You can check out my full review at The Sci-Fi Christian (http://thescifichristian.com/2013/06/...), but, bottom line, this is an outstanding book. An...moreYou can check out my full review at The Sci-Fi Christian (http://thescifichristian.com/2013/06/...), but, bottom line, this is an outstanding book. An excellent example of how to write biography, with a real novelistic flair, backed up by exhaustive research and mastery of the material. Fantastic reading not only for Superman fans but also for students of 20th century popular culture. Highly recommended.(less)
Connell's comprehensive history of the liturgical year is just the kind of book I've long been wanting. He not only explains how and why the shape of...moreConnell's comprehensive history of the liturgical year is just the kind of book I've long been wanting. He not only explains how and why the shape of the Christian calendar came to be as it is (he is Roman Catholic, but the trajectory of the year will be familiar to any liturgical Christian church), but also offers lovely expositions of what it all means and why it all matters.
I've been "reading along" since Advent, and have been very impressed. For example, his examination of how Christians have allowed Christmas to be basically domesticated as only a festival of the family, losing much of the social reversal character it once had, he lends a lot of support to those who've argued that we should keep Christ, not in, but out of "Christmas" as our culture knows it.
There are also brief passages that you could spend days contemplating -- for example, this brief word about third-century patristic reflection on why Jesus was baptized: "The fathers of the church will explain the enigma they faced in explaining why the Savior underwent baptism [i.e., of repentance, for forgiveness], and they did so by offering the event as a chance for the Savior to sanctify the waters of the world: not that he needed anything from the rite performed at the hand of [John] the Baptist, but that the world itself needed the sanctification occasioned as his body touched the waters of the Jordan River." (p. 154)
As mentioned, Connell writes as a Catholic; but he is ready to draw from other Christian traditions when he finds things of value. I was especially pleased to see the Advent wreath liturgy from the current PC(USA) Book of Common Worship commended to the reader. He also lifts up the Salvation Army as perhaps the one branch of the Christian family that still "gets" the social face of a really Christian Christmas.
Connell's two volume work is meant as a seminary text, but it isn't dry or inaccessible. He illustrates his points throughout with lively illustrations from literature and even cinema; and his history would help many Christians, including many Protestants, appreciate the church year, not as an end in itself -- which it must never be, lest it become an idol -- but as a means by which we may more fully enter into the life of Christ, year by year, day by day, season by season, until he comes again. Very recommended. (less)
If you think "beautiful Batman story" might be an oxymoron, Bermejo's "Noel" will change your mind! Christmas offers the Dark Knight a chance at redem...moreIf you think "beautiful Batman story" might be an oxymoron, Bermejo's "Noel" will change your mind! Christmas offers the Dark Knight a chance at redemption and renewal, with the help of some very surprising "ghosts" of Yuletides past, present and future! Please see my full review at http://thescifichristian.com/2011/12/...; but this is definitely one of the strongest Batman stories I've ever read - and re-read; and it just gets better with each time -- and I think will be on fans' favorite lists for many years to come.(less)
Another Advent-Christmas-Epiphany devotional I "cheated" on and finished early... Polkinghorne is not only an Anglican priest but also a former theore...moreAnother Advent-Christmas-Epiphany devotional I "cheated" on and finished early... Polkinghorne is not only an Anglican priest but also a former theoretical physicist, so he brings some fascinating insights to bear on the Scriptures and liturgical themes of these seasons. I was especially struck by the way he incorporates the reality of entropy into his spirituality, as well as his belief that, in faith as in science, we believe in "things unseen" because they simply make life and the world make more sense. He also eloquently defends evolution as an expression of God's loving gift of freedom to the created order, while maintaining, "The ultimate divine purpose is that the evolving world of the old creation shall be transformed [by God's direct future intervention] into the everlasting world of the new creation." He repeats himself some (but that might not be as distracting had I read it over four weeks instead of two days), and doesn't always avoid resorting to platitudes as the back cover copy says he will (a few too many quotations of preachers' cliches), but overall this is a lively and engaging, easily accessible entry point into thinking about faith from a scientifically informed viewpoint. I suspect his other books are more rigorous than this one, but, as an introduction to him and getting to know his "voice," I liked it and would recommend it. Might make a good basis for adult Christian education settings.(less)