He asked some great questions and I really enjoyed the exploration of how ministry to ex-Muslims overlaps in some important ways with ministry to people in late modern, post-Christian (post-secular?) societies.
First, I admit I’m approaching this book as a scholar of religion and theology.
L’Engle has taken a very obscure little chunk of the biblical book of Genesis—the first book in the Bible—and has filled these verses (6:1–8) in with imagination and fantasy.
The main characters of this book are Sandy and Dennys, who are transported back to the time of the Noah and his family. They are surrounded by seraphim (good angels) and nephalim (angels who have rejected El, which is the Hebrew word for ‘God’) and friendly mammoths and vanishing unicorns.
But I hesitate to call the book ‘Christian fiction’, because while its author was a devout Episcopalian Christian, there’s nothing preachy about the book at all. The first time I read it was when I was…maybe nine? That was before I knew anything at all about Christianity, having been raised in a pagan family. I don’t remembering being turned off at that time. Here I am three decades later, an Anglican priest, and it was still not preachy—like that time when one of the twins says that if El would let one of their friends die in the flood, then he did not like El much.
The choice of the two main characters is also a strength. After the first three books I was a bit tired of Meg with her mousy brown hair and drama and Charles Wallace with his enormous intellect and inability to connect to regular people. Sandy and Dennys are smart but practical, they get human interactions in a way their siblings do not.
So read the book and enjoy that the author can step out of her previous pathways. Enjoy her use of of other characters. Enjoy that this book is much more settled in one place and time than the previous three books.
It’s always interesting to read reviews of books one helped write. In his 2018 review of Arab Evangelicals in Israel, co-authored with Azar Ajaj and Phil Sumpter, Daniel Hummel concludes with these words:
Undoubtedly, one accomplishment of Arab Evangelicals in Israel is bringing to the fore a community that most Americans and Europeans—including many scholars—are unacquainted with. Their small numbers and marginal social posi- tion notwithstanding, Arab evangelicals sit at the intersection of numerous fault lines in Middle Eastern and Israeli-Palestinian history. Arab Evangelicals in Isra- el offers a sympathetic introduction to this community that awaits more sustained and thorough treatment.
This review was published in the journal Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations (13:1). Read the PDF right here.
Jeff Morton has recently reviewed my book Two Stories of Everything (Credo House, 2018) for the Journal of Global Christianity.
Here is one section:
Miller’s presentation of Islam’s story is spot on. He oﬀers us a conservative, orthodox, Sunni version of Islam; since this would include the majority of Muslims, it is a wise choice. The heartbeat of each of the two metanarratives, as he sees it, is anthropology. I think this will surprise most readers. Why? One might suppose the doctrine of God is the essential and deﬁning doctrine of any religion. Yet Miller takes an approach that is anthropocentric. It is each religion’s view of human beings that directs the story, he claims. God may have initiated the story, but the object of divine action is humankind – essentially true for both Christianity and Islam. Let the reader not be surprised; I am conﬁdent Miller will win you over in the end…
I’m glad to share with you all this recent review of my book Two Stories of Everything: The Competing Metanarratives of Christianity (Credo House, 2018) over at the website Biblical Missiology. Here is a segment:
Miller’s book is not a polemic against Islam, though he begins the book by clearly stating his Christian conviction. He concludes this helpful book as follows: “It is obvious that I find the Christian metanarrative to be more fulfilling, consistent and beautiful, not just because it tells the truth about God, but because it allows for us to make sense of ourselves—our great capacity for good living side by side with our great capacity for evil. In the case that a Muslim has read this book, I extend to you an invitation to be reconciled to your Creator, but according to the path Jesus son of Mary presented to us, and to acknowledge that commitment by public baptism at a local congregation of his disciples” (p. 137).
Miller’s approach helps students of both Islam and Christianity arrive at a realistic comparison. He gives an accurate and even-handed picture of the two faiths and their respective communities. For all these reasons, I highly recommend Two Stories of Everything to both the casual reader and the specialist.
On of my favorite online journals is Global Missiology. I have published reviews and articles for the publication over the years, both in English and Spanish.
I am glad to share that Dr. Don Warrington of the University of Tennessee has recently reviewed the book for that journal.
Here is part of the review:
Miller’s narrative is crisp, clear, informative, sweeping, thoughtful, and to the point. He is able to include many details on the specific beliefs and practices both of Christianity and of Islam without getting bogged down in their internal variations (which are considerable.) It is hard to envision a better summary of the two faiths juxtaposed than this one. It is a valuable addition to the literature on the subject, and one hopes that it gets the dissemination that it well deserves.
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.
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.
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.
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.