Lanterns at Dusk: Preaching after Modernity, by Bruce Barber

Lanterns at DuskBruce Barber is a Uniting Church minister and selfconfessed preacher. The title of this book is a reference to Nietzsche’s Parable of the Madman from The Gay Science of 1887 in which  a madman lit a lantern at noon and ran to the marketplace crying that he was looking for God. The parable announces the death of God under the auspices of the Modern age.

Bruce’s  analysis is genealogical in that he traces the changes that have occurred in Christian theology from the early church to the Medieval  to the Modern and, for the lack of a better term, the post-Modern. This does not mean that there are no people who now understand theology in the mode of the preceding eras, but it does point to a succession in which theologies outlast their usefulness. This genealogy of ideas goes some way towards explaining why, in our day of the Modern-post- Modern cusp, preaching has become largely unintelligible and  alienated from general discourse. Continue Reading

An Informed Faith: The Uniting Church at the beginning of the 21st Century, edited by William W Emilsen

An informed Faith010William Emilsen is deeply committed to collecting observations about, and recording the history of, the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA). He was a founder of Uniting Church Studies, and earlier edited the collections Marking Twenty Years (1997) and The Uniting Church in Australia: The first 25 years (2003).

An Informed Faith has chapters on spirituality, ministry,  scholarship, The Basis of Union, management, politics, Uniting Church schools, ecology, the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, living cross-culturally, other faiths and  evangelical and progressive Christianity. Authors include Ian Breward, Chris Budden, Tony Floyd, Katharine Massam, Marion Maddox, Michael Owen, Geoff Thompson and Val Webb. Continue Reading

Messages from the aether: I think, therefore I am

What are people blogging?

I am…

I’d take a gamble that almost everyone has asked themselves the question “Who am I?” at some point in their life. Unfortunately we don’t have the liberty to answer that question with  “I am, that I am.” Pastor Mark Driscoll explores this topic with a recap on the movie Memento, and how sometimes our lack of knowledge on who we are can have disastrous  effects. Continue Reading

The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and other Apologetic Rabbit Tales, by Randal Rauser

The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and other Apologetic Rabbit Trails, by Randal RauserReaders are invited to join this author in an imaginary conversation over coffee with an atheist named Sheridan. In real life the author is a professor of theology teaching in the area of  apologetics. Apologetics is a branch of theology that defends Christian beliefs and critiques opposing belief systems. It tends to cast those who do not agree as opponents.

Randal wants to move away from scoring points or winning arguments over opponents, to talking about ideas in a non-threatening way. He develops an understanding of apologetics as  “the rigorous pursuit of truth in conversation.” His desire to model pursuit of truth, that is not inhibited by an “I am right and you are wrong” attitude, led to the writing of this book. Continue Reading

Making Sense of Sex: Attitudes towards sexuality in Early Jewish and Christian literature, by William Loader

Making Sense of Sex001I was recently sitting in a trendy cafe, reading my review copy of Making Sense of Sex. It was a somewhat embarrassing moment, sat in public view reading a book about sex and early  Jewish and Christian literature. I was convinced that those around me were thinking ‘what a lunatic’ as everyone knows the Christian position on sex; that is: somewhere between  vehemently and slightly opposed. For many of us within the Christian tradition, this opposition sits in direct contrast to our understanding and experience of the God of life.

There is very little reliable information about how the early Jewish and Christian communities understood sexuality. The debates that have raged in our churches have been  ideologically driven; using scripture to prove our point, whichever side of the debate we are on. William embarked on a five-year research project with the aim of listening to the early  Jewish and Christian communities understanding of sexuality.Continue Reading

In Defence of Doubt: An invitation to adventure (2nd edition), by Val Webb

In defense of doubt001“In my heart there is no faith… I want God with all the powers of my soul – and yet there between us – there is terrible separation. I don’t pray any longer – my soul is not one with you.”

Readers might be surprised that the great Mother Teresa wrote these words, addressed to Jesus, in the midst of a long and deep struggle with doubt.

Val’s style is uncomplicated and very accessible. She sets out first to explain the importance of doubt in every discipline. Without doubt and questioning, we would have no new  knowledge or human progress. And yet so many in the church seem to fear it.

After introducing the concept, Val identifies some of those throughout Christian history who struggled to interpret the good news for their time. In this second edition, she has added another chapter of doubters, including many women.Continue Reading

Messages from the aether: Who is my neighbour?

What people are blogging

To love your neighbour, you must know your neighbour

This is a progressive look at restoring a sense of community and getting to know our neighbours as a deliberate exercise. It is a shocking revelation that once engaged, most are quite  amenable to getting to know the people around them. Continue Reading

Living life at the top: 100 reflections on abundant life, by Paul Clark

Living Life at the Top (Paul Clark)

Abundant life … is it possible in 21st century Australia? Have you ever asked yourself, ‘Is this all there is to living? Could we get more out of life?’ These questions form the basis for this little book that has grown out of 60 second radio spots originally broadcast live on 96.5FM, a Christian radio station in Queensland.

The book retains the 60 second script format so each page contains a different topic. On first glance this is frustrating because you want to go deeper to find what the author thinks of the topics included; topics such as pain, anger, science and religion, self-esteem, family life, criticism, parents and love but none of the topics is unpacked for us. It is designed for deeper unpacking elsewhere, either alone or with a friend, or in a group over a coffee. It is designed for us to reflect on our own context through personal reflection or conversation with others. As such, this little book may seem light-on but the short messages stick with you so that you reflect on them through each day.Continue Reading

Community is Messy: The perils and promise of small group ministry, by Heather Zempel

Community is Messy  (Heather Zempel)The potential for small groups to facilitate spiritual growth has long been recognised. We find references to the early church meeting in the homes of believers and small groups known as ‘class meetings’ were a key in the Methodist movement promoted by John Wesley. In many congregations small groups supplement the work and witness of the gathered church.

For Heather Zempel, small groups are essential for promoting Christian community. Readers should not expect, however, to find guidance in this book on how to do it. Rather, the writer uses her experience to draw attention to the challenges and problems of small groups.Continue Reading