Review: Karen Swallow Prior’s Fierce Convictions (Thomas Nelson)

Hannah More. Have you heard of her? I hadn’t before seeing advertisements for Fierce Convictions pop up on several of my social media feeds a few months back. The cover made me think of Jane Austin. It also stated More was a “Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist.” That’s all I knew.

Well I just finished Fierce Convictions —I loved it. It’s my surprise best read of the year so far. I enjoy biography so I was expecting to be entertained. But this book hit all the high notes for me. Swallow weaves in themes that I love—friendship, justice, fortitude, sacrifice. The story is well-crafted and honest. And More’s life has something to teach us all.

Early on Swallow tells us, “But with this letter, along with many other words from her pen, More painted a picture she hoped might move her friend’s imagination. Perhaps then his heart, mind, and actions would follow” (xviii). Imagination. Something that played a crucial role in More’s success as a writer and also as a social activists. Her writing was successful in changing hearts, minds, and actions because it attacked the imagination of a nation.

Swallow starts by re-telling the history of More’s family. She avoids the well-worn hagiography. She’s honest when the picture is blurry and sets the stage for the rest of More’s life. She also goes on through the book to tie More’s life to other interesting people of that time and also major events that More influenced. The meat of the book deals with More’s rise to prominence in London as a writer who was successful in her interaction with those above her natural station and also uncomfortable eventually receding back to the country.

Read More

Review: Owen Strachan’s Risky Gospel

Owen Strachan has written a practical and provocative book on Gospel risk. Now you may thinking, “Ugh another book on radical Christian living?” Well in a way yes and also in some considerable ways no. Owen launches from Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents. This parable sets the stage for how the reader must understand risk in this book.  Here’s a short summary of the parable. The master leaves and gives three of his servants different amounts of money. Two use the money well and earn their master more. The third acts wickedly and hides his money. He lives in fear. That kind of fear prevents living faithfully. Instead, “We’re saved,” Owen says, “to plunge headlong into a life of God-inspired, Christ-centered, gospel-driven risk” (30).

Read More