Art by Dan Steeves; Rationality, Humility & Spirituality (D.Hiebert); Fruitful ... in Failure (G.Taylor); Thrive in a Post-Christian World (P.Williams); The Home for Unwanted Girls (J.Goodman); Relentless (Folarin & Keziah)
Rationality, Humility, and Spirituality in Christian Life
By Dennis Hiebert
Cascade Books, 2020. 199 pages. $ 36 ($10 e-book, $62 hardcover). Preview at Amazon.ca and Books.Google.ca
THE IMPACT of the Enlightenment in Europe in the 1700s, the subsequent reactions to it, and the turn to postmodernism have drawn the focus of many books. This new book by a professor of sociology at Providence University College adds to the discussion. Being an interdisciplinary work it draws from psychological, sociological, theological and philosophical thought.
The work is divided into three parts – rationality, humility and spirituality. In the first two Hiebert uses a critical realist approach to critique the dominance of rationality in the contemporary evangelical Church. He says, "Reason makes a good servant, but a bad master." So we need to adopt a practice of intellectual humility, recognizing we do not have all the answers, and even the answers we do have are likely to be mostly wrong.
This leads to the third part where Hiebert discusses what has been considered difficult with the shift from religion to spirituality and the individualism of postmodernism. He argues we need more spirituality in our Christian life.
There are many things our contemporary Western culture can teach us and Hiebert’s work is an aid for listening constructively to our secular world.
Any interdisciplinary work will face challenges. Hiebert, being a sociologist, provides excellent discussion in the areas of his strengths and there is a strong academic flavour to this book. I had to reread many sections that discuss philosophical, psychological and sociological perspectives, but it is very much worth the work to read. If you are ready to be challenged on how to be a Christian in our secular world, then this is a great book to read. –NATHAN SCOTT
Fruitful Boughs Broken: Pastors in Faithfulness, Failure and Forgiveness
By Glenn C. Taylor
Word Alive Press, 2019. $22 (e-book $10). Preview at Amazon.ca and Books.Google.ca
THERE ARE two common reactions to pastoral failure – a rush to judgment and removal from ministry, or a hasty confession followed by a forgive and forget mentality. Neither approach works as Glenn Taylor demonstrates in this balanced and biblically-rich book.
Taylor draws from 60 years of ministry as a pastor, correctional chaplain, educator, mission CEO and counsellor/consultant to individuals and 30-plus mission agencies in more than 20 countries.
Case studies, from both Scripture and Taylor’s extensive counselling experience, form the foundation of this study of leadership faithfulness, failure, forgiveness and restoration to ministry.
Key areas contributing to a pastor’s fall are stress, success, sensitivity and Satan. Adequately helping failed leaders requires a thorough exploration of the relational, emotional, spiritual, physical and family experiences that have shaped them.
Taylor says, "The journey toward failure is unchosen, undesired and unplanned." Failure occurs in a flash, but was preceded by many decisions, influences and life responses. Ways of prevention, intervention and healing are extensively explored in the book.
Taylor’s pastoral heart shines as he encourages fellow pastors, board members and congregations to participate in helping pastors avoid falling, and if they have fallen, to recover. Taylor believes it is best to view failure as "a problem to be solved rather than a judgment to be handed down from a place of authority." While there is a time for professional help, Taylor believes ordinary Christians have a key role in helping pastors maintain spiritual equilibrium.
Skillfully integrating biblical, theological truths with psychological insights, this is a valuable book for pastors, board members and serious Christians. –DAVID DANIELS
Folarin and Keziah
God Colors Media Inc., $12.99. www.FolarinAndKeziah.com
FOLARIN AND KEZIAH Babatunde are contemporary Christian musicians from Hamilton, Ont. Their debut album Relentless received Covenant Award nominations from the Gospel Music Association of Canada (including Gospel Song of the Year for "You Are My God") as well as nominations in the 2020 Singer Songwriter Associations Award.
Although their music is slotted in the gospel genre, much of it can also be placed into Christian pop, soft rock, and praise and worship genres. Their eclectic approach encourages listeners to enlarge their appreciation for God-given creativity. There is passion in this music that overflows genre labels.
The core of this passion is to express the love of God to all people regardless of race or ethnicity. The duo, who have roots in Nigeria, have set up an independent label God Colors Media Inc. to do this freely, and so far have led worship in England and Canada.
Their love for God and sharing that love with audiences is evident throughout their music as they entwine Scripture with a range of up-tempo music and catchy hooks. Songs such as "Surrendering All" and "You Deserve" are satisfyingly genuine expressions in a unique style. Overall their music and message encourage both heart and spirit. –ADENA LOWRY
Exiles on Mission: How Christians Can Thrive in a Post-Christian World
By Paul S. Williams
Brazos, 2020. $25 (e-book $16, hardcover $68). Preview at Amazon.ca and Books.Google.ca
TODAY’S CHRISTIANS find themselves frustrated by disunity and consumerism. As Western culture moves toward loneliness and despair, many Christians are struggling to put words to how the message of Sunday worship connects to Monday work.
Science and technology are growing as answers for wealth and happiness, and Christianity seems outdated to many of our neighbours for whom Islam and environmentalism are increasingly influential.
Christians should respond to this situation by seizing God’s promises, declaring our faith and humbling ourselves in our brokenness with the help and strength of the Holy Spirit. That’s the answer offered in this new book by Paul S. Williams, CEO of the British and Foreign Bible Society, as well as research professor of marketplace theology and leadership at Regent College in Vancouver.
Exiles on Mission is divided into three parts – faith, hope and love – highlighting the Christian virtues which together can help us experience the transforming power of the living God. Faith explores belief and identity in Christ. Hope inspires readers to become ambassadors of Christ and disciple others. Love teaches innovative ways to reach out and empower other believers wherever they are in their culture.
Williams invites his readers to cry out and seek a true relationship with God as they lament and change to become apostles of the gospel. Christians are to join together, communicate clearly their mission, and learn the language of today’s culture to reach others. Readers will be inspired to listen humbly and proclaim effectively the message of the gospel as they open up to receive the truth from the Holy Spirit. –ADENA LOWRY
"The lines can get blurred," 44.7 cm × 59.7 cm, etching from the One Step Closer to Knowing series by Dan Steeves. www.DanSteeves.com
"The journey of life that we all move through is filled with stasis at distinct points. Similarly the passage through the historical Olsen house of artist Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World, the act of peering through the darkness into empty closets and rooms, the traverse up and down staircases, looking out of windows, the repose – these moments take on new significance.
"I have used the framework of the gaze in and from that colonial house to reflect on my own existence – what has passed, the loss of youthfulness and how we got here from there. God is ever present in this journey. We all search for a place we call home. This ability to comprehend, to reflect and savour past experiences, to better understand where we are today, brings us ‘one step closer to knowing.’"
Reading the bestsellers
The Home for Unwanted Girls: A Novel
By Joanna Goodman
HarperCollins, 2018. $20 (e-book $12, audiobook $34, hardcover $33). Preview at Amazon.ca and Books.Google.ca
THE FICTIONAL STORY of Maggie Hughes is set within true events in Quebec in the 1950s.
At 15 Maggie has a forbidden relationship with Gabriel that leads to pregnancy. Her parents send her to live with an aunt and uncle, and eventually force their daughter to place the baby in an orphanage operated by religious sisters. The author captures the tender naivete of a teen romance as well as the harsh treatment of teen moms at that time and place.
Orphanages in Quebec in the 1950s were reclassified as psychiatric hospitals, and both government and church worked as a team to implement this new approach. Healthy children were falsely given a diagnosis of being mentally unstable and put with individuals who did suffer from severe mental health problems. The novel vividly depicts how children in care were poorly treated and used for child labour.
It also portrays the perseverance, tenacity and toughness of mothers labelled as fallen, having given birth to children conceived in sin. The story shows how Maggie can’t forget the daughter she was forced to abandon and what she does about that later in her life.
Fans of historical fiction will finish the book knowing more about past injustices in Canada and feeling the emotional weight of them across multiple generations. –LUCY PAVIA