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Resurrection City: A Theology of Improvisation (Prophetic Christianity) Paperback – November 23, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Cornel West
-- Union Theological Seminary
"Peter Heltzel is a jazz-infused theologian par excellence! Don't miss this gem of a book."

Shannon Craigo-Snell
-- Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
"Jazz musicians can improvise because they are so rooted in musical traditions, because they know the standards so well. This grounding allows for the freedom to create something that is both continuous with the past and open to a new future. Theology, claims Peter Heltzel, should be like improvisational jazz -- various traditions coming together in an ongoing continuity that is always new. In Resurrection City Heltzel performs just this kind of theology. Deeply grounded in Scripture, history, music, and the struggle for justice, Heltzel improvises a prophetic Christian theology of hope. Both scholarly and accessible, Resurrection City is a virtuoso performance."

Eldin Villafa�e
-- Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
"This is an informative, provocative, and timely book — a gift to the church as it seeks the shalom of the city."

George E. Lewis
-- Columbia University
"Heltzel's extraordinary theology prophetically re-imagines the future of Christianity through improvisation, the lifeblood of creative music around the world, enacting a clarion call to assembly that exhorts us toward a spiritual practice affirming the twinned imperatives of justice and love."

J. Kameron Carter
-- Duke University Divinity School
"Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and the notion of 'Resurrection City,' Peter Heltzel, a leading thinker of his generation of American evangelicals, presents here arguably the most cogent theological engagement with race and the American evangelical world available today, even as he locates his engagement within a wider frame -- a vision for an evangelicalism of the future. This, Heltzel lyrically argues, will be an evangelicalism that dares to love as God loves. It is a jazz-inflected, musical evangelicalism -- an evangelicalism that engages its past, that negotiates the present with improvisational verve (the inspiration here is John Coltrane's sermonic anthem A Love Supreme), and that consequently can receive the future. I heartily recommend this book."

About the Author

Peter Goodwin Heltzel is associate professor of theology and director of the Micah Institute at New York Theological Seminary. Author of Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race, and American Politics (Yale, 2009) and coeditor of the Prophetic Christianity series, he is also assistant pastor of evangelism at Park Avenue Christian Church in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Series: Prophetic Christianity
  • Paperback: 219 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (November 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802867596
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802867599
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #912,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marion Morford on January 20, 2014
Format: Paperback
In Resurrection City: A Theology of Improvisation, Peter Goodwin Heltzel explores, expands and yes, improvises a prophetic yet practical vision of Christianity based on near-meditations from the lives and work of Thomas Jefferson, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Howard Thurman and, most of all, John Coltrane.
God moves, he urges us, across history and denominations and religious traditions, always in pursuit of justice, and also, consistently with an eye on previous traditions and another eye on the demands of the moment; an endless improvisation. The result is an insistent, undeniable and, one would hope, an irresistible call for a vital, engaged, justice-seeking faith which moves out from church sanctuaries into our streets, homes and workplaces.
Real faith, Heltzel reminds us, is visionary and practical, rooted and reaching, with active and responsive hearts and hands. Our call is to the ‘beloved city’ – the place where we all can find our fullest personal hope and collective destiny. Love is no abstraction; it is personal and political, individual and social, immediate and eternal.
Our roles, as well as our identities and destinies, emerge from and are expressed through our social, political and economic systems. And our calling, as people of faith, is to be stewards of this built world as well as the natural world.
Living a life of faith, in any situation, will always be an act of improvisation.
Heltzel wraps this book around John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, a work of reaching forward even as it looks, and leans, backwards into jazz standards or even Disney classics like ‘My favorite things’. Faith, like the best jazz, is built on traditions while moving forever into new territory, absorbing, reconnecting and ultimately remaking a familiar tune.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Art on December 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
As a seminary student, I have been required to purchase and read a number of books for either class or research. Some books I purchased and simply returned when I was done with them, while other books I purchased, read, and then put them on my shelf in case I should ever need them again. On occasion though, I'd come across a book that I continued to look to and draw from throughout my various studies. These books were timeless treasures that always provided nuggets of wisdom and insight that were relevant even beyond my studies. This book by Dr. Peter Heltzel is one of those books. The impact of this book will go far beyond my studies, and will continue to shape the direction of ministerial career. This is a book that will never make it onto my shelf. Rather, it will occupy my desk or find home in my briefcase as I continue to consult it as a source for all that I do.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Joe Strife on December 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
In Resurrection City Heltzel builds upon his earlier work, Jesus and Justice, which gave a challenging account of American Evangelical history, particularly in relation to questions of politics and race. Here, he moves from genealogy to constructive theology, mapping out a prophetic vision of Christian life and belief which draws on figures from Thomas Jefferson and Sojourner Truth to Martin Luther King Jr. and John Coltrane. Improvisation is the central metaphor for this theological vision, working within the structure and traditions of Evangelical faith while creatively re-interpreting its practices in light of the ongoing movement of the Spirit. The result is an insistent call for a vital, engaged, justice-seeking faith which moves out from Church sanctuaries into the streets.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By g howard new york on December 6, 2012
Format: Paperback
The author leads the reader into a world of hopeful possibility. His contextual references are fixed in the American cultural icons: Thomas Jefferson, Sojourner Truth, Howard Thurman, and John Coltrane that serve as spiritual sages. He uses the improvisational jazz genre to forge a theology of hopeful eschatology. Churches are invited to engage in a creative "new soul force" in social engagement, working through to a change rooted in Scripture and birthing to construct "A Love Supreme" - refreshing!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
A Review of "Resurrection City: A Theology of Improvisation", Peter Goodwin Heltzel, 2012. Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Co.

I. OUTSIDER PERSPECTIVE.

"Resurrection City: is substantial and consistently stimulating. Heltzel is an associate professor of theology at New York Theological Seminary, with a strong grounding in Biblical values, Christian theology, Black theology, American history, and current justice concerns in American and world life.

A white boy from Mississippi, he manages fairly well to achieve the perspective of an outsider to the American mainstream - primarily an African American perspective. This is always of value when done responsibly; the Biblical prophets to whom he appeals were often in comparable situations.

II. HIS BURDEN

"Meanwhile, outside the prayer closet, it's another day of extortion in the marketplace, bribery in the courts, and intentional ignorance of the orphans, widows, immigrants, and prisoners." p126

Heltzel applies that critique to 1st century Jerusalem and contemporary America, illustrating our desperate need for ongoing improvisation in Christian theology and practice. He uses jazz music as a model.

"While driven by spontaneity, freedom, and innovation, improvisation is never ... unstructured or ... wholly new." p18

Jazz is a creative expression of older, even classical, musical forms in new settings and with new voices.

"... the creative deployment of traditions and forms that are at hand ... a constant negotiation of constraint and possibility." p18

He sees our Christian spiritual tradition as having the resources we need, but those resources have to be rearranged, translated, improvised to powerfully engage current social realities.
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