Archives For *Featured Reviews*


Earthly Battle and Cosmic Battle

A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War
Joseph Loconte

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2015.
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Bedeviled: Lewis, Tolkien, and the Shadow of Evil
Colin Duriez

Paperback: IVP Books, 2015
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A Review by Amy Gentile.


“The further up and further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.” In a beautiful little parallel, The Last Battle ends much the same way The Chronicles (according to the published order) begin: on one end, a Wardrobe opens up to a world beyond Lucy’s wildest dreams, on the other, the characters find themselves drawn up into layers upon layers of Aslan’s Land, an imaginative portrayal of heaven.

This, too, is the first phrase that comes to my mind when I think about The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings themselves. These two series have captured the imagination of generations of readers. And yet, though they have been a part of my life since my childhood, I’ve found that they’re the best sorts of stories to revisit every few years, to crawl into “further up and further in.” Each time I’ve learned more about these books’ contexts (Lewis’s studies of medieval astronomy, Tolkien’s love of language, etc.) my eyes have been opened to new things in their pages, and I’ve been able to journey deeper into their richness.

To that end, A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and A Great War by Joseph Loconte, and Bedeviled: Lewis, Tolkien, and the Shadow of Evil by Colin Duriez, are welcome additions the list of works that have profoundly shaped my understanding of the stories of Narnia and Middle Earth. Both books spend a significant amount of time discussing the impact of The Great War (WWI) on Tolkien and Lewis—both of whom served in the war—and on their writings in particular. Both Loconte and Duriez develop the ways in which Tolkien and Lewis took their experiences of war and the circumstances of their era, weaving them into narratives that addressed a cosmic battle between good and evil.

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Resisting Consumerism.

A Review of 

The Year without a Purchase: One Family’s Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting
Scott Dannemiller

Paperback: WJK Books, 2015
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Reviewed by Leslie Klingensmith


The “Year of…” premise for structuring a book is getting stale.  They are everywhere.  I suppose they have always been around, but the past few years it seems as if there is a new one every week.  The Year of Living Biblically (A.J. Jacobs), The Year of Biblical Womanhood (Rachel Held Evans), and Sabbath in the Suburbs (MaryAnn McKibben Dana) are recent examples of the theological subgenre of this type of book.  I  read and enjoyed them all.  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver) takes the same idea and applies it to eating only home grown or home raised food for a year.  Susan Maushart’s most entertaining The Winter of Our Disconnect operates within a different time frame (six months), but is the same premise – one family living without electronics so they can relate more genuinely to each other.  A quick search on Amazon reveals a number of other titles built around the same idea: Do something (or not) for a year, enlist the support and/or participation of your family, and write about what it was like for you all and how it changed your life in the longer term.  All of the books I have listed are enjoyable, thought provoking reads that I have recommended to friends.  However, lately I have noticed myself rolling my eyes when I spot another “Year of…” book on display at the local bookstore.  We human beings are all too capable of taking a good concept and running it into the ground until it is not retrievable.

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Delicious and Desirable, but Incomplete?


A Feature Review of 

The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reaclaiming a Lost Vision
Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan

Hardback: Baker Academic, 2015
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Reviewed by Adam Joyce


When talking with pastors, you sometimes hear how the work of theology—reading, writing and research—is a luxury. Seminary provided the space for it, but accumulating ministry pressures mean book spines remain uncracked, theological memories remain dormant, the conference room supplants the study, and the balance sheet replaces Barth. Theology (especially academic theology) appears inapplicable to the practical and immediate concerns of ecclesial life.

In The Pastor as Public Theologian, written by theologians Owen Strachan and Kevin Vanhoozer, the aim is to revive the theological portion of the pastoral vocation. Strachan and Vanhoozer argue that many churches and pastors have forgotten what pastors are for, too often viewing them as CEOs, entrepreneurs, activists, therapists, or celebrities. And while the pastorate has undergone changes throughout Christian history, the multiplication of pastoral roles is a sign of mission drift and confusion.

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Wholly Without Weapons

A review of

Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma: How Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga Provide a Unified Response
Kevin Diller

InterVarsity Press Academic, 2015
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Reviewed by Joe Krall


“What are you doing, Joe?”

“I’m reading a book for my internship!”

“Oh, cool. What’s the book?”

[reads the title]

“Wow…Okay, have fun with that.”


I’ve had at least six versions of this conversation since starting Kevin Diller’s Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma this summer. So let me quickly assure you that this book, a volume of analytic theology, is one of the best things I’ve read all year.

A professor of philosophy at Taylor University, Diller attempts in this book to critically and clearly about God’s revelation and how we know God. This is no abstruse research project, but a task with practical implications for Christian doctrine and practice. If you’re looking for an academic review of analytic precision, this review may cause you to shake your head in disappointment. But I learned much reading Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma, and I wish to pass that on, however imperfectly, to the readers of The Englewood Review of Books.
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A Book You Can Sink Your Teeth Into?


A Feature Review of

Dracula and Philosophy: Dying to Know
(Popular Culture and Philosophy Series)
Edited by Nicolas Michaud and Janelle Pötzsch

Paperback: Open Court, 2015.
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Reviewed by John W. Morehead


Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula is one of the most influential books ever written. It has been featured in a number of different forums, including stage plays, films, television programs, graphic novels, and more. It has also led to a wealth of discussion over the years. One of the latest comes in Dracula and Philosophy, an exploration of philosophical issues that come by way of reflection on this classic novel’s horror story.


Dracula and Philosophy is comprised of five sections and twenty-four chapters. Section I is “The Downside of Undeath,” with five chapters. The second section is “A Vampire’s Values” that includes five chapters. Another five chapters make up Section III with “What’s It Like to Be Dracula?”.  The fourth section discusses “Why We’re Afraid” of the undead count in five chapters, while Section V explores “From the Dracula Files” through four chapters. This book also includes an introduction, a listing of references, contributor bios, and an index.

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A Tale of Lost Promise

A Feature Review of 

The Fishermen: A Novel
Chigozie Obioma

Hardback: Little. Brown, 2015
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Reviewed by Kristin Williams

I love a book that transports me to another place and that causes me to stretch outside the bounds of my own personal experience.   Chigozie Obioma’s haunting debut, The Fishermen, features characters and experiences that provide a stark contrast with my own life while highlighting the similarities of the human experience. With lyrical language and Biblical imagery, Obioma uses the experiences of one family to weave a story of tragedy and redemption that holds universally applicable truths while also providing specific parallels for his home country of Nigeria.

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The Complexity and Tension within C.S. Lewis’s Work
A Feature Review of 

C. S. Lewis and His Circle: Essays and Memoirs from the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society
Edited by Roger White, Judith Wolfe, and Brendan N. Wolfe

Hardback: Oxford University Press, 2015
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Reviewed by Andrew Stout


Judith and Brendan Wolf have been responsible for facilitating and producing some of the very best scholarship on C. S. Lewis in recent years. In addition to their roles as editors of the Journal of Inklings Studies, they have brought together excellent essays on the Lewis’s ecclesiology in C. S. Lewis and the Church: Essays in Honour of Walter Hooper (T&T Clark, 2011) and on his cosmology in C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra: Reshaping the Image of the Cosmos (The Kent State University Press, 2013). These volumes, featuring theological, philosophical, and literary perspectives, offer critical and insightful engagements with Lewis’s writing that reveal the depth of both his scholarly and popular works. With C. S. Lewis and His Circle, the Wolfes, along with Roger White, have added another valuable contribution to the literature on the remarkable Oxford literary community centered on Lewis.

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Discerning Meaning Through Experience
A Review of 
Seeing Things as They Are: A Theory of Perception
John Searle

Hardback:  Oxford UP, 2015
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Reviewed by Tyler Campbell

John Searle has taught philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley since 1959, and is the winner of several prestigious awards within the humanities. His curriculum vitae is extensive, and features robust works ranging in topics from speech, political commentary, the philosophy of language, logic, social reality, and consciousness. Throughout his career, Searle has always been an entertaining read not only for the subject matter that he works with, but for the ways in which he goes about engaging these topics. The tone in his writing is at all times confident, procedural, and steeped within the history of philosophy. However, aided by the topics he most frequently engages, the examples and justifications for his arguments are frequently overwhelmingly human. Often times it is precisely at the moment when the reader begins feeling perplexed that Searle employs the example of his furniture, dog, or the scene from his window to help explain his point. His latest book, Seeing Things as They Are: A Theory of Perception, finds its foundations in this sort of allegorical mastery. Through this, Searle creates a highly technical account of the intentionality of our perceived experiences; pushing the reader to think more acutely of how their brains process the things they interact with in their daily lives.

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For those who Cultivate

A Feature Review of 

Letters from the Farm: A Simple Path for a Deeper Spiritual Life
Becca Stevens

Paperback: Morehouse Publishing, 2015
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Reviewed by Jennifer Burns-Lewis

“Love always has the last word. That truth gives me hope
that in simplicity we can find our way to heaven.
And, that, in the end, truth
will reassure us that we
were enough.”
– Becca Stevens


Episcopal priest Becca Stevens writes from the heart. A passionate advocate for victimized women, Stevens is a conduit for the healing love of God. Letters from the Farm is a collection of love letters shared across the miles and across the seasons of a year.  The founder of Magdalene, a group of residential communities of women who have been survived prostitution, sex trafficking, or addiction, the communities are supplemented by Thistle Farms, a fifteen year old consortium for employment for women, including a studio, café, and a line of natural body care.

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All Music is One

A Review of 

Spirits Rejoice! Jazz and American Religion
Jason Bivins

Hardcover, Oxford UP, 2015
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Reviewed by Matt Miles

In the first chapter of Jason Bivens’s Spirits Rejoice! the author introduces a trumpeter named Lester Bowie, who satirically asked “Is jazz as we know it dead yet?” before charging ahead with a boundary-breaking trumpet solo. He follows this example with one of a saxophonist named Charles Gayle who alternated between live shows in clubs and playing on the streets as a homeless musician and clown, preaching against abortion and homosexuality in all of his shows. Bivens also mentions Anthony Braxton, a saxophonist/composer who merges metaphysics with his music. These three artists provide an introduction to some of the ways jazz transcends its own labels and constraints, especially those of language. It’s important to understand the way music as a medium defies categorizing, as many musicians consider the limits of the term “jazz” to be as limiting and offensive as a racial slur. Any attempt to categorize music or religion using language limits it, and, all too often, the people trying to use music to overcome the limits of music, religion, and culture. Attempting to capture this experience is as daunting a task as trying to write a book about jazz itself, a task Bivens rises to meet through the use of story.

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