Discover more from Perishable Goods
Perishable Goods: Back In Season
The latest updates from Perishable Goods, plus what we read this summer!
Well, we’ve unpacked our suitcases, canned the last of our summer tomatoes, and gotten out our cold-weather clothes. After a summer sabbatical that included lots of traveling, eating, gardening, and reading (see below), the PG team is thrilled to get back into a regular publishing routine this fall.
We also have some big news: we've moved to Substack! Substack consolidates all our content—articles, podcast episodes, and newsletters—in one place, making it more convenient for you to stay up to date with our latest. We realize it's a bit of a change, so feel free to familiarize yourself with our new page here.
(Also, you’ll want to be sure to adjust any settings to make sure our emails are showing up in your preferred mailbox.)
You may also notice that there are now different subscription options. Don’t sweat it though: for now, free subscribers will still get most of the same content. However, for those who want to support our work, the paid subscription option opens up early access to new content, grants full access to all our archived posts, and early access to events. If you have any questions, please let us know!
That’s enough housekeeping for now. Here’s a brief recap of what we read over the past few months. You can expect to see many of these names reappear in our work in the coming months, so if you want to get a head start on the conversation, be sure to check out some of the titles below!
Wonderfully Made: A Protestant Theology of the Body by John Kleinig
The title of this book is perhaps a little bit misleading. In an episode of Mere Fidelity, Australian pastor and writer Dr. John Kleinig admits that he didn’t choose the subtitle for this book—his marketing team did. The book’s original subtitle was “Seeing Our Bodies the Way God Sees Them”—I believe this subtitle better captures the intent and tone of this marvelous work. Kleinig is not setting out to write a systematic theology of the body, nor is he trying to contend with Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body. Instead, his aim is to articulate a biblical account of the body in a more comprehensive manner, considering the body not only in the context of marriage and sexuality, but also in the context of work, worship, ritual, and the bodily resurrection. Having written substantial commentaries on both Leviticus and Hebrews, Kleinig is able to give a thorough account of the Old Testament’s depiction of the body that extends far beyond Genesis 1-3.
That being said, Kleinig’s tone is pastoral rather than academic. In his introduction, he explains that his goal is to present “a theological vision of the beauty of physical human life and of the world as God’s creation” not by argument but “personally by example.” He is entirely successful in this endeavor. Kleinig’s exegesis is at once wholly faithful to Scripture and vividly descriptive. He writes with zeal for God’s design and compassion for His saints. If you only read one book on embodiment this year, let it be this one.
Eve in Exile (Produced by Canon Press)
What does it mean for woman to be the “glory of man” (1 Cor 11:7)? I don’t know of many faithful Christian women who could give a satisfying answer to this question, even if their lives reflect the truth of the statement. It wasn’t until I read Rebekah Merkle’s book Eve in Exile: The Restoration of Femininity that I finally felt confident–and excited–to answer this question. Many Christian women, whether caught in trappings of modern feminism or not, understand the passage from 1 Corinthians 11 to mean that woman is on the outermost fringe of the glory spectrum–that, if man is the glory of God, and woman is the glory of man, then woman is just the blurriest, most pixilated image of God. Merkle shows, however, that when Scripture speaks of woman as being the glory of the glory of God, it does not indicate a dilution of glory, but an intensification of it. Eve is fruitfulness. Woman was created as a helpmeet, to work hard and to adorn the Gospel with her ability to fill, nourish, subdue, and make lovely the world God created. Her role within creation is vital, and evidence of a generous Creator.
Recently, Canon Press turned Merkle’s book into a documentary full of beautiful imagery that depicts what it means for woman to be the glory of the glory of God. Merkle’s message is not just for married women or mothers; the calling to be fruitful–to nourish and sustain the community in which one dwells–is for all women.
The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon
When I started The Supper of the Lamb, I didn’t expect to read a full chapter about onions. I was even more surprised (ironically, perhaps?) when it moved me to tears. Capon has written a great cookbook, undoubtedly, but an even more wonderful theology of food. He marvels at the goodness of food and drink in all their forms, with all their fat and flavor, as gifts of God that bear witness to His love for creation.
While the book’s tone can feel pretentious at times, Capon’s message is utterly refreshing. The book is winsome and witty, dripping with symbolism; the recipes look delicious, often practical (though I haven’t tried any yet). Capon would say it doesn’t take much to make a feast. A lunch of bread and cheese enjoyed with the right heart goes just as far toward anticipating the Marriage Feast of the Lamb as the most succulent wines and meats.
This is a book for foodies who love a good dinner party, for those seeking the meaning and shape of Christian hospitality, and for anyone longing to rediscover a sense of wonder at the material world. Capon’s own words provide the best possible recommendation for his book and its earnest love for Creation: “Why do we marry, why take friends and lovers? Why give ourselves to music, painting, chemistry or cooking? Out of simple delight in the resident goodness of creation, of course; but out of more than that, too. Half earth's gorgeousness lies hidden in the glimpsed city it longs to become.”
Strange New World by Carl Trueman
For former English majors like myself, non-fiction is an acquired taste. I’m even pickier about philosophical and political writing, which is often obtuse at best and self-inflating at worst. Not so with Carl Trueman’s latest book. In Strange New World, which is a concise and accessible reworking of his book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, he has given us a concise, engaging analysis of the cultural shifts that gave rise to the sexual revolution and identity politics.
As part of his larger discussion of the modern cultural milieu, Trueman explains the positions of prominent thinkers such as Rousseau, Marx, and Freud (remarkably, he does so while deftly avoiding the pitfall of reductionism that plagues many secondary sources). It’s an invaluable resource for those who don’t have the time–or the desire–to wade through hundreds of pages of primary source documents from the last 300 years. Ultimately, Trueman shows that the rational arguments made by these thinkers represent an intuitive shift in what philosopher Charles Taylor calls our “social imaginary,” which is to say, our culture’s collective understanding of reality. Mapping these changes makes it seem plausible–even inevitable–for our culture to reject truths that were considered unshakable even 50 years ago.
As theologian Albert Mohler has said, “Christians are in a culture war—whether we want to be or not.” For Christians who want to be well-versed in the influences that have formed our culture, Trueman’s book will equip you to move beyond buzzwords and speak with insight.
Augustine of Hippo: A Biography by Peter Brown
If you’ve read his Confessions, you’ll know that, as a young man, Augustine fell in with a group of folks—the Manicheans—who were deeply wrong about Christianity, despite their strict moral codes and biblical lingo. The Manicheans believed that all material creation was fundamentally evil and that goodness was a passive, powerless force. If Augustine’s Confessions provides a good picture of his deliverance from this cult, Peter Brown’s biography puts that picture into high definition. From a historical third-party perspective, Brown insightfully details how God—through the prayers of his mother, the preaching of Bishop Ambrose, his friendships, and his pursuit of philosophy—rescued Augustine from the Manichean distortion of faith.
While there may not be self-described Manicheans hosting religious services today, our world stands to learn a lot from Augustine’s story. Lacking transcendent faith, many today deny the goodness of creation in the face of the world’s brokenness. Why bring a child into a world with rising water levels and impending food shortages? Why shouldn’t we have the ability to pull the plug on our pain-filled lives? Evil and meaninglessness seem to have corrupted the whole. In such a world, good seems almost nowhere to be found. And where it is, it is fleeting, soon to be swallowed up by brokenness.
Such a world is in desperate need of an Augustinian faith in the active, eternal, untaintable goodness of God. Far from being powerless and passive, God’s goodness is active, giving meaning to all existence and persisting undiminished in the presence of evil and brokenness. Augustine’s is thus a faith that finds evil, no matter how lamentable, “necessarily bound around with chains of Beauty, like some captive bound in fetters of gold.”
In many ways, this is exactly what Perishable Goods seeks to recover. It is a vision of the creation, “taken as a whole”—visible and invisible, heavenly and earthly—that celebrates the persistence and imperishability of goodness wherever it is found. A goodness that remains, even in the face of perishability.