Art by Lynda Toews; Refuge Reimagined (Glanville); The Great Sex Rescue (Gregoire et al.); The Problem of Jesus (Clark); The Bible & Ancient Science (Lamoureux); How to Pronounce Knife (Thammavongsa)
Refuge Reimagined: Biblical Kinship in Global Politics
By Mark R. Glanville and Luke Glanville
IVP Academic, 2021. 288 pages. $29 (e-book $34)
FORCIBLY DISPLACED people worldwide numbered 79.5 million people in 2019 – more than twice the population of Canada. Yet many nations have drastically reduced the number of refugees they welcome, due to anxiety about national security, financial stability and cultural coherence.
The Glanville brothers, with expertise in both biblical studies and international relations, argue it is in everyone’s interest to "address the causes of displacement and to care for the displaced."
Drawing from key biblical texts, the authors develop a robust ethic of kinship – God’s vision for communities that welcome the "dispossessed, dishonoured and displaced outsiders." That ethic is then applied to the Church, individual nations and the global community. Churches are called to model kinship, challenging their governments to address the need.
Armed with historical insights and statistics, the authors argue wealthy nations bear significant responsibility for this global upheaval through their support of abusive regimes, extravagant arms sales, unethical trade practices and destructive climate change practices. It’s time to repent and make restitution – a costly step, but one the authors argue persuasively can be done with existing resources. Despite the risks and sacrifice involved, the benefits of practising biblical kinship are non-negotiable for the Church and in the strategic interests of nations.
This compelling book is valuable for anyone seeking to understand and adequately respond to the urgent crisis of displaced persons. –DAVID DANIELS
The Great Sex Rescue
By Sheila Wray Gregoire, R.G. Lindenbach and J. Sawatsky
Baker, 2021. 272 pages. $20 (e-book $14
THIS NEW book dissects the teachings from bestselling Christian sex and marriage books. It draws on a survey of 20,000 women to unpack the effects of these teachings.
The authors – a Canadian blogger, a podcaster and a public health expert – conclude we need to rescue the way we talk about sex.
This book overturns the idea women’s desires are less pressing than men’s. It also addresses topics Christian resources have been disturbingly quiet about – consent, emotional and physical abuse, sexual pain and marital rape.
Church teachings can give the mistaken impression heterosexual, monogamous sex is sin-free as long as neither partner is cheating or watching porn. They can also overemphasize same-sex attraction and other struggles. This book proposes a fairer view of sexual brokenness, recognizing we’re all inching toward sexual purity.
The subject matter is serious, but the book is filled with hopeful stories of how Christ-like love can break down lies and restore healthy intimacy. The authors include check-in questions that give couples starting points to address issues. This makes the contents feel accessible rather than overwhelming.
This book can trigger vital conversations about how Evangelicals talk about sex, making it an important read for church leaders and anyone struggling with the messages they’ve heard about sexuality. More than that, it can help restore our understanding of how to honour ourselves and each other as made in the image of God. –ILANA REIMER
The Problem of Jesus: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to the Scandal of Jesus
By Mark Clark
Zondervan, 2021. 352 pages. $25 (e-book $11, audiobook $34)
THIS IS a fascinating book on apologetics geared to sincere intelligent doubters in our day.
Author Mark Clark of Surrey, B.C., is founding pastor of Village Church, a multisite church.
He tackles nine problems: 1) the historical Jesus; 2) the Gospels; 3) discipleship; 4) loving God; 5) miracles; 6) Jesus’ stories; 7) Jesus as God; 8) Jesus’ death; and 9) the Resurrection.
Several chapters stand out. The chapter "Can We Trust the Gospels?" provides a helpful discussion of the four criteria of apostolicity, embarrassment, discontinuity and multiple attestation. The chapter on discipleship presents a direct invitation to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Jesus. The "Master Storyteller" chapter insightfully unpacks the seven basic plots of all stories and sheds light on the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32). Similarly, Clark’s presentation of the claims Jesus made for Himself and His actual actions makes is pithy and compelling.
The book bears the marks of careful research (Clark has a master of New Testament studies from Regent College) and makes a judicious use of contemporary scholarship. It is spiced by telling illustrations and presents the personal challenge of the gospel in clear and forceful terms. –ALLISON A. TRITES
The Bible & Ancient Science: Principles of Interpretation
By Denis Lamoureux
McGahan, 2020. 218 pages. $20 (e-book $10)
THE BIBLE and science seem to disagree about creation. Many people say they reject Christianity because so many Christians reject mainstream research on evolution.
Denis Lamoureux, a professor of science and religion at the University of Alberta, takes this conflict seriously in his new book.
The book offers 22 principles for analyzing the historical context of Genesis 1–3. Lamoureux aims to show contemporary Christians too often force Scripture to align with modern scientific research, as if God were teaching modern science to the ancient Jews.
His primary tool is historical critical study, an approach that seeks to read the text as if we were among the original readers. So for Lamoureux Genesis 1–3 does not discuss how creation happened, but rather who created and why.
He applies this to salvation: "I doubt that anyone comes to Christ because of [science in the Bible]. Instead, it is a mystical experience of believing that Jesus is Lord of the entire world."
Overall, this is a basic introduction to interpreting Genesis 1–3 by an evolutionary creationist. Lamoureux’s writing flows well and he carefully explains complex terms. It is an accessible work that points to Jesus as our source of existence and joy, albeit through a difficult and controversial topic. –NATHAN SCOTT
"This is one of the projects I completed as artist in residence at a Winnipeg congregation. I painted it for the launch of the new Mennonite hymnal Voices Together.
"The swirling galaxy stabilized by the cross expresses musicality and celebration. Hidden within are images of a dove and olive branch (the Mennonite church logo) as well as unintended figures of an eagle head and a fish."
READING THE BESTSELLERS
How to Pronounce Knife
By Souvankham Thammavongsa
Random House, 2020. 192 pages. $24 (e-book $12, hardcover $24, audiobook $29)
AUTHOR SOUVANKHAM THAMMAVONGSA was merely a year old when she arrived in Canada with her parents from Laos, a country entrenched in war, after surviving a refugee camp. She bears witness to the struggles she observed and experienced in this short story collection. The brevity and starkness of her stories capture vivid glimpses of the vast challenges newcomers confront.
She portrays characters learning English by watching soap operas, listening to country and western music or accepting a church invitation. Their struggle with English makes them feel inadequate. Her protagonists work long hours with low wages since their credentials are not recognized, under the supervision of people much younger than they are.
Children quickly become latch key kids as their parents work long, hard hours at factories or farms. Because of the different foods they bring to school for lunch, they are teased by classmates.
This collection of deceptively simple short stories can benefit Canadians of all backgrounds, both to appreciate our shared humanity and better understand our differences. Anyone whose family has come to this country from somewhere else or who has empathy for their neighbours will appreciate the struggles and joys portrayed here.
This debut collection was awarded the Scotiabank Giller prize. The author has also published four poetry books and taught writing at Wilfrid Laurier University. [Editor's note: Contains depictions of extramarital sex. Reader discretion is advised.] –LUCY PAVIA
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