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New titles just published

08 April 2022

This week’s selection: Pauline writings, an examination of resistance to the Church’s message, and a history of a religious order

Paul and Religion: Unfinished conversations by Paul W. Gooch (Cambridge University Press, £19.99 (£17.99); 978-1-108-70192-1).

Paul and Religion demonstrates the continuing and contemporary relevance of the most important, and most controversial, figure of early Christianity. Paul Gooch interrogates the Pauline writings for their meaning as well as implications for religion as an entire form of life, a stance on the world expressed in distinctive practices. Bringing a philosophical approach to this topic, he connects Paul's ideas to lived experience. In a conversational style, Gooch explores Paul's experience of grace and his dismissal of distinctive markers of religious identity in favour of love as binding together a community. Contrary to common expectations, he finds within Paul's letters material for conversations about issues in our day, such as gender and sexuality. From his close reading of the Letters, Gooch argues that the Pauline religious form of life is not identical with institutional Christianity. Indeed, his conclusions may be welcome to those who belong to other faiths.”

Humbler Faith, Bigger God: Finding a story to live by by Samuel Wells (Canterbury Press, £14.99 (Church Times SPECIAL OFFER PRICE £11.99); 978-1-78622-418-7).

“Samuel Wells explores the key tenets of Christian belief by engaging with the most widely used arguments against religious faith — that it’s a crutch for the deluded, a fairy tale for the simple minded, the cause of so many wars, a drug for the poor, powerless against suffering, one path among many, and so on. These are serious accusations against Christianity, and Samuel takes them seriously, seeking to understand how and why they have taken hold, what part the Church has had in making people so resistant to its message and what better stories it can tell in today’s world. Each chapter sets out traditional expressions of Christian beliefs, engages with the arguments against them, and then seeks to express those truths afresh as stories that can inform and shape our lives. A study guide for groups is also included.”


The Jesuits: A history by Markus Friedrich (Princeton, £30 (£27); 978-0-691-18012-0).

“From the Counter-Reformation to the ascent of Francis I as the first Jesuit pope, The Jesuits presents an intimate look at one of the most important religious orders not only in the Catholic Church, but also the world. Markus Friedrich describes an organisation that has deftly walked a tightrope between sacred and secular involvement and experienced difficulties during changing times, all while shaping cultural developments from pastoral care and spirituality to art, education, and science. Examining the Jesuits in the context of social, cultural, and world history, Friedrich sheds light on how the order shaped the culture of the Counter-Reformation and participated in the establishment of European empires, including missionary activity throughout Asia and in many parts of Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries. He also explores the place of Jesuits in the New World and addresses the issue of Jesuit slaveholders. The Jesuits often tangled with the Roman Curia and the pope, resulting in their suppression in 1773, but the order returned in 1814 to rise again to a powerful position of influence. Friedrich demonstrates that the Jesuit fathers were not a monolithic group and he considers the distinctive spiritual legacy inherited by Pope Francis. With its global scope and meticulous attention to archival sources and previous scholarship, The Jesuits illustrates the heterogeneous, varied, and contradictory perspectives of this famed religious organisation.”

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

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