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Spring 1998 · Vol. 27 No. 1 · pp. 90–91 

Book Review

The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior During the University Years

Steven Garber. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996. 199 pages.

Reviewed by Gordon Matties

This book deserves its place in the latest Christianity Today “Best Books” list. It is a well-crafted, readable, and inspiring book that ought to be read by every college or university student, and by all who wish to nurture faithfulness in students during their college years. It is probably the best book available that addresses practically and creatively the problems students face in the contemporary university milieu, and that offers strategies for intellectual, moral, and spiritual formation in that setting.

Garber is on the faculty of the American Studies Program in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities. The book was born out of years of working with students. Stories of real people dovetail with analysis of contemporary social and intellectual currents.

Interacting with literature, film, and postmodern trendsetters, as well as conversing with the disciplines of philosophy, theology, and sociology, Garber suggests how young adults can form a coherent and unified Christian worldview in the midst of an education that is often experienced as more fragmenting and disintegrating than unifying and integrating. Garber argues that students must learn to connect belief with behavior in a way that does not separate the private from the public, or truth claims from life as it is actually lived.

Garber offers three critical angles of vision for understanding the challenges college students face in forming a coherent life: perspectives from the history of ideas (to which students are exposed explicitly or implicitly in university education); contributions of an ethic of character (which, he claims, is more fruitful for the long haul than an ethic of rules); and insights into the sociology of knowledge (exploring the impact of context for constructing a coherent worldview). Garber argues that those who develop a worldview that addresses the challenge of coherence and truth in a pluralistic society, who find a mentor who incarnates such a worldview, and who choose to foster deep relationships with those who also wish to embody such a vision, will continue with integrity into adulthood.

The book is rooted in a vision of authentic community, in the practice of embodied Christianity, and in a commitment to holistic spiritual, moral, and intellectual formation. The stories Garber tells testify to the {91} tension many experience between their ideals and the tough demands of daily life. To negotiate by grace, students need a faith that is coherent and habits of heart and mind that will nurture a life of integrity, that will bring together what they believe and how they live. This book offers a hopeful road map for such students and for all who care about them.

Gordon Matties
Assoc. Prof. of Biblical Studies
Concord College, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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