Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Silence and Beauty: A Review

Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of SufferingSilence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering by Makoto Fujimura
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the sort of book that I hope begins to dominate Christian publishing. In the Bible Belt Christendom in which I was born and in which so much Christian publishing occurs, the arts are neglected, if not demonized. Tough topics are skirted, ignored, or answered with trite truisms and a call to blind faith. Differing voices are ostracized out of fear that differences will lead to divisions, or possibly reduce them. Fujimura does not succumb to any of these pitfalls (of course, it would be difficult to ping him as a Bible Belt Christian) and engages tough topics of culture, art, and the universal human experience through the lens of Endo's masterpiece novel, "Silence." And he does so in a manner that is clear and gracious. In addition to that, he does so in a manner that is beyond insightful. "Silence and Beauty" is literary and cultural commentary that does not settle for...it just does not settle. This book excels in every area and deserves to be read widely.

I cannot express how greatly I enjoyed this work. If you want to glean significant insight on a novel of great impact (and even greater now as a Scorsese film) as well as the universal issues addressed within, "Silence and Beauty" is the place to go.

Review copy.

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Faulkner’s Language of Loss in Absalom, Absalom!

Faulkner’s Language of Loss in Absalom, Absalom!
Absalom, Absalom! is a work that, in many ways, defies all conventional wisdom. The syntax is torturous; the narrative is disorienting and narrators utterly obtuse, and the story at the heart of the novel is rather simplistic. However, many critics wholeheartedly endorse William Faulkner’s 1936 novel as the greatest of his works, the greatest work of twentieth-century American Modernism, or even the “great American novel.” Any reader who takes the time and makes the, at times immense, effort to decipher the language and the narrative undoubtedly will find him or herself if not agreeing at least sympathetic to those now not-so-hyperbolic claims. Absalom, Absalom! is a novel that speaks to the heart of the reader. The unreliable narrators merely mirror the manner in which personal involvement, or lack thereof, shades recollection. The simplistic narrative only heightens the awareness that people are people and the common experience of fallible and often depraved humanity is simply that—common. Faulkner’s enigmatic syntax and non-standard diction (undiction, even) obscure the meaning of the text, but it does so in a manner that drives the reader below the surface and, in doing so, actually illuminates the real meaning of his work. In particular, Faulkner utilizes specific, language-based techniques to help the reader sympathize for and empathize with his characters and the narrative as a whole. By recognizing the role of language in communicating not only information but also experience, Faulker chooses to use unconventional linguistic choices to express the tangible, potential, and perpetual loss felt by the characters of Absalom, Absalom!, the Civil War South, and the South of Faulkner’s own time.

Adam and the Genome: A Review

Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic ScienceAdam and the Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic Science by Scot McKnight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight join together to provide an introductory examination of a topic that has become, and will only become more, critical as we scientifically progress as a people. The mapping of the human genome was a quantum leap for genetic science, and the repercussions reverberated far beyond laboratories and the hard sciences. With such a radical reorientation of how humans interpret the book of nature, it is only appropriate to consider the impact on how we interpret the book of God's special revelation. The need of a work like "Adam and the Genome" is undeniable, and McKnight and Venema are up to the task.

Venema spends the first half of the book examining genetic science and presenting a positive case for naturally guided human evolution. If you have been studying biology or genetics to any significant degree, there is nothing groundbreaking here. But it is a great summary of genetic science as it relates to evolution. Its greatest quality might be the manner in which Venema presents complex scientific data and theory so that it is accessible to any willing to put in the effort. More so, Venema presents the basis for the following section that investigates the epistemological and ontological implications of modern biology's greatest feat.

This is where McKnight jumps in. He is admittedly no scientist, but he is a theologian with significant insight and a manner of presentation saturated with grace. I significantly disagree with McKnight on a number of theological conclusions (denial of original sin being a big one!), but the manner in which he examines these issues in light of genetic science is profitable to emulate, whether the results mirror his conclusions or totally contradict them.

I have accused Dispensational theology of imposing itself with a hyper-literal reading that ignores the historical and culture context of the author and the text. I have been guilty of that myself in many ways with many Scriptural passages, and even if I remain unconvinced of the certainty of evolutionary theory, I am convinced of the necessity to remove as much as possible the cultural blinders that keep me from reading the Bible as it is intended to be read. if that is the totality of the impact this book has upon me, it will have been time well spent. But I have a feeling that its reverberations will be a bit more far-reaching.

ARC provided for review.

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