Gifts of grace

 The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges, (NavPress, 253 pages, paperback, $13.30 at amazon.ca).

Rediscovering Daily Graces: Classic Voices on the Transforming Power of the Sacraments, by Robert Elmer (NavPress, 205 pages, paperback, $12.54 at amazon.ca).

Evangelicals, as many of their leading protagonists have defined themselves, are those who hold a triad of beliefs and practices that the wider Christian church has too often overlooked: personal conversion, biblical authority and evangelistic witness. I grew up a Protestant evangelical, and like many in my church community, books that encouraged spiritual growth, devotional piety and developed Christian character were a large part of my reading repertoire.

Insights into faith questions in a postmodern world

 How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith: Questioning Truth in Language, Philosophy and Art, by  Crystal L. Downing (InterVarsity Press, 240 pages, softcover, $17.47 at amazon.ca). 

Postmodernism 101: A First Course for the Curious Christian, by Heath White (Brazos Press,  176 pages, softcover, $17.47 at amazon.ca).

In the midst of the controversy about Pope Benedict XVI’s University of Regensburg address, some interpreters lost sight of the Holy Father’s primary focus on faith, reason and culture — specifically, Christian faith, Greek reason and European culture. One person who was not misled was the Swiss muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan. In an incisive critique published widely, Ramadan deplored the violence that followed the Pope’s address. But he also questioned the Holy Father’s interpretation of faith, reason and especially culture. Muslim scholars, he suggested, could and should respond by offering an alternate account.

Africa’s dark beauty

 Hope in the Dark, photography by Jeremy Cowart with reflections by Jena Lee (Relevant Books, 192 pages, softcover, $16.49 at amazon.ca).

The beauty of Africa is that nothing is hidden, what you see is what you get. There is less business of cologne, deodorant, tinted windows, gloves all aimed at covering reality — making it appear good and nice. In Africa, good, nice, beauty, messiness, ugliness, sadness, life and death are all joined in a wonderful marriage. It takes courage to walk that line in peace, hope and joy.

Tides of faith roll out, but they always come back

 Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War,  by Michael Burleigh. (HarperCollins Canada, 530 pages, hardcover, $26.37 at amazon.ca).

The tides roll out. They also return. The metaphor of tides slipping away from a beach became a favourite of writers and commentators after Matthew Arnold penned his famous lines in Dover Beach (1867) about the loss of faith and religion. What is sometimes forgotten about this analogy is that tides return, though probably never in exactly the same way.

Jesus’ mystery revealed through John the Baptist

 John the Baptist: Prophet and Disciple, by Alexander J. Burke Jr. (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 232 pages; $15.27 at amazon.ca).

In the flood of books on the historical Jesus published over the last 20 years, it is remarkable so little has been written about John the Baptist. After Jesus, Peter and Paul, John the Baptist is one of the most prominent figures in the New Testament, and yet he has been largely eclipsed by the interest in his more famous relative, Jesus. In this new book, Alexander Burke attempts to end John’s time in the shadows by presenting a thoughtful interdisciplinary look at the forerunner of the Lord.

Fall Reading Guide: Across the editor’s desk

 The United States Library of Congress estimates it has catalogued 29 million books over the last 200 years. The International Standard Book Number System currently has 628,795 publishers in 248 countries listed. The Vatican

Lowering the boom on Bibby

{mosimage}The Boomer Factor by Reginald W. Bibby (Bastian Books, 246 pages, soft cover, $19.95).

If, as Reginald Bibby suggests, there has been a cultural shift from “we” to “me” which has accompanied the baby boomers, then is it not obvious that there would be negative social repercussions to such a shift? Bibby’s newest book, The Boomer Factor, proposes that the change has been mostly positive and does not offer sufficient explanation of the negative consequences.

The spirituality of Margaret Laurence

{mosimage}Margaret Laurence. A Gift of Grace: A Spiritual Biography, by Noelle Boughton (Women Who Rock Series, Women’s Press, 208 pages, softcover. $19.95.)

Margaret Laurence wrote with a sense of vocation. She experienced writing as a “gift of grace.” Her Christian faith taught her respect for the “unique and irreplaceable” nature of each character in her fiction. Those familiar with Laurence’s autobiographical writings may already know these facts and much of the rest of what Noelle Boughton tells us. However, those who know Laurence through having read a novel or two, or simply by reputation as an activist, feminist author whose works some have wanted withdrawn from high school classrooms will be intrigued to learn how deep the spiritual dimension runs in her work.

Exploring the myth of Jews as killers of Christ

{mosimage}Christ Killers: The Jews and the Passion from the Bible to the Big Screen by Jeremy Cohen (Oxford University Press, 337 pages, hardcover, $34.95).

There aren’t many of us who would walk into Chapters or Book City and ask for the book Christ Killers. It is a difficult title to get our heads and hearts around. Which is a shame, because Jeremy Cohen has written a remarkable book.

Scorsese’s movie vision shaped by religion

{mosimage}Gangster Priest: The Italian American Cinema of Martin Scorsese by Robert Casillo (University of Toronto Press, 600 pages, softcover, $39.95).

This year Italian-American director Martin Scorsese won his first Oscar for The Departed — a Catholic version of the Buddhist Asian film Infernal Affairs. Both dealt with a fallen world in which the dynamics of law and crime reveal the same patterns of manipulation, abuse and duplicity. This is Lenten fare, for as the psalmist says, “Put not your trust in those in power, in mortals in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3).

How to say yes by saying no

{mosimage}The Thrill of The Chaste, by Dawn Eden (W Publishing Group, 212 pages, soft cover $13.99 U.S.).

In a world where Sex and the City infiltrates television sets and one-night stands are the every day norm comes Dawn Eden’s The Thrill of The Chaste. This book talks about an almost unheard of way of looking at love and relationships in the 21st century.