The Hebrew prophets had a habit of causing a stir. Put Ezekiel or Jeremiah in a contemporary church, and there is no predicting what they’d do or say—except that they wouldn’t automatically be assessed as “family friendly.” Their enacted visuals and stinging diatribes were sometimes, even by today’s standards, profane—shockingly so. But they were obedient descriptions of the profaneness of a wayward culture. Would contemporary Christians organize a boycott?
Portions of Ezekiel, especially, are not fit for the pristine boundaries of our church sanctuaries. In his description of the spiritual harlotry of both Samaria and Jerusalem, Ezekiel chronicles the unchaste sexual pursuits of two sisters, Oholah (Samaria) and Oholibah (Jerusalem). Ezekiel relates the cyclical pattern of their lusts: blinding passion, inevitable betrayals and anguish, and finally a short-lived disgust. But, ultimately, their lascivious passions are resurrected. Objects of their blindly focused lusts are explicitly described.
In chapter four, the profaneness of Ezekiel’s God-ordered drama is shocking. After depicting the assault and destruction of Jerusalem, essentially a crude sandbox fashioning of the city and the prophetic detail of its conquest—complete with miniature battering rams and attack ramps—Ezekiel is commanded by the Lord to bake bread in the sight of all of the people. The baking fuel to be used is human excrement. One can imagine a good many citizens of Jerusalem wisely walking several blocks out of their way to avoid exposing their children to such a theatrical depiction.
But Ezekiel was commanded by God to perform despite the potential scandal. His audiences had become scandalous in their idolatries and needed to be shocked into the possibility of repentance.
Christians should not automatically dismiss the prophetic possibilities of an artwork because its topic or language wouldn’t be appropriate for a Sunday school picnic. Ezekiel’s prophetic act wouldn’t be invited either, and appropriately so. What has been traditionally categorized as “family friendly” art isn’t necessarily the only focus and fare of the faithful Christian.
reviewed by Mike Postma
Three years of touring—including conquering the annual Vans Warped tour—have done wonders to punch up Paramore’s sound. Just 15 when the band formed, singer Hayley Williams is now 18. She can pull off sweet and soulful on “When It Rains” or a tigress snarl on “Misery Business.” Production values aside, these are killer songs, with the band cranking out post-punk abrasion on “crushcrushcrush” and spiritually minded rock anthems such as “Hallelujah.” These Tennessee kids deserve a listen. (Fueled by Ramen)
New England White
by Stephen L. Carter
reviewed by Randall Engle
Stephen Carter’s new novel is packed with richness and page-turning propulsion. Affluent Carlyle, president of a university and friend of the President of the United States, and his wife Julia, dean in the university’s divinity school, unravel a murder mystery. Though the cast of characters is large, each multifaceted character becomes relevant to the story and drives a new subplot (or two) that mysteriously and ingeniously circles back to Carlyle and Julia. (Knopf)
The Altar and the Door
by Casting Crowns
reviewed by Robert N. Hosack
After multiple platinum-selling albums, Casting Crowns returns with more of their popular hardcore, formulaic CCM soft rock. The first week sales of this CD were the fourth highest for a Christian record in the last decade! While ministry-driven and church focused—liner notes address youth workers—the group has clearly been listening outside the evangelical camp. Strains of U2 and Coldplay are writ large throughout the music. “What the World Needs” sets the tone with its British invasion guitar gusts. (Beach Street/Reunion)
Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, & Evolution
by Deborah B. Haarsma & Loren D. Haarsma
reviewed by Wayne Brouwer
Those interested in exploring the variety of current origins theories as they relate to serious reflection on Scripture will welcome this compact, clear, and forthright guided study. Four chapters deal with general matters of theological grounding and scientific method. Then the investigation digs into different approaches to the creation stories, as well as variations of evolutionary theories. Concluding chapters compare these without declaring a “right” belief, but raising cautions about problems and fallacies. Study helps include reflection questions and resources. (Faith Alive)
And on Earth, Peace: A Chanticleer Mass
reviewed by Otto Selles
The 12 male voices of Chanticleer boldly use their crystal sound to sing 16th century works by Gabrielli and Gesualdo, as well as modern compositions commissioned by the choir. The new pieces follow the main components of the Latin mass, such as the Gloria or Agnus Dei, interpreted according to contrasting musical and spiritual traditions (Sufi, Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, and Gaelic). Both old and new music offer striking dissonances and moments of resolution, a parallel to the choir’s gorgeous introductory and concluding plainsong: “Grant peace, O Lord, in our time.” (Warner Classics)
The Traitors’ Gate
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
In 1849 London, 14-year-old John Huffman feels pressured to save his family from certain ruin due to his debt-ridden father’s imprisonment. His father’s gambling problem has led the family into an entangling web of spies, detectives, and potential treason. Befuddled and desperate, John can’t tell if he is “at the edge of all the mystery . . . or at its center.” This fast-paced juvenile novel, with myriad satisfying plot twists, is based on several of Charles Dickens’s life circumstances. (Atheneum)
The God of Material Things, by Dordt professor David Schelhaas, offers poetry that celebrates God’s gift of the immediate experience of the world around us. (Dordt Press)
After the Leaves Fall, Nicole Baart’s debut novel, follows young Julia as she attempts to put sadness behind her and find hope where she least expects it. The sequel, Summer Snow, is scheduled for a May release. (Tyndale House)
Why I Still Believe the Gospel, by the late Rev. Clarence Boomsma, delivers his concise defense of Christianity in the light of modern challenges. (Eerdmans)
In the news: Calvin professor Gary D. Schmidt recently won his second Newbery Honor for his 2007 young adult book, The Wednesday Wars. (Clarion)