Archives for posts with tag: Wipf & Stock

It is reading week. What do professors do during reading week? Read, of course! Check out my blog from a few years ago for my favorite authors. Here is a book review of a book I read last year.

Book review of a new Canadian author: Silas Krabbe, A Beautiful Bricolage [Wipf & Stock, 2016]

I got a free book in exchange for a review so here it is wipf & stock eat your heart out and add your own punctuation because i write this way not because i am trying to be postmodern well maybe partly but simply because i am lazy and it’s late at night so a beautiful bricolage is a book by an alumnus of where i teach columbia bible college silas krabbe who was one of those handful of exceptionally brilliant minds i have had the privilege of having in my classes although he should have named my colleague in his acknowledgements because she too is brilliant and i suspect that this book is an expansion of some of his graduate work because it reads like it unfortunately because the subject matter—an introduction to theopoetics if you don’t know what that is turn to page 12 where it says that it is the belief that how we articulate our experiences of the divine can alter our experiences of the divine which he stole from the best introduction to theopoetics which is keefe-perry’s way to water—is one that more people need to know about like when he says that no one in his congregation will ever read the book why not write it for them and all the other people who could be transformed by this subject rather than just writing for all the insiders who already understand your language this is my critique of the book and my compliment is that it is a good summary of all the major speakers writers poets prophets etc of the theopoetics movement my favorite of those is ruben alves whom i had not read before whose poetry was at the beginning of every chapter and i was also glad that at the beginning and the end it mentioned that theopoetics and theopoisis are basically the same thing because i do not think this distinction is meaningful my favorite chapter is aims and not answers perhaps because the points are numbered so that a modernist like me can understand and follow because theopoetics is nicely explained in 8 points 1 it attempts to hold things together 2 it plays with and extends exuberance 3 it offers space or gellasenheit my favorite word from anabaptist class maybe he first heard it there although he doesn’t give me credit 4 it retains transcendence 5 it is about embodiment 6 it protects the individual 7 it takes responsibility for human agency 8 it resists idolatry which is the best thing about theopoetics and i also like his sense of humor and the river imagery although we could have done without the river suddenly becoming a baseball game in the second last chapter what’s with that i was convinced before reading the book but i agree with his conclusion when he says he would be thrilled if the reader is beginning to think that theopoetics with its beauty its play and its daring movement into the future is a relevant and viable way for engaging with and incorporating the divine into the questions of our time but i’d like to add that we need a poet who the regular person on the street can understand not another academic book for the elites to banter about so the author should be challenged to take this up as his next project


 I accidentally came upon a review of my latest book which was written some time ago. The review was posted in the MB Herald by Travis Barbour on Wednesday, September 9, 2015. Thanks Travis!

Spirituality With Clothes On

Gareth Brandt

Wipf and Stock, 2015

One of postmodernism’s gifts is the realization that life does not happen in a vacuum. We all approach life from a particular point of view, shaped by our upbringing, social standing, personality, etc. In Spirituality with Clothes On: Examining What Makes Us Who We Are, Gareth Brandt considers how this apply to our spirituality. That is to say, he examines how a host of factors, like our family structures and gender, shape how we relate to God and how we experience him.

The title Spirituality with Clothes On communicates that rather than spending our time trying to strip away these life-shaping factors in order to arrive at some sort of pure or “naked” spirituality, we ought to instead embrace them as items which help us understand our spirituality. Just as the articles of clothing in our wardrobes say something about our identity, so too do social and psychological factors speak about our spiritual identity.

Healthy spirituality happens when these factors are reflected on and integrated into our understanding of our relationship with God.

This book is intended for a broad audience. The accessible writing style makes the interdisciplinary content (including elements of biblical study, history and psychology) appealing for anyone with an interest in spirituality.

Brandt is a professor of practical theology at Columbia Bible College; Spirituality with Clothes On has its origins in the class he teaches there on faith formation.

Brandt writes from a Mennonite perspective: he was raised in a conservative, rural Mennonite context and he now is a part of Mennonite Church Canada. Throughout his work, values of the Mennonite tradition, such as simplicity and the community hermeneutic, are evident.

Brandt begins his book by laying out his premise that there are factors in our life that shape our spirituality. After making his case, Brandt spends the rest of the book examining a selection of these factors.

Two chapters examining the primary role Scripture plays in our spirituality bookend Brandt’s exploration of factors. The former chapter identifies five basic truths about spirituality. From a biblical point of view, spirituality is a process, is God-initiated, involves human response, happens in community and is mysterious. The latter chapter contains a reflection on Colossians 3:12–17 which fittingly encourages believers to “clothe yourselves” in virtues including compassion, humility, gentleness, love and thankfulness.

Brandt suggests that living in accordance with these virtues gives us a picture of what mature spirituality looks like.

In between, Brandt examines various items of “clothing,” some of which we may not typically associate with spirituality (e.g., the role of consumerism in our lives). These chapters are full of useful insights and ideas that will help readers better understand themselves and those with whom they interact and minister. For example, the chapter on the role of personality provides the reader with a description of nine different spirituality types. (A quiz in the appendix helps readers discern their type.)

Another item of “clothing” the reader may find especially helpful is Brandt’s chapter on woundedness. Here, Brandt takes his reader on a journey through his own story of childhood abuse. In doing so, he compassionately encourages the reader to understand that their wounds do not diminish spiritual experience but rather can “become an integral part of our spiritual formation.”

Spirituality with Clothes On would be helpful to anyone looking to understand themselves and their relationship with God better. It leaves room for further discernment and exploration. Brandt is generally able to avoid the pitfall of forcing his own clothes on readers; instead, he provides tools to analyze our own wardrobes.

Some readers may struggle with Brandt’s chapter on consumerism. There Brandt expresses his strong personal convictions that part of a healthy spirituality ought to include a minimalist approach to consumption. For readers who are not used to thinking about the ramifications of their spending habits on their spirituality this may seem jarring. Nevertheless, Brandt’s passion and activism on this topic should not be written off but weighed carefully.

Spirituality with Clothes On is the type of book we need more of in our postmodern era: grounded in the story of Scripture, well researched, interdisciplinary and accessible to a wide audience.

Travis Barbour is associate pastor at Neighbourhood Church, Nanaimo, B.C.


#6 in the series of “rabbit trails” based on my new book, Spirituality With Clothes On.

Last Friday I did a third book launch at CMU in Winnipeg, MB. I was very pleased with the attendance of about 40 people. The remarkable thing for me was the colliding of a number of my worlds: people in attendance varied from family, the church in Winnipeg where I was youth pastor 21+ years ago, CMU faculty, to a student from Columbia who happened to be in the city.

The section I read was “The Mall Conspiracy,” a humorous satirical piece about the power of consumer culture that influences our spirituality. After this I encouraged people to buy books from their local bookstore rather than online [unfortunately they ran out of books]. I suppose it is no surprise that the discussion focused on this issue, stretching to the topic of the clothing industry—even though the title of the book is completely analogous, other than this chapter on consumerism! In this one chapter the analogy also becomes an example [see p. 106].

Since the book only came out a few months ago there have been no formal reviews that I am aware of but numerous people have given their informal responses. It is interesting that quite a few of them talk about the analogy rather than the content. One elderly reader in my church has told me numerous stories from his childhood about clothing. For example, he grew up having to wear a tie to attend church in Russia to show reverence for God, but now in Canada the more conservative Mennonites frowned on this frivolous show of pride. Clothing has been a Mennonite issue since the second generation of our existence when the Waterlanders and Frisians argued over buttons and lace!

In many ways clothing literally is an expression of our personality as I begin in chapter 5. “We are what we wear.” This also works well for the analogy where clothing represents our background and our experiences. “There is no such thing as naked spirituality.” I appreciate any responses from readers, whether the response is to the analogy or the content of any chapter!

My new book is now available. Check out the cover, forward, and the first few chapters.Brandt_00202_Excerpt