My Review of Enough: Contentment in an Age of Excess by Will Samson

Finally here’s my review of Enough: Contentment in an Age of Excess by Will Samson

I started reading Enough while vacationing in Aruba.  Shut up, it was our first vacation in years ;-)  Of course, I knew the irony before I began reading it but fortunately, Shane Claiborne wrote in the foreword that this book is not a guilt trip.   Then I lost it for a few months and found it under the passenger seat in my Jaguar (ok, I drive a Mazda but lies sound better) and finally finished it while I was in the Bahamas.  (Shut up, I was on a mission trip … rebuilding an AIDS Camp ;-)

Seriously speaking, most who read books like Tom Sine’s New Conspirators and quote Wendell Berry the way wanna-be mega church pastors quote Bill Hybels  will know a great deal of the content.  However for those conservative evangelicals (like me) and find themselves frustrated in a post-Jabez world (or were raised in these homes/churches quoting Paul and the Fox News Channel), this book is helpful.

The introduction to the chapters are great like:

“One day Jesus was walking down Main Street on his way of town, and a rich and influential young lawyer came up to him and asked him; “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Give what you can to the synagogue.  Ten percent is a good rule of thumb, but whatever you don, don’t be a legalist about it.  And make sure you have enough left over to contribute to the economy.  You know ‘Give to Caesar ….'”  And the man went away very happy, because that was exactly what he was already doing (p.29).”

Will gives some excellent statistics regarding consumption like – “In 2003 nearly 50 percent of American household expenditures were for non-necessity” items.  Compare this to the 21 percent of non-necessity  spending in 1901 and 35 percent in 1960.  In 2004 American consumers spent $2.2 trillion on entertainment and $782 billion of that on televisions, radios, and sound equipment (p.33).”  Throughout the book he gives some practical suggestions like the encouragement to bike more, to plant a garden (not just to grow food but to experience the process of planting food), to spend money locally, etc.

As I was reading, I could not help but compare this to Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution.  Shane’s work is extremely inspiring, like a Braveheart-esque speech.  The problem for some is that it’s so radical that they would find themselves picking up a sword and learning Scottish so they could fight the Brits again then moving to co-op in Kensington.  While the Samsons also live in a similar intentional community, their story is more accessible and, I think, more “user-friendly” to  most suburbanites.  Married couples with children helps temper the comment, “Well Shane’s young, single, and makes his own clothes so it’s more realistic for him …”  (And for the record, Shane feels called to his way of life, I’ve never heard him say, “True Christians live like me …”

I like the option of handing out either book now.  It’s yet another topic that small groups would find very valuable because it is a fantastic introduction to the idea of excess, consumption and the Christian’s call to living lives of faithfulness and stewardship.  Will argues that living out the truth of the Eucharist, the sharing of the presence of Christ, is the key to overcoming our materialist lusts, our over-consumption and our general self-absorption.

Book Review of Who Goes There: A Cultural History of Heaven & Hell

 Book Review of Who Goes There: A Cultural History of Heaven & Hell by Rebecca Price Janney.

 The summary given by

  Princess Diana, John Ritter, Saddam Hussein, Mother Teresa, Chris Farley… Does it seem  reasonable to guess where each of these people ended up after they died? While it is  comforting to suppose that everyone who’s “good” goes to a better place when they die, and  everyone who’s “bad” doesn’t, on what is that hope based?

To adequately understand how these thoughts impact us today, Rebecca Price Janney goes back to the colonization and founding of the United States. From the Great Awakening to the American Revolution, through the tumultuous 19th century, all the way past two world wars, and a technological revolution, Who Goes There? pieces together a thoughtful narrative of American beliefs about the afterlife.

Who Will Like This Book – If you have an appreciation for history, specifically American, then you’ll probably like it.   For those who enjoy a decent popular read, the author gives solid summaries of significant cultural and spiritual moments and how they reflected people’s understanding of heaven and hell.  I found the historical parts to be a great review and it leads me to recommend this also for those who do not understand the summary of the last 100 years of Protestantism in the North American Church; it’s a nice book to read a few chapters of before headed to bed.

Most Beneficial Setting – This would make an EXCELLENT young adult Bible study/Sunday School-type for busy Relevant magazine reader types who read a handful of books a year.  The history would be very beneficial to those who have a fuzzy understanding of evangelical history and crave a better one.  It’s a religious history book written on a popular level.   However, I do no think that it will lead to provocative discussions after the second week or so.  Perhaps best used with a teacher with a solid grasp of history and theology.  

Who Won’t (or might not) – I just don’t think it’s for those who are really into the spiritual memoir books (Blue Like Jazz, Girl Meets God, etc.), I am not sure I see that person connecting with it.  I’m not saying that if you liked Blue that you won’t like Who Goes There? but I’m just saying it’s a different genre of book.  I guess I say that because it’s classic, “don’t judge a book by its cover”.  The cover is well-marketed and the book looks “fun”.  While it’s easy to read, short chapters, and a nice big font, it’s not a memoir.  Also, it’s not going to appeal to seminary students, academic types and anyone who likes to read Hauerwas, Wright, and Willard.  It’s just not written to appeal in that regard.

What I Found Difficult –  I didn’t find the concepts to be difficult and I don’t think anyone will be annoyed by the writing style.  My glitch was as the book continued, I found myself wanting more.   At first, it was hard to put my finger on it but I wanted a deeper analysis of the cultural mindset of heaven and hell.  I wanted to see more of the academic climate, the perspective of the pew-sitter, the debate, the tension, and the solutions that helped and failed.

What I Loved – Rebecca received her doctorate from Biblical Seminary and did graduate work at Princeton.  She knows history and was wise enough to focus on selective moments to build short chapters around.  I can only imagine the text before editing was 30 times the final edit.  Really enjoyed Chapter 12 that outlined the tension between liberalism and conservatism, the rise of fundamentalism that led to the genesis of evangelicalism.  As a frustrated post-evangelical, seeing a bit of the pre-evangelical mindset was helpful.  

Reviewing Metavista: Bible, Church, and Mission in an Age of Imagination

Metavista: Bible, Church and Mission in an Age of Imagination by Colin Greene & Martin Roinson

Who Will Like This Book (or might not) – Those that want to see church, culture and history from further out.  Whether you feel you are educated enough in it or not, if you have a high appreciation for history, you will really appreciate it.  If you are not into the emerging church authors (like McLaren, Jones, Pagitt, Keel, etc.), I think it would be beneficial to hear these words from those that do not identify with the movement.  If you are a friend of emergent, I think this book is very beneficial as well.  Having been in the emerging discussion, this is among the things that are humbly encouraged, read a lot of other stuff  (emergent plug – none of us feel we’ve cornered the market on pomo thought).

Who Won’t (or might not) – Those who have less appreciation for context and require Biblical proof texting; those who don’t understand where the history of philosophy fits in; those who think that the timeline of Christian literature went from the canonization of the New Testament, a few church fathers, Calvin, then John Piper while ignoring the millions of other voices throughout the past several thousand years  (I write that last one to a specific caricature, don’t mean to offend).

What I Found Difficult – I really enjoyed reading this book and I didn’t see skimming as an option.  Because of this, there’s a lot to read here.  Perhaps it was my attention span but I really wanted to remember what I read (what a new idea), so it was just one of these books where you really needed to take the necessary time and read.  Thus, you may not like it, if you’re not able to commit the time to it. 


What I Loved –  I was a fan from the introduction.  Seriously, it’s one of those books that if you love the introduction, you’ll probably like the book.  I didn’t feel let down as I continued reading the book though it was grappling with extremely difficult topics.


While reading through it, I appreciated all the quotes from those like Augustine, Kierkegaard, Brueggemann, Newbigin, Caputo, (even Bono is quoted), and many others.  I felt it connected me to the thoughts and ideas of so many others.  For those like myself who have a scattered interest in a lot of things, I appreciate books that contain histories and summations from the greats that have come before.


There are so many books to read, so many to recommend, I’d like to sell you on this one. 

Here’s a preview and table of contents:

What is metavista? – “… a relatively unclaimed space or clearing” (xxix).



1. Modernity: Legacies that Remain

2. Postmodernity: A Matrix of Meanings – This chapter begins, “In his book Postmodernism for Beginners” Richard Appignanesi suggests that the postmodern is something unavoidable.  His candid assessment is that the modern is always historically at war with what comes immediately before it” (25).

(Why I like it –  As been told to me countless times, I too keep trying to convince people that the idea of postmodernism is more than a philosophy but an age, specifically a response to modernism.)

3. Metavista: Discerning the Rules of Engagement – deals with many issues from voice, representation to power.

4. Metavista: Naming the Post-modern Condition – consumerism, post-colonialism, secularization, individualism (to name a few).


Part 2

5. Cultural Engagement and the Refiguring of the Scriptures – narratives and indwelling

6. Constructing a Biblical Theology for Cultural Engagement – demonstrates that postmoderns can be Christians ;-)

7. Metavista:  The Political Capital of the Bible in Cultural Engagement – umm, well, Greene likes Hauerwas.   Though this book is written from a European perspective, I think this chapter is helpful for American readers (especially Christian conservatives) interested in politics and culture.


Part 3

8. Deconstructing the Secular Imagination – the strength and weakness of secularization and its effect on religion

9. Imagining the Missional Community – Includes some big topics of the Modern West’s Christendom such as evangelical renewal, programmatic responses, emergent church, and offers humble conclusions.

10. Reimagining a Counter-cultural Life – one of my favorite chapters in the book.

11. Towards a Hermeneutic of Imagination – public theology, missional imagination and the pride of Biblical Seminary, John Franke is quoted here.

12. Conclusion and Beyond – calls for a new manifesto