Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

Switching Our Religion.
 
 
A Feature Review of 
 

The Market As God
Harvey Cox

Hardback: Harvard UP, 2016
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Reviewed by Philip Christman
 
 
 
I teach first-year English at an elite public university, which gives me a window into the hopes and anxieties of America’s luckier youth. Mostly, they’re anxious about getting into the business school. Some of them actually want to study business, which is fine, but every semester, usually several times, I talk to someone with a demonstrable gift for thinking, writing, doing good, or making art, who has convinced her- or himself that any other major would be irresponsible. They have heard from every corner that the Market will punish them if they—who by their mere presence at University of Michigan have already found their way into a social network so privileged it beggars the human imagination—do the work they want to do. They continue to feel this way even though, from several of my course readings, they have learned that the “skills gap” doesn’t really exist (it’s largely a PR move by corporations that want to offload new-hire training to our public universities), that our future is not threatened by a deluge of art history majors, and that majors have less impact on hireability than many other factors—personal connections, school prestige, work experience. Knowing all this, and in some cases dreading the boredom and enforced club-ability for which business programs are notorious, these students still choose to reroute their hopes and dreams in deference to an abstraction: the Market.

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The Surprising Nature of Scripture.
 
A Review of

Preaching the Luminous Word: Biblical Sermons and Homiletical Essays
Ellen Davis 

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2016
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Reviewed by Joseph Johnson
 

This Book was Featured as one of 
Our Best Books of 2016

 
Near the beginning of Preaching the Luminous Word, Ellen F. Davis describes herself as “an exegete who teaches Old Testament and preaches, in that order” (xxiv). I’m grateful for that. It means the sermons gathered together in these pages are born out of a love for exegesis and attentive theological study, and it allows her to open up the unendingly rich and surprising world of Scripture in ways that invite her hearers and readers to slow down and linger with the text. Though her main academic background is in the Old Testament, Davis’s sermons in this volume reflect her engagement over the years with both the Old and New Testaments, delivered on a variety of occasions and in the midst of the seasonal rhythms of the Church’s liturgical calendar.

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A Truly Dialogical Space

 
A Feature Review of 
 

The Mission of the Church:
Five Views in Conversation

Craig Ott, Ed.

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2016
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Reviewed by Joe Davis.
 
 
 
In The Mission of the Church, Craig Ott facilitates an energizing, informative, and mutually enriching dialogue on how the church participates with God’s work in, for, and with God’s creation. Five contributors participate in this dialogue: Stephen Bevans representing a Roman Catholic tradition, Darrell Guder representing mainline Protestants, Ruth Padilla Deborst representing Latin American evangelicals, Edward Rommen representing an Eastern Orthodox tradition, and Ed Stetzer representing North American evangelicals. Each contributor provides their own perspective and then responds to the other four perspectives. I write this review as a North American evangelical raised in Stetzer’s tradition, but trained academically in Padilla Deborst’s tradition. I was familiar with the work of Bevans and Guder, and am least familiar with Rommen and the Eastern Orthodox tradition. In this review, I briefly summarize each view, discuss the common themes of Trinity and contextualization, and explore how Christological nuances lead to missiological differences.

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Won’t You Be A Neighbor?  Getting the Church Back in the Neighborhood
 
 A Review of 

The Neighboring Church:
Getting Better at What Jesus Says Matters Most
Rick Rusaw and Brian Mavis

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2016.
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Reviewed by Alex Joyner
 

Nothing is more difficult for leaders in late-stage bureaucratic institutions than trying to navigate through a morass of well-intentioned policies and procedures in order to do the simple things needed to accomplish the institution’s mission.  Gordon MacKenzie called this leadership challenge Orbiting the Giant Hairball in his 1996 book of the same name [Viking: 1996].  “Orbiting,” MacKenzie said, “is responsible creativity: vigorously exploring and operating beyond the Hairball of the corporate mind set, beyond ‘accepted models, patterns, or standards’ — all the while remaining connected to the spirit of the corporate mission.” (33)

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Sacred Ordinary/Ordinary Sacred
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Liturgy of the Ordinary:
Sacred Practices in Everyday Life

Tish Harrison Warren

Paperback: IVP Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Michele Morin
 
 

Watch for our interview with the author
in our Lent 2017 print magazine…
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Annie Dillard has (famously) said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”  This is a cautionary saying for those of us who live our days as the sandwich-makers, the sock sorters, and the finders of misplaced library books.  Therefore, Liturgy of the Ordinary has landed upon my reading list like a benediction, for in Tish Harrison Warren’s words, I hear the husky contralto sound track of Peggy Lee’s musical question “Is That All There Is?” Thanks be to God, Tish arrives at a resounding “No!”  The daily, mundane tasks that comprise civilization and self-maintenance on this planet are clearly not “all there is.”  On the contrary, they are shot through with the sacred — even all the repetitive and seemingly Sisyphean tasks that, while admittedly are sacrificial, seem hardly to be sacramental.

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A Vision of Love and Unity
for All of Creation

A Feature Review of 

The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian
Brian McLaren

Hardback: Convergent Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Leslie Klingensmith
 

For several years, I was a Brian McLaren skeptic.  It wasn’t personal.  I’ve never met him, and have not seen him speak in person (although I would like that to change).  My skepticism was based on what felt like a universal wave of adulation for him that, in my opinion, was easily turned into dismissal of everything about the church and our history.  While I agree that much about the church needs to (indeed MUST) change, I bristle at the suggestion that the church by which I was nurtured and to whom I have dedicated my vocational life is as hopelessly misguided and selfish as many McLaren devotees say it is.  After all, there are millions of people across denominations who are doing such wonderful work in the world and who make me hopeful for the future of God’s people.  If the church produced them, can it be all bad?  Skeptics in the McLaren universe don’t get very far – if you raise questions about the “Everything Must Change” mind set, you are dismissed as defensive and too invested in the old order of things.  If you point out ways that the current church is already moving in many of the directions McLaren advocates, especially missional communities and emphasis on serving the wider world instead of maintaining institutions, you are in denial about how bad things really are in the mainline church.  Brian McLaren’s cult-like status got on my nerves.

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What is the Human Being?

 
A Review of 

Being Human in God’s World:
An Old Testament Theology of Humanity
J. Gordon McConville

Hardback: Baker Academic, 2016
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Reviewed by Nick Jordan
 
 
J. Gordon McConville’s central question, repeated at regular intervals throughout this book, is a Biblical question: “What is the human being, that you [God] should call him to mind; or the son of man that you should pay attention to him?” (Psalm 8:4). He explores this question not only as a Biblical scholar and theologian, but as one who wants to help Christians. As he writes in his Preface, “what follows should be regarded as an essay in reading the Bible in pursuit of oneself, individually and in one’s various communities, as a human being.”

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A More Productive, Fulfilling Life.
 
A Feature Review of 
 
Rest: Why You Get More Done
When You Work Less
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Hardback: Basic Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Emma Sleeth Davis
 
 

In Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang starts with a simple premise: working more hours does not mean getting the most—or best—work done.  Part self-help, part scientific findings, part biographical anecdotes, Rest is an engaging, well written and researched read for white collar workers interested in improving their productivity.

The book is organized into three parts: an introduction and two opening chapters; the pith of the book, concerning the schedules and techniques of successful workers; and a concluding section on sustaining productivity.

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Embracing the Spirit of God
that Rests in us All

 
A Review of

Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World
Leroy Barber

Paperback: IVP Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Leroy Seat
 
 
For many years one of my favorite images of Jesus, and of Jesus-followers, is that of him welcoming us with open arms. After reading Leroy Barber’s new book, I realized that I needed a more dynamic image. Not only does Jesus stand with open arms, he also moves to embrace all who come to him. We followers of Jesus should be willing to do the same.

Barber, an African-American man who grew up in Philadelphia but who now, after several years in Atlanta, lives in Portland, Oregon, has long served as a pastor and as a leader in several organizations ministering to people in need. He has spent his adult life of more than 30 years pursuing reconciliation and justice between diverse people and groups who have often been separated by fear and prejudice.

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Trading in our Comfortable Lives
for Kingdom-oriented Ones
 
A Feature Review of 

Falling Free:
Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted
Shannan Martin 

Paperback: Thomas Nelson, 2016.
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Reviewed by Tiffany Malloy
 
 
Sometimes I doubt if Jesus knew what he was talking about.

The season of Advent is upon us, and as I settle into this season of waiting and pondering, I quickly find myself living in the tension of believing Jesus’ words and walking through the aisles of Target.

I find myself wanting another scarf more than I want to give to someone else. Is it really better to give than to receive?

Every time I push my red cart to my empty trunk, feeling the thrill of new things, I struggle to accept Jesus’ words. Does not our quality of life consist in our abundance of possessions?

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