Book Reviews

The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne

October 18th, 2013

  Shane Claiborne. The Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2006. Book Review submitted by Xochitl Alvizo, Ph.D. Candidate in Practical Theology, Concentration: Congregation and Community “Growing smaller and smaller until we take over the world,” is the title of the second to last chapter in Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution: living as an ordinary radical. I begin here because there is an important question this title raises for me – and the assumption that I think it makes. Let me first offer a quick introduction to Claiborne’s book. Shane Claiborne understands himself to be living the “ordinary”... More

Emerging Churches, by Eddie Gibbs & Ryan Bolger

October 18th, 2013

  Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger. Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005. Book Review submitted by Xochitl Alvizo, Ph.D. Candidate in Practical Theology, Concentration: Congregation and Community Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger conducted an investigation on “the nature of emerging churches and movements,” churches and movements that they consider to be “vibrant and alive” (329). From their study with such churches, Gibbs and Bolger identified nine practices as common among emerging churches, three of them being the core practices out of which the others flow. Overall I was impressed with how much I agreed with the... More

UnChristian, by David Kinnaman

October 18th, 2013

  David Kinnaman. Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…and Why it Matters. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2007. Book Review submitted by Xochitl Alvizo, Ph.D. Candidate in Practical Theology, Concentration: Congregation and Community Unchristian is a book that results from a research project inspired by Gabe Lyons’ interest to “help a new generation of leaders understand the perceptions and images that young people have of Christianity,” perceptions he already suspected to be very negative (13). To this end he partnered with David Kinnaman, the primary author of the book, in launching an extensive three-year research project in which thousands of people... More

Does God Need the Church, by Gerhard Lohfink

October 18th, 2013

  Gerhard Lohfink. Does God Need the Church? Toward a Theology of the People of God. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1999. Book Review submitted by Xochitl Alvizo, Ph.D. Candidate in Practical Theology, Concentration: Congregation and Community The work of salvation that God has done in Christ is not realized in its full scope if Christ does not take form in the church (footnote, 302). This is a central point for Gerard Lohfink in his book, Does God Need the Church? To help the church understand what this means and help the church grasp the immensity of what it is a part, Lohfink... More

Work in the Spirit, by Miroslav Volf

October 3rd, 2013

Title:  Work in the Spirit:  Toward a Theology of Work Author:  Miroslav Volf Publisher:  Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001 Reviewer:  Josh Sweeden, Ph.D. Student in Practical Theology What would it mean if the starting point for a theology of work was the Spirit and charisma instead of creation and vocation? Theologies of work have been dominated by the latter two motifs, neither remains inadequate, but at the same time, Miroslav Volf argues that neither is comprehensive enough. For a Christian theology of work Volf suggests a shift “from the vocational understanding of work developed within the framework of the doctrine of creation... More

Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life, by J. Matthew Bonzo and Michael R. Stevens

October 3rd, 2013

Title:                    Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life Author:                J. Matthew Bonzo and Michael R. Stevens Publisher:           Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2009 Reviewer:  Josh Sweeden, Ph.D. Student in Practical Theology Matthew Bonzo and Michael Stevens believe Wendell Berry is a crucial voice for the world today, and more particularly, for Christians today. Their project is simple: to analyze and evaluate Wendell Berry’s writings theologically, addressing themes congruent with contemporary theological concerns while acknowledging ways Berry’s vision can be adopted and lived. It’s no secret that Bonzo and Stevens find Berry to be a profound writer who provides the church with a new vision... More

Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology, by Kathryn Tanner and Paul Lakeland, Eds.

October 3rd, 2013

Title:    Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology Author:      Kathryn Tanner and Paul Lakeland, Eds. Publisher:   Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997 Reviewed by:   Nell Becker Sweeden, Ph.D. Student in Practical Theology In Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology, Kathryn Tanner opens her first chapters with a comprehensive view of the development of cultural theory and brings this into conversation with theological engagement in the second half of her book. The substance of Tanner’s argument lies in the last three chapters, in which she relies on postmodern cultural theory to engage theology toward a hybrid and ad hoc task of deepening Christian discipleship... More

Theology of Work, by Darrell Cosden

October 3rd, 2013

Title:  A Theology of Work: Work in the New Creation Author:  Darrell Cosden Publisher: Paternoster theological monographs. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2006 Reviewer:  Josh Sweeden, Ph.D. Student in Practical Theology Building from various theological articulations of work, and particularly from twentieth century voices, Darrell Cosden explores his hypothesis for a “normative theological understanding of work.” The hypothesis is twofold—or as he calls it, “a double hypothesis”—that intends to develop a new theological definition of work (10). By the end of the text his definition is composed: Human work is a transformative activity essentially consisting of dynamically interrelated instrumental, relational, and ontological dimensions: whereby, More

Promised Land, A Perilous Journey, by Daniel G. Groody and Gioacchino Campese, Eds.

October 3rd, 2013

Title:                    A Promised Land, A Perilous Journey: Theological Perspctives on Migration Author:               Daniel G. Groody and Gioacchino Campese, Eds. Publisher:          Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008 Reviewer:  Nell Becker Sweeden, Ph.D. Student in Practical Theology A Promised Land: A Perilous Journey: Theological Perspectives on Migration is a compilation of essays that brings together Christian leaders and lay people, cultural anthropologists and sociologists, practioners and professors, Scalabrinian missionaries, and theologians on the theme of the U.S.-Mexico border and migration. These authors explore migration through four lenses: 1) foundations of a theology of migration; 2) mission, ministry, and migration; 3) the politics of... More

Living the Hospitality of God, by Lucien Richard, O.M.I.

October 3rd, 2013

Title:              Living the Hospitality of God Author:         Lucien Richard, O.M.I. Publisher:    New York, Mahway, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2000 Reviewer:  Nell Becker Sweeden, Ph.D. Student in Practical Theology Lucien Richard, in Living the Hospitality of God, provides an in-depth analysis of Christian hospitality to the stranger and reaffirms this practice as the necessary action of ushering God’s reign, particularly in light of contemporary situations of rampant individualism in America and the staggering reality of displaced peoples and refugees. Hospitality challenges one to accept the ‘other’ as other and the ‘stranger’ as one bearing strange culture to the observer. This encounter requires attentive listening and willingness... More

Holy Work, by Dom Rembert Sorg

October 3rd, 2013

Title:  Holy Work: Toward a Benedictine Theology of Manual Labor Author:  Dom Rembert Sorg Publisher:  Santa Ana, CA: Source Books, 2003 Reviewer:  Josh Sweeden, Ph.D. student in Practical Theology Originally published in 1951, Dom Rembert Sorg’s theological engagement of the Benedictine understanding of manual labor remains a classic text today. The latest edition, published in 2003, contains a preface written by Brian Terrell, O.S.B., and member of the Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa. This new edition, with a preface by Terrell, displays the profound influence Sorg’s text has had not only for Benedictine monasteries but also for contemporary movements like... More

Divine Economy: Theology and the Market, by D. Stephen Long

October 3rd, 2013

Title:   Divine Economy: Theology and the Market Author:   D. Stephen Long Publisher:   London: Routledge, 2000. Reviewer:   Josh Sweeden, Ph.D. student in Practical Theology Steve Long provides a compelling argument of how economics ordered by theo-logic has been replaced by a fact-value distinction apparent in modern traditions beginning with Weber.  Long develops his argument by comparing and contrasting three economic traditions: The dominant, the emergent, and the residual. The dominant tradition, which is most indebted to a Weberian strategy, is premised upon the analogia libertatis and therefore purports an economic structure (capitalism) which serves that end.  This tradition, seen clearly in the writings of Michael Novak, More

Craftsman, by Richard Sennett

October 3rd, 2013

Title:                     The Craftsman Author:                 Richard Sennett Publisher:           New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008 Reviewer:   Josh Sweeden, Ph.D. student in Practical Theology Primarily through a historical lens—though never neglecting philosophy, theology, economics, and politics—Richard Sennett explores the implications of craftsmanship, “an enduring, basic human impulse, the desire to do a job well for its own sake” (9). Sennett finds this to be an Enlightenment belief, “that everyone possesses the ability to do good work of some kind” and “that there is an intelligent craftsman in most of us” (11). He states his two main theses in the prologue, both of which, I believe, are... More

Church, World, and the Christian Life: Practical-Prophetic Ecclesiology, by Nicholas Healy

October 3rd, 2013

Title:      Church, World, and the Christian Life: Practical-Prophetic Ecclesiology Author:    Nicholas Healy Publisher:  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Reviewer:   Nell Becker Sweeden, Ph.D. student in Practical Theology In Church, World, and the Christian Life, Nicholas Healey offers a practical-prophetic ecclesiology that engages a theodramatic approach in actively addressing the concrete, everyday reality of the church within the world. Healey specifically challenges a modern blueprint or epic ecclesiological approach because it offers a reductively abstract and theoretical view of the church (38). Acknowledging the work of Avery Dulles, Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, John Zizioulas, Jean-Marie Tillard etc. in understanding the church as Body of Christ, More

Chasing the Wild Goose: The Story of the Iona Community, by Ronald Ferguson

October 3rd, 2013

Title:   Chasing the Wild Goose: The Story of the Iona Community Author:  Ronald Ferguson Publisher:   Glasgow, UK: Wild Goose Publications, 1998. Reviewer:   Josh Sweeden, Ph.D. student in Practical Theology Ronald Ferguson, leader of the Iona Community from 1982 to 1989, presents the Iona Community’s story through the image of the wild goose (the Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit).  The Iona Community has a long history, beginning with Columba who left Ireland for Scotland and was content to come ashore at Iona where “Ireland could not be seen.” Columba established the first community on the island and its Celtic spirituality was only invigorated over... More

Catholic Worker after Dorothy, by Dan McKanan

October 3rd, 2013

Title:             The Catholic Worker after Dorothy: Practicing the Works of Mercy in a New Generation Author:       Dan McKanan Publisher:  Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2008 Reviewed by:   Josh Sweeden, Ph.D. Student in Practical Theology This text serves as the culmination of Dan McKanan’s eight years of research on The Catholic Worker Movement and its communities. In the Acknowledgments McKanan states that the basis for this text was to make use of material previously developed for Touching the World, his book published in 2007 on Christian communities and transformation (225). Readers might expect this text, therefore, to seem contrived and dispassionate, as if what is being... More

Caminemos con Jesus, by Roberto S. Goizueta

October 3rd, 2013

Title:   Caminemos con Jesus: Toward a Hispanic/Latino Theology of Accompaniment Author:  Roberto S. Goizueta Publisher:   Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 2003 Reviewer:   Nell Becker Sweeden, Ph.D. student in Practical Theology In Caminemos con Jesús, Roberto Goizueta offers the U.S. Hispanic popular Catholicism as a lens through which to engage theological aesthetics, anthropology, and rationality. Goizueta works toward a theological and cultural pluralism founded in a preferential option for the faith of the poor through the process of acompañamiento. Central to his exploration is U.S. Hispanic popular Catholicism as a particular socio-historical context through which Catholic Latinos and Latinas do their theology. This theology is set... More

After Virtue, by Alasdair MacIntyre

October 3rd, 2013

Title:      After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theology, 2nd Edition Author:    Alasdair MacIntyre Publisher:  Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984 Reviewer:   Nell Becker Sweeden, Ph.D. student in Practical Theology In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre takes to the task of exposing modern liberal societies, born out of Enlightenment individualism, as morally vacuous. Their moral lack arises as a result of a society’s denial or neglect of its own narrative history and the impetus to fragment persons from their historical narrative and community for the perpetuation of the individualist modern myth. MacIntyre looks to the Aristotelian virtue tradition as one in which virtue remains encompassed... More