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The Best Christian Writing 2006
edited by John Wilson
Jossey-Bass, 2005

review by Katie Cogan

Today’s news is so full of tragedy and despair with the prolonged war in Iraq and the recent devastation in the Gulf States, I often find myself wanting a reprieve from all of the heaviness that surrounds me. Reading The Best Christian Writing 2006 was a lot like a mini-retreat—it offered a chance to restore and replenish my spirit through essays that highlight the reality of God’s abundant grace and presence.

The 2006 edition, the fifth volume of the series, represents a wide variety of subjects, style, and form. In the preface, editor John Wilson points out the diversity of the selected authors, while explaining that they are united in a belief that “the universe was created by God…and that we ourselves, bags of bones with an insatiable longing for the true, the good, and the beautiful, were made in God’s image.” He is right on the mark in stating, “this collection is for anyone who acknowledges the dilemma of being human.”

The anthology is composed of personal essays, scholarly articles on current topics, commentaries on film and art, a fascinating interview, and an unusual yet compelling translation of one of the writings of Augustine. Together they articulate an intrinsic drive to understand a transcendent reality that gives meaning and purpose to life.

The jewels of this collection are many. Powerful stories of the Christian life lived in the midst of today’s complicated world, like “Thanksgiving at Fair Acres” by Virginia Stems Owen, inspire readers to notice the still, small voice of God in their own lives. In addition, heart-warming tales, including “High Fidelity” by Bill McKibben and “To Skellig Michael: Monastery in the Sky” by Daniel Taylor, offer simple beauty and love revealed through the discovery of spiritual meaning in everyday, ordinary events.

Controversial topics are addressed as well, with clarity and insightful analysis. “On Reproduction and the Irreproducible Gift: Christ, Conception, and Biotechnology,” by Amy Laura Hall, discusses the many scientific interventions into human conception and weaves current thought and research with haunting, genuine life stories. An especially riveting essay by Paul Marshall responds to militant extremism in Islam. The problems of interpretation in Islam are correlated to similar difficulties in the Fundamentalist Protestant religions. The author is insightful and honest as he calls for a Muslim renewal and the need for non-Muslims to respond with a respect for autonomy in the decision-making process.

My only complaint is the inclusion of too many essays about Mel Gibson’s film The Passion that feel repetitive in nature, and a couple of theological articles that seem to belong more in the world of academia than in this collection of clear and purposeful prose. But, all in all, The Best Christian Writing 2006 is a welcome diversion from the current harsh realities we witness, and at the same time, a journey towards healing and spiritual renewal.

Copyright ©2005 Katie Cogan

The Best Christian Writing 2006
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