Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

Deeper into the the Way of Jesus

A Feature Review of

The Story of King Jesus

Ben Irwin
Hardback: David C. Cook, 2014
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A Wolf At the Gate

Mark Van Steenwyk
Paperback: Mennonite Worker Press, 2014
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Biblicism After Blomberg

A Feature Review of
 

Can We Still Believe the Bible?
An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions
Craig L. Blomberg.

Paperback: Brazos Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Michael Kallenberg

 

The questions Blomberg addresses in Can We Still Believe the Bible? arise from six areas of study that are frequently fraught with misconceptions and distortions from a cacophony of both liberal and conservative voices. To this grating mix, he offers a gracious response. The book consists of candid examinations of the following controversial issues that surround the reliability of the Bible: the results of textual criticism, the selection of books for the canon, the recent proliferation of English translations, the definition and application of inerrancy, the recognition of literary genres that are not straightforward history, and the centrality of miraculous accounts.

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The Curving, Twisting, Intertwining Nature of Reality

A Feature Review of

Traces of the Trinity: Signs of God in Creation and Human Experience
Peter Leithart                                  

Paperback: Brazos Press, 2015
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Reviewed by Andrew Stout

 

Trinitarian theology can often seem more confounding than illuminating, a matter simply of creedal affirmation rather than practical living. In Traces of the Trinity, Peter Leithart, president of the Theopolis Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, upends this impression by examining the world through a trinitarian lens. The goal of the book is “to point to the traces of what theologians call ‘perichoresis’ in creation and in human experience” (vii). He defines perichoresis as the “mutual indwelling,” or “reciprocal penetration,” of the three persons of the Trinity. The term originates in patristic theology and has seen a revival among contemporary theologians. Leithart characterizes his task as “an exercise in trinitarian ‘worldview’” (viii), working from the assumption that “Christians believe that the Triune God created the world, and that should have some implications for the kind of world that it is” (ix). This is Trinitarian theology that goes all the way down.
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The Life Dante Saves May Be Your Own

A Feature Review of

How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem
Rod Dreher

Hardcover: Regan Arts, 2015
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Reviewed by Joe Krall

 

“Dante’s epic saved my life,” Rod Dreher writes at the beginning of this strange, moving book, part memoir and part guide to Dante Alighieri’s Commedia. Knowing Dreher as the senior editor of The American Conservative and the writer of a (sometimes ruthlessly) articulate blog, I was surprised by the book’s vulnerability. Those familiar with Dreher’s The Little Way of Ruthie Lemming, a memoir of his late sister, will be in more familiar territory. Like The Little Way, How Dante Can Save Your Life is about the lessons of real life, and the struggle to live out the truth we know.

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Bringing Rich Theology into Conversation with Principles of Leadership

 

A Feature Review of 

Storied Leadership:
Foundations of Leadership from a
Christian Perspective
Brian Jensen and Keith Martel

Paperback: Falls City Press, 2015.
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Reviewed by Stephen Milliken

 

Storied Leadership is a persuasive and multi-layered re-telling of the Christian story through the lens of leadership. Jensen and Martel have an exceptional ability to weave many lessons and themes throughout their narrative tapestry without leaving the reader behind. Uniquely, the telling of the Christian story through the frame of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration echoes in the background of this refection on Christian leadership. The simplicity and depth of their writing establishes Storied Leadership not only as one of the best resources for college students today, but also as an asset in the larger Christian leadership conversation that brings together various Christian themes into a coherent whole.

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Elevating the Mystery of Faith

A Feature Review of

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory: Rethinking the Things That Matter Most
Jerry Walls

Paperback: Brazos Press, 2015
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Reviewed by Andrew Stout

 

I must admit to being suspicious of much of the writing that gets labeled as “apologetics.” Too often these works do not take objections to the Christian faith seriously enough, represent dissenting position accurately enough, or adequately acknowledge the deep mysteries that accompany any serious inquiry into religious questions. More often than not, apologetics requires a fundamental reorientation to the world rather than a tit for tat exchange of objections and responses. John Milbank has claimed that the problem with much modern apologetics is the fact that it naively concedes ground to a purely secular rationale, stating that “any successful exercise of apologetics…must contain a strong confessional element which convinces precisely because it persuades through the force of an imaginative presentation of belief.”(Imaginative Apologetics, xiv).

 

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The Rhythm of a Movement

A Review of

Nothing but Love in God’s Water: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement
Robert Darden

Hardback: Penn State UP, 2015
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Review by Sam Edgin

 

At the end of his introduction to Nothing but Love in God’s Water: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, the book’s author, Robert Darden, uses a quote from a former slave to wrap together the themes of intensity, adaptability, community, and especially rhythm and religion that he says beat within black sacred music. The slave, remembering the songs of his childhood, says that the “…weird and mysterious music of the religious ceremonies moved young and old alike in a frenzy of religious fervor.” These spiritual songs, paired to a religion that stood on the side of the oppressed and promised a better world, fueled what Darden calls a “movement” (emphasis his) that spanned generations and changed the world.

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Humanizing Evangelicals

A Feature Review of

The River Caught Sunlight: A Novel
Katie Andraski

Paperback: Koehler Books, 2014
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Reviewed by Leslie A. Klingensmith

 
Followers of Christ have forgotten how to talk with one another. We talk to each other. We talk about each other. But as far as talking with each other for the purpose of building relationships and mutual understanding, we are failing in dangerous and tragic ways. As a “slightly left of center, socially liberal and theologically generously orthodox” Presbyterian pastor, I have made some effort to develop friendships with my colleagues who term themselves more “evangelical” than I am. I have a couple of those friendships that I especially treasure, for when I spend time with those women and men I am reminded all over again that we are all children of God. Despite the issues that divide us, we are more alike than different and (most of the time) we are making a sincere effort to follow the teachings and example of Jesus. Despite what I know about the desire we all have to serve Christ, I am also sinful. I publicly confess here to gravitating to authors whose viewpoint is more in line with my own, to not subscribing to evangelical publications, to rolling my eyes and hitting the “power off” button when prominent evangelicals are featured in the media, and succumbing to smug certainty that I am right and everyone else is wrong. Unless I am intentional about cultivating the relationships with people whose theology is more conservative than my own, I can easily become dismissive of their perspective, which is not helpful to me or to them or to the whole people of God.

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Truthful, Kind, and Trust Building.

A Feature Review of

Christian. Muslim. Friend.: Twelve Paths to Real Relationship
David Shenk

Paperback: Herald Press, 2014.
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Reviewed by John W. Morehead.

 

How should Christians engage Muslims? In America Christian-Muslim relations are strained at best. A recent LifeWay survey revealed that a large percentage of Christian pastors view Muslims and Islam negatively. It is likely that these attitudes are found among rank and file church members as well. In the midst of this situation in our post-9/11 world, David Shenk provides suggestions based upon his extensive experience as a Mennonite missionary and peacemaker on how Christians might profitably interact with the Muslims they encounter.

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Revolving Around A Dark Center

 

A Feature Review of

Hold the Dark: A Novel
William Giraldi

Hardback: Liveright, 2014
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Reviewed by Martyn Jones.

 

I come to a strange, recurring realization about my surroundings, be they rural, suburban, or urban in character: Every square inch within view has been shaped according to a human plan. Walking in Chicago or Madison, I wonder at the streetlights and sewer grates: each designed to fit in the scheme of the whole, each produced by a mind working to impose further order upon its world.

 

This remains true in the fields and woods where I grew up in semi-rural Ohio. Trees rise to the sky out of carefully allotted parcels of earth; woods darken the horizon only where someone hasn’t seen fit to develop the ground for some other purpose. Nature across the Midwest is mapped into a grid that is subject to the will of the invisible hand. For all the parks, creeks, and forests, finding a place that is remote—truly distant and out of reach—is difficult.

 

This foregrounds the quality that immediately caught me about Hold the Dark, William Giraldi’s literary thriller set in the Alaskan tundra: a feeling of extreme remoteness. This feeling takes hold in the first paragraph and does not abate. The language is almost biblical in its simplicity: “The wolves came down from the hills and took the children of Keelut.” It practically begs to have a scriptural refrain appended: “In those days, the wolves came down…”

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