Journeys to Heaven and Hell: Tours of the afterlife in the Early Christian tradition by Bart Ehrman (Yale, £25 (£22.50); 978-0-300-25700-7).
“From classics such as the Odyssey and the Aeneid to fifth-century Christian apocrypha, narratives that described guided tours of the afterlife played a major role in shaping ancient notions of morality and ethics. In this new account, Bart Ehrman contextualizes early Christian narratives of heaven and hell within the broader intellectual and cultural worlds from which they emerged. He examines how fundamental social experiences of the early Christian communities molded the conceptions of the afterlife that eventuated into the accepted doctrines of heaven, hell, and purgatory.”
The Shadow of God: Kant, Hegel, and the passage from heaven to history by Michael Rosen (Belknap, £28.95 (£26.05); 978-0-674-24461-0).
“In a bold retelling of philosophical history, Michael Rosen explains the limits of this story, showing that many modern and apparently secular ways of seeing the world were in fact profoundly shaped by religion. The key thinkers, Rosen argues, were the German Idealists, as they sought to reconcile reason and religion.”
The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the wisdom of tradition in an age of chaos by Sohrab Ahmari (Hodder, £12.99 (£11.69); 978-1-529-36452-1). New in paperback.
“For millennia, philosophical, ethical and theological reflection was commonplace among the intellectually curious. But the wisdom that some of the greatest minds across the centuries continue to offer us remains routinely ignored in our modern pursuit of self-fulfilment, economic growth, and technological advancement. Sohrab Ahmari offers a brilliant examination of our postmodern Western culture, and an analysis of the paradox at its heart: that the ‘freedoms’ we enjoy — to be or do whatever we want, subject only to consent, with everything morally neutral or relative — are at odds with the true freedom that comes from the pursuit of the collective good.
Selected by Frank Nugent, of the Church House Bookshop, which operates the Church Times Bookshop.