Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"If you're happy and you know it...

Clap your hands." Or stamp your feet. And, read Joan Chittister’s book called Happiness, now in paperback and published by Eerdmans. Click on www.eerdmans.com for more information. A Benedictine sister and  author of more than 40 books, Chittister’s plan here is to "dig," as archeologists dug, down through the ages. She thinks of it as "a great happiness dig" and she hopes readers will follow, as she discovers how happiness has been defined in earlier times. She calls Happiness "a work in progress" and she hopes that readers, after having read her ideas, will each "form a kind of philosophy of happiness" for themselves.
Chittister writes that "life is about developing the skills for living...about discovering what it really takes to be happy. And that takes a long, long time." She quotes from a world values survey and some social surveys as well as from Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Gandhi, Immanuel Kant, and many others. She reports that happiness is a universal concept, one for "serious reflection." We know if we are happy or not, or we think we do, she says. And happiness, or the lack of it, often forms our day-to-day choices.
Her section on religion is especially interesting as she gives a brief but helpful overview of what those in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe about happiness and how their beliefs affect their lives in practical ways. Putting together their similarities feels like looking at a huge inter-faith stew getting ready for the taste test. All the herbs and spices are carefully mixed and added for the best possible taste and soon we may be allowed to try a tiny sip. The chef will be eager to hear our reactions.
But I was disappointed in the ways Chittister defined Christianity. Our God is a Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We often think of him as Creator, Redeemer, and Friend. And Jesus is much more than a model of good behavior for those seeking happiness. So some of my early enthusiasm fell away near the end of this otherwise fascinating book. No doubt, Happiness was planned as a "popular" book, and it is. Chittister’s fans will appreciate it and will turn to it more than once.
—Lois Sibley

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Finding Joy in the Triune God

Author Michael Reeves offers his book as an opportunity for readers to "taste and see that the Lord is good," as Scripture says in Psalm 34:8. Delighting in the Trinity, An Introduction to the Christian Faith is published by IVP Academic. Click on www.ivpacademic.com to see more.
Reeves reminds us that "Christianity is about knowing God." We may think of God as a mystery, which he is, but this triune God has also revealed himself to us, and we can learn to know him and how he affects everything we see and hear and do.
Reeves is theological adviser for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) in the United Kingdom. He oversees Theology Network, a theological resources website. That means that he spends a lot of time talking with students, answering questions, sharing his knowledge of Scripture, providing quotes and ideas of many Christians over the centuries of church history, and what they have written and said about our Triune God. He includes in his book a list of Image Credits for the many photos and images spread throughout his text, and an index of the Scripture references he uses.
Those whose work he quotes and explains include Gregory of Nyssa, St. Hilarius, Aristotle, Karl Barth, C. S. Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, J. S. Bach, Richard Sibbes, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Owen, John Milton, Augustine, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, William Tyndale, Thomas Goodwin, John Calvin, R. A. Torrey, Thomas Chalmers and more.

I think Jonathan Edwards has the most quotes, but it is a verbal feast from Reeves and other wise men who knew and know the right words and beliefs to share with those who are just learning and finding joy in the majesty and love of our Triune God.
—Lois Sibley