The Month in Reviews: May 2016

Modern art

This was a month of listening to a number of voices outside my particular cultural context, from Depression-era migrants, to a black NFL player talking about the racial divides in our country, to a naturalized citizen of Mexican descent on the shadow existence of Mexican immigrants and the experiences of Ugandan women. I also have been reading books on faith and politics, given our upcoming election season. I read a couple delightful books now available in the public domain, a Dorothy Sayers mystery and a biography of Erasmus, an important Reformation-era figure. There was also some good theology, including a classic defense of the bodily resurrection of Christ, a helpful book on our own bodily existence, and a great forthcoming book on faith and modern art. So, here’s the list:

Did the Resurrection HappenDid the Resurrection Happen?, David Baggett ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009. A history of the debates and friendship between Gary Habermas and Antony Flew, a transcript of a 2003 conversation on the resurrection between these two, a discussion of Flew’s subsequent change from a belief in atheism to a kind of deism, and concluding discussions on the evidences and challenges to the idea of the resurrection of Jesus. Review.

what your Body KnowsWhat Your Body Knows About GodRob Moll. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. Explores how our neurophysiology enables us to connect to God and others and how spiritual practices, liturgies, and opportunities to serve enable us to physically as well as spiritually thrive. Review.

God in the White HouseGod in the White House, Randall Balmer. New York: Harper Collins, 2008. Traces the history of the religious faith and presidential politics from the election of John Kennedy as the first Catholic president up through George W. Bush and the religious-political alliances by which he was elected to two terms as president. Review.

Under Our SkinUnder Our Skin, Benjamin Watson with Ken Petersen. Carol Stream: Tyndale Momentum, 2015. Watson posted a series of thoughts on his Facebook page after the grand jury decision in the Ferguson case. As a result of the viral response, he wrote this book to expand on his reactions as a black man to this decision. Review.

Grapes of WrathThe Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck. New York: Penguin Books, 1939 (original edition), 2002 (this edition). Steinbeck’s classic narrative of the migrations of displaced farmers from the Depression Dustbowl to a California controlled by large landowners who wanted their labor as cheaply as possible while despising the influx of people. Review.

God Dwells Among UsGod Dwells Among Us, G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. A study of the theology of the Eden-temple of creation as an expression of God’s purpose to have a dwelling place with humanity and the development of this theme throughout scripture, under-girding the mission of the church. Review.

LuminousLuminous, T. David Beck. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2013. Explores how purpose, presence, power and peace enable us to radiate the light of Christ in our everyday lives. Review.

The Weight of ShadowsThe Weight of ShadowsJosé Orduña. Boston: Beacon Press, 2016. In this personal memoir, the author documents his own experience of naturalization, and the shadow existence of both documented and undocumented immigrants in the United States. Review.

Ask the QuestionAsk The Question, Stephen Mansfield. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016. Contends that an in-depth understanding of the faith of political candidates and the role of religion in their lives, as well as in the world, is an important right of citizens entrusted with important decisions in the voting booth. Review.

Modern artModern Art and the Life of a Culture, Jonathan A. Anderson and William A. Dyrness. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, forthcoming June 2016. A response to the classic work Modern Art and the Death of a Culture by H. R. Rookmaker, arguing that Rookmaaker was unnecessarily pessimistic in his assessment of modern art, overlooking the religious impulses that shaped much of modern art. Review.

ErasmusErasmus and the Age of Reformation, Johan Huizinga, tr. F. Hopman. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1957 (first published in 1924). Link is to Dover Publications reprint. This book is now in the public domain and there are free versions for Kindle and other digital formats. An elegantly written biography of Desiderius Erasmus describing his life, thought and character as a scholar who hoped to awaken “good learning” and to bring about a purified Catholic church, and the tensions resulting from being caught between Reformers and Catholic hierarchy. Review.

whose bodyWhose Body? Dorothy L. Sayers. New York: Harper Collins, 1923. (Link is for trade paperback version.) A body found in Thipps bathroom, a missing financier. Two cases that Lord Peter and his valet, Bunter, are called into simultaneously, apparently disparate, ultimately connected. Review.

CrossroadsCrossroads: Women Coming of Age in Today’s Uganda, ed. Christopher Conte. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2015. Narratives of fourteen Ugandan women on various aspects of growing up in a Ugandan society in the midst of political upheaval, the intersection of traditional and modern ways, between repression and reform. Review.

Best of the Month: It is hard not to give the nod to The Grapes of Wrath but I want to highlight here the new book, Modern Art and the Life of a Culture.  This book breaks new ground toward a Christian understanding of modern art, particularly in its historical survey of both the art and the religious self-understanding of the artists. I think this book, and the series it launches, will facilitate a greater engagement of Christians in the wider art scene.

Quote of the Month: 

“Is it possible that scholars who are thinking theologically might be able to offer a more compelling history of modern art, one that can show the contemporary art world that the modern tradition of artistic practice is not a progression of stylistic innovation but a belief system, a way of understanding the self and its relationship to the world that continues to be viable and can address the present situation in the art world, and connect with them as human beings.” (from Dan Siedell’s “Afterword” in Modern Art and the Life of a Culture).

Reviewing soon: I just began An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor that has a James Herriot-type feel, only with human patients. Looks like a light, fun read. I’m also reading Ron Sider and Ben Lowe’s Future of Our Faith, an intergenerational dialogue on key questions facing the church across generations. I’ve been savoring Donald MacLeod’s wonderful book, Christ-Crucified: Understanding the Atonement. Any contemporary scholars who would critique more classic evangelical understandings of the atonement should use this book as their reference, rather than the “straw men” that are often cast up in these discussions. I’m also working my way through Kimlyn Bender’s Confessing Christ for Church and World, a great collection of essays on the theology of Karl Barth. Among my TBRs are Arianna Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution, and Dan Dupee’s It’s Not Too Late on the role parents can play during a teen’s high school years in influencing their faith.

You can find all my reviews since February 2014 by clicking on “The Month in Reviews” on the menu. You will note if you are reading this on a computer that I’ve changed the format of cover images to separate review text. This rendering is closer to the rendering on tablets and phones.

One of my summer projects if I find the time will be to create an Index of Reviews. If anyone has a suggestion of an indexing program that works with WordPress, I’d love to hear from you!

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