Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

The Question of Good News

A Feature Review of

Simply Good News: Why the Gospel is News and What Makes It Good
N.T. Wright

Hardback: HarperOne, 2015
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Reviewed by Maria Drews

 

When it comes to the gospel, things have gotten confusing. I have heard the gospel of faith in Christ alone, where a belief that Jesus has died for our sins, sometimes sealed with a prayer, is rewarded with eternity in heaven. I have heard the gospel as a call for people to trust God’s present kingdom reign and an invitation to participate in it now. I hear the good news that God has conquered evil on a cosmic scale and all things are headed towards renewal. I also hear the good news of God’s love and the opportunity to have a relationship with God through Christ’s sacrifice. Mix in several theories of atonement, debates on hell, and an eschatology of awaiting a new heaven and a new earth (or the wildly opposite ending, everything burning up), and it can become difficult to put all the pieces together. Is one right? Are they all supposed to fit together? Isn’t the gospel supposed to be simple?

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Learning to Live with Others

A Review of

Two Recent Books by John Howard Yoder:

Revolutionary Christian Citizenship
Paperback: Herald Press, 2013.
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Real Christian Fellowship
Paperback: Herald Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Justin Bronson Barringer
 

A friend once told me he loved reading John Howard Yoder’s work because Yoder is a master of systematically building a careful argument, but often the complexity of his writing makes his work inaccessible to laypeople. I, for one, am convinced that even the best theology is worth little if it cannot find its way into the hearts and minds of God’s people.

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Preaching after Christendom
 
A Review of

Without Apology: Sermons for Christ’s Church
Stanley Hauerwas

Paperback: Seabury, 2013
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Reviewed by Joseph Krall

 
 
Submitting a late review of an untimely book, this reviewer offers his apologies to the readers of the Englewood Review. The untimeliness of Stanley Hauerwas’s latest collection of sermons, Without Apology (Seabury, NY: 2013), is of a different kind. It is an unapologetic untimeliness, neither ashamed of the Gospel nor trying to render its foolishness comprehensible or defensible in an era after Christendom. I would call it a holy untimeliness, because in these pages a Christian theologian and ethicist walks to the pulpit and speaks to a “peculiar people,” the church.

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Entering into Life.

A Feature Review of

The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus
Dallas Willard

Hardback: HarperOne, 2015
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Reviewed by Elane O’Rourke

 
As Dallas Willard’s daughter, Rebecca Willard Heatley, write in the Preface to The Allure of Gentleness, “Gentle was a word frequently used to describe my father.” That gentleness permeates Dallas Willard’s latest posthumously published book. Allure is based on the transcription of a set of 1990 talks on apologetics in which Willard displayed his characteristic ease and thoughtfulness. Those who miss Willard’s presence and teaching will likely take pleasure in Allure’s prose: reading it is a nearly aural experience.

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Light, Logos, Love.

A Review of

Tolkien’s Sacramental Vision: Discerning the Holy in Middle Earth
Craig Bernthal

Paperback: Second Spring, 2014.
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Reviewed by Alden Lee Bass

 
 
At an event in San Francisco in 2003, when literary critic Joseph Pearce explained to a gathering of Tolkien fans that the author’s Catholicism was an integral and crucial part of The Lord of the Rings, several members of the audience got up and left. Yet it’s not only casual readers who miss this obvious point – Tolkien scholarship is divided between those who emphasize the pagan elements of his great works and those who see an underlying Christian infrastructure. For those versed in Christian theology, the Christian elements of Tolkien’s epic are unmistakable: from Gandalf’s death and resurrection to Gollum’s failed redemption to Frodo and Sam’s march up Mount Doom to destroy the ring. Tolkien himself said in one of his letters, “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.”

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Are We Stuck in a Christianized version
of Adolescent Narcissism?

A Review of

From Here To Maturity: Overcoming the Juvenilization of American Christianity.
Thomas Bergler

Paperback: Eerdmans; 2014.
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Reviewed By Paul D. Gregory

 

­­I’ve been involved in church my entire life. I attended Sunday school as soon as I graduated nursery. I was present at youth group on Wednesday evenings and spent Sunday morning and evenings playing in church bands. I served three years on an elder board and another five leading a local outreach ministry. Yeah, I’m well acquainted with church life. Now you may be asking, “Why should I care about your ecclesial pedigree and how does it pertain to this book review?” Let me briefly explain. My church involvement has provided opportunities to experience individuals enter and exit church. I’ve experienced individuals who were “on fire for God” fizzle out and never be heard from again. I’ve met the church hoppers – those who enter and leave your church every three months – who leave upset, once again, at the youth, lead pastor, or “irreverent” teachings from the pulpit. If honest, I have to admit that some of these scenarios might have been justified; however, many were not. And some result from what Thomas Bergler calls the Juvenilization of Christianity or a lack of spiritual maturity.

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Laura BoggessGod Dwelling in the Commonplace

A Review of

Playdates with God: Having Childlike Faith in A Grownup World
Laura Boggess

Paperback: Leafwood, 2014.
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Reviewed by Zena Neds-Fox.

 
Laura Boggess starts her spiritual memoir Playdates with God with one of the most resonant spiritual dilemmas.  Sehnsucht – a German word best translated as nostalgia or a deep longing for a far-off home.  Or as CS Lewis puts it, “our best havings are wantings.”  The blue flower – the desiring of some lasting, perfect thing to fulfill us.  The hum in each person that reminds them, whether or not they want reminding, that they were made for more.  That propulsion towards God is the journey Boggess takes us on; how she recognized it, how she entertained it, and what it has taught her, going down the roads it lead her to.
 
Playdates is quite readable, and though Boggess cites philosophical sources as her inspirations, she writes in an uncomplicated way that makes walking with God seem as plain as everyday potatoes.  She’s a simple girl, admittedly so. When trying to locate what it is that will satisfy her soul, she lands at falling in love and all the giddy feelings that come along with it.  She sets out to fall in love with her creator, over and over again, through a series of, as she calls them, playdates.

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Philip YanceyWrestling with Effective Grace

A Feature Review of

Vanishing grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News?
Philip Yancey

Hardback: Zondervan, 2014
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Reviewed by Joshua Neds-Fox

 

Philip Yancey has an itch he can’t quite scratch. He knows that whatever it is that the Gospel is trying to get across to us, we haven’t got it right. We – and I mean the ‘little Christs,’ those of us who go to church and say our prayers, the Christians – are right this very moment failing miserably at being the kind of salt and light that preserves and illuminates the dark world, and the world in return is moving on past our gospel to other distractions. Christianity is no longer attractive to the West. Though the title suggests that Yancey is only interested in diagnosing the disease, he’s actually also seeking the cure. Yancey is wrestling with why, exactly, are we failing and what, exactly, can we do about it? As a writer, he’s doing his wrestling the only way he knows how – with words words words.
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Mark NollThe Infinitely Larger Story of Global Christianity
 
A Review of

From Every Tribe and Nation: A Historian’s Discovery of the Global Christian Story
Mark Noll

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2014
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Reviewed by Andy Johnson

 

Few books describe the journey that a scholar takes to arrive at its conclusions. This is what makes From Every Tribe and Nation unique. It is a memoir of discovery, offering a rare glimpse into how a leading historian’s understanding of global Christianity has developed over time.
 
There is a growing awareness that the center of Christianity is no longer in the West but shifting toward the global South and East. From Every Tribe and Nation is the third in a series of books released by the Baker Publishing Group, entitled, “Turning South: Christian Scholars in an Age of World Christianity.” This series invites scholars who have already turned their attention toward developments in global Christianity to share about how this subject became important to them.
 
Mark Noll spent 27 years teaching at Wheaton and the last 8 years at Notre Dame, focusing primarily on the history of Christianity and Evangelicalism in America. He is a prolific author and regarded as a leader in his field.
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Barry JonesStopping The Swinging Pendulum
 
A Review of

Dwell: Life with God For the World
Barry Jones

Paperback: IVP Books
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Reviewed by Kevin Wildman

 

As an undergraduate student one of my professors, discussed the pendulum swing in the church throughout history. He explained that the church often reacts to a position or event by swinging its position to the complete opposite side. The more I observe and experience, the more I see the truth presently being lived out in the church. As the body of Christ we tend to be pretty good at being divisive over our opinions, everything from clothing attire, use and accumulation of wealth, worship styles, politics, and everything in between. Sometimes it seems like there is more work across the aisles in Washington than there is in the Church. One such area that I have witnessed this division is, on one side of the pendulum Spiritual Formation, and on the other Missional mindedness. Michael Frost puts it this way in the forward, Spiritual Formation focused people “seem oriented toward the inner work of self-reflection, contemplation and holiness. We missional types are more oriented to the outer works of service, justice seeking, peacemaking and evangelism.” (7).

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