Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

‘Grapes of Wrath’ is 75, but its depictions of poverty are timeless

Posted on: April 15th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

‘Grapes of Wrath’ is 75, but its depictions of poverty are timeless

Seventy-five years later, The Grapes of Wrath still isn’t universally loved — it remains one of the most frequently banned books in this country. But, as NPR reports, it’s also a powerful reminder of a past that no one really wants to see repeated.

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Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, April 15, 2014

Secular story, religious themes

Posted on: April 5th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

By Colin R. Johnson

 

(This book review was first published in the April 2014 issue of the Anglican Journal.)


 

THE WINTER VAULT
By Anne Michaels
McClelland & Stewart, 2009
ISBN 9780771058905
352 pages

 

It takes time for the “winter vault” to appear in Anne Michaels’ novel (over 240 pages in), but it is an apt title for this beautifully crafted story of dispossession and adaptation, of loss and hard-won hope, of the creative capacity of story to open the way to reconciliation and the power of love to realize redemption.

If you were raised some years ago in a small town or in the countryside, as I was, you will know what a winter vault is. Before the days of mechanical diggers and ground thawers, there were no burials once the ground froze. The coffins of those who died during winter were placed in a stone mausoleum, awaiting spring burial—a winter vault. It was unfinished business, grief prolonged.

This story begins 50 years ago on the Nile, where a young Avery, joined by his wife, Jean, works as an engineer on the relocation of Pharaoh Ramses’ magnificent tomb, about to be swallowed in the waters rising behind the new Aswan Dam. He had met his botanist wife in a small Ontario village while he was working on its relocation, as the construction of the new St. Lawrence Seaway buried old communities under a moved river. These miracles of modern engineering also brought systematic destruction and “counterfeit reconstruction” to make it look as if everything was the same—it wouldn’t be. The impact on people’s lives of these still amazing feats of human construction has destructive consequences. There is collateral damage: ecological, social, political, personal.

Michaels’ writing is eloquent. Not surprisingly, she is an award-winning poet, and her liquid prose resonates with the lyrical word play of poetry. This is not a book that all will like. Like poetry, the precision of the language evokes meaning rather than defining action, suggestively connecting ideas, people and events that previously seemed separate, leaving the reader to interpret nuances and emotions. It is not a simple book. It is one to be read reflectively, savouring the images, delighting in the descriptive phrases and pondering their wisdom. Those wanting a fast-paced narrative or rollicking adventure will need to look elsewhere.

When we read a beautifully written novel, it reverberates in the contexts of our lives: the environmental dislocation, the loss of ancestral lands and cultural roots, the corrosive effects of grief and distance in relationships, the tentative possibilities of reconciliation at the place of deepest pain. In the end, new life is found at a tomb.

We are in the season of Easter, where the waters of baptism create a new identity, where betrayal and loss are reconciled and healed, where the tomb—the winter vault—leads not to final burial but to resurrection.

Water, location, identity, death, resurrection…The Winter Vault, a book about hope, invites us to consider these essentially religious themes in an outwardly secular story.

ARCHBISHOP COLIN JOHNSON is the archbishop of the diocese of Toronto and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario.

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Anglican Journal News,  April 2, 2014

Goddesses

Posted on: April 1st, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

GODDESSES
Mysteries of the Feminine Divine,
By Joseph Campbell

New World Library, Dec.  2013
Hardcover, 304 pages. $30.00 CAD
ISBN # 978-1-60868-182-2

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

 

From the Editor’s Foreword:

While Joseph Campbell never wrote a book
on the Goddess before his death in 1987, he
had much to say on the subject. Between
1972 and 1986 he gave over twenty lectures
and workshops on Goddesses, exploring the
figures, functions, symbols and themes of the
feminine divine, following them through their
transformations. These lectures are the basis
for the book “Goddesses” and have been in
his archival collection since his death. The
material has not been read or heard by
anyone other than those who originally
attended the lectures.

(The book has been edited by me, Safron Rossi
PhD. executive director of the Opus Archives
and Research Centre in California.) “It shows
how Campbell traced the blossoming from
one Great Goddess to the many goddesses
of the mythic imagination. The book follows
the feminine divine from Neolithic Old Europe
into Sumerian and Egyptian mythology,
through Homer’s epic Odyssey, the Greek
Eleusinian Mystery cult, Arthurian legends
of the Middle Ages and the Neoplatonic
Renaissance.”

Rossi: “The exploration and study of goddess
mythology has progressed significantly
since Campbell presented these lectures three
decades ago. It has been my hope that this
volume holds the counterpoint to the idea that
Campbell was focused solely on the hero and
was not sensitive to or did not find of interest
goddesses, their mythologies, or the questions
and concerns of women who seek to understand
themselves in relation to these stories.

 

My Thoughts:

No other author has influenced me more on the
subject of myth in general and global mythology
in particular than Joseph Campbell.

My early theological training during the 1960s 
introduced me to “biblical mythology” but back
then we were only beginning to understand the
role of myth in the formation of sacred scripture.

Many opposed this investigation, and used the 
term “myth” in demeaning ways – implying that
the term described an “untruth.” 

By the time I started reading Campell several
decades later, I was much in need of a helpful
description of myth. I could no longer subscribe
to a literal interpretation of many biblical stories
in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.
He helped me, and others who followed his
example, to associate “myth” with “a story
holding deep, universal truth and meaning” 
if not “a story to be taken literally.”

My preaching and teaching have been much
influenced, over the years, by Joseph Campbell 
and those more deeply grounded in the Biblical 
tradition like Walter Brueggemann and Marcus 
Borg. Bishop John Spong has helped me too.

I find that the advanced understanding of
global mythology helps me to better encounter
the scriptures of other faith traditions. I 
believe a mature approach to the meaning of
myth will contribute immensely to comparative
sacred scripture studies – whether it involve
the Jerusalem faiths or Eastern faith traditions.

All this points to a hopeful future as the
world’s great religions seek to understand
each other better and as they try to build
peace on earth.

The book in question “Goddesses” has
had a controversial history, in terms of
subject matter. I avoid the subject when
it veers too strongly in New Age directions.

While Campbell was a pioneer in goddess
thinking, he cannot be blamed for the
way some of his disciples have used his
thought. Campbell must be read in his
own words and not be responsible for the 
teachings of many of his followers!

Indeed. we need to understand this subject
if we want to advance with a meaningful
awareness of the Bible and other sacred 
texts.

Here are the words of a profoundly
creative thinker who offered the world
much good spiritual meaning in his
teachings. We need to read him with
the growing experience of serious
scholarship over the past three decades
as a support. If he had lived longer
he well might have transformed much
of these writings into new books. At
least here we have his own words and
evolving insights on the subject.

Every so often, a human emerges to
change the way we approach and
interpret reality and truth. Joseph
Campbell was such a man. I am very
grateful that New World Library, with 
this new book, has continued to add
to their previous 13 titles in the series
“The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell.”

Both women and men need to read
a book like this to help them better
understand the meaning of gender
and human relationships today.

 

Buy the Book from Amazon.ca: 
http://tinyurl.com/lm3yopk 

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city.

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Colleagues List, Vol. IX, No. 20,  January 12, 2014

 

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Posted on: March 31st, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

BONHOEFFER:
Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
By Eric Metaxas

Thomas Nelson, 2011
608 pp. Paperback
$21.00 CAD Kindle: $11.69
ISBN #10-1595552464

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

 

Author’s Words:

In the early part of the summer of 1945,
only months after the war had ended,
the ghastly news of the death camps
emerged – along with the unfathomable
atrocities that the Nazis had visited upon
their victims…

Now, the reality of what had happened
was confirmed by photographs, newsreel
footage and eyewitness accounts of
soldiers who liberated the camps in April
during the last days of the war…

To win the war, the allies had to forge
a belief that the only good German was
a dead German.  But now, the war was over.

Many in the West had little awareness of
Germans who had opposed Hitler from the
beginning – like the Bonhoeffer family
of Berlin. But they did not know that the
youngest son of that family had died
until the BBC had broadcast a memorial
service for him… Many English could only
then take in the hard news that this dead
man, who was a German, was good…

The man who died was engaged to be
married. He was a pastor and theologian.
And he was executed for his role in the
plot to assassinate Hitler.

This is his story.

- Eric Metaxas in a summary of the Preface

 

My Thoughts:

Seventy years after his martyrdom in
1945, many are only now becoming aware
of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I am particularly
pleased to recommend this Bonhoeffer
biography because, unlike many of the
earlier studies of this man – conducted
by Continental and English writers -
this wonderful work was written by an
American.

That fact - appearing forty years after the
last major biography of Bonhoeffer -
suggests the growingly global appeal
of his story, and also, that he continues
to build an important place in Christian
history.

I first began reading books like “Letters
and Papers from Prison,” “The Cost of
Discipleship,” and “Life Together,” as
a young Lutheran seminarian during the
mid-sixties. That was only twenty years
after those books had started appearing
in the English-speaking world.

Now, fifty years later, more and more
readers from around the world are
beginning to learn about a man I have
appreciated and respected for fifty
years. There is nothing more satisfying
to me than introducing Bonhoeffer
to students with evangelical Protestant,
African and Asian and secular background
as I currently have the opportunity to do.

Bonhoeffer continues to appeal because
he writes intelligently and with a broad
theological depth.

Bonhoeffer continues to appeal because
he showed great courage in standing up
to authority in both church and state.

Bonhoeffer continues to appeal because 
he tried to discern the hard meaning of
the Gospel in a social environment that
was consumed with secular pursuits.

Bonhoeffer continues to appeal because
he was deeply committed to the gospel
in his own life and in the communities
where he found himself.

He was consistent. He lived what he
believed as he led an illegal seminary
for several years north of Berlin -
and when he was in prison daily
awaiting his demise.

Bonhoeffer helps up prepare for a
good death, and to live faithfully to
the end our days.

Bonhoeffer helps us to bear the
sufferings of our own lives with
a purpose.

Many consider it a tragedy that
Bonhoeffer died at Flossenburg
Concentration Camp in Bavaria,
only two weeks before the place
was liberated by American forces.

I am not at all certain that Bonhoeffer
would have considered this a tragedy.
He had prepared to die well and he
did so. Apart from missing his fiancé
and his family, he knew where he was 
going after his earthly life ended.

If you have been intrigued by
what I have been sharing about
this very special hero of mine,
I hope you will consider buying
this excellent biography.

Buy the Book from Amazon.ca
http://tinyurl.com/mtwgv2o

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city.

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Colleagues List, Vol. IX, No. 31,  March 30, 2014

 

The Hero’s Journey

Posted on: March 25th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

THE HERO’S JOURNEY
Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work
(new redesigned edition of a classic work)

By Joseph Campbell, edited by Phil Cousineau

 

New World Library Trade Paperback. 336 pages
Released March 15th, 2014. $16.00 CAD
ISBN #978-1-60868-189-1

 

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

 

Editor’s Intro:

Joseph Campbell’s long odyssey through the seas
of ancient mythology was as much a spiritual
quest as it was a scholarly one. Through his
prodigious readings, writings, and travels, as well
as his crossroads meetings with many of the 20th
century’s most influential men and women, he
discovered remarkable parallels in our world’s
mythological heritage and reinforcement for the
deep conviction he had held since he was a young
student: that there is a fundamental unity in the
heart of nature.

“Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names,”
he often quoted the Vedas. To synthesize the
constant truths of history became the burning
point of his life; to bridge the abyss between
science and religion, mind and body, East and
West, with the timeless linkage of myths became
his task of tasks.

Campbell’s comparative historical approach to
mythology, religion and literature, in contrast to
the conventional scholar’s emphasis on cultural
differences, concentrated on similarities. He was
convinced that the common themes or archetypes
in our sacred stories and images transcended the
variations of cultural manifestations…

Moreover, he believed that a re-viewing of such
primordial images in mythology as the hero, death
and resurrection, the virgin birth, and the promised
land – the universal aspects of the soul, the blood
memories – could reveal our common psychological
roots. They could even show us, as seen from
below,  how the soul views itself…

“Myths are the masks of God,” he wrote, “through
which men (sic) everywhere have sought to relate
themselves to the wonders of existence…”

After more than fifty years of teaching and more
than twenty books, Campbell felt his contribution
was simply that he gave people “the key to the
realm of the muses,” that marvelous realm
beyond the visible one from which imagination
and inspiration could guide us in shaping our lives.

“Life is not a problem to be solved,” he said, “but
a mystery to be lived…”

(After years of interpreting Campbell, I had
considerable editing to do to reconstruct the
parallel journeys of the work and the man.
The result is this integration of many books and
articles he wrote, the filmed presentations he
made and the interviews with many  – like his
most famous with Bill Moyers’ “The Power of Myth”
that he conducted.)

I believe Joe Campbell is enjoying eternity (he 
died in 1987, 27 years ago) by reading from the 
inexhaustible book of myth.

- Phil Cousineau (2003) from the
  Preface to the hardcover edition. 


My Thoughts:

At a crucial time of transition in my life (during
my early fifties) I happened upon Joseph
Campbell and a number of his signature books
like “The Hero With a Thousand Faces,” “Myths
to Live By,” “The Mythic Image,” and the book
and video interview series he did with Bill Moyers
entitled “The Power of Myth” http://tinyurl.com/nnbcs6l

Most of his major work was done from mid-
twentieth century to the 1980s.

More than any other writer/scholar, Campbell
gave me new perspectives with which to grow
spiritually and authentically as I sought to move
beyond the confinements of my earlier spiritual
formation – yet not reject that important base.

I began teaching courses on Campbell and his
approach to myth at the university. Over the
years I was blessed with groups of students
and other associates who continued to grow
and think with me at the university and the
church. We would often meet for social events
outside of class to continue our myth-quests!

With considerable gratitude I look upon the
last quarter century of my career as a teacher,
while having equal appreciation for my first
career as a pastor.

To this day I continue to relate to teaching
and student colleagues at the university
and the church because it would not have
been possible to make the evolving spiritual
transitions of my life without that community.

Over the years, I have valued the fact that
New World Library has continued to release
updated editions of Campbell’s essential
oeuvre as well as enlightening and helpful
companion works like this one.

I recently introduced in the Jan. 12th, 2014 
issue of Colleagues List http://tinyurl.com/k6zeaoo 

 

“The Goddess” http://tinyurl.com/lm3yopk
the latest publication of Campbell’s works,
and treasure my collection of the complete 
set, numbering 13 books, and his other 
writings on mythological themes. Most of 
these are available on the New World Library 
website http://tinyurl.com/num94gk and can 
also be purchased from Amazon.ca

This book is different, in that it is a
compilation and clarification of most of
his writings, presentations and interviews
by a lifelong student of Campbell’s - 
Phil Cousineau. 

More of the great mythologist’s writings 
will be released over time. But this is a 
good summary of his primary material 
appearing so far.

If you are interested in building bridges
of spiritual understanding with people
of faith or of no declared faith, you would
be wise to secure a book like this one.
It covers all of Campbell’s major themes.
For the price (from Amazon) it is a real
bargain, as well as a treasure, and one 
you will return to, often.


Buy the book from Amazon.ca:
http://tinyurl.com/lqqljte

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city.

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Colleagues List, Vol. IX, No. 30,  March 23, 2014

In Bed With The Word: Reading, Spirituality and Cultural Politics

Posted on: March 24th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

IN BED WITH THE WORD
Reading, Spirituality and Cultural Politics
By Daniel Colemen

 

University of Alberta Press, 2009
142 pages. $19.95 CAD. Paperback.
Kindle $9.99 CAD. ISBN #0-88864-507-4 

This notice first appeared in 
Colleagues List, May 2nd, 2009

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

 

Author’s Words:

This book has benefited from the responses
and interest I received from three post-
secondary institutions.  Early versions of
its chapters were the basis of a lecture
series I presented at the Canadian Mennonite
University and the University of Winnipeg
in 2005. I am thankful… for the invitation
to present a reading from this material for
the McMaster Ecumenical Chaplaincy in
Hamilton, ON. (2004) and when I served 
as Visiting Chair in Religion at Camption
College, University of Regina (2008)…

In the very basic structure of reading,
in the initial situation when a reader enters
a page, we have the core of an impulse
that is fundamental and helpful to
spiritual life and cultural politics.

In the very existence of (a) vulnerable
longing (for intimacy with the word)
there is the potential for everything:
for growth, for learning, for love, for
self-knowledge and other-knowledge,
and especially for learning to listen
to the voice of the Other.

- from the Acknowledgements and the
   Introduction “Reading and Longing.”

 

My Thoughts:

This is an intriguing volume of spiritual reflection 
from Daniel Coleman who has taught Canadian & 
Diasporic literature for many years at McMaster 
University in Hamilton, ON. Coleman did under-
graduate, graduate and doctoral degree work 
at Regina and the University of Alberta, Edmonton. 
The son of missionary parents, he grew up in Africa 
and continues to be strongly influenced in his spiritual 
writing by his evangelical Protestant background. 

It is most unusual that a secular university press 
would consider releasing In Bed with the Word. 
But the University of Alberta Press, in its wisdom, 
has seen this book for what it is — a high quality 
contribution to literature. Coleman is influenced 
by colleague Ron Rolheiser who readers of this 
letter hear from regularly. He is also a reader of 
the work of Karen Armstrong and several other 
modern writers from the field of faith. Coleman 
blends a solid grasp of biblical and theological 
literature with a strong sense of what appeals 
to serious modern readers.” 

 

Buy the book from University of Alberta Press -
http://tinyurl.com/lf5bf6j

 

Buy the book through Amazon.ca -
http://tinyurl.com/mwk9spk
 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city.

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Colleagues List, Vol. IX, No. 28,  March 9, 2014

 

The Evolution of Christianity: Twelve Crises That Shaped the Church

Posted on: March 24th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

 

THE EVOLUTION OF CHRISTIANITY
Twelve Crises That Shaped the Church
 
By Marshall D. Johnson
 
 
Continuum. 2005
$15.00 CAD with shipping from Amazon.ca
 
 
 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

 

 
Author’s Words:
 
Established institutions and ideologies often
have evolved out of controversy and conflict…
nothing can solidify a point of view more
effectively than a confrontation with its
opponents. That this is the case with Western
Christian theology  is the assumption and
organizing principle of this book.
 
For reasons of space, and as a kind of primer
and textbook for Christian theology (to get a
much fuller picture consult Jaroslav Pelikan’s
five volume ‘The Christian Tradition’) I have
had to exclude large slices, like much of Post-
Reformation era Eastern Orthodoxy and the 
growth of the church in Africa during the 
20th century…
 
History is a dynamic system of meanings, an
analysis of significant events, persons, ideas, 
or social realities of the past that is intended
to provide orientation to our present and
guide our conduct into the future.
 
History is important for self-understanding…
and as an intellectual adventure. Christian 
history has its own distinctive functions. It can
force the tradition-bound Christian to greater
awareness of the complexity of doctrinal
issues… and the evolution of church structures
and beliefs.
 
Knowledge of Christian history also has value 
for secularized persons of the twenty-first
century who are not aware of the debt of 
Western society to Christian and Jewish values.
 
Readers today are often amazed to learn of
the varieties of beliefs among early Christians,
the conflicts that gave rise to the early
Christian creeds, the developments of church
hierarchies, etc. Historical knowledge is
essential for meaningful discussion among
Christians of various persuasions (for much
inter-faith discussion) and between Christians
and secularists…
 
The assumption of this book is that there has 
been a development of doctrine and of church
structures throughout history and the main
stimulus for change was conflict…
 
Christianity took on a distinctive shape in
each major locality to which it spread, and
the resulting differences often erupted in
conflict. (We will investigate how the church,
early on, had to develop criteria by which to
distinguish tolerable teachings from heresy.)
 
We can expect to find a lively conflict between
opposing groups or individuals. And the history 
of Christian theology – like that of all historical
writing – is to a large degree the story of who 
won.

- from the Preface and the Introduction
 
 
My Thoughts:

Church history has always fascinated me.
I remember teaching an adult Sunday School
class when little older than a teen. I was
already interested in the connections between
the story of Jesus in the Gospels and the
development of the church as it was recorded
in the book of Acts. And that was just the
beginning!
 
I am always on the lookout for good studies
in church history. Almost ten years ago, 
Marshall D. Johnson published “The Evolution
of Christianity – Twelve Crises that Shaped
the Church.” Over the last decade or so, I
have referred to this book when encountering
questions about why Christian beliefs came
to be what they are, and how they continue
to evolve.
 
One of the problems of our time is that
we do not have a strong sense of the
historical development of Christian faith.
We tend to miss the fact that much of
what seems new has antecedents in
the long and varied life of the church.
 
We need to continue trying to recover
this sense of historical experience
because it helps to explain our present
as well as to anticipate our future.
 
I grew up in a Christian faith that had
a strong sense of tradition. I moved into
a Christian faith that seems rather caught
up in the present. In that regard, I find
both of these tendencies to be inadequate. 
Jaroslav Pelikan would criticize many
modern Christians for their bondage to
either the past or the present, and I 
agree with him.
 
What does the author consider to be
the crises that shaped Christianity?
He creates interesting chapters on
such themes as “From Jesus to the
Apostolic Fathers,” “Orthodoxy and
Heresy,” “Persecution and State
Religion,” “The Crusades,”  “The
Reformation” “Pietism and Rationalism,”
“Copernicus, Darwin and Freud,”
 and “Postmodernism.” 
 
In these and other chapters we are 
helped to see that the faith has been 
in a constant process of evolution. 
This is due mainly to the fact that it 
is a living, breathing thing. In spite 
of the fact we believe that divine 
Revelation is essential, human 
involvement is always a big part 
of it as well.
 
The author concludes that, after
1,700 years, Christendom has
ended in the West. The resulting
challenge of secularism is both
anxiety-producing and liberating.
Canadian theologian Douglas John
Hall picks up on this. His more
recent books have been guides
for navigating the difficult waters
of this brave but frightening new 
world.
 
Still, there is reason for hope. 
 
Christianity has survived many major
challenges over two millenniums and
there is every reason to think that
it will continue to do so.
 
Theological conflict, while unfortunate
and destructive, has also had its
salutary effects in the development of
both teaching and practice. We need
to distinguish “the timeless core” of 
faith from “normative” (generally held)
Christianity. Always we need to hold
up our current theological pursuits
to the light of what Jesus himself 
taught and lived.
 
And finally – something to remember -
academic theology,  while a fascinating
diversion, is a luxury that most living,
practical Christians tend to live without.
 
 
Purchase used from Amazon.ca:
 
 
 
 
Critique of the book by John W. O’Malley
America Magazine April 25th, 2005
 
 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city.

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Colleagues List, Vol. IX, No. 27,  March  2, 2014

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

Posted on: March 21st, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

SHAKESPEARE: 
THE INVENTION OF THE HUMAN
by Harold Bloom

Riverhead Books, 2002
768 pages, $29.00 CAD
ISBN #10-157322751X 

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

 

Author’s Words:

Literary character before Shakespeare is
relatively unchanging… In Shakespeare,
characters develop rather than unfold.
and they develop because they reconceive
themselves…

The more one reads and ponders the plays
of Shakespeare, the more one realizes  that
the accurate stance toward them is one of
awe.

This book, though it hopes to be useful to
others, is a personal statement, the expression
of a long (though hardly unique) passion and
the culmination of a life’s work in reading,
writing about and teaching what I still
stubbornly call imaginative literature.

The plays remain the outward limit of human
achievement aesthetically, cognitively, in
certain ways morally, even spiritually…

I offer a fairly comprehensive interpretation
of all (35) Shakespeare’s plays, addressed
to common readers and theatregoers…

He wrote the best poetry and the best prose
in English, or perhaps any Western language.
He thought the more comprehensively and
originally than any other writer… He went
beyond all precedents (even Chaucer) and
invented the human as we continue to know it.

The dominant Shakespearean characters -
Falstaff, Hamlet, Rosalind, Iago, Lear, Macbeth,
Cleopatra among them – are ordinary instances
not only of how meaning gets started, rather
than repeated, but also of how new modes of
consciousness come into being…

His total effect upon the world’s culture is
incalculable. After Jesus, Hamlet is the
most cited figure in Western consciousness;
no one prays to him, but no one evades him
for long either.

I am certain that these plays… read me better
than I read them… We need to exert ourselves
and read Shakespeare as strenuously as we
can, while knowing that his plays will read us
more energetically still.

They read us definitively.

- from his Introduction – To the Reader

 

My Thoughts:

I saw my first Shakespeare play in a tent
at Stratford, Ontario when I was a teen.
That dates me to the 1950s when there
was not yet a beautiful festival theatre.

Even then, however, I was drawn to this
unique playwright and poet, even though
I found him no easier to comprehend than
the King James Version of the Bible. But,
like the latter, I realized there was real
meaning and substance hidden under
those Elizabethan words and phrases.
Like Bloom, I have spent my life going
to the Bard’s plays and trying to mine
his insights more deeply.

Some of the more popular ones I
have seen many times.

Early on, I determined to see all 35
of Shakespeare’s dramas from the
classic canon. Over the years, and
in addition to Stratford, Ontario, I 
have had the privilege of attending
plays in the UK (Stratford-upon-Avon,
The Globe Theatre, London) in the USA
(New York, Minneapolis) and in Calgary
and Banff (Alberta).

Perhaps the most meaningful venue
has been the reconstructed Globe
in South London by the Thames. This
place gives one a sense of how
Shakespeare was originally performed.

Over the years, I have admired
top-notch theatre companies and
impressive drama-student endeavours.

At last count, I have seen all but
twelve of the total canon. Most of
those are the historical dramas
and a few other less-produced
pieces from the collected folio.

Still, I am determined to see the
total genre live, and before I can
no longer attend a theatre.

Since 1999, a year after Harold Bloom
produced this masterful interpretation,
I always try to read his chapter on
the particular play I happen to be
seeing. During this time, I have had
the joy of seeing these plays at
various venues with Marlene my wife
who is not always as enchanted with
the Bard as I am. We usually have
good conversations about what we
have seen. So I recommend that, if
you can, watch Shakespeare with a
person with whom you too can
engage in conversation.

Since high school, I have studied
the tragedies and gained much from
them. The comedies I sometimes find
a bit frivolous and repetitive. Bloom
divides these into ‘early’ and ‘high.’

And then there are the romances.

As with the Bible, I find in Shakespeare
an unending wellspring of meaning, true 
inspiration, personal growth and
satisfaction.

There is no doubt that, for me, each
of these great Sources influence the
other to my enduring gratification.

For those who cannot get as excited
about Shakespeare as I do, I would
only advise what I tell Marlene –
‘keep working at him.’ You won’t be
wasting your time.

The Bloom book has been in print for
fifteen years and is still available,
both new and used.

 

Buy the book from Amazon.ca:
http://tinyurl.com/kptwdlw

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Colleagues List, Vol. IX, No. 25,  February 16, 2014

In Search of Deep Faith

Posted on: March 20th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

IN SEARCH OF DEEP FAITH
A Pilgrimage into the Beauty,
Goodness and Heart of Christianity
by Jim Belcher

Inter-Varsity Press, 2013. 
Paperback. 318 pages.
ISBN #978-0-8308-3774-8

 

Author’s Words:

After almost 20 years pastoring two congregations, 
raising four children and finishing my first book, I 
was tired and worn down—out of gas. I needed to 
make a change, to find a way to regain my passion 
for my calling. 

While I was exhausted, my wife and I were also 
worried about our four children and whether they 
were developing a strong enough faith to last a 
lifetime. Were they being more influenced by the 
culture around them—the media, materialism and 
friends—than by the story of Christianity and its 
reality in their lives? 

Then we hit on an idea. What if we traveled on 
a pilgrimage for a year to England and Europe, 
and studied and experienced the biographies 
and places of some of the great heroes of the 
faith—people like C.S Lewis, Sheldon Vanauken, 
William Wilberforce, Corrie ten Boom, Dietrich 
Bonhoeffer and Maria Von Trapp. Maybe this 
could get my passion back for my calling and at 
the same time help my children develop a deeper 
faith—a faith that shaped their imaginations and 
identities and futures.

So we left the comforts of Orange County, CA and 
moved to Oxford, England. We didn’t have any 
definite plans but upon arriving we discovered that 
a pilgrimage has three components: to rediscover 
our roots, to understand that life is a journey and 
to know our ultimate destination. These three ideas 
became our inspiration, shaping the themes we 
pursued, revealing the heroes we studied, and 
steering us across time and place. And as the 
pilgrimage unfolded, day by day, month by month, 
what we learned and experienced over the year 
would startle us and surprise us and change us 
forever. In Search of Deep Faith is the record of 
this pilgrimage, an unfolding drama marked by 
suspense and intrigue. 

I hope you will take the journey with us and go 
deeper into the faith than you could ever imagine.

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

It is heartening to read a book authored by
a former evangelical Protestant megachurch
pastor turned seminary professor Jim Belcher
that respects and demonstrates profound
consideration for some of the classic themes
of the Christian tradition.

I am particularly taken by the author’s interest
in the meaning of ‘pilgrimage’.

Early in the book Belcher writes: “This book is
about the pilgrimage my family took to England
and Europe from August 2010 to June 2011.
When we set out for Oxford, (my wife) Michelle
and I knew some of the lessons we wanted to
teach our children (who accompanied us), and
we had in mind a number of historical characters
we wanted to study and experience. But we had
only the vaguest idea of which ones we would
choose and what order we would follow.”

Let me assure you, this is not the way I would
go about planning a trip to some of the grand
‘Christian’ centers and personalities of England
and Europe. I would be a more disciplined
planner! Each to his own, I guess.

That said, I am impressed by the author’s
choice of the term - pilgrimage - for what they
were about to undertake. He quotes John Inge’s
book “A Christian Theology of Place”(Ashgate
2003) to suggest (and here I repeat what he
has written above) that “a pilgrimage has three
components: to rediscover our roots, to
understand that life is a journey and to
know our ultimate destination.”

“These three ideas became our inspiration,
shaping the themes we pursued, revealing
the heroes we studied, and steering us across
time and place.” – from the Prologue.

Pilgrimage is a term and a practice that is
common to many of the great faith traditions
of our world. Christians have no corner on it.
But the Christian tradition is remarkably rich
in pilgrimage experience. A study of this
term from two millennia of Christian history
might help us expand and enhance some of
the meanings that Belcher has chosen for this
book. Still, he is a good writer, and adds a
lot of meat to the bones of a basic definition.

My wife and I have traveled to many of the
locations and also engaged a number of the
great spiritual personalities of this book.
It was nevertheless interesting to read
another perspective - and some good prose!

This suggests to me that important places
of religious significance and accompanying
personalities of great faith will appeal to
a broad spectrum of pilgrims – whatever
their background, experience in life, and
sources of information and inspiration.

We have found this to be true in our early
exposure to Islamic places and personalities.
I assume this is true for other faith traditions
as well.

I plan to lead a study of this book for
faculty, staff and students at my university
this coming Lent and am grateful for such
a helpful resource.

You might be encouraged to do something
similar to the Belchers (even unplanned
as they did!)
 

Secure this book from Amazon.ca:
http://tinyurl.com/mr65n3m

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Colleagues List, Vol. IX, No. 23,  February 2, 2014

Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World

Posted on: March 20th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

 
HERETICS AND HEROES
How Renaissance Artists and
Reformation Priests Created
Our World by Thomas Cahill
 
Random House Canada, pp. 341
Oct. 29th, 2013 release date
$33.50. CAD Book
$17.99 CAD Kindle
ISBN #978-0-385-49557-8
 
 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

 
 
My Thoughts:
 
I have been a fan of Cahill since his amazing
book on the Irish introduced me to the Celtic
world when I was essentially trained in a
Roman mindset. This shift in approaching
important historical developments was Cahill’s 
intention and to my great benefit.
 
But Cahill has made a career of writing about
the great hinge-shifts of history in both the
ancient and modern worlds. His vision and
grasp of the human story is great, and his
ability to make history intriguing is significant.
 
I have read much about the Renaissance
and the Reformation since I was a university
student fifty years ago. Now, I am drawn to
a continued study of these great phenomena
in Western history because Cahill opens
doors that more limited scholarship and
sectarian bias had narrowed for me. He
makes what is human to be so intriguing
and universal in scope that I am drawn to
reconsider things I had thought were clear
and settled.
 
The Renaissance and the Reformation
were very different from each other, but
both exalt the individual in wholly new
ways. This is an important distinction.
 
I can visit Renaissance art museums
with a new set of eyes. I can reconsider
the conflicts between Catholics and
Protestants from a more helpful
perspective.
 
Cahill is a master at creating historical
context, and then filling that framework
with marvellous content.
 
We learn about deviant monks like
Erasmus and Luther, and why they too
could not agree on many basics. We
learn about the radical Reformation, and
why Anabaptists were as opposed to
most Protestants as they were to Catholics.
 
We discover how the Roman Catholic
Church went to great lengths to successfully
get its act together on the Continent and
learn what really happened in England.
In the past, too much of this was filtered
through sectarian bias or secular critique.
Cahill is both open to and critical of the
role of religion in human history.
 
All this creates an insightful prologue to
modernity and why so much of the world 
is as it is today.
 
Like usual, another Cahill masterpiece!
 
 
Buy the Book from Amazon.ca:
http://tinyurl.com/kglcl73

 

Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Colleagues List, Vol. IX, No. 10, October 20, 2013