Publisher's Letter - February 2018

Robert Ellsberg

We have some exciting news for you, which I’ll save to the end of this letter.

Over 1000 years ago St. Anselm published “Cur Deus Homo” (“Why God Became Human.”) Anselm’s scholarly argument shaped the enduring and influential concept that Jesus had to die on the cross to atone for human sin. Since then, many theologians, including Pope Benedict, have struggled with this theory’s problems, including its reliance on feudal notions and how it tends to make God into something of a monster. Elizabeth Johnson addresses another problem: the incapacity of this theory to account for cosmic redemption in a time of advancing ecological devastation. In her new book, Creation and the Cross: The Mercy of God for a Planet in Peril, she provides a long-needed antidote. Writing, as Anselm did, in the form of a dialogue between teacher and student, she draws on scripture and the teachings of Jesus to advance a cosmic understanding of redemption that emphasizes the love and mercy—rather than the offended honor—of God. It joins a list of groundbreaking works that have established Johnson’s reputation as one of the outstanding theologians of our time.

In They Will Inherit the Earth: Peace & Nonviolence in a Time of Climate Change, renowned peacemaker John Dear lays out an approach to Christian discipleship that links the practice of nonviolence with care for God’s creation. Drawing on personal stories of his life in the desert of New Mexico, his time as a chaplain at Yosemite, his experience of the Standing Rock protests, as well as his work with the Vatican on a new stance on peace, Dear invites us to return to nonviolence as a way of life and a living solidarity with the Earth.

Oscar Romero, the martyred archbishop of San Salvador, embodied a spirituality of solidarity—at once a mystical encounter with God and a prophetic engagement in the struggle for justice. In Revolutionary Saint: The Theological Legacy of Oscar Romero, Michael E. Lee offers a profound reflection on the meaning of Romero’s life and witness, and, in light of his pending canonization, on the model of holiness he offers to the church today.

The sacrifice of martyrs like Romero follows the pattern of Christ, who emptied himself in solidarity with a wounded world. In The Depth of God’s Reach: A Spirituality of Christ’s Descent, Michael Downey explores the teaching that “Christ descended into hell.” He argues that Christ’s descent provides a spiritual foundation that offers consolation and hope, a spirituality that recognizes Christ’s solidarity with us in our own sufferings and trials.

And now this: For those who enjoy Orbis books, and look forward to the type of spiritual and theological engagement reflected in this month’s new titles, we invite you to join our new Orbis Book Club. Next month we’ll be launching this new reading club on our Facebook page, beginning with Jim Forest’s acclaimed work, At Play in the Lions’ Den: A Memoir and Biography of Daniel Berrigan. Members will receive a discount and an opportunity to interact with the author and other readers. Help us spread the word!


Robert Ellsberg

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