THE HOLY WILD: Trusting in the Character of God
Mark Buchanan
Multnomah, 272 pp., $12.99

Risk and Rest

Can God be trusted? "Can we both risk for him and rest in him?" asks Mark Buchanan. How do we become intimate with God, and thus enter the "Holy Wild"?

If we desire to leave the "Borderlands" of Christianity (conversion without regeneration) and enter the "Holy Wild" (living face-to-face with God), we must know God so deeply that we will risk everything for him, Buchanan writes in this book, new this year to paperback. With this risk in mind, he unpacks some of God's attributes that would invite us to trust him, including God's love, faithfulness, wrath, mercy, holiness, creativity, and glory.

Buchanan, an excellent storyteller, offers a potpourri of ideas that are less about new insights than they are gentle reminders of who God is and why we can trust him. Through Buchanan's expressive writing, readers become reacquainted with the amazing beauty of creation ("a gallery of wonders"), the importance of the church (even with its flaws), and the wisdom of Sabbath-keeping.

He emphasizes that God's love for us is as "tenacious as oak roots, potent as a typhoon. It is abrasive as much as it is soothing. It scours and breaks us before it sets us right—in order to set us right. It never lets us alone."

THE BARBARIAN WAY: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within
Erwin Raphael McManus
Nelson Books, 160 pp., $16.99

The Christian Visigoth

Forget "safe" religion. In this compact, pithy book, Erwin McManus, lead pastor of Mosaic in Los Angeles, calls Christians to rethink the Christian life. Whom did God create us to become? What is our divine destiny?

McManus enthusiastically paints a portrait of Christians as risk-takers, renegades, and passionate people of action. True Christians or "barbarians" are not interested in religion; they are interested in advancing the revolution Jesus started 2,000 years ago, he writes.

Barbarians live life fully awake; they dream great dreams and find the courage to live them. The barbarian call means finding the unique path God calls us to walk and embracing it. "A world without God cannot wait for us to choose the safe path," he says. "If we wait for someone else to take the risk, we risk that no one will ever act and that nothing will ever be accomplished."

We must refuse to look to Jesus for comfort and safety, but rather "to lead us where he needs us most and where we can accomplish the most good."

Although readers will find much that makes them uncomfortable (doubtless McManus's intention), many will find his call to a life of "risk and mystery" both inviting and invigorating.

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John Wilson, Editor
Jossey-Bass, 224 pp., $17.95


Books & Culture editor John Wilson serves as a reader's best friend and filter in this installment of his annual series, sieving out sometimes overlooked but eminently worthy essays from various journals and magazines.

The topics are as varied as the drinks at Starbucks. Although leaning more toward the academic and literary than the trade, most of the writing is accessible to a general readership. Amy Laura Hall mulls over the value of life in her essay "On Reproduction and the Irreproducible Gift," noting that "life itself is a loan, a gift that never truly becomes ours for disposal, justification, manipulation, or definitive control." Bill McKibben ponders faithfulness as he vacuums between the pews of his small rural Methodist church in "High Fidelity," and Gideon Strauss examines personal responsibility for conditions overseas in "My Africa Problem … and Ours."

Movies also provide fodder. Frederica Mathewes-Green and Gregory Wolfe both tackle The Passion of the Christ, while in "Phil's Shadow," Michael P. Foley unpacks the Christian spirituality portrayed in the 1993 romantic comedy Groundhog Day. A jewel of this collection is Andy Crouch's thoughtful observations on the writing life in "Omit Unnecessary Words."

Brennan Manning
HarperSanFrancisco, 192 pp., $21.95

Vibrant Faith in Action

In his revised and updated version of Gentle Revolutionaries (1976), Brennan Manning (The Ragamuffin Gospel) invites the reader to move from self-delusion to embracing the truth about who we are and our need for grace.

If you read a lot of the prolific Manning, you'll find this latest book as familiar as a favorite pair of old shoes. At the same time, Manning jolts readers out of their comfort zones. We are preoccupied with security, pleasure, and power. "We settle for a roller-coaster ride of exhilarating peaks and vertiginous valleys, interspersed with long periods of driving, pushing, and suffering in various degrees."

Manning debunks the idea that Jesus calls us to be nice in a fuzzy sort of feel-good way, and calls us to vibrant faith in action. He directs us to contagious joy, self-love, awe, gratitude, and transparency.

He reminds us of the "ultimate foolishness," Jesus' death on the Cross for sinners, and points toward Jesus' perfect trust in God's mission for his life as a model for our own. Manning relies on Scripture to help him make his points, especially the writings of Paul.

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Cindy Crosby is author of By Willoway Brook: Exploring the Landscape of Prayer.

Related Elsewhere:

The Holy Wild is available from and other book retailers.

More information is available from Multnomah.

CT articles by Mark Buchanan include:

Rabbit Trails to God | John Updike has made a career of writing the most theological novels in America. (July 3, 2003)
Dance of the God-Struck | There's something about worship that can drive even a king to strip down and leap up (October 7, 2002)
Life Is Unfair (and That's Okay) | Even when life disturbs, disfigures, or destroys, God whispers, "If you do what is right, it will go well with you." (April 4, 2001)
Running with Jonah | Do we really want to be closer to God? (Nov. 15, 1999)
Trapped in the Cult of the Next Thing | If ever there was a cult that gave us stones when we asked for bread, this is it. (Sept. 6, 1999)
Stuck on the Road to Emmaus | The secret to why we are not fulfilled. (July 12, 1999)

The Barbarian Way is available from and other book retailers.

More information is available from Thomas Nelson.
More about Erwin Raphael McManus is available from his website.
Mosaic offers a podcast for its browsers.

The Best Christian Writing 2006 is available from and other book retailers.

More information is available from Jossey-Bass.
John Wilson is also editor of our sister publication Books & Culture.

The Importance of Being Foolish is available from and other book retailers.

More about Brennan Manning is available from his website.
Agnieszka Tennant's profile of Manning explores why evangelicals have embraced the former Franciscan.
Dick Staub interviewed Manning about his book Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God.
More about Manning's book The Importance of Being Foolish, including an excerpt, is available from HarperCollins.

For book lovers, our 2005 CT book awards are available online, along with our book awards for 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, and 1997, as well as our Books of the Twentieth Century. For other coverage or reviews, see our Books archive and the weekly Books & Culture Corner.

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