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JCN reviews and briefs books and other media resources as a service to our readers. We do not sell or profit financially from these books. Prices quoted are the original publisher's price. Book Briefs are short synopses based on the publisher's descriptions. Websites were current and evaluated at the time of publication.




The Dignity of the Human Person

By Gilbert Meilaender

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180 pp., New York: Encounter, 2009, $21.95, hardcover.


Review: Gilbert Meilaender is the Richard and Phyllis Duesenberg Professor of Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University and a former member of the President's Council on Bioethics. During his time on the Council, he encountered many debates over human dignity and its implications for bioethics, finding that much of the controversy arose because the term is used to capture two different concepts. His book unpacks the distinction he makes between "personal dignity" and "human dignity."


For Meilaender, human dignity is a term that expresses the essence of what it means to be human, "strange, 'in-between' sorts of creatures-lower than the gods, higher than the beasts" (p. 4). Our nature is one in which body and spirit come together in a mysterious way. We should seek to become neither too much like the gods nor too much like the beasts. This involves accepting the limitations of our bodies and avoiding seeing ourselves as merely bodies to be manipulated as we choose. Our human dignity includes the fact that we have characteristic qualities that distinguish us from all other species. But some people have more of these qualities than others. In this way, we talk about how some people have had their dignity diminished. Some of us live with greater dignity than others.


But this is where what Meilaender calls "personal dignity" comes into play and is more foundational to the concept of dignity. No matter how well or poorly individuals express our characteristically human traits and powers, we are equal in our personal dignity. Our differences in human dignity should never lead us to conclude that some people are more valuable than others, or that some lives are worth less than others.


Meilaender concludes that this equality requires an understanding of our relation to God. To whatever degree we vary in our human dignity, we are all equal in how far short we fall from God. This brings the humility needed to view everyone as having the same personal dignity. Meilaender then discusses the implications of his approach for birth, reproduction, childhood, loyalty, and death. This short book is clear and concise, each page packed with fresh insight. Anyone seeking to promote human dignity, especially within a Christian worldview, will gain much from reflecting on Meilaender's book.-Donal P. O'Mathuna, PhD, Senior Lecturer in Ethics, Decision-Making & Evidence, School of Nursing, Dublin City University, Ireland.



Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus

By Mark Labberton


236 pp., Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2010, $20.00, hardcover.


Brief: Labberton proposes that injustices begin long before we read or hear about them in the news. Injustice begins in the heart, where we listen but don't hear the cries of suffering; where we don't really love God or our neighbors. Jesus said evil thoughts and intentions come "out of the heart" (Matthew 15:19). Labberton clarifies that what shows up in public is a revelation of what is first in our hearts. Injustice is one of the consequences of our failure of heart. He helps us think through what it means to see, name, and act differently about justice and injustice, living out God's command to "learn to do right!! Seek justice" (Isaiah 1:17). Here is a chance to reflect on why our ordinary hearts can be complacent about the evils in the world and how we can begin to see the world like Jesus.




Biblical & Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence

By Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark


224 pp., Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2010 (revised), $17.00, paperback.


Brief: Nearly one in four women worldwide are physically or sexually abused in her lifetime; gender violence causes more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, or war among women ages 15 to 44. Regrettably, numerous studies suggest that incident rates among active churchgoers are nearly the same as those among the general populace. In this revised edition, Kroeger and Nason-Clark share an additional decade of experience in listening to the voices of women from around the world and especially to those within the church. You'll find true stories and statistics that illustrate the gravity and extent of the problem worldwide; a look at what Scripture says about domestic violence, including verbal abuse and patterns of concealment, secrecy, and silence; a discussion of how proper concerns for Christian families can be twisted to endanger women and their children; an assessment of alternatives to suffering in silence in a threatening environment; and new chapters on what churches can do and an introduction to the RAVE (Religion and Violence e-Learning) Project Web site.



What Every Pastor Needs to Know

By Al Miles

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224 pp., Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2011 (2nd ed.), $21.00, paperback.


Brief: According to the American Medical Association, one quarter of American women will be abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. Loving support can make a tremendous difference to survivors as they struggle with the difficult process of healing and regaining trust in themselves and others. Often, however, pastoral caregivers possess the same misconceptions about domestic violence as does the uninformed public. Miles addresses the issues related to inadequate pastoral response to this pervasive problem. He explores the dynamics of abusive relationships and the role that clergy members can take to heal this painful situation.


The new edition builds upon the insights, policies, and programs of the original volume and includes new information on the pathology of domestic violence and the effect the economic downturn is having on victim survivors and batterers. Miles also focuses on helping clergy and other pastoral ministers develop a more compassionate response to victim survivors who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. Discussion questions, resources, and contact information for state coalitions working to end domestic violence are included.




The Making of Modern Nursing

By Kate Trant and Susan Usher (Editors).

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256 pp., London: Black Dog, 2010, $29.95, paperback.


Review: This is an inspiring, fascinating book for students, nurses, and anyone interested in nursing. Packed with historic and modern photos and printed on heavy cardstock, it'sa book you could put on your coffee table or give as gift to a nurse-graduating, retiring, or celebrating a milestone. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's death, this book commemorates the development of professional nursing and contributions nurses have made to the health and welfare of people all over the world. The book opens asking, "What is a Nurse?" After explaining the great diversity of backgrounds, settings, education, social standing, and skills of nurses worldwide, the editors explain, "But nurses everywhere share an underlying drive to help people through difficult periods in life and it is this drive that truly defines nursing" (p. 8). Truly, this statement captures the essence of nursing.


The editors and contributing authors explore the evolution of nursing through the 1900s with beautiful historic photos and give an overview of the categories of nurse, scope of practice, education, licensing, advancement opportunities, and employment. An amusing discussion of propriety tells of days when nurses had to be properly dressed, act properly, and show "good old fashioned respect" (p. 45). There is a discussion of shortages and nurse migration as "Nursing is needed in all corners of the world and nurses have, throughout history, proven to be willing travelers and migrants" (p. 56). The book includes hospital design, the impact of design on patients and staff, and pictures of hospitals, wards, and blueprints past and present. Nursing in other settings such as home health and in war zones is presented. Nurse closes with a chapter on how nurses have and continue to transform care all over the world, treating people with dignity and compassion. Resources for further reading are offered.


Black Dog publishers are making Nurse available at a 40% discount to NCF Members. Send an email to Jess ( with the reference "JCN Offer" (Offer expires March 31, 2011).-KSS




Touching the Suffering Through Medical Missions

By Peggy Johnson Knutti

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184 pp., Springfield, MO: Access Group, 2010, $12.95, paperback.


Review:Healing Hands tells the story of the 25-year history of HealthCare Ministries (HCM), the International Medical Outreach of Assemblies of God (AG) World Missions. Knutti, graduate of Minneapolis General Hospital School of Nursing and Fuller Seminary, served as a career missionary in the Belgian Congo. After 17 years overseas, she participated in the development of HealthCare Ministries. The AG's model of healthcare and Christian witnessing via tours of duty uses various healthcare professionals and volunteers. The components of the ministry's meaningful and effective medical evangelism includes teams that hold clinics with local healthcare professionals, a local church that mobilizes church members, and a core of dedicated healthcare professionals from various disciplines. Knutti offers an inspiring and dramatic book using the stories of national healthcare professionals and volunteers, missionaries, volunteers from the United States, and missionary associates. The book is well researched and documented, telling the birth and growth of the worldwide medical missions of the AG's world missions program. Healing Hands not only describes the birth of HCM, but the struggles that incurred in accepting medical missions within the Assemblies of God.-Marilyne Gustafson, PhD, RN, retired Professor of Nursing, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.



A Guide for Crosscultural Service

By Steve Hoke and Bill Taylor

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303 pp., Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2009, $19.00, paperback.


Review: Hoke and Taylor have worked as missionaries, educators, and consultants worldwide for a number of years. Along with a team of additional expert contributors, they offer a true handbook for anyone interested in exploring or preparing for mission service. The book begins at the beginning, asking, "What does it take to be prepared?" Mini questionnaires, personal assessments, brief testimonies from missionaries, and Bible studies help readers think about issues involved in mission work and attempt to discern God's call on their life. The book then moves into "Phase One: Getting Ready," addressing personal spiritual formation, creating your personal calling statement, and discovering your ministry passion and identity through Bible study and self-exploration. Intimate details of preparation such as exposure to other cultures and critical issues in schooling and raising support are discussed. "Phase Two: Getting There" delves into how to choose a sending church or agency, a ministry assignment, and missionary training. "Phase Three: Getting Established" discusses internships and aspects of lifelong learning for missionaries. Hoke and Taylor end with a section on finishing well, realistically addressing problems with attrition, finding a mentor, and staying strong.


This book is laid out in small chunks and tidbits just like a training or instruction manual so you can look up specific topics of interest or concern. (I was glad to see healthcare missions included as a ministry area.) The way the book is designed gives special appeal for high school or college students. Missionaries who've been there elaborate concepts in tons of short personal stories. Appendices at the end offer multiple Web sites and books for further exploration. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to explore missions and ministry.-KSS




By T. Norton Sterrett and Richard L. Schultz


205 pp., Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2010 (3rd ed.), $16.00, paperback.


Brief: Have you ever felt like you can't make sense out of the Bible but wished you could? If so, then this book is for you. Starting from scratch, Sterrett presents the general rules for reading the Bible's ordinary language and moves on to specific principles that apply to special types of language such as parables, figures of speech, Hebrew poetry, and symbols. Schultz has updated Sterrett's classic beginner's guide to understanding the Bible, making it clearer and more helpful than ever before. He suggests more recent reference tools and offers more examples from contemporary English translations. In a new concluding chapter Schultz helps you try out the principles of the book on Psalm 51.


You may begin as a beginner, but you will finish this book well equipped to understand the Bible and experience its transforming power in your life.



Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer

By David G. Benner

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180 pp., Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2010, $17.00, hardcover.


Brief: Most Christians want to experience spiritual transformation; however, many are frustrated by the limited progress of our spiritual self-improvement efforts. We find our praying burdened by a sense of obligation and failure. But prayer is not merely something we do; prayer is what God does in us. Prayer is not just communication with God; it is communion with God. As we open ourselves to him, God does the spiritual work of transformation in us.


Spiritual director David Benner invites us to discover openness to God as the essence of prayer, spirituality, and the Christian life. Prayer is far more than saying words to God; all of life can be prayer when offered to God in faith and with openness. Using the four movements of lectio divina, Benner explores prayer as attending, pondering, responding, and being. Along the way he opens us to a world of possibilities for communion with God: praying with our senses, with imagination, with music and creativity, in contemplation, in service, and much more. Learn how prayer can be a way of living your life. Move beyond words to become not merely someone who prays, but someone whose entire life is prayer in union with God.