Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

Rick LovePeace be With You.

A Review of

Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations and Communities

Rick Love

Paperback: IVP Books, 2014.
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Reviewed by James Stambaugh

 

I speak two dialects of Christianese.  I know Episcopalian: “the priest, wearing a chasuble over his alb, is in the narthex with the thurifer and crucifer.”  I also know evangelical.  I once had an evangelical college professor who was famous for his two points of contact handshakes (hand and elbow) coupled with the question: “How have you made Jesus real in your life today, brother?”  Another professor would preface every topic with, “The Lord has really been dealing with me today about…”

 

Rick Love is a rhetorical master of the evangelical dialect.  As a result, his latest book, Peace Catalysts, is a superb resource for convincing evangelical Christians of the importance of peacemaking both on an interpersonal and societal level.  It is a practical guide for peacemaking that is accessible to the average American churchgoer.

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J. Philip WogamanDeveloping Meaningful Interfaith Relationships

A Review of

What Christians Can Learn from Other Religions.
J. Philip Wogaman


Paperback: WJK Books, 2014.
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Reviewed by Joel David Ickes

 

What Christians Can Learn from Other Religions comes at a time when a lot has been said about world religions. It was not too long ago that religious traditions could easily be insulated from others, but in a world of constant communication and travel, contact and competition among religions are no longer avoidable. A new multireligious environment emerges in the post-Christian memory. Though these faiths have always existed—some before Christianity, others after—we find ourselves more and more “bumping into each other” in our communities. We must consider factors such as globalization, immigration, and urbanization playing into the likelihood of crossing paths with someone from another faith. Increasingly, Christians need to learn to have an interreligious dialogue with one another given this reality, so Wogaman’s book is a timely resource that can aid Christians in learning from other religions. The ultimate goal of this book, I believe, is that we all become a little more knowledgeable of and loving towards our others.

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Len KagelerHelping Youth Contribute to the Common Good

A Review of

Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society: Forming Christian Identity Among Skeptics, Syncretists and Sincere Believers of Other Faiths

Len Kageler

Paperback: InterVarsity Press, 2014
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Reviewed by John W. Morehead
 
Evangelical books and other resources that address youth ministry usually do so without much reference to the pluralism and multifaith context of America and the West. Len Kageler’s volume, Youth Ministry in a Multifaith Society, fills a much-needed void in this area.
 
Kageler’s book examines youth ministry in multifaith contexts through nine chapters and two appendices. His approach is unique in that he does not follow a typical doctrinal contrast template found in so many other Evangelical volumes that touch on other religions. Instead, he helps Evangelical youth workers understand their ministry in light of social scientific data, as well as similar approaches being taken by youth workers in other religious traditions. In the first chapter he draws attention to the concepts of youth and adolescents as well as the youth work activities of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews. He concludes the chapter by noting that exposure of Evangelical youth group members to the members of other religious youth groups can have a positive function that can “call into question previously held assumptions” (31) which then aids in spiritual formation.

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N.T. Wright On Reading a “Big Book”

A Review of

Paul and the Faithfulness of God

N.T. Wright

Paperback (2 vol.): Fortress Press, 2013
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Reviewed by Daniel M. Yencich

 
N.T. Wright’s long-awaited treatise on the theology of Paul is a big book. Indeed: although it is one work, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (PFG hereafter) is split into two volumes and spans a mammoth 1660 pages. There is a joke about an author attaining true historical significance when the volume of writings about him surpasses the number of things he actually wrote, but Wright’s five-pound book renders it rather obvious. Beyond physical measurements, however, PFG must still be described as a “big book,” in the sense of the impact it has had and will have in New Testament scholarship, theological reflection, and Christian ministry for years to come. Wright is not always persuasive in his arguments in PFG, but his perspective is certainly interesting and, especially in evangelical circles, his voice certainly commands attention. PFG is an important work, if a bit physically unwieldy, and will challenge scholars, pastors, and interested non-specialists alike with its comprehensive vision of Christianity’s most famous apostle and the theological thought he bequeathed to history.

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Jen Pollock MichelRich in Gospel and Grit

A Review of

Teach Us To Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith
Jen Pollock Michel

Paperback: IVP Books, 2014
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Reviewed by Bronwyn Lea

 

Once, I was hijacked by a bishop.

 

I was in London at a conference, and the bishop of my church at home was hosting a reception one evening for South African expats. One of his purposes was to raise awareness and funds for our small denominational seminary, where I was a student at the time, and so I agreed to an interview.

 

I was prepared for a plain sailing interview about the bible college. I was blindsided by the direction he took: asking detailed, personal questions about the personal trauma which had derailed me while I was a law student, and set me on a path of question-asking.

 

I cornered him afterwards, furious and exposed: “If I had known you would ask me those questions, I would not have done the interview,” I fumed. He was gentle and clear: “I know. That’s why I didn’t tell you. I’m preparing you for ministry, my girl.”

 

I left the conference hopelessly tangled. Why was I in seminary, anyway? I didn’t want to be in vocational ministry: I wanted to be in the work place! But was that what God wanted? I felt sure it wasn’t what I wanted, but then why did I also feel a sense of satisfaction that my words had made a difference that night? And was it sinful to feel a sense of accomplishment at the same time as feeling sideswiped?

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Rachel GerberWorking Alongside Christ All the Way

A Feature Review of

Ordinary Miracles: Awakening to the Holy Work of Parenting

Rachel Gerber

Paperback: Herald Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Ellen Painter Dollar.

 

I belonged to a church of overcommitted world-changers when I first realized that God was calling me to have a baby, or as it turned out, several babies. God, it seems, was calling my fellow church members to start medical clinics and supportive housing for Washington, D.C.’s homeless population, or to give up comfortable suburban lives and move their families to violence-ridden urban neighborhoods. And here I was, called to wipe noses and bottoms, launder tiny outfits stained by blow-outs and spit-up, and figure out how to get adequate plant-based foods into growing bodies. This did not seem right, and I struggled for many years to understand how God might be present, and how I might connect with God, while caring for small children instead of doing Big Things for Jesus.

 

Rachel Gerber’s Ordinary Miracles: Awakening to the Holy Work of Parenting is a gentle invitation to mothers like me—firm in our faith but unsure how to nurture that faith while navigating the tedious, exhausting terrain of life with little ones—to notice and celebrate “the sacred mundane.” Her most natural audience is parents in progressive Christian traditions (Gerber is an ordained Mennonite pastor) that, like my D.C.-based church, more readily celebrate outward justice-oriented and pastoral work than domestic duties. Her message may also appeal to mothers in more conservative traditions, where a perception of motherhood as a woman’s highest calling can make it hard for women to confess that their days are more marked by fatigue, boredom, and even rage than joy and spiritual fulfillment.

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Bret LottFailing to Get Out of the Way
 
A Feature Review of

Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, on Being a Christian

Bret Lott

Hardback: Crossway, 2013
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Reviewed by Katherine Willis Pershey
 
 
A few months ago, I swore off writing book reviews after a monumentally awkward encounter with an author whose book I had reviewed. In defense of this Author Who Shall Not Be Named, I walked right into it. I strongly encourage writers to refrain from cheerfully approaching authors whose books they have reviewed. Learn from my mistakes.

 

My disavowal of book reviewing didn’t take, obviously. I had already committed to reviewing a new title for a print publication, so I had to shake off my abject mortification and put on my big girl pants. Thankfully, I loved the book and didn’t have many negative criticisms to weave in to my otherwise glowing assessment. It was such a pleasant experience I decided I would revise my prohibition against book reviews. I simply wouldn’t review books I didn’t wholeheartedly love, thus saving me from future mortification and preserving the egos of authors whose books about which I could not, in good conscience, gush.

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Willibald SauerländerA Flemish Master Returns to the Church
 
A Feature Review of

The Catholic Rubens: Saints and Martyrs.
Willibald Sauerländer

David Dollenmayer, Trans.
Getty Research Institute, 2014.
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Reviewed by Sarah Jane Holsteen

 

For a book examining the Counter-Reformation altarpieces of a Baroque artist, Willibald Sauerländer begins in an unexpected spot: with the painting of a pagan suicide. Peter Paul Rubens’s The Death of Seneca (circa 1612), depicts the Stoic philosopher fulfilling Emperor Nero’s order of death, his (likely wrongful) punishment for plotting against the Roman ruler. Sauerländer commits the whole first chapter of The Catholic Rubens to a discussion of this painting. Why? Stoicism’s exhortation to self-control and reason run counter to the heightened emotions and tumultuous narratives of the Baroque art which Rubens helped define.  And why begin a consideration of Rubens’s artistic service to the Catholic Church with this “Pagan Prelude” (the title of Chapter One)?

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Love and Tenacity

A Review of

CMYK: The Process of Life Together
Justin McRoberts

Paperback: McRoberts, 2013
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
 
Earlier this summer, I did something that I almost never do: I picked up a book on a Sunday afternoon and read it from cover to cover. This book, I would hasten to add, was no ordinary book, it was singer/song-writer Justin McRoberts’s iconoclastic work, CMYK: The Process of Life Together.  I was struck how Justin developed key themes that were very similar to those that John Pattison and I addressed in our book Slow Church – specifically, the messiness and beauty and joy of sharing life in our church communities – and yet he did so in a way that was so vastly different from our book.  I was struck by the central image of color printing that gave the book its title and structure. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (a.k.a. Black) are the four distinct colors that when combined can produce any color as part of the traditional four-color printing process.  McRoberts writes:
 
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Distant NeighborsA Clear and Highly Developed Vision of a Better World

A Feature Review of

Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters Of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder.

Hardback: Counterpoint, 2014
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Reviewed by Michelle E. Wilbert

 

In the affectionate introduction to this edifying collection of correspondence between novelist, poet, and cultural critic Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder, the “Poet Laureate of Deep Ecology,” an essayist, activist, and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1974 for his book Turtle Island, editor Chad Wriglesworth relays the earliest articulation of the relationship between the two men, found in a short essay sent by Berry to Snyder after his returning home to Kentucky following his first visit to Snyder’s homestead in the San Juan Ridge area of southern California. While offering his observations on their various shared affinities and concerns – land, community, and the sense that “being native to a place” involves examining the questions that would lead to a commitment to arresting the “pattern of imposing human will upon the land” and to living within creaturely limits in conformity to the local ecology – he concluded his reveries by metaphorically extending his hand with the declaration, “We are neighbors—distant neighbors,” and thus began a friendship that has lasted more than 40 years and has been conducted largely through the somewhat lost art of epistolary.

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