The Month in Reviews: February 2023

I’m not sure how to characterize this months collection of books reviewed. There is a new Bible translation and Clarence Jordan, who wrote his own paraphrases of the gospels. You’ll find a Lenten devotional and occasional papers by Pope Benedict on the environment. You can go from the wonders of the cell to John Kennedy’s goal to place a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s. I reviewed a theology of the atonement for those who have experienced abuse and a discussion of the place of beauty in Christian formation. I read Anne Lamott’s Help Wow Thanks on prayer and then felt like saying “Help Wow Thanks” as I read Kristen Page’s Wonders of Creation. On most months, Bonnie Kristian’s Untrustworthy would have been my Best Book of the Month. Her exploration of our epistemic crisis and thoughtful ideas about developing epistemic virtue seem so crucial when we struggle to know who or what we may trust. Saint Patrick the Forgiver is a wonderful retelling of the story of Saint Patrick for children and adults alike. Granite Kingdom is a work of historical fiction set in Vermont’s granite country in 1910, written by a first time author who researched it while working as a journalist for a small town Vermont newspaper. And, of course, I finished off the month with another Ngaio Marsh!

The Inconvenient Gospel (Plough Spiritual Guides), Clarence Jordan, edited by Frederick L. Downing, Introduction by Starlette Thomas. Walden, NY: Plough Books, 2022. A collection of the talks and writings of Clarence Jordan, rooted in the teaching of Jesus, drawing out the radical implications this has for war, wealth disparity, civil rights, and true community. Review

A Just Passion: A Six Week Lenten JourneyRuth Haley Barton, Sheila Wise Rowe, Tish Harrison Warren, Terry M. Wildman, and others. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. A six week Lenten devotional consisting of brief excerpts from works by InterVarsity Press authors, scripture readings, and breath prayers, considering how, in the passion of Christ, we lament the injustices of the world, find healing in the redemptive work of Christ, and enter into Christ’s heart for justice for the oppressed. Review

The Song of the CellSiddhartha Mukherjee. New York: Scribner, 2022. A history of the advances of cell biology including the cutting-edge innovations that allow for the modification or implantation of cells, creating in essence, a new human. Review

The Back Side of the CrossDiane Leclerc and Brent Peterson, foreword by Lynn Bohecker. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2022. A look at the models of the atonement from the back side of the cross, where those abused and abandoned are found, exploring how Jesus died not only for sinners but the sinned against. Review

First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New TestamentTerry M. Wildman, Consulting editor, First Nations Version Translation Council. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022. A dynamic equivalent English translation of the New Testament by and for the First Nations people in North America, using the cultural idioms resonating with First Nations people. Review

The Garden of God: Toward a Human EcologyPope Benedict XVI, foreword by Archbishop Jean-Louis Brugues. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2014. A collection of Pope Benedict XVI’s statements in homilies, papal greetings, letters, and other written documents, pertaining to a theology of human ecology. Review

Reading the Bible Around the WorldFederico Alfredo Roth, Justin Marc Smith, Kirsten Oh, Alice Yafeh-Deigh, and Kay Higuera Smith. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. A globally representative team of authors discuss the diverse social locations of different cultures that shape their reading of scripture, developing the student’s awareness of the importance of context in biblical interpretation. Review

Granite KingdomEric Pope. Montpelier, VT: Rootstock Publishing, 2022. Set in Vermont’s granite country in 1910, narrates a rivalry between two granite companies representing old and new ways, with a young newspaperman with social aspirations caught in between. Review

Dawn: A Complete Account of the Most Important Day in Human History — Nisan 18, AD 30Mark Miller. Good Turn Publishing, 2023. An effort to render a unified account of the trial, death, resurrection and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus up to the ascension, detailing the movements of the disciples and especially the women who visited the grave on Easter morning. Review

Tending the Fire That Burns at the Center of the WorldDavid F. White. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2022. An argument for the important role of aesthetics, of beauty, in Christian formation. Review

Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential PrayersAnne Lamott. New York: Riverhead Books, 2012. The author’s account of what it is for her to pray and three types of prayer that, for her, describe what it means to pray. Review

The Apocalyptic Paul: Retrospect and Prospect (Cascade Library of Pauline Studies), Jamie Davies, Foreword by John Barclay. Eugene: Cascade Books, 2022. A survey of the major contributors to the Apocalyptic Paul movement within Pauline studies, as well as a discussion of some outstanding areas for discussion and proposals of bringing biblical scholars in the Apocalyptic Paul movement, theologians focusing on apocalyptic, and those studying the Jewish apocalyptic tradition into conversation. Review

The Wonders of Creation: Learning Stewardship from Narnia and Middle-Earth (The Hansen Lectureship Series), Kristen Page, with contributions from Christina Bieber Lake, Noah J. Toly, and Emily Hunter McGowin. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022. Discusses the value of Lewis’s and Tolkien’s fictional landscapes in fostering love and care for the creation of which we are part. Review

AnchorholdKirsten Pinto Gfroerer. Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 2022. A two-year correspondence with Julian of Norwich, reflecting upon the Revelations of Divine Love. Review

American MoonshotDouglas Brinkley. New York: Harper, 2020. A history of the American space program centering around John F. Kennedy’s embrace of the space race and goal that an American would walk on the moon by the end of the 1960’s. Review

Saint Patrick the ForgiverRetold and Illustrated by Ned Bustard. Downers Grove: IVP Kids, 2023. A re-telling of the story of Saint Patrick, who returned to the Irish who had enslaved him, having forgiven them and preaching forgiveness through the work of Christ. Review

UntrustworthyBonnie Kristian, Foreword by David French. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2022. A discussion of the epistemic crisis that has swept our society, riven our politics, and undermined our Christian community, and steps one may take to cultivate epistemic virtue and live discerningly. Review

Vintage Murder (Roderick Alleyn # 5), Ngaio Marsh. New York: Felony & Mayhem Press, 2012 (first published in 1937). Alleyn falls in with a theatre company while in New Zealand and discovers that neither murder nor police work take a vacation. Review

Best Book of the Month. So many good books this month, but the publication of the First Nations Version is such a singular event–a fresh translation speaking in the idioms of First Nations People but also opening the text up in a fresh way to other readers, including this one! I also had the privilege this past month of interviewing the lead translator and loved the story of how this translation came into being. Here’s the video of our interview:

Quote of the Month: Anchorhold is a reflection on the Revelations of Divine Love of Julian of Norwich. One of the most famous involves a vision of a hazelnut. Kirsten Pinto Gfroerer writes:

“In the hazelnut you see three attributes: the first, that God made it, the second that God loves it, the third that God cares for it.Nothing in the hazelnut’s essence reveals these attributes; in fact, it is so small, it is almost nothing. However, it has these attributes of being created, loved, and cared for by the Godhead because the Godhead gives them to us. Because they are gifts there is nothing we can do to lose them” (p. 14).

What I’m Reading. I’m nearly finished reading Richard Averbeck’s The Old Testament Law for the Life of the Church: Reading the Torah in the Light of Christ. It’s a rich study of the significance of all of the Old Testament law, which he believes profitable for the church. Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life by Zena Hitz is a fascinating exploration of thinking just for the sake of thinking. Marc Joan’s Hangdog Souls is a work of magical realism set in South India where an Englishman made a Faustian bargain where he gains his life at the cost of facilitating the deaths of others over several centuries. I’m not a fan of magical realism and I’m still making up my mind about this one. Have you ever gone back to your home town and relived your youth, perhaps forty or fifty years later? That’s what the principal character in Wallace Stegner’s Recapitulation does when an aunt’s death takes him back to Salt Lake City. I’m a Stegner fan and this is one I haven’t read. Finally, I’m reading Kyle Meyaard-Schaap’s Following Jesus in a Warming World. Among other things, he argues that caring for creation is pro-life and pro-evangelism. He joins Katherine Hayhoe as a voice of hope amid the dire predictions and discouraged youth of our climate crisis. I’m interviewing him next month and we’ll have a lot to talk about!

The Month in Reviews is my monthly review summary going back to 2014! It’s a great way to browse what I’ve reviewed. The search box on this blog also works well if you are looking for a review of a particular book.

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