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Adding puzzling mystery to Jesus' story

The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel ChristThe Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ, by Philip Pullman (Knopf, 256 pages, hardcover, $27.)

Well-known authors have tried to retell the Jesus story in fictional form over the last few decades. Some, like C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, used a highly imaginative and metaphorical setting. Nikos Kazantzakis with his very earthy Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ and Anne Rice with her recent and much more prosaic rendering in the Christ The Lord series both chose a literal retelling of the Gospel.

A simple book fails through its simplicity

 …Here comes a sea followed by an ocean…: Very simple reflections on the Second Vatican Council, after 40 years, by Fr. Gianni Carparelli (Caritas Project Publishing, softcover, 179 pages, $15.00 by phone at 416-294-2327)

A book praising Vatican II should prosper. Unfortunately, this one might be hurt because its reflections on Vatican II are not just “very simple,” as the title says, but too simple and fragmented. These reflections have also been marred by careless editing. 

God and the battle between mind and brain

{mosimage}The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul, by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary (HarperCollins, 368 pages, hardcover, $31.50).

Materialists are legion in the universities, and it is a favourite sport of materialists to make fun of us credulous people who believe in God. Materialists, especially the 19-year-olds, are amazed that religious people even bother to go to university. What materialists don’t realize, of course, is that materialism is itself a belief system whose claims have not been scientifically verified.

Fouling the message with the method

{mosimage}Journeys to the Heart of  Catholicism, by Ted Schmidt (Seraphim Editions, softcover, 200 pages, $19.95).

I am the mother of teenagers and, according to my kids, doing a pretty lousy job. So bad, in fact, that I turned to the experts and bought some parenting books. One in particular gave me some very practical advice that I am trying (unsuccessfully) to follow: If shouting doesn’t work, shouting louder really won’t either. There were certain times while reading Journeys to the Heart of Catholicsm I felt like saying to Teddy Schmidt — “Stop shouting.”

Roche looks at the bright side of life

Global Conscience by Douglas Roche (Novalis, softcover, 208 pages, $22.95).

{mosimage}When we think about the state of the world today, it’s difficult to ward off encroaching despair. The deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan haunt us. We worry about developments in Pakistan and Burma. Almost daily, there are warnings about the shrinking polar ice cap. Meanwhile, homeless people sleep rough on Canadian streets.

Commonality, differences with Protestants

{mosimage}Hope in Troubled Times: A New Vision for Confronting World Crises by Bob Goudzwaard, Mark Vander Vennen and Van Heemst David (Baker Book House, softcover, 256 pages, $24.99).

Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor
by Robert D. Lupton, (Gospel Light and Regal Books, softcover, 139 pages, $12.50).

Theology for Non-Theologians: An Engaging
, Accessible and Relevant Guide, by James Cantelon (Wiley, softcover, 336 pages, $26.99).

As Roman Catholics we are aware of the unity and, at the same time, the separation that exists among Christians. We all follow Jesus, the one Lord, yet the different Christian communities have different outlooks and interpretations about how to go about this. It is interesting, therefore, to have a look every once in a while at what authors from other Christian denominations are writing about.

Tolle's 'New 'Earth' pains the body

{mosimage}A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle (Plume, 315 pages, $15.50).

A New Earth has attracted notoriety thanks to the patronage of TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey. It is a profoundly non-Christian book that exploits the Holy Name of Jesus to bamboozle Oprah’s mostly Christian audience.

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You must read 'I Don't Believe in Atheists'

{mosimage}I Don’t Believe in Atheists, by Chris Hedges (Anansi, 224 pages, $24.95 hardcover).

It’s the emphasis on sin and the direct link with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens that makes you sit up with a start while reading Chris Hedges' new book, I Don’t Believe in Atheists. The honest and exquisitely argued linkage creates that magical compulsion to seek out others so you can read them an excerpt. It is a pleasure too seldom found in a book, let alone one that wants to argue that scientists can be more fundamentalist than arch creationists.

Great minds don't always get it right

{mosimage}The Lost Massey Lectures: Recovered Classics from Five Great Thinkers, introduction by Bernie Lucht (Anansi, 399 pages, $24.95 softcover).

In 1965 a single computer filled the space of a commodious living room. In 1966 we had not yet landed on the moon, let alone invented the Internet. In 1967 rock icons Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison were still alive, though not for much longer. In 1979 reality TV was the evening news. In 1983 there was such a thing as a Cold War and we were still fighting it.

Christ has implications in today's politics

{mosimage}Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw (Zondervan, 355 pages, softcover, $19.99).

If Christianity isn’t radical, isn’t subversive, isn’t dangerous and can’t get you into trouble it isn’t really following Christ. The established powers of Roman-occupied Palestine tortured and killed Jesus for a reason. It wasn’t because he was a safe, earnest, harmless reformer.

The progression of Orthodoxy

{mosimage}Encountering the Mystery: Perennial Values of the Orthodox Church by Patriarch Bartholomew I  (Doubleday, 254 pages, hardcover, $25).

Before reading Encountering the Mystery, I could not have told you the name of the patriarch of Constantinople, but still considered myself adequately informed about the history and practices of Orthodox Christianity. I understood the Orthodox Church to be truly ancient in both the commendable and the less welcome senses of the term — faithfully continuing the apostolic tradition in a way that has avoided innovation for many centuries.