Category: Recent picks

Latest Beliefs books for June

Topics in this month’s edition range from Celtic shamanism to the history of confession, while the latest Bart Ehrman fosters debate on the Jesus’ divinity.

Syndetics book coverMandala sourcebook : 150 mandalas to help you find peace, awareness and well-being, by David Fontana & Lisa Tenzin-Dolma.
Each of the 150 mandalas is accompanied by a guided meditation which details the symbolism which underpins the design. No expert knowledge or faith base is required – they are suitable for anyone wishing to meditate for the first time. The book is divided into five distinct sections: Introduction to Mandalas; Toward Awareness; Natural Mandalas; Myth, Symbol and Cosmos; and Healing Mandalas. Some are drawn from traditional designs while others are drawn from architecture, mythology, or natural elements.

Syndetics book coverThe new encyclopedia of Islam, by Cyril Glasse.
This work remains one of the few sources to provide a thorough study of Islamic theology. It updates an earlier 2001 edition, but generally ignores contemporary issues and events, although it is well illustrated with maps and charts. Absolute beginners may need to consult something else first “but the work’s breadth and scope make it a solid source for the study of Islam.” (Choice)

Syndetics book coverFaith in the face of empire : the Bible through Palestinian eyes, by Mitri Raheb.
As a Palestinian Lutheran, Raheb brings a new perspective to the story of Palestine. He takes a broader historical view across colonial avarice and aspiration since time immemorial. His hope is that by thinking outside “empire” and all that that implies, a new more harmonious direction is possible.

Syndetics book coverWaking the Buddha : how the most dynamic and empowering Buddhist movement in history is changing our concept of religion, by Clark Strand.
This tells the story of Soka Gakkai International, the largest contemporary Buddhist movement today, with its commitment to social justice and equality. Early leaders aimed to transform Buddhism from within and by restoring it to its purpose. “The result is a uniquely relevant form of Buddhism – one that “just makes sense” to the modern mind and is ready to meet the challenges of a global age.” (publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverTaking God at his word : why the Bible is knowable, necessary, and enough, and what that means for you and me, by Kevin DeYoung.
“Kevin DeYoung has written an accessible introduction to the Bible that answers important questions raised by Christians and non-Christians. This book will help you understand what the Bible says about itself and the key characteristics that contribute to its lasting significance.” (from publisher description)

Syndetics book coverHow Jesus became God : the exaltation of a Jewish preacher from Galilee, by Bart D. Ehrman.
How did a messianic Jewish rabbi ever come to be identified as God? And how different was this idea to Jesus’ actual teaching? One crucial consideration is whether Jesus’ disciples saw a resurrected Christ or a vision, and Ehrman explains that whether the apostles actually saw Jesus or saw a vision is irrelevant. It was their belief that they had which shifted and shaped Christianity. Borrow this at the same time as another point of view ….

Syndetics book coverHow God became Jesus : the real origins of belief in Jesus’ divine nature : a response to Bart Ehrman, by Michael F. Bird, Craig A. Evans, Simon J. Gathercole, Charles E. Hill, Chris Tilling.
Five biblical scholars join here to debate Ehrman’s thesis that the idea that Jesus was God only developed over time. Two interesting chapters are ‘Did Jesus think he was God?’ by Michael F. Bird ; and ‘Getting the burial traditions and evidence right’, by Craig A. Evans. Unfortunately this book has a dry scholarly tone which is another contrast with Ehrman’s accessible style. However, this is an important debate and the two perhaps deserve reflection together.

Syndetics book coverLiving with a wild God : a non-believer’s search for the truth about everything, by Barbara Ehrenreich.
This is part memoir and part mystical journey – a frank personal look at the author’s search for truth about spirituality. The dysfunction and alcoholism within parents’ relationship affected her spiritual development both positively and negatively. For example she gained the freedom to question everything around her, including religion.

Syndetics book coverThe druid shaman : exploring the Celtic otherworld, by Danu Forest
Covering folk traditions, literature and archaeology, the author integrates the basics of Celtic shamanism, with both ancient and modern Druidry. Topics include working with guides and allies, interacting with spirits, accessing powers of place, and exploring and navigating within the Celtic Otherworld. Danu Forest is a Celtic Shaman, Witch and Druid Priestess with over 20 years working in the Celtic Mysteries, and runs courses on Natural magic, Celtic shamanism, Faery tradition and Seasonal Celebrations.

Syndetics book coverThe dark box : a secret history of confession, by John Cornwell.
“Confession is a crucial ritual of the Catholic Church, offering absolution of sin and spiritual guidance to the faithful. Yet this ancient sacrament has also been a source of controversy and oppression, culminating, as prize-winning historian John Cornwell reveals in The Dark Box, with the scandal of clerical child abuse. Drawing on extensive historical sources, contemporary reports, and first-hand accounts, Cornwell takes a hard look at the long evolution of confession.” (publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe pocket A-Z of the Knights Templar : a guide to their history and legacy, by Gordon Napier.
At over 400 pages, this is rather more than a pocket guide. From Aaron to Zion, this is a welcome reference of the people, places, and themes of the Crusades, and the Knights Templar – one of the more famous of Christian military orders. It was created after the First Crusade of 1096 to ensure the safety of European pilgrims to Jerusalem and was easily recognised with their white tunic and red cross. On October 13, 1307 King Philip of France had many of the order’s members in France arrested, tortured into “confession,” and burned at the stake. In 1312, Pope Clement forcibly disbanded the order. Since that time legends have kept the name “Templar” alive in popular imagination. (adapted from the back cover)

Getting through the storm: Latest Beliefs Arrivals

A welcome addition to the catalogue is the latest book by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh on fear, while two new books on Pope Francis offer different insights, and a clay tablet recently donated to the British Museum sheds new light on Noah and the flood.

Syndetics book coverBuddha, Jesus and Muhammad : a comparative study, by Paul Gwynne.
Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad together represent three of the largest religions in the world. There are surprisingly few truly comparative studies, making this insightful book ideal for those pondering the place of religion in contemporary society. Gwynne explores the analysis through key themes – political and historical, as well as religious – and this reveals some fascinating similarities and differences.

Syndetics book coverThe God debate : a new look at history’s oldest argument, by Gerald Benedict.
Our beliefs do affect the way we live our lives, both as individuals and communities. This book explores many controversial issues contained within the debate about the existence of God, touching on such questions as the validity of Scriptures, miracles, and the key tenets of faith versus evidence, with topics such as free will and determinism, or morality and ethics, thrown in for good measure. A useful summary of the issues.

Syndetics book coverFear : essential wisdom for getting through the storm, by Thich Nhat Hanh.
“Fear has countless faces: from the fear of failure to worries about everyday life, from financial or environmental uncertainties to the universal despair we all experience when faced by the loss of a friend or loved one. Even when surrounded by all the conditions for happiness, life can feel incomplete when fear keeps us focused on the past and worried about the future. While we all experience fear, it is possible to learn how to avoid having our lives shaped and driven by it. In these pages, Thich Nhat Hanh offers us a timeless path for living fearlessly.” (Back cover)

Syndetics book coverIntergenerational Christian formation : bringing the whole church together in ministry, community and worship, by Holly Catterton Allen and Christine Lawton Ross.
Although some practical issues are covered, for the most part this is not a how-to manual. Topics covered the Benefits of intergenerationality; Feasts, Jehoshaphat and house churches : biblical foundations; Becoming Christian in community ; Millennials, Xers, Boomers and Silents : generational theory ; Intergenerational learning experiences ; Intergenerationality and story sharing ; Intergenerationality in small groups, multicultural and megachurches.

Syndetics book coverThe ark before Noah : decoding the story of the flood, by Irving Finkel.
Dr Finkel is the curator in charge of clay inscriptions from ancient Mesopotamia at the British Museum. This is the story of one day in 2008 when a single, Babylonian tablet arrived at the museum. It turned out to be a copy of the Babylonian Story of the Flood, together with instructions for building a large boat to survive a flood. The reader accompanies Dr Finkel on his thorough journey of discovery to unravel fascinating insights into the ancient past.

Syndetics book coverTen : why Christianity makes sense, by John Pritchard.
Contents include : Ten problems people have with faith; Ten things I believe about God; Ten things I don’t believe about God; Ten Commandments for today; Ten cliches to avoid; Ten ways to pray; Ten ways to enliven your faith; Ten values for tomorrow’s Church; Ten lessons learned; Ten reasons to procrastinate about faith.

Syndetics book coverThe age of atheists : how we have sought to live since the death of God, by Peter Watson.
“In his 14th book, British journalist and historian Watson (The Great Divide) turns his estimable intellectual skills on the history of non-belief – which he calls “a major plank of modernity” -beginning with Friedrich Nietzsche’s 1882 declaration that “God is dead.” While this ground is well-trodden, Watson takes an intriguing course: he charts it by genre. Particularly fascinating are passages about non-belief’s impact on the arts.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverMy door is always open : a conversation on faith, hope and the church in a time of change, by Pope Francis ; interviewer, Antonio Spadaro.
This is the first book written by the Pope since he was elected, and therefore is a good guide to his vision and faith as he looks forward in his new role. This is the complete collection of interviews with Spadaro, fellow Jesuit and head of Catholic Civilisation periodical based in Rome.
Another recent title is Pope Francis : why he leads the way he leads : lessons from the first Jesuit Pope, by Chris Lowney.
“Here Lowry focuses on Pope Francis’ Jesuit training and its impact on the leadership roles he has held, such as priest, bishop, cardinal, and what this tells us about how he is likely to lead in the future.” (Adapted from the publishers’ descriptions).

Syndetics book coverReligion 101 : from Allah to Zen Buddhism : an exploration of the key people, practices, and beliefs that have shaped the religions of the world, by Peter Archer, MA, MLitt.
“Written in easy-to-understand language, Religion 101 offers a fascinating – and memorable – glimpse at the sacred stories, traditions, and doctrines that have influenced today’s most popular religions. From Jesus and the Four Noble Truths to the Buddhist Wheel of Existence, this book provides you with thought-provoking insight into the customs and beliefs of common faiths like Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam.  So whether you’re looking to unravel the mysteries of existence and meaning, or just want to find out what Kabbalah is all about, Religion 101 has all the answers – even the ones you didn’t know you were looking for.” (Page 4 of cover)

Compassion, personal spirituality, restlessness : March Beliefs and Religion books

Is the universe specifically designed to make life possible? Is the Gospel of John history or literature? Do you feel like you’re restless – missing out on something?
Explore the answers to these questions in the latest religion books.

Syndetics book coverA religion of one’s own : a guide to creating a personal spirituality in a secular world, by Thomas Moore.
Another title from the author who penned Care of the Soul – a classic spiritual text. This latest volume continues to bring together religion and psychology, and encourages readers to cultivate their own spirituality. Moore’s own spirituality is Catholic, and he counsels paying attention to your dreams and intuitions to foster creativity. “This book should appeal to many of the unchurched, as well as the faithful across traditions.” (Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverBig gods : how religion transformed cooperation and conflict, by Ara Norenzayan.
Using quantitative studies, cross-cultural examples, and by examining the practices of followers, Norenzayan argues that religions with Big Gods succeed because they expect tangible commitment rites which encourage cooperation and trust, and by default this weeds out the half-hearted. He also considers cooperative societies without God, such as modern Scandinavia, with a majority of atheists where similar cooperative functions are provided by secular institutions.

Syndetics book coverLiving with an open heart : how to cultivate compassion in everyday life, by Russell Kolts and Thubten Chodron.
“Contains brief readings which blend Buddhist and western psychology. This book presents ideas and techniques drawn from Buddhism, western psychological approaches, as well as the authors’ personal experiences in working to develop compassion in their own lives and in their work with others.” (Library catalogue)

Syndetics book coverThe four virtues : presence, heart, wisdom, creation, by Tobin Hart, PhD.
“Most of us are hungry for a life of meaning, connection, and fulfilment, but in the midst of today’s demands and pressures, a deeper life doesn’t come automatically. We must increasingly focus on certain virtues – four universal principles needed to foster wholeness and meaningful purpose in humanity. Drawing from decades of research across the wisdom traditions, neuroscience, psychology, poetry, physics, religion, the arts, and literature, ‘The Four Virtues’ provides a field guide for developing your deepest self.” (Publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe fourth gospel : tales of a Jewish mystic, by John Shelby Spong.
Spong continues the thesis of his other books and cautions us not to take the Bible literally or as historical literature. The Gospel of John is no exception : Jesus did not speak the sermons; none of the miracles happened; most of the book’s characters are meant as literary characters. But, he argues, it does call on the reader to believe that Jesus achieved “mystical oneness with the God who is the source of life.”

Syndetics book coverMy name used to be Muhammad : the true story of a Muslim who became a Christian, by Tito Momen with Jeff Benedict.
Tito Momen (Muhammad Momen) was raised as a strict Muslim. Every morning he attended the mosque and prayed with the other men in his Nigerian village, and even began copying the entire Qur’an word for word. However, his path took an expected turn when he was introduced to Jesus Christ. His decision cost him his family and his freedom, and for 15 years he endured a life sentence in an Egyptian prison. “Tito said, “I never gave up hope. I never stopped believing.” Although he was falsely imprisoned, beaten, and ridiculed, Tito’s remarkable true story is one of faith, and forgiveness.” (adapted from Global Books)

Syndetics book coverPilgrimage : my journey to a deeper faith in the land where Jesus walked, by Lynn Austin.
This is an account of travel through the Holy Land with an organized tour group, visiting biblical sites (Hezekiah’s tunnel, Calvary), and historical ones (e.g. Israel’s Holocaust memorial). “Austin’s story is part travel journal, part biblical recounting and reflection, part history lesson, and part personal insight…. her search for a renewed source of joy after loss is sure to be familiar to many.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverRestless : because you were made for more, by Jennie Allen.
Borrowing from the biblical story of Joseph, Allen leads readers through the process of responding to a call from God. She describes a tool she calls Threads, to help readers organize personal stories, strengths, and passions and tie them together in a way they can use to move forward. Testimonies from Allen’s friends and family illsutrate the tool. “Allen’s experiences reflect her age (mid-thirties), so she may appeal most to her peer group of young women between the ages of 18 and 35.” (Adapted from Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverBig bang big God : a universe designed for life? by Rodney D. Holder.
“Is the universe specifically designed to make life possible? How did the universe begin and how has it evolved? Does a scientific explanation mean that we can do without God? … Can the existence of a multiverse, a vast or infinite collection of universes, explain the specialness of this universe? This book argues that only God provides an explanation for the universe to exist at all, and that design by God provides the best and most rational explanation to adopt for the fine-tuning.” (from the publisher’s description, Global books)

Latest Religion and Beliefs arrivals

Our first list of 2014 covers a wide spectrum, from angels to Asian religions, and authors from Jefferson Bethke (youtube poet) to TV presenter Joyce Meyer.

Syndetics book coverBeyond betrayal : trouble in the promised land – restoring the mission to Māori, by Keith Newman.
“After the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, a succession of governors resisted missionary advice, despite their local knowledge and peacemaking skills, and influenced a raft of misunderstandings that provoked violent outbreaks across the country. The rise of Māori prophetic movements, and an intense desire for Māori to have a unified political voice, saw allegiances split between those supporting the government and those frustrated at failed Treaty promises. The pressure to surrender tribal lands had the same impact – a shattered economy and a dispossessed people.” (Back cover) This follows on from the author’s Bible & Treaty : missionaries among the Māori, which the library also owns.

Syndetics book coverHow to wake up : a Buddhist-inspired guide to navigating joy and sorrow, by Toni Bernhard.
“The author begins with the core idea that life is a string of experiences engendered by and producing suffering. From here Bernhard walks her readers through the concepts used in Buddhism to accept and engage this state of being and, in doing so, hopefully become more awake to the reality of life. The book is organized around three fundamental tenets of the Buddha’s teachings wisdom, mindfulness, and open-mindedness with each section broken into chapters that examine these ideas and offer practices that help incorporate them into daily life. Bernhard presents all of this in an easy, straightforward manner that will reassure readers who are less familiar with Buddhist tradition.” (from Booklist review, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverThe faithful scribe : a story of Islam, Pakistan, family and war, by Shahan Mufti.
Journalist Mufti, incorporates the stories of his family and ancestors into the larger story of Pakistan and America both before and after 9/11. He tells of his family’s experiences briefly living in Ohio before they moved back to Pakistan. “This astonishingly detailed, well-researched history is brought to life by the addition of Mufti’s personal story’ and journalistic acumen.” (Publisher Weekly, courtesy of syndetics)

Syndetics book coverAsian religions : a cultural perspective, by Randall L Nadeau.
“This all-embracing introduction to Asian religious practices and beliefs takes a unique approach; not only does it provide a complete overview of the basic tenets of the major Asian religions, but it also demonstrates how Asian spiritualities are lived and practiced, exploring the meaning and significance they hold for believers. In a series of engaging and lively chapters, the book explores the beliefs and practices of Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Japanese religions, including Shinto. Using a comparative approach, it highlights the contrasts between Asian and Western modes of thinking and living, and debates the influence of religion on real-world issues including work, economic growth, the environment, human rights, and gender relations.” (publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverWorld religions, by Markus Hattstein.
Presents information on the world’s main religions concisely, including cultural and historical contexts. Although it aims to be no more than ‘a quick guide’ the text is supplemented by timelines, illustrations and maps.

Syndetics book coverA million little ways : uncover the art you were made to live, by Emily P. Freeman.
Uncovers the personal creative imprint God has placed upon every individual, and encourages readers to reexamine their lives by approaching it the way an artist approaches a canvas–with wonder, bravery, and hope. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGod is not mad at you : you can experience real love, acceptance & guilt-free living, by Joyce Meyer.
Another title from one of the world’s leading practical Bible teachers. She teaches on a number of topics with a particular focus on the mind, mouth, moods and attitudes. Her candid communication style allows her to share openly and practically about her experiences so others can apply what she has learned to their lives. Joyce has written nearly 100 books, which have been translated into 100 languages.

Syndetics book coverBand of angels : the forgotten world of early Christian women, by Kate Cooper.
“Cooper reveals a vivid picture of the triumphs and hardships of the first mothers of the infant church. As far as recorded history is concerned, women in the ancient world lived almost invisibly in a man’s world. Piecing together their story from the few contemporary accounts that have survived requires painstaking detective work, but it can render both the past and the present in a new light. Following the lives of influential women across the first centuries of the church, Band of Angels tells the remarkable story of how a new way of understanding relationships took root in the ancient world.” (publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverAngel prayers : harnessing the help of heaven to create miracles, by Kyle Gray.
“Do you ever feel frustrated because your prayers are going unanswered, and you feel like God and the Angels are not listening? If you are feeling unsupported, Angel Prayers will turn this situation around for good. Kyle reveals how to use affirmative prayer to focus on the positive outcome of a situation rather than praying to change something that is perceived as negative. Learn about: the power of prayer, demonstrated by true stories from Kyle’s clients, and his own personal experiences, the spiritual laws at play in the world and how your words and intentions affect your life.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKilling Jesus : a history, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard.
Bill O’Reilly and Dugard team up again for this investigation into another murder of major cultural and historical icons – this time a thorough account of the death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ by the Romans. Although drawing heavily (but not exclusively) on biblical sources, the authors state that though they are Roman Catholics, their aim is not to write a religious book, but an historical account of an historical figure. One of the book’s strengths is setting Jesus in his historical, political and social contexts.

Syndetics book coverJesus > religion : why He is so much better than trying harder, doing more, and being good enough, by Jefferson Bethke.
This book is based on material similar to his highly successful youtube video ‘Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus’ which has been viewed over 26 million times. Told through the lens of his own life story, which is far from perfect, his aim is to shine the spotlight on Jesus and separate Him from church culture. His message is accessible : old truth but in modern language e.g. We’ve never said the f- word out loud, but not supported our local homeless community either. A challenge to any wanting to live lives consistent with their beliefs.

New beliefs : December arrivals

For our last post of 2013 (where has it gone?) inter-faith issues issues and concerns have emerged as a theme.

Syndetics book coverAn atheist’s history of belief : understanding our most extraordinary invention, by Matthew Kneale.
What first prompted prehistoric man, sheltering in the shadows of deep caves, to call upon the realm of the spirits? And why has belief thrived since, shaping millennia of civilizations, thousands of generations of shamans, pharaohs, Aztec priests and Mayan rulers, Jews, Buddhists, Christians and Scientologists? … Belief was man’s most epic labour of invention. It has been our closest companion, and has followed mankind across the continents and through history.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverFor god’s sake: an atheist, a jew, a christian & a muslim debate religion, by Jane Caro, Antony Loewenstein, Simon Smart & Rachel Woodlock.
“Four of Australia’s most interesting religious – and anti-religious – thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? What is a good life? How do we account for evil? and Where do we find hope? Along the way we are introduced to the detail of different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. This is a fascinating exercise in comparative religion and a philosophical tour de force, but also an entertaining and honest insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverAwakening the Buddha within : eight steps to enlightenment : Tibetan wisdom for the Western world, by Surya Das.
Drawing on Buddhist spirituality and wisdom, this accessible guide offers Western seekers a realistic view of the world today. It is written with humour and compassion.

Syndetics book coverBeing both : embracing two religions in one interfaith family, by Susan Katz Miller.
“Susan Katz Miller grew up with a Jewish father and Christian mother, and was raised Jewish. Now in an interfaith marriage herself, she is one of the growing number of Americans who are boldly electing to raise children with both faiths, rather than in one religion or the other (or without religion). In [this book], Miller draws on original surveys and interviews with parents, students, teachers, and clergy”. (drawn from the book jacket)

Syndetics book coverHope in front of me : find purpose in your darkest moments, by Danny Gokey with Ben Stroup.
American Idol contestant and BMG recording artist Danny Gokey offers wisdom to help you reach beyond your greatest challenges. Whether you struggling with relationships, loss, anger, self-esteem, or doubt his encouragement reveals that you can take the next step towards making a difference.

Syndetics book coverBuddhist boot camp, by Timber Hawkeye.
“Buddhism is all about training the mind, and boot camp is an ideal training method for this generation’s short attention span. The chapters in this small book can be read in any order, and are short and easy to understand. Each story, inspirational quote and teaching offers mindfulness-enhancing techniques that anyone can relate to.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverZealot : the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth, by Reza Aslan.
“Analyzes historical information from first-century Palestine in order to situate Jesus, the historical man, within his social and political context. This perspective is hardly new but is accessibly presented with some skill here. He points to Jesus as one of the many messiahs during Roman occupation of Palestine, who observe the Torah and the Law, refuse to serve a human master, and remain devoted to God. Although Aslan’s interest is on the human rather than divine Jesus, he does note that no one who claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus later recanted. He relies heavily on Meier’s Marginal Jew (4 volumes) as source material which the library also holds.

Syndetics book coverReligion without God, by Ronald Dworkin.
Based on the Einstein Lectures that Ronald Dworkin delivered at the University of Bern in December 2011. “He rejects the metaphysics of naturalism – that nothing is real except what can be studied by the natural sciences. Belief in God is one manifestation of this deeper worldview, but not the only one. … Freedom of religion should flow not from a respect for belief in God but from the right to ethical independence. Dworkin …[is a] humanist who recognized both the possibilities and limitations of humanity.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverThe wife of Jesus : ancient texts and modern scandals, by Anthony Le Donne.
Basing his thesis on first century cultural norms and rabbinical teachings the author argues that Jesus was most likely married, but single during his public career. Another quest that tries to unravel the humanity of Jesus.

Syndetics book coverThe story of the Holy Land : a visual history, by Peter Walker.
“With sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the Holy Land and its people have had an impact on history out of all proportion to its size – and continue to do so today. The Story of the Holy Land is a short but authoritative overview of this fascinating story. Richly illustrated with superb photography, including original nineteenth and twentieth century shots from the Eʹcole Biblique in Jerusalem.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverA rising tide : evangelical Christianity in New Zealand 1930-65, by Stuart M. Lange.
“Explores the fascinating story of the resurgence of evangelical Protestantism in the 1950s and 60s, and its pre-war origins. The story focuses especially on evangelicals in the mainline churches, in the universities, and in evangelical organisations. It is not about fundamentalism or Pentecostalism (movements that overlap with evangelicalism, but are also different). It is about the leading personalities, and the ideas that moved them.” (drawn from OUP description)

Syndetics book coverChristianophobia : a faith under attack, by Rupert Shortt.
Persecution of christians is nothing new in the history of the world. The reason we don’t hear much about them today, says the author, is the fear of giving offence, and persecuted christians tend not to respond with violence. Yet they are being persecuted in greater numbers than any other global religious body.

Beliefs books : recent picks

Biographies allow us little glimpses into lives and experiences, and several feature in this month’s latest arrivals – from Pope Francis to contrasting accounts of Muslim women.

Syndetics book coverAtiya’s journeys : a Muslim woman from colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain, [edited by] Siobhan Lambert-Hurley, Sunil Sharma.
“This is the original English translation of the first Indian Muslim woman’s experiences in the ‘West’. Atiya Fyzee’s (1877-1967), travel diary was published in an Urdu Journal 1922 then as the book Zamana-i-Tahsil…. It places particular emphasis on ‘everyday’ activities of women…. Alongside lively accounts of local elites and prominent Indians abroad, Atiya provides descriptions of their clothing, meals, servants, homes, and mannerisms.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverI am Malala : the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai.
At only age 11, Malala Yousafzai, using the pen name Gul Makai, wrote for the BBC living under the Taliban. Her mission was speaking about the right for girls to be educated in her community. Then she was shot in the head as she was returning from school on a bus, but miraculously survived and continues to speak out with courage. She is the youngest person ever nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. “Ms. Yousafzai’s stature as a symbol of peace and bravery has been established across the world…” (Salman Masood, The New York Times)

Syndetics book coverDo Muslim women need saving? by Lila Abu-Lughod.
Social Scientist Abu-Lughod focuses on the stories of individual women to separate the idea of ‘saving Muslim women’ from saving them from “honour crime,” discriminatory legal systems, poverty, and patriarchal family traditions. “The women presented here see their Islamic faith as a source of strength to fight injustice, not the cause of it.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverThe witness wore red : the 19th wife who brought polygamous cult leaders to justice, by Rebecca Musser, M. Bridget Cook.
The author describes growing up in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (not to be confused with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). She is ordered to be a prophet’s 19th wife – she is eighteen, he in his eighties. She escapes and assists law enforcement investigate, and prosecute the men for bigamy, underage marriage, and statutory rape. “The book speaks to the ways isolation, fear and secrecy can shelter insidious abuses until someone has the courage to step forward as a witness.” (Kirkus review).

Syndetics book coverPope Francis, by Paul Vallely.
Draws on interviews with those who have known Pope Francis over the years. In his early career there was less evidence for his present concern for the poor and the laity. However, his experiences under the junta changed him and encouraged him towards a direction of liberation theology. This book “examines the criticisms that have been made of Pope Francis and puts them in context, clarifying, rather than denying.” (Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverOn heaven and earth : Pope Francis on faith, family, and the church in the twenty-first century, by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and Abraham Skorka.
While Pope Francis was still Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Argentina he had a series of conversations with Rabbi Abraham Skorka. This book records those conversations. Each chapter covers a particular topic, such as guilt, euthanasia, women, abortion, science, the Holocaust, or God. This is a delightful peek into a close friendship and commitment to inter-faith dialogue.

Syndetics book coverOn a Mission : men of Mount St. Mary’s tell their stories, by Shaun Davison.
“Shaun Davison and 21 of his fellow seminarians revisit their decision train as Marist Priests at Mount St Mary’s (commonly known as Greenmeadows) near Napier and talk about why they embarked on a religious path and discuss its impact on their lives and careers”–Publisher’s information.

Syndetics book coverMemoirs of a dervish, by Robert Irwin.
Robert Irwin, acclaimed novelist and Middle East editor of The Times Literary Supplement, describes his turbulent times in the sixties and seventies. His search for Sufi enlightenment took him to Algeria where he converted to Islam, and received an initiation as a faqir. But this is not a detailed account of Sufi doctrine. It is the author’s story of living through the sixties and drugs, satanism, Scientology, to name a few which contributed to his journey.

Syndetics book coverDarling : a spiritual autobiography, by Richard Rodriguez.
This book is the culmination of the author’s own faith struggle after 9/11. “His pilgrimage begins with “the realization that the God I worship is… the same desert God the terrorists prayed [to],”… Much like his writing, Rodriguez has been all over the place, traveling, thinking, observing … over the course of years, in seemingly disjointed stories that explain one writer’s journey to a God of many.” (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverJesus among friends and enemies : a historical and literary introduction to Jesus in the Gospels, edited by Chris Keith and Larry W. Hurtado.
As the title suggests, this book attempts to explore the life of Jesus through the eyes of those who knew him – his family, friends such as Mary Magdalene, the Bethany family, and the beloved disciple – but also his accusers, e.g. Jewish leaders and political authorities such as Pilate or Herod. Another contribution to the quest for the historical Jesus.

Syndetics book coverMy God : a reluctant agnostic’s revelation, by Randy Kyle Hachtel.
“This idiosyncratic journey explores the author’s encounter with the feminine aspect of the deity, which Hachtel, as humble scribe, faithfully recorded in this book… The author explains how he learned to reach out and talk to God, and helps you answer many questions… In despair and hard hit by economic downturn, the author challenged God, who sent an amazing answer… God dragged the author, then a reluctant agnostic, willingly and unwillingly into becoming a believer and… a writer to transmit God’s modern message…”–p. 4 of cover.

Beliefs books : recent arrivals

A new biography which explores Mahatma Gandhi through a spiritual lens, the latest offering by Ram Dass, and a compelling record of life on Muslim front lines all feature in this month’s additions to the library collection.

Syndetics book coverThe religions book, by senior editors, Gareth Jones, Georgina Palffy ; illustrations, James Graham.
“The Religions Book clearly explains the key concepts behind the earliest religious beliefs right up to the world’s newest faiths, getting to the heart of what it means to believe. … All the big ideas are simply explained with jargon-free descriptions, step-by-step diagrams, and witty illustrations that encapsulate every aspect of religious thinking. Examine major historical developments and ideas with a universal timeline, providing a global perspective on the origins and major events that have contributed to the growth and spread of religion and spirituality. …[this] provides compelling, accessible information perfect for students of religious study or anyone interested in the ideas of ancient and present day faiths and religious philosophies.” (drawn from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGod in proof : the story of a search from the ancients to the Internet, by Nathan Schneider.
“*Starred Review* Philosophy is hardly everybody’s cup, but by adding dollops of memoir and first-person reportage to a history of attempts to prove that God exists, Schneider makes an often dry subject quite companionable. … He discloses that he’s Jewish, raised by nonobservant, secular, but not antireligious parents who allowed him his own choices in spirituality (he’s now a Catholic). … he draws the proofs he discusses from the great medieval Catholic philosophers, those of Muslim Spain, foundational Enlightenment thinkers, and later and contemporary figures, especially those who have brought about a rebirth of Christian philosophy since the 1980s…” (drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverGandhi : a spiritual biography, by Arvind Sharma
While hundreds of biographies and histories have been written about Gandhi (1869-1948), very few have retold the story of his life through a spiritual lens. “Sharma explores the eclectic religious atmosphere in which Gandhi was raised, his belief in karma and rebirth, his conviction that morality and religion are synonymous, his attitudes toward tyranny and freedom, and, perhaps most important, the mysterious source of his power to establish new norms of human conduct. This book enlarges our understanding of one of history’s most profoundly influential figures, a man whose trust in the power of the spirit helped liberate millions.” (drawn from Syndetics summary).

Syndetics book coverIs God a moral monster? : making sense of the Old Testament God, by Paul Copan.
“Is the God of the Old Testament Nothing but a Bully, a Murderer, and an Oppressor? … In this timely and readable book, apologist Paul Copan takes on some of the most vexing accusations of our time, including: God is arrogant and jealous, God is guilty of ethnic cleansing, God endorses slavery, God punishes people too harshly, God oppresses women, Christianity causes violence. Copan not only answers the critics, he also shows how to read both the Old and New Testaments faithfully, seeing an unchanging, righteous, and loving God in both. Book jacket.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe happy atheist, by PZ Myers.
…”Readers of the author’s popular blog Pharyngula, from which many of this book’s chapters are drawn, know him to be outspoken and a bit on the antagonistic side, but even they might be surprised at the linguistic and thematic extremes he goes to here.”(drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverPolishing the mirror : how to live from your spiritual heart, by Ram Dass, with Rameshwar Das ; conceived by Janaki Sandy Gaal.
“This collection of teachings covers many practices Ram Dass has used – devotional bhakti yoga, worldly karma yoga, daily practices like meditation and chanting – in his journey to become a more compassionate being. Drawing strongly on anecdotes, he shares personal details such as coping with a stroke that changed his outlook. “The collection successfully straddles a fine line, providing both a broad overview for those new to Ram Dass’s writings and an engaging recap for readers who have enjoyed his previous books.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverCave and cosmos : shamanic encounters with another reality, by Michael Harner.
Introduces the principles and techniques of core shamanism and explains how to use these techniques to access the advice and wisdom of healing spirits.

Syndetics book coverWhisperers : the secret history of the spirit world, by J. H. Brennan.
Based on the author’s thesis, Brennan surveys history from ancient Egypt to modern Germany, to demonstrate a deep belief in the power of spirit figures to affect the well-being of humans through the role of prophets, shamans, witch doctors. Brennan concludes that the these humans proved so valuable to the survival of society, that they evolved into an elite group.

Syndetics book coverFinding God beyond religion : a guide for skeptics, agnostics & unorthodox believers inside & outside the church, by Tom Stella ; foreword by the Rev. Canon Marianne Wells Borg.
“Former Catholic spiritual director Stella invites spiritual seekers to experience God as the “ground of being”. Religion is not defined, but he urged readers to go beyond the “church” and its teachings to find God. Topics include prayer in a non-theistic world, and God’s existence in the midst of evil.

Syndetics book coverYour fatwa does not apply here : untold stories from the fight against Muslim fundamentalism, by Karima Bennoune.
“*Starred Review* After a harrowing experience with her father in his Algerian home, activist and law professor Bennoune felt compelled to interview Muslims who are bravely standing up to Islamist groups. Her geographic range is vast, including France, Egypt, Senegal, Russia, Mali, and beyond. …(drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics) “Bennoune’s meticulous testament serves as a warning to the complacent and rebukes ‘politically correct’ posturing that makes excuses for the inexcusable and canvasses tolerance for the intolerable.” (Wole Soyinka)

Syndetics book coverDown in the chapel : religious life in an American prison, by Joshua Dubler.
Prison volunteer Dubler records the stories of four men serving life sentences, two Christians and two Muslims. They debate their own faith and explain how prison has changed their religious beliefs. Although almost everything else in their lives has changed or removed, their belief in their God has remained. Dubler concludes that prisons are “one of the most spiritual places in America.”

Syndetics book coverYou’ll get through this : hope and help for your turbulent times, by Max Lucado.
With the heart of a storyteller, and the joy of one who has seen what God can do, Max Lucado explores the story of Joseph and the truth of Genesis 50:20. What Satan intends for evil, God redeems for good.

August beliefs arrivals

The latest crop has several forays into scientific disciplines together with a recent biography of Pope Benedict XVI, and a handbook of Buddhist teachings.

Syndetics book coverWhy hell stinks of sulfur : mythology and geology of the underworld, by Salomon Kroonenberg ; translated by Andy Brown.
“Dutch geologist Kroonenberg (The Human Scale) takes an unconventional approach to ancient descriptions of the Underworld in this compelling literary and geological survey. … Kroonenberg searches literature and the ground beneath us to explore the realities, mysteries, and allegories of our many-layered Earth; en route, he discovers real-life geological features that rival the powerful imagery of Dante’s Inferno – from lakes of bubbling tar to mud volcanoes, poisonous caves, enormous sinkholes, and modern coal mines in China that epitomize hell on earth. … Kroonenberg deftly “balances… on the edge between science and myth,” inserting lyric beauty into a topic many consider monumentally lifeless.” (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverNew Zealand Jesus : social and religious transformations of an image, 1890-1940, by Geoffrey Troughton.
“What did early twentieth century New Zealanders make of Jesus, and what do their understandings tell us? This study provides the first historical analysis of New Zealand images of Jesus. Using a diverse range of churchly and secular sources it examines key themes and representations.” (excerpt from chapter 1)

Syndetics book coverFrom the Big Bang to God : our awe-inspiring journey of evolution, by Lloyd Geering.
“A summary of the history of the universe through the lenses of science and the world’s religions” (Publisher information).
Read more about the book, including an interview between Sir Lloyd and Kim Hill at Steele Roberts.

Syndetics book coverVast universe : extraterrestrials and Christian revelation, by Thomas F. O’Meara.
As the title suggests this Catholic theologan explores the idea of life on other planets and the impact on Christian belief. This is not a novel study – giants such as Origen, Nicholas of Cusa, Thomas Aquinas, Ellen White, Paul Tillich, have also pondered this mystery, while C.S. Lewis scifi trilogy also heads in this direction. Even if you aren’t interested in extraterrestrial life, this book is worth a peek for the issues it traverses about the incarnation of Jesus on earth.

Syndetics book coverThe science myth : God, society, the self and what we will never know, by Dominique Chu.
“We are in the midst of a culture war between science and religion. In this struggle science portrays itself as the white knight of enlightenment and truth defending humanity against the dark forces of religious fundamentalism, ignorance and gullibility that threaten free thinking and progress. Is there really a fundamental difference between science and religion, as the culture warriors want us to believe? This book takes the reader on an inside journey through science showing how scientific beliefs are made. …” (drawn from the book cover)

Syndetics book coverGod revised : how religion must evolve in a scientific age, by Galen Guengerich.
“Guengerich, the senior minister of the Unitarian Church of All Souls on Lexington Avenue in New York, … rejects a supernatural, all-knowing God, yet still finds the need for a faith that gives life meaning. … “If you want to live a fulfilling life, you need to believe in a revised God,” he writes. That God, however, is difficult to define and must constantly be subjected to the latest scientific reasoning. Along the way, Guengerich shares sermons on political issues, from immigration to women’s rights to care for the environment. At a time when many younger people yearn for a more mystical religious experience, this volume may feel Eurocentric and dated. (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverSubdued fires : an intimate portrait of Pope Benedict XVI, by by Garry O’Connor.
“2004. A delegation sent by John Paul II from the Vatican to commemorate the 60th anniversary of D-Day is headed by Joseph Ratzinger, a former Nazi youth who, while resident in Rome for the previous 23 years, is known as “The Panzer Cardinal.” Ratzinger insisted on being at the commemoration.” So this biography begins. This book does not gloss over his former years but examines threads and impacts across the years, through to his resignation in February 2013.

Syndetics book coverOn God’s side : what religion forgets and politics hasn’t learned about serving the common good, by Jim Wallis.
Wallis (president and CEO of Sojourners), writes that people of faith should be concerned about the biblical “least of these,” following the lead of the so-called Matthew 25 Christians, who focus on social justice. Wallis understands compassion as the doorway to justice for everyone.

Syndetics book coverThe face of God : the Gifford lectures 2010, by Roger Scruton.
“Developing his 2010 Gifford Lectures at the University of St. Andrews, Scruton (research fellow, Blackfriars Hall, Oxford) examines the view that God is to be understood through one’s communion with fellow humans, and not through philosophical speculation about the ground of being. To this end, he explores the relevant meanings of the terms “I,” “you,” and “why,” in connection with the ideas of the face of a person, the face of the world, and the face of God. ….” ( drawn from Choice, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverMindful compassion, by Paul Gilbert & Choden.
“In recent years, mindfulness is being used increasingly to treat common mental health problems such as depression, stress and stress-related insomnia. In this ground-breaking new book, Professor Gilbert, along with his co-author Choden, combines the best of Compassion-Focused Therapy with the most effective mindfulness techniques.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverA guide to the Buddhist path, by Sangharakshita.
“In this highly readable handbook on the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, Sangharakshita guides the reader through this sometimes complex religion.” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGod in proof : the story of a search from the ancients to the Internet, by Nathan Schneider.
“*Starred Review* Philosophy is hardly everybody’s cup, but by adding dollops of memoir and first-person reportage to a history of attempts to prove that God exists, Schneider makes an often dry subject quite companionable. Not that any of the proofs forged by thinkers from Plato to Alvin Plantinga rises any more convincingly from Schneider’s pages than from the sages’ own. Rather, by tethering the proofs to his own quest for them from age 17 on, Schneider enlivens them. …A book that starts attractively and gets more enjoyable by the page.” (Drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Synetics)

Contemplation and Action: New Beliefs Books

Gems about Henri Nouwen, and by Richard Rohr, together with books on prayer, monasticism, spiritual road maps, saints, and miraculous icons are all featured in this month’s latest arrivals.

Syndetics book coverHenri Nouwen and spiritual polarities : a life of tension, by Wil Hernandez.
This important book by Dr. Hernandez on the life and the creative genius of Nouwen reminds us that truth is often found in synthesising polar opposites, such as caring/confronting, presence/absence, and healing/woundedness. Dr. Hernandez provides insight into Nouwen, who showed us that contemplation and compassionate action belong together. There are contemplative exercises at the end of each chapter – opportunity to really digest the material. For those unfamiliar with Nouwen’s writings Seeds of hope, also held by the library, features excerpts from more than 20 published books and articles as well as selections from unpublished writings.

Syndetics book coverImmortal diamond : the search for our true self, by Richard Rohr.
“Rohr, a Franciscan priest and founding director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, N.Mex., leads a narrative excursion to the “True Self,” the core of character that lies like a diamond buried within. Writing for secular seekers, the author claims that individuals need to allow the false self to fall away in order to get in touch with the true self, allowing it to breathe and flourish. …God is always communicating with humans, but those who cling to ego and social position can’t hear these divine messages.” (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverHow to pray when you’re pissed at God : or anyone else for that matter, by Ian Punnett.
“The emotion most people are wariest of is anger. Yet not expressing or at least acknowledging anger, we’re told, may lead to a host of illnesses, including depression. What to do? Bring it to the Lord in prayer, Punnett says. If that seems outrageous, it’s nevertheless prodigiously attested in the Bible, especially among the Psalms. Problem is, Punnett continues, contemporary Christians tend not to know that….” (drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverTransforming prayer : how everything changes when you seek God’s face, by Daniel Henderson.
“It’s no wonder so many people are discouraged with prayer. Instead of a genuine encounter with God, prayer is little more than a grocery list of requests. Maybe you, too, seek God’s hand rather than His face. How do you truly connect with God through prayer? For almost three decades, renewal leader and pastor Daniel Henderson has helped innumerable Christians transform their prayer life.” (drawn from the book jacket)

Syndetics book coverThe Gods are broken! : the hidden legacy of Abraham, by Jeffrey K. Salkin.
“Although it involves biblical characters, the widely known story of Abraham’s smashing the idols in the shop of his father, Terah, is not in the Bible. Nevertheless, according to author Salkin (The Modern Men’s Torah Commentary), it is the forerunner of monotheism, the beginning of Jewish history, and may “be the most important Jewish story ever told.” … He examines the implications of the story for Christians and Muslims and its relationship to anti-Semitism. … ” (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverRituals of celebration : honoring the seasons of life through the wheel of the year, by Jane Meredith.
“In Rituals of Celebration, author Jane Meredith provides lyrical accounts of the most memorable rituals she’s organized, as well as how-to instructions for creating them. Inspired by Pagan, Druid, and Goddess traditions, the rituals are crafted to help us honor the changing seasons and to mark the important milestones of our personal journeys in a way that is relevant to contemporary life. Along with the rituals, you will discover craft projects that go hand-in-hand with each festival – perfect ideas for artistic expression whether you are practicing alone, with a group, or celebrating with children. With additional instructions for building an altar and other basic tasks, this guide includes everything you need to create celebrations that will resonate deeply within you, your family, and your life.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverFinding the on-ramp to your spiritual path : a road map to joy and rejuvenation, by Jan Phillips.
“Recent decades have seen a steady rise in the number of individuals who have broken free from traditional religion and yet still want to live a life of faith. For those embarking on this quest, as well as those already on a spiritual journey, this book identifies the signposts of a spiritual path with a lucidity and succinctness rarely articulated by others. Interweaving story, poetry, and reflections on her own spiritual journey, Phillips elegantly answers the fundamental questions: what is the spiritual path? Who else is on it? And where does it lead? … And while the path itself is hardly new, this book provides an innovative and inspirational map of the landscape that typifies 21st-century spiritual consciousness.” (drawn from Publisher Weekly, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverA silent action : engagements with Thomas Merton, by Rowan Williams.
“As the bond between Rowan Williams and Thomas Merton bears witness, not all friendships depend on being of the same generation. The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams explores the mind and influence of Thomas Merton through essays on such topics as the connection Merton had with Paul Evdokimov, the Orthodox theologian, and Karl Barth, the Reformed theologian. … Williams shows that he and Merton share the regard that Christian life without a contemplative dimension is incomplete and, furthermore, that a contemplative life is accessible not only to those living in monasteries but to anyone who seeks an “interiorized” monasticism.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverA nun always : the story of Teresa Grigolini, an Italian missionary sister in the Sudan, 1876-98, edited by Thérèse Pickard.
“This extraordinary but true story of Sister Teresa Grigolini, missionary in the Sudan from 1878, is both an uplifting heroic one and a dark and terrible one. … The personal and tragic life events of Teresa Grigolini occur at the time of the rise of the Mahdists against the long and oppressive rule of the Sudan by Egypt, supported by English colonial interests, the 1885 fall of Khartoum, and eventually the Battle of Omdurman in 1898, the decisive event in the re-taking of Khartoum and the Sudan by Horatio Kitchener’s Anglo-Egyptian army. In 1898 the remaining few of the missionary captives were freed after sixteen years in captivity, but life for Sister Teresa had changed forever. Her story has been pieced together from her own and other letters. These documents enchant, edify, shock and sadden, but ultimately leave the reader with spirits raised for the love, strength and commitment of a remarkable woman.” (drawn from www.wheelers.co.nz description)

Syndetics book coverSpectacular miracles : transforming images in Italy, from the Renaissance to the present, by Jane Garnett and Gevase Rosser.
“Spectacular Miracles confronts an enduring western belief in the supernatural power of images: that a statue or painting of the Madonna can fly through the air, speak, weep, or produce miraculous cures. Although discomforting to widely held assumptions, the cults of particular paintings and statues held to be miraculous have persisted beyond the middle ages into the present, even in a modern European city such as Genoa, the primary focus of this book…. Engaging with the history, anthropology, and visual culture of images and religion, Spectacular Miracles is a convincing study of the continuing power of faith and art.” (drawn from www.wheelers.co.nz description)

Syndetics book coverFrancis of Assisi : a new biography, by Augustine Thompson.
“In this authoritative and engaging new biography, Augustine Thompson, a Dominican priest and church historian, sifts through the surviving evidence for the life of Francis using modern historical methods. The result is a complex yet sympathetic portrait of the man and the saint. … Unlike the saint of legend, this Francis never had a unique divine inspiration to provide him with rules for following the teachings of Jesus. Rather, he spent his life reacting to unexpected challenges, before which he often found himself unprepared and uncertain. The Francis who emerges here is both more complex and more conflicted than that of older biographies…” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Religions and Beliefs books for June

Angels feature as a theme in this month’s recent acquisitions, together with religions in Korea and China, and the latest Rob Bell.

Syndetics book coverSpiritual letters, by Wendy Beckett.
“Apart from her celebrity status as the art nun, fueled by her popular television programs and prolific writing, Sister Wendy has been approached throughout her life for counsel on the spiritual life and the life of prayer. Here, for the first time, are collected some of the finest of her responses in the form of letters, kept and treasured by their recipients over the years. Sister Wendy herself has written a charming and very personal autobiographical preface in which she sets these letters in their context. This little book is a treasure trove of wisdom and sound simple advice.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverWhat we talk about when we talk about God : finding a new faith for the twenty-first century, by Rob Bell.
“While in the past Bell has questioned traditional views on sex, sacrifice, and hell, now he tackles the big one: God. He writes of “waking up in new ways to the God who’s been here the whole time,” a divine being who is with, for and ahead of humanity so that a jaded generation of “spiritual but not religious” may see Jesus, and divinity, in all things. As always, his work is replete with unexpected stories, relevant pop culture references, and new takes on old scriptures; Bell is finally certain about his ontological uncertainty. Undoubtedly, conservative readers will find much to argue with, and Bell seems content with that, hoping that for many others, this book will be a welcome breath of fresh air in a spiritual haze. Agent: Chris Ferebee (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.” (Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverSharing Eden : green teachings from Jews, Christians and Muslims, by by Natan Levy, David Shreeve and Harfiyah Haleem ; edited by Lindsay Swan.
“Six green issues, including climate change, energy, and food, are discussed in terms of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious imperatives to care for the world. … After the faith groups’ theoretical concerns with each topic have been stated briefly, a list of exemplary responses already in effect internationally but largely in Britain is provided. Then comes a solid set of suggestions for the reader to consider undertaking, either alone or with his or her congregation. Studded with beautifully reproduced nature photos, this book is quick to read but has much for individuals and groups to digest and consider as options for bringing faith-based responses to environmental care.” (drawn from Booklist, courtesy of Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverUnderstanding Chinese religions, by Joachim Gentz.
“Chinese religions are often represented as a unity in which each tradition possesses a number of features typical of a Chinese religious system. … Abundant historical material makes Chinese religions a highly interesting case. With their entirely different philosophical and political context Chinese religions are a challenging field of analysis for Western systematic questions and theories of religion. There is a rich and expanding scholarship in Chinese religions.” (drawn from the Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe seven-point mind training : a Tibetan method for cultivating mind and heart, by B. Alan Wallace ; edited by Zara Houshmand.
“At the heart of the Seven-Point Mind Training lies the transformation of the circumstances that life brings us, however hard as the raw material from which we create our own spiritual path. The central theme of the Seven-Point Mind Training is to make the liberating passage from the constricting solitude of self-centeredness to the warm kinship with others which occurs with the cultivation of cherishing others. This Mind Training is especially well-suited for an active life. It helps us to reexamine our relationships – to family, friends, enemies, and strangers – and gradually transform our responses to whatever life throws our way.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverWaking up in Heaven : a true story of brokenness, Heaven, and life again, by Crystal McVea and Alex Tresniowski.
Recounts the story of a young mother who underwent an intense near-death experience after she became unresponsive during a medical emergency, as she discusses the hardships of her past and the impact of the experience on her life.

Syndetics book coverAngels are for real : inspiring, true stories and biblical answers, by Judith MacNutt.
Angels – are they real or just part of our imagination? In her newest book, Judith MacNutt tackles this topic with Biblical information and real life stories. We pray about many things and don’t always notice how the prayer is answered. Angels could be at work. Have you ever had an experience where you know someone stopped you before a horrible accident? or, lost something that miraculously was found? These are just two of the ways angels could be working in your life. … The research that Ms. MacNutt has done will inspire you. (drawn from www.goodreads.com.)

Syndetics book coverAn angel to watch over me : true stories of children’s encounters with angels, by Joan Wester Anderson.
If Jesus himself taught that the kingdom of heaven belongs to children, there’s no reason in the world not to believe that God can reveal his love to little ones through angels. More than 30 stories of children’s experiences with celestial beings are shared in this book — from a boy whose angels helps him conquer his fear of thunderstorms to a girl who is miraculously rescued from her burning home. (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverFrom Gabriel to Lucifer : a cultural history of angels, by Valery Rees.
For sceptics, angels may be no more than metaphors: poetic devices to convey, at least for those with a religious sensibility, an active divine interest in creation. But for others, angels are absolutely real creatures: manifestations of cosmic power with the capacity either to enlighten or annihilate those whose awestruck paths they cross. (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSilence : a Christian history, by Diarmaid MacCulloch.
“The New York Times bestselling author of Christianity explores the vital role of silence in the Christian story. … MacCulloch shows how Jesus chose to emphasize silence as an essential part of his message and how silence shaped the great medieval monastic communities of Europe. He also examines the darker forms of religious silence, from the church’s embrace of slavery and its muted reaction to the Holocaust to the cover-up by Catholic authorities of devastating sexual scandals. A groundbreaking work that will change our understanding of the most fundamental wish to be heard by God, Silence gives voice to the greatest mysteries of faith.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverReligion in Korea : harmony and coexistence, by Robert Koehler ; editor, Jang Woo-jung ; copy editor, Colin A. Mouat, Daisy Larios.
“Korea is a remarkable case study in religious coexistence. Even though only about half the country identifies as religious, the half that does displays a remarkable diversity of both indigenous and imported faiths, including Buddhism and Christianity (of both the Catholic and Protestant varieties). Korean religious pluralism is no recent phenomenon. Koreans have respected religious diversity since ancient times. Indeed…This book surveys the rich religious and spiritual tapestry that is contemporary Korea. We begin with the earliest of Korean faiths the shamanism that prehistoric Koreans brought with them as they migrated to the peninsula from Central Asia and continue on to today’s most prominent faiths: Buddhism, Christianity, and Confucianism. Korea has given birth to a large number of indigenous faiths, and we will take a look at some of these, too.” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Syndetics book coverSlaying the dragons : destroying myths in the history of science and faith, by Allan Chapman.
“From the leading scientists of medieval times, many in holy orders, to the seventeenth-century popes who maintained an astronomical observatory in the Vatican, to the Christian people of science today, science and faith have grown up together”–Back cover.


  • Archives

  • Categories