Each year we ask a panel of experts to select Books of the Year (see p. 42)—and given the impending change of century, this year we have identified Books of the Century as well (see p. 92).

In this column I'd like to highlight several books from recent years which I intended to review personally, but due to the press of getting the magazine out the door did not have the leisure to write about. A little too old for a fresh review, these books haven't yet been remaindered, so you can probably still find them.

First is David Keck's Forgetting Whose We Are: Alzheimer's Disease and the Love of God (Abingdon, 1996). His mother's early-onset Alzheimer's forced Keck to put his theology to the test. Reading this book shortly after my father-in-law's long bout with this disease was ended, I was too deeply affected to write about this book at that time.

Keck found that contemporary theologies of a liberationist bent were of little help to the families of Alzheimer's patients. Such approaches define theology as praxis and require Christians to act for their salvation/liberation. That is no comfort to those whose dementia leaves them without the capacity to act. By contrast, classical theologies emphasize that it is God who acts on our behalf.

Similarly unhelpful were theological voices that echo the individualism of our age. Alzheimer's patients lose their sense of self, and it is only in the collective memory and the common prayer of the community that they find their Christian identity. Classical theology emphasizes that communal context. Current theologies also play down the soul, locating the person in the body-mind unity. But when body and mind deteriorate, where is the person? Classic theologies help Alzheimer's families by locating the person in something other than body or mind. Keck's book is a rewarding reappropriation of classical theology through the crucible of Alzheimer's.

Another book that languished on my to-review list is John Witte Jr.'s From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Religion (Westminster John Knox, 1997). As part of the Lilly Endowment-funded Religion, Culture, and Family Project, I had the opportunity to respond to a paper Witte wrote, in which he outlined in bold strokes the differences between medieval Catholicism and Reformation Protestantism in their understanding of marriage.

Building on that paper, Witte's book chronicles the history of marriage law and the theology with which it was inextricably intertwined from the high Middle Ages through the Reformation and on into the Enlightenment. In an era in which we have seen marriage reduced to a contract between two individuals, it is deeply enriching to discover the fuller understandings of marriage elaborated by our forebears.

Finally, Fleming Rutledge's The Bible and the New York Times (Eerdmans, 1998). One of the Episcopal Church's best preachers, Rutledge is also one of its few traveling evangelists.

Rutledge takes seriously Karl Barth's saying that sermons should be written with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. The "newspaper" for Rutledge is not just the front page, but the op-ed pieces and even the personal ads. Through the newspaper, her sermons connect the sacred sphere of worship with the profane world in which we work. She hears in the news the echoes of the personal struggles and family feuds of biblical characters, and she teaches her hearers to see in the world around them the ongoing work of God.

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