Archives For Bob Cornwall


These great new books on marriage were featured in
our Advent 2016 print magazine
(As sidebar reviews to  Katherine Willis Pershey’s excellent book Very Married)

Reviews by ERB Editor,
C. Christopher Smith


*** SUBSCRIBE NOW to our print magazine!


Making Marriage Beautiful:
Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You

Dorothy Greco

Hardback: David C. Cook, 2017
Buy now: [ Buy Now ]  [ Kindle ]
Dorothy Greco offers us in Making Marriage Beautiful a poignant reflection on the many challenges of marriage that will require our attention and our diligence. Beginning with the helpful conviction that marriage will change you, Greco explores the dynamics of marriage and how indeed we are changed through the covenant of marriage. Each chapter ends with a story from a different married couple that sheds light on the theme of that chapter. The beauty of this book lies in its insistence that the fruits of marriage–joy and intimacy, for instance–are cultivated through weathering challenges together. Cultivation is a helpful, agricultural metaphor, for a marriage, like farming, will require hard work, but there are also other factors that shape a marriage that cannot be controlled by our most diligent efforts. Making Marriage Beautiful is a wise and immensely practical book for anyone who is married, or who  hopes to someday be married.

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How to Address the Issues of the Day?
A Review of

Preaching Poilitics:
Proclaiming Jesus in an Age of Money, Power, and Partisanship

Clay Stauffer.

Paperback: Chalice Press, 2016.
Buy now:  [  Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
Reviewed by Bob Cornwall
*** This review originally appeared on the writer’s blog,
     and is reprinted here with permission.

I was raised in a politically active household. My father was chair of the Siskiyou County Republican Party and had a regular radio spot. He even made it into Who’s Who in American Politics. I did my part as a child going door to door handing out brochures and buttons for candidates ranging from local to national. I even imagined becoming a politician. I’ve really never been as politically active as I was at age fourteen.

I remain extremely interested in politics, but as a pastor I must temper my political activities. That is, I have to remember that I serve a congregation that isn’t politically homogeneous. While I do engage in community organizing and address prophetically (hopefully) important issues that have political implications, I don’t bring a partisan vision into the pulpit. Preachers often walk fine line when it comes to politics. Many of us believe it is important to speak to controversial issues, but we also must take a pastoral approach. At a time when the body politic is increasingly polarized this becomes incredibly difficult. This especially true when the conversation involves money.

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“Trust-Building Conversation

A Review of

Building Cultures of Trust.
By Martin Marty.

Reviewed by Bob Cornwall.

Building Cultures of Trust.
Martin Marty.
Hardback: Eerdmans, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

[ A longer version of this review is available
on the reviewer’s blog. ]

Martin Marty - BUILDING CULTURES OF TRUSTTrust seems in short supply these days, with the populace seemingly trusting no one including politicians, government, religious institutions, science, corporations, banks or the courts.   But, if trust is in short supply, how then can our society survive, let alone function?   Although a certain degree of suspicion is healthy, lest we allow ourselves to be scammed and defrauded, we’ve moved far beyond healthy skepticism, which makes building cultures of trust difficult.

Martin Marty takes up the challenge of “building cultures of trust” in a  contribution to the Emory University “Studies in Law and Religion” that’s based on lectures given for the Trust Institute at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2008.  Trust starts with the individual, having to do with a person’s character, resolve and ability to change, but as Marty makes clear, it doesn’t stop with the individual.  Trust must involve others, and it evolves in the context of social cultures, which provide for conditions where the task of building trust can occur and even thrive.  It also involves risk, for without risk there is no need to trust.

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NY TIMES Obituary for
Ralph McInerny

Ralph McInerny, a scholar of Roman Catholicism who taught at the University of Notre Dame for more than half a century and a prolific novelist whose books included the Father Dowling mystery series, died Jan. 29 in Mishawaka, Ind., near South Bend. He was 80.

The cause was complications of esophageal cancer, said his son Daniel.

Mr. McInerny, who taught philosophy and medieval studies at Notre Dame, was an expert on Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century Catholic theologian and philosopher; much of his published scholarship included biographical and exegetical texts on Aquinas, and he edited a volume of Aquinas translations for Penguin Classics. He also wrote on the sixth-century philosopher Boethius, the 12th-century Spanish Arabic scholar Averroes and later thinkers and theologians, including Cardinal Newman, Kierkegaard, Pascal and Descartes.

He was far better known, however, as a novelist, and especially as the creator of Roger Dowling, a former canon lawyer whose career was derailed by drink and who has become, in his rehabilitation, a parish priest in a Midwestern town called Fox River, where he runs across an inordinate number of murders and shows an unusual gift for solving them.

Read the full obituary:

Powells Books Reviews
Alain Badiou’s Pocket Pantheon: Figures of Postwar Philosophy

Alain Badiou, often billed as France’s leading radical thinker, here collects a group of tributes he has written to philosophers who are no longer with us. Most of these names — all French-speaking, all but one male — will be familiar to American readers: Lacan, Sarte, Foucault, Derrida. But others will be less familiar: Georges Canguilhem, Francoise Proust. In the “Overture,” Badiou refers to the subjects of these eulogies as “friends, enemies and partners,” categories which are not impermeable. Even those he thought of as friends or teachers are subject to criticism from his Maoist, revisionist-Marxist position.

Badiou tells us that these pieces are his way of calling these thinkers as “witnesses for the prosecution” in his dispute with those who would prostitute philosophy — that is, those who propose the maxim, “Cling to your illusions, prepare to surrender.” Badiou and his absent allies for their part insist that we “cast away illusions, prepare for struggle.” Badiou’s readings of this pantheon are illuminated by this particular slant of light. The first essay, a very short piece on Jacques Lacan, is a fairly standard eulogy which becomes an attack on Lacan’s critics: “All those psychoanalytic dwarves, all those gossip columnists amplifying the mean cry of ‘He was standing in my way, and now he’s dead at last. Now pay some attention to ME!” This confrontational tone, modulated to suit but never totally absent, permeates all the pieces here. At one point he asks his audience to allow him to be “absolutely anecdotal and completely superficial,” but there is no noticeable drop in intensity anywhere.

Read the full review:

Pocket Pantheon: Figures of Postwar Philosophy.
Alain Badiou

Paperback: Verso, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Bob Cornwall reviews
REBOOT: Refreshing Your Faith in a High-Tech World
By Peggy Kendall

We live in a world that is increasingly impacted by technology.  The speed at which life is lived seemingly increases exponentially every day.  As Peggy Kendall, author of Reboot puts it: “As we become hyperconnected, overstimulated, multitasked, hyperinformed, hectically scheduled, and manically entertained, we wonder why feel so tired at night” (p. 3).  I do believe most of us can identify with that statement.  Even as life in general becomes more complex and fast paced, those of us who have walked through life for a few decades wonder about the decreasing attention span of young people.  Many of us who preach for a living wonder whether we are an endangered species – ready to be replaced by multimedia shows.  And yet, even I, a middle-aged man, who didn’t purchase a computer until beginning a Ph.D. program in my late 20s (and that computer was rather primitive by today’s standards), find it difficult to live for even a few hours without checking email or Facebook.  Yes, we have become dependent on technology that only a few decades back was the stuff of dreams.  The innocence of Beaver Cleaver or Opie Taylor is a thing of the past – at least for most of us.

As people of faith, at that is the intended audience for this book, the question is – how do we live with this technology without it controlling our lives?  Peggy Kendall, a self-described middle-aged communication professor at a Christian college, writes in the hope that this book will help Christians look at “how our unexamined choices regarding technology may unintentionally be altering our fundamental operating system” (p. 7).  The areas that may be affected include our values, our relationships, and the way we view “our Creator.”  The author writes as one who embraces technology, including the ways in which it makes life more productive and efficient, but she recognizes that there is a dark side present that needs to be addressed.

Read the full review:

REBOOT: Refreshing Your Faith in a High-Tech World.
Peggy Kendall
Paperback: Judson Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]