Archives For Belief


Opening Doors for the Mystery of Faith

A Review of

The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith
Peter Rollins

Paperback: Howard Books, 2015
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Reviewed by Stephen Milliken


Peter Rollins is an Irish-born philosopher and theologian with a knack for maintaining traditional Christian traditions, yet emptying them of their previous meaning. Through this kenotic process and his use of culturally-charged parables, he gives us new perspectives and deeper meanings with which to experience and understand that Christian tradition. In his newest work, Rollins continues to dish out a healthy dose of paradoxical truth along with a side of provocation.

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Robert Asher - Evolution and BeliefTacking Religious Beliefs on to Darwin.

A Feature Review of

Evolution and Belief: Confessions of a Religious Paleontologist.

Robert Asher.

Hardback: Cambridge UP, 2012.
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Reviewed by Todd Edmondson

As hot button issues go, ongoing debates about evolution, creationism, and Intelligent Design, situated at the point where religion, science, and politics collide, are among the most contentious. Thankfully, a number of Christian scholars and leaders of the church like Rowan Williams, Alister McGrath, and Peter Enns have stepped into the fray, endeavoring to work toward some measure of reconciliation between the tenets of orthodox Christianity and the findings of modern science. There is still, however, much work to be done. If Christians are ever going to be at peace with the findings of modern biology – in a way that involves neither stubborn resistance nor passive silence – a weighty theological task lies ahead. Fruitful conversation between what are often perceived to be competing orthodoxies will require humility, prayer, and rigorous scholarship. At the close of his excellent work The Evolution of Adam, Enns presents this concluding thesis: “A true rapprochement between evolution and Christianity requires a synthesis, not simply adding evolution to existing theories.” To put it another way, one cannot merely take a scientific theory and tack a religious belief onto it, without committing an injustice against both.

As one who agrees with Enns on this point, I picked up Robert Asher’s recent work Evolution and Belief: Confessions of a Religious Paleontologist hopeful that Asher would take another step toward integrating faith and science, this time from the scientific side of the perceived rift. However, as if to confirm the old adage about judging a book by its cover, the promise of this book’s title goes largely unfulfilled. I should state up front that there is much that this book does well. Asher is not only a respected paleontologist; he is also a very good writer. The prose here is excellent and highly readable, so that even the passages that tend more toward hard science are not lost on a layperson like myself. Throughout the book, Asher guides readers through a number of debates and questions surrounding the Darwin-Wallace theory of evolution. As someone thoroughly unenlightened on many significant aspects of natural selection–common descent, the fossil record, the development of animals both familiar (the platypus and elephant) and obscure (the tenrec), and molecular biology – I appreciated Asher’s exposition and analysis of these points.

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“What does our Geography
Compel us to Believe?

A review of
What Can We Believe Where?:
Photographs of the American West.
By Robert Adams.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Robert Adams - WHAT CAN WE BELIEVE WHERE?What Can We Believe Where?:
Photographs of the American West.
Robert Adams.
Paperback: Yale UP, 2011.
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[ Editor’s Note: One of the very first reviews we ran on this site was Brent’s review of Robert Adams’ book Why People Photograph.  We are delighted to see him return to explore Adams’ work again. ]

A new collection of Robert Adams’ more than 40 years of photographs asks in the title “What Can We Believe Where?” I’d like to not underestimate the significance of that question, but to proceed on to three related questions Adams asks in a brief foreword: “What does our geography compel us to believe? What does it allow us to believe? And what obligations, if any, follow from our beliefs?”

Before diving into the photographs, then, it seems prescient to seriously consider the ramifications of this formulation of belief. In it, Adams moves the locus of belief from abstracted objectivity into particular places and contexts, which inform the beliefs of situated communities, even as these communities, in turn, inform the place. In this formulation of reality, Adams rejects the dissociation of ‘belief’ from material reality, along with any separation of people from particular places, or generalized ideas of ‘nature’ apart from specific human practices and culture.

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“The Healing Power of Truth, Love and Belief”

A Review of
Imperfect Birds:
A Novel

By Anne Lamott.

Reviewed by Jeni Newswanger-Smith.

Imperfect Birds:
A Novel

Anne Lamott.
Hardback: Riverhead, 2010.
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Anne Lamott - IMPERFECT BIRDSThere is some kind of joy, familiarity, recognition, when you pick up a new book with characters you’ve already known, and loved.   After reading the first few pages of Anne Lamott’s newest novel Imperfect Birds I found myself sinking comfortably into her familiar writing style, and reconnecting with familiar characters. There isn’t any good way to describe that particular feeling, except to say it feels a bit like coming home after a long absence. However, just like those homecomings can sometimes give way to tensions,  I was not reading too long before  I was angry and frustrated with what these characters were doing to themselves and each other.  By the climax of the book I was ready for an intense intervention, or at least a chance to kick their asses.
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