Getting new books is always an exciting event for me. My new position has meant the new opportunity for checking out a few new titles. Yesterday I picked up Reginald W. Bibby’s Restless Gods: The Renaissance of Religion in Canada, which excites me, as I have long been a supporter of the idea that anyone doing ministry in Canada without reading Bibby’s works is honestly foolish. But this book in particular focuses not just on the data from his Project Teen Canada surveys, but includes data from all age groups, and Bibby ultimately concludes (or at least the summary on the back cover suggests) that Churches have considerable reason for optimism as the stats show a growing dislike for secularizing trends and the impact it is having, as well as growing sense of interest in deep spiritual questions.
I’ve also been lucky enough to be blessed with having had the chance to study under some incredible thinkers, and one of the benefits of that is access to pre-publication versions of some amazing stuff. This week I received a hard copy of Lee Beach’s dissertation, A Hopeful Demise: A Biblical and Practical Theology of Exile for the Canadian Church Today. Lee received his Ph.D in May, and has been teaching at McMaster Divinity College while working on this, including one course based on his doctoral research, which was among the best I had the chance to take in my 9 years of post-secondary.
Also coming from MacDiv, I once again have a digital copy of Michael Knowles, Tell Me Your Name (coming soon from IVP Academic). This immense theological work is part of Dr. Knowles’ Biblical Theology course (also among the best of my academic career!) and centres around God’s character expressed in Exodus 34:6-7.
As I noted in an earlier post, I picked up and already finished working through Mark Noll’s brief, but informative study, What Happened to Christian Canada?. A short piece (could probably be conquered in a single sitting if you have time- took me just to shorter blocks of time) which looks at the socio-political events which restricted the social clout of the Church in Canada and marginalized faith as a cultural influence. Noll looks largely at the political influences which are connected to the movement away from the view that Canada is Christian Dominion, with collective sense of indentity and purpose (versus the American individual freedom based). In other words, one the big differences between Canada and the US is that the US was founded out of a movement to prevent government infringement on the rights citizens (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) whereas Canada was founded on a more collective identity, where the government was a leader in moral influence and “has stressed the state and community values” (pg. 20) (“Peace, order and good government”). And as such, the Trudeau era’s sweeping changes moved the national focus away from the idea of Christian Dominion to a pluralistic society to reflect a new vision cast in large part by Quebecers hostile to the extent of Catholic control in that province. Of course, Noll doesn’t cover a lot of important factors like the changing face of the Social Gospel and the early CCF impact and the later shift in the NDP priorities, as well as the influence of progressive idealists like the Scottish born philosopher John Watson (Queen’s University, and Charter member of the Royal Society of Canada) whose works reflect a Hegelian understanding of politics and religion, minimizing the idea of revelation and the need for a tangible, experienced faith (see Watson’s books, The Philosophical Basis of Religion, 1907 & The Interpretation of Religious Experience, 2 Vols., 1912).
Lastly, I’ve also got a copy of John Bowen’s, Evangelism for Normal People sitting on the shelf, waiting for me, should I get all this other stuff conquered, as well as finishing up the two I started earlier this summer which I have almost completed- Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor and Rowan Williams’ The Wound of Knowledge: Christian Spirituality from the New Testament to Saint John of the Cross.