Book Reviews

New (and Recommended) in the Library! Reviewed by Louise Winfield

  • Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street by Jim Wallis, 2010. This insightful and visionary author (NY TIMES Best Seller God’s Politics) now tackles the timely subject of establishing “a moral compass for a new economy.” As always he writes with prophetic clarity, and as a vivid storyteller engages his readers in a conversation about how historically we got into our current financial crisis in the first place and how many of our claims as Christians could lead to a new and better equilibrium in addressing our market economy and a new commitment to the “common good” for the family, the nation, and the world.
  • Faithful Disagreement: Wrestling with Scripture in the Midst of Church Conflict by Frances Taylor Gench, 2009. Here at last is a book by a savvy churchgoer and Bible scholar who does not deny the deep disagreements and the hurtful anger which in our time are tearing at the very fiber of our “life together” as Christians but who has the skill, aptitude, and knowledge of our biblical texts to draw directly from them insights which could help us discover the power of Scripture to remold us as a community of faith; insights which could help us as individuals and congregations mirror more fully the life and teachings of Jesus. Each chapter addresses one aspect of those goals as illustrated by a carefully selected Bible passage. For instance: I John 2:18-25: Arguing About Scripture and Dirty Laundry; and Matthew 14: 22-33: Stepping Out of the Boat in the Midst of a Storm. Rev. Dr. Gench is Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Union Theological Seminary (VA) and a much-in-demand speaker and teacher.
  • A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diana Butler Bass, 2009 Here is a readable, enjoyable account of the Church’s 2000 year journey without those excessive dates and names of councils and dogma that so often “turn off” the casual but interested reader! Instead church historian Bass tells the stories of grassroots renewal movements and voices for justice and reform through the centuries with charm, humor and an occasional pathos that bring the past to life for us in unforgettable ways. A perfect armchair companion for contemporary Christians!
  • The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and How by Phyllis Tickle, 2009 “Every five hundred years the church cleans out its attic and has a giant rummage sale.” Ours is such a time, and noted author, speaker, and publisher Tickle writes brilliantly of this pivotal era, helping us understand the sweeping changes taking place as well as her vision of an exciting future for the Church.
  • To celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of our great Reformed scholar and theologian, John Calvin, we have purchased two intriguing books that will make for both informative and entertaining reading: Calvin for Armchair Theologians by Christopher Elwood with Illustrations by Ron Hill, Westminster John Knox Press, 2002. Here is as winsome an introduction to John Calvin as one can find. It is brief but covers the whole range of his life and theology. It is written in a lively style and accompanied by wonderfully humorous cartoon-like drawings. Highly recommended to Saint Markers (and others!) who would like to become better acquainted with this great Reformer’s life and thinking but are inclined to shy away from the many voluminous and “heady” tomes that have been written about him.
  • John Calvin: Selections from His Writings edited by Emilie Griffen with Foreword by Marilynne Robinson (author of Housekeeping, Gilead and Home), Harper San Francisco, 2006. Have you ever wanted to dip into some original writings of John Calvin but been turned off by the thought of delving into his formidable “for seminarians only” Institutes of the Christian Religion ? Here is a solution! Thirteen short and accessible essays on diverse topics like faith, the Lord’s Prayer, and the “golden book” of the Christian life that will provide you with a window into his exceptional mind and spirit. This small book is a perfect resource for learning about “the man behind the legacy.”
  • Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation by J. Philip Newell, former warden of Iona Abbey in Scotland and present companion theologian for the American Spirituality Center at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, Jossey-Bass, 2008. In this graceful and wise book, Newell captures the essence of the ancient Celtic vision of Christ, which offers us a tradition of actively recognizing the presence of the sacred in nature and all creatures. Eight brief essays including “The Rhythm of the Earth” and “the Sound of Love” show us a new picture of who Christ is today combined with the ancient reverence for harmony with God and nature.
  • A New Church for a New World by John M. Buchanan, 2008.A distinguished church leader and pastor, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), reviews in a highly interesting and concise manner (87 short pages!) the history of the Christian community and describes changes impacting the church in the 21st century. He invites us to be hopeful and to look for signs of what God may be calling the church to be in our time and beyond. An important and informative “read” for all who care about the church.
  • Hope Matters: The Untold Story of How Faith Works in America by John A. Calhoun, 2007.Here are the stories of 24 amazing people who work among the many needy communities of our nation and who are reshaping those communities and the lives of many of the people who live there. Calhoun, a prominent public policy leader over the past several decades and a member of Lewinsville Presbyterian Church in McLean, VA, looks beyond the visible accomplishments of these community workers to find the hidden source of their energy and purpose in their deep “faith” and, in many cases, an unsuspected and deep spirituality. “Some books change hearts, others change minds, and a few lift spirits. This marvelous book by Jack Calhoun does all three.” (John Dilulio, Senior Fellow. Brookings Institute).
  • Prayers for the New Social Awakening: Inspired by the New Social Creed. Editors: Christian Iosso and Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, 2008.One hundred prayers from such well-known church and community leaders as Tony Campolo, Marian Wright Edelman and Sister Helen Prejean reflect the diversity of the Christian faith and call for the church to be awakened to meet the social challenges of the 21st century.
  • The God of Second Chances by Erik Kolbell, 2008.A freelance writer, psychotherapist, and former Minister of Social Justice at the historic Riverside Church in New York City, Dr. Kolbell has given us a beautiful and usable vision of how to live. He combines his gifts of storytelling, keen observations of the human condition, and a deep personal understanding of the gospel to convey to his readers the reality of divine forgiveness and renewal. And who among us hasn’t wished for a “second chance”!?
  • Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation by Carol Howard Merritt, 2007.This perceptive “thirty-something” associate pastor of Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, effectively dismantles the wall often separating mainline churches from people under forty. Using her personal reflections and experiences as well as current research, she gives us a clearer and more compassionate view of this frequently “missing “ generation from our pews and helps the rest of us understand better who they are and how we can better respond to their quest for faith, meaning, life, and love. A “must read” for all who care about them and the future of the church.
  • Luke (Westminster Bible Companion Series) by Sharon H. Ringe, 1995.An excellent and insightful study guide, especially for laity to use in their devotional life and as they participate in Bible classes. Dr. Ringe is Professor of New Testament at Wesley Theological Seminary (DC) and a member of National Capital Presbytery’s Rockville United Church. She is also coeditor of the well-known and acclaimed Women’s Bible Commentary.

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