Westmont Magazine Poet, Apologist, Novelist, Theologian
Christian Worship Worldwide: Expanding Horizons, Deepening Practices
The Testimony Project: Papua
Deiyai Press, 2007
Charles Farhadian, editor
Now that the majority of believers live in Africa, Asia and Central and South America, religious studies professor Charles Farhadian has edited a book of essays focusing on non-Western Christian worship. His goal is to help readers “appreciate the immense variety of expressions of Christian worship in order to take seriously the social and cultural context that plays such a significant part in worship.”
In addition to writing the introduction, “How Can We Map a New Geography of Global Worship?” Farhadian contributed a chapter, “Worship as Mission: The Personal and Social Ends of Papuan Worship in the Glory Hut.” The volume features biblical reflections, case studies and essays on practices that examine liturgies and interfaith comparisons.
Farhadian notes the openness of Christian worship, which adapts to specific cultural conditions and traditions. He also explores the relationship between local and worldwide worship practices. “The affirmation that Jesus Christ is both historically particular and universally accessible makes Christian worship unique among the world religions,” he says.
“The Testimony Project,” reflects the experience of a particular group of Christians, the Papuans who live in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. Beautifully illustrated with black-and-white photos, the text tells the stories of 12 believers, demonstrating “how faith has provided hope and courage in the midst of subjugation.” Farhadian sees the church as the only hope for peace in the divided country.
Broadview Editions, 2005
Cheri Larsen Hoeckley, editor
Writer and activist Anna Jameson wrote “Shakespeare’s Heroines” in 1832 to promote appropriate femininity for women and provide critical reflections on Shakespeare by focusing on his female characters. Cheri Larsen Hoeckley, an English professor, examines this unusual dual purpose in her introduction and highlights Jameson’s contribution to Victorian society.
Unlike other proponents of “domestic ideology,” Jameson believed the lack of intellectual training for women created shallowness and contributed to moral and emotional failings. Becoming thoughtful readers would expand women’s view of the world and, ultimately, their participation in it. Jameson believed women had an important contribution to make in the public sphere, and Shakespeare’s female characters provided provocative models for assuming more complex social and economic roles. Jameson herself, by openly engaging the ideas of male critics and scholars, put her ideas into practice.
The Color of Light: Poems on Van Gogh’s Late Paintings
The Light at the Edge
Fithian Press, 2006
Marilyn McEntyre, poet
In her third volume of poems reflecting on the work of Dutch artists, English professor Marilyn McEntyre explores the spiritual meaning of Van Gogh’s great paintings. Noting that his work is “relational, even confrontational,” she responds to the light — and the sorrow — in the familiar works. With his brush, Van Gogh captured a peculiar view of the world that invites viewers to look deeper and see differently. Through her pen, McEntyre takes readers a step further to ponder both words and strokes. Together, painting and poem provide a rich, evocative experience of paintings such as “The Starry Night,” “Irises” and “Wheatfield with Crows.”
About “The Olive Trees,” she writes,
“God, who burned in bush and pillar,
watches still from behind a veil of fire,
burns away, and scatters in harsh
and unavoidable blessing. Under its heat
the small fruit grow, are plucked and brought
to vinegar and salt. Immolation
brings forth. Taste and see.”
In “Light at the Edge,” McEntyre finds joy in the ordinary things of life such as a quiet evening at home, a walk on the beach and a church service. She celebrates visits to Florence, Orkney Island and the Netherlands. She serenades her husband with love poems. Then the tone of the poetry changes. In a section she calls “Loving the Enemy,” she expresses anguish at the loss of life as the war in Iraq progresses. While she never loses a sense of grace, she refuses to diminish the pain associated with warfare.
Guardian of the Veil
Howard Books, 2007
Greg Spencer, novelist
This sequel to “The Welkening” continues the adventures of four teenagers who find themselves pulled between two dimensions: their home in Oregon and the fantastical land of Welken. Unable to control or anticipate the sudden comings and goings, the friends begin to realize the two worlds are more connected than they thought. They also find that the powers they originally enjoyed in Welken have diminished — until they solve the puzzle that reveals unimagined abilities. The second volume delves deeper into family histories as the teens struggle with difficult and disappointing relationships; most readers will relate to one or more of these poignant stories. As in his earlier novel, Greg Spencer weaves in Christian themes such as forgiveness and transformation. By depicting a reality beyond the natural world and the challenging, chaotic path required to reach it, the communication studies professor provides intriguing allusions to the Christian life.
Baker Academic, 2006
Jim Taylor, author
As a college student, Jim Taylor suffered a crisis of faith, and he kept that experience in mind when writing his textbook on apologetics. While the philosophy professor agrees with Augustine and Anselm in giving faith priority over reason, he also thinks it’s reasonable to believe in Christianity. Describing himself as a “responsible fideist,” he pursues a balance between overemphasizing faith and overemphasizing reason. In the book, he presents strategies for “watering” (providing arguments and evidence for the truth of Christianity) and “weeding” (constructing a case against criticisms of the faith). He also addresses issues relevant to his students: challenges to Christian commitment based on science and on postmodernism. Ultimately, he sees apologetics as a cooperative art. “The evangelist preaches the gospel, the apologist defends it, but it is God who enables it to take root in a human soul and to yield the fruit of confident Christian commitment.”
Ain’t Too Proud to Beg: Living Through the Lord’s Prayer
Telford Work, author
Theologian Telford Work has written something more contemporary and personal than a simple treatise on the Lord’s Prayer. Drawing on current events and his own reflections and doubts, he literally prays his way through the familiar passage, exploring it phrase by phrase. He begins by confessing his own failure to develop a robust life of prayer. To address this problem, he began to pray thoughtfully and theologically, and the book grew out of his experience. He describes each of his chapters as experimental essays expressing a “prayerful theology” that is “theology on the way rather than theology on arrival.” His goal is to learn a way of life, a task he admits is never finished. “Prayer takes practice,” he says. “Following Jesus is both harder and easier than anyone expects at the outset. Fatigue, frustration and disatisfaction are to be expected, if not celebrated. They show we have room to grow.”