Editor’s Introduction: Book Review Issue 2022

[1] Our first review asks the timely question: How do we “bring Americans together to bridge the partisan divide and strengthen our democratic republic?”  In I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Courageously Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times, journalist Mónica Guzmán urges us to “harness our innate curiosity to break down the formidable walls that keep us confined within tribal silos.”  In his appreciative yet critical review, Joel Berman argues that curiosity also needs the careful art of Compassionate Listening. His review is grounded in his own rich experience using this methodology in Israel-Palestine and in the deep south of the United States. The review also recommends additional valuable resources and organizations that can aid us on this difficult but important journey.

[2] In Amending the Christian Story: The Natural Sciences as a Window into Grounded Faith and Sustainable Living, Ron Rude examines the role of Christian theology in promulgating an anthropocentric narrative that has harmed the Earth. Reviewer Adam White notes that Rude interweaves the natural sciences, personal memoir and constructive theology to reject the primacy of the human species within God’s story, offering an unflinching diagnosis of the impact of human sinfulness on the natural world. Rude invites readers into a Christian faith grounded in “an interconnected ecosystem created by God in which humans are not special, primary, or wise but are, with the rest of creation, tov (good).”

[3] Speaking to a culture with “an increasing number of ‘Nones’ and many who aver they are ‘spiritual but not religious,’” Thomas Cathcart draws on the Death-of-God theologians as he both challenges and retrieves resources from the Christian tradition to focus our love on the world around us, experiencing Christianity not as a set of doctrines, but “as something we live.”  There Is No God and Mary Is His Mother; Rediscovering Religionless Christianity is reviewed by Craig Nessan.

[4] Recommending a novel for your summer reading, Will Bergkamp reviews Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads. Members of a contemporary clergy family whose lives are entwined with the complex life of their church, grapple with problems that come from being “mortal, sexual, emotional beings.”  These characters bring to life theological and ethical considerations surrounding what it means to live, and act, in the ambiguity of daily life.  The entertaining plot and its characters reveal that “it is our keen sensitivity to time’s passing that raises the thoughts, actions, and difficulties on which ethics bears….Things matter and you only get to do them once….Ethical action becomes possible when we see the world anew.”

[5] Mary Farrell Bednarowski reviews a challenging new scholarly work by Demian Wheeler, Religion Within the Limits of History Alone: Pragmatic Historicism and the Future of Theology. Wheeler brings together historicism with American pragmatism to create a “bigger, pluralist, naturalistic historicism” that responds to the pressing religious questions of our day.  Primarily for academics, the text also speaks to anyone interested in the ever-evolving theological conversations about “authenticity, credibility, religious pluralism and ‘truth’ in contemporary religious thought and life.”  While Wheeler does not take on specific issues of social justice, he engages a theological worldview and model of God that moves us toward “ever-greater embodying of the Gospel values of love and justice.”




Nancy Arnison

Nancy Arnison is a lawyer, theologian and nonprofit executive and serves as the Book Review Editor for the Journal of Lutheran Ethics.