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A World according to God: Practices for Putting Faith at the Center of Your Life.

A World according to God: Practices for Putting Faith at the Center of Your Life. By Martha Ellen Stortz. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004. xv and 184 pages. Cloth. $21.95.

Stortz invites readers to rediscover the power of the practices of Christian discipleship. She describes these practices as imitating the example of Christ, providing places to encounter Christ, and forming us into Christ's body. Stortz contends that practices have the power to redirect our vision and emotions to see and feel from God's perspective, and thereby place our lives in a new context.

Stortz identifies six practices of Christian discipleship: Baptism, the Lord's Supper, prayer, forgiveness, remembering the dead, and fidelity. She describes these practices in ideal form, as though transformed lives necessarily follow for those who practice them. As a former student of Stortz's, I looked for and did not find the question with which we wrestled in her class: How do we account for persons who participate in the church's practices but show no signs of discipleship in their ethical conduct? Stortz focuses on the work we do upon ourselves and that which is done upon us by God. For example, she writes that forgiveness includes remembering wrong-doing, but not that we help one another recognize what we are accountable for.

While Stortz is Lutheran, A World according to God is ecumenical. This is evident in the list of practices Stortz settles on. Roman Catholics will easily recognize her descriptions of fidelity and remembering the dead. The chapter on fidelity, for example, refers to religious vows as well as marriage. Protestants may be surprised by Stortz's omission of the practice of sharing the Word in scripture. Stortz's definition of Christian practice is broader than that of narrative theologians, so it is not clear how sharing the scriptures falls outside it, particularly since her book is thoroughly grounded by biblical texts.

The scriptural grounding, practical nature, and accessible language of this book make it useful for small groups and adult education in congregations. The chapter on forgiveness is particularly important for U.S. Christians today in light of our sense of grievance following September 11 and the increasing vitriol with which we express political divisions in our nation and our churches.

Bruce P. Rittenhouse

University of Chicago Divinity School
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Author:Rittenhouse, Bruce P.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:380
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