Theology for Changing Times

Theology for
Changing Times

Authors Christopher R. Baker & Elaine Graham (eds.)
Publisher SCM £30
Format pbk
ISBN 9780334056959

The book is subtitled ‘John Atherton and the future of public theology’. Atherton, who died in 2016, was for many years at the forefront of the dialogue between religion and public policy, particularly economic policy. He was noted for being one of those rare theologians with a real grasp of modern economic theory and stood out as one who argued for a transformation of capitalism by showing how Christian doctrines such as redemption and reconciliation have much to say about morality in economics. This is in contrast to others such as Stanley Hauerwas who argues from a more radical position that capitalism is inherently flawed, and an alternative should be sought. Atherton was particularly interested in globalisation and its effects on all areas of life, and the importance of involving religion (not just Christianity) in the consideration of what makes for the well-being of humanity as a whole. This book is probably of most interest to students of social ethics, but would also interest anyone concerned with the intersection of theology and public institutions. It contains a number of interesting chapters, all very different, reflecting the breadth of Atherton’s thinking and influence.

MARION GRAY

Social Policy, Theology of John Atherton

 

Reimagining Britain

Reimagining Britain

Author Justin Welby
Publisher Bloomsbury £16.99
Format hbk
ISBN 9781472946072

This important book argues powerfully that the current political uncertainties, the economic divisions and the general prevalence of cynicism throughout Britain require fundamental and practical action. The time is ripe for reimagining our future on a scale not seen since 1945. We need to generate better shared values and create communities which give hope for generations as yet unborn. After chapters considering the building blocks of our national society – health, education, housing, economics and finance – Welby presents a radical case for virtue. He argues for more positive foreign policies, wise and humane action on immigration and integration, and better progress in mitigating climate change. He draws, unsurprisingly, on our historic Christian heritage, and some of his best passages are inspired interpretations of Jesus’ parables. The Good Samaritan personifies the need for ‘active love in pursuit of our common humanity’ – a concept that should determine our public policies. Our Archbishop has produced a fertile series of ideas to provide foundations of hope. Although sometimes complex and densely argued, this book is highly recommended for all who long for a stronger Christian influence in British society.

LEONARD RICKARD

Social Policy

 

Money and Possessions

Money and Possessions

Author Walter Brueggemann
Publisher WJK £27.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780664262808

In a market-propelled society, dominated by the power of money, preachers may be reluctant to tackle attitudes to money and possessions as too culturally sensitive. In this survey of scripture, Brueggemann invalidates any such reluctance as Biblically unsupported. In this incisive, elegant, and counter-cultural interpretation he argues cogently that the entire Bible has more to say about money and possessions than many other topics. He reveals a consistently urgent narrative message throughout scripture that all money and possessions are a gift from God, meant for the benefit of neighbours, albeit a gift marred by predatory economics that result in economic inequalities, oppression of the poor and vulnerable, and persistent exploitation of the ‘have-nots’ by the ‘haves.’ His exegesis is peppered with brief contemporary parallels to underline this core scriptural theme. A few social justice parallels might raise some readers’ eyebrows but this very readable, not highly technical book would be a very useful resource for Bible study and for preachers willing to tackle the topic.

PETER WRIGHT

Biblical Analysis, Social Policy

 

Just Mission: Practical Politics for Local Churches

Just Mission: Practical Politics for Local Churches

Author Helen Cameron
Publisher SCM Press £19.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780334052296

There are clearly two approaches (at least) to tackling injustice in our society. One is the large-scale attack on the systemic failings that lead to inequality and poverty, which we might believe should be the focus of the national church, e.g. through the presence of Bishops in the House of Lords; the other is the local – which is the focus of Cameron’s helpful and thought-provoking book. She offers practical advice on how to understand what is happening and then what to do about it. In that sense her book might be what you need if your church is already embroiled in dealing with an issue for your community. But the book is also designed to help people recognise sources of injustice before too much damage has been done, and to raise awareness of effective routes to action so that valuable time and energies are not wasted on remedial measures that are never going to work.

Cameron’s book can also be used as a study guide for churches who have not yet ventured into the stormy seas of local action and who wish to prepare themselves for the fray, or who are interested and have not yet focused their thinking on any one particular issue. The text is sprinkled with references to other helpful resources, including websites and organisations.

MARION GRAY

Mission, Social Policy