Archives For Review

 

A Call to Life

 
A review of 

Nobody Cries When We Die: God, Community, and Surviving to Adulthood
Patrick Reyes

Paperback: Chalice Press, 2016
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Reviewed by Ryan Johnson
 
 
Racism, violence, hatred, shootings.  Headlines are filled with these injustices and most believe there is little hope to enact lasting change.  For many this is the narrative of American society.  This is the day-to-day life for millions of individuals.  We are left asking the question what do we do?  More than that:  What are we called to do?  This question leaves many of us without an answer, or with still more questions.  It is a question that cannot live solely in the theoretical realm but must be lived out through practical action.  Thus, Patrick Reyes’s book Nobody Cries When We Die serves as a step toward answering that question with the urgency it deserves.

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The Deeper Waters of Our Faith

A Review of 

A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for Deeper Faith
Brandon Hatmaker

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2016
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Reviewed by Sara Sterley

 
 
While Brandon Hatmaker’s newest book, A Mile Wide, does not cover much new ground, it is nonetheless a refreshing voice to come out of (what I tend to think of as) the evangelical celebrity culture. I’m coming off of a tiring season of striving, so when I saw the subtitle in Brandon Hatmaker’s new book, A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for Deeper Faith, I was thirsty for this “deeper faith” Hatmaker promises.

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The Shimmering Illumination
of God’s Presence

 
A Review of 

The Faithful Artist. A Vision for Evangelicalism and the Arts
Cameron Anderson

Paperback: IVP Academic, 2016
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Reviewed by by Rhodara Shreve
 
 

This review first appeared on the Artway website,
and is reprinted here with permission.

 
Cameron Anderson has written a compelling book of Evangelicalism’s historical role in shaping religious life as well as tracing the unique focus of this particular stream as to the visual arts. As the historical context has played a role in shaping the acceptance of artistic expressions, Anderson brings a breadth of perspective by reviewing the different philosophical and theological developments of thought that impacted how various artists redefined and revolutionized this historical flow. By weaving together the impact of different individuals who were key in influencing the thinking of various periods up to our current age of postmodernism, he notes artistic expressions that uniquely reflected these prevailing views. Bringing together an interfacing of Evangelicals with their cultural contexts as well as with Catholic and Orthodox artistic contributions, he shows how these streams of Christianity sometimes evoked extreme theological reactions resulting in dramatic effects on art within the church. The conflict between word and image has been an enduring tension for Evangelicals, to say the least.

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The Difficult, Life-Giving Path
 
A Feature Review of 

The Way of Letting Go:
One Woman’s Walk Toward Forgiveness
 

Wilma Derksen

Paperback: Zondervan, 2017
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Reviewed by Tamara Hill Murphy
 
 

I collect radical forgiveness stories.

As I continue to come to terms with my own experiences of trauma, I search out forgiveness mentors through stories – real life or mythologized. Through reading a wide array of stories, I’ve discovered what is probably logical: No act of forgiveness happens without, first, an incident of suffering. In this way, I guess you could also say that I collect stories of suffering.

It was this habit that led me to Wilma Derksen’s memoir of trauma and forgiveness, The Way of Letting Go: One Woman’s Walk Toward Forgiveness, released in February. Derksen, now an international speaker on victimization and criminal justice issues, was on November 30, 1984, a mother and struggling journalist. When her 13-year-old daughter, Candace, called to ask for a ride home from school. Derksen was busy with a writing deadline, and asked her daughter to walk home from school instead.  After that phone conversation, she never spoke to her daughter again.

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Humor and Theology
at the Chemo Pump

 
A Review of 

Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Chemo
Jason Micheli

Hardback: Fortress Press, 2016
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Reviewed by Alex Joyner
 
 
 
Most of what Jason Micheli has to tell you about cancer, you don’t want to know.  The title of his new book, Cancer is Funny: Keeping Faith in Stage-Serious Cancer, may hint at optimistic self-help with some humorous anecdotes laced throughout, but cancer is not ‘ha-ha’ funny.  Micheli is glad to tell you, in harrowing detail, that “cancer f@#$ing sucks.” (ix)  This book is as raw as the sores running down his esophagus in mid-stage chemo.  Yeah, there’s a lot here you don’t want to know, but it’s a story told by one of the most honest and profane pastors you’ll ever meet and along the way he spins out the heart of a battle-tested theology that is clear-eyed, unsentimental, and fully alive.  Plus, too, he’s funny.
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God Loves Stories

 
A Review of 

Reading Your Life’s Story: An Invitation to Spiritual Mentoring
Keith Anderson

Paperback: IVP Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Danny Wright
 
 

In Reading Your Life’s Story, Keith Anderson provides a primer for intentional spiritual mentoring. He recognizes along with Eugene Peterson that our lives “…only become clear in the hesitations and questionings, in the pauses and reflections where we engage in prayerful conversation with one another and with him.”  Therefore, Anderson, the president of The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, has written a guide for learning to read our lives as stories within the bounds of spiritual friendships.  He wants to help people develop “intentional, planned, repeated and focused conversations” about life in the presence of the Holy Spirit.  The Divine Author has written with purpose in each of our lives and we must learn to read and co-read in a God-drenched and saturated world that is overflowing with His voice and presence.

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Whose Christianity?
Which Narrative?

 
A Feature Review of

The Benedict Option:
A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation
Rod Dreher

Hardback: Sentinel Books, 2017
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith

 

For over a decade, Rod Dreher has been observing and commenting on the demise of Western culture, and sketching the basic ideas that he presents in his new book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation (which releases today).  His account of the deep fragmentation and crumbling of Western culture, and especially the devastation that flows from our uncritical submission to the economic forces of market capitalism, is one that many social critics across the ideological spectrum have explored over the last century, from Russell Kirk to Wendell Berry to Robert Putnam to Noam Chomsky. The title of Dreher’s book is appropriated from the final pages of Alasdair MacIntyre’s prescient book After Virtue (originally published in 1981), in which MacIntyre suggests that the inevitable end of the crumbling of Western culture will be a sort of “dark age,” in which civilization would only be preserved by communities that function in a similar way to those of the Benedictine monasteries that preserved much of Western culture through the dark ages after the fall of the Roman Empire. I agree with MacIntyre and Dreher that in our age of prevailing individualism, we need to find ways of cultivating community that stand in sharp contrast to the manifold fragmentation of the dominant culture.

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“We all want to go Home”
 
A Feature Review of 

Universal Harvester:
A Novel
John Darnielle

Hardback: FSG Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Josh Thomas
 
 

Steal home before sunset, cover up my tracks
Drive home with old dreams at play in my mind and the wind at my back
Break the lock on my own garden gate when I get home after dark
Sit looking up at the stars outside like teeth in the mouth of a shark

I used to live here
I used to live here

-Genesis 3:23 by The Mountain Goats


 
Nostalgia as a concept is inherently fragile as it’s an abstract desire and longing for a time already passed. Perhaps the most nostalgic era in recent history is the 1990s; this was, of course, the last decade before ‘The Internet Age’ completely established itself. Information wasn’t yet accessible through smart phones and you could easily get lost relying solely on a physical map rather than a voice through your phone telling you exactly when to turn. This turn of the century—when video stores to rent VHS tapes weren’t of a bygone era—is the backdrop of John Darnielle’s second novel, Universal Harvester.
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A Particular Death-in-Life

A Review of 

Do We Not Bleed? A Jon Mote Mystery
Daniel Taylor

Hardback: Slant Books, 2017
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Reviewed by Heather Caliri

 

Can I confess something? I dislike Father Brown.

G.K. Chesterton, august Christian apologist, whose prose helped convert C.S. Lewis, created the humble everypriest sleuth. In each story, the curate faces down the sharpest criminal minds in England and wipes the floor with them—with Christian charity, of course.

I have no beef with the writing. In each story’s brief pages, Chesterton sketched derring-do with humor and panache. Each episode also features a genuine puzzler.

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A Patient Attendance to Beauty
 
A Feature Review of 

God of Earth: Discovering a Radically Ecological Christianity.
Kristin Swenson

Paperback: WJK Books, 2016.
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Reviewed by Alan Van Wyk
 
 

In her brief and stunningly beautiful meditation God of Earth: Discovering a Radically Ecological Christianity, Kristen Swenson proposes a rather simple theological experiment: to take seriously the Incarnation. Of course, it is never a simple thing to take a theological claim seriously; doing so does often lead to quite radical ends. Nevertheless, Swenson begins with that most basic of Christian claims: “the one eternal Creator God chose out of love to become incarnate in order to reconcile wayward human beings to God.” So no, it is not really a simple claim, but even here, in this opening, Swenson suggests a subtle shift. Taken seriously, the incarnation is no longer about The Incarnation, full stop, but about the incarnation of God; no longer about Jesus as the Incarnate, but about Jesus as the incarnation of God. And this shift opens, for Swenson, a series of questions:

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