one another. That perspective highlights the
formative influence of Christian faith dur-
ing the scientific revolution
and exposes the urgent need
to move beyond the limits
of contemporary science to
find transcendent sources of
morality and meaning. To be
sure, in turning to Christian-
ity, McGrath moves beyond
the provable. But he reminds
readers that scientists themselves rely on unver-
ifiable theories and concepts (such as M-theory
and dark energy) so long as these theories and
concepts render the cosmos coherent and
comprehensible. Why, then, he asks, must
we reject religious precepts when they answer
the Ultimate Questions before which science
stands mute, questions that no one who cares
about human dignity can ignore? How, in any
case, can skeptics damn religion as a malevo-
lent force without indicting the human species
they regard as its source? McGrath calls for a
full-bodied humanism invigorated by both
scientific reasoning and religious devotion.
Profound engagement with life-defining issues.
Conversations with God for Parents:
Sharing the Messages with Children.
By Neale Donald Walsch and others.
Nov. 2015. 386p. Rainbow Ridge, paper, $18.95
Walsch, best known for his Conversations
with God series, has an international audience
attuned to the message of a nonjudgmental God
who is the essence of the interconnected world.
Here he attempts to show parents how to carry
his message to children. The spiritual principles
Walsch espouses (many quite similar to those
in A Course in Miracles, 1976) may be easily
understood (if not always believed) by adults,
but shaping them for children is more difficult.
In fact, the more declarative and absolute the
principle—“love is all there is”—the more children, who take things more literally than adults
usually do, may find it unreal. To help readers
implement this program (and it is a program,
designed for homeschooling), each chapter is
divided into two parts, the first explaining the
spiritual principle being considered in a way
adults can grasp, followed by lists of ways adults
can share and discuss the principle with children. Some of the points made—“there are no
good guys and bad guys”—seem problematic,
even dangerous, no matter how in-depth the
discussion about them might be. Still, there’s so
much that is useful, parents can easily pick and
choose—and start slow. —Ilene Cooper
Encyclopedia of Christian Education.
Ed. by George Thomas Kurian and
Mark A. Lamport.
3v. 2015. 1,678p. Rowman & Littlefield, $340
(9780810884922); e-book, $329.99 (9780810884939).
Christian education takes place in Sunday
schools of small country churches and in the
classrooms of major universities. This ency-
Ranging from Augustine to Pope Francis, ancient atheism to American utopianism, these titles were reviewed in Booklist from
November 15, 2014, to November 1, 2015. —Ilene Cooper
Augustine: Conversions to Confessions. By Robin Lane Fox. 2015.
Basic, $35 (9780465022274).
Fox’s richly detailed narrative takes readers beyond Augustine’s
conversion through 11 years of further transformations. Exceptionally
Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World. By Tim Whitmarsh.
2015. Knopf, $27.95 (9780307958327).
Whitmarsh traces a lineage of unbelievers among the ancient Greeks that includes the
historian Thucydides, the philosopher Democritus, and the poet Diagoras of Melos. An
intriguing look at early atheists.
The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope. By Austen Ivereigh.
2014. Holt, $32 (9781627791571).
Although there are many books on Pope Francis, consider this presentational biography,
which draws upon his early writing and public statements, as well as the testimony of
friends and associates, as the cornerstone of any Francis collection.
How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence
from Genesis through Revelation. By John Dominic Crossan. 2015. HarperOne, $26.99
In this substantial but accessible book, Crossan, an expert on the historical Jesus,
urges readers to note the history and cultural background against which biblical events
occurred and proposes viewing the nonviolent Jesus movement—and not some apocalyptic bloodbath—as Christian centrality.
The Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling. By Carole Satyamurti. 2015. Norton, $39.95
An indelible epic that dramatizes the implications of dharma—Hinduism’s moral and religious laws—this version of the Mahabharata is an exquisitely lucid and involving retelling.
Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. By Jonathan Sacks. 2015. Schocken,
Sacks embraces religion as the pathway to peace but understands that violence in
scripture is disturbing. He digs deep into the Hebrew Bible, finding both a universal justice between all peoples and a profound sense of God’s particularizing love for diverse
One Islam, Many Muslim Worlds: Spirituality, Identity, and Resistance across Islamic
Lands. By Raymond William Baker. 2015. Oxford, $29 (9780199846474).
Extremists dominate the headlines, but Baker believes it’s Islamic centrists who are
forging Islam’s future. This thoughtful survey provides a much-needed counterweight to
dehumanizing caricatures of Islam.
Our Promised Land: Faith and Militant Zionism in Israeli Settlements. By Charles Selen-gut. 2015. Roman & Littlefield, $36 (9781442216853).
In this invaluable resource, the author examines Yesha, the movement to reestablish
Jewish control of all of biblical Israel by resettlement.
Paradise Now: The Story of American Utopianism. By Chris Jennings. 2015. Random,
A lively yet thoughtful look at utopian communities whose members thought they
could bring heaven to earth.
Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home. By Leah Lax. 2015. She
Writes Press, $16.99 (9781631529955).
In large part to escape her dysfunctional family, Lax becomes a Hasidic Jew; then, after
years in a marriage and seven children, she realizes she is gay, forcing her to make some
heartbreaking decisions. An insightful and honest memoir.
TOP 10 RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY BOOKS