Coming from IVP Academic on January 16th, it’s the first must-read Christian book of 2017: Marion Larson and Sara Shady’s From Bubble to Bridge: Educating Christians for a Multifaith World! I’ll need to wait until February to read it myself — since I’ll be somewhere in Europe teaching the history of World War I — but trust me, you’re going to want to join me in pre-ordering this.
First, I know the authors and their work quite well. I’ve taught with Sara for more than a decade as part of a teaching team at Bethel University, and I’ve wanted to teach with Marion for just as long! (Both have received our faculty excellence award for teaching.) Moreover, they were kind enough to contribute a chapter to our previous book with InterVarsity Press, A Pietist Vision for Christian Higher Education. I ended up revisiting it this fall while writing the Christian formation chapter in my own forthcoming book with IVP.
Entitled “Love My (Religious) Neighbor: A Pietist Approach to Christian Responsibility in a Pluralistic World,” Marion and Sara’s chapter served as a preview to the larger project being published as From Bubble to Bridge. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Understanding our religious neighbors is more important than ever—but also more challenging.
In a world of deep religious strife and increasing pluralism it can seem safer to remain inside the “bubble” of our faith community. Christian college campuses in particular provide a strong social bubble that reinforces one’s faith identity in distinction from the wider society. Many Christians worry that engaging in interfaith dialogue will require watering down their faith and accepting other religions as equally true.
Bethel University professors Marion Larson and Sara Shady not only make the case that we can love our religious neighbors without diluting our commitment, but also offer practical wisdom and ideas for turning our faith bubbles into bridges of religious inclusion and interfaith engagement. Drawing on the parables of Jesus, research on interreligious dialogue, and their own classroom experience, Larson and Shady provide readers with the tools they need to move beyond the bubble.
Interfaith dialogue is difficult, and From Bubble to Bridge is the timely guide we have been waiting for.
“It is impossible,” says Eboo Patel (who has worked closely with Sara, Marion, and our colleague Amy Poppinga through Interfaith Youth Core) in his foreword, “to overstate the importance of this work.”
Impossible indeed. With this book dropping the same week that this country inaugurates a president who has called for the registration of Muslim Americans and a ban on Muslim immigration, it’s imperative that evangelicals and other Christians learn how to live out love of their religious neighbors. “How Christians live with and respond to people of other faiths is one of the great questions of our day,” writes pastor and author John Ortberg in his endorsement of Sara and Marion’s book. “From Bubble to Bridge is a tremendous resource to help move toward right answers”
Patel commends Marion and Sara for showing “in a manner that is both intellectually compelling and practically useful, that evangelical colleges can be leaders in interfaith bridge-building.” Even if I didn’t know the authors so well, that would sell me on the value of this book. I continue to find the metaphor of “bridge-building” a powerful, hopeful one for Christian higher education, as I wrote in a recent post on sexuality and as I said in a 2014 address to the Christian College Consortium:
At its best, a Christ-centered university like Bethel is not a garrison of defenders of the faith, preparing for battle in the safety of their citadel; it’s a community of people serving faithfully, fearlessly in contested territory, building bridges, healing wounds, and inviting their enemies to turn towards the Prince of Peace.
No one has helped me understand what this bridge-building looks like in practice as much as Sara, Marion, Amy, and my other Bethel colleagues who devote themselves to interfaith dialogue and service. I wish you all could see them in action — but failing that, be sure to read Marion and Sara’s book!