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Posts from the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Love and Peace or Else

I hadn’t heard of South African novelist Damon Galgut until this week. Or maybe I had. Who can say? I had evidently reserved his latest book The Promise at the library without remembering that I had done so or how or why or when [insert self-deprecating “getting older” witticism here]. The book won an important prize, apparently, or so the sticker on the top right corner of the cover told me as I inspected it at the checkout. On the bottom A certain Claire Messud from Harper’s Magazine breathlessly declared “Simply: you must read it.” Well, hard to argue with either the enthusiasm or brevity of that recommendation. So, I did. Simply, I read it. Read more

Faith Adrift

I’ve long held a fascination with doubt and unbelief. As a child, I wondered why some people believed in God and some didn’t. It was unsettling to me that it was possible to “read” existence in such radically different ways and with, at least so I thought at the time, with such dire consequences for getting one’s reading wrong.  Read more

On Hanging Out With Losers (And Other Existential Detours)

I have a dirty, shameful secret to confess. It’s a secret that will likely lay waste to my credentials as a pastor of integrity and compassion, a thinker of anything resembling depth and insight, a citizen with more or less centre-left politics, or even a reasonably decent and upstanding human being. It’s a secret that I do not expose to the light of day lightly. Truth be told, it would be far safer to keep it consigned to the murky shadows. No matter. My sins must be expunged.

My secret? Last week, I read a book by Jordan Peterson. Read more

Binding and Blinding

Back in February, I remarked that Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind should be required reading for anyone who spends time on social media, particularly those who like to go to war over ideas. I said that this is a book for our cultural moment if ever there was one. These were not throwaway comments or exercises in hyperbole. I meant it then, after reading half of the book, and I am even more convinced of it now, after finishing it. If you are prone to heroically wading into the ideological trenches armed with unshakeable convictions about your rightness and your enemies’ wrongness, if you are convinced that your political/religious/ideological team is the rightest of the right and that your mission in life is to educate your unenlightened neighbours, you really must read this book. Go to your library, go to Amazon, go to your favourite local bookstore—heck, even drop by my office and I’ll lend you my copy. Just read this book. You might have to sacrifice a few hours otherwise spent on Facebook or Twitter, but perhaps after reading Haidt’s book you’ll be persuaded that the trade was a good one.  Read more

Kingdom Conspiracy: Book Review

Scot McKnight has a bee in his bonnet. He’s been observing how the word “kingdom” has been used by Christians over the last few decades and he doesn’t particularly like what he sees. The word has become a kind of vaguely Christian (or not) catch-all term to describe generically good deeds that have a connection—sometimes strong, sometimes tenuous—to the ethical vision of Jesus of Nazareth. Rather than pointing directly to the biblical vision of a specific King and a kingdom with a specific people, it often devolves into little more than the baptizing of a liberal, western, democratic ethic from which Jesus could quite comfortably be subtracted. Read more

Planted: Book Review

I distinctly remember the first time I heard about the work of A Rocha, a Christian conservation and stewardship organization that began in Portugal through the work of Peter and Miranda Harris, and has since branched out around the world. I was sitting in a first year Christian Thought and Culture class at Regent College in 2005 and Peter Harris was lecturing on creation care. Read more

The Power of All: Book Review

Over the past two thousand or so years the Christian church has consistently, in its worship, its leadership structures, its pedagogy, and its general ethos, deviated from the spirit and intent of the community Christ envisioned. Rather than becoming a community of believers gifted and called to participate together in the ongoing task of becoming disciples of Jesus in life and worship, the church has become an institution maintained by professionals. There have been exceptions along the way, to be sure, and of course God has seen fit to work with and through the church with all of its errors, but the general trend throughout most of church history has been to move away from multivoiced communities of active participants toward mono-voiced institutions filled with passive consumers. It is time for this trend to change. This is the provocative thesis of Sian and Stuart Murray Williams in their book The Power of All: Building a Multivoiced Church. Read more

Fyodor Dostoevsky: Book Review

It sounds a weird combination of presumptuous and downright comical to say that when I was in my early twenties I had a “Russian phase.”  After a less than inspiring academic track record in high school, I was starting to fancy myself a “reader” and began to read as many impressive-sounding books as I could.  Many of these were Russian.  Tolstoy, Turgenev, Solzhenitsyn… And, of course, Dostoevsky.   Read more

The Scandal of the Cross—Take Two

God’s self-giving goodness and his determined commitment to rescue and redeem his creation were demonstrated two thousand years ago on a Roman cross. This is the guiding conviction that animates Mark Baker and Joel Green’s exploration of the meaning and scope of the atonement in the second edition of Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament and Contemporary Contexts. Read more

With: Book Review

Do we love God for who he is or for what he can do for us? This is one of the central themes that runs throughout Skye Jethani’s recent book, With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. The book examines some of the ways in which we tend to relate to God, diagnosing some problematic and unhelpful tendencies, and arguing for a mature commitment to live and walk with God for his own sake, rather than for the advantages we can secure or as a strategy for coping with the fear and unpredictability of life. Read more

Why God Won’t Go Away: Book Review

In the summer of 2006, I had just completed my first year at Regent College, and was looking for a few interesting summer courses to accelerate my degree. When I sat down to my first class with Prof. Alister McGrath on Christian Apologetics—a course that spent a lot of time on the ideas of Richard Dawkins—I had no idea that a few months later The God Delusion would hit the shelves, kick starting a half decade or so of fairly lively debate in the Western world on questions about the existence of God, the role of religion in public life, and the nature of belief.

I also had no idea that a year later I would be getting very well-acquainted with Messrs. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett, during my Masters thesis attempting to locate the phenomenon of the new atheism as a response to the problem of evil. Read more

Finding Our Way Again: Review

Before Rob Bell went and wrote a book about heaven and hell, thereby ensuring his status as “lightning rod for criticism and heresy charges for the foreseeable future,” Brian McLaren was often the most frequent target of abuse for angry Christians.  Ever since A New Kind of Christian was published in 2001, McLaren has been a polarizing figure in parts of the Christian world. Read more

Bonhoeffer: Book Review

Four years ago, as I was nearing the completion of my coursework at Regent College, I somewhat naively signed up for a seminar on the life and thought of German pastor/theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. My only exposure to him to that point had been his famous book The Cost of Discipleship (a book whose title in German, I would soon discover was simply Nachfolge, or Discipleship. The change has been made in Augsburg Fortress’s republishing of the definitive collection of Bonhoeffer’s works). I had read this book in my early twenties, but my recollection of its themes was unimpressive, to put it mildly. Read more

The Gospel According to Who?

As far as ambitiously titled books go, Chris Seay’s The Gospel According to Jesus would surely rank near the top of many lists.  I wasn’t even sure who Seay was when I cracked open the book (turns out he is the pastor of a church called Ecclesia in Houston, TX), but the title grabbed my attention.  I was curious to hear more about the “Faith that Restores All Things,” suggested by the subtitle.  As a Mennonite, I suppose I am drawn to anything that smacks of a Jesus-centred approach to faith.  Consequently, despite my unfamiliarity with the author, I had high hopes for this book. Read more

Jesus Calling (Me!)

I have always had an ambivalent relationship with the “daily devotional” genre of writing. On the one hand, I appreciate the value of taking time for quiet and reflection each day and for those whose writing is an attempt to help with this (in fact, I will be trying my hand at devotional writing later this year!). It’s not always easy to know how or where to begin if you want devote more sustained attention to being quiet and listening for God’s voice. Help on the journey is not, I suppose, to be spurned too quickly or carelessly. Read more

The Naked Anabaptist 7: People of Peace

Well, what I originally intended to be a relatively brief blog series has turned out to be a three-month odyssey of procrastination, but we have finally arrived at the seventh and final of Stuart Murray’s seven core convictions of Anabaptists (from The Naked Anabaptist): Read more

The Naked Anabaptist 6: Justice

Well, I am moving at a downright glacial pace to the conclusion of my series on Stuart Murray’s The Naked Anabaptist. If anyone’s still following along, I’m on to the the sixth of Stuart Murray’s seven core convictions of Anabaptists: Read more

The Naked Anabaptist 5: What Kind of Church?

After yet another extended hiatus, on to the fifth of Stuart Murray’s seven core convictions of Anabaptists (from The Naked Anabaptist): Read more