Saint Thomas Aquinas

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Interesting New Books for the Summer

For those of you looking for new books to read for the summer, below are some of the books that have been recently released over the past year or so that I have on my wishlist to be read. If you have read any of them please leave a review in the comment section. This list is not really an endorsement of the books, since I have not read them yet, but just a list of books that look like they would be worth a read.



1.The Religious Roots of the First Amendment: Dissenting Protestants and the Separation of Church and State- Nicholas P. Miller (Link)

Summary: 
Traditional understandings of the genesis of the separation of church and state rest on assumptions about 'Enlightenment' and the republican ethos of citizenship. Nicholas Miller does not seek to dislodge that interpretation but to augment and enrich it by recovering its cultural and discursive religious contexts - specifically the discourse of Protestant dissent. He argues that commitments by certain dissenting Protestants to the right of private judgment in matters of Biblical interpretation, an outgrowth of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, helped promote religious disestablishment in the early modern West. This movement climaxed in the disestablishment of religion in the early American colonies and nation. Miller identifies a continuous strand of this religious thought from the Protestant Reformation, across Europe, through the English Reformation, Civil War, and Restoration, into the American colonies. He examines seven key thinkers who played a major role in the development of this religious trajectory as it came to fruition in American political and legal history: William Penn, John Locke, Elisha Williams, Isaac Backus, William Livingston, John Witherspoon, and James Madison. Miller shows that the separation of church and state can be read, most persuasively, as the triumph of a particular strand of Protestant nonconformity - that which stretched back to the Puritan separatist and the Restoration sects, rather than to those, like Presbyterians, who sought to replace the 'wrong' church establishment with their own, 'right' one. The Religious Roots of the First Amendment contributes powerfully to the current trend among some historians to rescue the eighteenth-century clergymen and religious controversialists from the enormous condescension of posterity.

2. Francis of Assisi: A New Biography- Augustine Thompson (Link)


Summary:
Among the most beloved saints in the Catholic tradition, Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226) is popularly remembered for his dedication to poverty, his love of animals and nature, and his desire to follow perfectly the teachings and example of Christ. During his lifetime and after his death, followers collected, for their own purposes, numerous stories, anecdotes, and reports about Francis. As a result, the man himself and his own concerns became lost in legend.

In this authoritative and engaging new biography, Augustine Thompson, O.P., sifts through the surviving evidence for the life of Francis using modern historical methods. The result is a complex yet sympathetic portrait of the man and the saint. Francis emerges from this account as very much a typical thirteenth-century Italian layman, but one who, when faced with unexpected crises in his personal life, made decisions so radical that they challenge his own society-and ours. Unlike the saint of legend, this Francis never had a unique divine inspiration to provide him with rules for following the teachings of Jesus. Rather, he spent his life reacting to unexpected challenges, before which he often found himself unprepared and uncertain. The Francis who emerges here is both more complex and more conflicted than that of older biographies. His famed devotion to poverty is found to be more nuanced than expected, perhaps not even his principal spiritual concern. Thompson revisits events small and large in Francis's life, including his troubled relations with his father, his contacts with Clare of Assisi, his encounter with the Muslim sultan, and his receiving the Stigmata, to uncover the man behind the legends and popular images.

A tour de force of historical research and biographical writing, Francis of Assisi: A New Biography is divided into two complementary parts-a stand alone biographical narrative and a close, annotated examination of the historical sources about Francis. Taken together, the narrative and the survey of the sources provide a much-needed fresh perspective on this iconic figure. "As I have worked on this biography," Thompson writes, "my respect for Francis and his vision has increased, and I hope that this book will speak to modern people, believers and unbelievers alike, and that the Francis I have come to know will have something to say to them today."

3. Icons: Masterpieces Of Russian Art- Olga Polyakova (Link)


Summary:
We are proud to offer this important book on icons dating from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. These sixty icons from the Kolomenskoye State Museum are presented with full descriptions of their origins and symbolic meanings written by a leading specialist in Old Russian art. This lesser-known collection shows the evolution and development of Russian iconography through its themes, styles and details - for example, historical figures such as Peter the Great featured in the battlefield on one of the intercession icons. These images are at once powerful and moving, engaging the observer in the story depicted in the painting or drawing the eye to a face that seems to look directly out at the viewer. This book provides a fascinating insight into the world of the mysterious and beautiful icons. This book is a valuable resource for art historians, scholars of religious practice, and collectors of icon.

4. Coptic Art Revealed- Nadja Tomoum (Link)

Summary:
This superbly illustrated volume sheds light on the splendid artifacts produced during the Coptic era and celebrates the Copts' remarkable contribution to Egypt's rich cultural heritage, presenting rediscovered treasures from the Coptic Museum's storerooms, precious items from its permanent display, and pieces from other museum collections in Egypt. The featured artifacts include colorful icons painted by renowned artists, beautiful textiles, illuminated manuscripts, pages from the famous Nag Hammadi library, stone and wooden friezes with intricate designs, and fascinating objects that were at one time in daily use.

5. Christ's Two Wills in Scholastic Thought: The Christology of Aquinas and Its Historical Contexts- Corey L. Barnes (Link)


Summary:

This book investigates scholastic discussions of Christ?s wills from Anselm of Canterbury to John Duns Scotus, concentrating on Thomas Aquinas. The work advances understandings of scholastic Christology in two basic ways. First, it traces the development of scholastic discussions of Christ?s wills, attending to the contested issues, to the context of debates, to the use of sources and distinctions, and to the larger implications of these discussions for scholastic Christology. Second, the book utilizes this general analysis as a backdrop for examining the role granted to Christ?s humanity by Thomas Aquinas. It argues that Aquinas, based upon his highly developed understanding of Christ?s wills, his novel use of patristic sources, and his own terminological and conceptual advancements, portrays Christ?s humanity as an instrumentum divinitatis that, through its free will and operation, acts as the instrumental efficient cause of salvation. As such, Thomas developed and extended Anselm?s basic soteriological insight by highlighting the Incarnation and passion as the most fitting means for redemption precisely in their elevation of human dignity in intellect and will. Serious challenges, both medieval and modern, have been directed against Aquinas?s Christological formulations. In responding to these challenges, the book demonstrates the enduring value of Aquinas?s Christology.

6. Dust Bound for Heaven: Explorations in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas- Rienhard Hutter (Link)


Summary: 
In Dust Bound for Heaven Reinhard Hutter shows how Thomas Aquinas's view of the human being as dust bound for heaven weaves together elements of two questions without fusion or reduction. Does humanity still have an insatiable thirst for God that sends each person on an irrepressible religious quest that only the vision of God can quench? Or must the human being, living after the fall, become a "new creation" in order to be readied for heaven?

Hutter also applies Thomas's anthropology to a host of pressing contemporary concerns, including the modern crisis of faith and reason, political theology, the relationship between divine grace and human freedom, and many more. The concluding chapter explores the Christological center of Thomas's theology.

7. Book of the Elders: Sayings of the Desert Fathers The Systematic Collection- John Wortley (Link)


Summary: 
In the early part of the fourth century, a few Christians, mostly men and some women, began to withdraw from the world to retreat into the desert, there to practice their new religion more seriously. The person who aspired to renounce the world first had to find an elder, a person who would accept him as a disciple and apprentice. To his elder (whom he would address as abba father) the neophyte owed complete obedience; from his abba he would receive provisions (as it were) for the road to virtue. In addition to the abba s own example of living, there was the verbal teaching of the elders in sayings and tales, setting out the theory and practice of the eremitic life. In due course, these sayings (or apophthegmata) were written down and, later, collected and codified. The earliest attempts to codify tales and sayings are now lost. As the collection grew, they were first organized alphabetically according to the name of the abba who spoke them, in a major collection known as the Apophthegmata Patrum Alphabetica. A supplementary collection, the Anonymous Apophegmata, followed. Later, both collections were combined and arranged systematically rather than alphabetically. This collection was created sometime between 500 and 575 and later went through a couple of major revisions, the second of which appeared sometime before 970. This second one was published in an excellent new critical edition, with a French translation, in 1993. Now, in Book of the Elders, John Wortley offers an English translation of this collection, based entirely on the Greek of that text.




8. The Life of the Virgin: Maximus the Confessor- Stephen J. Shoemaker (Link


Summary: 
Long overlooked by scholars, this seventh-century Life of the Virgin, attributed to Maximus the Confessor, is the earliest complete Marian biography. Originally written in Greek and now surviving only in Old Georgian, it is now translated for the first time into English. It is a work that holds profound significance for understanding the history of late ancient and medieval Christianity, providing a rich source for understanding the history of Christian piety.
This Life is especially remarkable for its representation of Mary's prominent involvement in her son's ministry and her leadership of the early Christian community. In particular, it reveals highly developed devotion to Mary's compassionate suffering at the Crucifixion, anticipating by several centuries an influential medieval style of devotion known as “affective piety” whose origins generally have been confined to the Western High Middle Ages.

9. Reading Romans with St Thomas Aquinas- Matthew Levering (Link

Summary:
St. Thomas Aquinas produced his Commentary on the Romans near the end of his life while working on the Summa theologiae and commenting on Aristotle. The doctrinal richness of Paul's Letter to the Romans was well known to the church fathers, including Origen and Augustine, on whom Aquinas drew for his commentary. With this rich collection of essays by leading scholars, both Catholic and Protestant, Aquinas's commentary will become a major resource for ecumenical biblical and theological discussion.

Authored by theologians, historians, and biblical scholars, Reading Romans with St. Thomas Aquinas contributes to a historical reconstruction of Aquinas's exegesis and theology by addressing such topics as: the Holy Spirit, the Church, the faith of Abraham, worship, preaching, justification, sin and grace, predestination, Paul's apostolic vocation, the Jewish people, human sexuality, the relationship of flesh and spirit in the human person, the literal sense of Scripture, Paul's use of the Old Testament, and the relationship of Aquinas's commentary on Romans to his Summa theologiae. This volume fits within the contemporary reappropriation of St. Thomas Aquinas, which emphasizes his use of  Scripture and the teachings of the church fathers without neglecting his philosophical insight.


10. Jesus and the Demise of Death: Resurrection, Afterlife, and the Fate of the Christian- Matthew Levering (Link)


Summary:
What happens after death to Jesus and to those who follow him? Jesus and the Demise of Death offers a constructive theology that seeks to answer that very question, carefully considering both Jesus' descent into hell and eventual resurrection as integral parts of a robust vision of the Christian bodily resurrection. Taking on the claims of N.T. Wright and Richard B. Hays, Matthew Levering draws strongly upon the work of Thomas Aquinas to propose a radical reconstruction of Christian eschatological theology--one that takes seriously the profound ways in which Christianity and its beatific vision have been enriched by Platonic thought and emphasizes the role of the Church community in the passage from life to death. In so doing, Levering underscores the hope in eternal life for Jesus' followers and gives readers firm and fruitful soil upon which to base conversations about the Christian's future.


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