Paul and the New Perspective
Thinking through Paul : A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology – Todd D. Still and Bruce W. Longenecker
The Apostle Paul is a prominent figure in the New Testament. The story of his missionary journeys takes up about half of the book of Acts, and his epistles make up about half of the books of the New Testament. The prominence of Paul’s epistles in the New Testament inevitably means that no student of the New Testament can avoid Paul for long. Unfortunately, Paul is not always easy to navigate through. Many of his epistles are long and contain deep and complex theology that is not always so clear to the reader, especially one reading them nearly 2000 years after he wrote them. There is often much confusion for students about what Paul was trying to say, and often, upon only a cursory study of Paul, the student does not have a thorough understanding of Paul and his theology.
Mastering the breadth and depth of Paul and his theology can be a daunting proposition for anyone studying the Pauline epistles. That is why Todd Still and Bruce Longenecker have undertaken the task of writing Thinking through Paul : A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology. Still and Longenecker contend that “if … we approach the study of Paul with the goal of acquiring only a superficial familiarity with the basic features of his life and writings, the process is unlikely to be exciting, challenging, or life-changing” (10).
The book is divided into three parts. The first part reviews the life and ministry of Paul, the second part gleans a better understanding of Paul by evaluating each of his 13 epistles, and the last part evaluates Paul’s theology from different aspects. These three parts make it easier for the student to better understand how Paul “ticked,” helping not only to better know who Paul was as a person, but also to better understand the basis for Paul’s theology. This book is is an invaluable resource for students of the New Testament, not just as a classroom textbook, but also as a text for self-study. Still and Longenecker explain that “you will have the textbook that we would have wanted available to us in earlier days — that is, a practical and user-friendly guide to Paul’s life, letters, and theological discourse” (12). If you are looking for a clear, readable book about the life, epistles, and theology of Paul, this book is perfect.
The True Mary Todd Lincoln : A Biography – Betty Boles Ellison
Every year on Presidents’ Day, we are reminded of the great men that have led our country over the years. But what about the great women who stood beside them every step of the way? There is possibly none more well-known — at least in Illinois — than Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln. Most probably remember her for her abrasive personality and her stint in an insane asylum near the end of her life. But is there more to Mary Todd Lincoln than is often credited to her?
Betty Boles Ellison thinks there is. She has set out to give Mary Todd Lincoln a fair appraisal, evaluating Mary not just on her unpleasant qualities, but on her praiseworthy qualities as well. Ellison sets out to challenge the common misconceptions about Mary’s “extravagant” spending, her supposedly excessive purchases to refurbish the Executive Mansion, and her mental health and well-being. Ellison has exonerated Mary from many of the unfair and derisive accusations that have been leveled against her. This book paints a clearer and more accurate picture of Mary as the “sassy, politically savvy, sophisticated, sarcastic, intelligent, temperamental, sensitive, attractive” woman that she was (5). With its superb research and excellent argumentation, The True Mary Todd Lincoln is an invaluable contribution to the history of the Lincoln family. It is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the history of America’s Presidents and the incredible wives who stood by them and supported them.
Liberation and Black Theologies
Liberation Theologies in the United States : An Introduction – edited by Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas and Anthony B. Pinn
Any student of the Bible and theology has at least heard of liberation theology, but for many of them there is confusion about exactly what liberation theology is and how it affects Christianity. One of the things that makes liberation theology so difficult to completely grasp is that there are many theologies that fit under the rubric of liberation theology. What began as a response to the poverty, mistreatment, and marginalization throughout Latin America has grown to include those around the world who find themselves in a similar albeit unique situation of their own. The book often refers to these theologies as “contextual” theologies because of the unique social context from which these theologies arose.
Many of these contextual theologies have either taken root in or migrated to the united States. Liberation Theologies in the United States : An Introduction provides a thorough description of the various forms of liberation theology found within the United States – some of them well-known, others more obscure. For instances, black, gay and lesbian, and feminist theologies are somewhat familiar, yet Asian-American, native feminist, and Latina theologies are not as well known. It is important for the students to strive to understand and to interact with these theologies, especially those who intend to pastor a church. A pastor should be prepared to answer questions and engage in discussion about these theological ideas, explaining liberation theology and how it relates to traditional theology. If you are a bit unsure of what liberation theology is all about and you are interested in educating yourself, this is good place to start.