Sex, Science, and Shamrocks: Four Little Book Reviews

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

The great thing about blogging is that publishers send you lots of free books. The problem is that sometimes they send you so many, your office ends up looking like a scene from “Hoarders.” 

Well I finally got around to assembling reviews of some of my favorites. And since it's St. Patrick's Day, I figured that instead of stars, I'd give out shamrocks. Feel free to add your own mini-reviews in the comment section. I'd love to hear what YOU have been reading too.


Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire
by Jennifer Wright Knust
3 shamrocks 
I love the title and premise of this book, but was a little disappointed by the content. While Knust does a great job deconstructing our idealized notions that the Bible unilaterally supports the nuclear family, abstinence before marriage, and women’s equality, I think she takes some of her own conclusions a bit too far at times—for example, suggesting that David and Jonathan were definitely lovers. She also seems to go out of her way to pick on evangelical leaders, which is too bad because I really think evangelicals need to hear what she has to say, especially on page 10: “I’m tired of watching those who are supposed to care about the Bible reduce its stories and its teachings to slogans. The only way that the Bible can be regarded as straightforward and simple is if no one bothers to read it.” I fear that some of Knust’s better research (particularly on slavery and angels) will be dismissed, simply because she tends to overstate her case.  


One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow
by Scot McKnight
Zondervan (review copy)
4 shamrocks
Scot McKnight is above all things a great teacher, and his teaching skills shine in his latest book, One.Life. Positioned as Scot’s “manifesto” of the Christian faith, One.Life touches on everything from the gospel, to justice, to sex, to vocation, to heaven & hell—all held together by the centrality of Christ’s kingdom message. You can tell that Scot wrote this with college students in mind, so some readers may feel they’ve encountered this information before, perhaps in NT Wright or C.S. Lewis.  But I really liked the concrete, yet imaginative way in which Scot organized his thoughts in this book. (For example, his definition of kingdom on page 28 is “God’s dream for this world come true.”)  There’s a simplicity to it that makes it both challenging and accessible. Once again, Scot has become a trusted guide as I struggle through the messy process of reconstructing my faith. I am so very thankful for him


The Language of Science and Faith
by Karl Giberson & Francis Collins
IVP Books (advance review copy)
4 shamrocks
I think my endorsement on the inside flap of this fantastic book speaks for itself: “For too long, followers of Jesus have been told they have to make a choice—between science and Christianity, reason and believe, their intellectual integrity and their faith. The Language of Science and Faith is a readable and comprehensive resource for the thoughtful Christian who refuses to choose. Giberson and Collins tackle difficult topics with charity, accessibility, and integrity, moving the origins conversation forward in a way that honors  God and builds up the church. This is a must-read for those who want to love the Lord with their heart, soul, mind, and strength.”  I have a feeling I'll be recommending this book often. 


After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World is Shaken
by Kent Annan
IVP Books (advance review copy)
5 shamrocks!!!!
This is by far the best book I’ve read all year…maybe the best book I’ve read in two years. And in light of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it is more relevant and needed than ever. What I loved most about this book was the author dared to integrate humility, art, and even humor into the very tough questions he was asking in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake. My endorsement really doesn’t do this book justice: "Annan has put into words the questions many of us wrestle with in silence, and done so with such humanity and humility, it's impossible to walk away unchanged. This is a raw, beautiful and courageous book, brimming with truth on every page." (I wrote a more personal response to the book for the Patheos Book Club here.)  In a world in which pastors try to explain the unexplainable, we desperately need more people like Annan asking the right questions. 

Next Up: Half the Church by Carolyn Curtis James, Naked Spirituality by Brian McLaren, No Argument for God by John Wilkinson, and of course Love Wins by Rob Bell…that is, if I can find them in my office. 

So, what have you been reading lately? Feel free to post a mini-review…complete with a shamrock rating! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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