The Month in Reviews: August 2016

Silence and Beauty

I often take advantage of a lighter schedule in summer to read quite a bit. This month was an illustration of that rhythm. I read a couple of books surveying the Bible for what it says about money (quite a bit), and one on what can happen in our lives spiritually when we don’t have it. I read about Jefferson’s explorers whose coming signaled a threat to the way of life of Native Americans, and some fiction by Sherman Alexie on the realities of reservation life. I began the month with Makoto Fujimura’s reading of Shusaku Endo’s Silence, and ended with Richard Mouw’s reflections on the scholarly life with a fictional exploration of the inner life of Dmitri Shostakovich and a history of the innovatively prolific Bell Labs and much more in between.

Silence and Beauty

Silence and Beauty, Makoto Fujimura (foreward by Philip Yancey). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016.  A “layered” reflection on Shusaku Endo’s Silence by a Japanese-American artist that explores the Christian experience of persecution in Japan, and the connections between silence, suffering, and beauty, that may draw contemporary Japanese to faith. (Review)

Covenant Economics

Covenant Economics: A Biblical Vision of Justice for All, Richard A. Horsley. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009. A biblical study of how God’s covenant with Israel, including the New Testament appropriation of that covenant was intended to shape economic life and justice for Israel and “assemblies” in the New Testament era, with application to modern economic life and the “covenant” our government has with its people. (Review)

Jeffeerson's America

Jefferson’s AmericaJulie M. Fenster. New York: Crown, 2016. An account of how Jefferson used the efforts of four teams of men comprising less than a hundred total to establish America’s hold on the lands west of the Mississippi River. (Review)


Unparalleled, Jared C. Wilson. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016. A book that makes the case for Christianity by proposing that the unique elements in Christian faith’s account of God, humanity, Jesus, salvation, history, and the end make it  both worthy and credible. (Review)

Bad Religion - No Religion

The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No Religion, Martin Thielen. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014. Discusses the characteristics of “bad religion”, contending that the answer is not to reject religion altogether but to embrace “good religion”, the marks of which are discussed. (Review)

the lost world of genesis one

The Lost World of Genesis OneJohn H. Walton. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009. Walton argues from our knowledge of the ancient cultures in Israel’s context that Genesis 1 is a functional account of how the cosmos is being set up as God’s temple rather than an account of material origins. (Review)

The noise of time

The Noise of TimeJulian Barnes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. A work of fiction, exploring the inner world of composer Dmitri Shostakovich, as he seeks both to survive and maintain artistic integrity in the totalitarian milieu of Soviet Russia under Stalin and Khrushchev. (Review)

Embracing the Body

Embracing the BodyTara M. Owens. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015. An invitation to move beyond guilt and shame around our embodied selves to discover the goodness of our bodies and how God made us, meets us, and works through our bodied lives. (Review)

Lone Ranger and Tonto

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Sherman Alexie. New York: Grove Press, 2013 (20th Anniversary edition, first published 1993).  A collection of short stories all relating to growing up on a Spokane Indian reservation. (Review)


Broke, Caryn Rivadeneira. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014. The author reflects on the experience of losing nearly all financially, and what she learned by being broke and broken about the provision and abundance of God. (Review)

Called to community

Called to CommunityCharles E. Moore (ed.). Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2016. A collection of readings on Christian community centered around the Bruderhof Community but also including theologians and writers from throughout church history. (Review)

The Idea Factory

The Idea Factory, Jon Gertner. New York: The Penguin Press, 2012. An account of the history of Bell Labs, the inventions and innovations they produced, and the confluence of people, resources, and the growth of the telecommunications revolution that drove it all. (Review)


Money and Possessions (Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church), Walter Brueggemann. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016. A survey of the teaching of canonical scripture on the subject of money and possessions focusing on these as gift of God, meant for the mutual benefit of neighbors, and marred by extractive economics creating disparities of rich and poor, privileged and oppressed. (Review)

Called to the life of the Mind

Called to the Life of the Mind, Richard J. Mouw. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2014. A collection of reflective essays by one of the deans of evangelical scholarship on the calling and importance of the Christian scholarly task. (Review)

Best of the Month: As is often the case this is a tough one. Julian Barnes The Noise of Time was an intriguing exploration of the inner tensions Shostakovich may have wrestled with holding artistic integrity and survival in tension. But I have to give the nod to Makoto Fujimura’s Beauty and Silence for its thoughtful exploration of Japanese culture, Endo’s novel Silence, and the troubled history of Christianity in Japan.

Quote of the Month: This eloquently articulated statement summed up for me the central message of Caryn Rivendeira’s Broke and suggested to me that this is a Christian writer we may want to watch:

“We survived. I kept breathing. I kept stepping. And somewhere in the cracks, along the ragged edges of my marriage, in the desperate gasps of sudden poverty and all the questions that came with it, there was God. Big and glittering, soft and warm, smiling and beckoning. Somehow in the shimmers of all that, I began to taste and see, and feel and know, and hear and smell that God is good, and he was there in the broke bits. That he was using our time near the poverty line, treading in debt, to draw me near, to make me over, to answer a prayer bigger than my material needs. In this season of spiritual and financial brokenness, in this time of longing to know what God was up to and to experience his goodness and presence, God worked me over by showing me where and how I could find him. Which is all over the place. In every last thing, He satisfied my wonderlust–my unquenchable desire to feel his presence and to experience his glory. And I found him. And I found him good.”

Coming Soon: I just finished reading a book that will be my “go to” resource with graduating students, After College by Erica Young Reitz. Look for a review of it in the next day or so. I’ve also picked up a compendium of articles titled Eschatology, on this endlessly fascinating question of our future hope and how this may unfold. I’m nearly finished with Muhammad Yunus’ Banker to the Poor, his engaging account of the beginnings of Grameen Bank, a pioneering effort in micro-lending. I’ve just begun Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us, one of her earliest publications about the oceans that occupy so much of our planet’s surface. And I will be reviewing a book soon I’ve already mentioned in a recent post, No Place for Abuse, on the epidemic of physical and sexual violence and what at least churches can do to address the instances of this scourge in our midst. I also have two fun books I hope to read soon from my son and his wife: a baseball book by Michael Shapiro, Bottom of the Ninth and an intriguingly titled book by Jon Ronson, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed on how social media has taken public shaming to a new level.

Oh, and I could add so many more. But I think I will end here and wish you at least a few hours happy reading over the upcoming Labor Day holiday (for those living in the U. S.).



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