a new kind of conversation

March 26, 2009

I received a review copy of A New Kind of Conversation. The subtitle is Blogging Toward a Postmodern Faith. My first impression was that this was a book about blogging, and how this online conversation is helping shape postmodern faith. I thought it might be interesting. But on a closer look, I realized it was the other way around — a book about postmodern faith formatted as a blog.


I don’t need to see another book that tries to be a blog. Books and blogs are not the same, and the books I’ve seen that tried to be blogs were, well, not. Now to be fair, this wasn’t a book that tried to format like a blog just to sell a few extra copies. It actually was a blog (a blog that is still available online). It was designed to be co-authored online, and then (re)published as a book. But that still doesn’t mean it works very well.

The book is formatted as eight short essays (around 1000 words each) that appeared as the original blog posts. The topics are well-chosen and the ideas well-presented by Bruce Ellis Benson, Ellen Haroutunian, Mabiala Kenzo, Brian McLaren, and Myron Bradley Penner. I found them to be helpful summaries of some of the ideas I’ve had to grapple with in various books, conferences, and grad school.

Each essay is followed by one or more threads of discussion that resulted from the comments by some of the other contributors and blog readers. And this is where I lost interest. Some of the comments were good, and I suppose it could be helpful to see the dialogue. The struggle for me was that I don’t know who the other commenters are, other than a few names I recognized. When I read a book, I know about the author, and I have some idea of where they are speaking from. When I read comments on a blog, I can usually click on the name of the commenter and learn more about them. That interaction, along with my interest, are lost in the translation to book.

If you are interested in some good summaries about the tensions of postmodern faith, then the essays will be helpful for you. You might even engage with the comment threads better than I. But if you want to save a few dollars, I might suggest you just go read the content as it took shape on the original blog. You could probably even leave a comment yourself!

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