2008 Reviews

A Journey from Folk Religion to Examined Faith Questions to All Your Answers: A Journey from Folk Religion to Examined Faith by Roger E. Olson

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Roger Olson is a theology professor at Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. In his book, Questions to All Your Answers he takes head on some of the most heard phrases uttered by christians. He breaks them apart and then thrusts questions back on the phrases.

Some of the better chapters in the book are called, “Jesus is the Answer – So What is the Question?”, “The Bible Has All the Answers – So What About Cloning?”, and “Money Isn’t Bad, Only What We Do With it – So Why Did Jesus Say it’s Hard for a Rich Man to Enter Heaven?”. These entries take you along for a entertaining, humorous but thought-provoking ride.

For instance, “Jesus is the Answer” – Olson believes that while not intending this result the preoccupation with WWJD has left many folk christians with a “Jesus Only” theology and have lost the Trinity. At it is at this point that he leans into Eastern Orthodox treasure and pulls out “Trinitarian Life.” That from them we can learn that, “…knowing and communing with Jesus is one dimension, however crucial, within a larger spirituality of being taken up into the life of the Trinity and enjoying the fellowship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (pg. 72-73). Of course one of the main problems with this slogan, Jesus is the Answer” is that most people aren’t even aware of any need that they have. People, according to Olson, need to know to what questions Jesus is the answer – so therefore we need to start with conversations about music, culture, goals, relationships, world problems – rather than just Jesus is the answer to your problems.

One irritating thing about Olson is that he seems to come from an Arminian point of view. Which is fine, but, he clearly takes jabs at non-Arminians (whether they be Calvinists or whomever). He says a lot of good things, but sometimes those things are drowned out by a constant need to elevate his viewpoint over his point.

It’s a good book, some parts were definitely better than others, but all in all a good one to pick up and read through and be challenged by regarding the phrases that christ-followers can easily throw around.

A Christian Call to Action Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action by J. Matthew Sleeth

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Dr. Sleeth does a great job of providing, in a lot of ways, an introductory book on the idea of Christian environmentalism (with a few other ideas added in). There were a number of places in the book, where I had that “a-ha” moment and am trying to implement some things he talked about. Not because they were necessarily new ideas to me, but he just had a great way of presenting them. The appendices in the back of the book are priceless and useful.

A couple of ideas bothered me, however. First, he talked about “going to heaven” as if that is the final destination place for the Christ-follower. I know I am being unfair to him but reading what I have been reading for the last couple of years (NT Wright, McKnight, and others) this just really bothered me.

Second, the first 90% of the book is great. The next 5% is hit and miss. In a couple of the last chapters of the books he deals with what seems to be more of his own soap box issues. Which would be fine, if he drilled home the point of how they related to taking care of God’s creation (he does somewhat, but not nearly as strongly as he could have)…but it was more of him talking about how he doesn’t like Santa Claus (for example). And the last 5% is wonderful as well.

Third, he was an emergency room director, who sold his big house and bought one that was the size of their former garage (at probably a very decent profit)…in other words, he and his family probably weren’t hurting for money when they made some big switches in their life. Most of us concerned about the environment just don’t have those resources so choices have to be made. I am not implying that all the choices they have made have cost them huge amounts of money (no clothes dryer, no high tech kitchen appliances)…but chances are good that they have not had to financially worry about some other choices that are good (or at least better) for the environment (like their car that gets 54 MPG). I would love to see a book written by someone who struggles with making payments like 90% of us tell their story about how they decided to make choices to better reflect their love of creation, what some of those choices looked like on a limited budget, and what choices they would like to make but just haven’t been able to at this point in their life.

Overall, a fine, engaging, wonderful book that once again recalls God’s love for His creation and therefore, our responsibility to what God has richly given to us.


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