Archives For *Brief Reviews*


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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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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