Worship How-To

Robb Redman, the former director of the D. Min. program at Fuller Theological Seminary, argues that American Christianity is in the midst of a "worship awakening." In The Great Worship Awakening: Singing a New Song in the Postmodern Church, Redman argues that the shift is best seen in the popularity of seeker services, the "praise and worship" movement, the growth of the Christian worship industry and the renaissance of liturgical traditions. Redman traces demographic changes to understand why worship has taken on new significance, pointing to increasing ethnic diversity and inter-generational dynamics. This is not the most sophisticated book on changes in American Christian worship practices; recent contributions by Robert Webber and Leonard Sweet have hit the mark more forcefully. However, it is a competent and resourceful overview. (Jossey-Bass, $19.95 236p ISBN 0-7879-5126-9; Oct.)

In 1874, the evangelist Charles G. Finney gave a controversial series of lectures to divinity students on revivals of religion. Finney endured a great deal of criticism for saying that Christian revival could be humanly engineered; it was not necessary to wait for God to fan the flames of revival. Rather, it was required of Christian believers to actively seek opportunities to create revival and convert unbelievers. Pat Robertson's Six Steps to Christian Revival: God's Awesome Power in Your Life certainly follows in Finney's footsteps ideologically, albeit not as ambitiously: It focuses more on personal, inner renewal than mass revivals or crusades. Robertson's six steps—humble yourself, pray, seek God's face, turn from sin, gather in prayer and persevere—are classic, and his short book is very solidly based on the Bible, although the prose is not very energetic. (Multnomah, $9.99 paper 96p ISBN 1-59052-055-6; Oct.)

What's New in Judaism Books

It was inevitable that amid the explosion of Kabbalah-related books in the last five years, some would be done devotional-style, aimed to bring the puzzles of Judaism's most mystical text to readers in digestible, bite-sized daily doses. But in Kabbalah Month by Month: A Year of Spiritual Practice and Personal Transformation, Mindy Ribner gives readers a fairly thoughtful and perceptive interpretation. What sets this book apart from most others that explore Kabbalah for the hoi polloi is that it is firmly and stubbornly rooted in Jewish tradition. Some may not agree with Ribner's explanations of some Jewish traditions, or her investigations of astrology, but they will appreciate the fact that she has not sought to divorce Kabbalah from its religious roots. The book is beautifully designed in a square paperback format. (Jossey-Bass, $22.95 paper 352p ISBN 0-7879-6152-3; Oct.)

In 1989, The Encyclopedia of Judaism set a high standard for Jewish reference works and was selected as an Outstanding Reference Book by the American Library Association. But in The New Encyclopedia of Judaism, a good work has been made even better; the original thousand entries have been updated and 250 new ones added. As with the first edition, the one-volume resource has hundreds of illustrations, contributions from scholars from all major branches of Judaism and a strong annotated bibliography. (NYU Press, $99.95 [$79.95 until January 2003] 856p ISBN 0-8147-9388-6; Oct. 16)

Calligraphy and Poetry

Shambhala, which has been broadening its line to include classics of Western as well as Eastern spirituality, offers a beautiful new series merging spiritual poetry and the art of calligraphy. In Canticle of the Sun: The Spirit of Francis of Assisi, the saint's prayers and excerpts from writings about him are complemented by facing-page calligraphy in bold colors. Alongside Francis's prayers of gratitude for Sister Moon, Brother Wind and Sister Water, for example, are the corresponding Latin praises, beautifully rendered by calligrapher Frank Missant. ($12.95 paper 64p ISBN 1-57062-980-3; Oct.)

Among the other three volumes in Shambhala's series is Perfect Harmony: Sufi Poetry of Ibn 'Arabi, which pairs the poetry of the 13th-century Sufi mystic with contemporary calligraphy by Hassan Massoudy. In a moving afterword, Massoudy explains how he became involved in calligraphy as a child, and how his work is inspired by poetry. ($12.95 paper 64p ISBN 1-57602-981-1; Oct.)