The Incredibles

Remember the parable of the talents in Matthew 25: 14-30?  The servants who are rewarded are the ones who are given ten and five talents, and produce ten and five more. The servant who is chastised is the one who takes his one talent and buries it. Yes, yes, the 'talent' in the parable referred to a unit of money and not to individual ability. Nonetheless, it's irresistible for preachers and other well-meaning commentators to apply the metaphor of personal talents. The message would be something like, 'Use your gifts, especially if they can help someone else.'

Well, that's also the message of 'The Incredibles.' This is an animated Pixar feature, where the voices are notable actors, but it's all programmed into the graphics, just like the music soundtrack and the cutting-edge visuals. This is pure high-tech, because there's not a 'real' scene in it.  But it's engaging, nonetheless, in part because of the compelling character development.


Bill Coffin is a man of intrepid one-liners and steadfast, exuberant faith. "Credo, I believe," as he says in the preface of this slim volume, "best translates 'I have given my heart to.'" (p. xv). Or, I would venture, two hearts. What comes through clearly in this compilation of sentences and paragraphs is God's incredible love for us, all of us, and, in gratitude, one person's giving of his "heart to the teaching and example of Christ" (ibid).

The Cross in Our Context: Jesus and the Suffering World

By Douglas John Hall
Augsburg Fortress. 2003. 2243 pp. Pb. $17.

— Review by Edwin W. Stock, Raleigh, N.C.

The author is a Canadian Lutheran scholar whose book was first delivered in 2002 as 10 lectures at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio. It is easy to read because it has an oral style. Yet, it is scholarly as it addresses Martin Luther's "thin tradition," a theology of the cross (theologia crucis) not well known or appreciated in Reformed Calvinistic branches, whose theology begins with the foundational pillar of the Sovereignty of God.

An Examined Faith: The Grace of Self Doubt

By James M. Gustafson
Augsburg Fortress. 2004. 128 pp. $15.

— Review by Ralph D. Bucy, Harrisonburg, Va.

From the cowardice that dares not face new truth
From the laziness that is contented with half-truth
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth
Good Lord, deliver us.
(p. vii)

The Spirit of Adoption: At Home in God’s Family

By Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner
WJKP. 2003. 134 pp. Pb. $14.95.

Review by Stephen R. Montgomery, Memphis, Tenn.

It has become a cliché in book reviews to state that "this is a book that should be on every pastor’s bookshelf and every church library." In the case of Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner’s The Spirit of Adoption: At Home in God’s Family, the cliché rings true.

You Only Die Once: Preparing for the End of Life with Grace and Gusto

By Margie Little Jenkins

Integrity. 227 pp. Pb. $12.99. ISBN 1-59145-013-6

Review by — Judy Haas Smith, Bedford, Pa.

Margie Jenkins, a Presbyterian elder, has written an important book. It ranks somewhere between the first-aid manual and the phone book, and should well be in every home. With a master's degree in social work, she has specialized in grief counseling and therapy for nearly 30 years.

Niebuhr and His Age: Reinhold Niebuhr’s Prophetic Role and Legacy

By Charles C. Brown

Trinity Press International. 2002. 333 pp. Pb. $20. ISBN 1-56338-375-6

Review by Robert Dunham, Chapel Hill, N.C.

A decade after publishing the acclaimed hardback edition of Charles Brown's appreciative intellectual biography of Reinhold Niebuhr, Trinity Press International has made this important work more widely available in a paperback edition, updated by the author. The timing could not have been more auspicious (nor, perhaps, intentional), given the turn of world events in recent years.

The Power of God at Home: Nurturing our Children in Love and Grace

By J. Bradley Wigger

Jossey-Bass. 2003. 224 pp. $19.95. ISBN 0-7879-5588-4

Review by Joyce MacKichan Walker, Princeton, N.J.

"The large conviction and concern of this book is that faith empowers family life and parenting" (p. 19). So states Brad Wigger in the first chapter of The Power of God at Home, and just so does he clearly summarize the purpose and usefulness of this book for ministry to, for and with families. Who, as a Christian parent, has not struggled with how to bring into our daily conversations and living our belief that God is the ground of who we are and why we exist; that this trust is one we want our children to witness in our homes and experience for themselves?

Grace: A Memoir

By Mary Cartledgehayes
Crown. 2003. 203 pp. $23. ISBN 0-609-60834-7

Review by Mary Lib Phipps, Cary, N.C.

Grace is an exciting story of the path one woman chose at a point in her life when it was neither easy nor logical. Mary Cartledgehayes shares an honest and beautifully expressed impression of a few different, yet exhilarating, years in her life.