Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us

Author: Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg
Publication details: Downers Grove: IVP, 2005

Summary: Calhoun uses ‘WORSHIP’ as an acrostic to organise over 60 spiritual practices  drawn from the breadth of the Christian tradition into 7 groups: ‘Worship’, ‘Open myself to God’, ‘Relinquish the false self’, ‘Share my life with others’, ‘Hear God’s word’, ‘Incarnate the love of Christ’, and ‘Pray’. For each practice she includes a tabled summary, a few pages of discussion, reflection questions, practical steps to help the reader experience the discipline, and finally a list of further resources. The book also contains an excellent introductory section on exploring desire, and useful appendices on a variety of related issues, such as suggestions for spiritual mentors and postures for prayer.

Evaluation:  Urging people to just ‘pray and read your bible’ is rarely a helpful approach to encouraging the  vital nurturing of spiritual health; natural variance in spiritual temperaments and life seasons mean people are looking for a whole host of ways to foster spiritual authenticity in their journey. Whereas texts such as Foster’s Celebration of Discipline or Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines focus on just a few classic disciplines and require a concerted effort to work through,  Calhoun offers a highly accessible pathway into a wide range of spiritual practices that lay people can flick through and use as an entry point into further discovery. She maintains a healthy balance between personal and communal practices, and includes practices such as ‘Unplugging’ which have particular contemporary relevance. Every faith community should have a copy in their resource collection. Highly recommended.

 Reviewed by: Bruce Hulme

Lecturer in Spirituality and Practical Theology, Tabor Adelaide

 

Breaking Calabashes: Becoming an Intercultural Community

book review

Author: Rosemary Dewerse
Publication details: Adelaide, SA: Mediacom Education Inc, 2013

Summary: Framing her book around the true Maori story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai, Rosemary Dewerse invites readers to confront ideas of what is acceptable and unacceptable in their communities and to break culturally ingrained mindsets. Rosemary challenges a static concept of multiculturalism and argues the dominant group, in particular, must be proactive in promoting interculturality. Each of the book’s four chapters addresses a particular ‘calabash’: Caring for Identity breaks down the concept that “stereotypes are useful for understanding people”; Listen to Silenced Voices challenges the tendency to think “my voice is most worthy”; the third chapter confronts the idea that “cultural ignorance is bliss” by inviting readers towards a life of Nurturing Epistemic Ruptures; the final chapter, Dealing in Justice, addresses the attitude that “our kind are better than your kind”.    Read More

Book Review: God and Human Suffering: An Exercise in the Theology of the Cross

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Author: Douglas John Hall
Publication details: Minneapolis, Augsburg: 1986.

Summary: Hall is refreshingly reticent to provide “answers” to the problem of human suffering. “The trouble with most answers – including the answers that popular Christianity is ready to offer at bargain prices,” he says, “is that they are usually provided by persons who have not lived long enough with the questions.” Hall rejects the classical framing of the theodicy question as too preoccupied with a speculative understanding of God’s omnipotence. In any case, our task is not to try and justify God but to proclaim his profound love for the world and his suffering engagement with it: “There is not so much an ‘answer,’” Hall says, “ but…an Answerer!” Read More

Book Review: The Case for the Psalms: Why they are essential, N.T Wright

case_for_the_psalms_200wTitle: The Case for the Psalms: Why they are essential
Author: N. T. Wright
Publication details: New York, Harper Collins 2013
Summary: This short book is Wright’s personal plea for the continued use of the Psalms in the contemporary church, a call to join in the chorus of prayer and praise that has been going on for millenia. He argues that praying, singing and living the Psalms is transformative in deeply mysterious ways, shaping our imagination and therefore our worldview. Read More