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03 November 2017

The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an atheist’s point of view by Tim Crane (Harvard, £19.95 (£17.95); 978-0-674-08883-2).

“An atheist himself, Tim Crane writes that there is a fundamental flaw with most atheists’ basic approach: religion is not what they think it is. Atheists tend to treat religion as a kind of primitive cosmology, as the sort of explanation of the universe that science offers. They conclude that religious believers are irrational, superstitious, and bigoted. But this view of religion is almost entirely inaccurate. Crane offers an alternative account based on two ideas. The first is the idea of a religious impulse: the sense people have of something transcending the world of ordinary experience, even if it cannot be explicitly articulated. The second is the idea of identification: the fact that religion involves belonging to a specific social group and participating in practices that reinforce the bonds of belonging. Once these ideas are properly understood, the inadequacy of atheists’ conventional conception of religion emerges.”

 

The Way of Wisdom: A year of daily devotions in the Book of Proverbs by Timothy Keller (Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99 (£11.70); 978-1-473-64755-8).

New York pastor Timothy Keller is known for his ability to connect a deep understanding of the Bible with contemporary thought and the practical issues we all face. In this devotional - consisting of all-new material - Keller offers inspiration for every day of the year, based on the book of Proverbs. Working through the entire book, Keller brings this ancient wisdom to life and shows how to apply it to the realities of our daily lives. Just as My Rock; My Refuge taught readers how to pray, so this inspiring new devotional teaches us how to live lives that are rooted in wisdom.

 

The Joy of being Anglican: Fifteen writers reflect on Anglicanism, what it means to them personally, and on the joy of being Anglican, edited by Caroline Hodgson and Heather Smith (Redemptorist Publications, £9.95 (£8.95); 978-0-85231-477-7).

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What makes Anglicanism distinctive and what draws Christians to it, even in turbulent times? This collection of essays from authors ranging from ‘grassroots’ Christians to church leaders brings a unique perspective to the subject. Through their insights, the reader gains an opportunity to reflect on the Anglican Communion and what it means to them – and perhaps to rediscover the joy of being an Anglican.

 

Singleness and the Church: A new theology of the single life by Jana Marguerite Bennett (OUP, £19.99 (£18); 978-0-19-046262-8).

Christians ought to be the people who most support singleness, given what scripture and tradition suggest, but this does not seem to be the case. In this exciting new work, Jana Marguerite Bennett examines a variety of usually forgotten models of singleness: the never-married, the casually uncommitted, the committed but unmarried, the same-sex attracted, the widowed, the divorced, and the single parent. Each chapter in Singleness and the Church takes one of these models and considers the cultural commentary, Christian debate, and a holy guide, a person who lived that way of being single, in order to offer a new perspective on singleness, the church, and what it means to be a single Christian disciple.

 

A Very Queer Family Indeed: Sex, Religion, and the Bensons in Victorian Britain by Simon Goldhill (Chicago, £19 (£17.10); 978-0-226-52728-4). New in paperback.

Edward White Benson became Archbishop of Canterbury at the height of Queen Victoria's reign, while his wife, Mary, was renowned for her wit and charm the prime minister once wondered whether she was ‘the cleverest woman in England or in Europe.’ The couple's six precocious children included E. F. Benson, celebrated creator of the Mapp and Lucia novels, and Margaret Benson, the first published female Egyptologist. Inveterate writers, the Benson family spun out novels, essays, and thousands of letters that open stunning new perspectives including what it might mean for an adult to kiss and propose marriage to a twelve-year-old girl, how religion in a family could support or destroy relationships, or how the death of a child could be celebrated. No other family has left such detailed records about their most intimate moments, and in these remarkable accounts, we see how family life and a family's understanding of itself took shape during a time when psychoanalysis, scientific and historical challenges to religion, and new ways of thinking about society were developing.”

 

Selected by Frank Nugent, of the Church House Bookshop, which operates the Church Times Bookshop.

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