My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Review: Scripture First

Scripture First Scripture First by Daniel B. Oden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a curated selection of six (6) academic essays from the Stone-Campbell Restoration tradition that tries to re-examine how and why the moment failed to bring about the Christian unity it was looking for. Having grown up within the Disciples of Christ wing of this movement, I came to this book with a certain perspective that colors how I understood the material.

1. Creedal Expressions and Their Development in the Hebrew Bible: One of the tenants of the Restoration movement is that scripture should be read without the "lens" of creeds or traditions which was thought to have contributed to erroneous interpretations. The problem with that approach comes from the fact that "the canon of scripture has come to us through and within community - through the same community that also preserved tradition." In other words, we all use some form of a "lens" to interpret what we read ... and we can find examples of such [proto-creedal concepts] used within scripture itself.

2. Understanding Scripture through the Apostolic Proclamation: I struggled with this material ... as it was way more academic that I was prepared for. The author explores some of the theology of Paul and how he views sin, death and the resurrection. I did pick up a few gems here, but for most of it I was fighting to finish it (and I am sure I didn't understand most of it).

3. Ecclesial Unity, Biblical Interpretation, and the Rule of Faith: Perhaps to must accessible of the six for me, I got quite a bit out of this essay that explored how divisive creeds and tradition could become after centuries of accretions and inculturation. This paper explores how these divisions/schisms exploded in the 16th century and has continued apace since then. In an attempt to restore unity within and between Christian confessions, the American Restoration movement tried to return to traditions found within the "primitive" church and build upon sola scriptura with limited success. Unfortunately, by rejecting the accumulated body of tradition and creeds, the "flattening of Scripture" has the effect of making each element of faith as important as another despite an obvious hierarchy. There is obviously a tension here when defining the correct Rule of Faith to foster a "properly Christian lens" through which to interpret Scripture while maintaining unity.

4. Resisting the Primitivist Temptation: The Restoration movement seeks to return to the "primitive" church; but how far back do you go? And what do you do with all of the competing "primitive" churches that were competing within the early church? Unfortunately, without any reference to creed or tradition, what you eventually get is a "pristine, primitive church remade into the image of the seeker." Perhaps the greatest flaw with primitivism is the narrative that requires a "falling away" from perfect original. The author here counters with an observation that "the truth arrives through time" indicating that our understanding of "main event" took centuries to figure out. This essay is a good follow on from the previous essay and more clearly outlines the problems encountered with this approach.

5. Reading Scripture Baptismally: After a quick review of what baptism is/means, the author then lays out how to use baptism (and the submission to Christ) to interpret scripture by outlining six(6) ways to shift our perspective: pyramid, gospel, Passover, Jordan, fingers and ones ... interesting, but probably not universally efficacious.

6. Beyond Sola Scriptura: An Expanded View of the Textual Inspiration: This essay covers a rough outline of how Protestants have historically used sola scriptura before recommending a way forward using a process more "oriented by communal reflection upon Scripture." The process of discerning meaning through the "experiences of diverse people and the narrative of those experiences" is key; however, in doing so, we must acknowledge something of an iterative approach that is "something akin to a trail-and-error, hit-or-miss strategy."

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
#ScriptureFirst #NetGalley

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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Review: A Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a GR Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Club Select and one that I had read while still in High School; it remains one of my favorites to this day (I liked it much better then the Lord of the Rings), although I chose not to reread it for the club discussion. The book is the first of an original trilogy; with a forth added much later that I have not yet read. Taken together, the entire quartet would probable equal the page count typically seen in a single novel today; to its benefit.

Le Guin packs a well constructed fantasy world, character development and a fair amount of action to keep the story moving along, leaving the tedious details to the readers imagination. EarthSea itself seemed designed for peoples with an intimate connection to the seas; something I had always fancied for myself growing up around the boats and marinas of the Chesapeake Bay. From the beginning I was able to make the world of EarthSea my own. The people of EarthSea seemed to be a wonderful combination of exotic Pacific Islanders and barbarian Vikings, fitting right in with my independent study of ancient peoples mythology and migration (though I was more interested in the indo-europeans at the time). This gave the whole story the feel of ancient, oral tradition that was so fun to play with. The magic of EarthSea was my first introduction to the concept of naming, balance and sympathetic forces; to this day I believe it makes more sense then nearly any other system I have encountered (: if only it were really true :).

When I first encountered the main character, SparrowHawk, I didn't like him very much; and, even as a young teen myself, I couldn't really identify with him. Fortunately he had a few things going for him ... He wasn't particularly evil or bad, just overly arrogant, willful, and still relatively naïve (unlike some other protagonists who shall remain nameless but whose initials are Thomas Covenant and Richard Cypher-Rahl) and he actually develops to overcome much what makes me dislike him by the end ... Truly a hero's journey.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Review: Demon Riding Shotgun

Demon Riding Shotgun Demon Riding Shotgun by L.R. Braden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a police/detective story where demons, fae and magic are added to the mix. There is nothing particularly new about this specific story; so if you like that style of story, this should hit the sweet spot. The story opens with a demon possessed vigilante hunting another ‘rifter' that was killing innocents; but Mira is something different, having obtained a working balance with her demon (who can periodically take charge of her body and carry on amusing conversations) where most simply go nuts and burn up. When the party is interrupted by a second rifter, we begin to see a developing conspiracy among the demons that doesn’t sound good the home team humans … unfortunately the incident draws the attention of the Baltimore PD and a washed up paranormal cop who also happened to have been her demon’s one night-stand (with her body of course).

What follows is a bit of a cat and mouse game with the demon spawn and “Mr Yummy” while the hero attempts to find the big bad while remaining in the shadows … because bad things happen when the authorities get their hands on an unregistered [magic] practitioner, much less something that should not even exist (a stable rifter). Ultimately this was a fun diversion that kept me up passed midnight as I read through to the end. I look forward to the next installment.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#DemonRidingShotgun #NetGalley.

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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Review: Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone

Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone by James Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I grew up within the Protestant tradition where [I thought that] I had a strong personal prayer life; I was hoping for a little help with the public, extemporaneous prayer expected from a community leader, and where I seem to struggle a bit (I usually crib them on a piece of paper in advance) ... this book doesn't do that. So after my initial disappointment, I settled in for what I believed would be a quick review. As expected, the author starts off with why we should pray and defining what prayer is ... including nine (9) types of prayer many people do without actually realizing they are doing it. There is a good mix of personal story and cited sources here that continues through the rest of the book and makes it all exceptionally relatable. After a brief treatment of rote or formal prayers in chapter 8, the book moves into more of the Ignatian traditions that I actually don't have much experience with (but seem to be gaining significant attention from those working toward a deeper and richer prayer life). Fr. Martin hits the Daily Examen first ... with a quick segue into what happens when you pray and how to discern God's voice ... I must have highlighted half of each chapter here in my kindle as a quick reference. This is not something that I have thought much about, nor was it really discussed much in any detail growing up.

After the Examen, we get Ignatian Contemplation, which leans heavily on imagination ... which can be difficult for those of us who tend toward more analytical/concrete thinking. Fr Martin breaks it all down into easy steps and deals with each individually before bringing all together to great effect. After that, we get a chapter on Lectio Divina ... which seems to be all the rage today (at least in my diocese). Again I found a good definition of what it is, what steps are involved and how to do them. Straight up and simple, which is probably why this chapter was relatively short. I was surprised to find Centering Payer next, since it can be controversial with some Catholics (precisely because of the perception of non-christian influence from the East). Fr. Martin deals with this quite well by reminding us to be sure that we keep the presence of God front of 'center' when we use this technique). Nature prayer (or the "Gaze of Jesus" is next and it calls to mind my own encounters with God's creation and how I felt at the time; reminding me that it is important to continue to seek out these encounters. Chapter 16 talks about some of the tools we can use in our prayer life: spiritual direction (new for me), retreats (with a list of several types), faith sharing (which I like to think of as my strong suit) and journaling (which is my weakest).

So ... after all of that ... why are some folks not satisfied with their payer life? Chapter 17 on expectations and the "ups and and downs of the spiritual life" may help. This is something that I don't often see ... an acknowledgement that sometimes you just don't feel like anything worked and that makes it more likely that you may get discouraged. Fr Martin has some practical advice on how to tweak a few things ... but the best advice is to simple remember is that God is in charge here ... and sometimes unanswered prayers are for the best.

Overall I find the book to be an excellent reference to which I will constantly return to as I work on improving my own life of prayer.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#LearningtoPray #NetGalley

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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Review: Blindsight

Blindsight Blindsight by Peter Watts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was really intrigued with this story. There was a lot of concepts that I enjoyed exploring, such as the idea of human consciousness being up loadable into a computer system (obviously separating our psychic nature from our biological machinery). This sets the stage for the author to present his ideas about the relationship between intelligence and consciousness (which I generally associate with defining individuality or ego) in a first contact story very similar to how Space Odyssey 2001 reads. On top of this, there are several hard science concepts and theories that had me scrambling to my references to see if he had invented it or if it was real (a lot was real and I actually learned a lot about the current state of science exploration). The author supplies a ton of citations and references to many of the concepts that he uses within the story.

I don't agree with some of the author's premises, but it was an interesting discussion none-the-less and added to my enjoyment of the book.

This book is currently available online (for free) here.

A very good review (with spoilers) is available here.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Review: Age of Ash

Age of Ash Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The descriptive prose building the world in which this story is set is absolutely beautiful. It was simply a joy to explore city of Kathamar and some of the denizens therein from the POV of the struggling street rats. All of the flawed characters were sympathetic and easy to identify with although there is plenty to dislike as well … the two main being Alys and Sammish who are part of a ‘crew’ of pickpockets that are thrown into the intrigue of the powerful city rulers with a mystery … and that is really what this story is about … the mystery … so if you are looking for any action, there really isn’t much and even the mystery takes a while to pick up and get going (about half way through the book). 

Alys tries very hard to follow in her dead brother’s footsteps, not seeing his flaws even as she takes them on as well. Her friend Sammish struggles with how to help Alys get back to the person she fell in love with and ends up working for the other side. Neither of them are strong enough to operate outside of the shadows; which is probably the reason there isn’t much action. While the main characters do evolve and most of their story is completed by the end, it still feels like a story left unfinished when you get there … just enough to pull you into the sequel (maybe).

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#AgeOfAsh #NetGalley.

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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Review: Real Presence: What Does It Mean and Why Does It Matter?

Real Presence: What Does It Mean and Why Does It Matter? Real Presence: What Does It Mean and Why Does It Matter? by McGrath Institute for Church Life
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 2019, a Pew Research Center study on the religious commitment and practice of American Catholics found a significant number of the faith did not have an accurate or complete understanding of the "Real Presence" of Christ in the Eucharist Sacrament. This prompted Cardinal Seán O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston to proclaim a "Year of the Eucharist" for 2020-2021 to help rehabilitate the faithful. The "Real Presence" by Dr. Timothy O'Malley could very well be required reading in support of that endeavor.

Chapter One tackles the "Obstacles to Real Presence" by identifying three (3) points of confusion: an over-reliance on a physical interpretation of presence, a lack of reverence and an apparent false dichotomy between reverence and recognition of Christ's presence in others. Along the way, Fr. Thomas Reese S.J. is thrown under the bus for declaring that he "find[s] the theology of transubstantiation to be unintelligible" and that we should just "accept it as a mystery and not pretend we understand it." Unfortunately if we do that, I think that we take away some of the power that particular sacrament is supposed to have.

Chapter Two looks at the Real Presence in the Scriptures. Here is where Dr. O'Malley really shines because he focuses on what we mean by presence. After that we move on to Chapter Three to examine how the early Church Father's developed the "doctrine of Eucharistic presence" where the terms Body and Blood are associated to the Bread and Wine. The language used here by the early Fathers is not easily understood and I think this is where most readers start to fall away. While I can acknowledge the mystagogical element of the real presence, my modern mind has trouble with the constant use of Body and Blood when I do not see an actual body or blood. Why must these be linked in the Eucharist? What do we mean when we say Body? Can we explain that term other than symbolically if we don't actually have [what we normally view as] a physical body?

Chapter Four - Savoring the Mystery of Transubstantiation, attempts to answer these questions. After spending a little time with a couple of quarreling monks to define the argument as reality vs symbolic, Dr. O'Malley spends the reminder looking at St. Thomas Aquinas ... an amazing doctor of the church whose theology builds upon the concepts of substance and accidents decried by the afore mentioned Fr. Reese when he states that he does not "believe in prime matter, substantial forms, substance and accidents." Ultimately we get little here other than the belief that the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the true Body and Blood of Christ because the Church says so. Score one for Fr. Reese.

Chapter Five - Eucharistic Devotion and Real Presence, doesn't really add much to the debate, but it does offer a look at how the [various] practices of adoration can enable us to recognize the Real Presence in the Eucharist. While this was not the slam dunk that I was looking for, it does give me plenty to meditate on ... YMMV

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#RealPresence #NetGalley #YearoftheEucharist

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Thursday, January 13, 2022

Review: Dune

Dune Dune by Frank Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read the ‘Dune’ trilogy as a young teenager without knowing what to expect (before it obtained the level of fandom it now enjoys); it was one of the few great stories which helped establish my initial reading addiction. I immediately identified with the main protagonist, Paul Atreides, as he struggled to overcome tremendous adversity to reach his destiny ... his was the traditional ‘Hero’s Journey’ that forms the main plotline of the story. The most interesting aspect at this time was Paul’s Mentat (human computer) training ... which would morph into a pseudo-transhuman philosophy popularized by one of my favorite TV characters – Mr. Spock.

But there is more ... I reread Dune as a young (and better read) adult and I really appreciated that the author didn’t feel the need to spoon-feed the reader; he trusts us enough to figure it all out (with difficulty perhaps, but successful none-the-less). I started to use story elements to explore ideas outside of Dune ... such as the curious luddite aversion to [some] technology. This brought a new understanding of the power of creation and the responsibility of the creator. I grew fascinated by the very convincing religious concepts within the messianic/eugenic sub-plots, leading me toward further study (and acceptance of) of other religions (specifically Islam and Zen) and comparative mythology (popularized by Dr. Joseph Campbell). I even looked at the formation of the Freman society by the harsh conditions of the desert as a mini-Darwinian theme that would be duplicated in many of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy books I read after.

Every time I reread ‘Dune’ I find more to think about: ethics, politics, ecology, fanaticism, addiction, technology, etc. Frank Herbert has built a complex and enduring world which survives quite well outside his original stories; it is this world that inexorably pulls me into many of the lesser quality stories that continues to fill out Herbert’s universe based upon his surviving notes. Every time I come back to this world, I like it more then before.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Review: Pennyblade

Pennyblade Pennyblade by J.L. Worrad
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This very dark fantasy is set in a world with two races in conflict. On the mainland “The Main” are humans and on the “Isle” are the “Commrach” (aka elves) with halfbreed “Calibans” rejected by everybody. Humans are portrayed right out of the superstitious dark ages, complete with a rather strict moral code and a powerful church to enforce it. “Perfecti” are clerics that can perform actual miracles. “Pennyblades" are mercenaries for private hire (as opposed to an army). The Commrach are a decadent race that is brutally organized to the perfection of their race, with all individuality subordinated that goal. Rank is represented by the location and type of towers the serve as the family seat. I saw echos of Melniboné as the author gradually revealed the details of their society in flashbacks.

The main protagonist/antihero is Kyra, an exiled Commarch working as a Pennyblade on the Main. Her flashbacks are addressed to the ghost of her lost love (which was an interesting use of a first person perspective using a second person perspective … something generally hard to pull off). The flashback eventually converge with the present where Kyra is “recruited” by a sister Perfecti to help investigate rumors of an ancient evil (the commrach know them as the fomorg). She is teamed up with a halfbreed caliban (Nail) and another pennyblade with a history of betrayal (Shortleg).

The general impression is that life in this world is brutal and often short … supported by very course and frequently vulgar/sex oriented language that might put some folks off. I don’t generally enjoy such; and while I can understand the artistic merits for it, it was the main reason this didn’t get 5 stars (the story really is pretty good outside of that).

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Pennyblade #NetGalley.

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Sunday, January 9, 2022

Review: Women in the Bible

Women in the Bible Women in the Bible by Jaime Clark-Soles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must admit to feeling the lack of a woman's perspective when I have read through the Bible and I was looking forward to reading this book to fill in the gaps. I was not disappointed. The author provides an exceptionally well organized and thoughtful examination of where we find them, and how to better interpret what we know of them, so we can begin to understand their significant contributions to the faith ... and to some degree how and why they have been silenced. The book begins with the a survey of the TaNaKh/Old Testament to provide a context going into the New Testament and the ministry of Jesus and Paul to bring the women supporting each out from the shadows. It finished with some of the more problematic Pastorals with a needed comparison on how they are actually a departure of what came before and perhaps why they do so. Within each chapter the author engages in scriptural exegesis that tries to expose a more nuanced (and in many cases a deeper) meaning to the text that is more egalitarian than might be understood out of context. At the end of each chapter is a quick review on where/when these scriptures might come up in two (2) common lectionaries with an encouragement to take the opportunity to focus on the message revealed within the chapter (especially useful for those who may need to develop a homily or sermon on the scriptural readings of the day). At the very end of the book, there are scriptural and topical indices that makes this an easy to use reference book.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#WomenInTheBible #Edelweiss+

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Thursday, January 6, 2022

Review: Ender's Game

Ender's Game Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read Ender's Game the same year it was published; I was a marginally successful junior in a US Service Academy at the time, and well on my way to forming my current negative opinion about how such works. What ever other critiques readers might have about Card's story here, IMHO he nailed the military training environment, complete with psychological manipulation and Machiavellian intrigue. I am not surprised to hear rumors that Ender's Game might even be promoted by the military training establishment. Even before this book was published, my training cadre made no secret of how they were using 'significant emotional events' to reshape our personalities to conform to the expected standard ... Much like Graft attempts to manipulate encounters for Ender at the Battle School. This was made slightly more difficult after hazing became illegal; it didn't actually eliminate it, just moved it into the shadows. Needless to say, my first encounter with the book evoked a very strong affinity with the protagonist. First cut gets 5 stars.

Another significant concept Card presented in the story was that such a system inevitably fails ... As in it doesn't predictably (limited correlation) create your top military commanders during war time and can in fact hinder their development. Unfortunately I don't believe Card's solution is very realistic. Throwing away the rulebook in order to foster social isolation and constant exposure to violence at an early age does not create individuals who are strong, independent leaders ... It creates sociopaths. Fortunately Card seems to have a knack for knowing when he may have pushed too hard, as Ender immediately becomes overwhelmed with angst about his actions. About the only benefit I get from these rather irritating episodes is an opportunity to expose ethical talking points (which I took advantage of when I re-read the book with my preteen). Several critics seem to believe that they know which side Card comes down on these issues (e.g. Is Xenocide always evil? ... Is it ever necessary?) ... Strangely enough, there is little unanimity among them (I actually think Card leaves it up in the air for each reader to think about). There are other areas in the story that I could pick apart, in fact an army of critics have already done so (and to some extent they have valid points); however, I still find the over all story to be an excellent starting point for talking about how we go about determining ethical behavior, both within our society and in response to a potential foreign encounter.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Review: Undaunted

Undaunted Undaunted by Jack Colrain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story follows an elite combat medical unit/squad in the fight against the alien "roaches" where they are embedded into front line troops to "fix and return them to action" when they would otherwise need to be evac'd behind the lines. As expected, the characters are scrappy "black sheep/bad boys" with limited social skills. Of course, the bugs don't take this laying down ... evolving new threats to which the new valkyrie corp needs to adapt to. Overall this was a fairly typical romp through the standard tropes for a military sci-fi with the narration/performance earning this story another star.

I was given this free review copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Undaunted #TheSecretAudiobookClub

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Sunday, January 2, 2022

Review: Answered By Fire the Cane Ridge Revival Reconsidered

Answered By Fire the Cane Ridge Revival Reconsidered Answered By Fire the Cane Ridge Revival Reconsidered by Leonard Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book looks at the Cane Ridge Revival in three (3) parts, with three (3) chapters each:

I. Cane Ridge In Context
1. “Glorious Days of the Outpouring of the Spirit of God” The Second Great Awakening
2. The Champion of Christian Freedom and the Cane Ridge Revival
3. “Answered by Fire” What Really Happened at Cane Ridge?

II. Exploring Cane Ridge
4. Cane Ridge as a Communion Festival
5. Barton Stone, Cane Ridge, and Slavery
6. “The Reproof of a Weak Woman” Women Exhorters at Cane Ridge

III. Reconsidering Cane Ridge
7. Was Cane Ridge America’s Pentecost?
8. Revivalism, the Holy Spirit, and Unity
9. The Eclipse of Cane Ridge in the Restoration Movement

The Cane Ridge Revival can be placed within the American Second Great Awaking that was characterized by large revival meetings focused on evangelization, spiritual renewal and charismatic experience in the early 19th century, from which a number of reformist/restorationist denominations were formed ... among them the LDS and Seventh-day Adventists churches from the "Burned-over" District in western NY as well as the Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ Christian Churches of the the Stone-Campbell movement, which arguable tracks its beginning to 1801 in Cane Ridge KY. Although I grew-up as a preacher's kid in the Disciples' tradition, there was a lot about our history that I never really paid much attention to until much later; so, this history has a specific appeal to me that some readers may not share.

The Context centers around what happened at Cane Ridge. In keeping with the American "frontier spirit," the revival built upon a "rugged individualism" that valued simple life and a utilitarian elimination of non-essentials that leads to a rejection of the elitism and clericalism found in the established Protestant denominations ... which is why it comes as a surprise to me to learn that the revival was nominally under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church with an ecumenical welcome to Methodists, Baptists and basically any who were open to a new birth in the Holy Spirit. Stone takes the lead here as he promotes individual freedom (from formal church dogma) along with a unity born out of a more simplified definition of who was Christian (allowing for divergent beliefs where there was no scriptural proscription). The ecstatic religious experience of the participants (called religious exercises that included 'falling,' 'dancing,' 'jerks' and other Pentecostal gift) convinced them of the support of the Holy Spirit ... enough so that this awakening is sometimes referred to as the American Pentecost.

Exploring Cane Ridge is a more intellectual survey of how the revival movement didn't just suddenly happen, but grew out of an existing tradition of communion festivals that ministered out in the countryside ... and I was completely unaware of what these were or how they were connected and probably enjoyed this part for than any other. The next two chapters detailed how expectations of racial and gender equality found support within the movement (or at least a move in that direction). "Authority to exhort rested in the individual’s conversion experience rather than their race, sex, age, or clerical status." To me, this had echos of St Paul's exhortation to the Galatians, "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." One connection that I had never made before, was the impact of the American idea of the separation of church and state, which removed the authority of the state to dictate church affairs and gave tremendous power to the laity that resulted in a competitive religious marketplace where a diverse church could be explored.

Looking back today, the next part reviews the lasting impact Cane Ridge had on the Christian Church and shows how Stone's emotional, spirit based revival theology slowly lost ground to the more 'rational' exploration of salvation detailed in scripture (providing comfort and direction for those whom the "religious exercises" did not manifest). Campbell's message of "restoring" the primitive church based upon “ancient gospel and order of things” took the lead after Stone's "fire" cleared away the “creeds, councils, and human dogma” that only serve to separate us. Part III is this part of the story and brings us up to the where I am most familiar.

Over all, this was a great book explaining of how the Christian Church movement began and evolved on the American frontier to pursue the ideal of one Universal Church. I like to think that they paved the way for some of the reform that we have seen in the older traditions to be more connected and relevant to the rank and file laity so that we all can have a personal relationship with Christ.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.