June 1, 2005
The first sentence of Debra Rienstra's new book sets the tone for the whole. It asks: "Who will welcome me?"
The book, So Much More: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality, (Jossey-Bass, 2005) is an inviting guided tour through the basics of the Christian life.
One reviewer described it as a Christian apologetics for our era.
Rienstra, a professor of English at Calvin College, doesn't disagree with that succinct summary.
"My editor and I were trying to create an introduction to Christianity that responded to concerns particularly urgent in our postmodern times," she says.
Those concerns, Rienstra says, include our human longing for transcendence, our desire for integrity in all parts of our lives and our need to find a way of thinking and living that makes sense in a bewildering marketplace of ideas and lifestyles.
The book is a departure from the traditional, rational argument for the Christianity, which remains important Rienstra says.
But, she adds, rational argumentation is not necessarily people's first concern these days.
"They don’t want to be argued into certain propositions," she asserts. "They want to be drawn into a system of meaning and living. They want to meet God and be changed."
So Much More covers serious terrain.
There are chapters devoted to core beliefs of the Christian faith - transcendence, incarnation, sin, salvation and suffering. There are also chapters devoted to the lifelong practices of the Christian believer - prayer, reading the Bible, worship, community and service.
Rienstra tried throughout the book to function as a hospitable host.
"I tried to make the book personal," she says, "a gesture of welcoming friendship to the reader."
Rienstra hopes So Much More will appeal to Christians who are new or newly returned to the faith. She also hopes the book is substantial enough theologically to appeal to longtime believers.
"So many people who are coming to the faith right now," she says, "are doing so with virtually no religious education in their background. My fondest dream for the book is that churches will use it in their adult education programs, and that groups of new and seasoned Christians will be able to read it together and find that it has both comfort and challenge for people at different stages in their journeys."
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