Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

The Out-and-Out Strangeness of an Alternative, Redeemed Society

A Feature Review of

Keep Christianity Weird:
Embracing the Discipline of Being Different
Michael Frost

Paperback: NavPress, 2018
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Reviewed by Joshua Rhone
 
 
Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon are two cities at the forefront of what has become a movement of sorts. They are weird cities. Cities that reject the conformity and homogeneity that characterize so many of the cities of the modern era, in favor of all things artisanal, unique, and sustainable. As such, these cities, and others like them, both stand out and stand in stark contrast to what we have come to associate with a normal city, which have led them to attract a different type of resident––the offbeat and eccentric, the creative and out-of-the-box thinker.

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The Ecology of Faith Formation

 
A Review of

Cultivating Teen Faith:
Insights from the Confirmation Project
Richard Osmer / Katherine Douglass, Eds.

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2018
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Reviewed by Daniel Ogle
 
 
The good news – and there is plenty of good news shared in Cultivating Teen Faith – is that when it comes to teenagers participating in confirmation, they are participating by and large in order to form a stronger connection with God.

Cultivating Teen Faith, edited by Richard Osmer and Katherine Douglass, is an interpretation of a three-year study of how over 3000 Christian congregations guide teenagers through an intentional process of Christian formation under the broad heading of confirmation.

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Toward Greater Courage and
More Authentic Community
 
A Review of

The Color of Life:
A Journey toward Love and Racial Justice
Cara Meredith

Paperback: Zondervan, 2019
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Reviewed by David Swanson
 
 
On October 1, 1962, James Meredith enrolled in the University of Mississippi for his final year of college. What should have been a straightforward process involving applications and recommendations was anything but easy. Riots broke out on campus two nights before the arrival of the 29-year-old incoming senior. The possibility of the first African American student at Ole Miss was significant enough to draw concerted opposition from the governor of Mississippi and intervention by Robert Kennedy, then the U.S. Attorney General. Reflecting later, Meredith, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, remembered his time at the university as a war, one which he won by forcing the federal government to intervene to defend his civil rights. This was a war against white supremacy and Meredith was willing to lead the charge, no matter how violent the response.

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The Radically Inclusive Gospel

A Feature Review of 

The Forgotten Creed:
Christianity’s Original Struggle against Bigotry, Slavery, and Sexism
Stephen Patterson

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2018
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Reviewed by Alden Bass
 

According to Stephen Patterson, Paul was reluctant to make the statement which we now know as Galatians 3:28: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” As Patterson explains in his new book, these words were already well-known when Paul took up his pen to write to the Galatians, a bit of liturgical language which would have been familiar to any Christian who recited it at their baptism. Paul incorporated the formula into his letter in an effort to ease tensions in the nascent Galatian Christian community between Jews and Gentiles. The old social order built on race, gender, and class differences was dead, at least among those walking “in newness of life.” Paul hesitated, Patterson suggests, because these words were dynamite.

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Can the United States thrive in a
diverse, multifaith social environment?
 
A Feature Review of
 

Out of Many Faiths:
Religious Diversity and the American Promise.

Eboo Patel

Hardback: Princeton UP, 2018.
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Reviewed by Barton Price
 
 
The question that pervades the volume Out of Many Faiths is how the United States can thrive in a diverse, multifaith social environment that finds common ground among all religious faiths for the betterment of society. This has been the chief question that has captured Eboo Patel’s career and rise in popularity. At the heart of Patel’s essays is the core American faith, a civil religion that transcends religious identity. Patel asserts that civil religion “hold[s] a diverse society together, to provide us with a narrative that allows people from a range of backgrounds to not only feel American but also feel that there is something sacred in that” (23). His definition of civil religion is informed by Philip Gorski’s American Covenant—a book that I reviewed for ERB in 2017. Yet he departs quite drastically from Gorski’s and Robert Bellah’s understanding of American civil religion as rooted in a Judeo-Christian tradition and its sacred texts of the Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament.

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Confronted and Grieved
by the Sins of our Past.

A Feature Review of

The Color of Compromise:
The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism
Jemar Tisby

Hardback: Zondervan, 2019.
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Reviewed by Dorothy Littell Greco.
 
Writer, speaker, and historian (PhD Candidate, University of Mississippi) Jemar Tisby has created an authoritative masterpiece. The Color of Compromise relies on history as “the main vehicle to take us on a journey toward greater racial understanding.” And what a journey Tisby takes us on.

The author topples multiple sacred cows as he dismantles the prevailing textbook narrative that nearly deifies both the early European settlers as well as the men who wrote the Constitution. Yes, the document was vital for our nation, but it also legalized systemic racism—and misogyny. Had the Founding Fathers actually been willing to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defencefor everyone (as written in the preamble for the US Constitution), the history of the United States would have been radically different.

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Life-giving and Life-sustaining
 
A Feature Review of
 

Invitation to Retreat:
The Gift and the Necessity of Time Away with God
Ruth Haley Barton

Hardback: IVP Books, 2018.
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Reviewed by Alicia Brummeler
 
Ruth Haley Barton’s Invitation to Retreat is a gift to readers. In a compelling and straightforward manner, she diagnoses what plagues most of us: busyness and exhaustion. However, she doesn’t leave readers hopeless. She identifies the cure: retreat is an essential spiritual practice.

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Into Thin Places
 
A review of
 

The Soul’s Slow Ripening:
12 Celtic Practices
for Seeking the Sacred
Christine Valters Paintner

Paperback: Sorin Books, 2018
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Reviewed by Sam Edgin
 
 
Spirituality is a buzzword. It’s a bonus dimension to our personal brands; a step on the journey of total heath, tracked by our Apple Watches and dribbled out on our Instagram Stories between pictures of dogs and gym routines. It comes in an endless number of traditions and practices and we mash them together and throw them out like play-doh in the hands of so many two year-olds. It is a new-health commodity, to be traded and marketed, and dealt to the cash-waving masses. We love it, and we preach it, and we sell it to our friends. Pick and pay for the ones that are right for you, oh seeker, enlightenment awaits!

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An Army of Eloquent Magdalenes
 
A Feature Review of
 

The Magdalene
in the Reformation.

Margaret Arnold.

 
Harvard University Press, 2018
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Reviewed by Lynn Domina
 
 
Mary Magdalene is one of the most paradoxical and puzzling characters in the gospels, four books admittedly filled with paradoxical and puzzling characters. She is admired and vilified, held up as a model of faithfulness and denigrated as an exemplar of women’s sexual sinfulness. Much contemporary and historical interpretation of her role, though, depends on readers conflating Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany (sister of Martha and Lazarus) and with the repentant sinner who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. Such conflation is understandably tempting, given how little the Bible says about any of these women, if not entirely logical. In The Magdalene in the Reformation, Margaret Arnold provides an excellent analysis of interpretations of Mary Magdalene from the end of the medieval period through the Reformation.

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A Complete Descent into Narcissism
 
A Review of
 

The Splendor Before the Dark:
A Novel of the Emperor Nero
Margaret George

Hardback: Berkley, 2018
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Reviewed by J. Brent Bill
 

Nero. A name that invokes disgust and a certain residual fear in many Christians hearts and minds. After all, this is man who, after fiddling as he burned Rome, then blamed the fiery holocaust on the Christians and had them persecuted and put to death in horrible ways.

Or at least that’s the story many of us learned in Sunday school classes. What we learned had some basis in ancient writing.

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