Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

Posted on: April 11th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere
By Pico Iyer

Simon & Schuster, a TED Original, 2014
ISBN: 978174678472-4
74 pages


TED talk is available at


Nowhere, Pico Iyer claims, is the most interesting destination.

Iyer, a travel writer by trade, makes this pronouncement in a new work, The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere. The book accompanies a 15-minute TED talk, and runs only 74 pages—compact enough to finish in one sitting.

He describes having, as a young man, a dream job as a global affairs writer at Time magazine in New York City. The lifestyle was frenetic and, oddly, gave him pause: “Something inside me felt that I was racing around so much that I never had a chance to see where I was going, or to check whether I was truly happy.”

He quit, and went to Kyoto, Japan. In his single room on a back alley in the ancient city, the thrill of open time stretched out before him “like a meadow.” He was hooked.

Kyoto set him on a life path with recurring trips to “nowhere,” even as he made his living by going places.

What drew him back?

“I felt the liberation of not needing to take my thoughts, my ambitions, myself—so seriously,” he writes. He returned from these sojourns refreshed, whether “nowhere” meant practising stillness at home, visiting a monastery or claiming the hours of a long flight for no agenda at all. Stillness brought new acuity to his art, and cultivated a happiness that motivates the book.

“I don’t claim to have any answers,” Iyer offers, with unconvincing modesty. It’s unconvincing because the work has the marks of a manifesto. Without claiming any religious faith—though clearly influenced by Buddhism—he defends stillness for both its intangible pleasures and practical benefits.

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.”

Most wanderers in harried modern life feel the intuitive truth and pull of his thesis, but actually doing it seems elusive. Many apparently need a more compelling “why” before embarking en masse to nowhere.

The Art of Stillness offers health and happiness as the main rewards of stillness. In contrast, many Christian practitioners of stillness identify a deeper “why” behind their regular pouring out of the mad rush. Emptying, for them, is neither an end in itself nor simply a means to personal happiness. For the disciple of Christ, it promises a refilling with his mind and heart, in order to be his hands and feet to the world. Augustine writes early in Confessions, “Thou has created us for thyself, and our heart knows no rest, until it find repose in thee.” Solitude and stillness, however enjoyable, cannot on their own redeem our restlessness.

Iyer’s conclusion could perhaps be stronger if he highlighted the “why” of stillness beyond personal development. But it remains convincing. His writing is winsome and clear. His credentials as a travel writer give him special authority, and he successfully sells the importance of going nowhere.

“In an age of constant movement,” he writes, “nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”

Wise words.


Michael Wightman is a journalist based in Saint John’s, N.B.


Anglican Journal News, April 10, 2015

Henry David Thoreau: Spiritual and Prophetic Writings

Posted on: April 8th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews


Spiritual and Prophetic Writings
Edited with Intro by Tim Flinders

Modern Spiritual Masters Series
Orbis Books, Maryknoll NY
February, 2015. 196 pages.
Paper $34.50 CAD. Kindle $9.99 CAD.
ISBN #978-1-62698-110-2.



Editor’s Comments:

In 1848, Henry Thoreau mentioned the idea
of retreating into the wilderness, anticipating
a two-year sojourn at Walden Pond (just south
of Concord MA) where he lived.

In an letter exchange with a friend he talked of
“sundering himself from society for this time,
from the spell of institutions, customs, and
conventionalities, that I might lead a fresh,
simple life with God, without and within.” (and)

“I do believe that the outward and inward life
correspond. I do believe in simplicity.”

Thoreau had been educated at Harvard, in Boston,
just east of Concord. He encountered the work of
New England transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo
Emerson, also of Concord. and was smitten by his
call for personal freedom and living in accord with
nature and the inner voice of conscience – radical
views for a culture of the time that was saturated
with an authoritarian Calvinist ideology.

After graduation, Thoreau wrote: “Let men, true
to their natures, cultivate the moral affections,
lead manly and independent lives… Let them make
riches the means, not the end, of existence.”

Thoreau met and cultivated a friendship with
Emerson, who introduced the young man to
many leading writers and intellectuals of the

It was most likely that Emerson suggested
Thoreau keep a journal, a decision that would
contribute significantly to his ultimate reputation
as a writer, social critic and naturalist. Over the
years that journal would serve multiple functions
as a record of his thoughts and impressions,
especially of the natural world. He included there
a rich detail of his empirical observations of plants,
animals and other aspects of nature he encountered
in his daily walks and at the pond.

His spiritual questing led him to mystics of many
ages and he was drawn to medieval Catholic writers
previously unknown to  him because of Protestant
sectarianism and narrow thinking. He was particularly
fond of Augustine, Teresa of Avila and Meister Eckhart.

He was also a pioneer in the study of spiritualities
in non-Christian faith traditions.

Thoreau rejected the Christian redemptive
theology in which he was raised and said:

“God prefers that you approach him as thoughtful,
not penitent… though you are the chief of sinners.”

We may regard Thoreau as a literary stylist of
the first rank, a penetrating social critic, a skilled
and intuitive naturalist, a philosopher. At heart,
however, he was a spiritual seeker.

“My profession,” he would say, “is always to
find God in nature.” Thoreau’s most famous book
and core of his lasting legacy is “Walden” (1854)

– edited from the Introduction


Read his Wikipedia bio:



Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

I first encountered the writings of Thoreau during
the 1960’s in a revealing course on American literature
taught by Dr. Flora Roy, professor of English and the
first woman dean of an Ontario college department.
Today the school is known as Wilfrid Laurier University.

Roy really helped Thoreau speak to me. But at the time
I was not readily able to understand what the man was
talking about. Transcendentalism seemed so distant
to the Christianity I knew, and Thoreau’s nature
reflections seemed a bit strange to a youth brought
up and still living in small town, rural Ontario close
to nature.

But Thoreau has remained an enticing voice for
me. Three years ago, Marlene and I spent a whole
day in Concord MA. We visited the Alcott house,
the Unitarian Church, and indeed, Walden Pond.
So much of my life almost fifty years earlier
came back to me, as with much more experience
I could associate these sights with a world that
was much different for me now.

(Concord is also famous for Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
and as a birthplace of American democracy, but those
stories are for another time.)

As with many books in the Orbis Modern Spiritual
Masters Series, “Henry David Thoreau – Spiritual
and Prophetic Writings” is a worthy introduction
to his story and his work as an eco-spiritualist
and social justice advocate.

It took a hundred years for many people to come
to understand him better and to see him as a
prophet for our time, not just an historical figure.

The book includes selections from many of his
key writings under the categories of – journal
and letters, essentials, spiritual life, sacred nature,
God, religion and the times, essays, and of course,

I know of no better or convenient introduction
to this early American genius than this book.

Thanks again to Orbis and friends like colleague
Robert Ellsberg for bringing it to us in 2015.


Buy the book from


From Orbis Publications:



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. X, No. 33,  March  29th, 2015

Essential Shakespeare Handbook

Posted on: April 8th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews





DK Reprint Edition (Jan. 2013)
Paperback. 480 pages. $9.50  CAD.
ISBN #10: 1465402268




From Hamlet and The Tempest to Henry V and
Romeo and Juliet, the Essential Shakespeare
Handbook is a user-friendly, and a beautifully
illustrated guide to every play in the entire
Shakespearean canon, as well as a compelling
portrait of the Bard’s life.

Organized according to the categories of
plays and including a section on his non-
dramatic poetry, this is an excellent basic
tool for gaining insight into the Bard’s poetic

Each of the categories – histories, comedies,
tragedies, and romances – commences with
a well-written essay that explains the nature
of the genre (and the place of Shakespeare’s
works within it) and discusses the themes
and ideas that lay behind the poet’s words.

A more in-depth analysis of each play follows: a
look at the sources that inspired it, an act-by-act
plot outline (with relevant quotes), an annotated
list of the dramatis personae, ideas to ponder
when reading/seeing the play, and, finally, a
discussion of issues associated with the play
and/or its productions. Each treatment is liberally
peppered with informative sidebars, as well as
with clear, color photos of relevant people and

For the poems, similarly organized information
is offered. A number of useful discussions help
put the pieces into their full literary context.

A biography of the playwright, an essay on
Elizabethan society and the theater it spawned,
a discussion of the overall canon, and an
explanation of Shakespeare’s language and
poetic meters round out the text.

This volume is not meant to take the place
of more comprehensive reference works,
such as Michael Dobson and Stanley
Wells’s Oxford Companion to Shakespeare
(Oxford, 2001), but it is an informative,
visually enticing introduction to the world’s
most famous dramatist.

–Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy,
  Providence, RI  


Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts
What prompted me to share this book with
you is the current mounting of “King Lear”
at Theatre Calgary – which Marlene and I
hope to attend this weekend as part of our
season’s subscription.
Here is a Calgary Herald review:


I am happy to learn that the Stratford
Festival plans to film all of Shakespeare’s
plays over the next decade. I may, in
fact, get to see them all in my lifetime –
on stage or at the movies!

This book helps me to prep for any
Shakespeare play Marlene and I get
to see – whether by professional or
amateur companies.

There is no substitute for Harold Bloom’s book
or The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, but
sometimes the preferred preparation time is
just not available. This book arms me with at
least some basic information and I am sure
you would find it to be true for you as well.


Buy the book from
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. X, No. 31,  March 15th, 2015

Short stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi by Amy-Jill Levine

Posted on: March 16th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

Sure, Jesus Was Son of God. But How Was His Fiction?

Amy-Jill Levine Makes Contribution to Jewish New Testament Lit


By Jerome A. Chanes

Published March 13, 2015, issue of The Jewish Daily Forward,  March 13, 2015.

● Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi
By Amy-Jill Levine
HarperOne, 320 pages, $25.99

When we were children, many of us (especially those of us in yeshivot) were taught to abominate the Christian Scriptures; they were precursors to 2,000 years of Jew hatred. At the very least, it was suggested by our teachers that we could learn nothing from the New Testamant about Jews and Judaism, and that the Christian Bible was the quintessential expression of avodah zara, or idolatry.

To Amy-Jill Levine, who enjoys regnancy among Jewish New Testament scholars, this view is nonsense. Levine, a professor at the Vanderbilt University Divinity School, conceived of and co-edited “The Jewish Annotated New Testament.” An important volume whatever its flaws and holes, it is based on twin premises: First, Jews can learn much about Judaism — especially Judaism in Second Temple Judea — from the Christian Bible; and secondly and more important, illiteracy in Christian Scripture precludes ecumenical dialogue.

It would seem easy to dismiss Levine’s latest work, “Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi,” as a slight book. Big mistake. That Jesus was the consummate storyteller is commonplace. But Levine cogently makes the case that the parables are not mere mayselech, tales and yarns, but that each parable had an “original provocation” or challenge for its original first-century listeners. Levine notes that the authors of the Gospels were among the first interpreters of the parables, and in the process “domesticated” them — a practice that, to the dismay of many, is continued by all too many preachers from the pulpit — diminishing the “original provocation” of the stories.

Levine chooses a dozen or so “short stories,” some of which are well-known parables — “The Good Samaritan” (Who is the “Samaritan” of “The Good Samaritan”?), “The Pearl of Great Price,” “The Rich Man and Lazarus” — and some not in common discourse. She begins each “story” with a literal translation of the tale — this reader discovered that he was able to hear the parable anew, outside the tried and true reading — and then locates the story in its historical and literary context, sweeping away interpretations that distort the original context. Levine is then able to offer the reader (listener, really) fresh readings of what the parable might have suggested to its earliest listeners.

Thus, a parable may not necessarily be about divine grace — a constant trope in the commentaries, often parroted from the pulpit — but about labor practices or economics in first-century Judea. (In many congregations it’s much safer to talk about divine grace than to suggest that society may be saved through corporate aid to the poor!) Or, the parable in its context may not be the story as commonly understood. For example, “The Rich Man and Lazarus” was traditionally understood by many generations of misinformed interpreters as confronting the Jewish view that the rich are righteous by virtue of the fact that they are rich, and the poor are necessarily sinners. Forgotten is the very Jewish view that God is particularly concerned about the poor, widows, orphans and strangers.

Levine’s exploration of first-century Judea is splendid; tax collectors, judges, merchants, widows and mustard trees provide the interstitial tissue for the historical context of the parables. But Levine goes well beyond context. She thoroughly — and wittily — rips the parables from the hands of the “domesticated” interpreters and re-reads them to us in the form that Jesus may very well have intended. In the process, we learn what Judaism could well have been about in Temple times.

All this said, Levine does make a few missteps, some minor, but together they suggest that the author might have taken greater care with the details concerning history and tradition. It’s not clear to me that the Sadducees were just another “group of Jews” — in effect, a sect — as Levine has it. The Sadducees, or Tz’dukim, who were part of the priestly class that controlled the Temple, the power-center in Judea, represented a parallel tradition to the Pharisaic rabbinic leadership. They were not just another sect, but also represented an entirely legitimate tradition in Judea. That the Sadducees were marginalized, indeed demonized, by the rabbinic leadership after the destruction of the Temple is just another example of history being written by the winners. Further, the resurrection of the dead, or t’chi’at ha-meitim, in Jewish tradition is not the same as Olam Ha-Ba — the talmudic “World to Come” — as Levine says it is.

And did Jesus refer to the five books of the Pentateuch by their modern Hebrew names — Bereshit, Sh’mot, Vayikra, Bamidbar and Devarim? Not a chance! These appellations, taken from the first words of each book, are universally used by Jews today, but they date only from the Geonic period, many hundreds of years after Jesus. The titles contemporary to Jesus (as recorded in the Talmud) and used by him were Sefer Y’tzira, M’chilta D’nafkuta, Torat Kohanim, Chumash P’kudim, and Mishne Torah — or, as the Church Fathers correctly had them in translation, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers (or Arithmoi) and Deuteronomy. These questions take nothing away from Amy Levine’s book, which is marvelous, and a serious contribution to the Jewish New Testament literature.

But most important is the lesson of the lessons of the “short stories” of Jesus. In her peroration to the reader, Levine moves past the “domestication” of the parables, and still shows how the parables were — and are — intended to disturb. Ministers, priests, imams and rabbis: take note.

Jerome Chanes, a Forward contributing editor, is the author of four books on Jewish public affairs and history.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, March 13, 2015

Between the Dark and the Daylight

Posted on: March 11th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

Embracing the Contradictions of Life

By Joan Chittister



Hardcover, 176 pages $17.33 CAD

ISBN – 10:0804140944

ISBN – 13:978 – 0804140942



Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

It was a freeing time in my life when I learned that
people were not good or bad, but good and bad. The
same was true for me.

One of the most meaningful learning experiences
for me has been the study of heroic biography. I
continue to be mentored by great lives. My choice
of biographies has changed, however. In the past
I tried to learn from heroes and heroines that
were flawless and super-human. Now, I seek out
those who are presented “warts and all” with
very human characteristics.

Some of the most valuable spiritual writers today
are those who understand this. I think that is why
Joan Chittister is so much appreciated. It is good
to know that in her mature years, she is still
writing new and creative material.

“Between the Dark and the Daylight” is such a
book and her latest was just published this week.
The time between dark and dawn can be very
threatening to those of us who tend to partially
waken before morning. It is at that time that
we are confronted with some pretty scary things.

One of my recurring dreams at that time is a
situation where I am supposed to be ready for
something and I’m not. Perhaps it’s to catch a
plane, to teach a class, or to have some work
completed by deadline. Invariably, I am unable
to do what I am supposed to do = have my
tickets in hand, have my notes ready to present,
have that task completed before it will be
inspected, etc.

I’m sure that says something about my
personality, but I will leave that to you
psychological analysts out there.

What I think writers like Chittister are trying
to tell us in a book like this is that rather than
dreading the fact “I am falling short” or “missing
that boat” – I need to be opening myself to
what seems bad or a weakness about me. It
is in that awakening and what I do with it that
I can change and become a better person. It’s
not because I become so good, but because I
really know myself better.

The same holds true for those I am inclined to
judge for their inadequacies.

Be alert to the learnings that can be your’s
‘between the darkness and the daylight hours’
and embrace, rather than recoil from the
contradictions that present themselves.

Another fine piece of work by the author.


Buy the book from
Release February 24th, 2015


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. X, No. 29,  March  1st, 2015

Selma and the struggle for civil rights

Posted on: March 6th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

By John Arkelian

David Oyelowo plays Martin Luther King, with Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King in the film Selma. Photo: Paramount Pictures

Director: Ava DuVernay
Released January 2015
127 minutes
Rated: PG-13

“Our lives are not fully lived if we’re not willing to die for those we love, for what we believe.” Martin Luther King Jr. might have added that there can be no justice, equality or freedom for any of us, unless everyone can claim those things as their birthright. If some are oppressed, then we are all oppressed. Or so we would know if we were not so often blinded by our instinct to separate ourselves from “the other.”

For America in the sixties, “the other” most often took the form of black people. Racial tensions were rife across the country. Indeed, Selma (which was an Academy Award nominee as Best Film of the Year) opens with the bombing of a Baptist church that killed four young African-American girls. It was just one of many instances of homegrown terrorism rearing its ugly head—without any help from the foreign ideological fanatics who bedevil us today.

The movie takes place in 1965, culminating in three attempts in March of that year to peacefully march along the 54-mile highway linking the Alabama cities of Selma and Montgomery (the state capital) in support of voting rights. The trouble was that some state governments were making brazen use of arbitrary (and discriminatory) administrative hurdles, intimidation and outright fraud to shamelessly prevent blacks from registering to vote. When King and others beseeched the federal government to intervene, the Johnson administration was unwilling to do so, citing other priorities. Hence, the decision to march: “Those who have gone before us say, ‘no more!’ No more! That means protest! That means march! That means disturb the peace! That means jail! That means risk! That is hard!”

The first attempt to march was violently stopped by state troopers, who attacked the marchers, some of whom were beaten unconscious. That prompted clergy and other sympathizers from across the country to join the marchers for a second attempt. One supporter from afar, a Unitarian minister from Boston, was beaten to death by local thugs.

Through all of these trials—the violence, the naked racism and the open, venomous hostility—King and the other activists stood firm in the just cause of civil rights, and they stayed true to the means they used to struggle: non-violent protest. In both respects, they hewed close to the example of Christ. Their persistence, courage and determination helped build solidarity and shame those who prevaricated instead of acting. And it didn’t hurt that their chief antagonists were so despicable in word and action. Indeed, President Lyndon Johnson finally abandons all attempts to cajole the obstinate (one might even say bloody-minded) governor of Alabama into compromising, with the disgusted words, “I’ll be damned if history puts me with the likes of you.” In the end, there is a difference between right and wrong; and a discerning human being is capable of perceiving the difference—and choosing a side.

John Arkelian is an award-winning author and journalist.

Copyright © 2015 by John Arkelian.


Anglican Journal News, March 06, 2015

Seeing with the ‘eye of the soul’

Posted on: February 19th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

The Meaning of Blue: Recovering a Contemplative Spirit
By Father Luke Bell, OSB
Angelico Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1621380825
314 pages


Not many books use a potato to explain spiritual wholeness but Father Luke Bell manages to do this and more in The Meaning of Blue: Recovering a Contemplative Spirit. As a monk-priest at Quarr Abbey on the UK’s Isle of Wight, Bell is well placed to teach us about contemplation and potatoes.

At first, a guide to contemplation seems unnecessary. After all, the church calendar offers ample opportunity to hone our contemplative practice: Advent and Christmas provides 40 days to direct our thoughts toward others; Epiphany’s 12 days allow us to reflect on the light of Christ’s birth; Lent gives us 40 days and nights for spiritual self-flagellation and improvement. With all that contemplation, do we really need more? The problem, according to Bell, is that our contemplation is superficial.

The fundamental cause for this is our pathetic observation skills. Too many of us have grown accustomed to seeing merely the temporal without seeing and understanding the intrinsic link between objects and the divine, and between people and the divine. We have gained knowledge from the periphery at the expense of knowledge at and of the heart. As our perception of the world becomes increasingly myopic we teeter on the edge of divine anaesthetization. To possess a truly contemplative spirit means having the ability to think with the heart and not always with the head, which is in direct opposition to the way society teaches (or wants us) to observe.

Bell believes that reclaiming a contemplative spirit starts not with God or Scripture but with understanding the symbols that bring us to God—nature, language, numbers, scripture, and sacraments. Guiding us through the process he attempts to wrestle us away from our acquired tunnel vision in order to ponder the world with wide-eyes and soulful thinking.

Hence the potato: A potato not eaten eventually sprouts growths, and if that potato is planted those growths will yield new potatoes. Through Bell’s extrapolation we see that all the potatoes you find in the stores are actually grown from one potato.  Within this observance of nature we can appreciate our relation to God and to one another. Spiritual wholeness enables us to make that link at a deep level.

Disclosure: I met Father Luke several years ago at Quarr Abbey. He’s soft-spoken and his posture seems permanently inclined to contemplation. He also has a dry sense of humour, which comes out in his writing. With a poet’s heart and a philosopher’s brain he infuses his thesis with philosophical musings, physics, Scripture, poetry, and every-day references. As a former teacher of poetry, it is not surprising that Bell recommends the ambiguity inherent in poetry as an effective tool in allowing our minds to both transcend the obvious and ruminate the deeper meaning.

Just as St. Benedict exhorted his monks in the 6th century to “listen with the ear of your heart” so Bell in the 21st century encourages present generations to “see with the eye of your soul”.

Jane Christmas is the author of And Then There Were Nuns (Greystone Books)


Anglican Journal News, February 19, 2015

Lenten Lent

Posted on: February 15th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

A Way to Refresh Your Spirit
by Donna Shaper

Woodlake Books, Kelowna BC 2015,
Paperback, 70 pages. $11.00 CAD
ISBN #978-1-77064-793-0


Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

Donna Sharper has been writing inspirational
books for ordinary Christians for some decades.
She has written for the Alban Institute and
other publishers who serve the spiritual needs
of people in congregations.

The Canadian publisher, Woodlake Books of
Kelowna BC = long a publisher for parishioners –
has produced this book of Lenten devotions
and we are the better for it.

Lent encourages us to give special attention to
spiritual needs in our lives and this book is a
helpful addition to resources available to us.

The author has selected forty plus one scripture
passages for Lent and Easter from both Hebrew
and Christian testaments. She uses various
biblical translations because the words she
selects are important to her.

Readers can be both disciplined or periodic
selectors of these brief (rarely more than just
a page in length) inspirational pieces that are
supported by biblical passages in each case.

I know that I will be using this booklet as
a Lenten resource this year, and I encourage
you to do the same


Buy the book from Woodlake:

Buy the book from


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. X, No. 27,  February  15th, 2015

Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most By Marcus J. Borg

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews


How I Learned What Matters Most
By Marcus J. Borg

HarperOne: Toronto. $21.00 CAD.
December, 2014. 241 pages.
ISBN #978-0-06-226997-3



Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

This volume contains a short, pithy,
but well-crafted summary of eleven
key theological/spiritual themes that
have emerged from a lifetime of good
reflection, teaching and writing

These themes have become the core
constructs of Borg’s faith in God, Jesus
and Christianity. He prompts a resonance
in many of his readers.

I can certainly accept all eleven and now
realize how influential Borg has been
in the reshaping of my faith during the
20 years that I have been reading him.

Listed below, without comment are
those eleven core themes:

Context matters
Faith is a Journey
God is real and is a mystery
Salvation is more about this life
than an afterlife
Jesus is the norm of the Bible
The Bible can be true without
being literally true
Jesus’s death on the cross matters –
but not because he paid for our sins
The Bible is political
God is passionate about justice
and the poor
Christians are called to peace
and non-violence
To love God is to love like God

To arrive at these core meanings
(he does not like the term ‘beliefs’)
he has studied classic Christian, as
well as modern thinking, within and
beyond the Christian faith. He has
also kept connected with what moderns
are seeking to know and understand.
He is not confined by the traditional
creeds, but neither is he a slave to

I consider him progressive but mature
in his spiritual/theological convictions.

As Borg says in his preface, he writes
from an American context but is also
hopeful that many non-Americans
will find value in what he has to say.

Perhaps most importantly, he uses
language for a progressive Christianity
that is respectful of those who do not
agree with him, but who are willing
to engage in constructive, hopeful

This proved to be the author’s last
published book (at least in his
lifetime) and is a worthy summation
of his thought. It is a refresher for
those who read him again, and a good
summary of his life’s work for those
who meet him for the first time.

“Convictions” will certainly hold a
special place in my library.


Buy the book from


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. X, No. 26,  February 8th, 2015

Simply Good News

Posted on: February 10th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews


Why the Gospel is News
and What Makes it Good
by N.T. Wright

2015,HarperOne, Toronto, ON
Hardcover. 189 pages. $20.00 CAD
ISBN #978-0-06-223434-3.



Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

I have always appreciated the theology of
N.T. Wright because he reflects what I myself
seek to emulate in terms of my Christian faith.
That does not mean, however that I always
agree with him.

He speaks with both head and heart language.
He does not avoid the challenges of reason, but
he is also aware that faith needs to be grounded
in personal experience and a living spirit.

Wright believes that many people are seeking
good news today. When they go to hear it in
church, however, what they often get – at best –
is good advice. They miss what Christians from
the beginning have responded to – the Gospel
as Good News.

This is not only true for those of us in the more
liberal churches where maxims and common
wisdom are offered. It is also true for many in
the more conservative churches where the
Gospel is presented as a series of biblical

Wright rejects both approaches. The real Gospel,
Wright believes, comes as news about Jesus rooted
in a history complete with a backstory and heralded
as an event with real personal entailments and
social implications.

Wright wants us to rethink and re-examine
the Gospel. So much of what passes for gospel
today does little justice to Jesus’ life, death,
resurrection and exaltation. He continues:

“For something to qualify as news there has to be
(1) an announcement of an event  that has happened;
(2) a larger context, a backstory within which this
makes sense; (3) a sudden unveiling of the new
that lies ahead; and (4) the transformation of the
present moment, sitting between the event that
has happened and the future event that therefore
will happen.”

Wright introduces these themes in chapters one
and two, while the rest of the book elaborates
with great power the implications of embracing
the Gospel as Good News in proclamation and
practice, just as it happened for the first Christians
in the context of their lives and times.

We err when we think that our circumstances
needs and hopes are different from those who
first heard the Good News proclaimed and
witnessed to by the first believers and apostles.

Wright makes the biblical message come alive
for us because he not only takes it seriously
but understands and interprets it in a real-
live set of circumstances.

This is Wright’s third book of a series using both
erudition and immediacy. Previously, he wrote
“Simply Jesus” (2006) and “Simply Christian”
(2011) – employing the same theological process
and literary method which works well for him.

For those who need a faith grounded in real history,
(I personally am not in need of this) Wright serves
as an enlightened guide and is well worth reading.

Buy the book from


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. X. No. 23,  January 18th, 2015