Archives For Formation

 

One of the best theology books released this month is: 

Faith Formation in a Secular Age: Responding to the Church’s Obsession with Youthfulness
Andrew Root

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2017
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 

Here is a great book trailer video in which Root introduces the book, and its connection to philosopher Charles Taylor’s important work: A Secular Age

Continue Reading…

 

Reordering Our Loves

 
A Feature Review of
 

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit
James K.A. Smith

Hardback: Brazos Press, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Jeff Crosby
 
 

Most of us have heard the aphorisms since childhood from parents, pastors or other well-intentioned people concerned for our welfare and trying to ensure we find a productive, healthy place in the world:

“You are what you eat.” (So be sure to eat that broccoli!)

“You are what you think.” (So be careful what books you read and songs you listen to!)

“You are what you speak.” (So be certain to control your tongue and if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”)

Or if you grew up around a fan of the music of Frank Zappa, you might have heard: “You are what you is!” (“And that’s all it ‘tis.”)

Calvin College professor of philosophy James K.A. Smith begs to differ just a bit with our parents about eating, our pastors about thinking, our teachers about speaking, and even the inimitable Zappa about whatever esoteric truth he was articulating in his 1981 recording that still garners a cult following more than three decades later.

Continue Reading…

 

A Gift to the Church and Classroom
 

Dazzling Bodies: Rethinking Spirituality and Community Formation.
Richard Valantasis

 
Paperback: Cascade Books, 2014.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

 
Reviewed by Kyle A. Schenkewitz
 
 
In Dazzling Bodies, Richard Valantasis develops a remarkable vision for Christian communities through engagement with critical theory, theological discourse, and diverse ministerial contexts. His thesis is as fresh and innovative as it is steeped in the liturgical and spiritual traditions of ancient Christianity. His concern is to unbind contemporary spirituality from its individualistic tendencies and reconnect the basis of spirituality to the worshipping community. He argues that Christian spiritual practices arose out of communal life, fed and formed the community, and linked the individual members to the communal identity. The disconnect between community and spirituality has been detrimental to contemporary congregations. Dazzling Bodies proposes methods for analyzing parishes as communities in order to understand their corporate life. One aspect of this analysis is how communities use words, gestures, sounds and other signs to communicate with one another.  Applying social semiotic theory, he argues, helps identify the systems of solidarity and power in the parish setting. These “diagnostic tools enable us all to understand the process of developing a spirituality while staying closely connected to our religious communities.” (xii) For Valantasis, communal spirituality is primarily communicated and shared in the liturgical worship of a parish. In the liturgy, individuals meet and are gathered together into a corporate identity, “a complex locus of individual and corporate spiritualities.” (xiii) In the rich density of the corporate liturgical performance, individual bodies become dazzling with the energetic life of the Spirit at work in the corporate body.  These dazzling bodies shine forth from within the life of the community to transform the world around them.

Continue Reading…

 

  
A Brief Review of Two Recent Books
on Guidance and Discernment.
Decision Making and Spiritual DiscernmentBy Nancy L. Bieber.
Paperback: Skylight Paths, 2010.  
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

 

Discovering Our Spiritual Identity:
Practicing for God’s Beloved
Trevor Hudson.
Paperback: IVP Press, 2010. Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed By William Mills.

Every year the market is inundated with new books on Christian spirituality: prayer, fasting, meditation, lectio divina, vocation, spiritual direction, and healing. Every year it becomes increasingly more difficult to sift through the wheat from the chaff and quite frankly it can be overwhelming.  However, two recently published books are essential for serious readers seeking thoughtful reflective books on the various spiritual issues among Christians.

Discovering Our Spiritual Identity is not just an ordinary book on Christian faith but one which encourages the reader to stop, reflect, and then act. Trevor Hudson is a pastor in the Methodist Church in South Africa and is the author of numerous books, most recently Listening to the Groans. He also works closely with the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Institute and travels to the United States several times per year to lead retreats and small conferences.

Continue Reading…

 

SoulKeeping

Our friends Kevin Rains and Aaron Klinefelter are coordinating an effort in Cincinnati to explore what a “Curriculum for Christlikeness” might look like. Over the next 10 months, they will host a monthly topical gathering for conversation and learning.

The first session will be on “SoulKeeping” and will be led by Dave Nixon.
Saturday, September 4: 10AM-12PM
St. Elizabeth’s – 1757 Mills Ave. – Cincinnati

This promises to be an exciting course!
If you are in the general vicinity of Cincinnati, you won’t want to miss it!

More info:  http://formed.cc/


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:

Midweek postings from this past week:


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 Bargains:

219179: Westminster Dictionary of Early Christian Literature Westminster Dictionary of Early Christian Literature

By David E. Aune, ed. / Westminster John Knox Press

$12.99 – Save 74%

This book details the variety of literary and rhetorical forms found in the New Testament and in the literature of the early Christian church. This authoritative reference source is a treasurey for understanding the methods employed by New Testament and early Christian writers. This encyclopedia will illuminate the ways words shaped the consciousness of those who encountered Christiam teaching.

3796X: Dissident Daughters: Feminist Liturgies in Global Contexts Dissident Daughters: Feminist Liturgies in Global Contexts

By Westminster John Knox Press

$2.99 – Save 90%!!!

With its focus on narratives, its attention to contextual and material realities, and its collection of women-identified liturgies in global context, Dissident Daughters claims prominence within the growing literature on women’s ways of worship. This book not only introduces liturgical texts, but also focuses on the communities that create and celebrate these liturgies. Dissident Daughters gives voice to women activitsts who show how their communities came into being; how social, cultural, and political realities shaped them and their liturgies; and how they envision their lives in and as communities of faith. In drawing the different narratives together, Dissident Daughters displays the expanse fo the worldwide expression of women’s rites and the formation of each by distinctly different contexts of struggle and hope.

431513: God, Truth, and Witness: Essays in Conversation with Stanley Hauerwas God, Truth, and Witness:
Essays in Conversation with Stanley Hauerwas

By Edited by L.G. Jones, R. Hutter & C.R. Velloso Ewell

Hardback: Brazos Press.

$5.99 – Save 85%!!!

430789: The Divine Voice The Divine Voice

By Stephen H. Webb / Baker

$2.99 – Save 89%!!!

What can the primordial nature of noise, speech, and hearing teach us about what it means to be speakers and hearers of God’s Word? In this thoughtful work, Webb explores philosophical concepts including “Theo-acoustics,” “The Protestant Reformation As an Event Within the History of Sound,” and “The Sound of God.” 244 pages, softcover from Brazos.

43086X: Lying: An Augustinian Theology of Duplicity Lying: An Augustinian Theology of Duplicity

By Paul J. Griffiths / Baker

$3.99 – Save 86%!!!

Is lying ever justified? Exploring the Augustinian pronouncement that telling a lie is always wrong, Griffiths examines Augustine’s belief that dissembling disfigures the image of God; contrasts Augustine’s thought with the ideas of Plato, Jerome, Aquinas, Kant, Nietzsche, and others; and argues that Christians should heed Augustine’s ban on lying.

 

A Brief Review of

Crave: Wanting So Much More of God.
Chris Tomlinson.

Paperback: Harvest House Publishers, 2010.
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

[ Read the first 3 chapters of this book on SCRIBD! ]


In the new book Crave: Wanting So Much More of God, Chris Tomlinson explores in really basic terms our desires, how they are formed and how they affect our lives.  Desires are fundamental to our existence as humans and yet to many of us they remain mysterious forces.  Especially in a consumerist culture in which our desires are constantly being preyed upon by corporate advertising, we need some serious theological reflection on our desires and how they are formed into (and out of) the way of Christ.  In Crave, Tomlinson offers us an engaging introductory look at our desires that is part memoir and part spiritual reflection.  Crave would be a good choice for discussion in a Sunday School class or Bible study group.

Continue Reading…

 

“Imagining the Shape
of our Life Together”

A Review of
Desiring The Kingdom:
Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation
.

by James K.A. Smith.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Desiring The Kingdom:
Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation
.

James K.A. Smith.
Volume #1 in the Cultural Liturgies Series.
Paperback: Baker Academic, 2009.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

James K. A. Smith’s new book Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation comes at a timely moment. Having moved directly in my reading from Empire Illusion – reviewed in these pages – which offers an indicting critique of the illusory narratives that dominate identity in this country, there is nonetheless, at the end, still the hope that in love we can move beyond empty myths of consumption, power, nationalism, or the like. Desiring the Kingdom begins with the affirmation that it is only in love that we become human; as this love is directed toward the kingdom of God and the reconciliation of all things, we begin to live into the kingdom come ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ By first recognizing that “to be human is to desire ‘the kingdom,’ some version of the kingdom…that hoped-for, longed-for, dreamed-of picture of the god life – the realm of human flourishing – that we pursue without ceasing” (54), Smith continues to describe formation as embodied practices and liturgies directed toward love’s telos.
To begin with, it must be said that although Smith contextualizes this book as a vision of ‘Christian education,’ it seems as if it has much importance for imagining the shape of life together for congregations and church communities. Indeed, I could easily see the wisdom of Desiring the Kingdom for Englewood Christian Church in our shared life together. This is an important book for its clear articulation of the telos of the church; certainly one related discussion is education, but the rich liturgies described within could inform any facet of the multi-sided work of the church.
Smith’s first task is establishing an understanding of the ‘person-as-lover,’ “intentional creatures whose fundamental way of ‘intending’ the world is love or desire” (62). The kardia, which Smith usually translates as gut, the “embodied heart” becomes a corrective for oft-disembodied ‘worldviews.’ Building especially on Augustine to develop a model of humans as lovers, Smith continues with the language of the “social imaginary;” that is, an understanding that as humans we act into a particular image of the world: “how we imagine the world before we ever think about it…a vision of and for social life” (66).
The telos of love, then, is embodied in specific rituals, practices, and liturgies. By adopting ‘religious’ language, Smith serves two purposes: one is to show other cultural institutions for what they are, namely, powers with religious commitments intending toward a variety of ends. And so the mall, the military, and American nationalism become prime examples of embodied cultural liturgies: the liturgy of nationalism, for example is “a particular vision of human flourishing as material prosperity and ownership…and a sense that competition and even violence is inscribed into the nature of the world” (107). Describing cultural practices and institutions as such, their telos is identified as markedly other than the kingdom of God.
The second purpose of expanding the language of liturgy beyond a Sunday service, though, is to suggest an ordering of the world in which everything is charged with the immanence of the kingdom. All practices derive their significance from the liturgies of the gathered body, but then these practices become liturgical and formative as well. As Wendell Berry writes, “there are no unsacred places; / there are only sacred places / and desecrated places” (from Given). Comparing Berry’s language with Smith’s, the “desecrated places” may be similar to “misdirected love,” while the sacred truly is the in-breaking kingdom of God, echoing Psalm 24: “the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” As the Ekklesia Project reminds us, “formation happens,”  the question is: into what are we being formed?
The gathered worship of the church is then described as the ‘deepest,’ most significant liturgy for Christians, performed with specific, embodied, earthy practices. Going through historic practices of Christian worship, Smith narrates the telos of each as indicating specific characteristics of the kingdom: hospitality, reconciliation, economics, and on. This chapter closes with brief suggestions of “practices beyond Sunday,” which I must say, could be expanded upon greatly (and thus, I’m eager for Volumes 2 and 3 of this Cultural Liturgies series). Smith remains clear that he sees “the sacramental intensity of liturgical practices…provides a center of gravity that then orients and nourishes other Christian practices, which are extensions of latent possibilities for practice in Christian worship” (213).
The closing chapter returns to the Christian university, which, although I have a small interest (only inasmuch as I have been through and currently teach at a university, albeit not ‘Christian’), the chapter seems best read as one particular expression of a practice that could be informed and enriched by the fullness of the gathered liturgy, as well as understanding education as liturgy with a telos of its own. Other expressions of the church (I think of work I’ve been involved in, whether housing, gardening, mowing, publishing or even book reviewing) can draw on the same wealth.  I would submit Desiring the Kingdom to the church as an important text for helping us understand the shape of the kingdom embodied in our midst.

DESIRING THE KINGDOM - JKA Smith

James K. A. Smith’s new book Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation comes at a timely moment. Having moved directly in my reading from Chris’ Hedges Empire of Illusion – reviewed in these pages – which offers an indicting critique of the illusory narratives that dominate identity in this country, there is nonetheless, at the end, still the hope that in love we can move beyond empty myths of consumption, power, nationalism, or the like. Desiring the Kingdom begins with the affirmation that it is only in love that we become human; as this love is directed toward the kingdom of God and the reconciliation of all things, we begin to live into the kingdom come ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ By first recognizing that “to be human is to desire ‘the kingdom,’ some version of the kingdom…that hoped-for, longed-for, dreamed-of picture of the god life – the realm of human flourishing – that we pursue without ceasing” (54), Smith continues to describe formation as embodied practices and liturgies directed toward love’s telos.

To begin with, it must be said that although Smith contextualizes this book as a vision of ‘Christian education,’ it seems as if it has much importance for imagining the shape of life together for congregations and church communities. Indeed, I could easily see the wisdom of Desiring the Kingdom for Englewood Christian Church in our shared life together. This is an important book for its clear articulation of the telos of the church; certainly one related discussion is education, but the rich liturgies described within could inform any facet of the multi-sided work of the church. Continue Reading…