Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

A Whodunnit with Depth and Nuance

 
A Feature Review of

Death Comes for The Deconstructionist: A Novel
Daniel Taylor

Hardback: Slant Books, 2015
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Reviewed by Lesa Engelthaler

 
 

I have a thing for short first sentences. In Death Comes for The Deconstructionist, Daniel Taylor delivers three of them rapid-fire in the opening of the first chapter, “Something is wrong. I’m not well. The voices are back.”

 

Taylor has written eleven books, though this is his first venture into the vast frontier of fiction. I admit I hold fiction on a bit of a pedestal. To me, only the best of the best write fiction. Taylor’s debut novel does not disappoint.

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Less than the Sum of its parts?

 
A Review of

Elvis Presley: A Southern Life
Joel Williamson

Hardback: Oxford; 2015
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Reviewed by Adam P. Newton.
 
For the last 50 years, Elvis Aaron Presley incited libidos and passions with his golden voice, twitching hips, and good ol’ boy Southern charm. And it took Joel Williamson less than 400 pages to rob The King of the personality, swagger, and joie de vivre that made him one of the most iconic performers of all time.

 

Admittedly, Williamson’s thesis was never to glorify Presley, much less indulge in any blatant hagiography. The purpose of this tome was to strip away the glitz and glamour a bit in order to better understand Elvis the man at the expense of Elvis the cultural deity. And as a former “D-List” music critic who believes Sam Phillips deserves more credit for Elvis than Colonel Tom Parker, I welcomed the chance to see behind the curtain.

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What is your testimony?

A Feature Review of

Where the Cross Meets the Street: What Happens to the Neighborhood When God is At the Center
Noel Castellanos

Paperback: IVP Books, 2015
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Reviewed by David Swanson

 

What is your testimony? The question might sound dated, but the sentiment behind it has been important to a wide variety of American Christians for a long time. The before and after of conversion to Jesus is mixed with one’s narrative arc – some more dramatic than others – to create a form that is instantly recognizable in churches of distinct denominations, races, and styles of worship. Increasingly there is a second conversion that follows the first. If the first conversion is accomplished by believing the good news of Jesus, identifying with the justice priorities of Jesus’ kingdom marks the second. Like the first conversion, the second has its own testimony.

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God Moving on the Margins

A Feature Review of

Wanted: A Spiritual Pursuit Through Jail, Among Outlaws, and Across Borders
Chris Hoke

Hardback: HarperOne, 2015
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Reviewed by Stina Kielsmeier-Cook
 
 
There comes a point in nearly every Christian’s journey when the glitz and fizz of new life in Christ begins to fade and God feels elusive. I’ve been in that grey landscape for a couple of years now, though I always keep my eyes open for glimmers of God’s presence. And, when I chance a sighting – through a surprising answer to prayer perhaps, or in the stories of God’s redemptive work in others – I am bolstered to keep trudging forward in this life of faith.

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More Devoted to Order Than To Justice?

A Feature Review of

When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus
Alan Cross

Paperback: New South Books, 2014

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Reviewed by Rafael Rodriguez
 
 
How could racism exist in a region where evangelical Christians were in the majority?  This is the question Alan Cross seeks to answer in his recent book When Heaven and Earth Collide  Cross approaches this topic as a “son of the south”, a native of Alabama, a Southern Baptist pastor, and a white male.   Yet this does not cripple him in revealing the repulsive practices and racist teachings of southern evangelicals before and after the Civil War.
 
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Global Revealer, Global Messiah

A Review of

Jesus without Borders: Christology in the Majority World
(Majority World Theology Series)
Gene Green, Stephen Pardue, K.K. Yeo, Eds.
Paperback: Eerdmans, 2014
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Reviewed by James Stambaugh
 

The church of the global south, where the vast majority of Christians are, is usually not the first place we Western Christians consult about our theological questions.  We necessarily employ a variety of sources, pre-understandings, and experiences for theological reflection, but rarely among them is what our sisters and brothers in Africa, or Latin American, or Asia think.
 

There is an historical reason for this: colonialism, the premise that it is our job to tell them what to believe and practice about God, not the other way around.

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The Surprise of Living

A Feature Review of

Finding God in the Verbs: Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer  
Jennie Isbell and J. Brent Bill

Paperback: IVP Books, 2015
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Reviewed By Trish Edwards-Konic
 
 
Do you want to dig deeper into your already flourishing prayer life? Or has your prayer life gotten boring? Do you long to have the prayer intimacy of the saints, or even the Psalmists? If you answered yes to any of these queries, this is the book for you.
 
Finding God in the Verbs: Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer by Jennie Isbell and J. Brent Bill tackles these concerns and more. The 2 authors spent several years of conversation as they crafted this tome. Jennie Isbell is an experienced spiritual director and author of Leading Quakers. J. Brent Bill is a Friends minister and author of several books and articles such as Mind the Light: Learning to See With Spiritual Eyes and Imagination & Spirit.

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Empowering Women
For Over 800 Years

 
A Feature Review of 

The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women’s Movement
Laura Swan

Hardback: Bluebridge, 2014
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Reviewed by Michelle Wilbert
 
 
In this well researched, accessible, and highly readable short history, Laura Swan, professor of religious studies at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington, has opened the door to an exploration of a little known spiritual movement that flourished in the medieval period across Europe. Notable for its vigor, clarity of vision, and vocational integrity, it is made remarkable by the singular fact of gender: this was a woman’s movement that aspired to provide its members with real options at a time when virtually none existed. It gave women ownership of their spiritual development and expression, a considerable level of economic and social independence, and a passionately expressed sense of community and purpose.
 
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Redeemed Addicts

 

A review of

Vulnerable Faith: Missional Living in the Radical Way of Saint Patrick
Jamie Arpin-Ricci

Foreword by Jean Vanier.
Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2015

Pre-order now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by D.L. Mayfield

 

*** Watch the trailer video for this book!

    We admitted we were powerless—that our lives had become unmanageable.
–Alcohol Anonymous, step one

 

       St. Patrick at first does not seem the poster child for addiction—what we commonly think of as wild and wicked behavior—at least, not how Jamie Arpin-Ricci introduces him.  In his new book Vulnerable Faith: following in the way of St. Patrick, Arpin-Ricci introduces a Patrick who looks a lot more like me and everyone I grew up with: young, privileged, self-assured and secure in the knowledge that life will work out well for him in the end. But the genius of this small book on intentional Christian living and discipleship is that it focuses so much on how it is precisely those of us who so often distance ourselves from the Other—the poor, the addict, the unspeakably lost—who are caught in the throes of powerlessness. We are the ones scrounging up reputations and possessions, desperate to outrun both our fear of death and the chaos that we know lurks within. And, just like those who follow the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous know, the first step in recovering is admitting that our lives have become unmanageable—especially spiritually.

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Opening Doors for the Mystery of Faith

A Review of

The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith
Peter Rollins

Paperback: Howard Books, 2015
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Reviewed by Stephen Milliken

 

Peter Rollins is an Irish-born philosopher and theologian with a knack for maintaining traditional Christian traditions, yet emptying them of their previous meaning. Through this kenotic process and his use of culturally-charged parables, he gives us new perspectives and deeper meanings with which to experience and understand that Christian tradition. In his newest work, Rollins continues to dish out a healthy dose of paradoxical truth along with a side of provocation.

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