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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Reviewing Andy Stanley’s *Deep and Wide*

Deep and WideDeep and Wide by Andy Stanley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My wife and I have been in full-time Christian ministry for some 14 years now. I presently serve as pastor at the Anglican cathedral in Madrid. My main work has not been as a congregation pastor, but I’ve done a lot of teaching at churches throughout the USA and other countries as well. I’ve had many, many opportunities to see what is working and what is not working. I’ve seen that in everything from home churches to megachurches. I’ve seen it across denominations: Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene, Pentecostal—you name it.

A ministry partner of mine bought this book for me and my wife, Sharon. We slowly read it together over two years or so. But we did read it. We just finished it last night.

I’m excited about this book. I want to recommend it to everyone in church leadership and especially for pastors. I want to recommend it to people from every single denomination. Yes, yes, he’s not sensitive to liturgical realities, I get it. But still there is so much to learn and apply from this book.

The author’s main goal is to tell you how to create a church that is welcoming to unchurched people. He gives you pointers on sermons, ministry, leadership, and basic nut and bolts things like welcoming people and music. There is a load of useful stuff in here. Also, his writing style is easygoing and very readable.

Pick it up. Read it. You won’t regret it.

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Revisiting Asimov’s *The Naked Sun*

The Naked Sun (Robot, #2)The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read this book when I was a teenager. It has aged very well. Asimov gives us a fascinating world in Solaris where people view each other often, but overall live in isolation, with hundreds of robots for each human. As an adult I found the ethical questions and anthropological questions particularly fascinating. For instance, how the Solarians raise their children, training them to live in solitude in spite of what seems like an ingrained human need for company and friends. And of course there is a murder mystery to solve. And robots. What’s not to like?

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My review of *Caves of Steel* by Isaac Asimov

The Caves of Steel (Robot #1)The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Returned to this book for a reread after decades away. I really enjoyed it, again. Jess is a bit melodramatic. Some things feel a bit out of place in the future, like Elijah’s penchant for smoking his pipe indoors. But overall the vision of a future in caves of steel, the distantly related spacers coming back to earth, and the development of a C-Fe society–they still feel fresh and like plausible insights into the future.

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Stephen Bedard reviews *Two Stories of Everything*

Stephen J. Bedard has an excellent blog, Hope’s Reason, and solid presence on Twitter (@sjbedard).

I’m happy to share with you his recent review of my book Two Stories of Everything: The Competing Metanarratives of Islam and ChristianityHere’s one section:

There are a number of things that I appreciated about Miller’s book. One is that it is both a good introduction to Islam and also a nice summary of the Christian metanarrative. I also liked Miller’s honest and humble perspective. In his conclusion, Miller says, “I hope that I am as critical of Christianity as I am of Islam, and I see the umma doing a number of things correctly that I don’t see the Church, by and large, doing correctly” (p. 134). Two Stories of Everything is not a polemic against Islam, even though Miller is transparent about his own Christian faith. In addition, each chapter includes reflection questions and there is a handy glossary at the end of the book.

Go to his blog to read the whole review.

Fred Farrokh’s review of *Two Stories of Everything*

Over at goodreads the Rev. Dr. Fred Farrokh has posted his review of Two Stories of Everything: The Competing Metanarratives of Islam and Christianity. Here it is:

How do people best learn? How, therefore, should we teach? Historically, Christians have emphasized communicating “propositional truths.” An example would be the famous tract, “The Four Spiritual Laws.” Now the pendulum has swung away from propositional truth teaching to “storytelling,” since much of the Global South communicates truth through stories, parables, humor, etc. Both paradigms can boast a biblical basis. Duane Miller encompasses and eclipses these paradigms by suggesting that the best way to understand and appreciate Islam and Christianity is through their respective “metanarratives.” I could not agree more.

Duane Miller has distilled hundreds of Bible, Qur’anic verses and Islamic hadith into coherent grand-narratives which feature similarities and differences. His experiences living in the United States, Europe and the Middle East provide abundant illustrations in an amazingly brief book. Dr. Miller gives the Church a “C” in fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission; he grades the Islamic “Umma” with a “D” for fulfilling its respective obligation of advancing the Islamic narrative. It is an even-handed treatment of the world’s two largest faiths and their communities. He handles many hot potato questions, such as “Is Islam a religion of peace? And, “what is the future of Christianity in the West?” Truly this book is an educational treasure.