Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review: Faith Seeking Understanding (Essays in Memory of Paul Brand and Ralph Winter)

I can only review 16/17 of this book in good conscience, because, after all, I wrote 1/17 of it (Chapter 16, "Trees of Life", to be precise). It was edited and assembled by David Marshall. And you probably won't believe anything I say about it after all. I'm not sure if you should, it's like reviewing your own book on Amazon. If this book was on Amazon. But I digress! If you can get past my own selfish-gene-like involvement here, I'd say this is a good collection of essays. Of course, I personally don't agree with everything here, but I agree with a lot of it, and the combination of viewpoints is synergistic. Like the Church itself. Overall it works.

These other 16 chapters are written by names I recognize: Philip Yancey, Earl Palmer, Rodney Stark, Alvin Plantinga, and Don Richardson. The names I didn't recognize are just as interesting. For example, I found the essay by Yuan Zhiming about faith in China to be fascinating. Historians, missionaries, scientists, and a philosopher, all sharing the perspective of faith and honoring the memory of Brand, Winter, and Anselm.

I would have liked there to be some more conversation among the authors, but I don't know how you do that in book form. I would like to press some of the comments others made about Islam that I think are too harsh, for example. And some more back and forth on the topic of evolution would have been interesting -- it's clear there's some disagreement there but I hope it's obvious that I consider there to be substantial agreement as well.

Because the focus of the conversation could be Anselm, Paul Brand, or Ralph Winter, there's a wide diversity of topics, but David Marshall's arrangement into four sections is helpful. Just realize that this is an anthology album, not a concept album (or a rock opera).

And my favorite part is that Philip Jenkins and Nicholas Wolterstorff -- two scholars whom I admire -- provided complementary blurbs for the back of the book. So I'll let their quotes be the review, and provide the obligatory link to buy the book straight from the publisher for the curious.

“What makes the collection especially fascinating tha valuable is the individuality and particularity of the stories–a concrete testimony to the fact that the Christian intellectual life takes many forms.” — Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University and senior research fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia
“David Marshall has gathered a really distinguished array of contributors, who have all thought deeply about faith in its global context, and the different essays work wonderfully together. The book makes a splendid memorial to two truly great individuals Paul Brand and Ralph Winter.” — Philip Jenkins, Emeritus Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Humanities, Pennsylvania State University

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