At your request: Installment 2–July, 2019

2019 Suggested EfM Summer Reading: A Dozen Recommendations

Selected by Allan Roy Andrews, EfM Mentor,

Church of the Good Shepherd, Augusta, GA

1) Alter, Robert. The Art of Biblical Narrative. NY: Basic Books. 1981.

—Alter is a brilliant professor of literature and translator of the Hebrew Scriptures. His comments on the Old Testament, which generally focus on how the ancient Hebrews told stories, bring to light many nuances of the Hebrew language that non-Jewish readers of the Bible rarely learn in church or school. He is also a champion of our need to hear the Bible read aloud; although, he probably prefers listening to it read in Hebrew.

2) —————. The Art of Biblical Poetry. NY: Basic Books. 1985.

—Ditto praise for Alter’s exposition of the poetry that fills the scriptures. Five words: This is a great book!

3) —————. The Book of Psalms. NY: W. W. Norton. 2007.

—Reading Alter’s parallel notes to his translation of the Psalms is a mini-education in historical and textual theology.

4) —————. The World of Biblical Literature. NY: Basic Books. 1992.

—Probably the best of the Alter books listed here for a beginning reader of the Hebrew Scriptures, this book reviews and summarizes much of the above three volumes.

5) Kunst, Judith M. The Burning Word: A Christian Encounter with Jewish Midrash. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press. 2006.

—This book describes an evangelical teacher’s experience in reading Jewish Midrash and is published by a Roman Catholic Press. Kunst is a poet and teacher at a well-known Christian high school on Long Island, NY. She details her discovery of the ancient rabbinical method of interpreting scripture through its stories and how that strengthens her Christian faith. For a Christian interested in the rabbinic tradition of Midrash, Kunst’s book is an exciting introduction.

6) Evans, Rachel Held. Faith Unravelled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 2010.

—Before she died in early May of this year at the age of 37, a victim of a deadly brain virus, Evans was a young leading light in the movement sometimes referred to as Progressive Christianity. (I prefer calling it “Inquisitive Christianity.”) This book describes her discovery of doubt and the asking of provocative questions as paths to a deeper faith in Jesus Christ.

7) Peter Enns. The Bible Tells Me So . . . Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It. NY: Harper One. 2014.

—Enns is a professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA, just to the northeast of Philadelphia. He was at one time a professor at Pennsylvania’s (Glenside) Westminster Theological Seminary, but his “progressive” thinking wasn’t appreciated by the trustees and administration of that conservative Presbyterian institution and, despite a faculty committee’s vote of confidence in his faithfulness to the Westminster Confession, he left the seminary.

Reading this book uncovers Enns’ inquisitiveness regarding the ancient scriptures, which reads like those popular expositions of “all the questions you’ve had about the Bible but were afraid to ask.” Some might find Enns’ approach a little too cute, but his scholarship is excellent, and he offers intriguing answers to all those questions you might have been afraid to ask.

One of Enns’ guidelines is that the Bible is not, and was never intended to be “A Believer’s Manual.” Instead, it is “a diverse story of God and how his people have connected with him over the centuries, in changing circumstances and situations.”

8) Abraham Joshua Heschel. The Sabbath. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 1951.

–This is one of the Interlude books scheduled for EfM in the year 2020-21. It is probably one of the most excellent books you’ll ever encounter and will change the way you think about worship and rest. If you get ahead and want to read it sooner than next year, browse at Barnes & Noble (but remember, you will get your copy from EfM in 2020) and take note of the blurbs on the back of the revised paperback. Be warned! Those recommendations will encourage you to dive in and swim deeply immediately.

Every Christian should want to understand Jewish spirituality; after all, it is Jesus’ way.

9) Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Life Together. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2005.

–This selection from Bonhoeffer’s more than 15 volumes of writings  is one of our Interlude selections for the coming year, (which means you’ll get your copy in September). The book contains Bonhoeffer’s record and teachings at an underground seminary during the Nazi take-over of Germany. Bonhoeffer was hanged in a German prison camp just nine days before the Allied Forces liberated the death facility.

If you develop an appetite for Bonhoeffer, his “must read” books include:

  • Letters and Papers From Prison;
  • The Cost of Discipleship; and
  • Ethics.

10) Reinhold Niebuhr. Leaves From the Notebooks of a Tamed Cynic. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press. 1990 (original, 1939).

–This reflective volume is not one of the famed American theologian’s best-known treatises, but positively his most delightful. Niebuhr wrote this little book during his tenure as a young pastor in Detroit before he began his three-plus decades as a professor of social ethics at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary.

11) Malcolm Boyd. Are You Running With Me, Jesus? NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 1965.

–In the early 1960s, this gay priest wrote what became one of the most potent and challenging devotional books of the century. Boyd was a poet as well as a priest, and a civil rights activist as well as a women’s rights supporter. Shortly after he turned 50, he publicly acknowledged his homosexuality and became an advocate for gay rights. Read this book and I believe you’ll agree that Jesus was running with him.

12) Phyllis McGinley. Saint-Watching. NY. Crossroad Publishing Company. 1982

An accomplished poet and author of children’s books, McGinley won the first-ever Pulitzer Prize for light verse. In the raucous days that saw the rise of militant feminism, McGinley staunchly defended her more “domesticated” writing and was criticized by famous women poets such as Sylvia Plath and Ann Sexton. A devoted Roman Catholic, she wrote of the saints in the church that she wanted to “rescue them from their pious niches” and show them as “the quirky and fiercely individualistic but humane and charming people” they became. To our delight, she masterfully has done so.

(My earlier posting of recommended readings is at )

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