Archives For VOLUME 3


Cover - ERB Print Issue No. 1Subscriptions to our new quarterly print edition make wonderful Christmas gifts, for your family friends, church or library!!!

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[CLICK HERE to read the Table of Contents in PDF format…]

[ CLICK HERE to read our review of
Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s COMMON PRAYER
from this first issue… ]

Three bloggers have recently reflected on Issue #1 of the ERB. Check out what they have to say:


“The Coming of God’s Just Kingdom

A review of
Justice Rising:
The Emerging Biblical Vision
John Heagle

Reviewed by Warren Hicks.

Justice Rising: The Emerging Biblical Vision.
John Heagle
Paperback: Orbis Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Justice Rising - John HeagleNear the end of his book, Justice Rising: The Emerging Biblical Vision, John Heagle poses the following question, “what if the second coming of Christ is neither an imminent global catastrophe nor a distant apocalyptic event, but rather an unfolding process within human history” (162)?

With this question, Heagle invites us to consider push back against some of the prevailing theologies of justice based on tired interpretations of what the ‘Kingdom of God’ is all about in terms of Jesus’ life and ministry and to join with God in the ongoing work of pointing toward the emergence of the Kingdom as it exists and to work for the environment that will encourage its further coming and hold on the powers and principalities of our contemporary world.

To talk about justice in the current context of political and religious ‘dialogue’ in the United States is bound to ring some bells and hit some buttons with folks.  When the role of ‘social justice’ as it relates to the Church and the message of Jesus becomes a flashpoint for divisive rhetoric, it would be easy to approach this volume with presuppositions of one sort or another.  To do that with this book, however, would be a mistake.

Continue Reading…


Wishing you and yours peace in this Advent season and throughout 2011

Here are ten gifts from the ERB that you will not want to miss!

10) Audio Recording of Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson conversation at Indiana University.

9) [Readers outside North America] Get our quarterly print edition FREE as PDF file!

8 ) Audio Recording of  Bill Cavanaugh offering a superb theological reading of the economic crisis!

7) Choose a FREE ebook when you get our weekly online edition FREE via email !

6) Audio Recordings from the A ROOTED PEOPLE conference on Church, Place and Agriculture.

5) Audio Recording of John McKnight telling stories about his friend, the late social critic, Ivan Illich .

4) FREE PDF ebook – Oscar Romero’s THE VIOLENCE OF LOVE –  [via Plough Books ]


2) FREE MP3’s of Wendell Berry reading his poetry.


1) FREE Audio book of our 2009 Book-of-Year,


A Review of

Honeybee Democracy.
Thomas Seeley.
Hardback: Princeton UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon

Reviewed by Mary Bowling.

There’s something about honeybees that captures – and holds onto – the interest of people who come into contact with them.  It’s the same for almost all beekeepers, and it has been for ages.  People who work with bees love them, are intrigued, captivated, and mesmerized by them, Thomas D. Seeley – the author of this book – notwithstanding.  So what is that something that causes people to fall for them and not just for their honey?  They are a superorganism, a collection of thousands of tiny, cold-blooded insects that together function something akin to a warm-blooded animal.  Bees don’t maintain their own body temperature, but a hive does. Bees don’t live more than a season, but a hive does.  Most bees don’t reproduce, but a hive does.  Bees don’t analyze information and make decisions based on that information, but a hive does.

Honeybee Democracy represents years of research on the part of Seeley and collaborators into the habits of a swarm of bees as it chooses a new home.  The book details various experiments performed by Seeley in order to test his and some of his predecessors’ hypotheses about several aspects of the behavior of a swarm as it looks for a suitable place to live.  Each chapter contains charts, graphs and diagrams representing data collected during his many experiments with the swarms.  The experiments, when taken in total, provide evidence that a swarm functions in much the same way as a primate brain; gathering information from an array of sources, deciding which option is the best, and acting upon that decision as a unit.

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As our Advent gift to you, we will be uploading the audio recordings from the main sessions of the “A Rooted People: Church, Place and Agriculture in an Urban World” conference. (Click here for the conference website and more info on the conference).

Click for previous installments in this series:
[ Part #1 – Ragan Sutterfield / Fred Bahnson ]
[ Part #2 – Martin Price / Sean Gladding ]
[ Part #3 – Claudio Oliver / Martin Price ]

Talk #7 –Saturday  Afternoon Keynote.
“The 2050 Scenario—Peak Oil, Peak Food, Peak… Church?” – Fred Bahnson
Fred is a writer and co-founder of Anathoth Community Garden.



A Brief Review of

Gardening: Cultivating Wisdom (Philosophy for Everyone Series).
Dan O’Brien, editor.
Paperback: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

As one of the newest volumes in their eclectic “Philosophy for Everyone” series (a intriguing concept of itself, as the publisher seems not only to target an audience of everyone, but also to tackle a list of topics that covers just about everything), Wiley has offered us a delightful volume on the topic of gardening.  Although the series is titled as philosophy, and although there is indeed much here to spur philosophical reflection, this volume also offers as much on the history of gardening (and the history of thinking about gardening) as it does on philosophy of gardening.  Aptly subtitled, Cultivating Wisdom, this superb volume covers much ground from exploring “the virtues of gardening” to the role of gardens and gardening in the work of philosophers both ancient (Plato and Epicurus) and modern (David Hume).  One of my favorite essays in the collection was Gary Shapiro’s piece on “The Philosophy of Central Park,” an aesthetic argument that “what are variously called gardens, parks, earthworks, or perhaps most generally land art should be acknowledged once again as major forms of art” (149).  Such an argument is not unfamiliar to me, as our art editor, Brent Aldrich, has often made similar arguments in these pages (most recently in this review).  However, I was delighted to find that Shapiro takes as his case study, Central Park, the quintessential urban park, and forms a poignant and convincing argument around the features of the place.  Helene Gammack’s essay on “Food Glorious Food” and Michael Moss’s essay on “Brussels Sprouts and Empire” were also among the highlights of this fine volume.  If you garden, this volume will undoubtedly provide much food for thought as you work the land; if you don’t, this volume may just provide some convincing evidence that would compel you to give it a go.  Either way, it is an engaging and enjoyable read, and readers of the ERB will certainly want to stay tuned for future volumes in this diverse – and apparently all-encompassing – series!


Christmas Trees
Robert Frost

(A Christmas Circular Letter)

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.

Continue Reading…


“Trial and Error

A Yoderian Rejoinder to

By John  C. Nugent.

Defending Constantine.
Peter Leithart.

Paperback: IVP Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

[ Peter Leithart’s response has been posted here… ]

Constantine on Trial

Those looking for another excuse to dismiss John Howard Yoder are sure to find it in Peter J. Leithart’s Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom. Though Leithart takes Yoder quite seriously, those less familiar with Yoder’s work may be left with the unfortunate impression that he was a sloppy thinker, blinded by the pacifism of a naïve tradition, and ignorant of the complexities of history. I am sure this is not Leithart’s intention. Leithart, however, does intend to start a “fight” (10) and his admittedly polemical tone sometimes borders on patronizing his primary foe along with his Anabaptist heritage. This should not detract readers from hanging in there with this rather long work. Some of its most stimulating suggestions come near the end. Leithart’s well-crafted and articulate case deserves more than a series of brief reviews; it requires substantive rejoinders both to his historical portrait of Constantine and his theological critique of Yoder. Though no one can speak for Yoder, least of all me, I will nonetheless enter the fray by presenting Leithart’s basic case and evaluating its polemic against Yoder and those who share similar convictions about faith, history and social ethics.

Polemics aside for the moment, Leithart’s task is ambitious: to write a life of Constantine, to rebut popular caricatures, to demonstrate that Yoder’s work on Constantine is wrong both historically and theologically, and to make a case for Constantine as a viable model for Christian political practice (10-11). This task is complicated by the nature of the extant resources. Leithart’s preferred source is Eusebius, a contemporary of Constantine who adoringly portrays him as God’s providential instrument in ushering in the millennium. Leithart grants that Eusebius’ work is replete with exaggerations, contains accounts of questionable historicity, and intentionally omits incriminating material (228). Nonetheless, it remains the earliest and most comprehensive account available, so Leithart makes extensive use of it. He makes less use of the account of Zosimus, a late fifth century pagan who portrays Constantine as a violent ruler who was politically motivated in the worst sense of that term. Beyond this, Leithart had access to an oration of Constantine, published legal decrees, coinage, letters, and miscellaneous excerpts preserved among Eusebius’ writings. This situation is hardly an ideal one for a historian or a theologian.

The title of Leithart’s book gives a sense of his strategy for dealing with this difficult historical material. Consistent with his aims, Leithart plays the part of a defense attorney in a court setting. The last several decades of historians and theologians (e.g., Jacob Burkhardt, James Carroll, Stanley Hauerwas and, of course, Yoder) play the role of prosecuting attorneys who have been overly critical of Constantine and unfairly suspicious of favorable testimonies in the primary sources. It seems, to Leithart, as if they have sought only to find fault. As defense attorney, Leithart tasks himself with finding innocence or at least explaining fourth century details to make his clients’ actions more defensible. Making extensive use of Eusebius, he brings forward as many positive testimonies as possible. Evidence that does not support his case is either ignored, chalked up to exaggeration (126), or creatively re-interpreted with the help of more sympathetic secondary sources (227-230). Though this kind of reading is sure to encourage constructive historical work insofar as careful historians are spurred on to revisit the primary sources neither to prosecute nor to defend Constantine, Leithart’s book is not that kind of work.

Continue Reading…


“On Being the People of God
in the Midst of Empire

A review of
Two New Books on Scripture and Empire.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Out of Babylon.
Walter Brueggemann.
Paperback: Abingdon, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

Come Out, My People:
God’s Call Out of Empire
in the Bible and Beyond
Wes Howard-Brook.
Paperback: Orbis Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]
In light of recent works that defend the role of Christianity within Empire, it has been refreshing to find two excellent new books that utilize the biblical narrative as a whole to call the people of god out of Empire and the ways of the Empire, specifically Walter Brueggemann’s newest book Out of Babylon and Wes Howard-Brook’s Come Out, My People: God’s Call out of Empire in the Bible and Beyond. Brueggemann’s book is a relatively brief and very readable account of the image of Babylon in scripture (particularly the Old Testament) and the implications of this biblical image for God’s people in the midst of the American empire today. Howard-Brook’s work offers a longer, more detailed account that explores the whole biblical story through the lens of the contrast between the “religion of creation” (i.e., what God intends for creation) and the “religion of empire.”

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“Feet on the Ground and Hands in the Dirt

A review of
The Map As Art:
Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography
Katherine Harmon
and Gayle Clemans.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

The Map As Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography.
Katherine Harmon and Gayle Clemans.

Paperback: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Maps can tell us a lot about the world; they are, after all, wayfinding devices. But beyond indicating locations in the physical world, maps also tell us a lot about who made them, and what they fundamentally view the world to be like.

Recall, for instance, the Western mapping of Lewis and Clark when compared alongside that of Native maps: the Corps of Discovery brought with them the post-Enlightenment maps we’ve all become accustomed to: views floating somewhere above the landscape, looking down. When asking directions of Natives along the way, Lewis and Clark were presented with completely different conceptions of space as it related to time and familiarity with actual places. Different methods of map-making indicate equally different epistemologies and ways of being in the world; the shift in meaning afforded by nuanced cartography has been well-developed in the last decades by artists, and many approaches are gathered together in The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography by Katherine Harmon and Gayle Clemans. As they write:

Is there any motif so malleable, so ripe for appropriation, as maps? They can act as shorthand for ready metaphors: seeking location and experiencing dislocation, bringing order to chaos, exploring ratios of scale, charting new terrains. Maps act as backdrops for statements about politically imposed boundaries, territoriality, and other notions of power and projection… Like artworks, maps are selections about what they represent, and call out differences between collective knowledge and individual experience… (10).

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