Art by Christine Peterkin; Now, How Shall We We Be? (Badley and Ross); Little Theologians (Csinos); Can I Believe? (Stackhouse); All Things Wise and Wonderful (Warren); Extraordinary Canadians (Mansbridge)
Now, How Shall We Be? This Cultural Moment and Our Christian Response
By Ken Badley and Amanda Ross
Tyndale Academic Press, 2020. 198 pages. $25 (e-book $20)
THIS BOOK aims at Christians looking for ways to offer hope, meaning and belonging in this cultural moment. The authors do well exploring how practising hospitality, wonder, gratitude and wisdom contribute to Christian faithfulness.
They struggle, however, with divisive matters – politics, economics, justice and creation care – partly because they draw on American-sourced examples for a Canadian audience.
Co-author Ken Badley lived and taught for some years at George Fox University in Oregon and now teaches at Tyndale University in Toronto. He is joined by Amanda Ross, an MDiv student at Ambrose University in Calgary.
How the book describes the uniqueness of our present moment is also problematic. For example, the opening page says, "Our culture has slipped from its old moorings" and the new moorings have become "frayed at the edges in recent decades."
To what extent can we say our culture dominated by European heritage has been moored by Christian moral consensus? How many people find the old moorings attractive given that whatever concordance was achieved was often accompanied by horrendous violence and great injustice?
Badley and Ross show how to practise and offer hope, meaning and belonging rooted in the resurrection of Christ.
Despite my misgivings, many readers will be helped by this book. Badley and Ross show how to practise and offer hope, meaning and belonging rooted in the resurrection of Christ. This is always the right Christian response to the present age, regardless of how the current cultural moment came to be. – GLENN RUNNALLS
Little Theologians: Children, Culture, and the Making of Theological Meaning
By David M. Csinos
McGill-Queen’s, 2020. 280 pages. $37 (e-book $30)
DISCUSSING THEOLOGY is usually for adults. But this book by a professor at the Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax takes a unique stance by exploring the theology of children.
Dave Csinos’ research is not based on statistical analysis or quantitative measures, but rather gleaned from conversations. He spoke with 19 children on their level, simply engaging in conversation around their ideas of God.
The book includes some of these interviews, giving glimpses into the thought processes of children, as well as illustrations by the children.
Csinos also explores the role congregational culture plays in the development of childhood theologies. His 19 case studies are spread across four distinct congregations. He spends time assessing how each congregation’s culture influences each child’s theology.
While Csinos offers phenomenal insights and implications for further research, he focuses here only on four congregations within the United Church denomination. This limits the ability to draw conclusions for the wider Christian community.
Despite the small number of participating children, the book succeeds by effectively comparing Csinos’ conclusions to existing research, helping to broaden his own interpretations.
Csinos’ contributions are helpful and insightful. Though written for an academic audience, this book would benefit anyone interested in childhood spirituality. – CHRISSY M. DENNIS
Can I Believe? Christianity for the Hesitant
By John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
Oxford University Press, 2020. 224 pages. $27 (e-book $13, audiobook $19)
FAITH TODAY readers know John Stackhouse as their back page columnist, but he is more widely known as a scholar on many religious and philosophical subjects. He currently lives in North Vancouver and Moncton, N.B., and teaches at Crandall University.
He presents his case for Christianity in this book against the backdrop of the other great world religions, which he has taught for 30 years. He is interested in questions of epistemology, atheism, theology and shalom.
In his first two chapters he explores four basic questions: What’s real? What’s best? What’s wrong? And what can be done? These probing questions are given clear Christian answers.
In the next two chapters he focuses on grounds for believing in Christ (historical, philosophical, ethical, pragmatic, aesthetic, psychological and experimental). This is followed by an incisive study of the problem of particularity (why Christ is of unique importance) and the problem of evil.
His final chapter reviews the live options and presses the demanding claims of Christ in a pluralistic world.
This is a book for both the thoughtful non-Christian enquirer and the mature believer prepared to "test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21 NRSV). – ALLISON A. TRITES
All Things Wise and Wonderful: A Christian Understanding of How and Why Things Happen, in Light of COVID-19
By E. Janet Warren
Wipf & Stock, 2021. 224 pages. $33 (e-book $10)
DID GOD cause the Covid-19 pandemic? Before attempting to answer, we need to understand what we mean by "cause."
Janet Warren is qualified to wrestle with this, drawing on her background as a family physician, psychotherapist and theologian. She has worked extensively at the intersection of science and theology.
When we think about God causing the pandemic, Warren asks, do we mean Covid-19 was a special act of creation? Do we mean God manipulated events so the virus would move from a local problem to a global crisis? Or do we mean God created a world where viruses are able to exist?
Warren offers a tour of how different disciplines understand causation, including the Bible, theology, mathematics, science and psychology. She shows that what seems like a simple question is much more complicated.
She acknowledges that desiring answers about causation is normal. But she also demonstrates that rarely can we say with definite certainty from both a theological and a scientific perspective that A causes B.
Warren’s concluding statement summarizes her message. "Worship the God who is wise and wonderful, and explore His wise and wonderful world. But remain open and humble about how little we understand."
One criticism – her discussion of parapsychology and psychic phenomena was distracting in an otherwise rational book. Despite that, this book is a helpful resource for understanding how God interacts with creation in general. – STEPHEN J. BEDARD
"We may find ourselves in dark places at times. But as we look to the light of the world, Jesus our Saviour, we have this hope. As we lift our arms and praise to Him, the Holy Spirit’s fire appears. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee of our heavenly eternity. (This is a prophetic piece. It may say something different to you.)"
Light at the End of the Tunnel, 2019 (acrylic, 30″ × 60″) by Christine Peterkin, www.ChristinePeterkin.ca
READING THE BESTSELLERS
Extraordinary Canadians: Stories From the Heart of Our Nation
By Peter Mansbridge, with Mark Bulgutch
Simon & Schuster, 2020. 304 pages. $26 (e-book $18)
WE CANADIANS ARE a modest lot. We generally avoid the limelight, preferring to just get on with the day’s business. But there are heroes among us, men and women whose achievements should be heralded, whose determination and resilience deserve recognition. And who better to share their stories than Peter Mansbridge, former host of CBC’s nightly newscast The National.
Over his long career Mansbridge conducted almost 20,000 interviews. In Extraordinary Canadians he and former CBC news producer Mark Bulgutch introduce us to 17 remarkable individuals. Most grew up here in Canada, but several hail from as far away as Iran and South Africa.
In this collection older Canadians reflect on the winding paths that facilitated their contributions, but also included are the accounts of younger people leaving their mark. One of them is Robb Nash, whose brush with death as a teenager set him on a mission. Today, in free high school concerts across the country, he shares a message of hope with students struggling with bullying, addiction and suicide.
In some profiles we witness perseverance in the face of daunting physical obstacles and societal biases. In others we see resourcefulness, sacrifice and fearless advocacy, all to improve the lives of others. And in the stories of a Vancouver emergency room nurse and of a special operations warrant officer, we marvel at their calm and courage, their unwavering sense of duty. These are qualities worth emulating.
Using notes from their extensive interviews, the authors have shaped each story into a first-person account. The result is honest and personal – readers are given a front-row seat to the unfolding narrative of these extraordinary Canadians’ struggles and successes. –EVELYN PEDERSEN
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