Archives For Review

 

Working Together Across Divides

A Feature Review of 

A Flexible Faith:
Rethinking What it Means to Follow Jesus Today
Bonnie Kristian

Paperback: FaithWords, 2018
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Reviewed by Justin Cober-Lake

 

In many ways, it’s not a new story: the church continues to divide, members continue to find problems with their own local church or denominations and switch memberships, Protestantism continues to protest. In some ways, though, the old story has taken a new shape: young Christians see rigid teaching in one church they can’t follow or deem theologically unsound, and they leave church altogether. Bonnie Kristian responds to this moment with A Flexible Faith and its look at the variety of views within Christianity. As she says, “I don’t want to see Christians becoming nones because they’ve been falsely told there’s just one way to follow Jesus. That’s why I think there’s a lot of value to introducing Christians to our siblings and even distant cousins in the faith” (6). With that idea in mind, she discusses doctrines, opinions, people, and traditions that show the various ways that Christians have found to explore their faith.

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A Reality Experienced

 

A Review of

In the Middle of Things: Essays
Meghan Florian 

Paperback: Cascade Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Mark Jenkins

 

I sometimes wonder if one of the greatest accomplishments in life is to arrive at the age of 60 a less grumpy person than one was at the age of 30. If so, I have failed. Because grumpy is probably the best word to describe myself when I first laid hands on Meghan Florian’s collection of essays, The Middle of Things.

I hasten to add that my ill-temper had nothing to do with the content of this book. It was more the promise made by the publisher on its back cover: “In the tradition of classic essayists from Virginia Woolf to Annie Dillard…” It is, of course, the standard overpromise intended to sell books.

Not unsurprisingly, The Middle of Things doesn’t (quite) live up to that promise. Nonetheless, the further I read in Florian’s essays, the greater I came to enjoy her company. This young author may not – yet – be a new Dillard or Woolf, but her voice is clear, strong, and often compelling.

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Following the Risky, Radical Jesus
 
A Feature Review of 
 

A Gospel of Hope 
Walter Brueggemann

Hardback: WJK Books, 2018
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Reviewed by Carolyn Miller Parr
 
 
 

Although Walter Brueggemann is best known as an Old Testament scholar, his newest book may surprise some readers with its emphasis on Jesus. The author’s comments on biblical texts, while always faithful to the original, are also faithful to the truth they shine on our current life. His insights are original and thoughtful. His own deep, living faith flows through his writing and speaking. He inspires me.

The gospel in the title of this slim volume is the good news Jesus proclaimed and lived: we can trust God’s love. We needn’t be afraid to follow Jesus today into the suffering of the world. God is with us and has our back, even though we can expect resistance from “Pharaoh” (the author’s shorthand for domination systems of society).

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A Glimpse into
the Pope’s Mind and Heart
 
A Review of

With the Smell of the Sheep:
The Pope Speaks to Priests, Bishops and Other Shepherds
Giuseppe Merola, ed., 

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2017
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Reviewed by James Dekker

 

Considering that the Roman Catholic Pope is commonly called “the Holy Father,” it might come as a surprise that Pope Francis has been the target of pretty unholy criticism from certain church leaders, lay and ordained. First Things, the journal founded by the late Richard John Neuhaus—once progressive Lutheran pastor turned conservative Catholic priest—regularly publishes articles sharply opposed to Francis’ speeches, writings, theology and activities.

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A Dream of Flight
 
A Feature Review of

We’ll Fly Away:
A Novel

Bryan Bliss

Hardback: Greenwillow Books, 2018
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Reviewed by Denise Frame Harlan

 

As a young teenager, I held my scars close to me. I woke in the night remembering the ragged bullet hole in the chest of the monogrammed shirt that I’d given to the German soldier hiding in an outbuilding. I felt the straw stiffness of hair bleached too white in an effort to disguise me when I accidentally shot someone in a gang fight. I learned “nothing gold can stay” from Ponyboy before I learned it from Robert Frost. I carried flowers for Algernon and helped the rats of NIMH make their break with Mrs. Frisby. I kythed with Meg and Ananda as Charles Wallace flew from when to when, between runs with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and the Alfred Hitchcock mystery series for teens. I knew the world was dangerous.

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That Attracting and Sustaining
Divine Love

 
A Review of 

Evolving Humanity
and Biblical Wisdom

Marie Noonan Sabin

Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2018.
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Reviewed by Jeanne Torrence Finley  

 

Teilhard de Chardin, paleontologist and Jesuit priest (1881-1955), wrote about evolutionary science, spirituality, and the expansion of human consciousness.  Although the Vatican suppressed his writings during his lifetime, today his vision continues to be appreciated by scientists, religious scholars, and spiritual seekers.  In Evolving Humanity and Biblical Wisdom Marie Noonan Sabin brings Teilhard’s vision into conversation with scripture texts related to wisdom. With an interdisciplinary background in literature and theology, Sabin uses her interpretative skills in intellectually challenging ways that will fascinate some readers with knowledge of academic biblical studies but may mystify those without such a background. Though prior knowledge of Teilhard’s complicated thought would increase appreciation of Sabin’s work, her clarity and conversational style could well inspire Teilhard beginners to delve deeper into his thought.

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To Argue Lovingly 

A Feature Review of 

A House United:
How the Church Can Save the World

Allen Hilton

Paperback: Fortress, 2018
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Reviewed by Justin Cober-Lake

 

As the US has become increasingly divided, some Christians have rightly sought to show the rest of the world a unified group. Some have suggested, however, that that unity should include no public disagreements, that the world should see a church together in mind as well as heart. We’d have a better witness if we didn’t argue on Twitter, the thinking goes. Conversations concerning Paige Patterson and the Southern Baptist Convention have sometimes taken this tone, whether about letting those outside the SBC watch the chaos or even about how leadership problems could be handled.

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Slowly and Solemnly Imbibing
in the Mystical Language of Love

 
A Review of 
 

Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition
Translated and Edited by Omid Safi

Hardback: Yale UP, 2018
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Reviewed by Gwen Gustafson-Zook

 

It is said that an inscription of “Bani Adam” (Children of Adam), written sometime before the 13th the century by the Persian poet, Sa’di,  is inscribed somewhere in the UN Building in New York City. A translation of this beloved poem is found in the final section of Radical Love: Teachings from the Islamic Mystical Tradition. In this collection, the poem is titled “Humanity and Suffering” and reads,

 

Humanity are members of one body
Created out of the same essence

when one member of the body
feels pain
others remain distraught

You,
unfeeling to the suffering of others
are unworthy
of the name human

SA’DI (d. 1291 CE)

 

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A Guide for Learning Compassion
for Self and for Others
 
A Review of
 

Living Compassion:
Loving Like Jesus
Andrew Dreitcer

Paperback: Upper Room Books, 2018
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Reviewed by Alisa Williams
 

In Living Compassion, author Andrew Dreitcer offers the reader a course curriculum on compassion — what it is, how it’s practiced by various faith traditions, and how it can be formed and taught today so Christians can truly live it in their daily lives the way Jesus intended. Dreitcer is associate professor of spirituality, director of spiritual formation, and co-director of the Center for Engaged Compassion at Claremont School of Theology. This book is an introduction to a compassion practice he created called simply, the Compassion Practice. He developed this because “there are no classical or traditional Christian practices that have been specifically identified or named as compassion-formation practices” (15).

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Birds, Bricklayers, and Baseball
 
A Feature Review of

The Character of Virtue:
Letters to a Godson
Stanley Hauerwas

Hardback: Eerdmans, 2018.
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Reviewed by Sam Edgin

 

As the Boy’s head dipped down into the water I thought about joy. The Boy, my friend’s son, wide-eyed in the midst of sacrament, upside down in baptism, stared at the ceiling with that wild wonder all children have in new experiences. His head came up, rivulets running onto his small, strong shoulders. He did not cry. The sign of the cross was marked on his forehead, invisible and eternal. The sacrament, holy and piercing through time, was put in words. It was our turn. My wife and I, up before the expectant faces of the congregation, were asked if we would do our part, to support and encourage the the Boy in the life of faith. We said yes. It was why we were there, honored and nervous and brimming with love.

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