Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

Sounding the Note that
Enables Human Creativity to Sound
 
A Feature Review of

A Peculiar Orthodoxy: Reflections
on Theology and the Arts

Jeremy Begbie

Hardback: Baker Academic, 2018
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Review by Danielle Davey Stulac
 
 
I first encountered the theological thought of Jeremy Begbie not through printed words, but through vibrating strings. In the chapel of my seminary, I and many others listened, rapt, as Begbie sounded the middle C on the grand piano, and then silently depressed the C an octave higher. To our surprise, we heard not only the middle C, but also the quiet vibration of the higher C. The second string sounded, as Begbie explained, by “sympathetic resonance” with the first. In other words, the sounding of the first C enabled the second note to sound. “How might this phenomenon,” Begbie asked, “help us to think about God?” He went on to observe that in visual models of perception, two bodies cannot occupy the same space. (We cannot see red and yellow in the same space without them blending into orange.) Therefore, equipped only with visual perceptual categories, it is difficult for us to conceive God’s three-in-oneness, or Christ’s two natures, or the co-existence of divine and human agency. But, a simple perceptual shift from visual to aural metaphors can render the classic conundrums of theological thought into pseudo-problems. As a young seminary student (and life-long pianist) contending with these aporias, the implications of this perceptual shift struck me like a hammer on a piano string.

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Rooted Strongly in History
 
A Feature Review of
 

LIKE: Poems
A.E. Stallings

Hardback: FSG Books, 2018
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Reviewed by Sarah Lyons
 
 
When I was growing up, I was like many other kids and infatuated with the myths of Greek and Roman gods.  I would pull reference books from the library, hunting for narratives of men and women interacting with the divine.  With each new discovery I grew to both adore these stories and hate them—the arbitrary punishments, the rise and then deaths of heroes, the bright-burning romances and their ensuing jealousies, agonies, heartbreak.  I distinctly remember sitting down, pen and paper in hand, and attempting to make a list of myths that I could identify with; I wanted to keep track of ones that “ended well,” that offered some piece of hope toward the future.

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Misappropriating Bonhoeffer
 
A Feature Review of
 

The Battle for Bonhoeffer:
Debating Discipleship in the Age of Trump

Stephen Haynes

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2018.
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Reviewed by James Dekker

 
 
The ten chapters and postscript “Open Letter to Christians Who Love Bonhoeffer but (Still) Support Trump” of Stephen Haynes’s Battle for Bonhoeffer are some of the densest I’ve ever read outside of graduate theses, but it is far more engaging than any thesis. Dense is by no means bad. Battle is carefully organized, clearly written and always compelling. And well it should be, since this closely-argued discursus explores possibly the most incandescent questions in American Christians’ conversation since the Vietnam War: “Why and how has Dietrich Bonhoeffer become a hero to evangelicals in the first twenty years of the 21st century, when for decades after his death his theology was widely suspect outside mainline Protestantism? Why do so many evangelicals support Donald Trump?” Such rocky geography covers the American evangelical battleground that Stephen Haynes attempts to delimit.

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Occupying and Holding Space Together
as Church Communities

A Review of 

Seeing Jesus in East Harlem:
What Happens When Church Show Up and Stay Put

José Humphreys

Paperback: IVP Books, 2018.
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Reviewed by Bob Cornwall

 

*** This review originally appeared 
on the reviewer’s website.
It is reprinted here with permission.
Browse his website for other excellent reviews!

 
I am the pastor of a predominantly white suburban church that once lived in Detroit. This church moved to the suburbs, as did other congregations in the city, because most of the members had moved to the suburbs. The congregation tried to stay put, but in the end, it made better sense for the now diminished congregation to let another congregation make use of the historic building. The choice was probably correct, but I am attuned to stories of being present in the community. To be honest, suburban communities need congregations to be show up and stay put as well, so as to demonstrate God’s love and grace, as well as challenging the status quo. Forty years after the move, this congregation is trying to stay put in the community we were replanted.
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Recontextualizing Time.

 
A Feature Review of 

Timefulness:
How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World
Marcia Bjornerud

Hardback: Princeton UP, 2018
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Reviewed by Justin Cober-Lake
 
 

With the release of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report this past October, the disastrous effects of anthropogenic climate change feel even more imminent (as if we aren’t seeing them already). Even so, neither public conversation nor policy properly addresses the problem. Marcia Bjornerud, a professor of geology and environmental studies at Lawrence University, writes that at least some of the problem with our understanding of the situation lies in our “time denial.” In Timefulness, she proposes that developing a geologist’s thinking about time will help us more properly address our current global situation.

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Georgia on his Mind: George Whitefield and the Margins of Empire
 
A Feature Review of 

George Whitefield:
Evangelist for God and Empire
Peter Choi

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2018
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Reviewed by Alex Joyner

 

Experiments flourish on the margins. It’s why visionaries and mavericks gather in places far from the watchful eye of social convention and official control.  Think Donald Judd making his art and his mark in Marfa in ultra-West Texas. Think Brigham Young and the Mormons building Utah.  Or think George Whitefield and his Georgia plantation.  Wait…what?

George Whitefield has been hard for American religious scholars to classify.  The 18th century transatlantic evangelist clearly had a major impact on the Great Awakening, but, as Peter Choi puts it in his new book on Whitefield, he has always been “a sort of third wheel among undisputed leaders of the evangelical awakening.” (233) The two big wheels being Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley.  “Edwards was the indisputable intellectual leader of the early evangelicals,” Choi says, “and Wesley the sophisticated organizer who laid the groundwork for worldwide Methodism.” (233) But what did Whitefield do?

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The Vital Humanness
of Moral Leaders

A Review of 

Moral Leadership for a Divided Age: Fourteen People Who Dared to Change Our World
David Gushee / Colin Holtz

Hardback: Brazos Press, 2018
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Reviewed by Aaron Morrison

 

Moral Leadership for a Divided Age works best as an introduction to moral leaders who have made a positive impact through their deep conviction to work for the common good. Readers may wish other leaders would have been included, or they may be disappointed in the limited reflection on how moral leaders form us into better people. Nonetheless, David Gushee and Colin Holtz have designated a well-intentioned list of remarkable people whose lives have much to teach us about being good citizens in a divided polis.

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Myth-ing Persons

 
A review of 

The Inklings and King Arthur:
J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis and Owen Barfield on the Matter of Britain
 

Sørina Higgins, Ed.

Paperback: Apocryphile, 2018
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Reviewed by Sam Edgin
 

I remember, as a child, trying to find my definitive King Arthur book. Stories of fell swords and dangerous magic had seized me like they do many other children. I was fascinated by the possibilities of mysterious power carried within Christian relics, fresh with the adventures of Indiana Jones were running amok in my imagination. Mostly, though, I was harboring a strange obsession with the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It resonated within me, and I wanted more about Gawain and his bargains, steeped in chivalry and loyalty and hazy magic. I’m not sure I was ever sated – the efforts to find an Arthuriana found me Roger Lancelyn Green, whose Arthur and Gawain seemed lacking, but whose Robin Hood was so similar to the Robin Hood I saw in movies. Distracted, I seldom returned to Gawain and the castle in the forest.

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Transforming Memory
into a Place of Solace
 
A Review of 

Acacia Road:
Poems
 

Aaron Brown

Paperback:
Silverfish Review Press, 2018
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Reviewed by Ben Rawlins
 
 

Aaron Brown’s Acacia Road flows from a remembered intimacy with a particular place foreign to most of us. In the opening poem, “N’Djamena Morning,” the speaker strolls through the African city as a popular song crackles on the radio, and a lizard scurries across a wall. N’Djamena is the capitol of Chad, a land-locked country in north-central Africa and Brown’s home through childhood and adolescence until violence forced his family to leave. Even as these poems provide continued connection to past meaningful experience, they also acknowledge the palpable sense of loss inherent to translating memory into poetry.

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Becoming We.
 
A Review of 
 

One in Christ:
Chicago Catholics and the Quest
for Interracial Justice

Karen Johnson

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2018
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Reviewed by Claire Johnson
 
 
During this past Easter Break, I exited what was supposed to be a unified, city-wide prayer and worship service in my hometown of Nacogdoches, Texas. Instead, the event was marked with sharp racial divisions of black and white. Catholics and far-fetched liberals weren’t present, or if they were, the white, evangelical event planners had stripped their voices. The body of Christ was not unified. The service was held in a conservative, white Protestant church with white contemporary Protestant Christian music led by the white band from the Southern Baptist church down the street. White pastors from white Protestant churches led the inter-song devotionals. The façade of unity came only from the closeting of diversity. Unity with no diversity is not unity at all.

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