Archives For *Brief Reviews*


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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Bishops on the Border“You Welcomed Me”

A Brief Review of

Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration
Mark Adams, Minerva Carcano, Gerald Kicanas, Kirk Smith, and Stephen Talmage

Paperback: Morehouse Publishing, 2013.
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Reviewed by Gil Stafford


Living in Arizona, immigration and border issues confront the average citizen almost every day. The news and political advertisements remind everyone living here that Arizona is a border state held hostage by volatile polar opinions. Even the church cannot avoid the controversy. Parishioners stand firmly in their opinions on both sides of the aisle. Any pastor who dares takes sides will suffer the wrath of one or more passionate parishioners. As with any political issue, religious people have their own personal opinions, some formulated by scripture, others by popular media, and a few by personal experience. However, there are few issues, if any, in Arizona that can inflame more people quicker. Arizona’s Episcopal Bishop Kirk Smith wrote, “I have received far more hate mail (and to be fair also many complimentary letters) for positions I have taken on immigration than on any other actions that I have ever taken as a bishop. I know that my coauthors have also experienced verbal abuse, and even threats of physical violence.”

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Richard PrimackA Literary Perspective on Global Warming

A Brief Review of

Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods

Richard Primack

Hardback: The University of Chicago Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Alicia Smock


This new book by Richard Primack reaches out to readers who are familiar with Henry David Thoreau’s Walden essay, as well as to those who are concerned about climate change. Being one who began college majoring in meteorology and having recently graduated from college in the field of literature, I was all too intrigued by Walden Warming and was very excited to read the book in its entirety.
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Christopher YatesA Wonderful, Funny, and Sly Story.

A Brief Review of

No Time to Be Lost
Christopher Yates

Paperback: Wiseblood Books, 2014
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Reviewed by Paul D. Gregory


I taught a section of Social Problems for three years at a regional university in the Midwest. A class targeting freshman and sophomore students, Social Problems focused on various institutional problems that at least some people find undesirable. For example, we read and talked about inequality and how it contributes to poverty, crime, etc. After two years of teaching the class in this general format, I found the class lacking, as it focused too much on the mere understanding and interpretation of social problems and less on the real actions of combating those problems. Thankfully, I was not the only one unhappy with this format of the class. Student evaluations consistently included a similar critique: “I appreciated learning about social problems, but isn’t that only part of the answer? What can we actually do about it?” As a result, I changed the class structure to include an action component. Briefly, students were not only required to research a specific social problem, but also were expected to go out into the local community and work to combat it. In many ways, this is the message No Time to Be Lost by Christopher Yates portrays to the reader. That is Yates seems to be highlighting the failure of the academic world to act on behalf of the theoretical knowledge gained over the years.

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Leonard HjalmarsonCloser to Home than we Realize
A Review of

No Home Like Place: A Christian Theology of Place

Leonard Hjalmarson

Paperback: Urban Loft Publishers, 2014.
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Reviewed by Alden Bass.
I grew up in a tradition which resolutely refused to meeting places “sanctuaries.” There was no biblical warrant for the term, and besides, it sounded too Catholic-y. Had not Jesus himself prophesied that the time of sanctified places was coming to end? “The days are coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…but true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth.” The apostles, too, seemed to deny the holiness of any particular place, preferring to characterize the saints – either individually (Paul) or corporately (Peter) – as the new, bodily temple of God. “O Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary.” We preferred to call our meeting places “auditoriums,” using the neutral latinate designation for “a large room for hearing speeches,” (in the process revealing our predilection for the word over the sacrament). For altogether different reasons, there is a movement afoot among the church-growth sector to eschew the freighted and old-fashioned designation in favor of the more neutral and seeker-friendly “auditorium” as well. Unsurprisingly, th­­­­­­­is trend has resulted in many anxious late-night word studies by blogging seminarians.

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To All NationsBoth Inspiring and Terrifying

A Review of

To All Nations From All Nations: A History of the Christian Missionary Movement
Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi and Justo L. González

Paperback: Abingdon Press, 2013
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Reviewed by Douglas Connelly


I haven’t read widely in the story of Christian missions, but what I have read has focused on the modern missionary movement – 19th and 20th century evangelical Protestants, prompted by a compelling desire to preach the gospel to every person, going to Africa and Asia and Latin America with the message of Jesus’s saving grace.  Even as a boy, my parents put biographies of Adoniram Judson and William Carey and Hudson Taylor in my hands to bolster my vision of a world waiting to hear the good news.  (And if those names don’t ring any bells, you really need to read this book!)  So I picked up this new history of Christian missions expecting pretty much the same focus.  I was in for a surprise – and an education.

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Joshua DoležalJourney Before Destination

 A review of

Down from the Mountaintop: From Belief to Belonging

Joshua Doležal

Paperback: U of Iowa Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Sam Edgin


It may be the case that the highest praise a book can earn within the confines of a sentence is this: “I read it in one sitting.” Six words, seven syllables, and wrapped within them the praise equivalent to mountains of gold. A book that was read in a single sitting, a book that breathed deep and swelled its breast to engulf a person until it was done with them, is special kind of book. Most people know the pull of such a thing, and they chase after it.


So when I say that I read Joshua Doležal’s Down from the Mountaintop in its entirety on a sunny Monday morning, I mean it as high praise. Doležal weaves his words with sincerity, managing to convey genuine emotion in his reflections. He has an uncanny knack for detail, and constantly leaves simple beauty shimmering behind our eyes. Images like him and his father playing catch in their uneven and violently sloped front yard, his mother reading to him and his sister on a blanket beneath a tree and the swing of his mattock as he works trails in the mountains in summer heat stick with the reader. His prose is masterful, and turns the story of his relatively ordinary life into a beautiful adventure.

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Susan PitchfordThe Power of Identity


A Review of

The Sacred Gaze: Contemplation and the Healing of the Self

Susan Pitchford

Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Scott E. Schul


Every April 12 I relive the horror of my daughter’s concussion. The head trauma happened the day before, during a seemingly harmless gym class volleyball match, but it was on the 12th when the symptoms fully manifested. That morning in school she began passing out and slurring her words.  She was unable to balance herself and, most terrifyingly, lost a significant amount of her memory. Her brain tried to address the trauma it had suffered by retreating to a safe place in her past. Her voice, tone, and vocabulary took the shape of young girl rather than the high school student she was. In the hospital we reunited her with her beloved cell phone, hoping the many photos and texts would jog her memory. But instead, she looked at me in a mixture of fear and confusion and said in her now-childlike voice, “Daddy, who are all these people in my phone?” In losing her memory, my daughter had lost more than just the identity of her closest friends. She had lost her own identity as well.

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Mark EckelTo Be a Thoughtful Learner

A review of

I Just Need Time to Think! Reflective Study as Christian Practice
Mark Eckel

Paperback: Westbow Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Jennifer Burns Lewis
I’ve had my review copy of I Just Need Time to Think! on my desk for several weeks, and whenever anyone stops by, the vibrant cover catches the visitor’s eye. It is the title, though, that prompts a comment, every time.
“Oh! I need that book!”  “How is that book?  Is it useful? I really need time to think!”  Clearly Eckel has lighted upon a timely, pertinent topic that resonates with many. The cover of the book depicts young people, perhaps students, pensively examining notes or the horizon.  Dr. Mark Eckel is Professor of Leadership, Education and Discipleship at Capital Seminary and Graduate School.  Eckel’s reflections in this helpful book are gleaned from his vocation as a teacher, but they are relevant to anyone who feels overworked, overstimulated or, at the very least, out of the habit of taking time to reflect upon one’s life and decisions.

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James SkillenEngaging Politics Faithfully

A Review of

The Good of Politics: A Biblical, Historical, and Contemporary Introduction

James Skillen

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2014
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Reviewed by Tim Hoiland


For decades, James Skillen has been thinking deeply and carefully about politics and public policy from an evangelical perspective. Despite the culture wars raging to his right and to his left, he has managed to maintain a degree of nuance and sanity that is all too rare among political commentators, Christian or otherwise. Needless to say, he has earned the right to be heard.


The founder and former executive director of the Center for Public Justice, a non-partisan think tank that seeks to apply Christian principles to public policy issues, Skillen has long advocated a robust view of civic responsibility, believing that Christians are called to collaborate with others for the sake of the common good.

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