Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

Amy DeRogatis“Evangelicals can’t stop talking about sex”

 

A Feature Review of

Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism.
Amy DeRogatis

Hardback: Oxford University Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Emily McGowin

 

Amy DeRogatis is Associate Professor of Religion and American Culture at Michigan State University. Her first book, Moral Geography: Maps, Missionaries, and the American Frontier (Columbia University Press, 2003), was a decidedly academic volume. But, in the Preface to Saving Sex, she states her desire for this publication to appeal to a broader audience, including academics, students, and the general public. To that end, DeRogatis is helped by her chosen subject matter. “[E]vangelicals can’t stop talking about sex,” she says, and it seems the American public can’t stop reading (and reviling) what they have to say. But, even with this inherent advantage, DeRogatis’ volume recommends itself with a combination of careful research and a cohesive, easy to follow presentation.

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Tim OttoThat We Might Be One

A Review of

Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict over Gay Relationships
Tim Otto

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2014
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Review by C. Christopher Smith
 

*** One of the Best Books of 2014! ***

 
This review originally appeared in our print magazine (Fall 2014 issue). Are you a subscriber
 
Questions about sexuality and marriage are, without a doubt, the most divisive issues facing churches in the early years of the twenty-first century. Some denominations have already split in disagreement over them; others teeter on the brink of splitting, with little hope of resolution in sight. Given this polarized atmosphere, what would it look like for churches of diverse perspectives to prefer our unity in Christ to our stances on sexuality? Is there a third way that does more than steer a middle road, tiptoeing around the deeply held convictions of both traditionalist and affirming Christians? Is there a conversational way forward that is guided by love and respect for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ and that seeks to listen and appreciate rather than to anger and condemn? These questions lie at the heart of Tim Otto’s helpful new book, Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict over Gay Relationships. As a gay but celibate pastor for whom these questions have been deeply personal, Otto is well-suited as a guide for this sort of exploration.

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Rob MollThe Miracle of Word Made Flesh
 
A Feature Review of 

What Your Body Knows About God: How We Are Designed to Connect, Serve and Thrive
Rob Moll

Paperback: IVPress, 2014
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Reviewed by Kristin Williams
 
As a mother and a runner, some of my most intensely personal experiences of God have happened during time when I have also been in the midst of the most intense physical experiences of my life.  I felt God’s presence when I was in labor with both of my children, and especially toward the end of the long and difficult birth of my daughter.  God meets me in personally significant ways when I am out running, especially when I feel like I am reaching my physical limits.  This physical/spiritual connection has helped me understand why we encourage our children to fold their hands and bow their heads to pray or why we lift our hands in worship.  Our bodies are made to connect with God.

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Leonard SweetIt’s Love That’s Holding Us Together

 

A Review of
 

Me and We: God’s New Social Gospel

Leonard Sweet
Paperback: Abingdon, 2014
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Reviewed by Carl Holmes

 
In God’s economy, grace is the rule of the land, and love is the driving motivation for all that we do. Leonard Sweet does in this book what he often does so well, leave us feeling convicted, humbled, but deeply loved and cherished by God. Often, one can read a book of this genre and walk away with a deep feeling of inadequacy and conviction to change. This book provides the latter, without the former.

It is truly beneficial to take your time with this book, even though it is small. Allow the pictures and thoughts to soak in and find favor in your mental and spiritual garden. Like so many things in life, it behooves you to move slowly through the book and let it provide nourishment and sustenance for the journey.
 
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Richard ValantasisA Gift to the Church and Classroom
 

Dazzling Bodies: Rethinking Spirituality and Community Formation.
Richard Valantasis

 
Paperback: Cascade Books, 2014.
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Reviewed by Kyle A. Schenkewitz
 
 
In Dazzling Bodies, Richard Valantasis develops a remarkable vision for Christian communities through engagement with critical theory, theological discourse, and diverse ministerial contexts. His thesis is as fresh and innovative as it is steeped in the liturgical and spiritual traditions of ancient Christianity. His concern is to unbind contemporary spirituality from its individualistic tendencies and reconnect the basis of spirituality to the worshipping community. He argues that Christian spiritual practices arose out of communal life, fed and formed the community, and linked the individual members to the communal identity. The disconnect between community and spirituality has been detrimental to contemporary congregations. Dazzling Bodies proposes methods for analyzing parishes as communities in order to understand their corporate life. One aspect of this analysis is how communities use words, gestures, sounds and other signs to communicate with one another.  Applying social semiotic theory, he argues, helps identify the systems of solidarity and power in the parish setting. These “diagnostic tools enable us all to understand the process of developing a spirituality while staying closely connected to our religious communities.” (xii) For Valantasis, communal spirituality is primarily communicated and shared in the liturgical worship of a parish. In the liturgy, individuals meet and are gathered together into a corporate identity, “a complex locus of individual and corporate spiritualities.” (xiii) In the rich density of the corporate liturgical performance, individual bodies become dazzling with the energetic life of the Spirit at work in the corporate body.  These dazzling bodies shine forth from within the life of the community to transform the world around them.

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Lisa Washington LambThe Beauty and Necessity of Diversity

A Feature Review of

Lisa Washington Lamb
Blessed and Beautiful: Multiethnic Churches and the Preaching that Sustains Them
Paperback: Cascade Books, 2014

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Reviewed by Dorothy Littell Greco

 
 

Given our nation’s current trend toward polarization, author and pastor Lisa Washington Lamb’s new book Blessed and Beautiful: Multiethnic Churches and the Preaching that Sustains Them asks one of the most salient questions of the day; What does it take to create and maintain healthy, multiethnic churches?

 

She writes, “Ethnic-specific churches have historically been strong settings for transmitting and preserving values and traditions, especially for marginalized minority communities. Are multiethnic churches able to do the same?” (1)

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Holy Shift!

A Review of

Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe Is Coming Apart

Kathy Escobar

Paperback: Convergent, 2014
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Reviewed by James Matichuk
This review originally appeared on the reviewer’s website, and is reprinted here with permission…

 
In 2006, Kathy Escobar underwent a ‘faith shift.’ No longer able to conform to the beliefs and practices of her conservative evangelical church, she went through a time of shifting and unraveling before rebuilding her faith, albeit in a new way. Currently she is a popular blogger,  the co-founder of Refuge, a mission center and Christian community in the North Denver area and a spiritual director. As a spiritual director and pastor she has journeyed alongside many spiritual-shifters.

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Introducing Evangelical EcotheologyLiving Reconciled to Creation

A Review of

Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology: Foundations in Scripture, Theology, History, and Praxis
Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, and A.J. Swoboda

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2014
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Reviewed Maria Drews

 

A couple of weeks ago I attended a lecture by Elizabeth Kolbert, a New Yorker staff-writer and author of the New York Times’ Bestseller, The Sixth Extinction. For an hour and a half, she outlined our world’s mounting crises of climate change, ocean acidification, and invasive species. So many of us arrived to hear the undeniably bad news that they scrambled to fill the halls outside of the auditorium with extra seats.

 

A few weeks later, I attended a lecture by journalist Naomi Klein, recent author of This Changes Everything, a journalistic exploration of climate change and capitalism. At the end of her lecture, she stated that she thought climate change was a spiritual crisis. Al Gore had expressed a similar sentiment when he received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, saying, “The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.”
 
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Jeremy CaradonnaInforming Our Present by Examining our Past
 
A Review of

Sustainability: A History

Jeremy Caradonna

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2014
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Reviewed by Taylor Brorby
 
 
 
Sustainability is, for better or worse, the buzzword of our time. Sustainable agriculture. Sustainable city planning. Food sustainability. Business sustainability. A quick Google search yields over 118,000,000 results for the word sustainability. As Jeremy L. Caradonna points out in the introduction to his book, Sustainability: A History, Bill McKibben was most definitely wrong in his New York Times opinion piece in 1996 when  he said sustainability was a “buzzless buzzword” that was “born partly in an effort to obfuscate.”
 
At just over 250 pages, Sustainability: A History, is a book that takes the reader on a historical journey which examines the origin of the word sustainability, the conditions of the Industrial Revolution–which helped bring about the idea of sustainable development–the advent of the modern Environmental Movement, a new view of economics–eco-nomics–and a call-to-arms as the final wrap-up, “The Future: 10 Challenges for Sustainability.”

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Scott BesseneckerProphetic Imagination for Church and Mission

A Feature Review of

Overturning Tables: Freeing Missions from the Christian-Industrial Complex

Scott Bessenecker

Paperback: IVP Books, 2014
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Reviewed by Amy Peterson

 

I’d say that this book is a game-changer, but it’s actually far more important than that. After all, the mission of the church in the world is not a game.

 

In Overturning Tables: Freeing Missions from the Christian-Industrial Complex, Scott Bessenecker examines the unquestioned assumptions undergirding American ideas about how missions and the church should work. Perhaps that makes the book sound dry, but it isn’t; while meticulously researched and packed with insight, the book is eminently readable.  Bessenecker draws on his decades of experience with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, where he currently serves as an associate director for missions, and shares compelling stories from people around the world to illustrate his points. Fueled by a prophetic imagination, he critiques the structures, questions the “norms,” and offers stories and suggestions for a way forward as we “drive the market out of Christian mission”.

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