I have reviewed many books over the past few years.
Much like the book of Revelation, Joel L. Watts’ Praying in God’s Theater aims to pull readers into a deeper spirituality to confront the daily struggles of Christian life. Drawing from the rich well of Christian mystics and theologians from across the ecumenical experience, Watts uses the Apocalypse to build a series of prayers and devotions aimed at increasing what he identifies as the contemplative unity and the certain unity between the individual and Christ. He urges a radical vision of the prayer and the sacrament of the Eucharist.
Each chapter of Revelation is considered, explored, and finally used as a basis to draft prayers. Added to this is an application commentary that explores ancient liturgical practices similar to the scenes in Revelation while looking at Revelation in a mystical manner. Watts offers Revelation as an early liturgy, using this proposition as a catalyst for building prayers and a vision of life based on the Eucharist as the emblem of how we are to approach God. What emerges is a profound view on how we envision Scripture, prayer, and the book of Revelation.
Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013)
What if the story of Jesus was meant not just to be told but retold, molded, and shaped into something new, something present by the Evangelist to face each new crisis? The Evangelists were not recording a historical report, but writing to effect a change in their community. Mark was faced with the imminent destruction of his tiny community—a community leaderless without Paul and Peter and who witnessed the destruction of the Temple; now, another messianic figure was claiming the worship rightly due to Jesus. The author of the Gospel of Mark takes his stylus in hand and begins to rewrite the story of Jesus—to unwrite the present, rewrite the past, to change the future.
Joel L. Watts moves the Gospel of Mark to just after the destruction of the Temple, sets it within Roman educational models, and begins to read the ancient work afresh. Watts builds upon the historical criticisms of the past, but brings out a new way of reading the ancient stories of Jesus, and attempts to establish the literary sources of the Evangelist.
From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013)
There’s a stereotype of a young, zealous Christian who feels called to the ministry as a pastor, goes to seminary, and then loses his faith as he studies the writings of all those intellectuals and theologians. The stereotype may not be accurate, but there are those who fit this description, not to mention many who leave home for college as passionate Christians and come home unbelievers. More importantly, that stereotype represents a fear—the fear that too much education or contact with those whose beliefs differ from those of a particular community will cause someone to lose their faith.
But there’s another group, much larger, but not heard nearly as frequently. This group consists of people who have gone from the position of fear that creates the stereotype to a position of faith, a faith that is no longer afraid of that outer darkness that looms outside the walls of their religious community. Indeed, they may not perceive any looming darkness at all.
From Fear to Faith, edited by Travis Milam and Joel L. Watts, gives voice to that too often unheard group. It is a collection of essays from those who have lived in fear, have faced the looming dark, collided with their share of brick walls, but have come out with a new-found faith and undismayed trust.
The journeys of faith presented in this book reveal a group deeply insightful and grounded minds, rich in thriving spirituality, joy, and hope. Where there was once trepidation in asking the tough questions of human existence, of the divine relationship with creation, there is now a certain hope found when these authors have struggled to overcome canyons of fear, leaving behind a life of black and white certitude, to live in a beautiful world of gray.
They have learned that having questions and even doubts does not reflect a lack of faith. Rather, hiding in fear from the serious questions indicates a lack of faith in the one who said, “Don’t be afraid.”
Come join in this journey from fear to faith.
Order from the Publisher.
You can follow all posts on the journey to publication here.
Society of Biblical Literature
- From Blogging to Book (Online Publications Section, 2012 — Chicago)
- Giving your Students to Molech’s Fire May Be Permitted (Co-Presented with Thomas S. Verenna; Online Publications Section, 2013 — Baltimore)
- Working on a Building: Mark’s Correspondence to Daniel’s Structure (Markan Literary Sources, 2013 — Baltimore)
I am available to speak on a variety of topics!