Category Archives: Book Review

MAKE A LIST!

Marilyn McEntyre is a gifted wordsmith. She is also a keen observer of the grand and the obscure. This book showcases both those things.

McEntyre shows how slowing down and doing something as simple as making a list can lead to profound discoveries about one’s self, others, and the world one lives in.

A delightful book!

CHRISTIANITY AT THE CROSSROADS

What do the second and twenty-first centuries have in common?

Quite a bit, it turns out.

The second century was a time when Christianity was challenged by many philosophies and religions.  Because of this volatility, Michael Kruger, in his wonderfully conceived overview of the second century, convincingly shows that it has much to say to our own situation today.

Kruger’s book fits a huge need as the second century has been largely ignored. 

Among other things, this was the time when key defenders of the Christian faith arose to give articulate and persuasive arguments.

Kruger’s book also does a terrific job of showing that the canon was largely determined far in advance of Nicea.

Kruger is thorough without being pedantic.  He is a skillful scholar who knows how to write clearly.

THE NEW COPERNICANS

BRILLIANT DESCRIPTION, TROUBLING PRESCRIPTION

I’ve read two of Seel’s other books. He is an insightful thinker and clear writer. He has much to offer.

I looked forward to reading The New Copernicans. I’m sorry to say it is not a book I can recommend. Here’s a few reasons why:

*The New Copernicans (roughly the millennial generation) are the ones that the church must now listen to. Though I resonate with some of the concerns The New Copernicans (hereafter TNC) have with American evangelicalism, I have my disagreements as well…at least with the stereotyped view of them that Seel offers.

The problem is that TNC have much to learn from other aged believers in the church as well. Seel says that older Christians may help TNC love the church again, but that is about the only positive contribution that is mentioned.

*Every age sees things others don’t, but they also miss critical matters. Seel seems to think the former is all that is relevant with TNC.

*When Seel speaks of TNC he speaks in broad or monolithic categories. Some millennials are in fact very interested in doctrinal fidelity and the Bible being upheld, things that Seel never entertains as possibilities. We are simply told in sweeping generalities that TNC are characterized by things such as a desire for experiences and are critical towards those who judge others.

*The old error that description does not equal prescription is an error that Seel seems to fall into throughout his book. Seel offers terrific descriptions of our cultural change and what TNC desire, but never questions whether they are wrong.

*I was hoping Seel would offer exemplars of an older generation who seem to be sensitive to TNC while maintaining a commitment to orthodoxy. Instead, folks like Rachel Held Evans, Peter Enns, and Frank Schaeffer are featured. I wonder how Seel would rate Scot McKnight, N.T. Wright (he does approvingly quote him), and Eugene Peterson, to name a few.

As one who has read most of the conversation partners Seel holds up (Charles Taylor, James K.A. Smith, and Lesslie Newbigin), I am sad to say that The New Copernicans was not the book I was hoping for.

 

DISRUPTIVE WITNESS: SPEAKING TRUTH IN A DISTRACTED AGE

Seven things I appreciated about Disruptive Witness by Alan Noble:

The writing is lucid and compelling

Terrific illustrations are peppered throughout

Teases out some practical implications from the writings of Charles Taylor

Focuses on major issues all Christians should agree upon

Good unpacking of how lethal distraction and the never-ending choices are in the modern era

Noble has a gracious, but candid style…not an easy combo!

Noble does not just complain, but offers some practical suggestions for us to adopt

Quote to consider: “The challenge for Christians in our time is to speak of the gospel in a way that unsettles listeners, that conveys the transcendence of God, that provokes contemplation and reflection, and that reveals the stark givenness of reality.”

REAL THINGS MATTER!

I’ve been posing a dare to some friends. I’m daring them to read the introduction to this book and seeing if they can stop. Like one potato chip (which is hardly digital!) they will find themselves devouring the rest of the bag, er book.

The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter is a terrific book. There is hard evidence in this book that digital is not the only game in town, but studies and statistics are augmented by engaging stories.  Stories of people making things that we thought went the way of the Dodo bird add to the book’s allure, poignancy, and persuasiveness.

Vinyl records and used bookstores are back!  They, of course, never totally went away, but their demise had an inevitability that was widely held.

So I dare you as well: Grab a copy (you will have to go to a bookstore to do this!) and read the introduction.   I think you will find yourself wanting much more.

By the way, my “Moore’s Law of Reading” held true with this book.  “Moore’s Law of Reading” takes the total number of pages of a book (242 with this book) and divides by two, so 121.  If my marginal notes exceeds half of the pages then it was a worthwhile read.  In this case, I made 166 marginal notes of various kinds, so it definitely was a great read.

IMAGINE AUGUSTINE AS YOUR PROFESSOR!

Some books are long, but relative to their length you don’t benefit much. Some books are short, but relative to their length you benefit greatly. Joseph Clair’s new book, On Education, Formation, Citizenship and the Lost Purpose of Learning fits in the latter category.  

In 120 pages Clair gives a crisp and thoughtful account of how higher education has lost its moral rudder. To make his case, Clair uses the always insightful and relevant, Bishop of Hippo: Augustine.

Instead of simply detailing the problem, Clair offers some suggestive and practical antidotes. I will mention just one as it is similar to something I’ve been thinking about. Clair mentions that teacher training ought to consider learning from “demanding vocations for inspiration and guidance—for example, Navy Seals, Jesuits, professional athletics—where a sense of identity and purpose provide a strong team spirit and where the results of a shared effort are judged on the basis of the whole community’s performance.”

There was one thing that made me reticent to recommend this book: the cost. That has now been rectified due to being out in a reasonable paperback.

 

MY FAVORITE DEAD PEOPLE…WELL THEIR BOOKS

Augustine, Confessions

Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ

Pascal, Pensées

If you purchase this book, make sure to get the edition that is edited by A.J. Krailsheimer.  For some reason, Amazon is not allowing me to link to that edition.

Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing

Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Lewis: Loads to pick from, but I choose Surprised by Joy