Recent GTU Authors Pick Their Favorite Books of the Past Year
Professor of Christianity and Arts, Pacific School of Religion
Selected 2004-05 courses: Art and Religion: Modern America; Arts Ministry and Practicality
Favorite book read recently: Reluctant Partners: Art and Religion in Dialogue, edited by Ena Giurescu Heller. In light of the extensive publications, exhibitions, and conferences documented in this volume focused on new directions in “visual art and religion” scholarship, I would have titled it “Reluctant and Expectant Partners.” The editor Ena Giurescu Heller is director of the Gallery of the American Bible Society, where many Luce Foundation-funded events are advancing this field. Nine authors assess the state of “art and religion,” with particular attention to Judaism and Christianity, new methodologies, and the contributions of scholars at universities, seminaries, and art museums. Two dozen books by GTU faculty are included in the comprehensive bibliography.
Professor of Chinese and Comparative Religions, Graduate Theological Union
Selected 2004-05 courses: Teaching/Learning Other Religions; Confucian/Daoist Spirituality (Newhall award course, taught with Chan Xu)
Favorite book read recently: The book which most stimulated me in the past year was one I read in publishers’ galleys: James L. Fredericks’ Buddhists and Christians: Through Comparative Theology to Solidarity, due out by Orbis Books this fall. James Fredericks moves us beyond exclusivism, inclusivism, pluralism, and fulfillment theologies to comparative theology. Not only does he provide us with a fine model of comparative theology—comparing Nagarjuna’s emptiness with Aquinas’ incomprehensibility of God—but he also makes a sound case for the benefits of comparative theology for Christian self-understanding, as well as their hospitality toward and solidarity with persons of other faiths. This book marks a significant step forward.
Mary Ann Donovan, SC
Professor of Historical Theology and Spirituality, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley
Selected 2004-05 courses: Church to 1400; Introduction to Ecumenism
Favorite book read recently: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafish is easily the most interesting book I've read in the last year. The book is structured around Nafish's experience conducting a clandestine women's reading group under the Ayatollah; its sections are colored by the readings. The author grew up in Iran under the Shah. Veiling was then optional. (Her grandmother, who remained veiled for religious reasons, impressed her.) She herself was educated in the States, then returned to her homeland to teach English literature in a university. With the coming of the Ayatollah she was gradually marginalized, then dismissed from her post. The book offers a thoughtful picture of women's circumstances under a fundamentalist oligarchy. A final note: before she ultimately left Iran, Nafish resisted veiling for religious reasons.
Assistant Professor of Jewish History, GTU’s Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies
Selected 2004-05 courses: Jewish Cultures; Encounters: Christian/Muslim/Jews
Favorite book read recently: I recently read Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krakauer. Aside from being a fascinating look into the workings of so-called Mormon fundamentalism, the author achieves a delicate balance of sympathy and criticism for his subject. The topic and its treatment raised all kinds of questions and challenges regarding the nature of dialogue, its limits and its assumptions. From my position as a Jewish Studies scholar, outside-looking-in at issues that occupy Christian thinkers but at the same time amidst them here at the GTU, I see in Mormonism an opportunity for serious and engaging conversation, precisely because of the challenges it poses for all sides.
Associate Professor of Homiletics, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary
Selected 2004-05 courses: Preaching Across Cultures; Public Ministry Needs/Assessment
Favorite book read recently: The Starlore Handbook: An Essential Guide to the Night Sky, by Geoffrey Cornelius. I have always enjoyed looking up at the stars, but, other than the Big Dipper, they have always been just a big blur of little lights. Reading Geoffrey Cornelius’ illustrated guide to the sky drastically changed that for me. I still look up, and I still enjoy it, but there is no longer just a blur. I have come to discover there is so much on which to focus. The book combines astronomy, myth, and symbolism. A reader does not need a background in astronomy, and the author concentrates on features of the sky that can be made out by the naked eye or binoculars of average power. Each of the 88 constellations is given separate treatment with great constellation maps and star tables. It is pretty cool now to be able to identify which star is Deneb in the constellation Cygnus, and to know that the light I am seeing was just setting on its journey about the time Constantine was suggesting it was okay to be Christian.
Flora Lamson Hewlett Professor of Evangelism and Mission, San Francisco Theological Seminary
Selected 2004-05 course: Mission, Church and Culture
Favorite book read recently: Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Terror. This is their sequel to Empire, which presents the most compelling and provocative analysis of globalization I have read. Multitude extends this vision in light of America's unilateral war on terror, and offers hopeful new possibilities for globally networked communities committed to resistance and democratic change. I find their in-depth analysis highly original, doggedly realistic and at the same time hopeful. Religious thinkers will discover in this book resources for social, cultural and political change.
Visit the GTU Bookstore for publications by other faculty members, and for online ordering.
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