Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Book Review: A Faith And Culture Devotional

Kelly Munroe Kullberg and Lael Arrington want to stretch your brain. They want you to think broadly about the intersection between faith and the world in which we live. To that end, they've delivered the Faith and Culture Devotional: Daily Readings in Art, Science, and Life.

The premise is simple enough. Kelly and Lael have searched the archives of Christian thinking , and have pulled out writings of note, organizing them into seven different categories: Bible and Theology, History, Philosophy, Science, Literature, Arts, and Contemporary culture. These are then presented in the devotional, complete with questions for reflection and discussion, and biblical references to shed further light on the topic.

The devotional is set up up to last 15 weeks, with readings from a different category for each day of the week. Thus, on Monday you'll have a reading from Bible and Theology, on Tuesday a reading from History, on Wednesday you get Philosophy, etc.

The authors whose works are used rum the gamut of popular writers, scientists, theologians, pastors, professors, researchers, and musicians. Some are familiar, others are relatively obscure outside of their fields. You get best-selling author John Eldridge, you get Walter Kaiser, Professor of Old Testament at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, you get Hugh Ross, astronomer and astrophysicist, you get Guillermo Gonzalez, professor of physics at Grove City College, you get J.P. Moreland, professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, you get John Stott and Lee Strobel and Randy Alcorn and R.C. Sproul and Michael Card. You even get Covenanter Scot McKnight. And, just to be honest, you get a healthy dose of Kelly Kullberg and Lael Arrington, the editors of the devotional.

The topics range across a wide spectrum. Some of the daily titles include:
- Sex, intimacy, and worship
- The Bible and its Influence of Literary Arts
- DNA: The Beauty and Intelligence of the Designer
- The Strange Small World of Quantum Mechanics
- Jesus' Resurrection: When Truth Confronts our Worst Suffering
- The Secret Gospels
- The Small and the Big Gospel
- The Council of Nicaea: The Voice Beneath the Altar
- Ziegenbalg: India's First Missionary
- Belief, Knowledge, and Truth
- Moral and Ethical Relativism
- Theodicy
- The Periodic Table of the Elements
- Vincent Van Gogh and Seeing
- The Impressionists
- Postmodern Architecture
- U2
- Bob Dylan: Slow Train Coming
- Burning Man

Get the idea? There's something in here to stretch everybody.

The strength of this devotional is in that breadth - every day, you ought to be challenged with something new. Yet each topic is confined to a mere few pages, thus the reader isn't overwhelmed with reams of information on the topic - just enough to get you thinking. The editors have helpfully suggested scriptures that speak to the topic, thus tying everything back to the Word. The questions at the end of each day would be suitible for mulling over on your commute, or sitting in a small group and discussing into the night.

As to weaknesses? Some might point out that "devotional" usually means The Word - beginning with the Bible and moving outward, rather than beginning "out there" and then eventually getting around to scripture. If this book is meant to be primary material for time spent with God, I would have hoped the Scriptures led the discussion, rather than coming in at the very last moment. And, of course, in a book with as many sources as this, there are bound to be authors who the reader isn't going to enjoy. Scanning the list, I quickly found a few on who've been taken off my "people I want to read" list. The premise of this book is "Deep thinking by great minds." Quite often, I don't equate "best-selling Christian author" with "Great Mind." Perhaps the editors relied just a little too much on the shelves of the Christian bookstore for their ideas.

But. . .I plan on continuing to work my way through this book, and would gladly recommend it to anybody and everybody looking for some new spice to throw into the stew. If your reading list has become a little one-dimensional, if your intellectual life has grown stagnant, then please, do pick up A Faith and Culture Devotional and allow your mind and soul to be stretched anew.

1 comment:

Lael said...

Thanks for the review Dan. Good comments all. There was much discussion over whether to call it a Daily Reader. First and second working titles didn't use the term. Final one did. Actually Kelly and I drew mostly from relationships--people we know or have worked with. The power of the network. Interesting music, books and life on your blog. Thanks for letting us be a part.