Archives For Review

 

Reframing our
Theology and Evangelism

 
A Review of

Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King.
Matthew Bates

Hardback: Baker Academic, 2017.
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]   [ Kindle ]

 
Reviewed by Danny Yencich
 
 
Matthew Bates’s recent Salvation by Allegiance Alone is a welcome book. It is useful—vital, even—for Christians of any traditional or denominational stripe grappling with the Gospel.

The book, which is clearly aimed at a mixed audience of laity and students, forwards a simple but important thesis: contemporary Christianity has, for the most part, gotten it wrong when it comes to “belief, faith, works, salvation, heaven, and the gospel” itself (2). Bates’s argument hinges on a fresh take on the first item in that list— “belief” (pistis). Whenever the Greek term pistis appears in the New Testament with reference to eternal salvation, Bates suggests that allegiance, not “belief,” “is the best macro-term available to us that can describe what God requires from us for eternal salvation” (5). Thus, “it is by grace you have been saved through allegiance” to Jesus the Christ (Eph 2:8, Bates’s translation, 4). This is a marked departure from the standard rendering of this and most other NT instances of the term pistis, which is to say: Bates has picked a fight with a lot of people. His argument, however, is robust and demands a close reading from anyone who would immediately dismiss the thesis out of hand.

Continue Reading…

 

A Cruelly Steady Pace
 
A Review of
 

Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation
Alan Burdick

Hardback: Simon & Schuster, 2017
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Alisa Williams
 
 

The title of Alan Burdick’s book instantly intrigued me. For the past decade or so my life has felt as if someone pressed the fast-forward button and forgot to let up, a perception Burdick assures is quite normal in his expansive exploration of Why Time Flies.

I knew very little about the study of time before cracking open Burdick’s book, but his relaxed prose and quick wit kept the often complex concepts behind, what we call, time easily digestible.

Continue Reading…

 

A Deeper Exploration
 
A Feature Review of 
 

Reading the Gospels
with Karl Barth

Daniel Migliore, Ed.

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2017
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]
 
Reviewed by Allen Stanton
 
 
 
I grew up as an evangelical in a fairly conservative denomination. As I developed a theological imagination and began asking my own questions about my faith, I was often pointed in the direction of staunch neo-Calvinists. Their understanding of sin, election, free will, and justification left much for me to be desired. Each question I asked resulted in a reference to Paul. I could not make sense of Paul – he seemed angry, harsh, and judgmental. His theology, which was deemed conclusive, seemed lacking. Worst of all, I could not make sense of how Paul interacted with this person called Jesus. The way I was being taught to read Paul seemed so at odds with the revelation that comes from reading the Gospel of Luke or the Gospel of John. Finally, in frustration, I stopped reading scripture altogether.

Continue Reading…

 

Humor, Transparency, Truth, and Vulnerability

 
A Feature Review of 

Of Mess and Moxie, Wrangling Delight Out of this Wild and Glorious Life
Jen Hatmaker

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2017
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Carolyn Miller Parr

 
Jen Hatmaker’s Of Mess and Moxie is the perfect book to pick up when your best friend is unavailable, your husband is buried in his den, and your kids are making you rethink that whole parenting thing. Funny, poignant, and smart, Jen Hatmaker is fully engaged. She likes sex. She is a woman who takes life, but not herself, seriously. The Washington Post calls her “relatable.” (Oct. 31, 2016). She reminds me of a G-rated Anne Lamott. (That’s a high compliment.)

Hatmaker is a pastor’s wife, mother of five children, and a speaker in high demand, especially among Christian women’s groups. She and her family starred in an HGTV series, “My Big Family Renovation” for six months as they remodeled their home.

Oh, yeah. She also writes books. Of Mess and Moxie is her twelfth.
Continue Reading…

 

Prophetic in Reconciliation
 

Intercultural Ministry:
Hope for a Changing World
.

 
Grace Ji-Sun Kim /
Jann Aldredge-Clanton, Eds.

Paperback: Judson Press. 2017
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]
 
 
Reviewed by Kevin Book-Satterlee
 
 
One of the most important starting points for bringing differing people together is being open with one’s own story and understanding of their story. The act of being self-reflective auto-locates a person within their social imaginary. If anything is taken from Kim and Aldredge-Clanton’s book, Intercultural Ministry: Hope for a Changing World, it is the persistence of self-reflexivity as a foundation for bringing people together. Nearly every case study in the book begins their success and recovers from their failures by fostering a place of telling and admitting their story; an open space for people to participate, dialogue, and forge paths of coming together where they might not have before. Each and every author demonstrate a commitment to forming an intercultural, inclusive faith community, and the case studies within this book can serve as encouraging examples for both the novice and the experienced embarking upon this path. The book is as confessional as it is encouraging.

Continue Reading…

 

Our Absurd and Grotesque
and Beautiful World

A Feature Review of 

A Political Companion
to Flannery O’Connor
Edited by Henry T. Edmondson III

Hardback. UPress of Kentucky, 2017
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 

Reviewed by Todd Edmondson

 

Upon hearing of Flannery O’Connor’s death in 1964, Thomas Merton famously wrote that when he reflected on her life and work, “I don’t think of Hemingway, or Katherine Ann Porter, or Sartre, but rather of someone like Sophocles.” It is perhaps unsurprising that Merton was compelled to draw connections between the mid-twentieth-century fiction writer from Milledgeville, Georgia and the most-decorated playwright of Greece’s Classical period. Both wrote works that occupied the threshold between violence and the sacred. Both depicted dysfunctional family dynamics and the perennial struggle between parents and children. Both confront and unsettle their audience with the oracular wisdom and obscure utterances of blind prophets, and both, in Merton’s words, show us “man’s fall and dishonor.”

Continue Reading…

 

Forming Character
 
A Review of 

The Tech-Wise Family:
Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place
Andy Crouch

Hardback: Baker Books, 2017
Buy Now: [ Amazon ] [  Kindle ]

 
Reviewed by Marci Rae Johnson

 

As parents, we all struggle with setting appropriate limits on technology use for our children, and there’s no scarcity of related advice; it seems that hardly a day goes by without an article on the topic showing up in my Facebook or Twitter feed. With this little book, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch, the good advice appears in one handy volume. I like the size of this book: not only does it feel good in the hand, the small pages lead me to believe that the subject is not as overwhelming as it often seems.

Continue Reading…

 

The World As a Waiting Room

A Review of

Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness
Gordon Stewart

Paperback: Wipf & Stock, 2017
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Madeline Cramer

“For a split second, I imagine the world
as a waiting room.”

 

“Strange as it may seem, I often feel the way John Lennon did. I dream of a different kind of world…” the Presbyterian minister and social commentator Gordon Stewart says in “Creating Hell in the Name of Heaven”—one of a collection of brief essays in his book Be Still: Departure from Collective Madness. And, considering the timeless popularity of John Lennon’s song “Imagine,” don’t we all long for something more than what we see in front of us? Don’t we all envision a better world? If not, what would motivate us? Who would want to raise children in a world doomed to fail? Who would go to church believing that God’s kingdom would never come? But, of course, as his essay notes, that’s the Catch-22. As humans, we continue to imagine because we want a better world, but our desire for “better” also breeds anxiety. Why aren’t things already better? Who stands against us? Against our children? Is it ISIS? Is it the Republicans? Is it you?

Continue Reading…

 

What Does it Take
to Sustain Community?

 
A Feature Review of 
 

When the English Fall: A Novel
David Williams

Hardback: Algonquin Books, 2017
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle  ]
 
 
Reviewed by Andrew Stout
 
 
There is nothing intuitive about the notion of a dystopian story delivered in the form of a meditative, epistolary novel. However, David Williams has taken this strange notion and executed it in a way that feels perfectly natural. There is something oddly fitting about observing a widespread cultural and technological collapse through the journal entries of an Amish farmer. From the outset, Williams strikes a balance between a sense of disease and tranquility. Or perhaps it would be better to say that he effectively holds in tension a foreboding atmosphere with a sense of quiet stability.

Continue Reading…

 

Turning to
Contemporary Christian Poetry

A Review of

The Turning Aside:
The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry
D. S. Martin, Ed.

Paperback: Cascade, 2016.
Buy Now: [  Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Brent Newsom

 

Since 2010, poet and editor D. S. Martin has curated Kingdom Poets, a weekly blog introducing readers to “poets of the Christian faith, regardless of background.” The range of poets presented in that span is vast and impressive, from the Anglo-Saxon poet Caedmon to numerous living writers from across the globe. In addition, since 2012 Martin has done readers and writers of Christian poetry a great service by developing the Poiema Poetry Series, an imprint from Wipf and Stock Publishers that champions contemporary poets of Christian faith.

Continue Reading…