Thinking Out Loud

August 2, 2014

A House is Known by the Company it Keeps

Our Big American God - Matthew Paul TurnerWith all the buzz on Twitter, I would love for this space to contain a review of Matthew Paul Turner’s Our Great Big American God: A Short History of Our Ever Growing Deity but alas, getting review books from Hachette Book Group is like pulling teeth and only once — with Nadia Bolz-Weber’s book which, by the way, is coming out in paperback in September — have I been successful. (I really wanted to review Rob Strong’s The Big Guy Upstairs so I could present my conspiracy theory that Strong is really Rob Bell; a theory I maintain despite the lack of physical resemblance…)

But I found it interesting who is on the list of review citations appearing at Ingram Book Company, the world’s largest book distributor.  It’s certainly A-list, but it’s also a list of progressive writers who would be unlikely to say anything negative. (Not that they would; from what I hear the book is a must-read.)

Here’s a sample:

  • Ed Cyzewski author, The Good News of Revelation and A Christian Survival Guide
  • Jon Acuff, New York Times bestselling author of Start
  • Micha Boyett, Author of Found: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer
  • Nish Weiseth, author of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World
  • Frank Schaeffer, author, And God Said, Billy! 
  • Peter Rollins
  • A. J. Jacobs, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically
  • Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist
  • Timothy Kurek, author of the bestselling book, The Cross in the Closet

Okay, so maybe I’m not quite in their league, but I’m not asking to be part of the print edition, I just want to review the book on the blog. Jericho Books, are you listening? Still, it’s interesting to see the omission of endorsements by Max Lucado, Jerry Jenkins or even Bill Gaither. (Does Bill read?)

Oh and by the way book marketing people, Peter Rollins looks really lame on this list, so I will say what the online product detail didn’t: Peter is the author of at least seven books and an unpublished PhD thesis that “offers a survey of religious thinking in the aftermath of Marx, Freud and Nietzsche. It engages directly with Martin Heidegger’s critique of onto-theology and explores the religious significance of Jacques Derrida’s post-structural theory and Jean-Luc Marion’s saturated phenomenology…” (Wikipedia) Hence the doctorate in “Post-Structural Theory.” But onto-theology is out of my league also.

And that’s just a sample of what my research department would provide Matthew Paul Turner if Hachette/Faithwords/Jericho wants to ante up with a print copy, mailed to my lavish executive offices (see yesterday’s post) in the next 72 hours. 





  1. I hear you. I get a lot of review copies offered to me and I accept about 5%, but only a few where I’ve been in the book itself and those are usually through already personally existing relationships. The key, is to just keep reviewing on Amazon, Goodreads etc, and over time you’ll raise on the radar screen. Be careful what you wish for though. ;) Nonstop requests from authors and publishers in genres you’ve never read before are part of that price.

    Comment by Bart Breen — August 2, 2014 @ 11:22 am

    • You’ll never find a review from me on Amazon, the politics of the company and their decimation of the local Christian bookstore market being what they are. Actually, I have no problem finding books to review; the traffic here has reached a point where the books often just show up. The problem is this one particular publisher.

      I’m grateful to Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Baker, David C. Cook for all the goodies that show up in my mailbox. Would be nice to have access to InterVarsity Press, especially given that I’m a one-time employee.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 2, 2014 @ 11:30 am

  2. Hey Paul, I’d be happy to send you a book. Would you prefer a hard copy or ebook? Either is fine. Email me!

    Comment by matthewpaulturner — August 2, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

  3. Let me know if you received my last comment. I’ll happily send you a book. Email me.

    Comment by matthewpaulturner — August 2, 2014 @ 2:19 pm

    • Sorry. I was at a Sandcastle Competition. (Bet you don’t hear that excuse often.) Print would be preferred as I like to keep physical copies of books I review; I’ve sent you an email.


      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 2, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

  4. This doesn’t have anything to do with the article, per se, but it got me to thinking that there are a countless number of books, magazines, podcasts, websites, radio stations, television shows, etc covering, and seemingly mostly critiquing, the Church in America. I would guess that very few of these don’t offer a solution to whatever topic they are covering yet the Church in America always seems to be 1) in decline or 2) at a crossroads or 3) finding a new vision for the future, yet church attendance, tithing, giving, missions, as a percentage seem to be the same year after year. So my question is: Are these books ineffective at solving our problems or by virtue of their sheer numbers are they helping keep the Church afloat in America? Just wondering.

    Comment by Janis Vitolins — August 2, 2014 @ 4:44 pm

    • Hi Janis;

      It’s hard to come up with a really concise reply but I’ll take a run at it. Several years ago there was a print magazine called the Wittenberg Door (spelling thing was deliberate) that critiqued all aspects of Church life. Sometimes it hit a little to close to home (especially if you knew the people involved personally) but as one leader said to me in the 70s, “That magazine is my conscience.” You can say things with humor that you can’t say directly. I think it’s helpful to know where we’ve been and where we’re at so we have a clearer picture of where we’re going.

      Not everybody will read the books in question, but those who want to find them refreshing and dare I say even uplifting. In other words we need books like this periodically; just as much as we need prophetic voices to awake us from spiritual complacency. (But remember I’m saying this not having seen this particular title.)

      I actually wrote a book like this myself more than 25 years ago. With the working titles Country Club Religion and For Members Only the books would have been ahead of the curve and perhaps landed me a more significant place of prominence in the discussions had they been published. But I noticed what you noticed, namely a lot of people saying the same things and being quite critical in the process, and for various reasons, I scrapped the project 12 chapters in.

      Believe me, I think every voice adds something; makes a difference. As to this blog, I like to raise awareness of titles that I think speak to the heart of various issues the church faces, but I also like to celebrate the times we as the Capital C Church get it right.

      Feel free to follow up with a supplementary question if you don’t feel I directly addressed what you’re asking.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — August 2, 2014 @ 4:57 pm

      • Paul,

        Thanks for the answer. It was good though I’m afraid my question was probably too broad based or unfair. I get many insights from Skye Jethani , Alistair Begg and Ravi Zacharias and even (gasp!) Rob Bell. Perhaps you ought to dust off your 12 chapters and have at it again. Thanks again.

        Comment by Janis — August 3, 2014 @ 5:17 pm

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