Saturday, August 14, 2010

7 Mini Book Reviews (my recent reads)

“Evolving in Monkey Town” by Rachel Held Evans: A fantastic memoir, and actually better than Blue Like Jazz. Evans (who is only 27) writes beautifully, and often humorously, taking her readers on a fascinating journey that many post-evangelicals will resonate with. She grew up in the Bible-belt as a fiery conservative fundamentalist, and eventually found herself voting for Obama in 2008. She chronicles her struggle to maintain faith, wrestling with all of the same doubts as the rest of her post-modern, pluralistic generation. She ultimately reconstructs her faith, but in a more open and honest way than in her fundamentalist past. An important voice for emerging Christianity.

“Contemporary Christologies: A Fortress Introduction” by Don Schweitzer: This is a fun read, but also an important one for any Christian wrestling with how to articulate the relationship of Jesus to God, as well as the meaning of atonement. The book is relatively short, and well written. A highly stimulating survey of modern theological takes on the person and “work” of Jesus.

“The Big Questions In Science and Religion” by Keith Ward: Ward is a brilliant British philosopher and Anglican theologian. This book helpfully moves through the biggest questions that contribute to the tension between science and religion today: the beginning and end of the universe, claims about the afterlife, consciousness and the soul, morality and religion, miracles. Ward uses the physical sciences, philosophy, and religious studies to evaluate the claims of religion against the claims of science. Not polemical in the slightest, and calmly rational from beginning to end.

“Sun of Righteousness, Arise!” by Jurgen Moltmann: This latest release from Moltmann is a brilliant collection of essays on everything from the Trinity, to ecology, to resurrection theology. Moltmann is concerned with how these Christian ideas are relevant to a progressive faith with commitments to social justice and a hopeful future for the earth. In many ways, quite similar to Wright’s theology of resurrection in Surprised By Hope, but even more challenging and provocative as Moltmann dares to incorporate liberation and feminist theologies in his writings.

“An Altar In the World” by Barbara Brown Taylor: One of the most refreshing books I have ever read! I love Taylor’s writing style, and her approach to spiritual practice in this book. Taylor definitely has a mystical approach, but never gets lost in mystical obfuscation. She asks her readers to find the divine in all of life’s (super)ordinary experiences – from gardening, to walking, to eating, to bathing, to grocery shopping, and even doing the laundry. Don’t be fooled though: this book is anything but trite and simplistic. A gorgeous and inspiring spiritual handbook for ordinary mystics.

“Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder” by Richard Horsley: Not for the faint of heart, but an important scholarly and theological work. Horsley brilliantly explains the state of the Roman Empire and the plight of the Jewish people around the time of Jesus. He evaluates the purpose of Jesus’ message of the kingdom against a Jewish and Greco-Roman matrix, emphasizing the importance of social background for understand the message of Jesus. He paints a pretty accurate picture in my view, if incomplete at times and in need of adjustment here and there. The last chapter is gold, where he compares American foreign policy to the Roman Empire. A bit dry at times, but short enough that it really is worth reading all the way through.

“The Nature of Love: A Theology” by Thomas Jay Oord: A graduate at Claremont who is now a professor of theology at Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho, this is one of the best books on theology I have read in a while. Oord’s task is simple: holistically define love (since it is utterly central to Torah, Jesus, and Paul) and reshape our conception of God in light of it. What does it mean to say God is love? What are the implications? Oord truly impressed and inspired me with this book.

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