Archives For Virtue


 [easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”0190264225″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”242″]Looking inward.
 A Feature Review of

The Character Gap: How Good are We?
Christian B. Miller

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2018.
Buy Now: 

[ [easyazon_link identifier=”0190264225″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]   [ [easyazon_link identifier=”B076VL7X4R” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]  [ [easyazon_link identifier=”B07H4W9XGD” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Audible[/easyazon_link] ]
Reviewed by Mary VanderGoot


When you pick up The Character Gap and see a picture of Mahatma Gandhi and Adolf Hitler on the dust jacket, you might expect the author is going to sort the good guys from the bad guys. Once you start reading, however, you realize that far from helping you point the finger at anyone else or create another hero, the author, Christian Miller, is inviting you to look inward.

This is a book written by the Director of the Character Project, which is being funded by the Templeton Foundation, and involves researchers around the world who are addressing basic questions about how people make moral choices. Gathering a wide range of findings together into an elaborate view of human behavior, the team of the Character Project is addressing one of the big questions: how good (or not) are we?

Continue Reading…


[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”B07D6XGB1P” locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”216″]Last night, I finished reading Karen Swallow Prior’s excellent new book:


On Reading Well:
Finding the Good Life
through Great Books
Karen Swallow Prior

Hardback: Brazos Press, 2018.
Buy Now: [ [easyazon_link identifier=”B07D6XGB1P” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ] [ [easyazon_link identifier=”B07D6XGB1P” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ] 


The book is excellent. I wholeheartedly agree with Prior’s description of reading as a practice that forms virtue in us.

My only regret was that I hadn’t read (or recently read) a number of the novels that she explores in the book


Read the
Book’s Introduction:

Continue Reading…


[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”081299325X” cloaking=”default” height=”333″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”220″]One of the best surprises of this spring has been David Brooks’ new book:

The Road to Character
David Brooks

Hardback: Random House, 2015
Buy now: [ [easyazon_link asin=”081299325X” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]  [ [easyazon_link asin=”B00LYXV61Y” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]
Read an excerpt from the book

Here are two NPR interviews that Brooks did on the book:

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[easyazon-image align=”none” asin=”1594734437″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”” width=”222″ alt=”John Backman”]Cultivating Virtue Through Conversation

A Feature Review:

Why Can’t We Talk? Christian Wisdom on Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart

John Backman

Paperback: Skylight Paths, 2012
Buy now: [ [easyazon-link asin=”1594734437″ locale=”us”]Amazon[/easyazon-link] ] [ [easyazon-link asin=”B009WSDPZS” locale=”us”]Kindle[/easyazon-link] ]

Reviewed by Tim Otto.


One of John Backman’s best answers to the question that titles his book, “Why Can’t We Talk?” is that rather than being good, we’ve settled for being in favor of the good.


It is an insightful answer. One of the deepest religious impulses—on both the right and the left—is to believe that we believe the right things and are therefore superior and saved. Talking vulnerably with others threatens that stance. Genuine dialogue runs the risk that we might realize we are wrong. But if we move beyond being religious to being righteous (by finding our deepest identity in God), then we are secure in God and can welcome without fear any new truth that dialogue reveals.


Continue Reading…


Shameless plug here…

The Virtue of Dialogue - C. Christopher SmithERB editor Chris Smith has written a little ebook called

The Virtue of Dialogue: Conversation as a Hopeful Practice of Church Communities,

which is now available from Patheos Press:

This ebook narrates Englewood Christian Church’s practice of conversation, how we — a failed megachurch — stumbled in the practice of conversation 15 years ago, and how it has transformed us and continues to transform us.  A strong case is made that open, conversation is an essential and timely practice for all churches.

“There is something very 1st Century about Englewood, and there’s also something very postmodern — that’s because Englewood is seeking to be missional, not by theorizing about it but by actually doing it. Where they began is where we all need to begin: with conversation. We must face one another in a listening mode. Only then can our words become genuine conversation. This little book could be revolutionary for your own faith community.”
– Scot McKnight, author of The King Jesus Gospel and Junia Is Not Alone
“The story of the Englewood Christian Church is a compelling one, not because it’s unusual (which it is), but because it narrates a story of church rebirth many people are experiencing under the radar of the ‘success-driven’ U.S. Christian establishment. Beautifully written, stunningly simple, this piece by Chris Smith gives hope for all those working in churches in the midst of long decline. To you who are looking for a way forward that is different from the latest mega church conference, I urge you to read this little book.”
– David Fitch, B.R. Lindner Professor of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary, author of The End of Evangelicalism?

The Virtue of Dialogue is available for download as a Kindle ebook for only $2.99!
(if you want to tell others about this ebook, use this shortlink which benefits the ERB)

If you do not have a Kindle, Kindle apps for your computer or smartphone are FREE and easy to install…

It is also now available for the NOOK (at the same $2.99 price)…

*** Help us spread the word:

  1. Download the ebook…
  2. Share the link on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  3. Once you’ve had a chance to read it, write a short review and post to Amazon, Facebook, your blog, Goodreads, etc.


Forging Communities of Virtue

A review of
The Amish Project.
A Play By Jessica Dickey.

Reviewed by
Chris Smith.

The Amish Project.
A Play By Jessica Dickey.
Paperback: Samuel French, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

[ Watch an interview with the playwright about this play… ]

The Amish Project - Jessica DickeyI was born with a little bit of Amish blood in my ancestry and over the years, I have been fortunate to have had interactions with Amish communities in five different states. Although I have some significant theological differences with the Amish, I deeply respect their communities and think that modern Western culture can learn much from their way of life.  I was intrigued therefore to hear that Jessica Dickey had penned a new play – her debut as a playwright – that reflects on Amish culture and specifically the tragedy of the Nickel Mines shooting.  We typically don’t review plays here in The Englewood Review of Books, as plays are best reviewed in their performance, not simply in the reading of the text, but I did want to draw attention to this new work, The Amish Project.  Dickey’s play, a one-woman show that debuted off-Broadway in New York at the Rattlestick Theatre with Dickey herself in the acting role, offers a poignant exploration of the Nickel Mines shooting – through the eyes and ears of a cast of seven fictional characters.  Dickey’s writing has rich, poetic qualities throughout, spare and exquisite *. Continue Reading…


An excerpt from the recent book

A Blessed Life:
Benedictine Guidelines for Those Who Long for Good Days
Wil Derkse.
Paperback: Liturgical Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ A
mazon ]


“Being Transformed
In the Direction of a World without Death”

A Review of
After You Believe:
Why Christian Character Matters.

N.T. Wright.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

After You Believe:
Why Christian Character Matters.

N.T. Wright
Hardback: HarperOne, 2010.
Buy Now: [ ]

[ Enter to win a copy of this book or others by N.T. Wright! ]

NT Wright - AFTER YOU BELIEVEN.T. Wright’s newest book, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, follows in the footsteps of two of his other recent books 2006’s Simply Christian — which makes a case for Christianity in a fashion not unlike that of C.S. Lewis’s classic Mere Christianity — and 2008’s Surprised by Hope — which explores in depth resurrection and the biblical concept of heaven.  Wright describes the trajectory of the three book in this new volume’s preface: “Christian life in the present, with its responsibilities and particular callings, is to be understood and shaped in relation to the final goal for which we have been made and redeemed.  The better we understand that goal, the better we shall understand the path toward it” (ix).  All three of these books are excellent, but this newest volume is most relevant to the sort of holistic Christian faith that we regularly advocate for here in the pages of The Englewood Review.  Wright’s case for the significance of Christian character is based on the philosophical concept of virtue, which he traces back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, although he emphasizes that for the Church, the Aristotelian concept of virtue must be reinterpreted through the lenses of Scripture and the tradition of the Church.  His locating the focus of Christian ethics — for that in a nutshell is what After You Believe is about — in virtue is much endebted to the work of Roman Catholic philosopher Alasdair Macintyre and noted theologian Stanley Hauerwas, whose work relies heavily upon that of Macintyre.  However, although Wright does believe that the church is essential to the redemptive work of God in the world, After You Believe seems to evade the strongly communitarian themes that drive the work of Hauerwas and Macintyre. For instance, for the first half of the book, Wright addresses virtue in almost completely individualistic terms and only in the second half of the book does he begin to explore the role of the Church in the development of virtue.  Finally, in the last chapter he gets around to making the crucial point that “[O]ne of the primary locations where, and means by which, any of us learns the habits of the Christian heart and life is what we loosely call the church” (272), noting that this is not a book on ecclesiology.  Although Wright is a bit reticent on the role of the Church in the development of virtue, we should be clear that he is also not a thoroughgoing individualist.  For instance, he drives home the point early in the book that:

Christian virtue isn’t about you — your happiness, your fulfillment, your self-realization.  It’s about God and God’s kingdom, and your discovery of a genuine human experience by the paradoxical route — the route God himself took in Jesus Christ! — of giving yourself away , of generous love which refuses to take center stage (70).

Despite his overall minimization of the Church’s role in the development of virtue, After You Believe is an excellent book and makes a strong case for virtue as the demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s “transformation of character” in us.

Continue Reading…



SWEET day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridall of the earth and skie :
The dew shall weep thy fall to-night ;
         For thou must die.

Sweet rose, whose hue angrie and brave
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye,
Thy root is ever in its grave,
          And thou must die.

Sweet spring, full of sweet dayes and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie,
My musick shows ye have your closes,
           And all must die.

Onely a sweet and virtuous soul,
Like season’d timber, never gives ;
But though the whole world turn to coal,
          Then chiefly lives.