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Quick Reads for April & May 2017

May 2, 2017 by

Here are our recommendations for April and May:

Trevin Wax - This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel

I read this book shortly after reading Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option. I’m not sure it was intended as such, but it read as a striking counter-solution to some common problems both Dreher and Wax recognize in Western culture: immersive technology, pervasive materialism, familial breakdown, rampant sexual immorality. If Dreher’s gist is “This is no longer our time; our faith is under attack and we must regroup to rebuild in a place where we can do so without undue pressures,” then Wax retorts with “No: more than ever, it is our time. . . to be bold, to be faithful, and to be hopeful wherever we are.” OK, the differences are probably not quite so black and white, but Wax is a generation younger than Dreher, and his tone in addressing the same problems is certainly more breezily millennial, and perhaps more optimistically convincing for a certain kind of reader. His chapter on marriage is probably the best in the book, but I was also partial to the section in which he quoted liberally and relevantly from the early Christian letter to Diognetus (which features in Eberhard Arnold’s collection of early church writings.) I’d love to watch a discussion between Dreher and Wax; but until someone arranges that, why not grab both books and read them back-to-back?


a collage of the book covers


John Stott - Christian Mission in the Modern World

Every Christian should read this certifiable classic. Stott’s definitions of mission, evangelism, dialogue, salvation, and conversion are more important than ever, with so much of the Western world turning from Christianity. His chapters on mission and evangelism are especially crucial: we’d do well to heed his advice that they need not be distinct things we do at separates times. A life of discipleship must be exactly that: a full, holistic, encompassing life. (Stott quotes Samuel Escobar on this: “The primitive church . . . called the attention of men because of the qualitative differences of its life. The message was not only heard from them, it was also seen in the way they lived.”) When there is preaching or teaching to be done, we should preach or teach. But when there is feeding or building to be done, we must feed or build. And while acknowledging the biblically different roles that various churches and believers play in the body of Christ, Stott’s call is toward a glorious combination of social action and evangelism, listening and proclaiming, that leaves the final results – the salvation and conversion of souls – in God’s hands. (And another interesting Eberhard Arnold parallel surfaced in this book: Stott gives us the equation “repentance + faith = conversion” which echoes the title of a classic Arnold sermon, “Repentance, Conversion, and Faith.”)

Russell Rathbun - The Great Wall of China and the Salton Sea: Monuments, Missteps, and the Audacity of Ambition

Every book starts with an idea, and great books grow from great seeds. But not every great seed germinates quite properly. Rathbun has a good kernel here, as he tries to use man-made monuments – from the Tower of Babel through the two mentioned in the title – to make a point about how man proposes while God disposes, as Thomas a Kempis said. At least I think that’s his point – because the book is poorly edited, quite repetitive, and swathed in a garish pink dust jacket (yes, I perhaps let my judgment be clouded by this, but I’m not sorry) and I could not will myself to finish it. All that said, the ideas that I did manage to ingest are intriguing, and I’m sure a trip to hear Rathbun preach at House of Mercy in Saint Paul, Minnesota, (the aforementioned dust jacket claims it was once named the “best church for non-churchgoers”) would be fascinating.

Stephanie Saldaña - A Country Between: Making a Home Where Both Sides of Jerusalem Collide

In February this year, Stephanie handed my wife Tessy her new paperback, hot off the press. The exchange took place in the courtyard at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem, where we’ve been living for more than a year. It was an all-too-ordinary exchange of a book packed with extraordinary stories, and over the next few days Tessy would stop me repeatedly, and animatedly retell one of them. We felt like we were finally seeing Jerusalem’s Old City from a new perspective: the eyes of our neighbors. One story made a deep impression on both of us. In the early spring of 2007, Stephanie and her husband, Frédéric, had just moved into a second floor apartment with a balcony overlooking the comings and goings on Nablus Road, which marks the divide between Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods to the West and Muslim neighborhoods to the East. Metal barricades were being set up directly below their balcony; young Israeli soldiers had been given orders to stop all men under fifty years of age from entering the Damascus Gate on their way to pray at the Al Aqsa mosque, the holiest site for Muslims in Jerusalem. One man after another was turned back. But they did not leave the Nablus Road, and when the number of men swelled to more than two hundred, a frightening tension developed, and Stephanie feared the worst. Then a man from the detained crowd stepped confidently forward and began the call to prayer. Two hundred men slowly kneeled down on the dirty pavement, heads moving forward, arms stretching outwards towards the Al Aqsa mosque. In this attitude of submission to God there was an energy of peace directed from the praying men towards the soldiers who were preventing them from reaching their desired house of prayer. Out of respect, the soldiers lowered their machine guns to their sides and allowed the prayer to continue. Stephanie witnessed the soldiers’ response, and watched as the Muslim men finished their prayer, stood up and turned as one body, and walked silently back to their homes in East Jerusalem. She called it a holy moment. (I’ll be blogging more in a few weeks about our ongoing relationship with Stephanie and her family; until then, read her book.) John Henry Menz

Lee Strobel - The Case for Christ

Strobel’s back on our radar because his book was made into a film, released in early April. In his full review of the book, Arno Wright called it “engaging,” “impressive,” and “convincing,” and urged people to both read the book and watch the film.

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Red Zimmerman

Red Zimmerman

Red Zimmerman lives at the Woodcrest Bruderhof and is the editor of Bruderhof.com.

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  • Hi Red, The title of the first book is a spoiler for me. I find the recent use of the word "myth" as being something untrue to be contrary to the original and essential meaning of the word. Surely someone like Mr. Wax would be aware of that! I wonder if the publisher (B&H) came up with the title.

    Mark Anderson