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New titles just published

14 April 2022

This week’s selection: making sense of priestly ministry, an essay on tradition, and the connection between mountains and religion

Priesthood for all Believers: Clericalism and how to avoid it by Simon Cuff (SCM Press £19.99 (Church Times SPECIAL OFFER PRICE £15.99); 978-0-334-06102-1).

“Clericalism is everywhere in the Christian life and perhaps not where you might expect. It elevates certain models, vocations, or ways of being Church in such a way as to diminish others. In Priesthood for all Believers, Fr Simon Cuff argues that a radical focus on the particularity of vocation and intentionality of living out vocation are central tools in the Church’s toolbox to stop clericalism in its tracks. Some attempts to be less clericalist by doing away with certain forms of ministry can, he suggests, encourage clericalism. One of the best ways to overcome clericalism is a more intentional focus on particular ministries and the particular ministry of the ordained. Exploring these particular ministries afresh, grounded on Christ’s priesthood and the importance of a diaconal commission to overcome processes of marginalisation, this book offers a vital perspective both for those preparing for ministry and those trying to make better sense of the ministry they already hold.”

Tradition and Apocalypse: An essay on the future of Christian belief by David Bentley Hart (Baker, £16.99 (£15.29); 978-0-8010-3938-6).

“In the two thousand years that have elapsed since the time of Christ, Christians have been as much divided by their faith as united, as much at odds as in communion. And the contents of Christian confession have developed with astonishing energy. How can believers claim a faith that has been passed down through the ages while recognising the real historical contingencies that have shaped both their doctrines and their divisions? In this carefully argued essay, David Bentley Hart critiques the concept of ‘tradition’ that has become dominant in Christian thought as fundamentally incoherent. He puts forth a convincing new explanation of Christian tradition, one that is obedient to the nature of Christianity not only as a "revealed" creed embodied in historical events but as the ‘apocalyptic’ revelation of a history that is largely identical with the eternal truth it supposedly discloses. Hart shows that Christian tradition is sustained not simply by its preservation of the past, but more essentially by its anticipation of the future. He offers a compelling portrayal of a living tradition held together by apocalyptic expectation — the promised transformation of all things in God.”

Space, Place and Religious Landscapes: Living mountains, edited by Darrelyn Gunzburg and Bernadette Brady (T & T Clark, £28.99 (£26.09); 978-1-350-18642-2). New in paperback

“Exploring sacred mountains around the world, this book examines whether bonding and reverence to a mountain is intrinsic to the mountain, constructed by people, or a mutual encounter. Chapters explore mountains in England, Scotland, Wales, Italy, Ireland, the Himalaya, Japan, Greece, US, Asia and South America, and embrace the union of sky, landscape, and people to examine the religious dynamics between human and non-human entities. This book takes as its starting point the fact that mountains physically mediate between land and sky and act as metaphors for bridges from one realm to another, recognising that mountains are relational and that landscapes form personal and group cosmologies. The book fuses ideas of space, place and material religion with cultural environmentalism and takes an interconnected approach to material religio-landscapes. In this way it fills the gap between lived religious traditions, personal reflection, phenomenology, historical context, environmental philosophy, myths and performativity. In defining material religion as active engagement with mountain-forming and human-shaping landscapes, the research and ideas presented here provide theories that are widely applicable to other forms of material religion.”

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

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