Archives For *Brief Reviews*


A Path to Peace.

A Review of 

Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace
Patricia Raybon and Alana Raybon

Hardback: W Publishing Group, 2015
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Reviewed by John W. Morehead


Religious switching is happening more frequently in America according to a survey by the Pew Forum. Pew reports that the choice to change religions may be as high as 42%. Another Pew survey indicates that interfaith marriages are becoming more common, and that new marriages are more likely to bring together spouses from different religious traditions. All of this takes place against a backdrop where mainline Protestant Christianity is declining, and non-Christian religions in the U.S have grown. Although they are a small part of the religious landscape, their adherents are increasingly exercising their rights for expression in the public square.

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Cultivating the Common Good
in a Pluralist Society

A Brief Review of 

Politics for a Pilgrim Church:
A Thomistic Theory
of Civic Virtue

Thomas Bushlack

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2015
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
I have been wanting to write about this book for awhile, and since today is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, it seems like an ideal occasion to write a brief review. Politics for a Pilgrim Church is a helpful and substantial reflection on how Aquinas’s work can guide us as we seek to live faithfully to the way of Jesus in the pluralistic public square of the 21st century. Bushlack starts with an appreciative, but largely critical examination of neo-Anabaptist approaches to political engagement. Specifically, as one working from the Catholic theological tradition, he engages William Cavanaugh and Michael Baxter here. As one who largely agrees with Cavanaugh and Baxter’s work, I read his critiques with interest, and found myself particularly sympathetic to his assertion that  they “provide very little normative content in regard to how one might faithfully engage in the civic and cultural milieu of democratic states” (40).

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One of our new book releases to watch for last week, was this new novel

The Portable Veblen: A Novel
Elizabeth McKenzie

Hardback: Penguin Press, 2016
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NPR’s distinguished book critic Maureen Corrigan, offered this review of the novel calling it “totally endearing” :
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At the Heart of Biblical Faith?

A Review of 

Sacred Sense: Discovering the Wonder of God’s Word and World
William P. Brown

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2015
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Reviewed by Debbie Philpott

Every man discriminates between the voluntary acts of his mind, and his involuntary perceptions, and knows that to his involuntary perceptions a perfect faith is due. He may err in the expression of them, but he knows that these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance


When reading William P. Brown’s In Sacred Sense: Discovering the Wonder of God’s Word and World, I was reminded of an encounter with an Old Testament scholar and chaplain whose longing touches me still.

A few years ago, I engaged in a one-on-on conversation with the chaplain as part of the standard interview process for professorship at a traditional Christian university campus.  Ours was a phone interview due to the distance between us and the timing of the interview.  He asked many of the standard questions for which I had already prepared a response—questions regarding my testimony and my beliefs, and how my beliefs aligned with those of my potential future employer.  Nearer the end of our lighter conversation, he asked a final question that I found troubling, then and still.

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Full Human Beings
Made in the Image of God

A Review of 

Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God
Megan DeFranza

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2015
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Reviewed by Shawna R. B. Atteberry


Megan DeFranza is a visiting professor at Boston University, and she has taught at Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God is her first book. It rose out of her dissertation at Marquette University. In this book DeFranza wants to offer conservative Christians of both worlds she inhabits (Evangelical and Catholic) a biblical and theologically anthropology that includes intersex people as full human beings made in the image of God.

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Entering the Night

A Review of

Gifts of the Dark Wood: Seven Blessings for Soulful Skeptics (and other wanderers)
Eric Elnes

Paperback: Abingdon, 2015
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Reviewed by Michelle Wilbert.
Not long after I completed my education and training in spiritual direction, I found myself inexplicably launched on an uninvited foray into what St. John of the Cross called, “The Dark Night of the Soul” experience. After more than three years of intense exploration, immersion and formation in response to a convincing sense of call to the vocation of spiritual direction, I suddenly found myself mired in doubt, anxiety and a sense of utter bewilderment surrounding the idea—now seeming like utter folly–that I had anything to offer a spiritual pilgrim seeking guidance.  Mind, not only did I receive a top notch education in the discipline but ongoing discernment of “call” was central to the process and I was under the direction of experienced Jesuit Priests and educated and experienced lay leaders—in short, I had been thoroughly vetted and was graduated from my program with the assumption of a clear charism in spiritual direction.  Yet, only months later, in Dante’s familiar words: “In the middle of the road of my life I awoke in a Dark Wood where the true way was wholly lost.”  And it was a very dark wood indeed. While sparing the gory details, suffice it to say that I entered an immersion experience of darkness and doubt that nearly destroyed me spiritually and emotionally.  I was well and truly lost, and it took an exceptionally long and torturous time to locate and live into the light and blessings this challenge presented to me–the “Gifts of the Dark Wood” that I now understand to have been an absolutely necessary “Vision Quest” without which I couldn’t possibly have done the work that had been given me to do.

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Reflecting on Where We are Headed.


Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck
Jon Acuff

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2015
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Reviewed by Becca Nelson 


“Ever feel like you don’t know exactly what to do with your life?  Know who else feels that way? Everyone.” (238)


I suppose it’s convenient that I chose to review Jon Acuff’s book, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck when I was right smack-dab in the middle of my own career do-over.  Though it hasn’t been an easy experience, it has allowed me some rare insight into the message of this book.  It has allowed me not only to ask “Is it good advice?”  but also, “Does it work?”


If you’ve ever been bored out of your mind just thinking about reading anything from the Career section at Barnes and Noble, I would still recommend giving this one a try.  Jon Acuff has a talent for making what could be a dry subject area easy to read and understand.  The entire book is structured around the metaphor of having a “Career Savings Account”.  By making deposits into your CSA, you will be able to withstand any kind of career change, be it voluntary or involuntary.  This makes for a book full of digestible, if somewhat formulaic advice.

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The Challenge of Juxtaposing Two Complex Subjects.

A Brief Review of 

The Scalpel and the Cross: A Theology of Surgery
(Ordinary Theology Series)

Gene Green

Paperback: Zondervan, 2015
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Reviewed by David P. Clark, M.D.


Gene L. Green in his new monograph, The Scalpel and the Cross: A Theology of Surgery, attempts to understand the particular work of surgery using the lens of theology. This book is a contribution to the Zondervan’s Ordinary Theology Series. Dr. Green was spurred to write this short book by the occasion of his aortic valve replacement surgery.

Dr. Green, a teacher of New Testament at Wheaton College and graduate school, attempts to use the lens of orthodox protestant theology to interpret and explicate the modern practice of surgery— a commendable and daunting goal. As a writer and surgeon, I can attest to the need and necessity for more serious thinking and clear writing concerning modern medicine.

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Knowing Fear

A review of

A Fresh Look at Fear: Encountering Jesus in our Weakness
Dan Baumann

Paperback: YWAM Publishing, 2015
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Reviewed by Hillary Jo Foreman


Like most children, I was afraid of many things while growing up. I was afraid of spiders, the Boogey Man and, of course, the dark. The majority of children outgrow superficial fears such as these, replacing them with more matured versions. I, too, allowed my fears of monsters in the closet to transform into real life fears of finances and failure. I have been in the church all my life so Christian fears also bloomed. Am I following God’s will? Why doesn’t he speak to me? What happens if people judge me?

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A World of Grays

A Review of 

Carry On: A Novel
Rainbow Rowell

Hardback: St. Martins Griffin, 2015.
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Reviewed by Jeni Newswanger Smith

I tried to read this novel slowly and savor the mystery and mounting tension, the “they will, but when” of the potential romance at its core. Continue Reading…