Honour of Portsmouth Cathedral

How did you arrive at the title of Towards Reconciliation: Understanding Violence and the Sacred after René Girard?

Backwards! I knew René Girard (at Stanford University, in California).

The most interesting thing in his work ? How it helps us understand something really gigantic which baffles us all: ‘sacred violence’.Think of how we were absolutely phased to see the beheadings and crucifixions of ‘Islamic State’…What on earth…????

 And where does that take us ? ‘Towards Reconciliation’  Because, as we begin to understand where sacred violence  comes from,  we also begin to understand for the first time what getting over it (‘reconciliation’) really means. We see why,  imitating  each other’s desires; we all fall into rivalry, conflict and violence.  It’s all about the psychic ‘internet’ that links us:  already in nature..  Before www and ‘trending’ were ever dreamed of  (think of that!)

How would you describe René Girard’s influence on your thinking?

 Massive. He brought it all together. ‘Mimesis’  (that’s reciprocal imitation to you and me) is what links things up. So for instance:  the baby’s first smile (‘answering’ the mother’s smile) ;  the way the world’s stock markets ‘follow’ or ‘react to’ one other (‘New York sneezes, London catches cold’) ; the fashion industry and internet ‘trending’ (copying models of desire, styles, interests etc – and manipulating them!) ; the way we communicate (‘do you copy that, Red Leader?’); the way we are able to learn anything and everything. It’s all a matter of  imitation.

Are there any points on which you disagree with René Girard?

Not really. It’s very convincing stuff and breath-takingly original. Perhaps he concentrates more than I would on the negative side of mimesis – the shadow side.  But that’s because negative mimesis – the sort that produces two hands reaching out for the same desirable things, getting in each other’s way; falling into tit-for-tat rivalry , conflict and violence is what we least understand. And what we most need to understand!

Has the relationship between violence and the sacred changed in recent times?

 Girard says it has. Primitive peoples had rituals which disarmed the fateful dynamic of rivalry and conflict which threatened their very survival. When things got really bad, they  took a scapegoat victim; and made him/her into a ritual sacrifice to the powers above. It’s the idea of a lightning conductor taking the hit, turning aside that fearsome thunderbolt that would have destroyed the community as a whole. To ‘sacrifice’ – in that primitive sense –  is to  ‘fabricate the  sacred’. That’s mythical of course: you can’t buy off catastrophe with bloody sacrifices (though you do pacify the conflicts… for a while)

 Now, we no longer believe in the power of rituals like that. So we’re entirely exposed to lightning striking our entire house! In the shape FOR INSTANCE of: Coronavirus; climate change, floods and droughts; nuclear accident; wars between  the Haves and Have-nots…There’s an awesome lot we need to be protected from! And what do we have to protect us? Or for transforming the game (that’s another way to see ‘Reconciliation’)?

How has René Girard informed your perspective on the Passion of Christ?

Well, Girard sees it, precisely, as God’s way of ‘transforming the game’.  God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself ‘(as Apostle Paul says) . In a sense Jesus ‘takes the hit’; but the hit doesn’t come from God.(that’s a human misconception: we project our violence onto God) – and there’s  no transaction (we really must stop thinking of Jesus bargaining with God – or doing a ‘Deal’ Donald Trump-style, so as to let us off the hook!). The hit   comes from our own (blind, self-mystifying – ‘sacred’!)  – human violence: ‘They know not that they do’.

The Passion of Christ (His suffering for the world) teaches us to slip out from under that human self-mystification involved in sacred violence. It makes peace truly – without mystification. It gives us a new – and adequate – model for putting things right. And the Resurrection tells us God is in it.

Yes, the  Passion does defeat evil on a cosmic scale. When He welcomes back the first batch of 72 disciples sent out to pioneer His mission without Him, Jesus for the first time, I think — contemplates his own self- sacrificial death: ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’. Satan is the founding murder – sacred violence as foundation for our culture, our civilisation and our world. He’ll take the hit; but Satan will fall to earth, broken in his prestige, and in his hold over God’s creation.

Where do you anticipate Girard’s legacy being most apparent?

Well, he himself says he wants increasingly his work to be an argument in favour of Christianity, which is set aside, he thinks, very superficially and foolishly, by modern people. It’s what we most need!

But the fact is that it is.also . universal: you get to know why your baby smiles; why your money disappears, why governments are ‘faking it’; why Darwin isn’t the end of Christianity, but an unrecognised worker in its vineyard…It’ll tell you where real hope lies,  etc

In which aspects of everyday life could Girard’s insight be of greatest value?

 Personal relations; social interactions ; seeing the opportunity in the present Coronavirus crisis…’Redeeming’  the world for  our children and grandchildren

What does your writing process consist of?

Copy and paste, really. You ‘copy’ other writings (register them inwardly); then you  re-write (‘reciprocate’) in kind, but creatively, incorporating your own response. Then you repeat the process: you ‘copy’ your own insights; and then reciprocate and paste again, rewriting them better!

What are you currently reading?

 One of my own pieces of 2006, on laughter and humour. That’s because I used to teach French; and, yesterday,  a French radio station got in touch and said it wanted to  do a week’s broadcasting on humour throughout Europe. I have to say,  in an interview to-morrow whether  there such a thing as ‘European laughter’– or do I think  British humour is different?

What will be your next project?

At least I shall know a bit better, having studied Girard, what it is that I am doing…whatever it turns out to be!

Get your copy of Towards Reconciliation Here

New in March

Towards Reconciliation:

Understanding Violence and the Sacred after René Girard

by Paul Gifford

out on 26 of March

Why do humans sacralise the causes for which they fight? Who will decipher for us the enigma of ‘sacred violence’?

Paul Gifford shows that the culture theorist and fundamental anthropologist René Girard has in fact decoded the obscurely ‘foundational’ complicity between violence and the sacred, showing why it is everybody’s problem and the Problem of Everybody.

René Girard’s mimetic theory, especially his neglected writings on biblical texts, can be read as an anthropological argument continuous with Darwin, shedding formidable new light to a vast array of dark and knotted things: from the functioning of the world’s oldest temple to today’s terrorist violence, from the Cross of Christ to the Good Friday Agreement. Such insights illuminate superbly (‘from below’) the ways of creation, revelation, redemption – which is to say, ultimately, the Christian enterprise and vocation of Reconciliation.

Here is a novel and exciting resource for scanning the hidden ‘sacrificial’ logic that still secretly shapes cultural, social, and political life today. Girard puts us ahead of the game in the key dialogues required if we are to avoid autogenerated apocalypses of human violence in the world of tomorrow.

Available for pre-order.

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Nativity of Mary

by Brandon W. Hawk

out on 26 of March

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew is one of the most important witnesses in Western Europe to apocryphal stories about the lives of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and Mary’s parents, Anna and Joachim. This apocryphon was also used as the basis for another, the Nativity of Mary, which gained equal popularity. As bestsellers of medieval Christianity, these Latin apocrypha are major witnesses to the explosion of extra-biblical literature in the Western Middle Ages. Despite their apocryphal status, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Nativity of Mary proved influential throughout the Middle Ages and into the early modern period, as their popularity and influences may be traced in Christian literature, visual arts, liturgy, and theological perspectives still revered by Roman Catholic theologians. These apocrypha also remain significant works for considering the history of monasticism and the cult of the Virgin Mary.

The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Nativity of Mary draws upon a range of manuscript sources to present comprehensive English translations of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Nativity of Mary with full introductions and commentaries, as well as translations of related works with accompanying commentaries.

Available for pre-order.

Hymns and Hymnody Historical and Theological Introductions:

Volume I: From Asia Minor to Western Europe

edited by Mark A. Lamport, Benjamin K. Forrest and Vernon M. Whaley 

out on 26 of March

Hymns and the music the church sings are tangible means of expressing worship. As worship is one of the central functions of the church and it occupies a prime focus, a renewed sense of awareness to our theological presuppositions and cultural cues must be maintained to ensure a proper focus in worship.

Hymns and Hymnody is an introductory textbook in three volumes describing the most influential hymnists, liturgists, and musical movements of the church. This academically grounded resource evaluates both the historical and theological perspectives of the major hymnists and composers that have impacted the church over the course of twenty centuries. Volume 1 explores the early church and concludes with the Renaissance era hymnists. Each chapter contains five elements: historical background, theological perspectives communicated in their hymns/compositions, contribution to liturgy and worship, notable hymns, and bibliography. The missions of Hymns and Hymnody are to provide biographical data on influential hymn writers for students and interested laypeople, and to provide a theological analysis of what the cited composers have communicated in the theology of their hymns. It is vital for those involved in leading the worship of the church to recognize that what they communicate is in fact theology. This latter aspect is missing in accessible formats for the current literature.

Available for pre-order.

The Didache:

A Commentary

by Shawn J. Wilhite

out on 26 March

Shawn J. Wilhite’s commentary on the Didache complements the study of early Christianity through historical, literary, and theological readings of the Apostolic Fathers, seeking to be mindful of the critical while commenting on a final-form text. The Didache includes a brief introduction to this relevant text, the use of Scripture by the Didachist, and the theology of the Didache. The commentary proceeds section by section with a close ear to the text of the Didache, relevant early Christian literature, and current scholarship.

Available for pre-order.