Book Reviews

Review of The HTML of Cruciform Love: Toward a Theology of the Internet edited by John Frederick and Eric Lewellen

Frederick, John and Eric Lewellen, eds. The HTML of Cruciform Love: Toward a Theology of the Internet. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2019, pp. 208, $26, paperback. This edited volume saw the beginning of its formation at the second “Ecclesia and Ethics” conference in 2014 on the topic of gospel community and virtual existence. The conference was a webinar style conference that was sponsored by Corban University and the University of St. Andrews. Six further articles were also written to supplement the papers chosen from the original conference leading to the present volume published by Pickwick. Co-editor John Fredrick is a lecturer in New Testament at Trinity College Queensland. His other works focus on the way of the cross and cruciform love including Worship in the Way of the Cross and The Ethics of the Enactment and Reception of Cruciform Love. The second co-editor, Eric Lewellen, is an account manager at Vercross LLC, an online education systems technology company. Both editors participated in the second Ecclesia and Ethics conference and collaborated to edit this volume. The articles contained in this volume focus on a theology of the internet from a variety of perspectives. Some take a primarily biblical approach such as…

Review of Whence and Whither: On Lives and Living by Thomas Lynch

Lynch, Thomas. Whence and Whither: On Lives and Living. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2019, pp. 248, $18, paperback. Thomas Lynch is a funeral director, critically acclaimed poet, essayist, and the author of five collections of poems and four books of essays. His notable work titled, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade (1997), won the Heartland Prize for non-fiction, the American Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Widely considered one of the most skilled writers and thinkers on death and the meaning of living, Lynch’s work has appeared in several internationally influential publications, including the New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times, and the Paris Review, among others. Lynch is also a frequent guest poetry reader, keynote speaker on the topics of the last things, the life of faith, and medical ethics, in venues all over the English-speaking world, as well as a guest lecturer in universities, churches, institutes, and libraries. In the preface to Whence and Whither, Lynch presents the overall premise of the book, which also stands as the common human predicament—“every human whoever was or is or will be will wrestle with these mysteries: the beauty of our being and…

Review of Maurice Blondel: Transforming Catholic Tradition by Robert Koerpel

Koerpel, Robert. Maurice Blondel: Transforming Catholic Tradition. South Bend, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2018, pp.278, $55.00, hardback.  In the introduction to his book, Robert Koerpel insightfully observes that it is a “paradox of history that Blondel has become one of the most influential, least well-known, and consistently misunderstood figures in Catholicism” (p. 2). Indeed, Blondel’s philosophy of action, which led to accusations of immanentism as well as naturalism, nevertheless infiltrated French theology to such an extent that twentieth-century French debates over the relationship between nature and the supernatural are inconceivable apart from his philosophy. Koerpel’s focus, however, is to revisit a different area of Blondel’s influence—his idea of tradition, which Blondel developed at the height of the Modernist Controversy. During this time Blondel’s orthodoxy was questioned within circles of ecclesial influence. Blondel’s essay, History and Dogma (1904), emerged out of the controversy, and yet took hold in the French theological imaginary in a way that extended far beyond that particular debate with Alfred Loisy. As Koerpel notes, key Catholic figures such as Jean Daniélou, Yves Congar, Marie-Dominique Chenu, Edward Schillebeeckx, Karl Rahner, and Henri de Lubac all sought to recover a deeper sense of the meaning of tradition, and to…

Review of The Extravagance of Music by David Brown and Gavin Hopps
Book Reviews , Christianity & Culture , Theology / February 10, 2020

Brown, David and Gavin Hopps. The Extravagance of Music. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan, 2018, 352 pages, $89.99, Hardcover. David Brown is an Anglican Priest, Emeritus Professor of Theology, Aesthetics and Culture, and Wardlaw Professor at the University of St Andrews. His work explores the relationship between theology and philosophy, and most recently, the interactions between theology and the arts. Gavin Hopps is Senior Lecturer in Literature and Theology, and Director for the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA) at the University of St Andrews. His research focuses on theology and the arts, with particular interests in Romantic literature and contemporary popular music. The Extravagance of Music presents an optimistic and generous understanding of music’s potential to allow for divine encounter. At the heart of the book is the notion that music is inherently “extravagant”—a term that Brown and Hopps root in its medieval origins, extrā vagārī, meaning to stray outside boundaries or to go beyond limits. This “generous excess” that music provides can potentially mediate our experiences of a similarly generous, extravagant God. The study challenges previous well-chartered but significantly more constrained conceptions of the theological possibilities of music. These have tended to focus on certain styles, or…

Review of God & the Gothic: Religion, Romance, and Reality in the English Literary Tradition by Alison Milbank
Book Reviews , Christianity & Culture , Theology / December 17, 2019

Milbank, Alison. God & the Gothic: Religion, Romance, and Reality in the English Literary Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2018, pp. 354, hardback. $44.35. Although traditionally seen as a marginal form within the wider world of English literature, the Gothic novel has become increasingly popular with both academic researchers and students since at least the 1970s. Lending itself to a diversity of theoretical and critical approaches, from the psychoanalytic to the Marxist, the Gothic novel has spawned a host of academic monographs and a thriving field of Gothic studies. That said, a surprisingly small amount of attention has been given to the theological and religious elements within this kind of writing—an oversight which stems from both literary studies lack of comfort with the theological and the reticence of theology to take seriously the heterodox and heretical Gothic. Happily, this lacuna has started to be corrected, with increased scholarly attention being given to the intersection of theology and Gothic writing. Into this area, Alison Milbank, associate professor of theology and literature at the University of Nottingham, has produced what will be the landmark text for years to come and an indispensable guide for both students of the Gothic and researchers of…

Review of Science and Secularism-Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology by J. P. Moreland

Moreland, J. P. Science and Secularism – Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology.  Wheaton, IL: Crossway 2018, pp. 222, $16.99, paperback. J. P. Moreland is a household name within contemporary Christian philosophy of religion, and has been one of the most important apologists for the last thirty years, particularly in terms of supporting Christianity’s compatibility with reason and natural science. This task has by necessity opposed Moreland to scientism, yet this present work is his first explicit, critical engagement with the position, building upon three decades of philosophical practice. Moreland’s Scientism and Secularism is a well-timed work which purports to dissect and criticize scientism as an ideology central to the contemporary secular West. In providing a thorough critique of scientism as an epistemological position, it also provides us with an accessible summary of the basic project of Christian apologetics as it has taken form within the framework of modern analytical philosophy, as well as an important defence of first philosophy, particularly of the epistemic primacy of philosophy in relation to the empirical sciences. The book is intended to be accessible to the interested layman, yet without unduly watering down the case being made. The work’s approachability lies both in the…

Review of Common Ground: Talking about Gun Violence in America by Donald V. Gaffney

Gaffney, Donald V. Common Ground: Talking About Gun Violence in America. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018. pp. 160, $15, paperback. Donald Gaffney is a Disciples of Christ minister and alumnus of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since the massacre in 2012, Gaffney has been invested in conversations surrounding gun violence, including through support of the Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization founded and led largely by family members connected to the Sandy Hook shooting with the goal of decreasing gun violence. As the title would suggest, Gaffney attempts to address the topic of gun violence through a call for self-reflection, mutual understanding, and productive conversation rather than through explicit advocacy for a singular political agenda.            Common Ground contributes a unique voice to the politically heated topic of gun violence as it provides regular opportunity for the reader to reflect on forces which often undergird espoused positions. In the first two chapters, Gaffney focuses on how perspectives on gun violence have evolved, first through individual narratives and then in the broader narrative of American culture. He focuses on the narratives of Suzanna Hupp and Gabrielle Giffords, both of whom suffered from gun violence, yet arrived at differing positions as to…

Review of Art as Spiritual Perception: Essays in Honor of E. John Walford edited by James Romaine

Romaine, James, ed. Art as Spiritual Perception: Essays in Honor of E. John Walford. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012, pp. 288, $40, hardback. E. John Walford is an important figure in the engagement of Protestant evangelical theology with art historical studies. His interest in this relationship has been fuelled by a dual concern with the relative paucity of religious voices in the literature of art history and criticism, not least in scholarly readings of seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting, and the related issue of the spiritual substance of artworks. These concerns reflect aspects of his own life journey as an art lover who converted to Christianity in his twenties and as a former student of the late art historian Hans Rookmaaker at the Free University (Vrije Universiteit) of Amsterdam. These interests, and the various ways they have been expressed in Walford’s career—not merely in publications (most notably Jacob van Ruisdael and the Perception of Landscape and Great Themes in Art), but also in teaching art history courses in Amsterdam and at Wheaton College, Illinois—are highlighted in this Festschrift’s Forward entitled “Mentoring Eyes” by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker, daughter of Hans Rookmaaker. She shows, in what is a fittingly generous and clearly personal tribute (Hengelaar-Rookmaaker…

Review of The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York, NY: Sentinel, 2017, pp. 304, $17, paperback. Rod Dreher is a popular Christian author and blogger and is senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written several books: Cruchy Cons (2006), The Little Way of Ruthie Leming (2013), and How Dante Can Save Your Life (2015). His most recent book, The Benedict Option, is a bestseller and has prompted discussions in churches and small groups around the world. In The Benedict Option, Dreher announces that conservative Christians have lost the culture war and that a new dark age is approaching. According to Dreher, the Waterloo of Christian conservatism was the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges (p. 9), and the enemies are several: secularism (9), moral therapeutic deism (the belief that God just wants us to be happy, pp. 10-11), and consumerism (p. 11). In response, Dreher calls Christians to withdraw strategically and form communities modeled after the sixth-century monastic, Saint Benedict, who, in order to preserve Christian culture and values safe from the cultural demise following the fall of Rome, started a monastic community at Monte…