Fargo Rock City | Chuck Klosterman

The cover of Klosterman's Fargo Rock CityI resonate with Klosterman’s musical obsession despite being one generation removed. Sure, he’s only two years older than me, but when he was listening to Mötley Crüe, I was into Michael W. Smith. It wasn’t until the early 90s that I started obsessing over albums and liner notes.

In Fargo Rock City, Klosterman pays tribute to the genre he loves—lovingly called “hair metal” today. The narrative is a trip through musical and personal landmarks that defined the pre-grunge era.

Klosterman’s penchant for ridiculous arguments is on full display in this critical tour of 1980s heavy metal. He also makes a surprising number of astute musical observations. (For example, he presents an unorthodox yet logical argument for why Bush signalled the death of Grunge.)

If you long for the days of Def Leppard, Poison, Skid Row, Bon Jovi, and especially G’n’R, this book is for you.


Klosterman, Chuck. Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural Nörth Daköta. New York: Scribner, 2003.

The Discourses | Symeon the New Theologian

The cover of Symeon's The DiscoursesThe man was intense!

One the eve of a rebellion, when the monks under his supervision ran to the Patriarch of the city to get relief from their severe Abbot, Symeon spoke to them:

I cannot endure to be silent about the things I have seen, about the wonders of God I have known by fact and experience. Rather, I testify of them to all others as in God’s presence, and say with a loud voice, “Run, all of you, before the door of repentance is closed to you by death. Run, that you may take hold of it before you depart this life; make haste that you may receive it, knock, that your Master may open to you before you die, and that He may show himself to you.” (349)

Symeon was not only severe. In a compassionate moment towards those who insufficiently fasted during Lent, he said:

[God] it is who in great generosity gives crowns to the zealous and duly rewards their labors, and also in mercy and loving-kindness grants forgiveness to the weaker. (181)

Symeon was driven by a vision of God that would not let him relax. Having experienced the inexpressible light of God, he was compelled to urge the people around him to press on towards that light.

My biggest struggle with Symeon (and all the ancient Orthodox saints) is their spirit-flesh dualism and extreme asceticism. They are constantly preoccupied with escaping the material world which God deemed “very good” and validated by becoming incarnate. That said, Symeon’s passion and insight into the spiritual condition made the struggle worthwhile!

Symeon’s Discourses are deep devotional material. Written for those in a monastic life, they are still relevant today for those with a passionate commitment to Christ.


Symeon the New Theologian. The Discourses. The Classics of Western Spirituality: A Library of the Great Spiritual Masters. Translated by C. J. deCatanzaro. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980.

The Father’s Kiss | Donald Gee

Donald GeeThe kiss with which the Father greeted the returning prodigal must have been like sweetest balm upon his poor weary wounded spirit; yet no one would suggest that the Father kept on kissing him all the time. . . . Some Christians tend towards the superlative, and we have to confess to a feeling approaching nausea at their sugary language.

—Gee in Hollenweger, The Pentecostals, 211.

Catch the Fire | Michael Wilkinson and Peter Althouse

The cover of Wilkinson and Althouse's Catch the FireSoaking prayer is a relatively new phenomenon. Participants are brought together in a worship setting. They then lie down, often with pillow and blanket, as worship music is played. During this time they rest—soak—in the Father’s love. Leaders of the meeting don’t pray verbally, although they may lay hands on the soakers for a time.

Soaking has a purpose beyond the appeal of a new spiritual experience. Those who soak believe that they are being filled with the Father’s love in order to  express that love to others. Soaking has an altruistic motive which aligns with the vision of Catch the Fire churches: “… to walk in God’s love and give it away, until the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.”

There are two roots to soaking prayer. Classical Pentecostals spoke of being “slain in the Spirit.” This occurred when someone receiving prayer fell over under the Spirit’s power. The Catholic tradition, especially with Francis McNutt, rejected the violent language of Classical Pentecostals and preferred to speak of “resting in the Spirit.” This aligns with Catholic contemplative tradition. The purpose of resting in the Spirit is to receive healing.

In Catch the Fire, sociologist Michael Wilkinson and theologian Peter Althouse share the results of an extensive study of the soaking phenomenon. The book is methodologically rigorous and theologically generous. It was written not to support or criticize, but to understand and explain.

If you are interested in what is happening in the charismatic renewal, this is your book.


Wilkinson, Michael and Peter Althouse. Catch the Fire: Soaking Prayer and Charismatic Revival. DeKalb, IL: NIU Press, 2014.

Sin is an Adverb | Abraham J. Heschel

Abraham J. HeschelTo the prophets, sin is not an ultimate, irreducible or independent condition, but rather a disturbance in the relationship between God and man; it is an adverb not a noun, a condition that can be surmounted by man’s return and God’s forgiveness.

—Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 295.

Designing Religious Research Studies | C. Jeff Woods

The cover of Woods' Designing Religious Research StudiesResearch begins with passion and ends, hopefully, with a thoroughly explored answer to an important question. At the beginning of the research design process, the focus is broad and diverse. Then, with each decision the researcher makes, that breadth is narrowed. Like water through a funnel picks up speed, the research project gathers momentum and the once unmanageable idea transforms into a legitimate project.

In Designing Religious Research Studies, Woods gives the prospective researcher an overview of all the steps required to transform that initial passion into a doable project. He draws on his classroom experience teaching research to provide a simple overview of the process.

This introductory-level volume is void of technical jargon and could be read by anyone interested in how studies are designed. In a sense, this 125 page volume is like the abstract of a research paper: it offers a high-level overview of the topic at hand: research design.


Woods, Jeff C. Designing Religious Research Studies: From Passion to Procedures. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2016.

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