Archives For Modernity


God’s Jury – Cullen MurphyTorture and the Modern World

A review of

God’s Jury:
The Inquisition and
the Making of the Modern World

Cullen Murphy

Hardback: HMH Books, 2012.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Alex Joyner.

Somewhere in the souvenir stack from our family trip to Disney World in the early Aughts is a picture taken on the Tower of Terror.  As with many other thrill rides, this one offers you the opportunity to capture and preserve forever the look on your face when you realize that the bottom has just dropped out.  Only in the picture my brother-in-law’s face is hidden by a large orange bag that he had strategically placed over his head for just this moment.  We lovingly refer to the picture as “Gitmo goes to Disney.”

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“A Tale of Two Families

A review of
Conversions: Two Family Stories
From the Reformation
and Modern America.

by Craig Harline.

Review by Timothy Morriss.

Craig Harline - CONVERSIONSConversions: Two Family Stories
From the Reformation
and Modern America.

Craig Harline.
Hardback: Yale UP, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Conversion involves radical change and stories of conversion, whether Augustine’s dramatic courtyard experience or a simple testimony delivered during a church service, are common markers of Christian identity.  This is especially true for evangelical Christians who focus intensely on the individual conversion experience as a marker of entrance into the faith.  But conversion narratives do not exist for evangelicals alone.  BYU historian Craig Harline’s book offers two stories of conversions away from Protestantism, and of the relationships these conversions establish and disrupt.

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A Review ofMicroscripts
by Robert Walser
Translated from the German
with an introduction by Susan Bernofsky
Hardback: New Directions, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Alex Joyner.

Has humanity reached the end of writing?  We might ask this, living, as we do, amidst the forecasts for the demise of books as physical objects.  Is there a physicality to writing itself that is diminished by its transference to print? To digitized bites?

The new collection of recently translated scraps of stories by the early 20th century Swiss writer Robert Walser invites reflection on the meaning of writing’s form, even as the stories Walser tells suggest that the details don’t matter at all.  Microscripts is part art book and part window into the literary technique of a troubled man who has been recognized as a significant figure in the modernist tradition.  Full color plates of business cards, calendar pages, and postcards show, in actual size, the small canvas on which Walser worked as he scrawled out almost indecipherable marks that constituted small tales of small moments.

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“The Grotesque Nature of
Disembodied, Modern Christianity”

A Review of
The Christian Imagination:
Theology and the Origins of Race
By Willie James Jennings

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

The Christian Imagination:
Theology and the Origins of Race
Willie James Jennings
Hardback: Yale UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Many readers of The Englewood Review will recognize that there is something deeply wrong with Christianity in these early years of the twenty-first century and most of these readers would argue that these problems are hardly new and have plagued the church for decades if not centuries.  There are, of course, an abundance of books published each year that detail these shortcomings, and posit solutions for how we might repent of these sins.  Few books, however, offer as broad and holistic a picture of our brokenness as Willie Jennings’ new theological masterpiece, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, and even fewer books (perhaps none) can come close to the depth of Jennings’ historical account of how we wound up in the mess we are in today.  Jennings concisely sums up the aim of the book in his conclusion:  “I want Christians to recognize the grotesque nature of a social performance of Christianity that imagines Christian identity floating above land, landscape, animals, place, and space, leaving such realities to the machinations of capitalistic calculations and the commodity chains of private property.  Such Christian identity can only inevitably lodge itself in the materiality of racial existence” (293). Continue Reading…


Lines Written in Early Spring
William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure: —
But the least motion which they made,
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?


“Traitors to White Modernity?”

A Review of
A Theological Account.

J. Kameron Carter.


By Chris Smith.


Race: A Theological Account.
J. Kameron Carter.
Hardcover: Oxford UP, 2008.
Buy now from:  [ Amazon ]


Every year, the Advent season in the Church’s calendar offers us an excellent opportunity to reflect anew upon the incarnation.  As we celebrate the coming of the baby Jesus, we should pause to consider the meaning of his identity as a Jew born in a certain time and place, etc.  And if you enjoy the challenge of intricately-reasoned theological volume, J. Kameron Carter’s Race: A Theological Account might be for you, as it provides precisely this sort of radical reflection upon the incarnation.  It is difficult to write a review of RACE, for on the one hand, it is intensely grueling its rigor (I spent about two months working through it and even then I felt like I was barely hanging on through every turn of his argument, let alone probing the depths of his historical, theological and literary research.); on the other hand, it warrants our attention as perhaps the most significant landmark theological treatise of 2008 and perhaps even of this decade.  Perhaps it would have been better to engage bit by bit on a blog (as David Horstkoetter has done here), but alas reviewing books is what we do here, so a review it will be.

                I, by no means, have the credentials to offer a legitimate critical assessment of Carters RACE, but allow me to at least offer you here a high-level trace of his primary arguments and then briefly make a case for why this book is well worth our efforts to read and reflect upon in our churches.


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