Archives For *Brief Reviews*


Trust and Mutual Giving.

A review of

Geneva Two: A Parable of Christian Calling and Community
Russell Smith

Paperback: CreateSpace, 2014
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Reviewed by Kevin Wildman


There were two factors that fueled my interest in Geneva Two, by Russell B. Smith; 1) it is fiction, 2) it is about Christian community, specifically an intentional community. I was very excited to read this book until I read the introduction, after reading the introduction all enthusiasm was lost. The disappointment was due in part to explanation in the author’s introduction that this work is written from the perspective of Hatcher Christolphson, a journalist interviewing the various members of the Geneva Two community. I was convinced that a book consisting simply of a series of interviews was going to be incredibly tedious.
Two days later I set out to read the Hatcher’s introduction. Quickly, I completed the introduction and first two-interviews. The next morning having a little free time I read a little more, and from there the momentum steamrolled. Throughout the day every chance I got I was reading Geneva Two, only to completely finish the entire book that night.

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GGE-CoverThe Entirety of the Created Order.

A review of

Greening God’s Earth:
A Handbook for Stewarding Church Land
Scot F. Martin

PDF Ebook:  [ FREE Download ], 2014
39 pages (including bibliography and references)


Reviewed by Joshua Neds-Fox


I occasionally hear environmentally sensitive messages from the pulpit, targeted against the “it’s all gonna burn” theology that sprung from the same premillennial soil as Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. It’s been over 40 years since that book was first published; my unscientific sense is that gardening-as-worship is no longer terribly controversial.


But just in case I’m wrong, here’s Scot Martin’s handbook, Greening God’s Earth: A Handbook for Stewarding Church Land,  dedicated to making the case for an ecumenical environmentalism. The first half introduces and defends the thesis: “to educate Christians on the possibilities that exist under their feet when they walk from the parking lot to the church entrance” (10-11) That is, the great wealth of land under church stewardship provides the local church with abundant opportunity to practice what Martin calls “creation care.”

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James Calvin SchaapBefore Our Own Humble Ascent
A Review of

Up the Hill: Stories
James Calvin Schaap

Ebook: New Rivers Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Crystal Hurd
When I was seven or eight, my parents attended several funerals with me in tow. I would stand among the foreign stones of strangers and watch as puffy-eyed mourners huddled around the polished coffin. It seemed to me that death made people vulnerable. I watched people cry that I had never seen cry before. Death stripped away the mask, disturbed the well-rehearsed dances and left us all exposed and traumatized. I began to slowly understand the experience of loss. Then, I began to contemplate on these events. I started sketching the gatherings; vertical stick figures wringing their stick hands around a horizontal figure in a tiny box. It was then that my mother decided to leave me with my grandmother when church folks would pass into glory. She thought that all the death was seeping into my subconscious like rainwater on thirsty soil. Such curiosity might be unhealthy.

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Timothy MooneyRegaining the Spirit of a Child in Adulthood

A Review of

Like A Child: Restoring the Awe, Wonder, Joy and Resiliency of the Human Spirit
Timothy Mooney

Paperback: Skylight Paths, 2014
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Reviewed by Alicia Smock


As the years pass, every person goes through the same, almost seemingly cursed, transformation. In the beginning of their lives, children want the years to fly by so that they may become grown-ups. When those years have passed and adults are wondering where the time has gone, they would do anything to turn the clock back and become a child again.

Of course, all adults are knowledgeable of the fact that one cannot build a time machine and return to childhood. However, there is a way to become like a child once again and that is to unlock the inner child-like spirit hiding within every adult. Rev. Timothy J. Mooney has explored this in further detail by researching the Bible, well-known people of the past, people he has met throughout his life, and through his own experiences, compiled in his new book Like A Child: Restoring the Awe, Wonder, Joy, and Resiliency of the Human Spirit.

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Ken WytsmaWise and Comforting Words

A Review of

The Grand Paradox:The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of FaithKen Wytsma

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2015
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
This review originally appeared on The Slow Church Blog on Patheos.

In my early years of college, I went through somewhat of a crisis of faith, questioning who God was and how God relates to humanity. It was a pretty bleak time, but eventually through long series of conversations with friends and through reading certain works of writers in the Christian tradition like C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle and Frederick Buechner, I eventually grew into a deeper, more resilient understanding of God, and of how God is at work in humanity.

This crisis in my own life came to mind as I was reading Ken Wytsma’s new book The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith. I suspect that had it been in existence over two decades ago, when I was in college, I would have found this book immensely helpful and comforting amidst my struggles.

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Lance Ford A New Sort of Evangelicalism

A Review of

Revangelical: Becoming the Good News People We’re Meant to Be
Lance Ford

Paperback: Tyndale Momentum, 2014
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith


For many years now, I have had a tenuous relationship with the label “evangelical.”  On one hand, I have wanted to stay connected and in conversation with the tradition in which I was raised. On the other hand, I was so frustrated with almost everything that evangelicalism represented, and especially how it had come to be so closely bound with right-wing partisan politics. Even today, I still waiver on whether to call myself an evangelical. Lance Ford, author of the new book Revangelical: Becoming the Good News People We’re Meant to Be, is an evangelical; he writes in a manner that will be compelling to evangelicals, richly steeped in scripture, and full of stories that will connect with evangelicals. And yet, Ford is out to define a new sort of evangelicalism.  He describes this “revangelicalism”:
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Noah Wilson-RichAn Everyman’s Guide to all Things Bee

The Bee: A Natural History

Noah Wilson-Rich

Hardback: Princeton UP, 2014
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Reviewed by Mary Bowling

Gorgeous and fascinating, bees are insects that elicit strong feelings from whomever they come into contact. From schoolchildren (and teachers) who flail and shout, “A bee! A bee!” at any small winged creature within swatting distance, to researchers, protesters, and beekeepers who devote themselves to finding and alleviating a host of maladies affecting the beleaguered bugs, almost no one is indifferent. The Bee: A Natural History is an everyman’s guide to all things bee, definitely pretty enough to sit out on the coffee table, and very perusable.

Bees have been around for millions of years, and there are thousands of bee species, so for someone who’s interested, there’s a lot to know. Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich clearly knows a lot, and has created an interesting, visually stimulating book with a concise directory of the world’s bees and gobs of beautiful close-up photos. Also contributing with the book are Kelly Allin, Norman Carreck, and Andrea Quigley. At 213 pages, The Bee: A Natural History can sometimes feel like a brief introduction to about twenty or thirty other books that could be written about the almost impossibly broad subject of bees.

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Angela Doll CarlsonA Journey of Beauty and Poetry

A Review of

Nearly Orthodox: On Being a Modern Woman in An Ancient Tradition

Angela Doll Carlson

Paperback: Ancient Faith Publishing, 2014
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Reviewed by Amy Gentile
When I first heard about Angela Doll Carlson’s book, I was drawn to it immediately: Nearly Orthodox: On Being a Modern Woman in an Ancient Tradition. Everything about that resonated with me. Like the author, I too am a convert to Orthodoxy and, despite having been a convert for four and a half years now, “nearly Orthodox” feels like an apt description of the reality I inhabit. On some deep level, I know that I am Orthodox, and I am working on trying to gain an Orthodox phronema (mindset), but I also recognize that I have been very heavily shaped by my past religious traditions and experiences, and that sometimes that makes me feel a little bit on the outside edge of Orthodoxy. It was refreshing to hear my story echoed in these pages, but I was also enriched by the places where our stories differed, and the ways in which her Catholic (as opposed to my Protestant) upbringing uniquely shaped each of our journeys. I am pleased to read Carlson’s journey and for the perspective it gives me on my own—and I think this would be true for anybody whose faith has morphed and been continually renewed through the years, not just for Orthodox converts.
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Michael HarrisPreserving Absence

A Reflection on this new book and what it means for Christians:

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in A World Of Constant Connection

Michael Harris

Hardback: Current, 2014
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Reflection by Michael J. Bowling

[ Watch brief video intro to the book ]


We are flooded with presence! Twitter, Facebook, unlimited texting, smart phones, WIFI and a host of mobile devices put us in constant touch with nearly everyone on the planet. Maybe, this is a bit of an exaggeration today, but not so much in the near future. Some would respond, “What’s wrong with that?” After all, don’t we value presence? We want open and useful communication with others. Being present is at the core of Christian faith, right?

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Stratford CaldecottA Whole Different World

A review of

Not As the World Gives: The Way of Creative Justice

Stratford Caldecott

Paperback: Second Spring, 2014.
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Reviewed by Sam Edgin


As crowd-sourced media plays its hand in defining what our culture is, and as news aggregation-by-way-of-popularity sites — such as Reddit — grasp more public interest, the Christian church will, and indeed already does, find itself in a culturally unique situation. Within current social media, stories, videos and pictures of what the Christian society would term “hope” and “love” and “justice” frequently attain virality and become behemoths of social popularity. This is good. In fact, this is something to be celebrated by Christians everywhere. The problem mentioned earlier, however, is that Christianity, in light of the popularity of an almost “Christian” justice throughout secular society, has found itself with less and less actions and postures that it can champion as uniquely Christian. That is, if the world’s justice appears much the same as Christianity’s justice, or even better than it, the argument that Christianity offers a better world seems to weaken in impact.

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