Art by Christine Cole; A Burning in my Bones (Collier); The Minister's Wife (Stiller); Untangling Popular Pro-Choice Arguments (van der Breggen); Angelicus: Poems (D.S. Martin); The End of Gender (Soh)
A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson, Translator of The Message
By Winn Collier
WaterBrook, 2021. 368 pages. $37 (e-book $17, audiobook $30)
THIS SPRING I was looking for spiritual nourishment. Scanning my shelves I settled on a slender, dog-eared volume titled A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society (InterVarsity, 2000 ). As the words saturated my lockdown-weary soul, I wondered how the author Eugene Peterson gained such rich spiritual insights.
Peterson died in 2018, but I surely met him recently as I read Winn Collier’s authorized biography. Grounded in extensive research, interviews and long, leisurely conversations with the Petersons, Collier provides a rare glimpse into the spiritual formation of one of this generation’s best-loved pastors and most prolific Christian writers.
He traces Peterson’s journey from zealous Pentecostal youth to faithful Presbyterian minister, longing to see God’s people encounter Him in the pages of Scripture. We see the influences and institutions that stretched his heart and mind, and the Montana wilderness where Peterson experienced God’s nearness most profoundly.
Beyond the Regent College professor and translator of The Message, the Bible in contemporary language, we see a man who was flawed, as we all are, and who wrestled with his own issues. But Peterson was ever in pursuit of God, and that made all the difference.
God’s plan for His servants is often a slow, unfolding revelation best received with humility and Word-enriched prayer. What a gift is this intimate chronicle, so thorough and wise and instructive.–EVELYN PEDERSEN
The Minister’s Wife: A Memoir of Faith, Doubt, Friendship, Loneliness, Forgiveness and More
By Karen Stiller
Tyndale House, 2020. 256 pages. $23 (e-book $10, audiobook $20)
"PEOPLE ASSUME you are both holy and deeply boring," writes Faith Today editor Karen Stiller in her spiritual memoir – and then she goes on to disprove both assumptions.
With humour and transparency, she invites readers to know how a clergy spouse wrestles with loneliness, envy, forgiveness, prayer and disappointment like the rest of us.
In one hilarious chapter she describes the Christmas season in a clergy household as "like everyone else’s Christmas, only worse."
She also writes about the grief of a dream not materializing. "The holy, messy Psalms reminded me that I stood in a long line of disappointed pilgrims." Yet she is also able to say, "Saying thank you to Jesus for all the wonderful things happening to people you envy draws out the infection."
Stiller calls us to dig deeper in our relationship with God. Facing compulsive talkers becomes an opportunity to learn the ministry of listening. Wounds received in church can teach us how to forgive, "the daily work of the Christian."
Most of all Stiller affirms that church community is necessary to our growth as people and as image bearers of God. "Church rubs us up against each other – my annoying self against your annoying self … so that we can learn to love each other as God loves us." –MARIANNE JONES
Untangling Popular Pro-Choice Arguments: Critical Thinking About Abortion
By Hendrik van der Breggen
Independent, 2020. 152 pages. $16 (e-book $7)
WHEN READING a Christian-authored book on abortion, you’d expect arguments grounded in Scripture and refrains about being made in the image of God and the prohibition against murder in the Ten Commandments.
Yet some refuse to hear appeals to a biblical world view. And so in this book we have a retired Canadian philosophy prof who intentionally stays away from theological arguments against abortion and makes no appeals to Scripture.
Instead, using logic accessible to readers of any political or religious position, he untangles the many arguments made in favour of abortion – arguments about the personhood of the unborn child (Part 1) and about the bodies of the mother and the unborn child (Part 2).
In a third section he addresses other popular pro-choice arguments. His goal is to unravel the inconsistency in pro-choice reasoning, to demonstrate that abortion is indeed the intentional killing of an innocent human life – and that arguments in favour of it hide this reality from us.
Given how quickly discussions can become emotionally charged, van der Breggen’s meticulously reasoned and methodical approach sheds much-needed light on a challenging ethical issue.
Not only does he enable readers to understand pro-choice reasoning, he equips them to respond. His book is a rare find, one that has earned kudos from many experts (www.HendrikVanDerBreggen.com). –DEREK MELANSON
By D. S. Martin
Cascade Books, 2021. 104 Pages. $13
"BUT WHO of the children of men can comprehend what is the understanding of an angel?" asked John Wesley. Ontario poet D. S. Martin attempts to do just that in his new poems exploring angelic perceptions on such topics as laundry, bad art, prayer, polar bears, the plagues of Egypt, Dorothy Sayers and It’s a Wonderful Life.
Playfulness, wisdom, bemusement and wonder jostle together in this audacious collection. While in one poem an angel laughs about playing with laundry flapping in the breeze, in another the angel of death states, "I’m sent/to the bent who’ll soon ignite like rags doused in turpentine/to unveil their worth before they alight."
An avenging angel speaks to a swindler. "So you thought no one would notice/as you wrung another nickel out of the naïve pensioner…Where now is your Mercedes to comfort you?"
Humour with an edge is interspersed throughout, as in "Learning to Fly" where one speaks of people "lifted on the wind of the Spirit but tripping/when some preacher/ tied their shoelaces together." "Angel of Revolution" admonishes, "Don’t be shocked at angelic intervention in human history/It’s what we do You creatures of comfort often need/a swift kick to vacate easy chairs."
In "Teen Angel: an angel gets annoyed by a pop song," the speaker complains, "I’m weary of the worn out up above rhyming/with love & dead dolts in cartoons sprouting wings/ Death does not make you higher beings/ That’s not how it loses its sting."
This view of the world through an angelic lens is both whimsical and profound. –MARIANNE JONES
READING THE BESTSELLERS
The End of Gender: Debunking the Myths About Sex and Identity in Our Society
By Dr. Debra Soh
Simon & Schuster, 2020. 336 pages. $23 (e-book $13, audiobook $19)
THE DEFINITIONS OF gender, sex and sexual orientation are blurring and morphing in our mainstream culture, including in academia and science. This realization led neurologist and sexologist Debra Soh to become vocal about the need for free speech and unpoliticized science.
The End of Gender is her response to the many people asking what research truly says about gender and how they can tell when a source is inaccurate or biased. In each chapter she addresses different myths, such as that biological sex is a spectrum, gender is a social construct or gender-neutral parenting works.
Soh sees a growing trend where ideologies – regardless of whether they’re good or bad – are driving scientific research. She argues science can’t be liberal or conservative, feminist or queer. It’s testing the evidence and drawing information from it.
Her primary point is that all of us should have access to unbiased, well-researched medical help that can treat us according to our individual situations. And this can’t happen without accepting the vital role biology plays in our behaviour and sexuality.
The book isn’t an ethics guide, nor is it intended to be. Soh’s beliefs about same-sex relationships and gender transitioning won’t align with most Christians. Regardless, the book offers valuable insight into the complexity of the gender debate. It’s edifying to see how the biblical world view doesn’t conflict with what science tells us about male and female biology and gender.
Soh breaks down scientific studies in digestible ways. With a clinical, blunt style, she presents a strong argument that our society’s approach to gender and biological sex isn’t the full story. Nor does that approach adequately uphold the dignity and well-being of those at the centre of the debate. For any Christian searching for scientific information and a broader perspective on this topic, this book is worth the read. –ILANA REIMER
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