Archives For VOLUME 1



Saving the Seasons.
How to Can, Freeze or
Dry Almost Anything
Mary Clemens Meyer
and Susanna Meyer.
Paperback: Herald Press, 2010.
Buy now:
[ ]

Reviewed by Kate Roden.

Scroll down to the end of the review
for the recipe for Strawberry Freezer Jam
from this book!

Saving the Seasons is the newest cookbook from the publishers of the trifecta of beloved Mennonite cookbooks: Simply in Season, More with Less, and Extending the Table. This new work lives up to and expands the ideals of its predecessors.

In the nearly 35 years since More with Less first appeared on the scene, American kitchens have undergone some big changes, and not just in the shift from “autumn harvest” appliance colors to stainless steel.  In much of the country, the locavore movement is in full swing, folks are prioritizing where their food comes from and how it gets to them. They are looking for farmer’s markets and buying up farm shares and subscriptions on such sites as   Vegetable gardens, chicken coops and beehives are popping up in urban neighborhoods, and with the current DIY climate, and the financial necessities many families are facing, the More with Less approach to homemaking has new relevance.

The upsurge in interest in various arts of domesticity and homesteading means this book comes out at exactly the right time for a new group of novice gardeners who are wondering what exactly they are supposed to do with the 10 pounds of pickling cucumbers they accidentally grew.

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“A History of Our Brokenness”

A Review of
Pandora’s Seed:
The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization
By Spencer Wells

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

[ Watch two videos of Wells talking about this book… ]

Pandora’s Seed:
The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization
By Spencer Wells
Hardback: Random House, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

When we, as the Church, think about the Fall of humanity, our minds tend to jump to the Garden of Eden and the familiar story of Adam, Eve, the serpent and the forbidden fruit, and undoubtedly this is an essential part of the biblical narrative.  What we tend to gloss over, however, are the ways in which waves of brokenness surged forth through time and space from the epicenter of Eden toppling and subjugating not only humanity but all creation.  The Fall, of course, brought on the immediate consequences of pain in childbearing and in working the Earth, but it was not long before we encounter murder, lies, and the amassing of people and power in cities, and then Creation forcefully lashing out at itself with a massive flood.  The parallels between this biblical story of the Fall and its aftermath, parallels in a striking way, the scientific account of the development of early civilization presented in Spencer Wells’ new book Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization.  Wells is a heralded geneticist, and “Explorer-in-Residence” at the National Geographic Society.  His previous two books The Journey of Man and Deep Ancestry, probe aspects of our evolution and development as humankind, as well as our genetic history.   I should be clear before I go any further that any theological parallels that I note in conjunction with Wells’ research are my own and not his.

Wells’ thesis is that our development of agriculture about 10,000 years brought with it many “unintended consequences” that have plagued humanity over the intervening millennia, and he narrates a very different story than that put forth by modernist champions of “progress” over the last two centuries.   In his words: “The biggest revolution of the past 50,000 years of human history was not the advent of the Internet, the growth of the industrial age out of the seeds of the Enlightenment, or the development of modern methods of long-distance navigation.  Rather it was when a few people … decided to stop gathering from the land, abiding by the limits set in place by nature, and started growing their food.  This decision has had more far-reaching consequences for our species than any other.”  While I realize that discussions of dates and timelines in relation to the earliest eras of human development are open to some degree of leeway and interpretation, I suspect that most people could accept 10,000 years as a possible length of post-Fall human history, so for the sake of this review let us assume that what we know from the biblical narrative as “the Fall,” occurred essentially simultaneously with the development of agriculture as Wells describes it here and see how the consequences he describes fit with those noted in scripture.  Wells makes his case with chapters that focus on specific consequences, each of which begins with a relevant story from his global travels.

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145182: Absence of Mind

A Review of

Absence of Mind

By Marilynne Robinson.
Hardback: Yale University Press, 2010.

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Reviewed by David Anderson.

The four essays in this collection first saw life as the Terry Foundation lectures at Yale University, whose purpose is “to engage both scholars and the public in a consideration of religion from a humanitarian point of view, in the light of modern science and philosophy.” Previous lecturers (all published by Yale UP) include Alvin Plantinga, Stephen Jay Gould, Paul Ricoeur, Margaret Mead, Jacques Maritain and other luminaries.

Marilynne Robinson, who teaches at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, is best known for her fiction. Her novel Gilead, a small-town preacher’s survey of his long life in 1950s Iowa, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

In this collection Robinson goes after some big guns, peddlers of what she calls “parascientific literature”:

By this phrase I mean a robust, and surprisingly conventional, genre of social or political theory or anthropology that makes its case by proceeding, using the science of its moment, from a genesis of human nature in primordial life to a set of general conclusions about what our nature is and must be, together with the ethical, political, economic and/or philosophic implications to be drawn from these conclusions. Its author may or may not be a scientist himself. One of the characterizing traits of this large and burgeoning literature is its confidence that science has given us knowledge sufficient to allow us to answer certain essential questions about the nature of reality, if only by dismissing them. (32–33)

Among purveyors of parascientific ideas Robinson includes Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker, Edward O. Wilson, and Sigmund Freud, the subject of her third essay (“The Freudian Self”). She asserts that these men (no women make her list) dismiss anything that can’t be explained by appeal to genetic or economic self-interest. Thus, what we call the mind is merely electrical signals sparking in the darkness, religion is a prion-like infectious meme (Dawkin’s well-known carrier particle of culture) that made the jump from an ancient shaman, and metaphysics counts for nothing.

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An excerpt from the new book:

The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse.
Steven D. Smith.
Hardback: Harvard UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Read our review of this new book


“Back-Stories and St. Benedict

A Review of
Unlearning Protestantism:
Sustaining Christian Community in An Unstable Age.
By Gerald W. Schlabach.

Reviewed by
Gregory A. Clark.

Unlearning Protestantism:
Sustaining Christian Community in An Unstable Age.
Gerald W. Schlabach.
Paperback: Brazos Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

UNLEARNING  PROTESTANTISM - Gerald SchlabachThe back-story is everything.

Alasdair MacIntyre’s  After Virtue laid down a broad and devastating critique of modernity, and his call for another, “very different” St. Benedict makes sense only against that critique.  Gerald Schlabach’s Unlearning Protestantism follows MacIntyre’s narrative with two differences:  first, the critique of modernity is tied to an analysis and critique of Protestantism, and second, the St. Benedict we need isn’t so different from the first.

The first two chapters of Unlearning Protestantism show that Protestantism has been one important force in the development of modernity.  Protestantism came to be through narration of the context called for deep and thorough reform, and we properly consider as virtues the qualities of character that enabled the reformers to act as they did.  But soon that drive for reform detached itself from the context and set itself up as a principle valid on its own merits.  Schlabach articulates “the protestant principle” in the language of Paul Tillich: “because all human institutions fall short of God’s standard, they are always subject to ‘prophetic’ critique and reform” (24).  Making the principle the basis for community life leads to “the Protestant dilemma”: all institutions, including Protestant churches, are always subject to critique, to being rejected, overthrown, or dismissed as superfluous.  Protestantism is the principle of instability.  The Enlightenment has seen itself as completing the Protestant Reformation ever since.  Schlabach’s second chapter, “The Matter of Continuity,” shows how the drive for perpetual reform played itself out in Mennonite “tradition of dissent” in the 20th century.

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Chelsea Green is giving away a free ebook edition of the recent and relevant:

Not One Drop:
Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.

Riki Ott
Paperback: Chelsea Green, 2008.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


We  have recently made a slight change to our format and the reviews, excerpts, poems, etc. of our Midweek update will be posted to “pages” on the ERB website, and announced via social media.  If you’re a “first-to-know” sort of person, you can get these updates when they first come out in one of two ways:

Otherwise, in our regular issue each Friday, we will recap the content of our midweek update.  For instance, this week’s update included:

In our continuing effort to fund the publication and free distribution of The Englewood Review, we are going to be collaborating more intentionally with Christian Book Distributors. Primarily, we will be offering you the opportunity to buy bargain books from CBD that we think of are interest. Buying books this way is a win / win / win proposition. You get great books for a great price, CBD gets the sale and we get an excellent referral fee from CBD.

This week’s bargain books on the theme
WOMEN AND JUSTICE (Click to learn more/purchase):

32810: The Justice Men Owe Women: Positive Resources from World  Religions The Justice Men Owe Women: Positive Resources from World Religions

By John C. Raines / Augsburg Fortress

$0.25 – Save 98%!!!

This, the second in the Fortress Press series of short works from the Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, looks to ten, largely patriarchal, world religious traditions to help redress gender injustices. Built on extensive work by a task force of ten progressive religious scholars, this book summarizes their findings for intellectual enrichment and advocacy.

225004: Jesus of Nazareth Jesus of Nazareth

By Dorothee Soelle / Westminster John Knox Press

$2.99 – Save 85%!!

In this popular yet academically grounded look at Jesus, liberation theologians Dorothee Soelle and Luise Schottroff offer a corrective to the “Jesus of history” research recently made popular through the works of the Jesus Seminar. By situating Jesus within this community of friends–who played a large part in his life, ministry, and movement–the authors show that the story of Jesus has not come to a close. Rather, this book demonstrates how his works, words, and inspired community pose timeless challenges for contemporary life. Includes sixty-seven color illustrations, a glossary, chronological table, map, and brief annotated bibliography.

25800X: More Than Chains and Toil: A Christian Work Ethic of Enslaved Women More Than Chains and Toil: A Christian Work Ethic of Enslaved Women

By Joan M. Martin / Westminster John Knox Press

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Martin explores the experiences of enslaved women and the realities of their social world to uncover the inter-relationships, in the context of that environment , among moral agency, work, and human meaning. She then reflects ethically on the implications such a distinct perspective on labor might have for women in contemporary African-American communities and for broader discussions about the meaning of work in American society.

35682: In Justice: Women and Global Economics In Justice: Women and Global Economics

By Ann-Cathrin Jarl / Augsburg Fortress

$1.99 – Save 89%!!

How can Christians work for economic justice today? Spurred especially by the situation of women in the global household, Jarl offers an overview of feminist economics and ethics. Included also are critiques of neoclassical economic theory, objectivity in economics, and current understandings of rights, equality, and power. 177 pages, softcover from Fortress.


A Generative Excess in Reality

A Review of
For the Beauty of the Church:
Casting a Vision for the Arts

W. David O. Taylor, editor.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

For the Beauty of the Church:
Casting a Vision for the Arts

W. David O. Taylor, editor.
Paperback: Baker Books, 2010.
Buy Now: [ ]

“Beauty is simply reality itself, perceived in a special way that gives it a resplendent value of its own. Everything that is, is beautiful insofar as it is real… The genius of the artist finds its way by the affinity of creative sympathy, or conaturality into the living law that rules the universe. ”

— Thomas Merton, from No Man is an Island

For the Beauty of the ChurchThese lines from Merton’s essay “Conscience, Freedom, and Prayer” have seemed to me to be the most generous description of art as anything I’ve come across: it is expansive and encompassing (“everything…insofar as it is real”) and it binds art to the rest of life, and not just life, but life in its reality, (a “resplendent value of its own”). This broad vision for art (which I will try to expand further) is in contrast to theories of aesthetics, of work, of theology, of ecclesiology, etc., that are marked by limitation and fragmentation. What Merton does so wonderfully is to affirm that none of these can be separated; God is at work reconciling all things, and in our human arts we participate in that work. The reconciliation of all things seems to be the starting place for any vision for ‘the arts’ or for the church.

For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts is a new collection of essays edited by W. David O. Taylor, and birthed out of the “Transforming Culture” conference in Austin, bringing together artists and pastors to talk about the church and the arts. The eight essays in this book, from writers such as Andy Crouch, Eugene Peterson, and Jeremy Begbie, traverse often very different perspectives on said topic, from Andy Crouch’s chapter which offers a broad view of culture-making, to what seems to be more of an emphasis on some sort of “arts ministry,” whether it’s directly called that or not. That said, I have a hard time engaging with very many of these essays because of an underlying vision of art, church, worship, and work that is too narrow. I want to be careful because I do appreciate that these conversations are being had, but I hope to stir imaginations beyond ‘ministries’ or ‘outreach;’ beyond the once-a-week ‘worship service;’ and beyond making “Christian” a marketable adjective.

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“Following Jesus to the Cross”

A Review of
Two Recent Books
on Christian Martyrdom


By Chris Smith.


The Purple Crown: The Politics of Martyrdom.
Tripp York.

Paperback: Herald Press, 2007.
Buy now from:  [ Doulos Christou Books $15]   [ Amazon ]


To Share in the Body:
A Theology of Martyrdom for Today’s Church.
Craig Hovey.

Paperback: Brazos Press, 2008.
Buy now from:  [ Doulos Christou Books $18]   [ Amazon ]



Two recent books, The Purple Crown by Tripp York and To Share in the Body by Craig Hovey explore the question of what it means to be a martyr church in the present age.  Both authors work from the assumption that martyrdom is foreign to the Church in the United States, and indeed most of the Western world.  However, in exploring this question, York and Hovey take two different – and yet both helpful – approaches.  In To Share in the Body, Hovey works through the Gospel of Mark , forming a scriptural theology of martyrdom from the text of this Gospel.  York, on the other hand, works form the text of church history to develop a political understanding of Christian martyrdom.

                In To Share in the Body, Hovey works through the text of Mark, identifying six themes and images that are relevant to martyrdom.  The first of these images is baptism, the purpose of which, in Hovey’s words, is “to enact and declare membership with a martyr church” (23).  In baptism, we identify with the death and resurrection of Jesus (Romans 6).  Hovey keenly notes that just as the work of baptism is a divine one, so also the work of martyrdom is not primarily that of human will or action (33).  Hovey pointedly concludes this chapter: “The church’s failure to be a martyr-church is supremely seen in those cultures that continue to baptize the young for sentimentality’s sake.  For many, baptism involves neither incorporation into the life of the community of faith nor incorporation into the death and resurrection of Christ.  It is not a drowning in the surging waters, a participation in the suffering of Christ, a commitment to undergo the discipline of the church relative to its new life and mission made possible by Christ’s resurrection” (40).



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Give your friends a free subscription to The Englewood Review of Books this Christmas season, and both you and your friends will be entered to win free books!We’re giving away 25 books, with the top prize valued at over $100!

Enter now:

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(Contest ends at Noon on Dec 31, 2008)