Making Connections in Today's World
Richard J. Mouw
144 pages, $14.99


Someone once asked Richard Mouw, "How can a Calvinist like you survive—especially as the president!—at a school as diverse as Fuller Theological Seminary?"

Mouw, who says he thrives on the interaction, has learned to allow for a "certain degree of messiness" in his theology. "What does Calvinism have to say to our present world?" he writes, adding, "How can I best be a Calvinist in the 21st century?"

Using a scene from the 1979 movie Hardcore as a springboard, Mouw looks at how it is possible to draw on the strengths of Calvinism to navigate the complexities of contemporary life. Mouw admits that the Calvinist tulip doctrines (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, perseverance of the saints), when stated bluntly, "have a harsh feel about them." To articulate them with gentleness and respect to someone outside the fold, he writes, takes effort.

A refreshing humbleness of spirit marks the book. "In … dealing with many of these mysterious things, all I can do is acknowledge God's sovereign purposes," Mouw writes, "while at the same time reminding myself that this God calls me to be obedient to those things that are clearly within my grasp to understand."

Renewing America's Cities
Barbara J. Elliott
320 pages, $24.95

Taking It to the Streets

Who are the modern-day Good Samaritans? They are the "street saints," according to Barbara Elliott, the founder of the Center for Renewal in Houston, which serves faith-based groups working mostly in the inner city.

Street saints are those willing to go where there is pain and suffering and be a presence of healing with love, she writes. This absorbing overview provides an in-depth look at how individuals and faith-based groups are helping to solve urban problems: crime, addiction, racism, elder care, unemployment, and grinding poverty, among others.

A particularly compelling section details faith-based prison programs and the impact they have on recidivism. Among them is Indianapolis's Craine House, where convicted mothers and their young children remain together.

The key in all programs is not so much reformation as transformation. "The most successful faith-based groups have healed hurting people by addressing both body and soul together," Elliott writes. Photos help personalize the text.

This thought-provoking book has the potential to mobilize churches and individual Christians, making long-lasting differences in their communities. An appendix offers contact information for all the groups profiled.

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Randy Alcorn
544 pages, $22.99

A Taste of the Afterlife

Forget the harps and eternal boring worship services. Heaven, according to Randy Alcorn, will engage our talents, free us from many of our limitations, and keep our unique personalities and bodies (in their purest form) intact.

In this richly detailed account of heaven, Alcorn says the new heaven and earth will include remnants of the originals. Despite biblical assertions that this heaven and earth will pass away (by Jesus in Luke 21:33, Peter in 2 Pet. 3:10, and John in Rev. 21:1), Alcorn strongly argues—from Scripture, word studies, and historical theology—that the "destruction" of the current heaven and earth will be temporary and partial.

He mines the writings of many authors, including C. S. Lewis, Bruce Milne, and Anthony Hoekema (yet strangely asserts that Christians "have failed to explore and explain the Bible's magnificent teachings about heaven").

Alcorn overly quotes from his own writing, and some may find his "works equals rewards" theology uncomfortable. Others may be troubled by his suggestion that God might create new beings for us to rule over in the afterlife.

But, as Alcorn admits, "There is plenty in this book for everyone to disagree with."

Fleming Rutledge
91 pages, $12

Glorious Incongruity

For Christians, Good Friday is the most crucial day in world history, believes Fleming Rutledge. Here the Episcopal parish priest publishes Good Friday meditations on the seven last sayings of Jesus that she has offered over the past several years.

"Good Friday summons us to think deeply about the profoundly strange, incongruous—indeed, unacceptable—nature of a crucified God nailed up between two bandits for the scorn of passersby," Rutledge writes. "Would you in a million years ever have dreamed of having such an objectionable fact at the heart of your faith?"

From "Father, forgive them" to "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," Rutledge unpacks each phrase. She notes that the difficult "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?" is most likely to cause us to tremble, but when understood brings the most comfort.

Rutledge also touches on the war in Iraq, as well as acknowledging our sinfulness. Selected hymn stanzas included with each meditation may be sung, spoken, or prayed to round out the devotional experience.

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Cindy Crosby is the author of By Willoway Brook: Exploring the Landscape of Prayer
(Paraclete, 2003).

Related Elsewhere:

Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport is available from and other book retailers.

A longer review is available from our Books & Culture Corner.
More information is available from the publisher.
The author, Richard Mouw, is president of Fuller Theological Seminary.

Street Saints is available from and other book retailers.

More information is available from the publisher.
The Street Saints website has more information about the book, other reviews, a directory of faith-based groups, and other contents.

Heaven is available from and other book retailers.

More about author Randy Alcorn is available from his Eternal Perspectives Ministries.
More information is available from the publisher.

The Seven Last Words from the Cross is available from and other book retailers.

An excerpt, as well as more information is available from the publisher.

For more books, our Books & Culture Corner weekly reviews books. More reviews and interviews are available from our Book page, as well as our 2004 Book Awards page.

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