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Ten Theology Books to Watch For – August 2021

Here are some excellent new theology books * that will be released in August 2021

* broadly interpreted, including ethics, church history, biblical studies, and other areas that intersect with theology

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Theology Books August 2021

Community as Church, Church as Community

Michael Plekon

(Cascade Books)

Parishes of all denominations are in decline, shrinking, closing, dying. We know that there are increasing numbers, young and older, who are religious “nones” and “dones.” This book explores why the decline is taking place, why the distancing is going on. But it goes on to examine parishes from all over the country and from various church bodies that are resurrecting. The central theme of death and resurrection shapes the analysis of parishes covered. Parishes are resurrecting by reinventing their ministries, by repurposing their building to better serve their neighborhoods, thus replanting and reconnecting with them. All of this is the Spirit’s doing but through the community of sisters and brothers who make up each congregation of faith. Community as the core of church is the other reality shaping the book’s reflection. And community, a parish being with those around, living for more than its own survival are visions for going forward. Other aspects of congregational life are also examined, most importantly the pastors—how they serve when budgets shrink, how they are trained, how pastors act with the community not above it. No recipes are suggested for parish resurrection, but the stories of the parishes that have revived bear within numerous lessons for us in the future.

 
Theology Books August 2021

Love as Agape: The Early Christian Concept and Modern Discourse

Oda Wischmeyer

(Baylor UP)

In our fraught global environment, when political and ideological lines are drawn ever sharper and old allegiances are increasingly strained, love for neighbor as both individual and societal obligation needs to be thematized and justified anew. At the same time, the New Testament call to love one’s enemies forms a sharp point of contrast to the current non-culture of hatred for all things different and foreign.

Oda Wischmeyer’s Love as Agape: The Early Christian Concept and Modern Discourse, the ninth volume in the Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity series, aims to bring the New Testament concept of love into conversation with the current discussion about love. Wischmeyer investigates the commandment tradition of love for God and for neighbor, the ways in which the Septuagint and Plutarch speak of love, and the innovative concepts of love developed by Paul and John. She also presents an exegetically informed construction of the New Testament concept of love that is sharpened through a penetrating comparison with counter-, parallel, and alternative concepts from the ancient world. The book brings this holistic biblical vision forward into critical and constructive dialogue with key contemporary visions of love, including those of Julia Kristeva, Martha Nussbaum, Pope Benedict XVI, and Simon May. The tension that emerges stresses the need for fresh conceptualizations of ancient Jewish-Christian understandings, giving rise to the concluding question of the profile, limits, and impulses of the agape concept for present challenges.

Through this academically rigorous and pastorally sensitive exploration, Wischmeyer points to the great love story between God and humanity, which realizes itself in the figure of Jesus Christ. This divine romance places love as the most intense, affirming, and life-creating relationship in God’s own self, a relationship into which human beings are drawn and by which they obtain special dignity when God’s love becomes their life.

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