Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

Reading with Creative Anachronism 
 
A Feature Review of 

Biblical Truths: The meaning of Scripture in the 21st Century.
Dale Martin

Hardback: Yale UP, 2017.
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Reviewed by Jordan Kellicut
 
 
Biblical Truths: the meaning of Scripture in the 21st Century is billed as a ground-breaking book which seeks to give a framework for how to think theologically in light of our postmodern world. From the first page Martin lays out intriguing and frequently scandalous methods of interpretation. His introduction is a critical introduction to his thesis and methodology. Martin argues, rather persuasively, that there is a difference between pre-modern and modern Biblical interpretation. Namely the pre-modern Christian assumed that everything in the Bible was written to that person, in that place and that time. Thus the meaning of the text was not necessarily what the author meant. This is striking since the prevailing thought in both academic and popular understanding is the meaning of a text is located not “in” but “behind” the text – what I learned to call “authorial intent.” A substantial amount of Martin’s introduction is dedicated to tracking how this hermeneutic progressed into modern theology. He then contends that the division between Bible and theology is a modern invention and not a helpful one.

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Jesus, Messiah of the Poor

 

A Feature Review of

Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor
Liz Theoharis

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2017
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Reviewed by Joseph Johnson

 

Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declared in his famous speech “A Time to Break Silence” that, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” I think these words, challenging as they are, express the conviction that undergirds the efforts of Liz Theoharis in her timely new book, Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor. Her contention is that Matthew 26:11, one of the most influential passages on poverty in Scripture, has often been twisted out of context in order to give red-lettered justification for viewing poverty as inevitable and pitting Jesus in opposition to the poor (13, 97). In her eyes, these conclusions have obviously damaging consequences.

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The Napoleon Dynamite
of Missionary Biographies?

A Feature Review of 

Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World
Amy Peterson

Paperback: Discovery House, 2017
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Reviewed by Matthew Loftus
 
 
Amy Peterson’s debut book, Dangerous Territory, is not your typical missionary biography and it is not meant to be. As Peterson recounts her story of teaching English as a Second Language for two years in Southeast Asia, she deliberately tries to subvert the conventions of the missionary memoir in order to change the way we talk about missions. In an article last year for Christianity Today, she wrote that “We need to hear stories about the real struggles and joys of missions work.” This is one of those stories.

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The Faith of a Wanderer

A Feature Review of 

The Gospel According to Star Trek: The Original Crew
Kevin Neece

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Rob O’Lynn

 

“Space…the final frontier.”  For over 50 years—five decades—that phrase has gathered generations of fans around their televisions and in the cinemas to join in the ongoing mission of the starship Enterprise as it seeks out new life and new civilizations, as it boldly goes where no one has gone before!  Wow, I am getting chills just typing it out.

Culturally speaking, Star Trek is at the pinnacle.  It has survived cancellations, mockumentaries and a bottomed-out fan base, only to become an endearing icon on the cultural landscape.  There are countless streams in which the Enterprise sails: television and films, merchandising, publishing, discography (of which the most awesome is this album), and, of course, conventions.  To be quite poignant, Star Trek has gone where, culturally, no one had gone before.

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The Wonder of Love and
the Call of Justice

A Feature Review of 

Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God After Experiencing a Hurtful Church
Carol Howard Merritt

Hardback: HarperOne, 2017
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Reviewed by Phil Snider

 

Have you ever been afraid in the hallways of your high school because you couldn’t find any of your friends from church, and you thought the rapture had occurred and you were left behind?

Have you ever been inclined to “come forward” to the altar just one more time, to make sure your heart is sincere, even though you’ve already committed your life to Christ on multiple occasions yet somehow can still never feel secure in your salvation?

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What has Bioregionalism
to Do with Discipleship?

 
A Feature Review of 

Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice
Ched Myers

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2016
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Reviewed by James Matichuk
 
 

This review originally appeared on the reviewer’s blog.
Reprinted with permission. 
*** Visit his blog for many other insightful reviews!

Early Christians asked themselves, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” wondering about the relationship between the Christian faith and pagan philosophy. Today many Christians raise a similar question: “What does my faith have to do with the environment?” Western Christianity has imbibed a functional Docetism since Constantine, placing salvation outside of creation’s realm. We’ve also been bequeathed the medieval Doctrine of Discovery, and Industrialization’s anthropological assumption which has enabled colonization and the exploitation of our natural resources (5-6). We’ve commodified our land and resources and a major divide continually grows between our Christian faith and our lived environments. We are now at a critical juncture in which human persons are making a major impact on our world. It is time to re-place Christian discipleship within our ecosystems.

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Holy People

 
A Feature Review of 

The Saints:
A Short History

Simon Yarrow

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2016
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Reviewed by Nick Jordan
 
 
 
Simon Yarrow is a historian of medieval religion at the University of Birmingham. His first book, Saints and Their Communities: Miracle Stories in Twelfth-century England, was a reworking of his Oxford dissertation, and he continues to focus on related research areas. The Saints: A Short History is exactly what its title says it is, no dumbed-down version of the larger book, but a well-written and concise survey of the meaning of sainthood in Christian history.

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An Immense Pride in American Food
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine
Sarah Lohman

Hardback: Simon and Schuster, 2016
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Reviewed by Andrew Camp
 
 
American cuisine and eating habits are a fascinating subject to me, having worked as a professional chef. We are a nation of immigrants and transplants. Our economic class structure also plays a role in American cuisine. Food deserts in lower income areas have been lamented by many, while middle and upper class people enjoy the bounty of beautiful farmer’s markets year-round.

Because of this, there are widely disparate views on eating and food habits. It seems that every week the newest and surely the greatest diet is being sold on the evening news, which many of us watch while eating a highly-processed dinner. Michael Pollan voiced this very concern in his seminal book The Omnivore’s Dilemma:

Consuming these neo-pseudo-foods alone in our cars, we have become a nation of antinomian eaters, each of us struggling to work out our dietary salvation on our own. Is it any wonder Americans suffer from so many eating disorders? In the absence of any lasting consensus about what and how and where and when to eat, the omnivore’s dilemma has returned to America with an almost atavistic force (301).

While this seems to be the case, is there anything that unites American cuisine? Sarah Lohman, author of the new book, Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, wondered the same thing. She recognized the extremely diverse culinary traditions of America, but then pondered, “If I look past these differences, I wondered what united America’s culinary culture?” (xv).

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A Hero On and Off the Diamond
 
A Review of

Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography: The Faith of a Boundary-Breaking Hero
Michael G. Long and Chris Lamb

Paperback: WJK Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Jeff Crosby

 
 

Just two years prior to Jackie Robinson’s death, New York literary giant Random House turned down the chance to publish the retired Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Famer’s memoir. Why? Because he insisted the book address not only his career as a professional athlete but also his work beyond the ballpark.

Based on that factoid alone, it’s safe to say that the principled Jackie Robinson would highly approve of this appreciative new biography by Michael G. Long and Chris Lamb.

Surprisingly, Jackie Robinson: A Spiritual Biography devotes just one chapter to the iconic Brooklyn infielder’s nine seasons with the Dodgers. In contrast, the authors devote four full chapters and portions of several others to Robinson’s work in civil rights, politics and business.

It’s undoubtedly as Robinson would want it.

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Men of Their Times and Places
 
A Feature Review of
 

Empire Baptized:
How the Church Embraced What Jesus Rejected
Wes Howard-Brook

Paperback: Orbis, 2016.
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Reviewed by Alden Bass
 
 
In his 1988 Louis H. Jordan Lectures, later published as Drudgery Divine, Jonathan Z. Smith argued that studies of early Christianity were hopelessly mired in confessional apologetics. Narrowing in on the study of Hellenistic Mystery Religions, he observed that Protestants were eager to critique the pagan rites, believing the “pure” religion of Paul to have been corrupted by Romish pomp and ritual. Likewise, Unitarian and Rationalist scholars, in an attempt to get at the Protestants, fingered Paul for introducing “Hellenism” into the rustic parables of Jesus. The Catholics defended all of it.

To Smith’s account we could add “radical” Christian treatments of early Christianity which have multiplied in recent years. Alistair Sykes, Andy Alexis-Baker, Alan Kreider, Everett Ferguson (to name a few) have described an early Christianity which looks an awfully lot like ana/baptist communities: nonviolent ethic, gathered-church ecclesiology, believers’ baptism, and (for Ferguson) acapella congregational singing. These scholars are not inventing things, but they are calling attention to areas neglected by earlier scholars, in the process revising the story of the earliest Christians to embrace their own traditions.

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