Arts

Angels guide this poetic journey

Accompanied by AngelsAccompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation, by Luci Shaw (Eerdmans Publishing, 110 pages, softcover, $18.99).

Accompanied by Angels, subtitled Poems of the Incarnation, grew out of poet Luci Shaw's childhood collection of Advent poems. At the age of 11, and anticipating the great festivities of the season, Shaw determined to make her own Christmas cards. To go with the pictures and illustrations on the cards, she composed short greetings to evoke the message of this holy season.

Germans pushed church ecumenical commitment

 "Because He Was a German!": Cardinal Bea and the Origin of Roman Catholic Engagement in the Ecumenical Movement, by Jerome-Michael Verab, C.P. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 332 pages, hardcover, $29.03 at amazon.ca).

This book tells part of the story of how Pope John XXIII came to create the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the church regarded the Orthodox Churches as schismatic and the Protestant Churches as heretical, and thought it was those churches' duty to return to the one true church and be obedient to the Pope. Through the new unity secretariat, the Catholic Church now committed itself to work with other churches for the unity willed by Christ. The person who persuaded John XXIII to take this bold step was a German Jesuit — Cardinal Augustine Bea.

Film manifests the divine

TORONTO - The media today, whether it be newspapers, radio, TV, the movies or the web, is a pervasive, and, some might add, invasive fact of life in the 21st century. Is the incredible influence that the secular media have on our lives all the more evidence that we are turning our backs on God?

Nativity gets Hollywood treatment

nativityTORONTO - The latest film in Hollywood's fascination with Christ is about to hit the theatres. The Nativity Story will be released in early December just in time for the Christmas season.

The rising up of nobodies

 Robert Fuller, in his new book All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies and the Politics of Dignity, says that our lever against rankism is the will to dignity. The sentence structure may be awkward, but readers know right away he is saying that will is the fulcrum and dignity the force which can eliminate abuse, discrimination or exploitation based on rank.

Satisfying spiritual hunger

Cooking with the BibleThe Bible is often looked on as the “good book” or the “holy book.” It is indeed fundamental to one’s spiritual growth. What a surprise it was to be able to connect this essential ingredient in a spiritual life to being physically fed. We often use the Bible for prayer and meditation. Only lately was I able to view it in a different light — a new perspective.

Trudeau's winding faith journey

 Citizen of the World: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Vol. 1, 1919-1968, by John English (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 568 pages, $26.37 hardcover at amazon.ca).

Pierre Elliott Trudeau is an iconic figure in Canadian life, a symbol of some of the nation’s greatest cultural divides. For his admirers — and they are legion — he is the father of the Charter of Rights and the Just Society, the totem of modern liberalism. For his detractors — and they, too, are legion — he was the man who destroyed Canada As We Knew It, and replaced our morally certain 1950s world with hippies, hedonism and socialists.

Salt+Light doc wins international award

TORONTO - Salt + Light Television’s Opus Dei: Decoding God’s Work took the best TV documentary award at the Religion Today Festival in Trento, Italy, Oct. 14.

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.