Archives For *Brief Reviews*


Laughing My Way to Wisdom

A Review of

Congratulations, Who Are You Again?:
A Memoir
Harrison Scott Key

Paperback: Harper Perennial, 2018.
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Reviewed by Geoffrey Sheehy
I’ve always admired humorists. In high school I’d open our Sunday newspaper directly to the Lifestyle section, forsaking Sports and Comics long enough to read Dave Barry. In an attempt to spread the joy I would read him aloud, but every time I did my eyes would spot the funny lines before my voice could say them, and I’d break into high pitch squeaks and tears. My listeners would laugh too, but not at Barry. They’d laugh at me, out of fear, because I appeared to be having a seizure.

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Singing and Dancing and
Living with Deep Delight
A Review of

A Story of Deep Delight

Anne Marie Mongoven, O.P.

Paperback: Columba Press, 2018
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Reviewed by Mary Paynter, O.P.
Long ago, St. Augustine wrote a long and ponderous theological study entitled De Trinitate (On the Trinity). Down the centuries ever since, other theologians have tried their hands at trying to explain what belief in the Trinity means—often in theological jargon, over the heads of most Christians. Karl Rahner, S.J., the influential twentieth-century theologian, once wryly recognized that “Christians are, in their practical lives, almost mere ‘monotheists.’”

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The Teacher of the Human Spirit
A Review of

The River: A Novel
Peter Heller

Hardback: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019
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Reviewed by Al Brooke

The sun sets in the cold without friends
      Without reproaches after all it has done for us
It goes down believing in nothing
       When it has gone I hear the stream running after it
              It has brought its flute it is a long way.
– W. S. Merwin, “Dusk in Winter”

Peter Heller’s fourth novel starts with smoke.

From the first pages we are introduced to each of the elements which will dog the two friends — Wynn and Jack — as they canoe in the Canadian wilderness: a forest fire, two drunks on land, and a pair of arguing voices in the fog. The river itself seems no problem to them, as they feel prepared for that.

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A more comprehensive,
intellectually honest, dialogue

A Review of 

Atheist Overreach:
What Atheism Can’t Deliver

Christian Smith

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2018
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Reviewed by Mark A. Jenkins
In his new book, Atheist Overreach: What Atheism Can’t Deliver, Christian Smith identifies “a broad audience—particularly college students and the reading public.” (130) If he is to be believed, this book is not an apologetic. He does not intend to refute atheism or to defend theists. Rather, he offers a critical response to certain sweeping claims made by some atheists. Such claims constitute the “overreach” cited in his title.

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A Christian Heart Beating for Health Equity

A Review of

How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick:
Restoring Health and Wellness to our Communities
Veronica Squires / Breanna Lathrop

Paperback: IVP Books, 2019
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Reviewed by Kendra Stanton Lee
A nurse practitioner and a non-profit development professional seem an unusual author pairing unless your go-to book is a public health manual. How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick: Restoring Health and Wellness to our Communities is not a manual, per se, though it does offer a variety of definitions and diagnoses for the state of public health in America.

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“All creatures of our God and King”
A review of
Never Home Alone:
From Microbes to Millipedes,
Camel Crickets, and Honeybees,
the Natural History of Where We Live
Rob Dunn
Hardback: Basic Books, 2018
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Reviewed by Scot F. Martin
How easy it is to go through our daily routines giving nary a thought to the abundance of life around us. You don’t live near any charismatic megafauna, you say? Perhaps…but are you aware of the vibrant biodiversity in your neighborhood, your backyard, and even the interior of your home? The songbirds and amphibians, the rodents and opossums, the riot of insect life all within your vision and hearing? What about the myriad creatures living inside with you? The ones you’d rather not think about?

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[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”1587434016″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”216″]Flourishing and Abundant Living

A Review of

For The Life of the World:
Theology that Makes a Difference

Miroslav Volf and Matthew Croasmun

Hardback: Brazos Press, 2019

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Reviewed by Cate Michelle Desjardins
I’ve been pondering Jesus’ words lately. You know them. After comparing himself to a gate that those who go through, like sheep, will find green pastures, Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10).

What is the abundant life that Jesus speaks of? What does it look like in practice?

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[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”1978702019″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”209″]Mapping the Landscape
of Christian Ethics

A Review of

Augustinian and Ecclesial Christian Ethics:
On Loving Enemies

D. Stephen Long

Hardback: Lexington Books, 2018
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Reviewed by David W. Opderbeck
Steve Long has a talent for seeing a way through tensions between competing movements in contemporary theology.  In his 2014 book Saving Karl Barth: Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Preoccupation (Fortress Press, 2014), Long addressed the debates over natural theology and the analogia entis that still divide Protestant theology in a Barthian key from Catholic theology sympathetic to von Balthasar.  As Long showed in that book, while there are real differences, contemporary theology can benefit from insights from both of these great thinkers, even as Barth and von Balthasar benefitted in their own lifetimes from their personal friendship.

Now, in Augustinian and Ecclesial Christian Ethics, Long takes up a related set of differences in Christian ethics, between “neo-Anabaptists” and “neo-Augustinians.”  The “neo-Anabaptists” – or, as Long comes to refer to them, the “ecclesial” ethicists, are represented by John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, James William McClendon, and others who have taken up their work.  The “neo-Augustinians” are represented by Oliver O’Donovan, John Milbank, Eric Gregory, Charles Mathewes, Jennifer Herdt, and others who are more sympathetic to the “Augustinian realism” of Reinhold Niebuhr. In many ways, the ecclesial ethicists represent the Barthian side of Saving Karl Barth, while the neo-Augustinians represent the von Balthasarian side (though O’Donovan is perhaps a Barthian Augustinian).

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[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”0814645925″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”222″]Toward A Deeper Life of Dialogue
A Brief Review of

Finding Jesus Among Muslims:
How Loving Islam Makes Me A Better Catholic
Jordan Denari Duffner

Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2018.
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
In an age when hostility toward those of the Muslim faith is all too common, Jordan Denari Duffner in her recent book Finding Jesus Among the Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me A Better Catholic, points us in a different – and more Christ-like – direction. Duffner’s approach is grounded, as she notes in her introduction, in the virtues of dialogue. “We are called to dialogue,” she observes, “because God dialogues. As Christians, we believe in one God who is also Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Saint Augustine understood this three-in-one God as a communication – or dialogue – of love, in which the Father and Son give and receive love, and the Holy Spirit is the love between them. God also dialogues with humanity” (4).

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[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”B07F3D88S1″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”216″]Awaiting Something New to Arise
A Review of

We Hope for Better Things
Erin Bartels

Paperback: Revell, 2019
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Reviewed by Cynthia Beach
The gift of Erin Bartels’ debut novel, We Hope for Better Things, is a long-view on racism, or on the difficulty we seem to have, generation by generation, of loving our neighbor as ourselves. In this time slip novel, we see down the line of sight of racism, the hall of mirrors, the choices and stances—the beautiful and the ugly.

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