Does God Always Get What God Wants? by Tim Reddish. The Soul of the City, by Leonard Hjalmarson. Teach Us to Pray, by Gordon T. Smith. Everyone Has a Story, music by Kelita. Art by Ruthia Pak Regis.
Does God Always Get What God Wants? An Exploration of God’s Activity in a Suffering World
By Tim Reddish
Wipf and Stock/Cascade, 2018. 186 pages. $30 (e-book $9.99). Browse at Books.Google.ca.
"HOW CAN a loving and powerful God allow suffering?" This is perhaps the most formidable issue skeptics can raise, and Tim Reddish tackles it not at an intellectual arm’s length, but as someone well acquainted with suffering.
Reddish is a former physics professor at the University of Windsor in Ontario and now a Presbyterian pastor. He uses the story of his first wife’s struggle and death from cancer to bookend his reflections, centring on the question – What kind of God is God?
He writes, "I believe a trinitarian view of God is vitally important in our understanding of God and the problem of suffering." He then contrasts a trinitarian view with classical theism and examines how other attempts to deal with suffering are shaped by the assumptions of classical theism.
Whether his characterization of classical theism is always fair, Reddish argues God is often understood without regard for the difference His trinitarian nature makes to His activity in a suffering world.
Reddish tackles the complexities of suffering with thoroughness and honesty. While his conclusions will not satisfy everyone, they prompt readers to think more deeply – and be deeply encouraged.
Ultimately, seeing God as triune means seeing Him "as one who suffers for us, and with us." It means seeing our suffering is part of the larger story the triune God is telling – "That God has definitely addressed the problem of evil – and continually works to vanquish its effects, [so] we can then live in faith, hope, and love as we carry our own sufferings, and their scars, and journey on toward the eschaton."
The Soul of the City: Mapping the Spiritual Geography of Eleven Canadian Cities
Edited by Leonard Hjalmarson
Urban Loft Publishers, 2018. 246 pages. $20. Excerpt at Academia.edu.
THIS UNUSUAL book introduces the unique histories, demographics and spiritual challenges of Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna, Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.
Having lived in or near four of these cities, I found myself often nodding in appreciation for the insights gained even of those I thought I knew well. Moreover, I felt better informed of the spiritual challenges facing other places in Canada where I have not lived.
One of this book’s great values is modelling how ministry tacticians (church planters and denominational leaders) and ministry practitioners (pastors, church and ministry staffs) ought to discern the spiritual character of their city. The implicit argument is that familiarity with local demographics and history need to be complemented with careful attuning to the spiritual nature of a city’s triumphs and struggles.
Unfortunately, the lack of common methodology resulted in uneven outcomes. The editor defines a city’s spiritual geography as the "interweave of attitudes and environment, posture and politics." But the 13 contributors don’t really work with that definition. While I can appreciate the leeway the editor gave each contributor, greater agreement on definitions and method would have strengthened the book’s content and also modelled more clearly how others could do a similar assessment of their own ministry location. –DAVID GURETZKI (see his in-depth review at www.TheEFC.ca/SoulOfTheCityReview)
Teach Us to Pray
By Gordon T. Smith
IVP Books, 2018. 112 pages. $19.99 (e-book $9.99, audio CD $24, audiobook $19). Browse at Books.Google.ca.
"WE CANNOT be the Church until we pray." This book opens with the word we because prayer for author Gordon Smith, theologian-president of Ambrose University in Calgary, is not something done in isolation, but in community. We also signifies this book is conversant with a variety of theological positions.
Smith discusses three movements in prayer – thanksgiving, confession and discernment. As he explains thanksgiving, Smith shares something he learned from American theologian Francis Schaeffer, who argued that "The essence of paganism is the refusal to give thanks." Thanksgiving is essential to the Christian life, not only as a means of identity, but also a means of empowerment.
Smith insists our acts of confession do not restore our relationship with God. Instead God restores us to a relationship with Him before we make confession.
Discernment is the discipline we practise as we give thanks and confess. We discern what God is doing in our lives as He establishes His work in response to our prayers.
Smith gives guidelines for responding to what God is doing – because prayer leads to action. Smith ends with a chapter reminding us the focus of our petitions is for God’s Kingdom to come in our lives.
The major strength of this book is that it is short. You can read through it on a weekend retreat and come out refreshed to practise the art of prayer once again. –PYE CHEW
Interior Religion No.1 (acrylic on canvas, 42" x 30")
By Ruthia Pak Regis
"My painting practice is a constant exploration into the reckoning that comes of being a Christian in society. Through the exercise of balancing light and dark, line and form, I hope to present underlying rhythms in the visual world that mimic the spiritual struggles present in living with a countercultural life devoted to Jesus. The beauty that arises from these struggles is what I aim to capture and share with the viewer."