Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

Charles Murphy
The Wind of the Spirit:  Now and Then

A Feature Review of

Reclaiming Francis:  How the Saint and the Pope are Renewing the Church

Charles Murphy

Paperback: Ava Maria Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Jess O. Hale

 

A wind is blowing through many lands in our world and many are finding this wind to be renewing or at least refreshing.  It may not be the first time this wind has blown through a few of these locales.  Could it be that we may just find  the breath of God’s Spirit in this wind?  To many Catholics and Protestants and even a few of those outside of the traditional faithful, the arrival of Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Latin America as bishop of Rome counts at least as a breath of fresh air and quite possibly as the renewing wind of the Spirit of God on the church of Jesus.  After all, Pope Francis has forgone many of the more ornate trappings of his new office to live more simply and communicate more directly with the faithful and the world.  He focuses more directly on grace and love and justice than on the more controversial topics of sexuality.  To this end he has upset Rush Limbaugh with his economics and startled the mainstream press as he becomes Time’s Person of the Year.  He has stirred up the faithful outside of his Catholic flock as well—-even Sojourners magazine has given him an iconic cover as the joyous Pope Francis waves  with a bird perhaps representing the Spirit hovering close by.  However, as the continuing presence of the saint of Assisi witnesses, it is not the first time that a wind of the Spirit has come through troubled lands.

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Roger LundinThe Word is Life Indeed

A Feature Review of

Beginning with the Word: Modern Literature and the Question of Belief

Roger Lundin

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2014
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Reviewed by Jeanne Lehninger
 
 
For me, what could be better than a book about words and stories—my stock in trade. I am a teacher of literature and a reader who delights in graceful words perfectly placed and in perceptive stories which tell me the truth about life and people, and so about myself. That Jesus himself is the Word made flesh full of grace and truth renders me breathless. That the mystery of the incarnation reverberates in writer’s words that thrill with grace and truth can give me goose bumps. Not only my mind, but my flesh responds to words of beauty and truth, and I am changed by them. Roger Lundin would agree that words have power, that they matter, and that how a culture apprehends words and stories can change everything.

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The Metaphor is the Book Itself

A Review of

Metaphor
Denis Donoghue

Hardback: Harvard UP, 2014
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Reviewed by Jacob Slaughter

 

I am sure that anyone reading this review could provide me with an example of a metaphor. Any metaphor will do. Go ahead, the comment box is below. Yep, right now. Did you do it? Fine, you don’t have to, but at the very least I’m still betting that you would be able to identify a metaphor among a list of other rhetorical devices. Metaphors are something we all recognize. We use them all the time. And like anything we use regularly it is easy to take them for granted. We forget that there are complex processes at work in order for them to even exist, let alone function with minimal effort in our everyday speech. How is it that metaphors have become an essential part of our language and yet are often overlooked and taken for granted?

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Haruki MurakamiReality, dream, story: where does one end and the next begin?
 

A Feature Review of

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: A Novel

Haruki Murakami

Hardback:  A.A. Knopf, 2014
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Reviewed by Janet Ursel
 
Haruki Murakami’s much-heralded new novel is out and I decided for once to jump on a bandwagon. It was an intriguing book, and it is easy to see why he generates such a buzz.

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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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