Broken Signposts: How Christianity makes sense of the world by Tom Wright (SPCK, £16.99 (£14.99); 978-0-281-08493-7).
“Justice, Love, Spirituality, Beauty, Freedom, Truth and Power. These are ideals that we all strive for, yet so often we find ourselves falling short. Why is that? In this deeply insightful meditation, Tom Wright looks to the Gospel of John for answers. With his characteristic wisdom, he shows how John can help us to see not only why we strive for these ideals, or ‘signposts’, but also why we so often experience them as broken. He also shows how Christianity provides us with the vision and resources for engaging with the questions posed by each signpost, pointing to a clear and compelling explanation of the world, and of our role and responsibility within it.”
In Search of Angels: Travels to the edge of the world by Alistair Moffatt (Birlinn, £20 (£18); 978-1-78027-672-4).
“Fourteen centuries ago, Irish saints brought the Word of God to the Hebrides and Scotland’s Atlantic shore. These ‘white martyrs’ sought solitude, remoteness, even harshness, in places apart from the world where they could fast, pray and move closer to an understanding of God: places where they could see angels. Columba, who founded the famous monastery at Iona, was the most well-known of these courageous men who rowed their curraghs towards danger and uncertainty in a pagan land, but the many others are now largely forgotten by history. In this book, Alistair Moffat journeys from the island of Eileach an Naoimh at the mouth of the Firth of Lorne to Lismore, Iona and then north to Applecross, searching for traces of these extraordinary men. He finds them not often in any tangible remains, but in the spirit of the islands and remote places where they passed their exemplary lives. Brendan, Moluag, Columba, Maelrubha and others brought the Gaelic language and echoes of how the saints saw their world can still be heard in its cadences. And the tradition of great piety endures.”
The Godless Gospel: Was Jesus a great moral teacher? by Julian Baggini (Granta, £16.99 (£15.29); 978-1-78378-231-4).
“Even if we don't believe that Jesus was the son of God, we tend to think he was a great moral teacher. But was he? And how closely do idealised values such as our love of the family, helping the needy, and the importance of kindness, match Jesus’s original tenets? Julian Baggini challenges our assumptions about Christian values — and about Jesus — by focusing on Jesus’s teachings in the Gospels, stripping away the religious elements such as the accounts of miracles or the resurrection of Christ. Reading closely this new ‘godless’ Gospel, included as an appendix, Baggini asks how we should understand Jesus’s attitude to the renunciation of the self, to politics, or to sexuality, as expressed in Jesus’s often elusive words. An atheist from a Catholic background, Baggini introduces us to a more radical Jesus than popular culture depicts. And as he journeys deeper into Jesus’s worldview, and grapples with Jesus's sometimes contradictory messages, against his scepticism he finds that Jesus’s words amount to a purposeful and powerful philosophy, which has much to teach us today.
Selected by Aude Pasquier, of the Church House Bookshop, which operates the Church Times Bookshop.