Two Brief Reviews
by C. Christopher Smith, ERB editor.
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Radical Jesus: A Graphic History of Faith
Paul Buhle, Editor.
Paperback: Herald Press, 2013.
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One of the great challenges facing the Christian faith in the 21st century is that of passing on a faith to younger generations that is more than the religious consumerism of mainstream evangelicalism. Of course, our primary tool for teaching our children is the embodied witness of our lives, but beyond that there are few available resources that 1) take the life and teachings of Jesus seriously and 2) emphasize that the way of Jesus stands in contrast to that of Western culture at large. Radical Jesus: A Graphic History of Faith is one excellent resource that does both of these things. Fashioned in a three-part graphic novel format (with each part illustrated by a different artist, in a unique style), Radical Jesus tells a little-known history of Jesus and his followers. The first part, illustrated by Sabrina Jones, narrates the life and teachings of Jesus in a fresh way that takes the Gospel stories seriously. The heart of the book is the second part, “Radical History,” illustrated by Gary Dumm (a “frequent collaborator with Harvey Pekar”), which through a series of vignettes traces the history of the church through groups who took the life and teachings of Jesus seriously. Included in this part are the Lollards, the Anabaptists, the Quakers and others. The third and final part of the book, “Radical Resistance,” illustrated by Nick Thorkelson, tells the story of modern groups such as the Catholic Workers and the Civil Rights movement that are seeking to embody the way of Jesus in the 20th and 21st centuries. Radical Jesus is a wonderful narrative resource for Christians of all ages, but I suspect that it would be most beneficial for young Christians with a deep desire to know and follow Jesus, as they seek to cultivate a life that bears witness to a different way, one of love, peace and reconciliation with all humanity and all creation.
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Dallas Willard is one of the most important evangelical thinkers of the late 20th and early 21st century. Unfortunately, there were – until recently – no good books that introduced his work, and made it accessible to new readers. Thankfully, 2013 saw the publication of Elane O’Rourke’s A Dallas Willard Dictionary, which is precisely this much-needed sort of introductory work. O’Rourke explains here almost 100 different terms and concepts that are essential to Willard’s work, in 2-3 page entries for each term. The heart of each entry consists of an introduction that explains how Willard uses that term in his work, and a handful of quotes from his work that allow the reader to engage that particular term firsthand in the context of Willard’s writing. The terms selected include both those that originate with Willard (e.g., “The Golden Triangle of Spiritual Growth,” “Vampire Christians”, etc.) and familiar theological concepts that recur throughout Willard’s books (e.g., “Kingdom,” “Forgiveness,” “Redemption,” etc.)
A Dallas Willard Dictionary is a bit awkward as a volume – it could have benefited from some additional effort in structure and layout – and a dictionary necessarily offers a fragmented view, not something that most people would read from beginning end. Regardless, it is a useful work and at the present, the best introductory companion to Willard’s work.
Stay tuned, as we intend to run more brief reviews like these in 2014…