When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share resources I utilized in my study and preparation for sermons. Here is the bibliography for our recent series, “Becoming Real,” which is the third part of an extended walk through the Gospel of Matthew, focusing on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7.
Bibliography for “Becoming Real: The Sermon on the Mount” [Gospel of Matthew, part 3]
Manlio Simonetti, editor. Matthew 1-13. ACCS. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001.
G. N. Stanton. ”Sermon on the Mount/Plain.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 735-744. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.
“The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.
“Democracy, ‘The Problem of Minorities,’ and the Theology of the Common Good” – In this brief, but informative essay, Sebastian Chang Hwan Kim, Academic Dean for the Korean Center and Robert Wiley Professor of Renewal and Public Life at Fuller School of Theology, offers a helpful exploration of theology for the common good. Engaging with other prevalent theologies for public engagement, Kim suggest some meaningful ways in which we as Christians can step into the public sphere for the good of all without relinquishing our theological footing.
“Prayers and Praises from the World’s Hardest Places to Be a Christian” – Just over two weeks ago, Open Doors released their annual “World Watch List,” which tracks the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to follow Jesus. I strongly encourage you to explore the amazing resource that Open Doors has assembled there, but also want to encourage you to take a look at this resource from Christianity Today. Here, CT has assembled both praises and prayers not merely for that part of the world but from believers in many of those countries. This is a very helpful resource for intercessory prayer for the world.
“Jesus and John Wayne – a series of reviews” – One of the most thought-provoking religious books of the past year is Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. The title itself may either draw you in or frustrate you, but the book has sent ripples through the church. It was through church historian John Fea that I first heard about a series of reviews of the book at the Mere Orthodoxy website. If you’re interested in the book (love it or dislike it) or if you’ve never heard of the book, consider reading this series of reviews for appreciative, reflective, and critical responses, often intermixed in each essay:
“How ‘Wintering’ Replenishes” – In this interview by Krista Tippett from On Being, Katherine May, author of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times speaks to something many of us have felt in this past year of trials and challenges. Here’s the description from On Being: “In so many stories and fables that shape us, cold and snow, the closing in of the light — these have deep psychological as much as physical reality. This is “wintering,” as the English writer Katherine May illuminates in her beautiful, meditative book of that title — wintering as at once a season of the natural world, a respite our bodies require, and a state of mind. It’s one way to describe our pandemic year: as one big extended communal experience of wintering. Some of us are laboring harder than ever on its front lines and also on its home front of parenting. All of us are exhausted. This conversation with Katherine May helps.”
“What Thomas Jefferson Could Never Understand About Jesus” – Vinson Cunningham offers an insightful review of Peter Manseau’s The Jefferson Bible: A Biography in The New Yorker, touching upon not only Jefferson, but also Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Howard Thurman: “Jefferson, meanwhile, was mulling a book project. He imagined it as a work of comparative moral philosophy, which would include a survey of ‘the most remarkable of the ancient philosophers,’ then swiftly address the ‘repulsive’ ethics of the Jews, before demonstrating that the ‘system of morality’ offered by Jesus was ‘the most benevolent & sublime probably that has been ever taught.’ This sublimity, however, would need to be rescued from the Gospels, which were—as Jefferson put it in a letter to the English chemist, philosopher, and minister Joseph Priestley—written by ‘the most unlettered of men, by memory, long after they had heard them from him.'”
Music: Víkingur Ólafsson, “Philip Glass: Études, No. 2,” from Glass Piano Works | recorded at the Yellow Lounge
On this day celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr., I want to remind us of one of the most significant writings by Martin Luther King, Jr., his letter from a Birmingham jail. Written after King’s arrest, along with 50 others, on April 12, 1963, as part of the Birmingham Campaign to shine a spotlight on the racist treatment suffered by African Americans in one of the most segregated cities in America. Letter from a Birmingham jail is a direct response to criticism that King and the protestors received from religious leaders through an open letter in a local newspaper.
While there is much that could be said about MLK as a leader, orator, pastor, and husband, I want to encourage us to read or listen to the letter (roughly an hour long as read by King). The issues he addresses continue to be important for our day and time as we wrestle with how our faith relates to the public sphere, just and unjust laws, consideration of how our Christian faith moves us to action or to wait, and what it means to lives as kingdom citizens while seeking to “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24).
Here are a striking excerpt from the letter:
There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.
When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share the resources I used to help me study and prepare my sermons. Here is the second of two bibliographies for our recently completed series, “The Kingdom of God” (you can find the first one here). This bibliography has a backstory.
Before the pandemic we had a two-week series entitled “Faith and Politics” on the schedule with guest speakers NT Wright and Vince Bacote. As an extension site for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School we worked on a wraparound class for that series and I helped develop the first bibliography and reading list for that class, which was the genesis for what I’m sharing below.
As the pandemic accelerated, NT Wright was unable to travel in April (we rescheduled him for 2021) and we delayed the series on politics. I eventually re-worked the two week series on faith and politics into a broader five-week series on the kingdom of God. Thankfully, we were still able to have Vince Bacote join us and you can watch his lecture, as well as a follow-up Q&A, here: “The Political Disciple: A Theology of Public Life.”
It should go without saying that I do not agree with the perspective shared within all of these works. However, many of them which I disagree with are still important for any discussion of faith and politics.
Bibliography for “Faith and Politics”
Augustine.City of God. Edited and translated by R. W. Dyson. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. (1278 pages – Augustine’s magisterial exploration of the relationship between the city of God and the city of earth)
Robert Benne. Good and Bad Ways to Think About Religion and Politics. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010. (120 pages – written out of frustration with current failures of thinking, Benne offers some core convictions about Christian political engagement and how that should shape public policy and political action)
________, ed. Five Views on the Church and Politics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. (240 pages – part of Zondervan’s Counterpoints series, this book offers outlines of political thought from Anabaptist, African America, Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed perspectives, with responses to each outline by others)
Gregory A. Boyd. The Myth of a Christian Nation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. (207 pages – written around the 2004 election, Boyd’s central thesis is “a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry”)
John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007. (1059 pages – Calvin’s treatment of law and government were defining for Protestant theology since his time)
D. A. Carson. Christ and Culture Revisited. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012. (255 pages – an evangelical New Testament scholar offers a revision of Niebuhr’s typology of Christian cultural engagement with a chapter on church and state)
Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. Jesus for President. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008. (355 pages – the authors offer a progressive evangelical theology that critiques American Christianity’s subjugation to empire)
Andy Crouch. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013. (284 pages – while not strictly about politics, Crouch offers a modern approach to broader cultural engagement for evangelicals)
Patrick J. Deneen. Why Liberalism Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2019. (264 pages – an evaluation of why liberalism – in contrast to communism and fascism – is the only remaining viable ideology of the 20th century, but also how inherent features of the success of liberalism are generating its own failure)
Jacques Ellul. The Subversion of Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986. (222 pages – Ellul was an influential and iconoclastic 20th century thinker, and this book specifically looks at the deviation between the life of the Church and the teachings of Jesus)
________. Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018. (238 pages – a historian’s evaluation of factors, particularly a politics of fear, that contributed to 80% of white evangelicals voting for Donald Trump)
Frances Fitzgerald. The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017. (740 pages – a Pulitzer-prize winning historian offers an insightful history of how evangelicalism has shaped American culture and politics)
George Kalantzis and Gregory W. Lee, eds. Christian Political Witness. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014. (240 pages – a collection of essays on biblical, historical and theological proposals for thinking responsibly about the intersection of church and state in the contemporary cultural situation)
Martin Luther King, Jr. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches. San Francisco: HarperOne, 2003. (736 pages – a collection of the most important writings and speeches by the premier leader of the American civil rights movement, including his invaluable “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”)
Richard J. Mouw. Political Evangelism. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973. (111 pages – Mouw reflects on the inadequacies of separatism and activism, while also pointing to an alternative of appropriate political engagement as part of the evangelistic – outward – activity of the church)
Reinhold Niebuhr. Major Works on Religion and Politics. Library of America. New York: Library of America, 2015. (850 pages – Niebuhr was one of the premier thinkers of the early 20th century and his political thought continues to influence writers and practitioners, including Barack Obama)
H. Richard Niebuhr. Christ and Culture. New York: Harper & Row, 1951. (259 pages – this classic work provided the most enduring typology for evaluating Christian engagement with culture since its publication)
Mark A. Noll. God and Race in American Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. P., 2008. (226 pages – the premier historian of American evangelicalism evaluates the way that religion and race have factored into American politics)
Oliver O’Donovan. The Desire of Nations: Rediscovering the roots of political theology. New York: Cambridge U. P., 1996. (304 pages – a work of systematic Christian political thought, combining Biblical interpretation, historical discussion of the Western political and theological tradition, theoretical construction and critical engagement with contemporary views)
C. C. Pecknold. Christianity and Politics: A Brief Guide to the History. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010. (196 pages – a brief guide to the history of Christianity and politics, showing how early Christianity reshaped the Western political imagination with its new theological claims about eschatological time, participation, and communion with God and neighbor)
Elizabeth Phillips. Political Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Continuum Boos, 2012. (208 pages – This is a concise and accessible advanced introduction which distinguishes various approaches to political theology, and which explores several of the central issues addressed in political theologies)
James K. A. Smith. Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2017. (256 pages – the third part of Smith’s cultural liturgies series offers an Augustinian model for engaging the current political situation in our culture that is rooted in worship)
Howard Thurman. Jesus and the Disinherited. Boston: Beacon Press, 1976. (128 pages – demonstrates how the gospel may be read as a manual of resistance for the poor and disenfranchised because of Jesus entrance into the pain of the oppressed)
Tom Wright. God in Public: How the Bible speaks truth to power today. London: SPCK, 2016. (190 pages – a little known work of NT Wright that, while somewhat English in application, offers an approach to biblical theology that throws fresh light on political and ethical problems of our day)
Updated: You can watch the recording of this forum here.
A few weeks ago my friend Kurt Owens reached out to me about joining a panel discussion of pastors from The Milwaukee Declaration discussing race in America in light of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
Learn more about the Milwaukee Declaration and/or sign the Declaration here.
As part of previous gatherings for the Milwaukee Declaration we assembled a “Next Steps” guide of resources for furthering the conversation. I am again including that below with some updates with more recent resources.