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Book: Embraced: Many Stories, One Destiny: You, Me, and Moltmann by Mark French Buchanan [AMAZON LINK]
Publisher: Wipf and Stock [PUBLISHERS LINK]
Overview: It’s uncommon for a book to be at once profoundly moving and theologically stimulating, but this is precisely what Buchanan has achieved with Embraced. By using personal stories to explore the profoundly pastoral insights of Moltmann’s theology, this book is a home run.
This is a beautiful book with an innovating premise and a big heart. Buchanan weaves together stories from his life with deep theological insights mined from the works of Jürgen Moltmann. It is rare for a theology book to have this much potential for emotional and spiritual impact, just as it is rare for a spiritual book to have this much theological depth—but this is the great accomplishment of Embraced.
Buchanan’s stories are full of life and hope, but they also touch on the deep questions of suffering and death. This is theology written from the heart of a pastor. Some of the most moving stories came towards the end of the book, which tended to focus more on loss and grief. I won’t spoil them for those of you who plan to read the book. But I will say this: I rarely tear up from a book, but I did when I read these touching accounts.
Buchanan explains the purpose of the stories he tells:
My stories illustrate the central insights from Moltmann’s theology and narrate what is fundamental to his work; that God dwells in every person as an inward guide, and that God encompasses everyone and everything. The stories illustrate how by dwelling in and encompassing all things, God is drawing all things into his own future.
I am now convinced that every time a hopeful story is told, God is the unseen storyteller, “whispering” his empathy, encouragement, and guidance for life. 1
This is a book that takes seriously the practical and pastoral implications of Moltmann’s work. Through these stories, the reader is inspired to recognize the love and life of God in their own journeys.
This is described well by one of my favorite quotes from Moltmann’s work:
I expect the presence of God in everything I meet and everything I do. 2
This expectation produces in us a Yes to life, a Yes that stands against the apathy that is all too common in modern life. In all things we have the expectation that God is with us. The stories that Buchanan shares, and the theological insights he explores through them, are a refreshing reminder of this expectation and this hope.
Conclusion: I could see this book serving a number of purposes. It would be great for group discussions, and it might even work as a preliminary introduction to Moltmann’s theology. Overall, it was simply an enjoyable book to read, and I highly recommend it.
My thanks to Wipf and Stock Publishers for a digital copy of this book for review. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review and have presented my honest reflection on this work.