UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: Cultivating a Thoughtful Faith
Cultivating a Thoughtful Faith Cultivating a Thoughtful Faith

Maxie D Dunman and Steve G W Moore (Editors)
ISBN 9780687333035 (0687333032)
Abingdon Press, 2006

Category: Doctrine and Theology

This is a neat little book with bite-sized essays on an important topic for all Christians. The back cover describes it as 'a passionate call for theological thinking that challenges our intellect, enriches our faith, kindles our heart and infuses our daily life'. It succeeds in this to a point, but could be a little bit more focussed on its mission.

There are eight essays in total, all self-contained and none of them refer to any of the others, which means that there is no real progression through the book. But each chapter is fresh and most of them are engaging. The only exception was the final chapter whose placement I could not really understand at the end of this book on a thoughtful faith. It is entitled 'New Ways of Thinking about Church Growth', and to me seemed to be making up the baker's dozen rather than forming an integral part of the book, but was interesting nonetheless.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter by Maxie D. Dunman entitled 'An enclave of Resistance' which gives us a vision for the church in a realistic and thoughtful way. I was less enamoured with Howard A. Snyder, who, although giving a useful and welcome introduction to hermeneutics, uses short sentences so regularly that reading it feels like sitting in a car with a learner who has not yet mastered clutch control. I got through the jerkiness to the content but would be put off reading anything else by him. (This is not the first American author with whom I've had this issue and I doubt it will be the last). My favourite chapter would have to be a great sermon on 'The Essence of the Gospel' also by Dunman, which is a lively exposition of 2 Cor. 4:1-6 and would be worth reading for anyone looking into incarnational theology, or equally someone looking at different preaching styles and trying to pick up tips!

The style of the book is undergraduate academic without being high-brow. It would very much suit anyone who was thinking of studying theology but who had been warned by worrisome Christians that it might 'ruin their faith' if they think too much. What comes through in this book is a warm encouragement to deep theological thinking in every aspect of life, not just in the classroom. Steve GW Moore states in the introduction (xv) 'Theology has consequences'. The book goes on to encourage and give examples of how we might form a theology that has good consequences.

Although the Wesleyan tradition comes through strongly in each of these writers (more because they state it rather than it being detectable by the layperson), it is not strong enough to be off-putting or exclusive. I don't think that this book is going to be a best-seller, and reminds me more of something found in the periodicals section than something found in the church bookshop. That said, I would recommend it to anyone bored with 'popular theology' and looking for something a little more challenging without getting too deeply academic.

Caroline Wenger, May 2007

Having tried the Alpine life for more than a year, Caroline Wenger is soon to be coming down the mountain to live in a town not far from Zürich. She enjoys reading (albeit slowly), cooking and travelling and finds it sometimes hard to stay awake in sleepy Switzerland.

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