They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. No where is that more true than in this wonderful little book by Jonas Bendiksen called The Places We Live (Aperture 2008). Prepare to be drawn into a world and a reality that is far from our own.
At the end of this past century, it was estimated that close to a billion people lived in the world’s slums. It is also thought that by the middle of this next century those numbers could easily double. The Places We Live takes us on an unforgettable journey outside the bustling cities Caracas, Nairobi, Mumbai and Jakarta giving us an incredible glimpse into the hearts and minds of those who inhabit the slums and shanty towns that are growing by the day outside of so many of our world’s cities. “The common perception of slums as locations of poverty, squalor, destitution insecurity and danger tells one part of the story—but there are also stories of enterprising, hardworking slum denizens. Life in a shantytown is full of challenges and hardship, but shanties are homes, where conversations take place over dinner, kids do homework and neighbors live next door.” The photography in this little book is amazing and the stories captivating; we find here a broader global perspective that we desperately need. (L. Benjamin)
There are very few books that explore the relevance of the historical books of the Old Testament for our present world (one exception that comes to mind is Jacques Ellul’s The Politics of God and the The Politics of Man). Daniel Berrigan’s recent book The Kings and Their Gods (Eerdmans 2008), however, is exactly this sort of book. Berrigan works his way through the biblical books of I and II Kings, reflecting on the text and commenting on the meaning of the text in the present age. Introducing the book, Berrigan summarizes his approach: “In sum, we are offered in the books of Judges, Samuel, Kings and Maccabees a diagnosis of the pathology of power. Thus is implied a biblical anthropology, a biblical version of the human, conveyed in a stark ‘via negativa’” (6). There is much we can learn here about our American lusts for power and Berrigan is an ideal prophet to speak these truths to us. (C. Smith)
Todd Hunter’s new book Christianity Beyond Belief: Following Jesus for The Sake of Others ( IVP Books, 2009) is refreshing in the theology that it offers us. Hunter offers a new and corrective view of the Christian faith for those who are dissatisfied with evangelicalism. Hunter offers what I believe are some essential critiques (e.g., chapters addressing “What if you knew you were going to live tomorrow?: The problem of getting ‘Saved’” or “The Role of the Church: Jesus is not just your personal savior”) but he does so in a gentle and engaging way. He depicts the Church in terms of four facets:
- Cooperative Friends of Jesus
- Living in Creative Goodness
- For the Sake of Others
- Through the Power of the Holy Spirit.
My only disappointment, and it is a relatively small one, is that the thrust of all this excellent theological framework is driving toward a programmatic solution, what Hunter calls “Three is Enough” groups. Maybe this sort of direction is what the primary audience of this book expects or needs, but in my experience, programs — however well-intentioned — never seem to be sustainable in what they set out to do. Take the last chapter and the appendix on “Three is Enough” groups with a grain of salt and this is an excellent book, that I pray will find a wide audience in evangelical churches. (C. Smith)