#BookReview: Turning Points In American Church History by Elesha J. Coffman

Well Documented Examination Of Oft-Ignored Periods Of History As They Relate To The American Church. Coffman makes it clear in the introduction of this book that she is setting out to examine 12 events/ periods of history that had what she believes is the greatest impact on the American Church over the course of its history – from the earliest days of Christianity in the land now called the “United States of America” through today. While some are rather obvious and typical, others – including her in-depth analysis of the Pentacostal style of worship – are less so. The writing style is nearly conversational academic – still clearly academic in nature, but not such that you have to be an academic (and particularly an academic in her given field) to understand, and Coffman covers pretty well the entire history and most all angles of the given moment for the chapter at hand. Other interesting writing choices are including a period worship song and a period prayer to highlight her overall points about the period in question. Overall an interesting look at a lot of history that even this amateur historian wasn’t completely aware of, the book still invites the reader to decide for themselves if Coffman really got the 12 most pivotal events, or why the reader believes other events should have been discussed instead, making it fairly rare in its overall tone and “aftertaste”. Truly an interesting book for anyone remotely interested in its subject or combination of subjects. Very much recommended.

This review of Turning Points In American Church History by Elesha J. Coffman was originally written on February 7, 2024.

#BookReview: I Believe by Thom S Rainer

Solid (Within Author’s Worldview) Short Guide To Fundamentals Of Christian Faith. This book really does do what it sets out to do – lay out what Christians generally believe and at least some reasoning as to why they believe it. It doesn’t get too heavily into the things that split off the various sects and denominations such as baptism or saints, and even when it touches on End Times discussions, it lays out the basic thinking of each of the different ways of thinking about the topic. And it does it in a fairly concise manner, covering a wide range of topics with fairly short chapters and clocking in as a whole at less than 200 pages – which is truly remarkable given its full breadth of discussion. More extreme liberal Christians may have more issues with the points here, as Rainer explicitly has a chapter about God the *Father*, and a few other quibbles here or there based on that thinking – which Rainer, given his more conservative Baptist background, doesn’t dive into so much. Other potential attacks from Christians could include Rainer’s focus on the Bible as the “Word of God”, despite John 1:1 being quite clear that *Jesus Christ* is the “Word of God”, not the Bible, and Rainer’s frequent references to the Pauline epistles as defense of some of his claims – which anyone familiar with the Parable of Marvin Snurdley (from Frank Viola’s Pagan Christianity) – will likely question.

All of the above noted, the sole reason for the sole star deduction here is the frequent- beginning seemingly literally on Page 1 – use of “proof texting” – citing a Bible verse out of context in defense of some claim or another. I have been quite adamant in waging a one-man war against the practice, and the single star deduction is really the only “weapon” I have with which to wage my war. Thus, I apply it any time a book uses the practice.

Ultimately though, this truly is a solid view of the fundamentals of Christianity, given the caveats of the author’s own worldview, and is truly a solid resource for anyone seeking to understand the basic tenets of the general faith for any reason. Very much recommended.

This review of I Believe by Thom S Rainer was originally written on October 8, 2022.

#BookReview: Reorganized Religion by Bob Smietana

Mostly Solid Examination – If From A Single Worldview. This is one of those examinations of an issue where the examination seems mostly solid, but is also clear that it is from a particular worldview – and the reader’s own feelings about that worldview will likely determine how much the reader enjoys or agrees with the author’s reasonings and recommendations. Specifically, Smeitana’s ultimate point is that older white churches are out, and younger multi-ethnic churches are in. Mostly using a more case study approach with a few more general facts thrown in (and with a scant bibliography of just about 12% of the text, rather than the 25-33% or so that is more typical of more scholarly based examinations in my experience), this book tells the tale of where the American Church finds itself now, what Smietana thinks got it here, and how he believes it can adapt into the future. And again, all of this seems objectively pretty reasonable, and how you view his particular slant will likely determine whether you agree more or less with it.

Ultimately the two stars deducted here – while I considered a third star deduction for the scant bibliography, I ultimately leaned against it due to the power of the case studies and clear direct investigations – were for proof texting and for large discussions of COVID. The proof texting was a complete brain fart, as he really only does it twice (vs other “Christian Living” books doing it *far* more often), but it is an automatic star deduction *every* time I see it, in my own personal war against the practice. The discussions of COVID largely couldn’t be avoided for anyone writing a book about where the American Church is in 2022, with the COVID disruptions of the past couple of years shifting the landscape in this arena at least as much as within any other, and objectively I can acknowledge this. However, *I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID*. Period. And therefore I wage a one man war against any and every book that mentions it as well.

Ultimately this is a book that I think it is important for anyone interesting in American Christianity and where it is and can go to consider, as there really are a lot of interesting and compelling discussions within it and points to consider, no matter your own religious or political persuasions. For this reason, it is very much recommended.

This review of Reorganized Religion by Bob Smietana was originally written on August 31, 2022.

#BookReview: Jesus Called – He Wants His Church Back by Ray Johnston

Interesting Concept, Not Much Substance. I went into this book expecting a great discussion calling the American Church back to Jesus Christ. What I got was a couple of decent points and a lot of sermon promoting the status quo for the American Church. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. So much promise, so little delivery.

If you’re in the American Church and wondering why so many people despise you – you won’t find many answers here.

If you’re a former member of the American Church that is begging for someone to call it to repentance – you won’t find that here.

If you’ve never been part of the American Church and you’re desperately seeking any acknowledgement at all of your problems with it – you’ll find here that some of them are mentioned… and quickly dismissed and yet again, you are to blame, according to the author.

What you *will* find here is more proof-texting (taking Bible verses out of context in service of whatever contrived point the speaker is attempting to make), more victim blaming, more The-Spirit-Of-God-Compels-You level berating, more scare tactic “evangelism”, and more trite Churchisms about how everyone else is the problem.

But there are *just* enough good or at least decent points to keep this out of Gold Mine level (tons of detritus for a few scarce flakes), so there is that at least.

This review of Jesus Called – He Wants His Church Back by Ray Johnston was originally published on October 20, 2018.