Summary: Ron Highfield believes that many people fear God as a threat to their freedom and dignity. If God “fills all space and time, knows everything and exercises all power,” (p12) – i.e., is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent – as we have been told to believe, then how can there be any space, privacy or freedom for us? Defiance, subservience, and indifference are our attempts to protect ourselves from such an overbearing God.
But is God really like this? Highfield claims that the God made known to us in Jesus Christ does not rob us of freedom but grants it; He does not deprive us of our human dignity but affirms it: “God’s almighty power, omnipresence and comprehensive knowledge, which seem so menacing when understood as attributes of a superhuman being, appear very different in the light of the cross. God’s power gives life and freedom, God’s omnipresence opens a place for us and touches us with infinite love, and God’s knowledge of us roots our identity in God’s eternal life. We cannot think of God as a threat when we understand that God’s very being is love and God’s every act is giving” (p13).
In the first section of his book, Highfield draws on a wide range of moral philosophers, secular poets, novelists, and religious thinkers to provide an informative and intriguing story of the development of the modern human self with its aspirations for freedom, dignity, and happiness. In this scenario, God is seen as a competitive threat to the full realization of human potential. But the real problem, as Highfield presents it, is that we have come to think of God in terms much too like ourselves – a “sort of superhuman being who is everything we would like to be” (p13)!
For me, the real delight of Highfield’s book is its second half. Here he discusses the real truth about God and the human self. Turning to the biblical witness, and the rich theological tradition, he first writes of the “self-giving God of the gospel.” This God is not jealous of us – for he is the very ground of our existence – he made us to love us! He is Trinitarian, and therefore he is not self-centred: “When we think of divinity as an enviable superhuman God, we cannot be thinking of the Trinity we meet in the Bible. The superhuman God does one thing: he wills himself. He seeks to dominate and absorb everything…The God of Christian faith does nothing for God! …The members of the divine Trinity love themselves only in their love for each other” (p125). In Highfield’s discussion we discover that the omnipotent God “does not overpower but empowers us for our own free action” (p140); his presence does not displace us but awakens and acknowledges us; and his knowledge of us is really a very personal and profound love for us, which allays our fears and invites our trust.
Understanding who God really is, and what he is like, brings about “a new way of being human” (p151). It is to this truth that Highfield now turns: “God’s relationship to us is the most fundamental fact about us” (p 148); our first act of genuine freedom is “accepting God’s love for us” (p 179). Entrusting ourselves to the Father of Jesus, we discover ourselves as his adopted children. All defiance, subservience and indifference dissipate. God’s love for us becomes “the ground and measure” of our dignity (p191); “God’s love makes us lovable” (p117). “The Christian picture of humanity empowers us for true selfhood, perfect freedom and the highest dignity conceivable. In Christ we find an identity rooted not in others’ changing thoughts about us, but in God’s eternal knowledge of us. The Spirit leads us toward perfect freedom of life in harmony with our truest self” (p 113).
This is an excellent book – both informative and inspiring. I especially enjoyed the way the author draws on a wide range of sources in our culture (moral philosophers, poets, novelists and so on); together with the rich Christian tradition (especially the extensive referencing of Kierkegaard, but also many others); and of course from the biblical witness to the gospel of the Trinitarian God. This book rings with the exhilarating truth that the God made known to us in Jesus Christ is far more wonderful than we could ever imagine.
Reviewed by: David McGregor
Publication: Monument, Colo.: WIGTake Resources, 2014
Summary: David Garrison’s book is based on interviews he conducted over a two year period of 1,000 Muslim background believers drawn from at least 17 of the 49 countries which are dominated by Islam. The respondents come from 45 of the 60 plus Christian “movements” in the past 30 years (a movement is defined as either having at least 1,000 baptised believers in a region or having at least 100 new worshipping fellowships formed in 20 years). This research is unprecedented. The structure of the book is built around the nine Islamic “rooms” (or regions) as he attempts to investigate similarities and differences in the faith journeys of these Muslim converts from across the world. Ten “bridges of God” (ways God is working among Muslims today) are identified, and he addresses a number of barriers to seeing movements like these flourish, along with practical steps to see them grow. Some common threads are identified like the word of God and the encounter with the living Christ.
Evaluation: Not surprisingly, this book has attracted much attention. The comprehensive data and maps give a unique insight into the Muslim faith and a basis from which to respond. As Ramadan draws to a close it is a fitting time to reflect. The events of the past 12 months can provoke fear and concern but this book demonstrates that God is reminding us of His power, work and control, which some would think has been lost. Integral to this is the rise of prayer movements focusing on the Muslim World. (It needs to be recognised, however, these prayer movements cover up to only about 1.5% of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.) The challenge for us is to support such prayer movements, in whatever form we can, while continuing to educate the Christian community through this narrative about how God is at work, and thus, how we might be at work win the world today as well.
|Reviewed by: David TurnbullAvailable at Koorong: http://www.koorong.com/search/product/wind-in-the-house-of-islam-a-david/9781939124036.jhtml|
Author: Jesuit Media Initiatives (Britain), with material written by a number of Jesuits, both in Britain and further afield, and other experts in the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola. Continue reading
Author: Soong-Chan Rah
Publication details: Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL.
Summary: Many Colors presents a framework for developing cultural intelligence employing theological, anthropological and sociological principles grounded in a biblical worldview. Cultural intelligence (or competence) incorporates “knowledge, experience and ethos” (p. 14) and provides the environment in which multicultural ministry can be developed and nurtured. The book is organised into three parts: a biblical theology of culture as a corporate social construct based on the imago Dei and the missio Dei at work in all cultures; the concept of cultural intelligence and its importance in multiethnic church; the application of cultural “intuition” (p. 192) when working cross-culturally, the challenges that need to be addressed and systems thinking for systemic change.
Evaluation: Rah has written a thought provoking book strongly challenging our mono-cultural church paradigms from his perspective as a Korean-American, a pastor and a professor of church growth and evangelism. Although the book is written in and for the American context, the central theme (developing cultural intelligence to build multi-ethnic churches) is relevant to Australia as we grapple with ministry in our increasingly diverse, multi-cultural communities. Rah challenges readers to reflect on their own cultural assumptions/frameworks and develop a multi rather than mono (i.e. western) cultural worldview. He suggests a ministry model where the knowledge, experience and ethos from experts within ethnic communities is sought rather than imposing Westernised cultural concepts of ministry onto the marginalised. Many Colors is a helpful resource for those seeking tools to understand cultural diversity and engage with the multi-cultural Australian community.
Reviewed by Lesley Houston- TESOL Coordinator Tabor Adelaide
Dr Rick Lewis was at Tabor Adelaide in February to lead a postgraduate intensive entitled “Mentoring for Ministry and Mission”. Rick served for over 30 years as a local church pastor and now works as an itinerant mentor and consultant, serving around 50 senior Christian leaders in Australia, the UK and South-east Asia. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, having conducted action research into mentoring processes for pastors.
We video recorded the lectures from the first day and have made them available (along with the accompanying powerpoint) on the Tabor Adelaide website (http://taboradelaide.edu.au/schools/school-of-ministry-theology-culture/media). There is a lot of good stuff here!
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
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!” Continue reading