Archives For *Brief Reviews*

 

Stirring Our Imaginations

A Brief Review of

Divergent Church:
The Bright Promise of Alternative Faith Communities

Tim Shapiro and Kara Faris

Paperback: Abingdon, 2017
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
 
 

It is easy for churches to rest in the comfortable clutches of tradition, and many churches that do so for years, or even decades, may eventually find themselves teetering on the brink of death. Throughout the history of the Christian tradition, the Holy Spirit has rejuvenated the people of God through communities that embodied their faith in imaginative ways outside the prevailing tradition and convention of their day (e.g., the monasteries that took shape in the desert, the Benedictines, the Anabaptists, the Quakers, the Catholic Workers, etc.) The witness of these communities has echoed through the intervening centuries, well beyond the particular traditions that formed in their wake, reminding us of God’s continuing desire to renew and refine the people of God.

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Monastics, Mystics, and More

A Review of

A Course in Christian Mysticism
Thomas Merton

 
Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2017
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Reviewed by Alexander Steward
 
 
 

If you have never had the pleasure of visiting Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, I would recommend you take the time to do so. My visit to Gethsemani several years ago was one of my first true encounters with the work of Thomas Merton. Staying for a week at the Abbey allows one to hear Merton’s lectures during meal time. His voice coming through the speakers with an air of authority yet a playfulness that exudes an openness.

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Foundational Justice

A Review of

A Palestinian Theology of Liberation: The Bible, Justice, and the Palestine-Israel Conflict
Naim Stifan Ateek

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2017

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Reviewed by Leroy Seat
 
 

Naim Stifan Ateek (b. 1937) is an ethnic Arab Palestinian, a citizen of Israel, and an Anglican priest. His slim but highly significant book is the fruit of decades of theological thought and praxis.

Nearly thirty years ago Ateek wrote a closely related book, Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Liberation. In that same year, 1989, he founded Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. That organization has continued to grow in influence through the years with chapters in several countries. One such chapter is FOSNA (Friends of Sabeel North America).
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Driving into the Light from Deep Darkness

A Review of

Night Driving:
Notes from a Prodigal Soul

Chad Bird

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2017

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Reviewed by James Dekker

 

In Night Driving , former pastor and seminary teacher Chad Bird has given us a short, intense book, one that is hard to put down. All told, this is a confessional memoir, but in that telling Bird regularly shifts genres like the gears on the Mack Truck he drove for some years after his affair and divorce.

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Walking Forward Into the Future
 
A Review of 

The Last Arrow:
Save Nothing for the Next Life

Erwin McManus

 
Hardback: WaterBrook, 2017
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Reviewed by Andy Johnson III
 
 
While Erwin McManus was finishing his writing of The Last Arrow, the message of the book took on deeper meaning when he was diagnosed with cancer. Although he did not write the book intending to describe it as his “last arrow” processing this life-threatening situation accentuated the insight that we are all living with a terminal condition. The question is not if but when we will die. McManus writes, “It’s only when when we realize we are terminal that we start treating time with the respect it deserves.” (96)
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A Call for Adventure
 
A Review of 
 

Stay in the City:
How Christian Faith is Flourishing in an Urban World

Mark Gornik / Maria Liu Wong

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2017
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Reviewed by Kevin Book-Satterlee
 
 
Stay in the City is one of the most fun, quick, and inspiring little texts on urban mission. Gornik and Wong bring forth small anecdotes to narrate a grand emerging adventure. We often think of adventure as journeying out, into the unknown, but in the city, with all its change, the familiar becomes unkown and recycles back to familiarity once again. This is the adventure of urban mission, the complex intertwining, changing dance with rehearsed steps to developing beats. Staying in the City inspires dance-lessons and improvisation to tell the journey of what God is doing in our cities across the globe.
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What is our Identity?

A Review of

The Zombie Gospel:
The Walking Dead and What it Means to Be Human

Danielle Strickland

Paperback: IVP Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Jeff Nelson

 

“We are the walking dead.” This line, uttered by main protagonist Rick Grimes in both the TV show and comic versions of The Walking Dead, sums up what the real focus of this popular series is. While the presenting conflict that frames the characters’ experiences and problems is the zombie apocalypse, the true focus is their reactions and sense of identity as a result of everything they know collapsing.

Early on in The Zombie Gospel, Danielle Strickland notes this as well. Recounting a conversation with a friend, she shares this thought: “’Think about it,’ he said to me, ‘everything that defines your life has been deconstructed. What then’” (9)? In other words, if we can no longer define our lives by our jobs, our creature comforts, our favorite places to hang out, or even our enemies, what is our identity to ourselves and to others?

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A Powerful Medium of Storytelling
 
A Review of 
 

God in the Movies: A Guide for Exploring Four Decades of Film
Catherine Barsotti / Robert Johnston, Eds.

Paperback: Brazos Press, 2017
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Reviewed by Fred Redekop
 
 
The Sound of Music (1966) was the first movie that I saw at the theatre. My parents and their eight children went the Brock Theater in Niagara-on -the-Lake, Ontario. The other movie experience that I remember growing up with was The Wizard of Oz. It came on once a year, in the spring, and our family sat down and watched it together on television. My first R-rated movie I saw was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. So, I am a movie-watcher, who likes movies from all over the world. My brother is a set designer and set builder for the movie industry in Toronto. I was a pastor for over 30 years, and know from the people that I was pastor to,  that movies are a powerful medium of storytelling

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Wisdom Sprinkled Lavishly
 
A Brief Review of 

Love Big, Be Well:
Letters to a Small-Town Church

Winn Collier

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2017.
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Reviewed by Rhodara Shreve
 
 

In this new novel by Winn Collier, you might think letters written by a pastor to his small church congregation would be irrelevant to the modern, urban churches in larger city areas but, you would be so wrong. In fact, reading this book is more about getting a chance to remember what we can be robbed of in this crazy high-tech, global world and why this has to do with our deepest need for friendships that matter as as we journey through life. In this book, a pastor finds himself called to a rural church, and as he writes these letters to his congregation, he shares so much wisdom through the stories of people he meets in this church as he gets to know them and the community they inhabit.

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Caring for Both the Earth
and Those who Inhabit It

A Brief Review of 

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist
Kate Raworth

Hardback: Chelsea Green Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Patrick Bowers

 

It is not very often a macroeconomic book could be praised as both approachable and revolutionary at the same time, but I think that is the only way to sum up Kate Raworth’s book.  This book was years in the making and the author very much wants the readers to follow her along on her trip from student to a shaper of economic thought.
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