I am participating in a blog tour for Ed Cyzewski's book Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life, and today's my day to post a review.
I'm not sure if this is shallow or not, but I have to say that while I thought Ed Cyzewski had a lot of insightful and important things to say in this book (the rest of the review will bear this out), the cover design leaves a bit to be desired. I know: "Don't judge a book by its cover," but the truth is everyone does. Who manages to avoid this? You walk into a Barnes and Noble and you pick up stuff that catches your eye. So it's a bit of a shame that Ed's very fine words got put into such dull and uninteresting packaging, in my opinion.
But this is a side point. Onward now to the review of the actual words…
As I said above, I give this book high marks. Ed writes with an easy-to-read voice and has a knack for distilling large amounts of complex information into bite-sized packages of clarity and understandableness (not a word, but it should be), all without ever sounding condescending. Through a number of great examples, Ed shows the reader how theology is relevant to "normal" life, and quite convincingly re-frames how the reader thinks about theology:
"Theology isn't a one-shot deal, a test that we either pass or fail. Rather, theology is something we take with us into our everyday lives and constantly reconsider and revise – an ongoing process that evolves through an interactive relationship with God, the Bible, the traditions of the church, and the global church." (p.47)
One of the things that has always annoyed me about theological writing is that the books that are easy to understand are often woefully under-informed about their subject of inquiry, and the books that are well-informed are often woefully difficult for most people to comprehend. This is one reason I really appreciated Ed's book: it's easy to read and understand, but Ed is no hack. Some serious theological research went into this book, but it still manages to stay readable for people who aren't theology students.
For example, the two chapters that outline the cultural transition
from modernity to postmodernity comprise probably the best explanation
of the situation that I can remember reading. And again, they are
well-researched, well-written, understandable, and show a great respect
for the reader.
I also enjoyed the chapter about reading the Bible, where Ed
advocates reading the Bible as God's story (which of course is
something very close to my heart and passion). He has a great way of
saying things sometimes: "While most Christians hold the Bible in high
regard and reverence, we all too easily fall into the trap of
classifying it in the reference category" (p. 142).
His chapter on the tradition of the church was well-balanced (and
thankfully didn't spout the old misunderstandings about tradition and
Scripture), and I found a great quote for a paper I'm writing on
tradition's role in our interpretation of the Bible.
Throughout the book, but especially in the last chapter (on the
global church), Ed is refreshingly personal, disarmingly honest,
winningly self-effacing, broad in scope, and generous in outlook.
Throughout the book Ed tells (often hilarious) stories of gradually
having his eyes opened to new facets of God's character and personality
by listening to people from different traditions and cultures.
Especially in the politically charged climate we're going through right
now, Ed is a great example of how to listen to and learn from those who
are different from you, and how to respect those you disagree with.
I highly recommend Coffeehouse Theology to you, especially
those who want to dive a little deeper into theology and it's
ramifications for the "normal" parts of life. You can read an excerpt online, or just buy it. Ed blogs regularly on theology and writing.