Willa Cather’s *Death Comes for the Archbishop*

Death Comes for the ArchbishopDeath Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Enchanting, profound, elegiac, epic, beautiful. As a man with a PhD in Divinity and professor at a seminary I will tell you that the missiology and anthropology of religion in this book is penetrating and deep. As a priest and pastor I found it incredibly moving, sometimes to the point of tears.

Anyone interested in the history of the West of the USA or missiology should read this book or listen to the audio version.

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Humanity, Robots, Empire and Asimov

Robots and Empire (Robot #4)Robots and Empire by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a hard book to find here in Madrid. Neither of my two (American) library systems had it as an eBook or mp3 audio book. That was odd when the Elijah Bailey (Robot) series and Foundation series are easy to find.

This is an enormously ambitious book. It is much more than meets the eye. In this book the author is trying to marry two distinct and quite different universes into one. For people who know the universe of Caves of Steel and Foundation this is the uniter, this is the book that explains how R. Daneel Olivaw can appear in certain of the Foundation books and the pre-history of psychohistory.

But Asimov’s other concerns are quite interesting and relevant and even prescient, one might say. What happens with the Spacers who are all very comfortable and really have no need for self-betterment at this point? Nor do they have any need for fanciful things like procreation. The robot economy will do everything they need for them. Well, it’s not quite Brave New World, but it’s getting there. (The big difference is that Spacers are somehow immune to vices like drugs and alcohol. How can they resist these temptations? Asimov has no answer because his philosophical anthropology is in the end deficient.)

And the Settlers who all hail from earth: they remain stuck in a sort of nativism in relation to earth. Ergo, earth must be depopulated, but not too fast. (Again, this explains why no one knew were earth was in a much later book.) Is this Asimov’s humanistic effort of people to get past nationalism? If it is it doesn’t sound preachy or condescending as do so many authors when they try to address contemporary political issues. (Yes, Hunger Games and Divergent, I’m grocking you. Oh, and of course the infamous book The Martian by Heinlein.)

As to characters, D.G. and Gladia are amusing, but Daneel and Giskard are by far the most interesting characters.

If you really want to appreciate this book read the Elijah Bailey (Robot) books, then all the Foundation books, and then, finally, this one.

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Islam, Worldview, and the Deep Questions of Life

Authentic religious conversations challenge worldviews. They must. But for a conversation to be authentic and have the capacity of causing a person to examine their worldview you must first earn trust and respect. That is why personal relationships characterized by honesty and compassion are indispensable. Within those relationships one can then pose questions that will help your Muslim friend to scrutinize her worldview.

Read the rest of the post at Covenant, blog of The Living Church.

Entrevista para *Escritorio Anglicano*

Hace poco me entrevistó Darren Lorente-Bull, editor de Escritorio Anglicano. Hablamos sobre mi libro nuevo Two Stories of Everything, Cristianismo, Anglicanismo, Islam y el futuro de Europa. Aquí hay una de las preguntas:

Mientras que Jesús predica la pobreza y un reino que ‘no es de este mundo’ el profeta Mahoma se convierte en un hombre de estado. ¿Que podrías decirnos al respecto teniendo en cuenta que la iglesia ha estado envuelta en escándalos de poder y riqueza durante su historia?

La iglesia siempre ha mantenido algún tipo de división entre el poder eclesiástico y el poder civil. En la edad media era una división entre los clérigos y la realeza. De vez en cuando uno podía encontrar en duque-obispo, pero por lo general ha habido una división de alguna forma entre los dos mundos. Esto viene de nuestro fundador, quien dijo que su reino no era de este mundo, y quien reconoció una diferencia entre cesar y Dios. Cuando hemos departido de este sendero original, la iglesia ha comenzado a morir. Por ejemplo, hace años intentamos a copiar a los musulmanes con su guerra santa. Estoy hablando de las llamadas cruzadas. Después de unos pocos siglos reconocimos que era una desviación drástica del sendero original de Jesús, y lo dejamos. Eso nunca ha sucedido en el Islam y nunca podrá suceder, como explico en el libro. Como dijo el Ayatolá Jomeini, “O el Islam es política, o no es Islam.”

Lee toda la entrevista aquí.

Conociendo y Alcanzando a los Musulmanes, seis charlas

Los dias 28 a 30 de Mayo tuve el privilegio de presentar seis charlas sobre el tema “Conociendo y Alcanzando a los Musulmanes” en la Facultad de Teología UEBE en Alcobendas, Comunidad de Madrid.

Aquí está el audio de cada charla:

  1. El Islam y el Cristianismo
  2. Jesús en el Qur’an
  3. La Vida de Mahoma
  4. La Conversión del Islam as Cristianismo
  5. Cuidado Pastoral para los Conversos I
  6. Cuidado Pastoral para los Conversos II

Y algunos de los PowerPoint:

  1. Jesús en el Qur’an
  2. La Vida de Mahoma
  3. Conversión
  4. Cuidado Pastoral

Espero que os sea de ayuda!

Review of *Station Eleven*

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have tried to read (or listen to) every end of the world, apocalypse book I can get my hands on. I was excited then to hear about a new addition to this genre. Unlike many other books in this genre this one ends up on a slightly hopeful note. These books usually focus a lot on technology and getting things working again, or simply letting them die out as people return to a state of more primitive life (like my favorite book of the genre, Earth Abides).

Station Eleven is not only an end-of-the-world book though. It is an exploration of art, fame, family and relationships. Because of this the book has a depth to the personal relationships that is not common for books in this genre.

I will say that I thought the idea of a traveling art caravan with actors and musicians in the post-apocalypse was, well, a bit romantic and naive. I am also pretty sure that as the smothering arms of mother State die out that people will return to what is natural to humans–an awareness of the centrality of religion and a reliance on God. Mandel’s people are unrealistic in this way, though, as they seem happy to continue with their secular humanist worldview–a highly artificial and unnatural way to live, and one which is completely dependent on the welfare state for its existence.

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Review of “Unexpected Grace” by Farifteh Robb

Unexpected Grace: A Life in Two WorldsUnexpected Grace: A Life in Two Worlds by Farifteh V Robb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some years ago while completing my research for a PhD I interviewed Farifteh Robb. That led to the publication of a brief article titled “The Secret World of God: Aesthetics, Relationships, and the conversion of ‘Frances’ from Shi’a Islam to Christianity” in Global Missiology. At that time Robb was not discussing her history publicly, but I’m glad that she decided to do so.

This books brings a welcome contribution to the growing literature by converts from Islam to Christianity. Robb’s strong background in literature allows her to reference great authors and work in a way that other converts cannot. The fact that she ended up in Anglican Christianity as opposed to evangelical or charismatic Christianity is also rare for such conversion narratives. My favorite thing about the book was reading her personal recollections of what life was like in Tehran before, during and after the 1979 revolution.

Finally, the author has a light and witty style. Her sense of humor is much appreciated.

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