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Books of Popular/Ordinary Theology and Spirituality

Table of Contents
Christ of the Everyday
Beyond the Here and Now


For Ordinary Theology: Looking, Listening and Learning in Theology, and other more academic publications, see Theory and Research in Christian Education and Practical Theology. See also Adult Christian Education, Theology and RS Students for other titles for students and general readers.


Christ of the Everyday

[Book cover]

Christ of the Everyday seeks to help us discover the true meaning of following Jesus. It suggests that to be converted involves seeing the familiar in a completely new way, as if opening our eyes to its real significance for the first time

Jeff Astley, Christ of the Everyday
(London: SPCK, 2007)
ISBN 978 0 281 05880 8     xiv + 146 pp     £10.99

Contents    

‘What is Christianity if it isn’t concerned about our ordinary days? We all pay lip service to the importance of the question, for it’s what “spirituality” is about. But it isn’t everybody who can write convincingly on this key theme and explore how faith in God makes a difference in our daily life, our work, our leisure, our relationships. Jeff Astley is one of those few whose writing is convincing. As you read this book, you are in no doubt that you are in the presence of a true theologian. The endnotes are the evidence of the breadth of his reading not only among the academic theologians but also the poets, novelists and playwrights. But theology is more than texts. A true theologian knows how to marry knowledge to experience. Professor Astley does this to great effect. He is not afraid of what he calls “personal anecdotal theology”. He writes from the heart and speaks to the heart. Reading the book, you feel you meet the man himself, the follower of Jesus who is looking for a profounder way of living, and who isn’t afraid of owning up to his own fragility. He says: “if God and truth lie anywhere, they are to be found in the deepnesses of our everyday lives”. Books with titles like this often descend into superficiality and cliché merely by stating the obvious in popular, racy ways, however “spiritual” the veneer. They frequently evade the tough questions which faith has to face day by day, or proffer easy answers which in the end lead nowhere. This book doesn’t fall into either trap. Jeff Astley speaks with the authentic voice of the disciple who has learned to live with his questions and struggles. This will surely help his readers discover their own path of faith. His sensitivity to suffering and pain is a particularly strong feature of the book. He is always readable, and sometimes genuinely moving, as when he writes about his own mother. This book originated in a series of Lent addresses given in Durham Cathedral. As its current Dean, I am glad to think that our great church has been the midwife that has brought to birth such a wise and humane book. I commend it wholeheartedly.’ (The Very Revd Dr Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham)

‘Where can I learn of Christianity? How can I engage with the life of faith? One direction in which we now might point people is Jeff Astley’s Christ of the Everyday. Jeff’s book is about discovering the real depth within our lives. Depth is a key word: in our own desert experiences, we learn more of depth in ourselves; in friendship we appreciate the depth in others; in resurrection we encounter the depth of Jesus’ death.“God is not duped by superficial things”, Jeff Astley tells us. There is so much here to help us understand the personal nature of faith: poetry, philosophy, plenty of engagement with ordinary life, and indeed equal engagement with the author’s own personality. Christ shares our ordinariness and overturns status. This is Christianity at its freshest, most challenging and most stimulating. This is true Christian apologetics.’ (The Rt Revd Stephen Platten, Bishop of Wakefield)

‘I have read and greatly appreciated [the book]. It is, as I might have expected, thoughtful and accessible, challenging and provoking, often amusing and sometimes moving. I [am] delighted to commend it.’ (The Rt Revd Dr John Inge, Bishop of Huntingdon)

‘Jeff Astley’s book is a splendid example of theological writing that is clear, accessible, and almost conversational in style, whilst drawing on a long and varied experience of study, teaching, pastoral care, and, simply, life. It is a book that argues for something that was, once, generally understood as central to the life of the Church of England, namely the willingness both to engage creatively with the most challenging forms of contemporary thought and to insist that theology meets its ultimate test in relation to the hopes, fears, and sufferings of “ordinary” life outside the cosy circle of Church meetings. Astley is not ashamed to acknowledge his debt to Don Cupitt’s radicalism, but he also shows how this helps make sense of people’s struggles to understand what Christianity could mean for them in their everyday lives. But it is not this or that theological theory that makes the book tick: it is simply the passion, the honesty, the liveliness, and intelligence of a theologian who has remained faithful to the faith that he learned. At a time when “theology” is becoming polarised between esoteric meta-theories on the one side and a Churchy agenda that avoids all intellectual challenges on the other, this is a book that restores confidence in the worth of theology as a living expression of life in Christ.’ (The Revd Canon Professor George Pattison, University of Oxford)

‘Jeff Astley writes with great warmth and humour, using personal stories from his life, and outlines a spirituality and discipleship for today that many will find quite compelling. Lying behind this book is a deep knowledge of the philosophy of religion based on years of university teaching. But this is a personal book that wears its knowledge lightly. It is a book that anyone could pick up and read in a quiet moment and feel “yes, this is me!” I recommend it highly as a guide to finding Christ in the everyday and following him wherever the journey leads. It is “ordinary theology” at its very best.’ (The Revd Dr Peter Sedgwick, Principal and Warden, St Michael’s College, Llandaff, Cardiff)

‘We are very fortunate to be given these personal reflections on faith by an experienced Christian educator and theologian. In this book he has sifted an enormous amount of reflection and produced something accessible and welcoming to the interested reader.’ (The Rt Revd Dr Peter Selby, Bishop of Worcester and Bishop to HM Prisons)

‘Whereas many interpretations of Christ seem to embellish and over-complicate the life and message of Jesus, Jeff Astley's prescient study is to be cherished for its astute simplicity. In Christ of the Everyday, we encounter a Jesus who is refreshingly real and direct, and whose gospel is as deeply troubling as it is also comforting. Astley displays a welcome verve for combining tenacious intellectual reflection with some scintillating spiritual insight. Study groups and individuals alike will appreciate the wisdom of an author who can shed new light on the life and teaching of Jesus, and also capture something of the continually compelling essence of the gospel.’(Revd Canon Professor Martyn Percy, Principal, Ripon College Cuddesdon and the Oxford Ministry Course)

‘This is a deep, wise book. It really gets inside ordinary life and what it means today to live in the spirit of Jesus. Jeff Astley manages both to be very personal and to open up a way of following Jesus that will ring true for many others. I especially appreciate what he says about suffering, friendship and joy, but his richest reflections are on how to live with the Jesus who sets us free from worries about our status, position or esteem in the world's eyes. I really loved it and was fed and inspired and led into depths by it.’ (Professor David Ford, University of Cambridge)

‘Written and organised with clarity, the “following” of Christ is here explained as an “easy-hard” way, a matter of change, occasional insights of spiritual vision, and seeing things differently. Marked by attention to joy, silence, friendship, gentleness and humility, struggling “saints” find the courage to take their own perspectives seriously. The implications for all religious institutions are considerable. A profound and accessible book.’ ( Professor Emerita Ann Loades, University of Durham).

‘Readers . . . will find that they are engaged by a spiritual journal which is wide-ranging, deeply personal and clearly centred on Jesus Christ. It stimulates thought, prayer and disputes in sharing a pilgrimage.’ (Dr David Jenkins, Former Bishop of Durham)

‘Christ of the Everyday weaves together insights from scripture, history, and contemporary culture to provoke new questions about how we might encounter Christ in our complex world. This down-to-earth book is as accessible as it is profound. As Jeff Astley reflects on Christian faith in relation to the joys and struggles of everyday life, readers will find much to challenge their thinking, and even more to enrich their spiritual journey.’ (Dr John Drane, author of ‘Do Christians Know How to be Spiritual?’ and ‘The McDonaldization of the Church’)

‘I’ve enjoyed the book very much. It is relaxed and candid, which wins the reader’s confidence – and friendship too, I’d say. But it faces difficult problems four square – especially “The only problem” as Muriel Spark called human suffering: the chapter on that is particularly good. Also, it has a good trajectory which carries the reader along. Ars est celare artem: I think it has done that.’ (The Very Revd John Drury, Chaplain, All Souls College, Oxford)

'[Jeff Astley's] aim here is to make the Christian message vibrant and relevant in everyday experience . . . . [and] for a new generation. . . He makes the valid observation that what we learn about Christ also teaches us much about ourselves and our own worldviews. . . . There are many interesting observations in this book that will provoke much thought' (Church of England Newspaper).

'With refreshing humilty and humour, Astley shows that to lay open the depths of our experience is to rediscover the transcendence of the ordinary. He spends time exploring and opening up the deceptive simplicity of the Christian road, the extraordinary richness that shines out from the jumble of what we call the everyday' (The Tablet).

'[Both] groups and individual readers will appreciate the author's skill at capturing the essence of the Gospel' (Methodist Recorder).

'It's a gem, a brilliant and easy read and will give huge encouragement to anyone who hesitates to say what they really believe in case it might not tie in with what Christians are supposed to think or feel. . . . It's one of the most profoundly humane and Christian books I've read in ages. [A lay friend rang to say] "Reading that book . . . was like a burden being lifted. It's true with a capital 'T'. It swept me along with a feeling of terrific uplift"' (Link).

'Jeff Astley . . . explores some motifs found in all human experience . . . His style is light and anecdotal . . . There is a lovely chapter on joy and the transient world . . . as he struggles to find a new way of looking at life and human experience. His interpretation of the Last Supper is telling . . . Have courage, counsels Astley, tread your own journey, be brave - do your own thinking. In other words, start doing theology for yourself from within the ordinariness of daily life. He writes as a Christian, but his reflections will speak to people of all traditions and none' (Church Times).

Beyond the Here and Now

[Book cover]

This illustrated book, co-authored by the Director and David Day, presents a popular Christian apologetic articulating a 'theology of everyday life'. 'Written in a folksy and humorous style. It is a good read' (Crosscurrent). 'Gently [covering] many of the basic Christian doctrines, this will be a useful book for the "seeker" and the young Christian' (Church of England Newspaper). 'If you wonder how on earth you can help people in the pub move from general conversations about life to specific conversations about Jesus you will find plenty of material to help you' (Alpha News). 'Very light and humorous', 'a comic novel'. 'Well worth a read' (Youth Work Resources for Today's Church). 'This intriguing and often humorous book encourages us to look beneath and beyond our lives to a meaning that is both deeply Christian and fully human' (Renewal).

Jeff Astley and David Day, Beyond the Here and Now
(Oxford: Lion/ Sutherland, NSW: Albatross, 1996)
ISBN 0 7459 2365 8     236 pp     £7.99

Contents        OUT OF PRINT [Book cover]

Also published in German translation as Jeff Astley and David Day, Die Leichte Unverständlichkeit des Seins: vom großen Konzept hinter den kleiner Dingen, trans. Wolfgang Schrödter, Oncken Verlag: Wuppertal and Kassel, 1998.
ISBN 3 7893 1150 2.


See also Adult Christian Education / Education for Discipleship, Theology and RS Students for other titles for students and general readers.

See also Theory and Research in Christian Education and Practical Theology, Explorations in Practical, Pastoral and Empirical Theology Series and Religion, Education and Culture Series for publications on Christian Education, Religious Education and Practical Theology.


Copyright © 2013 North of England Institute for Christian Education