Two Quick Reviews / A Book by its Cover

Today I’m offering two quick reviews and welcoming further input or responses from anyone who’s read these two books — I actually haven’t. How do I review books I haven’t read? Well, we’ll get to that. Both selections are along the same theme, but perhaps for different audiences.

lookingforgod_ortberg.cover.jpg First up is Nancy Ortberg’s Looking for God: An Unexpected Journey through Tattoos, Tofu, and Pronouns, a promising title from a gifted woman. I loaned this one to my friend Pam, who did read it. The short version: decent material on learning to experience God in all areas of life, presented as though it is more radical than most readers here will actually find it. On this basis, it’s probably a great introduction for people from a conservative evangelical background — which makes sense, considering Ms. Ortberg’s resume includes an eight-year stint as a teaching pastor at Willow Creek. You can nab the first chapter as a PDF download. “God is in the details, but sometimes we just overlook him. Nancy Ortberg encourages readers to see God in this very personal, very engaging series of essays that will bring God into focus and allow you to grow deeper in your relationship with him than you had ever imagined.”

Guest Review: Rethinking Church

reimaginingchurch.cover.jpg Being engaged in a few other books lately, I loaned my copy of Frank Viola’s Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity to my friend Grant, who is familiar with Frank’s other work. Grant has furnished a bit of a review, which I’ve edited only lightly to present here.

Frank has crafted a thorough yet readable book that, in comparison to Pagan Christianity, presents a gentle yet persuasive argument for a return to organic church. A reader can quite literally jump into any chapter that is of interest and discover a compelling description of what church could be. Frank states that the purpose of the book is: “to articulate a biblical, spiritual, theological, and practical answer to the question, ‘Is there a viable way of doing church outside the institutional church experience, and if so, what does it look like?'” (p.12). For the reader who has left what Frank calls the “institutional church” (IC) and is asking the question, “where do I go from here?” you may find Reimagining Church to be the oasis you seek in the desert.

Early Thoughts on a Missional Renaissance

missional-renaissance.jpg Monday morning after logging my menu selection and discussing Bosnia with my waitress, I began to dig into Reggie McNeal’s Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church. I’ve not had much time with it this week, so I’ve only ingested the introduction and chapter one… but I found myself jotting down an inordinate number of notes and quotes for so brief a sample, and yesterday when I tweeted “Those who miss the missional renaissance will find themselves rendered irrelevant to the movement of God in the world. — Reggie McNeal” it proved to be good retweet material. (Paraphrased from p.17 for the sake of a 140-character limit.)

The Gifts of Protestantism?

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A more long-range benefit of the Reformation’s placing ultimate authority in Scripture was that, when coupled with the principle of the priesthood of all believers, sola scriptura required absolute and universal literacy if it were going to work. The Protestant imperative toward every believer’s being able to read Holy Writ for him- or herself excited the drive toward literacy that in turn accelerated the drive toward rationalism and from there to Enlightenment and from there straight into the science and technology and literature and governments that characterize our lives today. There were, of course, some disadvantages.

The most obvious problem of universal literacy is that if one teaches five people to read and then asks them each to read the same document, there will be at least three different interpretations of what the five of them have read. While we may laugh and say that divisiveness was Protestantism’s greatest gift to Christianity, ours is a somber joke.

Book Nod: The New Atheist Crusaders

newatheistcrusaders.cover.jpg I’ve been sharing some of the books in my pile for review, usually trying to match up books I’ve received with people who I think will enjoy them. Although I appreciate the humour of The Wittenburg Door, I loaned Becky Garrison‘s latest book to my friend Mike before I’d had a chance to read it. Asked for a quick response on the book, he said the following:

In her new book, The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail: The Misguided Quest to Destroy Your Faith, Becky Garrison shifts the cross-hairs from her usual (deserving) targets to take on the famous godless gurus you can’t stop hearing about nowadays: Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, et al. Her weapon of choice? Humour. Sharp, witty, satirical humour, to be more descriptive. Becky Garrison is a Senior Contributing Writer for The Wittenburg Door, and is quite adept at poking fun while getting across a serious point. As she says in the book, “shooting down false idols is what I do for a living.” She uses this rare talent to skillfully poke holes in the new atheists’ anti-religious arguments.

The Third Man Factor

Epigraph for T.S. Elliot's The Waste Land The explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton made a legendary escape from Antarctica in 1916 after his ship Endurance was trapped in and subsequently crushed by the ice of that unforgiving land. Shackleton and two of his men were on the final leg of their journey, having to cross an uncharted mountain range on South Georgia, a sub-Antarctic island, to reach help at a whaling station. During the crossing, each of the three men had the sense that there was another “presence” with them, helping them on the arduous journey. This fourth presence which inspired T.S. Eliot to include it in his 1922 poem, “The Waste Land,” changing the number to ask, “Who is the third who walks always beside you?” This experience became known among climbers and other explorers as the “third man factor” or “third man syndrome.”

A Few Standout Items from 2008

tsk-emergent-survey.jpg Blog Moment of The Year: Andrew Jones stops using the term “emerging church”. This one generated its fair share of buzz around the blogosphere, and no small amount of controversy over the term and the question of whether or not Emergent was all but done. I don’t think the term “post-emergent” came up in the aftermath at all, but the whole thing was a noteworthy moment to be sure.

kathy-escobar.jpg New Blogger of the Year: Kathy Escobar on the carnival in her head. Despite her jonny-baker-esque broken shift key, Kathy’s voice is a great addition to this general conversation. Kathy is insightful, shares personally, and writes very well. Technically, I suppose she began blogging in 2007, but I don’t think many people noticed until 2008, when suddenly everyone was reading her blog. And you should be too.

Hyperlinks Subvert Hierarchies at Missional Tribe

Book Cover We’ve been having some real fun over at the Missional Tribe. After flinging the doors open a little under 48 hours ago, we have as of this moment 198 users and 82 blogs, where there have been some good posts showing up and some good conversations getting started. The groups and forums are active too, with more conversations going on than I can keep track of.