The Psychology of Christian Character Formation

Author: Joanna Collicutt
ISBN: 978-0334051794
Date: 2015
Price: £25.00
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Publisher: SCM Press, London

So here’s another book on the ‘F’ Word. Formation is a term much in currency at the moment but it is a term not without its complications and obfuscations. It arose of course in the pre-Vatican world of the Roman Catholic seminary system where young men were formed, psychologically and spiritually, as priests and as human beings. The whole notion reflected the old Greek notion of Paideia, as opposed to Pedagogy, whereby education was seen not so much about the imparting of information as the shaping of the whole person in culture and in values. In more recent years however the Church has been responding to the need to train as deacons and priests men and, for the Anglican church, women whose call from God has been experienced later in life. These are people who have already been formed by circumstance and society, by experience and by life.

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Opening the Door of Faith Encountering Jesus and His Call to Discipleship

Author: Thomas D. Stegman SJ
ISBN: 978-0-8091-4927-8
Date: 2015
Price: £6.99
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Publisher: Paulist Press

This book is an expanded version of the author’s articles in the Pastoral Review in 2013 for the Year of Faith. The title is taken from Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei (‘The Door of Faith’) of 2011 establishing the Year of Faith. Pope Benedict’s call to a renewal of faith was very much set in the context of evangelization, and Pope Francis has continued this same concern for a renewal of faith and the new evangelization (as can be seen in Lumen Fidei and Evangelii Gaudium).
This book is about faith as expressed in the New Testament. As emphasised in the papal documents this, says Stegman, has two bases or foundations. First, and most fundamentally, faith (and its derivatives such as ‘faithfulness’) applies to God. Secondly, our faith is manifested in an encounter with – indeed in friendship with – Jesus Christ, who reveals God to us.
There is a chapter each on the Four Evangelists and Paul.

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In Defence of War

Author: Nigel Biggar
ISBN: 978-0198725831
Date: 2013
Price: £18.99
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Publisher: Oxford University Press

The centenary of the outbreak of the Great War produced a forest of new books, many of them outstanding. While less has appeared dealing with the conflict from a theological angle than one would have hoped, it is worthwhile to examine it afresh in the light of Christian teaching, and in particular the Just War tradition. Nigel Biggar, who is Regius Professor of Moral Theology at Oxford and a Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, has written a very important contribution. Its deep scholarship and carefully argued judgements will make it a standard work on the tradition for many years, even for those of us who disagree strongly with its conclusions.

To summarise his work briefly: Biggar examines in some detail the history of the Just War tradition and then examines in the light of it three conflicts of the last century: Britain’s decision to go to war with Germany in 1914 (as opposed to the morality of the war in general), the NATO bombing of Serbia in defence of civilians in Kosovo in 1998, and finally the Second Iraq war of 2003. In all three cases he concludes that broadly speaking the actions can be justified in terms of the tradition.
My first criticism is perhaps what one might expect from a Catholic journal. Biggar chooses largely to ignore theological developments in teaching from within the Catholic Church in the last century, not only at the level of official teaching but the contributions of Catholic theologians, particularly in the United States.

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The Trinity: How not to be a Heretic

Author: Stephen Bullivant
ISBN: 978-0-8091-4933-9
Date: 2015
Price: £11.99
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Publisher: Paulist Press

This witty and well-balanced book provides an excellent introduction to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and shows how consciously and obediently relating to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forms the heart of all true Christian faith. The clarity and accessibility of the book reflects the way it has emerged from interactive teaching of graduates and undergraduates. Bullivant thanks many of them by name.

When expounding the Holy Trinity, Bullivant draws on the Scriptures and the Christian tradition represented by the Fathers of the Church, St Thomas Aquinas and others, including Martin Luther and John Calvin.

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