The Light Shines On in the Darkness by Robert Spitzer SJ (Ignatius Press, £15). Spitzer’s book is devoted to exploring the question believers have asked throughout the ages: why does an all-loving God allow suffering? The book is subtitled “Transforming Suffering Through Faith” and the author provides the classic Christian answer, explaining how, paradoxically, suffering is the most redemptive and transfiguring force in creation. Structured in three parts, the book repays serious study and reflection. It includes several illuminating stories of human love and purification.
The Gospel of Self by Terry Heaton (OR Books, £10). In the 1980s, the author played a major role in Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. In this admirably frank book, Heaton tells fascinating tales of life at the CBN, revisits Robertson’s curious bid for the presidency and offers intriguing insights into the world of television news. Robertson, he says, was “a brilliant man to work for”, but Heaton wonders if the Evangelicals’ success in pushing the Republican party to the right had a lamentable impact on the body politic.
A Tale of Two Theologians by Ambrose Mong (James Clark & Co, £25). These days Gustavo Gutiérrez, the founding father of Liberation Theology, is a welcome guest at the Vatican. With the demise of communism, the risks of left-leaning theologising are deemed far less serious. The Indian Jesuit Michael Amaladoss, by contrast, comes under censure for his daring musings on religious pluralism and his dislike of the exclusivist salvific claims of Christianity. Mong, a Hong Kong-based priest, tracks the careers and thought of these two controversial figures and raises important questions about patterns of evangelism and orthodoxy.
Religious Pluralism and Interreligious Theology by Perry Schmidt-Leukel (Orbis, £29.99). This challenging volume offers novel perspectives on inter-religious dialogue. Schmidt-Leukel discusses the “fractal nature” of religious diversity. The great world’s religions have their differences but this is mirrored in tensions within those faiths over issues of pluralism. In turn, this is reflected in the different intellectual possibilities within each human mind. If we want theology to be a less “denominational enterprise” and if we are open to the idea that religious truth can exist in more than one place, then this fractal phenomenon is seen as a useful starting point.
War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans (Harvill Secker, £16.99). Hertmans has written an affecting memoir of his Dutch grandfather, Urbain Martiens, based on notebooks his grandfather bequeathed to him just before his death in 1981, aged 90. They evoke a vivid sense of Ghent, pre-Great War, combined with memories of the trenches as well as his grandfather’s passion for painting. Describing him as “a man of faith”, Hertmans paints his own word-pictures in this “story of dogged resignation, excruciating forbearance, inner struggle between devotion and desire, endless murmured prayers”.
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