• To The Hesitant Philosopher


    If philosophy's myths to philosophy's truth,
    Pros and cons with right and wrong,

    If wisdom, Gnosticism and things unknown;

    In all their human thought retold,

    But not exactly in the ancient way,

    Can please, as in my day,

    The wiser youngsters of to-day:

    — So be it, and read on!



    If not; If studious youth no longer craves,

    That ancient light recast,

    Plato, Aristotle and Thomas of Aquino,

    Spinoza, Kant, Hegel and Heidegger:

    Traditionalism, existentialism and hidden wonder,

    — So be it, And may we,

    In all our ignorance share the graves,

    Where these and all their musings lie!


    (tip o’ me hat to Robert Louis Stevenson)

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    Judging by the book’s index and the copious notes and references following essay this is clearly intended as an academic text. The ample detail in some of the essays about the plot, purpose and criticism of Bioshock will appeal to those who know the series well. But I am a philosopher, not a gamer. While philosophizing about gaming, I thought about how the various aspects of posthuman humanity have made themselves explicit in gaming and if these aspects of posthuman humanity concealed any philosophical unity behind their creations. (In general philosophical activity, in contrast to gaming activity, has purposes that are non-manipulative, and as such does not directly change the experienced world.) I suggest that the reader may want to keep in mind this “Player’s Creed” while assessing my review/critique of Beyond the Sea: Navigating Bioshock.

    I make the gaming world. There is no overall system which determines what I make.
    I choose what kind of world I want to make. My actions show what things I regard as valuable.
    I create value and do not participate in value already given.

    I make what order there is. I am not made by it. I am independent, not bound by any dependence more powerful than myself.

    I am free because what happens in the world depends on me; not a providence beyond my control.

    My fate is in my hands. I, and only I, create history.*

    *Cf. Grant, George P. (1966:40) Philosophy in the Mass Age, Copp Clarke Publishing.

    I cannot look back upon the gaming life as others of a certain age may be inclined to do as “anything other than exaggerated nostalgia or bemused dismissal” (Keogh). I read this collection of essays conscious that I have never played video games of any sort. I believe, however, that a philosophical inquiry into the games and their construction might yield some unifying factors concerning the notion of posthuman humanity that has developed within the games via Western technology. Thus, I put emphasis on the subjectivity, not the objectivity, of game interpretation as it developed in new directions. My review accepts the political and social themes of gaming in this particular set of games as representative of the themes of present gaming culture. I concentrate on those issues that impinge on the understanding of the human player engaging with the game. (Other reviewers will no doubt make other choices.) There are, to my mind, philosophical presumptions in the development of video games which are rooted in Hellenic philosophy, and I question their appropriateness for the posthuman player. Programming catering to an earlier consumer logic, has come of age and is “self-evidently worthy of study to those outside the field,” (Parker & Aldred) thus providing a much-needed renewal of critical perspectives involving interdisciplinary conversations – particularly with respect to what it means to be human. More than the game’s status in a hypercapitalist industry, the game’s conception of the human player invites philosophical discussion. As Parker and Aldred state: “Issues of power, identity, and representation relating to gender, race, secularity and class run through the book, and this by editorial design.” (Brown’s essay which appears later in this collection is of particular importance in laying out some pertinent philosophical perspectives that may be used to question the underlying presumptions and ideologies that characterize the notion of the human being.)

    Part One: Unity and Metamorphosis: Making and Braking Family Bonds in Bioshock.

    The philosophy of Ayn Rand, identified as “Objectivist philosophy,” is introduced into the collection describing “a capitalist society free of religious and government interference, where any citizen could achieve for their own gain, rather than for the altruistic fulfillment of the wants of others” (Strang). This resembles Marx’s understanding of the proletariat as accounted by Grant. “The proletariat consists of those who have no creative responsibility for the society through their work, because they do not own the means of production with which they have to work. They are employees serving the private interests of their employers” (George Grant, 1966:63, "Philosophy in the Mass Age.") Such an objectivist philosophy is rooted in Hellenic ideals that have been modernized and often without their limitations for the current context being recognized. Many theories constituting understanding the human being, including feminist psychoanalysis, continue this objectivist approach and may present a “deployment of a specific analytical instrument across a body of video games that reveal a cultural problematic unfolding across media” (Vanderhoef & Payne) at large ). Because of this objectivist philosophy the theme of “co-creation” is inadequately developed in development of posthuman gaming which continues to rely on a classical understanding of the person. In classical philosophy humans can be nothing but “creatures” of a transcendent creator-God, characteristic of the Judaic, Islamic and Christian tradition. There is much food for thought in preparation for the posthuman future of gaming as it tries to solve the tension that now exists “between wanting to constrain and protect the game experience for the player, versus opening up the experience to co-creation with the player” (Schrier). Co-creation, as an approach to game programming, cannot but result in novel interpretation, I suggest. The opening essay in Part Two in this collection has attempted a “queer” interpretation of game programming, where “queer” is in opposition to heteronormativity in sexual matters and “does not necessarily refer to a particular gender or sexuality, though it often does” (Mejeur).

    Part Two: To Seduce the Ear and Delight the Spirit: Bioshock, Gender, and Sexuality.

    Although some research into heteronormativity is occurring, “a reconsideration of the familiar is just what queer theory, particularly as applied to game studies, needs right now” (Mejeur). Game programming requires a philosophy that enlightens programmers who struggle in constructing games based on current social conventions to hold the illusion of gaming together. Lacking such a philosophy of creativity, “Bioshock proves itself unable to fully rupture the frames of both gametime and reproduction, leaving us bound once again to a repeatable, recognizable future” (Youngblood). Following the mind of the religious philosopher Leslie Dewart, I suggest that a recognizable future of gaming activity is to be expected because of the classical philosophy that underpins game programming remains operative. What goes unrecognized here is the static ideology of Hellenic (Platonic) philosophy that limits the options of true co-creativity in the gaming experience. These hidden Hellenic philosophical roots are forces that facilitate “the repeated inability of games to imagine plots outside the existing structures that have governed game design for years” (Youngblood). A critical philosophical interpretation may allow for radically and distinctively new endings for gaming’s posthuman experience. The highly relevant topic of violence as part of gaming is critiqued in one essay in the collection via “a subjectivity,” that is, another way of identifying the gamer. From the point of the view of the player and the programmer, violence manifests “the paranoia of political structures, the constant need to control all resources, to stop rebellions, to prompt fear about violence while mobilizing sanctioned institutions of violence” (Ante-Contreras). Given that gaming will most likely continue to be influential in understanding humanity it needs an adequate philosophy of interpretation of what humanity is to assess correctly the violence done to humans by paranoid humans in the posthuman age.

    Part Three: The Flesh Becomes Clay: Technology, Humanity, and Embodiment in Bioshock.

    Posthumanism “takes the position that actions of both human and nonhuman entities affect situation outcomes, often in ways one might not expect,” (Henthorn). A concern for posthuman interpretation of the games’ outcomes, as I see it, is that “humanism” has not been adequately understood or explained from a philosophical point of view so as to act satisfactorily as a basis for posthuman understanding. That is, there is little in present philosophy to definitely specify (or achieve consensus) in what it means to be a human being outside the foundational thought of ancient Greek philosophy from which posthuman thought may draw. This leads Henthorn to observe that when “posthuman analysis does not accept the border between human and machine, and instead critiques the structures that maintain humanity in the face of a progressively posthuman world;” I question what concept of humanity is being maintained – one that is classical or one that is fictional? Or, in George Grant’s phraseology, what human concept discloses “the progressive incarnation of reason?” If indeed, reason specifies what it means to be human ("Philosophy in the Mass Age," 1966:vi). The philosophical ideas expressed in current gaming programming lead me to affirm that many gaming programmers continue to create architectural backdrops that extend “ideas pursued by a particular scientific paradigm effective during the first half of the twentieth century” (Schott). Thus, it follows that an alternative philosophical understanding has the potential to take game programming into new paradigms of postmodern experience — including what it means to be human without technological intervention, but merely in a context that is no longer classical, but techno-digital. However, it may be safely said that currently the status of humanity is in a quandary as it transitions from an enlightenment humanism to posthumanism. “The human in relation to Bioshock 2 is a decaying, undead thing that continues to act on the world despite it being no more important or powerful than anything else it is relating to” (Kunzelman). But this “human” product of science fiction need not remain the standard. A new conception of humanity, without technological addition, but rather interpreted through a dehellenized philosophy may afford a more positive set of optional endings to gaming. Naturally, this interpretation would require any philosophy of what it is “to be,” in the Western sense, to re-examine itself in light of the non-western cultural philosophies of the human experience.

    Part Four: There’s Always a City: The Many Histories of Bioshock.

    Gaming predominately incorporates the American political experience. “These failed utopias [Rapture and Columbia] were created during periods of social and political transition in America” (Zaidan). Hers is an historical interpretation which accounts for “how we got here,” through exploring player biases, not simply rehearsing a chronology of events. A challenge for the future presented by the essays in this collection might be how to explain an authentic human presence in a posthuman world that has not been altered by technology. What might then result is a game catering less to science fiction and more to philosophy and afford more of a “globalized” experience open to the player, since philosophical thinking is a habit natural to the human, not requiring a Western intellectual framework. This is not an impossibility since the game experience, “holds the potential to incite player reflection upon their role as citizens and about their own agency and choices of the doomed yet timeless worlds of Rapture and Columbia” (Zaidan). Game design need not confine itself to the inspiration that arises from Western technological philosophical interpretation. Rather, there is potential for a game programming theme to be presented as floating “in a quantum state, in which its definition remains simultaneously unclear and has the seeds of its failure as well as the seeds of its success inbuilt” (Fuchs). Quantum mechanics views the universe as a “wave” function which cannot be experienced at a quantum level, only macroscopically through choices made by the player. Quantum mechanics’ influence notwithstanding, however, current experience is that “the same economic and creative challenges that frustrate characters in [Bioshock and Aliens] are often at work on the very designers, programmers, and producers who bring those games to life” (Arnott).

    Part Five: All That’s Left Is the Choosing: Rethinking Agency in Bioshock and Beyond.

    Those who programme games differ from those who author books. The task of the authors of books is to make their readers subject to them and to the books’ plot in order to evoke a critical reflection from the plot, or simply to provide entertainment. In gaming, however, “the challenge for developers is to find a space for critical games in an industry that is driven by player demands” (Thorne). The “involved” choices on the part of the player ultimately result in “the ever-fluctuating definition of the human” (Brown) which often departs significantly from traditional Western understanding. “Humanity has been called an inherited deposit, and we only become "fully" human as we make that deposit our own” [my emphasis] (George Grant, 1966:2, "Philosophy in the Mass Age." Copp Clarke Publishing). While this perspective may be tenable in Modernity it is likely not to be so in the Posthuman age. The reason for this, I suggest, is that Modernity, and its variants, has not succeeded in satisfactorily specifying (identifying) what is to be human. Thus, some philosophical work remains to be done before Posthuman gaming can accept a specificity of the human as the foundation upon which to design its games. (Unless, perhaps, to be human means to lack such specificity.) From my point of view, as in the initial age of the computer in this age of gaming, “garbage in: garbage out” remains a force that cannot be ignored except to the players’ and game’s peril. Improvement (not progress) is required and is, in fact, built into the gaming experience. Improvement, being built-in to the experience, begs the moral question of a human definition. “The fact that players do not have consistent agency or control over the character or gameplay does not limit play or meaning – in fact, it defines them” (Wysocki & Brey). Hence the need for an appropriate interpretive philosophy of gaming as this collection of essays demonstrates.



    Like all worthwhile “travel” guides not all the sights available are covered in one tour – just the most significant – leaving us to explore the “side streets” on our own. Mahon’s guide highlights the various sights of interest for the contemporary philosophical inquirer whose vision has been whetted to explore further what Mahon has introduced in this deeply researched and copiously noted book. My review is limited to a few observations that from my perspective I hope will encourage others to consider his research. It is not the last word on posthumanism, as he has noted, but is certainly cutting-edge thought, as I understand him.


    There is more that constitutes us humans than just ourselves, as traditionally understood from a classical Western philosophy, if Mahon’s exposé of “concrete” posthumanism is correct. Religion, politics and philosophy are being rewritten as we enter the posthuman stage of an evolutionary process, he has suggested. In this evolutionary process, his “unit of analysis” is “humans + tools,” not just humans. In analyzing this unit, he has placed emphasis on the boundary between “human” and “tools,” which is increasingly becoming blurred. What is significant is that such blurring of boundaries (not merely a shifting of boundaries) opens the possibility for us to do consciously, in the posthuman stage of evolution, what we thought nature did unconsciously in the classical stage of evolution. In short, we as “humans + tools” consciously direct our evolution in the posthuman world. That is one conclusion I draw from his essay. Secondly, the unit “humans + tools” constitutes a changed status (within a philosophical point of view) of human beings from that of being mere creatures of another entity or entities to being “co-creators” of themselves.


    Active engagement, not passive representationalism, is the key here as I understand Mahon. He writes: “I have been endeavouring to give you a concrete sense of posthumanism that actively seeks to avoid getting stuck at the superficial level of ‘representations’ or ‘images’ or ‘metaphors’ of science and technology through an insistence on engaging actively with actual techno-scientific developments and research” (p. 155). Representations, images and metaphors constitute the classical philosophical perspective, (inspired by Hellenic philosophy) whereas, engaging actively with actual techno-scientific developments and research characterize the posthuman context (inspired by attempts at existential dehellenization) as I see it.


    Has he succeeded with this guide? I asked myself this question in preparing this review. What overall success there may be that I do not know. But he has succeeded in clarifying for me some of the same issues that I had been pondering. The follow-up question (to myself since I am retired and no longer engaged in active teaching) was: So, what’s next? To write this review I answered. On the presumption that a review is to assist the potential reader in making a decision for or against reading a book, I offer the following suggestions to potential readers. 1) Readers and future reviewers should note the subjunctive tense throughout the guide – nothing is truly fixed and options remain. 2) Brush up on classical or humanist philosophical concepts (if needed) to bring Mahon’s understanding of concrete posthumanism into sharper relief. 3) Heed his advice to persevere with the difficult concepts he discusses; the more information the better the understanding. 4) Read this guide as the author’s attempt to put order into chaos – which was the same purpose made by classicists at their particular stage of human evolutionary self-knowledge. 5) Mahon’s presentation of concrete posthumanism suggests engaging techno-scientific “reality.” Deeper probing and further clarification are needed into techno-scientific reality à la Leslie Dewart, particularly for the more philosophically minded reader, which considers the possibility of reality “beyond being.” In critiquing our Hellenic heritage Dewart has suggested that “being” and “reality” are not always to be identified. Reality may be conceived of as that which is somehow “beyond being,” and not being itself, which to my mind is characteristic of a posthuman stage of self-knowledge. As I understand him then, “to be, or not to be (human),” characterizes the posthuman context that his guide encourages us to navigate.



    reviewed below


    On Posthuman Theism:

    "God Consciousness" and Leslie Dewart (1922-2009)


    Basically, what is at stake in posthuman theism is a critical rethinking of the relationship between conscious human agency and the role of technology, environmental and cultural factors which draw together a number of aspects that make up humanity’s 21st Century understanding of reality and cosmology. Posthuman consciousness links these aspects to their beginnings (Hellenic philosophy) which originated within the Western philosophical history of what it means to be human. Since critical posthuman philosophy takes in questions of meaning that deliberately blur any demarcation between subject and object and encourages fluidity between fiction and fact; in light of such blurring, the focus here is on posthuman consciousness as it affects belief in God. With proper adjustments, a posthuman critique of religious consciousness may be made of any cultural understanding of God or gods. The author investigates this question by musing over the philosophical and theological perspective introduced to him during his undergraduate years by Leslie Dewart at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto.


    I Am Not a Brain

    reviewed below



    Clearly this book is intended for professional academics. However, it can serve as a point of departure to introduce anyone knowledgeable about the gaming phenomenon but lacking a philosophical background the book serves it purpose well in this regard.


    I came across the book by happenstance and was captured by the author’s approach from the beginning especially since I am totally unfamiliar with the genesis of the contemporary gaming phenomenon. In light of gaming’s popular interest, I did expect more than one review for the book on Amazon. But perhaps that speaks to the status of philosophy in contemporary North American culture. In their Preface the authors note that not all individuals are philosophically inclined and accordingly state that they draw upon the resources of Western philosophy, i.e., the analytical tradition. Although, as I read through the chapters there seemed to be moments when a phenomenological understanding (not phenomenalism) was given some expression. This review is from the point of view of a phenomenological philosopher and hopefully my observations will bring out some valued differing approaches to the interpretation between the analytic and phenomenological (Continental) ways of thinking. Naturally, not all that could be said, has been said in this review.


    Chapter One, I, Player: The Puzzle of Personal Identity (MMORPGs and Virtual Communities) discusses personal identity through statements about the person, rather than inquiring into the constitution of the person as a living organism. The authors “focus on issues about the metaphysical status of the self that arise specifically in the status of video games.” For the phenomenologist, the problem here is the same for the analytical philosopher, i.e., that the metaphysical status of the self does not equate to the person. Rather than on an epistemological approach to this problem the phenomenologist properly focuses on human consciousness as a psychological understanding but interpreted philosophically. That is to say, where the epistemologist encounters a puzzle in life, the phenomenologist encounters the mystery of life. While both approaches are grounded in individual experience, a Hellenic-grounded interpretive philosophy may not be the only view point for a satisfactory personal understanding. A phenomenological philosophy of consciousness interprets the individual’s “life in progress,” not a static “state” in life. Gaming has the potential to reveal a philosophical anthropology of the person, not only a philosophy of human functional abilities, it seems to me.


    Chapter Two, The Game Inside the Mind, the Mind Inside the Game (The Nintendo Wii Gaming Console) discusses the “tools” of gaming in light of the unsatisfactory theory of phenomenalism. The authors suggest that enactivism as a theory is the better approach, thus remaining within the Hellenic epistemological tradition which attempts to ascertain the manner in which experience represents the way things are. The phenomenologist attempts the same to disclose the way things are in the experience of the person, but through the medium of consciousness, not the classical perspective of knowledge. Hence, the phenomenologist (a philosopher of the mind) attempts to transcend the limitations of analytic philosophy by identifying a different starting point for reflection, rather than develop further the scientific one that remains dominant in Western culture. The phenomenological starting point of conscious interpretation has been influenced more by Continental philosophy than by scientific methodology.


    Chapter Three, “Realistic Blood and Gore”: Do Violent Games Make Violent Gamers? (First Person Shooters) discusses the heritage of Platonic and Aristotelian philosophical understandings in approaching the design of games, particularly with respect to violence. The authors’ Hellenic and thus Christian interpretation makes their conclusions and preferences predictable concerning the ethical norms to be considered when designing games. (I wonder: Is there any significance to be drawn that Chapter Three ends with a “Concluding Homily,” and Chapter Seven with “The Games We Choose;” whereas all the other chapters, save Chapter Four which has no “Conclusion,” end simply with “Conclusions?”)


    Chapter Four, Games and God’s Goodness (World-Builder and Tycoon Games) clearly reveals the traditional approach to understanding God within Western culture with all its attending problems and contradictions. The authors, being analytical philosophers, accept reason as the faculty that specifies the living organism as a person – an epistemological perspective rooted in classical philosophy. Many phenomenologists however, consider possessing a self-reflexive function of consciousness as specifying the living organism as a person – a psychological perspective considered philosophically, not scientifically. Here the is focus is on the person; not on principles or propositions of knowledge. Terminating their discussion, the lesson to be learned the authors state is that to understand God even as “a being with unimaginably vast knowledge, power, and goodness, decisions about when and how to interfere with the natural order…,” would have to be atrociously difficult and demanding. The phenomenologist does not understand such difficulties arising from God interfering with the natural order, but such difficulties arise from our self-conscious relationships within the natural order.


    Chapter Five, The Metaphysics of Interactive Art (Puzzle and Adventure Games) hints, as I see it, at a phenomenological understanding which is not evident in the classical heritage of Western philosophy. That is, the creative participation of the observer in what is observed is a novel perspective with no antecedent in Hellenic philosophy. This changes the overall paradigm from a purely Hellenic one, where Fate rules the day, to a phenomenological one, where humans contribute to the determination of their future. The authors speak of “The Objectivity Argument,” which is an active process and not to be confused with “objectivism” which is an idea. [When philosophizing in English, individuals often confuse “- ity” words with “-ism” words. Although addressing the same phenomenon, they do not always mean the same. Consider this statement: “I respect your nationality, but I am suspicious of your nationalism.” In short, realism does not capture all of reality.] Such distinction is often not clearly made or understood by contemporary philosophers. The objectivity argument attaches to the person, not an external standard. In fact, I can learn much from understanding “your personal psychology” (p. 95). In short, for the phenomenologist intersubjectivity (an activity) replaces external standards (objective ideas). Drawing on Stanley Fish the authors speak of a player’s actions and decisions understood as “coconstituting the work of art” (p.100).


    Chapter Six, Artificial and Human Intelligence (Single-Player RPGs) treats of AI in the context of time. Predictably, a Hellenist approach to time is accepted without question. That is, time is linear, not cyclic. Philosophically cyclic time has no beginning, or end, as linear time does, hence a cyclic understanding of time is favoured by phenomenologists. As well, the correspondence theory of truth is accepted as the norm. In explaining the development of CRUM (Computational-Representational Understanding of Mind), it is presumed that the rules of the English language are operative and these have contributed the basis of “computer language.” The discussion of the phenomenon is undertaken from this perspective. Given that the ontic culture of the West and not any phenomenological culture has given rise to computer science, this is not surprising. Acknowledging that the “flexible adaptive behavior characteristic of human cognition,” to use the authors’ words, is an activity, not a fixed reality, the authors then enter on a discussion of “fixing” the content. For the phenomenological philosopher content is dynamic, not fixed. Flexible adaptive behavior has not, to date at least, been replicated by computers. At present, phenomenologists do not hold out any expectation that a non-living entity ever will spontaneously “adapt” itself to its environment. The “I’m sorry, Dave I can’t do that” remark of 2001 Space Odyssey fame remains in the imagination and as a puzzle before the analytical philosopher. It presents as a possible mystery for the phenomenologist, who questions the “fixity” of content.


    The final chapter, Epilogue: Video Games and the Meaning of Life sums up the whole thrust of the author’s purpose which, as I understand it, is to investigate the games phenomenon as a means to introduce philosophical thinking. This enterprise has considered only the Western analytical perspective, which is not surprising since it is highly doubtful that the computer phenomenon could have arisen in any context but within the Western scientific tradition with its roots in Hellenic philosophy. This is similar to the notion that atheism could only have arisen with the Christian culture, (due to scientific criticism) and not in any phenomenological culture. As it reads the whole book, to my mind, is an exercise in the “fine tuning” approach to classical philosophy through gaming. But there is more. The authors remark: “And perhaps, therefore, philosophical questions about the meaning of life are better re-phrased as questions about what we are to do with ourselves after we have finished all of our basic, unalterable biological “functions” (p. 154). To shift the understanding of gaming as disclosing a phenomenological philosophy, I would suggest that this to do question could be replaced with a who am I question inquiring into the meaning of life. That is, the awareness of the time spent gaming is not as revealing philosophically in the contemporary culture as who is gaming, it would seem to me.



    Gabriel’s book amounts to presenting a threshold for posthuman thinking. My review of his book is limited to one significant concept: that of human consciousness, and his contribution to the understanding of it. Since it is from consciousness all else about the human mind follows. Referring to human consciousness, he writes: “We are once again dealing here with old wine in new bottles” (p. 130). Conscious belongs to the mind and, there is no objective solution to the question of the mind, according to Gabriel. However, subjectively, the mind has the capacity to create self-conceptions, he maintains. Besides material realities, “immaterial realities” also exist which cannot be investigated by the natural sciences. Nor do these immaterial realities belong to another world. They are part of this world. Here his perspective is reminiscent of that of the religious philosopher Leslie Dewart (1922-2009) that is, only one world exists, the one in which we currently live. There is no other transcendent world affording humanity a better life. Gabriel’s view supports a type of duality since he holds that there is no mind (an immaterial thing) without a brain (a material thing). Mind and brain are distinguishable but not separable. From my perspective this view amounts to a preservation (although altered) of Hellenic metaphysical principles (by that I mean, interpreted phenomenologically) which are often somewhat forgotten in philosophical modernity. Gabriel insists that contemporary sciences cannot avoid a role for philosophy in the interpretation of technological social experience.


    Influenced by the Continental tradition in philosophy, Gabriel distinguishes philosophy of mind from philosophy of consciousness. He avoids thinking of the mind as equivalent to consciousness. However, such equivalency often occurs in the Anglo-American philosophical tradition. Unless I have misread him, he thinks it is a misguided effort to view the human mental life as part of the directionless world of the natural sciences. Human mental life always has motives, and he suggests that Hellenic inspired metaphysics (reflecting fixed conceptual thinking) is “just another form of superstitious overextension of one model of explanation over the entirety of the cosmos, a modern form of mythology” (p. 44).


    Knowing that we are conscious is not equivalent to knowing what consciousness is (a moment’s reflection confirms this) and human consciousness allows the human being the unique capacity to say “I.” However, philosophically, the form needed to manifest this “I” is not clearly understood, as yet. In our techno-scientific age the classical concept “animal rationale” no longer specifies the human being as it had in classical times, he believes. Rather, the human being is a conscious “self” that knows some “thing” and able to communicate it to others and to itself. Leslie Dewart had much the same notion earlier when he distinguished between thematic and non-thematic speech. “We shall see, however, that the ability to experience meaningfully is the basis of self-definition, the creation of a self that is meaningful to itself: therefore, the thematic consciousness may be best referred to as the “self-defining” mode of conscious life” (Evolution and Consciousness, 1989:118). Gabriel’s whole work is a subtle appeal to retain philosophy (of consciousness) as a legitimate concern in itself, countering the tendency in the English-speaking world to “outsource philosophical issues from philosophy to natural science, which is a fundamental mistake” (p. 176). Gabriel notes that a “realm of ends” specifies the conscious human being. In the “realm of ends” there is no Hellenic sense of an “essence” needed for a posthuman understanding of the individual human being. Rather, “the realm of ends is a system of concepts that we use to make conscious human action understandable to ourselves,” which is characteristic of posthumanity, according to my view (p. 206).


    While I am sympathetic to Gabriel’s overall assessment of the current situation constituting a threshold of posthumanism, I cannot help but conclude that he is less optimistic about the future of posthumanity than I am. “It is a central task of philosophy to work on an avatar of the human mind that can be led into the field, in the sense of an ideology critique, against the empty promises of a post-human age” (p. 220).


    From Common Curiosity to Logical Reasoning


    As I evaluate it, this is a book on ideas philosophically understood from within the analytic tradition which seriously tries to avoid the ultimate problem of skepticism. In the Introduction, Williamson notes Descartes’ “radical strategy of doubting what he could, including the whole world outside his mind, in order to rebuild science on the firm foundation of the few remaining certainties” (p. 1). Prior to its professional status in academia, philosophy is already in our lives both in trivial and important ways, the author maintains. In other words, philosophy is there as common sense. With this observation, I have no quarrel. But having read Leslie Dewart’s (1022-2009) Hume’s Challenge and the Renewal of Modern Philosophy, published posthumously, I do not concur with many of Williamson’s conclusions, since I am a philosopher who favours the phenomenological perspective. He seems to admit such a possibility when he writes: “Many philosophers will hate my picture of how to do philosophy. I leave the reader to judge” (p. 5).


    I am not convinced that contemporary philosophy’s stagnated state (as Dewart described it) is solved by philosophers embracing the “appropriate scientific methods for answering their questions, which are questions of the traditional ambitious kind” (p. 5). However, that is not to say that the book is not worth the time taken to read it. In Chapter 9 Williamson advances some ways by which philosophy “learns from elsewhere” (p.111). He concludes the book by expressing the hope that philosophical methods can be improved, (possibly with the assistance of a future reader of his essay) just as scientific methods have been improved over time. I share a similar hope for the development of philosophy but, in light of Dewart’s insights, my hope is expressed through a phenomenological perspective.


    Journal of Philosophy of Life


  • Journal of philosophy of life



    Click the JPL logo for access to the Journal.



    Project of Philosophy and Contemporary Society, Advanced Research Center for Human Sciences, Waseda University


    Essay # 1
    Life in Progress
    Musings about Speech, Thought and Understanding




    In the world of living organisms, the phenomena of movement and activity are not to be identified as equal, although both occur there. Activity, which is proper to humans, has a particular conscious quality that infra-human life and physical matter in its inanimate (chemical) movement lack. Human life is consciously value-oriented through speech, thought and understanding, the contemplation of which through a philosophical approach may indicate that a life in progress need not be classically understood necessarily. Humans must fashion their life through speech, thought and understanding (a philosophy of mind) within a contemporary and particular social context which infra-human life, and the AI of digital computers cannot do.



    Essay# 2

    “Dehellenization of Thought” and the Philosophy of Life
    From the Viewpoints of Leslie Dewart and Masahiro Morioka




    Within his philosophy of life, I suggest that Masahiro Morioka is inviting us, at a basic level, to “think about thought,” which is an inclusive activity embracing all versions of philosophy as well as science. Only humans think philosophically, thus as an academic discipline his philosophy of life, to my mind, engages the unique quality of life, i.e., human consciousness. That is to say, his understanding philosophy of life, as an intellectual activity requires the human mind, within an historical and an evolutionary context, to recognize a unique “human self” and relate it to its environment without the aid of classical Greek philosophical categories. I suggest that Morioka’s thinking about nature, life and death, in the Western context may be compared favourably with the “dehellenization of thought,” as understood by Leslie Dewart.



  • Curriculum Vitae

    1974 - Bachelor of Arts, St Michael's College (B. A.), University of Toronto

    1978 - Bachelor of Theology (B. Th.),

    St Paul University, Ottawa.

    1978 - Heythrop College, Postgraduate Diploma in Pastoral Theology, (University of London)

    Heythrop College and its Library will be closing after the end of the academic year 2017-2018. The collection of over 250,000 volumes of books and bound volumes of periodicals, will continue to be made accessible onsite – many discoverable online for the first time - to readers through Senate House Library from October 2018.

    1989 - Master of Theology (M. Th.)

    Somerset University, United Kingdom.

    Sadly, Somerset University no longer exists, having been refused permission to operate in the United Kingdom, a victim of the Distance Education Policy of the British Government of the time. The degree was earned through a research thesis: "Faith, Hope and Charity: An Adlerian Perspective," which eventually appeared as a book, co-authored with Sheldon Nicholl.

    1996 - Doctor of Theology (D. Th.)

    University of South Africa

    2007 - Doctor of Sacred Theology (S. T. D.)

    St Elias School of Orthodox Theology

    Enrollment in the school is presently closed.

    2010 -Doctor of Letters (D. Litt.)

    [published works], European-American University.


    Student: Allan Maurice Savage
    Reference: ASOl/07/20lO
    Degree: Doctor of Letters
    Date: 1 July 2010


    Examiners: Professor John Kersey (University President), Professor Andrew Linley (Vice-President) (Convenor), Dr. Kathleen Lucia (Vice-President)


    The candidate presented a portfolio of publications for assessment accompanied by a critical commentary in line for the regulations for the degree entitled "Interdisciplinary Insights Applied within a Theological Context". The portfolio was extremely wide-ranging and included work principally in the area of theology and secondarily in the areas of philosophy and psychology.


    [The list of previously granted credentials at degree level has been omitted.]


    In addition to previous degree awards and ministerial appointments, the portfolio contained two testimonials from the Bishop of Algoma attesting to his appreciation and high regard for the candidate's work in ministry.


    [The list of publications books, booklets and articles for evaluation has been omitted.]


    The evidence of achievement in line with the Regulations for the granting of the degree of Doctor of Letters by published work was amply displayed. The high level and scope of the work undertaken was clearly evidenced and offered a contribution to scholarship that was both original and unusually broadly-based. It was clear that the candidate had thoroughly absorbed the corpus of existing thought in his chosen areas, and had shown himself to be both a cogent expositor of the scholarship of others and an original thinker in his own right.


    The candidate supplied a detailed exegesis in his critical commentary that considered each submitted work in turn. The examiners greatly appreciated the role of this approach in clarifying the intentions, methodology and context of the works concerned. The candidate also included a list of the libraries which have acquired at least one of his books. He concludes that "their acceptance tells me they determined that my books "have something to say" of academic value to the university community and perhaps to the civic community at large." The examiners endorse this conclusion and commend the work involved accordingly.


    It is invidious and necessarily subjective to single out examples of particular work in a submission that was uniformly impressive, but the three books "A Phenomenological Understanding of Certain Liturgical Texts: The Anglican Collects for Advent and the Roman Catholic Collects for Lent", "Faith, Hope and Charity as Character Traits in Adler's Individual Psychology with Related Essays in Spirituality and Phenomenology" and "The Ecology: A "New to You" View (An Orthodox Theological Ecology)" were held by the examiners to be of particular merit.


    The examiners felt in summary that the submission was of an exemplary quality and reflected exceptional achievement over a sustained period of time. The award of a higher doctorate does not permit the conferral of marks of distinction, but in this case it was felt that the submission was such as to have merited this accolade were it to have been available.


    Andrew Linley, D.D. (Convenor)

    Vice-President and Director of Administrative Affairs
    Percy Dearmer Professor of Liturgical Studies


    John Kersey, Hon.LL.D., Hon.D.Mus., D.D., Ed.D., Ph.D.

    President and Director of Academic Affairs

    David Hume Interdisciplinary Professor


    Kathleen Lucia, Hon.D.Litt.

    Vice- President and Director of External Relations


    All information regarding this Examiners' Report should be addressed to European-American University, 8 Copthall, Roseau Valley, 00152 Commonwealth of Dominica


    Click book cover to find on amazon.

    A PHENOMENOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING OF CERTAIN LITURGICAL TEXTS: The Anglican Collects for Advent and the Roman Catholic Collects for Lent

    This book examines the philosophical premises underlying the language used in liturgical prayers. Scholastic philosophy, the dominant philosophical perspective in the West, is no longer satisfactory for contemporary religious formulation. Phenomenological philosophy appears to be replacing scholastic philosophy in forming and understanding personal and communal religious beliefs. The Collects of the Anglican and Roman Catholic Eucharistic liturgies for Advent and Lent were examined, re-written and "field tested." The focus group, for field testing, was composed of individuals who formally engage in research into spirituality and religious experiences. A Phenomenological Understanding of Certain Liturgical Texts encourages further investigation into the growing use of phenomenology in liturgical understanding based on a discernible trend in this direction.

    Available at but not limited to:

    British Library

    Catholic University of America

    Good Shepherd College, Auckland

    University of Notre Dame

    University of South Africa

    University of London - Heythrop Library

    University of Toronto


    In Co-author: Sheldon William Nicholl. Contribution: Erik Mansager.


    In Part One, Sheldon Nicholl offers an outline of Adler's life and the basics of his Individual Psychology. Allan Savage examines the relationship between Individual Psychology and Pastoral Theology. Special attention is given to the role of cognitive therapy. The cardinal virtues of faith, hope and charity are explored, in some detail, in the context of Adler's Individual Psychology. As character traits they are found to be in accord with the development of Adler's notion of Gemeinschaftsgefühl. Part Two is a compilation of previously published essays in American and British journals. One section consists of a set of six exchanges between Erik Mansager and Allan Savage over the concept of "critical collaboration." Other previously published essays by Savage incorporate Adlerian themes. However, chapter eight is not specifically Adlerian in content. Since the root of Adler's Individual Psychology is anchored in German philosophical thought of the early 1900's this chapter explores notions derived from the later Heidegger and the thought of Husserl.

    Available at but not limited to:

    Harvard University

    Hong Kong Polytechnic University

    University of Alberta

    University of London - Heythrop Library

    University of Manitoba

    University of Notre Dame

    University of South Africa

    University of Sidney

    University of Toronto

    Zentralbibliokhek Zurich

    REFLECTIONS ON THE INTERIOR LIFE: Critical Insights from William Gladstone and George Tyrrell

    [Co-author George Drazenovich] The authors' emphasis is not on arguments for God's existence but on existential questions relevant to the interior life of the individual. These questions relate to holistic issues of modern theology.

    Available but not limited to:

    College of St Benedict/St John's University, USA

    University of South Africa


    This book does not debunk, defend or criticize either philosophy or theology but examines the relationship between philosophy and theology and develops an understanding that gives meaning to human activity.

    Available at but not limited to:

    College of St Benedict/St John's University, USA

    University of South Africa

    University of Victoria, BC


    This short book suggests the need for psychiatrists to work with the knowledge of theology so that mentally ill patients who hold strong religious beliefs may receive appropriate treatment. The work is introduced by discussing the definition of mental illness, the meaning of religious belief in modern society and the view that psychiatry has of it. The Author states that Theology can make a significant contribution to the integration of mental health and religious belief . Reverend Savage promotes the phenomenological approach to understanding religious belief, an approach that concentrates on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience. He claims that secularisation in modern society has caused a fracture between religion and spirituality . He then discusses how society influences the form that religious belief takes and how it decides what is or what is not normal. The author explains how psychiatry today is a combination of psychoanalysis and the chemical management of neurological processes. It is debatable whether general practitioners should prescribe antidepressants without prior consultation with a psychiatrist. The role of the psychiatrist seems to be diminishing, but there is no question that for the near future the psychiatrist will remain a moral agent on behalf of the community ; a position that was traditionally held by priests. Reverend Savage writes in a very learned style and his book may be a useful addition to the bookshelves of undergraduate and practising psychiatrists.

    Available at but not limited to:

    Catholic University of America

    Laval University, QC

    Trinity College - Dublin

    University of Oxford

    University of Toronto


    An Orthodox Theological Ecology

    The ideas presented in this book, in fact, are not new. They represent problems arising from the new orientation of the Western World that followed the Great War of 1914-1918. Much contemporary theology still deals with issues that have been identified as "Modernism" by the ecclesiastical authorities of an earlier day. What is new in this book, however, is a phenomenological theological consideration in the context of a contemporary global ecology, and not in the context of the traditional ecclesiastical politics of Eastern and Western Churches.

    Available at but not limited to:

    Catholic University of America

    KU Leuven - Belgium

    McGill University, QC

    Trinity College - Dublin

    University of London - Heythrop Library

    University of Toronto

    Vancouver School of Theology

    THE CATHOLIC FAITH AND THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF RELIGION: With Particular Attention to the Quebec Experience

    [Co-author Peter Stuart; Foreword Charles Coveney]

    The intent behind this book is to provide grist for the mill for research students and other interested readers. Chapter one, by author Allan Savage, presents an understanding of the social construction of religious activity, which maintains that social construction of religion arises from a dialectical engagement within the world from a phenomenological philosophical point of view. Co-author Peter Stuart presents a classical and traditional point of view, and readers expecting academic accord between the authors will be disappointed. A further rationale for writing this book is that both Savage and Stuart desire to express their personal convictions in the public forum. Both have interests in the ebb and flow of civilization, especially as it pertains to the place of faith, religion, politics, and a variety of social phenomena, including economics, culture, gender, ethnicity, and the family, as well as the ebb and flow of money, power, property, and prestige, as articulated throughout history. They believe that writing about the place of faith and religion in French Canada is crucial if one is to understand the place that this ‘keystone’ civilization occupies within confederation and its enduring ambivalence regarding its belonging, or not, to Canada.

    Available at but not limited to:

    Dominican University College, Ottawa, ON

    Laval University, QC

    Library of Congress

    Memorial University - NFLD

    Trinity College - Dublin

    University of Ottawa

    University of Oxford

    University of Toronto

    University of St Thomas, MN

    THE 'AVANT-GARDE' THEOLOGY OF GEORGE TYRRELL: Its Philosophical Roots Changed My Theological Thinking

    Lambert Academic Press edition of the CreateSpace edition.

    Available at but not limited to:

    Deutsche Nationalbibliothek

    Dominican University College, Ottawa, ON (CreateSpace edition)

    Harvard University (CreateSpace edition)

    Trinity College - Dublin (CreateSpace edition)

    University of Groningen - NL (CreateSpace edition)

    University of Santo Tomas - Manila (CreateSpace edition)

    University of Toronto (CreateSpace edition)

    RECONSTRUCTION IN WESTERN THEISM: A Phenomenological Approach

    [Foreword Peter Groulx; Cover Andree Lemieux]

    Phenomenology continues to present itself within the Roman Catholic Church. However, scholasticism, has always prided itself on using a dialectical method of enquiry to prove various points of theological discussion. Scholastics and phenomenologists could engage in a dialectical discourse and a new 'thesis' could emerge out of this process. See his full review inside. This book is a contribution to the existing body of philosophical and theological thought in the Western Church. It is a personal account, not a historical or chronological one. The approach taken reflects the change in mind of the author from a classical to a contemporary view of theology. His journey suggests that through personal engagement with the spirit of God one may begin to understand religious experience. Among the purposes of theological study is spiritual growth, intellectual understanding being of secondary importance. The deepening of theological understanding has been achieved, not by ecclesiastical officials, but by faithful individuals and sometimes in opposition to official interpretation. Individuals need to accept their responsibility and co-creative relationships with that which is divine. This book passes not only as an informative guide to interpretation of truth but serves as a must read for any serious student of theology, assisting the reader in examining his or her own life in the search for truth.

    Available at but not limited to:

    Ave Maria University, FL

    Catholic Institute of Sydney


    VATICAN II: THEOLOGY IN A SECULAR WORLD: Exploratory Essays in Catholicity [1956-1967]​

    [Forward by Wilson Price]

    Allan Savage seeks to facilitate access to some of the most progressive thoughts and debates that have been expressed within the Roman Catholic Church. The Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism (edited by Christopher Hollis and published by Hawthorn Books, New York, 1966) is composed of scholarly publications of prominent Catholic theologians of the 1950’s. Many of these articles were discussed during the Second Vatican Council which was convened by Pope John XXIII and held from October, 1962 until August, 1965. However, the encyclopedia of 150 volumes covers topics ranging from the meaning of faith and the nature of mysticism to cosmology and sexual morality. The sheer volume of subjects treated and positions taken may discourage the new scholar who faces laborious searches through the two volume index of the encyclopedia.

    Available at but not limited to:

    Atlantic School of Theology

    Tilburg University, NL

    University of Notre Dame

    Vancouver School of Theology

    World Council of Churches Library, CH


    Click the book cover for an Internet Archive .PDF copy of these books.

    Published 2016

    Available at but not limited to:

    University of Groningen - NL

    University of Notre Dame

    University of London - Heythrop Library

    Vancouver School of Theology

    I have written this book as a serious first person reflection on a philosophical topic. I have not made a systematic presentation of ideas or exposé of a body of thought or presented a collection of philosophical ideas. Rather, the book is a brief account of my personal thinking, on the topic of dehellenization, as I remember it, through reading the works of other religious philosophers. Among all the disciplines available to assist theologians in the critical task of collaborative reflection, a scientific philosophy is a most fundamental one. Psychology, sociology, history, anthropology, etc., make a contribution to the task. However, it is only philosophy that is in a uniquely privileged position to undertake the task of theological reflection. This is so since the act of philosophizing upon one's experience is universal in the sense that it constitutes human reflection, whereas other disciplines merely augment human reflection.

    Published 2012

    Available at but not limited to:

    Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (Lambert edition)

    Harvard University

    Trinity College - Dublin

    University of Groningen - NL

    University of Santo Tomas - Manila

    University of Toronto

    My contention for many years has been that theological problems are first, and principally philosophical problems and need to be addressed as such. It is unfortunate that, at this time, in the development of religious ideas in the Western context, the place of philosophy in relation to theology seems to have been usurped to a great extent by sociology and psychology. I hold that the needed scientific philosophy must be a reasoned philosophy, but one that is not necessarily rooted in Greek classical thought.

    Published 2017

    Influenced by the ressourcement partisans of Vatican II as well as by the ‘dehellenization’ of Western philosophy advocated by his teacher and mentor, Leslie Dewart, Savage came to the conclusion that existential phenomenological philosophy provided a method by which his spiritual life was both revitalized and evolutionary. Here he is able to continuously construct his present and future life-world in which are incorporated his relationship with God and with his faith community. (From the Foreword by Patricia Shallow)

    Published 2018

    Available at but not limited to:

    KU Leuven - Belgium

    St Michael's College, University of Toronto

    This book offers a series of philosophical reflections on queer issues particularly for religiously inclined individuals. These reflections are intended to reduce the tension between one's religious faith and one's sexuality which may be in conflict. It can serve as a "self-help" book for gay individuals or anyone interested in Queer or Gay issues from an academic point of view. It is not a commentary on, or investigation of queer sexuality through the social sciences as a clinical phenomenon.

    Published 2009

    Available at but not limited to:

    University of London - Heythrop Library

    University of Notre Dame

    Vancouver School of Theology

    In this book I discuss the philosophical construction of Christian theology from a subjective point of view. I follow an existential approach and rely on my experience to give direction to my thought. Drawing on insights from Dr. Leslie Dewart, I recast the ideas and notions inherited from the Hellenist philosophical tradition and present two "case studies" that illustrate the role of a dehellenized philosophy in the construction of contemporary Christian theology. These two case studies, the first "dehellenization" and the second, "Orthodox Canon Law," are deliberately poles apart to show that phenomenal theological construction which transcends the conditions of time and culture assists in solving these contemporary theological problems.

    Published 2007 (2013)

    Available at but not limited to:

    Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, NY

    Saint Louis University, MO

    [S.T.D. THESIS] Even though philosophy is of secondary importance within Orthodox theology, the philosophical perspective held by the theologian affects the theological interpretation given to experience. The philosophical understanding that supports Western contemporary interpretation and social construction of experience is no longer sustainable given the outdated scholastic perspective that is dominant in the West. I suggest that an alternative view, a phenomenological method of interpretation, is not only more sustainable for Orthodox theological interpretation but that it reflects more accurately the Patristic perspective upon which Orthodox theology depends. To demonstrate this, I investigate two contemporary Orthodox theological issues, Ecology and Canon Law, from a phenomenological perspective. Within these topics I investigate language as participatory, not descriptive; epistemology as being, not knowing; and interpretation as continual, not fixed. For reasons summarized in Part Three of the Dissertation I conclude that a phenomenological philosophical approach is proper for the interpretation of Orthodox theology. Avoiding the scholastic perspective, the phenomenological approach prevents misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Orthodox religious experience. Misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Orthodox religious experience is avoided through the proper social construction of the ecclesia that mediates and provides the locus for Orthodox theological understanding.

    Published 1989 (2013)

    Available at but not limited to:

    Deutsche Nationalbibliothek

    This thesis began by reflecting on the experience of contemporary life – on my experience in life in particular. In my reflection it occurred to me that philosophical thinking was gradually being replaced by psychological thinking. In 1991, while on sabbatical in Dublin, my earlier suspicions were confirmed. During the time I spent there my philosophical and theological thinking underwent a process of becoming more critical and, as a result, became more helpful to me. Through this critical and helpful fine turning, as it were, I came to realize that the relationship between culture and belief was undergoing a re-assessment by philosophers and theologians as the Newtonian understanding of the universe and its derivatives were being replaced by dialectical notions less dependent fixed on traditional philosophical concepts. To me it was becoming clear that psychology was gradually replacing philosophy and this led me to appreciate a new intellectual approach in the interpretation of Catholic theological concepts. I concluded that faith, from an Adlerian perspective may be understood as a pastoral theological attitude arising out of an innate disposition described by Alfred Adler as social interest; Gemeinschaftsgefühl. Faith, traditionally considered as capable of “moving mountains” may now be understood as a creative power exercised by healthy individuals living in community. Similarly, hope finds its realization, not in a future idealized world, but in one’s present existence of a higher social interest cultivated on the part of the individual. Following Adler’s insights, charity being out-ward directed strengthens co-operation and reduces competition among individuals living in community.

    Published 2010

    Available at but not limited to:

    Catholic University of America

    KU Leuven - Belgium

    Trinity College - Dublin

    University of Aberdeen

    University of London - Heythrop Library

    University of Notre Dame

    University of Toronto

    Phenomenological Philosophy and Reconstruction in Western Theism


    An earlier non-expanded edition of RECONSTRUCTION IN WESTERN THEISM: A Phenomenological Approach


    In this book I discuss the philosophical construction of Christian theology from a subjective point of view. I follow an existential approach and rely on my experience to give direction to my thought. Drawing on insights from Dr. Leslie Dewart, I recast the ideas and notions inherited from the Hellenist philosophical tradition and present two "case studies" that illustrate the role of a dehellenized philosophy in the construction of contemporary Christian theology. These two case studies, the first "dehellenization" and the second, "Orthodox Canon Law," are deliberately poles apart to show that phenomenal theological construction which transcends the conditions of time and culture assists in solving these contemporary theological problems.


    Reviews are arranged alphabetically by author.


    Basinger, David & Randall Beckford, James A. Botham, Noel ● Bradley, Ian Brooks, David ● Buermeyer, Laurence Burber, Martin Burkle-Young, Francis A. Cahill, Thomas Caley, David Chittister, Joan Cornwell, John ● Cozzens, Donald ● Cummings, Dorothy ● Daniel-Rops, Henri ● Davis, Claire (Henderson) ● De Satge, John Dewart, Leslie ● Dwyer, Jean Marie ● Fay, Terence J. Fearnow, Mark ● Ferencz, Nicholas ● Gardner, Martin Georgiou, S.T. ● Gilreath, Shannon Griffith, Brian ● Herbert, David ● Jorgenson, René Kaufmann, Walter/ Martin Buber ● Kelly, Anthony Bernard Kersey, John Kwant, Remy C. Leonard, Ellen ● Levi, Peter ● Manning, Stephen T. McLaughlin, Anne Kathleen ● Morrocco, Mary Murry, Gilbert ● Newell, Philip ● Nolan, Albert ● O’Murchu, Diamuid Pungente, John Sabatier, August ● Salzman. T. A./ T.M. Kelly/ J.J. O’keefe ● Shelley, Christopher Sinasac, Joseph Skrbina, David Sparks, David ● Tanner, Norman ● Theron, Daniel J. Thornton, Martin Trudinger, Paul ● Tyrrell, George Wells, David ● Williams, Shirley

    BASINGER, David, & Randall Basinger (1986) - PHILOSOPHY AND MIRACLE: The Contemporary Debate

    This book is an assessment of the opinions of philosophers in the analytical tradition. After defining what is understood by “miracle” the authors go on to ask questions about the term from historical, scientific and epistemological perspectives. The chapters are brief and open with a series of questions which are cumulative and the whole process concludes with a chapter entitled, Should Theists expect Miraculous Divine Intervention? They answer that “it would appear then that our discussion of miracles has left classical theists with a dilemma" (p. 117).

    BECKFORD, James (2005) - Religion in Prison: 'Equal Rites' in a Multi-Faith Society

    The authors are sociologists with theological insight. To my mind, as a theologian, this is the strength of the book. Beckford and Gilliat present a clear understanding of multi-faith and multicultural as terms which define their area of investigation within the context of the United Kingdom. But their inquiry is very useful to prison chaplaincy services outside the U.K. as well as to government ministries of health and social services. To my mind, it is significant that the authors discuss religious activity in terms of "religious and pastoral care" throughout the book except in Chapter 7, Prison Chaplaincy in the United States, where they discuss "religious and spiritual care." The introduction of a "spiritual" notion seems to be a North American phenomenon. Within an historical perspective the authors remind us of the unique Christian contribution to role of chaplaincy in a prison setting. They suggest, however, that future models of governance will need to take into account an increasingly multi-faith and multicultural context in setting terms of reference for religious and spiritual care in prisons. I would make the same argument for all government regulated health facilities. Their last chapter, Conclusion: State, Church and Diversity, they make the interesting observation that non-Christian religious leaders appreciate the efforts made by the established Church of England on their behalf. They write that "the evidence from our study shows that leading representatives of some faith traditions would like the opportunity to speak for themselves and to be heard in the corridors of power without wishing to appear ungrateful for all offers of Anglican support or mediation. For the same reason it may be true that members of other faith communities prefer to live in a country where at least one religious organisation is established in law, even if it does not represent their particular faith, rather than to be citizens of a secular state" (p. 218). In a loosely parallel context Bradley, in his book, "God Save the Queen: The Spiritual Dimensions of the Monarchy", has noted a similar attitude. "It is interesting that just as some of the most enthusiastic proponents of church establishment are to be found among the non-Christian faith communities...so the supreme governorship has found some of its most fervent defenders among non-Anglicans..." (Bradley, Ian. 2002:177).

    BOTHAM, Noel (2002) - Margaret: The Last Real Princess

    I hesitated in deciding to review this book. Is it worth drawing the public's attention to a book that is, at best, descriptive journalism which promises more than it delivers? Only after reading the book did I acquaint myself with the author's journalistic reputation which helped explain some of my original disappointment with the book. As an academic, I cannot recommend this book to any serious reader interested in matters concerning the Windsor family. The book lacks proper endnotes and citations. Botham rarely identifies his sources but chooses convincing descriptive labels that suggest authoritative individuals with first hand knowledge. I am disappointed in Botham's "soap opera" treatment of a topic that is of genuine interest to many in the British Commonwealth. In short, save your money!

    BRADLEY, Ian (2002) - God Save The Queen

    Ian Bradley invites us to think about the religious basis of the monarchy. He is faithful to this theme throughout the book. He speaks of recovery of the metaphysical imagination and "the revaluing of religion in contemporary Britain" (p.xix). His approach, however, has merit for revaluing (the Christian) religion outside Britain. In the chapters entitled, "Monarchy in the Old Testament" and "Monarchy in the New Testament", he offers a thorough treatment of the relationship to kingship of covenant spirituality with its roots in the scriptures. He makes the pertinent observation that "the kingdom theme in the New Testament has proved an even more problematic and controversial subject than that of monarchy in the Old testament" (p.25). To his credit he does not shy away from nor gloss over the problem areas in this relationship. Observations such that the visit of the magi places "no imperative on earthly rulers to surrender their crowns" and "Jesus does not reject the people's hailing of him as a king, but he does reject their expectation of what a king does" are typical of Bradley's insightful theological interpretation. He draws on a wide array of appropriate sources, academic and popular, but always with reference to his theme of relating spirituality and the British monarchy throughout the latter's history. As a theologian, I found his discussion about the spiritual significance to the Crown of Princess Diana's life and death enlightening and encouraging. From my perspective, living in Canada, he interprets her life and the public response to her death in a way that is not yet appreciated nor understood in North America. In contrast to Western postmodern self-centredness, I think that Bradley's assessment of the current debates about the monarchy are most informative, pertinent and significant. They offer a theological contribution to the discussion about the future role of the monarchy in Britain and on the world stage. Bradley notes that "theologically informed contributions to the debate on the future of the monarchy are few and far between" (p.180). His observation that debates about the future of the monarchy in contemporary Britain being conducted "outside the churches and the university theology departments, and in overwhelmingly secular terms" (p. 181), reminds me of the remark by a North American theologian. "The theologians have moved increasingly into the secular academy, where they cannot use a church or even the church as an automatic reference group." (Marty, M., 1980. "North America: The empirical understanding of religion and theology," in Eliade, M & Tracey, D (eds), What is Religion? An Inquiry for Christian Theology. Concilium 136). With his book Bradley redresses the lack of theological appreciation of the monarchy to our benefit.

    BROOKS, David ​(2015) - The Road to Character

    I was asked by a friend to read this book, and if I did not want to read the whole thing, just read the sections on vocation, sin and St Augustine, he suggested. He was interested in my assessment of Brooks’ understanding of these sections.


    This review reflects my reaction, (not response), to this book. The sections he recommended reiterated what I had learned from previous studies. (Something similar often happens when I watch TV journalism news stories.) The fact is that Brooks’ treatment of the road to character did not deeply engage my attention. I found myself frequently saying, “so….,” as I continued to read through the book. The casual identification of secular and religious notions gave me the impression that the author believes that one system of belief is just as good as another. This annoyed me. I felt that he was suggesting that the psychological fiction of the journalist and the reality of God work equally affectively. To my mind, his rhetoric has become more important than the content. If there is such a thing as “secular theology” this books leans in that direction.


    In the Introduction the author gives his reason for writing the book: “I wrote it, to be honest, to save my own soul” (p.xiii). Thus, those individuals seeking some spiritual satisfaction in a worldly context may find a degree of success in the book. The book is a great read for individuals who have been formed in contemporary Western culture and who cannot read critically; but, rather, read for a “feel good“ experience or some sort of other cultural escapism rendering no sense of depth. That is to say, I did not find much of enduring value in the book. Speculating on the book’s shelf life I wonder just how long the book will seem refreshing to readers. How soon will it become stale and flat as is the fate of most journalistic-style writing?


    But, to answer my friend’s questions; on vocation I favour the understanding that a vocation involves a “subject to subject” relationship, not a “subject to object” relationship as Brooks appears to accept. Creation calls us to nothing, the creator does. We simply react to creation through good or ill stewardship. On sin, I agree with Brooks that the word has to be reclaimed in Western culture and modernized as we engage our own moral struggles. On St Augustine, there is such a large body of commentary on his works, I would recommend reading Augustine first, then, consult his commentators. Finally, as Brooks closes his writing he says, “The good news of this book is that it okay to be flawed, since everyone is” (p.268). But, in contrast to his perspective, I asked myself whether or not religion or a religious perspective is a necessary component on the road to character formation.


    As Louise Anthony notes the secular life can provide rewards as great and rich as those claimed by people living a religious life. Further, transcendent experiences are possible, she notes, without transcendent beings, through a loving and open refocusing of attention toward other people. See her Philosophers without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life, (p. xi). For me, Brooks’ book was not a great read.

    BUERMEYER, Laurence (1924) - The Aesthetic Experience

    Buermeyer writes in the Preface "that in the account given of the way in which human nature enters art, and of its transformation in the process, some light not altogether familiar is to be found." Human nature upon entering into art begins by the disentanglement of our aesthetic interest from the practical, moral, scientific and religious concerns of life. Generally, people lack training in this task, the author maintains. He approaches his task systematically beginning with the raw material of experience, i.e., instinct, followed by the role of intelligence in choosing among instincts, and the ability of intelligence to present an aesthetic quality to life. He maintains that general principles of aesthetics must be applied to each of the arts. Hence, art is creative, not "phantasty-building." Art is discussed in reference to religion, where religion is understood as an exercise of human powers without reference to the constitution of the world or the origin and destiny of humanity. Art is not a science since a scientific law attempts to show a single principle or formula that operates under many diverse conditions. Art requires the cooperation of other motives than science alone. After completing this "rigorous read" and considering the aesthetic factors that go into the making of an artist the reader may discover something not altogether familiar in his or her own experience.

    BUBER, Martin (2002) - Between Man and Man

    This is a book on phenomenological anthropology which aims to replace the classical philosophy of Aristotle and Aquinas in attempting to answer the newly disclosed problematic of man. Post-Aristotle and Post-Aquinas Western humanity, (i.e. modernity), faces a crises in life of feeling no longer “at home in the universe.” Phenomenological anthropology is a Continental philosophical approach to the question. This collection of essays reveals the development of Buber’s attitude and stance in investigating this question under various headings such as Dialogue, The Single One, and the Education and Man. Classical idealism finds no place in Buber’s thinking. He considers phenomena as giving the data within which existential relationships are forged. Buber brought together these essays in connection with his book, “I and Thou,” and “with particular regards to needs of our time” (ix). It is through the relationship of man and man that the essence of humanity is grasped, and not ideally so, Buber maintains.

    BURKLE-YOUNG, Francis A. (2001) - Passing the Keys: Modern Cardinals, Conclaves and the Election of the Next Pope

    This book is written in a readable style which is probably due to the author's skills as a journalist. To my mind, the effort Burkle-Young makes at writing this narrative produces a product typical of the information age. This is a weakness as well as a strength depending on the reader's interest level and intent. The book seemed to supply more information than I knew what to do with. I found myself asking, "so what?" on more than one occasion and losing interest in the subject matter under discussion. The book probably would provide an entertaining read for the theologian but it does not seem to afford much theological insight. To my mind, the book has its place in the public forum of religious information. I have not placed this book on any bibliographies of theological courses I teach. Burkle-Young is correct when he writes in the Foreword that his book "...is a narrative with a historical perspective, and should not be regarded as an academic work..."

    CAHILL, Thomas (1995) - How the Irish Saved Civilization

    Although intended by the author as a history, I intentionally read this book as a philosopher. From an historical point of view, much of the content that Cahill presents was known to me already through courses in philosophy/theology in my seminary years. Of philosophical interest to me in Cahill’s writing however, albeit as speculation at this point, is the acknowledgement of the waning of classical philosophy, (philosophy that the Irish saved), and the ascendency of a phenomenological philosophical approach to life that is waxing, (but without Irish assistance?). Cahill hints at the possibility of such a transition when he writes, “The Greek approach to thought was now almost completely lost. Baptism, though it had connected the Irish to a larger world, had hardly made them Athenians….The intellectual disciplines of distinction, definition, and dialectic that had once been the glory of men like Augustine were unobtainable by readers of the Dark Ages, whose apprehension of the world was simple and immediate, framed by myth and magic. A man no longer subordinated one thought to another with mathematic precision; instead, he apprehended similarities and balances, types and paradigms parallels and symbols. It was a world not of thoughts, but of images” that he experienced (p. 203). With the Irish, and others, no longer thinking as Athenians (classical Greeks) the way is open to think in a new philosophical manner. Cahill sees hope in future development in technology, medicine, communications and economics, but not in a contemporary approach to philosophy, it seems. Yet, it must be a philosophy appropriate to our age that lays the foundation for Malraux’s spiritual observation, (as noted by Cahill), to take root. I wonder if, having saved civilization, as custodians of the classical past will the Irish undertake a new role as architects for a phenomenological philosophical future.

    CALEY, David (2005) - The Rivers North of the Future

    I was given this book to read by a postgraduate student-friend whom I had taught. He inscribed it, “an excellent volume, enjoy!” The book had remained on my bookshelf for three years before I got around to reading it. Interestingly, in the early 1970’s during my undergraduate years at the University of Toronto I had been exposed to the religious and sociological views of Illich, (either through courses by Gregory Baum or Leslie Dewart, I actually forget which), and found his views to be of peripheral significance. Today, however, I find that his perspective has informative value and is worth considering from an academic and philosophical point of view.


    Cayley obviously thinks so, as well. Cayley wants to get at the bottom of Illich’s view that the corruption of the best is the worst and selects Illich’s religious writings to test this thesis. Religious institutions that regulate Revelation are an evil in Illich’s view. That such regulation, when it impedes personal choice, is an evil that slowly grows in human consciousness. According to Illich we choose our relationships with others and any institution that impedes our ability to choose is corrupt to some degree.


    Cayley gives us 44 pages of Illich’s background by which he accounts for Illich’s understanding of the deformation of faith. Illich became perplexed in his theological studies by the notion of Revelation as it was theologically understood in a fallen world which was governed through various processes of institutionalization. Also, Illich was not a supporter of Vatican II and he believed the priestly office should be kept separate from civil politics.


    He addressed his concern via religious studies, rather than strict theology. In addressing his concern as a theologian he would have acquired an institutional authority, he maintained. He is an historian and reminds the reader frequently of his status in this book. Illich maintained that he was not a theologian, yet, in truth, he discussed historical records from a theological perspective, and not simply religious studies. (I suspect that some who have read the book missed this point.)


    This book is worth reading, but I caution the reader to distinguish between the faith of an individual Christian and institutionalized Christianity. It is the latter that Illich criticizes. Yet, there is much here, when properly understood, to encourage an individual’s faith.

    CALEY, David (1997) - Expanding Prison: The Crisis in Crime and Punishment and the Search for Alternatives

    Cayley doubts that prisons are instruments of correction. Like all institutions they grow to a size which frustrates their original intention. To illustrate this he cites national (Canadian) and international examples of how prisons currently work. Cayley understands justice as peace making and incorporates into his arguments insights from critical thinkers whose notions are significant to prison reform. We are social beings prior to understanding ourselves as individuals, he notes, and suggests that a moral understanding of good and evil is necessary to obtain justice. He writes (p. 85) that "In a world without good, evil is secularized as crime." and "Justice without a sense of the good is darkened." Cayley offers excellent historical insights into the relationship between prison rehabilitation and Christianity that have implications for the future direction of the treatment of prisoners. The notion of 'truth as relational' (p. 323), which he attributes to Martin Buber, reveals a phenomenological understanding of justice. This understanding contrasts with the classical ideas of Aristotle and Aquinas which currently underpin concepts of justice. Anyone interested in the alternatives available for prison reform or the religious and pastoral care in prisons will find a wealth of information in Cayley's book.

    CHITTISTER, Joan (2011) - The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life

    This is truly a postmodern piece of literature. Postmodern themes are seen not in its content, but in its construction, that is, the printed artistic form which reflects the author's style of thinking, which is not classically expressed. The printed text, arranged in "sense lines" reminds me of the layout of the poetic passages in John's Gospel and the format of the Roman lectionary designed to be read aloud. Chittister's intent is to answer the postmodern phenomenon of "too many choices" in life. Within classical Christendom too many choices was not the case. Then there was only one choice. The Kingdom of God was easily seen as co-extensive with the Church and all spirituality reflected that singular point of view.


    It is from within that point of view that the traditional monastery was founded. The distinction and subsequent separation of the sacred and secular has changed all that. The author's thoughts about contemporary monastic community, which reflects the experience of the individual in postmodern society, are contrary to the traditional understanding. Not Christendom, the traditional concept, but Christianity, the postmodern concept, is the basis of contemporary experience for reflection and the formation of the monastery of the heart. Not the objective monastery built of bricks and stone, but the subjective monastery of the heart of flesh is the locale of a meaningful life and spiritual growth. No ideology, Christian or otherwise, is presented in this book. Ideologies are classical expressions of public understanding. Rather, a template, or frame of personal reference, is suggested as a guide to the complexities of life as the "old ways" no longer serve satisfactorily the contemporary life. With no Christian ideology to interfere, Chittister's approach is able to appeal to both believer and non-believer alike. Those seeking personal meaning in life, not in an institution, but through a movement of the soul, as it were, will appreciate her approach. A final postmodern characteristic reflected in the book is the identification of the monastery as "a new movement for a new world" found at [...]. In contrast to the classical monastery, a physical institution which was designed to turn the heart towards God, the postmodern monastery is "of the heart" desiring to invite God in. In this way a community of seekers gathers, with a common goal, which is the transcendental meeting with God in their daily lives, wherever they are lived out. I dare suggest that the "third force" of humanistic psychology popular not all that long ago, that characterized the human potential movement, is at the root of Chittister's efforts within Benedictine spirituality to establish the monastery of the heart.

    CHITTISTER, Joan (2010) - Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is

    The context of this book, more than the content of this book, determines the focus of this review. That such a spiritual self-help book, proffered by well-known ecclesial spokespersons, has made an appearance in our day indicates the demise of the traditional community of the Christian faithful in the experience of many contemporary Westerners. The authors present a series of meditations on matters mostly outside the traditional understanding of the Church. They attend to their secular experience as revealing the presence of God in the "market place of spiritualities" (p. viii). To my mind their meditations are for the "unchurched" and, affirm all that is positive within human life even when experience suggests the contrary. While not a book for novices in the spiritual life, the meditations offered constitute sort of a "starting point" for spiritually inclined but, not necessarily religious, persons seeking a deeper understanding of hope than is currently felt in contemporary Western culture. Like all meditations the thoughts presented are not ends in themselves but, rather, provide the means to an end. Admitting to a monastic mindset, the authors reflect on their experiences and recognize that such an approach and stance offers in this life the opportunity for genuine praise and gratitude, or a contemporary "alleluia for all that is" - the Church notwithstanding! From this perspective, this is book reflects the current state of much of Western spirituality and is truly a sign of the times.

    CORNWELL, John (2002) - Breaking Faith

    This book reports on the contemporary state of the institutional church. It includes the author's own confessional statements which help us to understand his perspective and criticisms of the Roman Church. It is a good assessment of the Church without the sensational overtones which I have so often found in books written by journalists examining the Roman Catholic faith. Cornwell introduces the notions and issues that surfaced at the time of the so-called Modernist Crisis. He does so wisely and reveals that his personal convictions are in sympathy with the thinking of these theologians. This gives the work philosophical credibility as opposed to mere opinion. The following passage, found on pp 215/216, is typical of the observations and insight Cornwell shares with the reader throughout the book. "Pluralist, multicultural societies are a fact, and Catholics have to live in such societies by according more than mere tolerance for the convictions of their fellow citizens. After all, Catholics expect the same respect of others. Moreover, how can the world avoid destroying itself if its religionists cannot find a way of living together in harmony?...But Christian theologians rightly object that theirs is a Trinitarian God, a God that essentially expresses the truth of creation and salvation, and which is profoundly distinct from that of the God of Israel, or of Islam, or the Gods of the Hindus, or Buddhism. All the same, brave attempts have been made by Catholic theologians to find a basis for genuine respect." To my mind, in our time, a basis for such genuine respect may be found via an existential philosophy with roots in the thinking of the "modernist" theologians. I recommend this book to any serious philosopher or theologian.

    COZZENS, Donald (2000) - The Changing Face of the Priesthood: A Reflection on the Priest's Crisis of Soul

    Cozzens wrote: "The very face of the priesthood - the external cues and customs, the internal hallmarks of identity and function - seemed to be changing..." (P. ix). I read this book seeking these "internal hallmarks" and found them most clearly expressed in Part I. In Part I Cozzens defines his topic for reflection, that is, the human transformation necessary for a priest of Jesus Christ, and then he turns his attention to external cues and customs current in the U. S. Catholic Church. Only after reading Cozzens' book (twice) did I read the customer reviews. To my mind, the reviews written by DelMonico, irisharsh, Merryman and Zee grasped the deeper significance of Cozzens' book for the spiritual life. This is, in fact, primarily a book on the deeper concept of spirituality, not a book on the sociological or psychological insights of the spiritual life. The enduring value of this book is that Part I touches on the human psyche and pneuma and effectively introduces the principle of gratia praesupponit naturam (grace builds on nature). In this context, I found it helpful to read Cozzens' book in light of James Forsyth's (1997) work, "Faith and Human Transformation: A Dialogue Between Psychology and Theology", which thoroughly elaborates Aquinas's second principle gratia perficit naturam (grace perfects nature). Cozzens' book is about the Catholic Church in the United States which provides the sociological and psychological context for his external cues. However, to my mind, the book's fundamental concern is the appropriate understanding of spirituality of the part of the individual seeking to discern the internal hallmarks of Christian identity.

    CUMMINGS, Dorothy (2010) - Seraphic Singles: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Single Life

    In Seraphic Singles, Novalis, (2010), Dorothy Cummings, offers the reader insights that emerged from her Internet blog. The sub-title, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Single Life, is what the book is truly about. Dorothy writes directly from her life's experiences, some positive, some negative but all teaching a lesson in life. She identifies situations and events that any Catholic familiar with the Catholic Church prior to the Vatican Council may say, "I can relate to that!" Dorothy almost became a nun but after "mediating between two of my very favourite nuns, and all I can say is, the grass isn't greener on the nun side of the Single fence" (p.35). Dorothy is not your average single girl of today, however. She is theologically educated and is well aware of being raised in a Catholic Christian sub-culture from which she is emerging. She shares with the reader her life's experience in a readable and credible way that invites the reader to assess her, or his, own life. Yes, she does have insights from which men may learn and confidently says so. For those Catholics born and raised after Vatican II who read her book will realize that there is nothing truly new under the sun. Sex, rock and roll, its all been done before.

    DANIEL-ROPS, Henri - Twentieth Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism

    Many of the articles in this encyclopedia are the result of the change in direction in Catholic theological thinking that occurred as a result of Vatican Council II (1962-1965). For the most part these volumes reflect a transition period in the minds of their authors and in the daily experience of the Church. The value in consulting this series today is that we may be able to discern, through comparison to our present situation, where the theologians have succeeded and where they have failed in advancing theological understanding. Each of the contributors has had a career which was lived out in the Catholic Church as it moved from a “pre-conciliar” to a “conciliar” theology. As with any interim literature some contributions were written on the eve of the Council and some after, thus they do not all necessarily reflect the direction in which the Council was headed. The Encyclopedia is an English translation of articles that were written in the authors’ first language, that is, French, Italian or German. For the theologian, scholar, historian, sociologist, or philosopher, the series is an excellent point of departure to investigate the inauguration of the theological mind of Vatican II. To promote interest in the topics of the encyclopedia, I have written a handbook, as I call it, based on the Encyclopedia which identifies at least one important theological perspective from each volume, (Vatican II: Theology in a Secular World – Exploratory Essays in Catholicity 1956-1967).

    DAVIS, [Henderson] Claire (2007) - After the Church

    In "grappling with the meaning of life in a Western post-Christian world" (Rosemary Ruether), Claire's short work is not to be mistaken for an average self-help book. It is an example of contemporary practice of theologizing "outside the church," as she admits. Though short, the book contains pithy, insightful comments arising out of personal experience. The book gives the impression that almost every word is weighed. The enduring value of this work, to my mind, is that Claire invites us to follow her parents' decision in our respective lives. "They stopped reading the story and stepped into the book" to find a new imaging of God. My initial reading was completed in one afternoon. However, the more enriching reading followed over the period of a few days. I had purchased the book on speculation that I might gain some insight into her father's theological understanding since I am doing research for a book on the theological similarities and differences among Charles Davis, Leslie Dewart and Gregory Baum. I read this book as a philosopher, but not presupposing any particular school, ie, Thomist, Cartesian, Hegelian, etc. so as not to prejudice my appreciation of her perspective. Were I to discern a philosophy underpinning her thinking, I would identify it as holistic phenomenology. Whether one's point of departure in reading the book is as a philosopher, a theologian, a social critic, or a wounded soul, there are brief personal statements throughout the book that reveal a great deal about her fidelity to revelation in relating her growth through a variety of human personal experiences. If I have understood her correctly, I draw the conclusion that for some of us we may have to "leave the church" in order to "enter the Church" and leave the guilt behind.

    DeSATGE, John ( 1981) - Peter and the Single Church

    The author classes himself as an Evangelical Anglican writing 15 years after Vatican II. He has written a balanced book evaluating the theological contribution of Vatican II to ecumenical discussions. He seeks to identify an ecclesiology that could be acceptable to any main stream Christian denomination. In short, he suggests that a Petrine ministry properly understood could permit an Anglican presence within the Roman unity.


    He laments theology being put on the “back burner,” as it were, in favour of historical and sociological claims. However, he asks the questions: “The institution [of the Papacy] is at once political and spiritual, but which is at its heart? Will its inmost secrets open to a theological key, or should we pick the lock with sociology?” (p. 44). In entering discussions on disputed theological territory he advises that we should “refocus and probably redefine the matter before considering afresh our attitude towards it” (60). To my mind, 50 years after Vatican II and with hindsight, I suggest that he concluded his study on a note of optimism, yet unrealized. However, he did admit that his treatment of the topic is not the final say on the matter.


    In reading this book I recalled the positions of earlier theological thinkers such as, George Tyrrell, Marshall McLuhan and Ivan Illich, who addressed many of the same topics.

    DEWART, Leslie (1970) - Religion, Language, and Truth

    The gravest religious crisis of the Catholic Church has to do with the epistemological, metaphysical and other philosophical questions that underlie theological and religious disputes. What are merely philosophical views have often been invested with the certitude of faith and the authority of revelation, according to Dewart. Our language, philosophical and otherwise, is creative of our human selfhood rather than illustrative of the world’s objectivity, he maintains. As a result, humanity must participate more consciously and deliberately in its own self-fashioning than has been possible or necessary in the past. Within this process of self-fashioning we may take advantage of the growth of human experience in order to improve upon our concept of God, and subsequently the understanding of religion, language and truth.

    DEWART, Leslie (1969) - The Foundations of Belief

    Will Christianity undertake to direct its own evolution or continue to evolve at an obsolete rate and in a pre-conscious mode? This is the question Dewart addresses in this work. Within the order of Christian belief he investigates what has been changed by the phenomenological philosophical approach to belief and what has not yet been changed by it. He argues that the reshaping of the future is but the other side of the past. Hellenization shapes the future, whereas, dehellenization reshapes the future. It is only after we have learned to define ourselves in terms of our consciousness that we can appreciate the logic of the process by which we became conscious of ourselves, he maintains. Defining ourselves in terms of our consciousness is achieved through a process of dehellenization. The dehellenization of Christian belief does not mean the rejection of the Hellenist past. The term is not simply negative; it is not un-hellenization. In short, the task to which philosophy is called today is to set dehellenized foundations that transcend metaphysical philosophy, varieties of which can still be recognized in our contemporary belief systems.

    DEWART, Leslie (1963) - Christianity and Revolution: The Lesson of Cuba

    This is Dewart’s first book which is actually an essay in political philosophy addressing the relationship between Church and State. According to Dewart, the lesson to be learned from a theological perspective given the relationship as experienced in pre-revolutionary Cuba is that, over time the Church may not remain spiritually relevant to the faithful as the traditional relationship between Church and State begins to end. Our political institutions, civil and ecclesiastical, make adaptations in light of our experience but at an obsolete rate of development, Dewart maintains. Whatever political order we determine for the future must be grounded in our social and historical freedom. Whether in Church or in State affairs we cannot avoid ruling ourselves except reasonably, humanely, and autonomously. We must not fall into the philosophical trap of trying to figure out a preconceived or predetermined order, such as the ancient Greek philosophers did, whether social, political, economic or personal. In this book Dewart sets out his initial reflections that will eventually form the basis of the phenomenological and existential thinking characteristic of all his writings.

    DEWART, Leslie (1954) - Development of Karl Pearson's Scientific Philosophy

    I followed courses from Leslie Dewart (1922-2009) during my undergraduate years at U. of T. and subsequently followed his writing career. He was a profound writer and to appreciate his critical philosophical approach requires discipline and perseverance on the part of the reader. In short, his works are not an easy read, including his thesis. Not to be under-appreciated in his thesis is the religious aspect of Pearson’s thought which Dewart developed with regard to Pearson’s scientific philosophy. Dewart writes: “It is plain to Pearson that the traditional forms of Christianity are not the full answer to man’s religious needs; at least not when the religious experience which gives the ‘visions of man’s dignity’ has been lived intensely.” This theme is evident throughout Dewart’s investigation. He concludes that the development of Pearson’s scientific philosophy arrives at a point whereby philosophy is in a position to judge science, rather than science judge philosophy. The text which I read for this review is Leslie Dewart’s PhD thesis, (University of Toronto, 1954), published by General Books, Memphis, TN. It was an electronically scanned text and does contain many annoying typos. This, however, is acknowledged by the publisher. I have not seen the edition by Nabu Press.

    DEWART, Leslie (1966) - Future of Belief: Theism in a World Come of Age

    As an undergraduate in 1969 I was warned that this book was a difficult read. It was true then and it is true today. Dewart does not engage in any "pop" presentation of ideas but rather leads the reader on a rigorously exciting examination of an evolution in critical thinking. Dewart intends this book for those interested in "the problem of integrating Christian theistic belief with the everyday experience of contemporary man" (p.7). He is concerned mainly with the problem of everyday experience as understood within the Roman Catholic perspective at the time of the Second Vatican Council. The context in which Dewart writes reveals the issues and passions of the day. This is not a limitation. Although, not intended as a book on pastoral theology I recommend that the last chapter be read as such. "The Development of Christian Theism" has insights on self-conscious development of the Christian understanding of God that should be of interest to any critically thinking pastor of our day and age. Our conception of God is challenged by secular thought which fails to appreciate the Hellenist background to much doctrine and dogma. Dewart has presented, from this reviewer's perspective, an excellent academic understanding of the problem. He is able to help one to think one's way out of that Hellenist cultural setting and remain faithful to the truth it has expressed. Not to be overlooked are the copious footnotes in the text which indicate the seriousness and depth of Dewart's thinking. They are of exceptional use in helping the contemporary individual in understanding the evolutionary characteristic of interpretive thought. Further, these notes provide a much needed corrective to the misunderstood and misrepresented classical ideas of antiquity often encountered popular religious books. I would not recommend the book for the average reader, nor the lazy reader. In fact, this is a painful book, not so much to read, but to put into practice. It calls the reader to a future self-confidence based on a self-conscious awareness of who we are and what we have the potential to become. Understanding Vatican II as a Christian watershed, Dewart writes: "We now stand on a very uncertain terrain. We are justified in exploring it solely for the attempt's possible heuristic value" (p. 173).

    DEWART, Leslie (1989) - Evolution and Consciousness: The Role of Speech in the Origin and Development of Human Nature

    In his insightful review, Gregory Nixon states: 'Evolution and Consciousness was written before the consciousness studies boom of the 90's (which continues in this decade) but it was a mistake for it to languish so ignored. Much of the confusion of more recent writings on consciousness could have been avoided if the lessons of this book had been given a wider reading.' I agree. However, this book is more than an academic work on the contemporary understanding of consciousness. It probes into philosophical thought as far back as the Hellenists. Further, an appreciation of the profound thought in this book awaits anyone who is familiar with Leslie Dewart's earlier writings. Throughout his earlier philosophical works Dr Dewart had embarked on an intellectual process of 'dehellenization' which I suggest culminates in Evolution and Consciousness. Dehellenization is a positive process. It is not Un-hellenization, a negative process. For Leslie Dewart dehellenization is an evolutionary process within modern Western philosophy which meets satisfactorily the needs of the contemporary critical thinker. Given a good grasp of Dewart's notion of dehellenization, then, the reader will discover in this book a clear and useful presentation of the fruit of Dewart's philosophical thought for contemporary philosophy. From my perspective, however, serious Western readers, (the non-serious reader will likely abandon the book), will most likely experience a rise in their philosophical anxiety level. This is a common experience as one moves from a scholastic to phenomenological philosophical perspective. The deconstruction of one’s inherited way of thinking, as Dewart labels his dehellenization, is a threatening activity. As an invitation to philosophical growth, Dewart's dehellenization is the conscious creation of the future of belief within an evolutionary context. Linguistic skills and notions evolve within our human capacity for self-reflection. The book, in short, is an examination of evolutionary philosophical maturity within our contemporary western experience.

    DWYER, Jean Marie (2011) - The Sacred Place of Prayer: The Human Person Created in God’s Image

    This work lives up to its intent to be solid food for the soul. We are encouraged to pray, not to change God's mind, but rather prepare ourselves to receive the fullness of divine life in Christ. The desert tradition of praying is presented to us from within Dominican tradition of community life. This tradition avails itself of the contributions to prayer that scripture makes. Such as being created in the likeness and image of God which is one of the major facts we must recognize in our prayer life according to Dwyer. Further, to my pleasant surprise, Dwyer begins Part I of her book with consideration of the philosopher Aristotle. It is enheartening to see philosophy return to its proper place in assisting us in our spiritual life. Aristotle guides us with the notion that everything exists with a purpose, a virtuous purpose in a divine-human relationship - and this from a pagan philosopher!


    Beyond Aristotle, Dwyer moves to the treasures of the Old Testament. (However, I would have appreciated the term Hebrew Scriptures instead of Old Testament.) Now begins an inward journey according to her which ultimately leads to the outward journey that brings us to fulfillment in Christ. Christian mystical experience is addressed in chapter three in the person of Catherine of Siena. This chapter brings Part I of the book to an end with the general conclusion that human passions properly understood prepare the way for a transcendent prayer life to begin in us.Part II begins by revealing in us a process of "becoming" as the place of prayer. The Desert Fathers guide the reader here by their example of the disciplined life. Such discipline is a great asset for us even today. Then follows additional examples, traditional and modern, that point the way to finding our centre of prayer. This section also contains, at the end of each chapter, short practical suggestions to enhance growth in the spiritual life.Part III begins with a reflection on Mary and her place in the new creation. This chapter is, in fact, Christ-centred and culminates with an understanding of the human person created in God's image. That is to say, from a Christ-centered perspective, we bring God into our daily routine in which to pray is to live in a new way. Finally, the appendix is a little treasure in itself but I leave that discovery to the reader.

    FAY, Terence J. (2002) - A History of Canadian Catholics: Gallicanism, Romanism, and Canadianism

    Fay provides a good orientation within his subject matter for the reader and new student. Selecting from published materials he presents a chronology of the growth of the institutional Catholic presence in Canada by assessing, analyzing and interpreting of information in an ecclesiastical framework. He says that "many colleagues and students have let me know that an outline history of the Canadian Catholicism is needed now" (p.ix). The title, A History of Canadian Catholics, however, led me to expect a disclosure of some personal thoughts or motivations of the individuals who have left their mark on Canadian Catholic Church history. Rather, I discovered their views to have been presented through an ecclesiastical filter. To my mind, the book could have been entitled, An Ecclesiastical History of Catholics in Canada, since it is the corporate identity that provides the threat that links his subject matter. Fay has made choices in presenting his material and has remained faithful to his theme. He has chosen to cite individuals whose contributions or comments impinge directly on a corporate influence of the Church. His book does meet a current need in understanding Canadian Catholicism and I will recommend it accordingly.

    FEARNOW, Mark (2007) - Theatre and the Good: The Value of Collaborative Play

    This book is clearly the fruit of a lifetime of contemplation. If we pay attention to what the author is actually saying, more than just his idea about the theatre is presented here. We, potentially, encounter the author as person. For the attentive reader, this book performs a similar role to the theatre itself in that it serves as an antidote to living a somewhat technologically deformed life-style. It invites us, after appropriate contemplation as Fearnow points out, to strive to contribute more of our selves, or at least differing aspects of our selves, to the community at large. Fearnow, in sharing his experience of the theatre, appeals to Martin Heidegger's philosophy. Anyone familiar with phenomenological philosophy, however, will recognize much that may be attributed to Edmund Husserl's insights which have been subsequently mediated through Heidegger.

    A critique of contemporary North American technological and marketing techniques sets the stage for seeing the theatre as an alternative "tribe" in our media-dominated age. The theatrical tribe enjoys a humanitarian advantage over the one-sided, commercially-sponsored tribes prevalent in modern society. Business, Fearnow reminds us, is not a necessary part of human society. It may not even be a natural part of society. Omitting business he lists sports, work, faith, politics and civic engagement within "authentic tribalism." Here, I am reminded of Husserl's vision, and program, to revise philosophical thinking through a community of like-minded thinkers. I am led further to wonder if Fearnow would consent to add a community composed of philosophers to his list of authentic tribes.

    In reading the book, I saw Chapters 1 through 4, as setting the philosophical stage for the application of the author's experience with theatre as being more than mere entertainment. Chapters 5 through 7 are lighter reading, the rigors of philosophical thinking having been undergone earlier, and are presented with descriptive case studies and examples of theatre's therapeutic, but not necessarily clinical, collaborative play in our lives. I am among those people who, if I were to go to the theatre I would want to be entertained, as Fearnow has observed in the book. However, there is more than mere reading or intellectual entertainment in the book. The book is, in fact, a joy to read. This is probably due to his honesty and integrity in laboring to share ideas that matter to him and, hopefully, to others.

    FERENCZ, Nicholas (2006) - American Orthodoxy and Parish Congregationalism

    Ferencz makes a very good case which many North Americans, living out their Eastern and Western Christian religious traditions, can confirm from personal experience. That is that, “something major is awry in American parish structure and theology” (p. vii). In his study of the Orthodox Churches, congregationalism within Orthodoxy is a “cause” of many of the difficulties that arise within the hierarchical governance of the church. (I am convinced that there are lessons to be learned here for the Western Church as it struggles to incorporate the principles of democracy into its contemporary structures.) He acknowledges the differences of the Canon Law traditions of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches and discusses the delicate issues of authority in the Church. He analyses three issues, the “moral absence” of hierarchical authority, the Troth schism, and lay societies as models of trusteeism, as these have contributed to disunity in the Church. A sound ecclesial theology supports his understanding which reflects the Pauline notion of the Church which must be one and whole at the same time. There is a proper role for the clergy and lay individuals in the governance within the Body of Christ and any divisiveness of roles will impede the unity for which Christ prayed. Without hesitation I recommend this book to all clergy and laity alike interested in discerning the future governance of the church.

    GARDNER, Martin ( 1999) - The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener

    Gardner does what he says. He accounts for the "whys" of his beliefs. As he does this he presents to his readers what is familiar to their own thought evoking insight on their part. It ought to be understood, however, that he writes in broad strokes and ideas are expressed in a manner that, at times, lacks precision. By reflecting on a wide range of philosophers and artists he presents us with material we thought we understood. His efforts amount to an attempt at preserving the integrity of scholastic thinking, or a contemporary derivation of it, in the postmodern world. Gardner presents us with a North American understanding of a European approach to philosophical thinking. There is a lot of breadth to his work but, from my perspective, little depth. I finished the book with the sense that when all was said and done Gardener, as a 'philosophical scrivener', was on the outside looking in. However, I do recommend the book for Gardner's encyclopedic approach to his material. It is worth noting that Gardner views William James as a particularly insightful thinker.

    GEORGIOU, S. T. (2010) - The Isle of Monte Cristo

    This is the final book in a trilogy addressing the inner life. I am tempted to read the others. It must be borne in mind that the author is an Orthodox Christian and an educator who believes that much of life is about awakening to the interior experience and its metaphysical implications and outcomes. What he shares with his readers is certainly Christian, but he acknowledges that the interior life is common to all major religious traditions. The book is an account of one man's journey to discovering an inner treasure which he believes is hidden in all of us. The Western reader will find a refreshing approach through Orthodox spirituality and liturgy. There are deep lessons to be learned here by everyone especially given the more superficial new age movements that are trendy today. The reader inclined to a more academic approach to spirituality will be pleased with the copious notes the author provides. He is theologically erudite and his Christian convictions are clearly evident in his experiences with the interior life. Western readers, being familiar with the notions of salvation and redemption characteristic of the sacraments, will find a rich alternative to this classical understanding, since Georgiou speaks of the "restorative Presence of Christ" and experiencing a "salvific zone." This is a spiritual quest inspired by a secular novel - Dumas' The Count of Monte Critso. Georgiou was inspired by the change of heart of Count Edmund Dantes. Georgiou writes: "No longer does the inexorable avenger declare, `My will be done' but `Thy will be done.' Finally, a section entitled, "Wired to go where?" explores the relationship between spirituality and the technology that is currently in common use. While not a recent realization, Marshall McLuhan in the 1960's was aware of this relationship, the author encourages us to manage technology in moderation and wisely so as not to be impeded from discovering a rich inner treasure.

    GILREATH, Shannon (2006) - Sexual Politics: The Gay Person In America Today

    Gilreath has written a book that treats of a changing American perspective on politics and homosexuality. (From the point of view of clinical psychology, Christopher Shelley attempted something similar within Adlerian psychology in his "Contemporary Perspectives in Psychotherapy and Homosexulaities," 1998). Throughout his book Gilreath encourages gays to work in concert and introduce positive political policies into the American context. He provides the reader with a fair assessment of the factors that have impeded progress in the legal recognition of gays in public life. Part I is historical, outlining religious and social issues as part of the mix. In Part II he reviews elements of society that have effected, and continue to effect, the introduction of laws respecting gay life in the public forum. Even though Gilreath restricts his comments to the American scene, this book makes a significant contribution to that literature available to anyone interested in learning about the phenomenon of homosexuality with the intent to overcome ignorance. Gilreath's contribution is principled and well thought-out. It presents, to my mind, an excellent point of departure for gay and straight readers alike to begin a serious non-prejudicial examination of contemporary sexual human rights.

    GRIFFITH, Brian (2009) - Correcting Jesus: 2000 Years Of Changing The Story

    A prolific reader of history, Griffiths presents a perspective on the Jesus story that is pregnant with significant detail – much of which is probably under-appreciated by the average person, believer and non-believer alike. (A glance at the pages of notes, the bibliography and the index shows the scope of the data upon which he bases this book.) He does not write to defend any religious perspective but critiques the expression of Christianity today in contrast to the understanding of the data given in the original revelation – or at least as close to that understanding as we can get. Authenticity in religious history is not a problem reserved to Christianity but it is common to all religions. To my mind, anyone interested in religious studies, the ordained and non-ordained, and professional theologians would profit from reading the perspective offered by Griffiths. The courageous, reader open to reforming his or her inherited understanding, will find motivation in Griffith’s research. The title notwithstanding, Griffith’s book is not negative, but is a critical and positive presentation of an orthodox understanding of contemporary Christianity. (Much of the content he presents had been contained in the Catholic theological syllabus which I studied in my seminary days shortly after Vatican II.) I have no hesitation in recommending this book to those “new” to religious thinking and those well-acquainted with the Christian tradition.

    HERBERT, David (2003) - Religion and Civil Society: Rethinking Public Religion in the Contemporary World

    This is a challenging book from two perspectives. It challenges our presumptions about the place of religion in the public sphere. And, it is a challenge to absorb and interpret the amount of critical information Herbert presents. The division of the book into two parts, Competing Theories and Case Studies is most helpful. The Case Studies illustrate and expand upon the arguments presented in Competing Theories. The book is coherently written and its arguments clearly stated. I found myself pausing, on more than a few occasions, and reflecting on the implications of Herbert's observations in my own geographical context: Canada. That Herbert's perspective is "transcultural" strengthens his presentation. Further, to my mind, Herbert's rethinking calls for an "intellectual leap", on our part because if one is persuaded by his presentation one becomes committed to a new way of understanding relationships both public and private, individual and corporate. In short: "The picture has exceeded the frame." I would not consider this a definitive work but a serious exploratory work which sets parameters for future exploration. I read this book as a professional theologian and found its philosophy on the place of religion in public life amenable to the development Christian revelation. This book will retain its academic value for religious researchers and theologians for years to come.

    JORGENSON, René (2010) - The Light Behind God: What Religion Can Learn From Near Death Experiences

    I approached Jorgensen's book as a theologian, wondering how I would relate to what the subtitle of the book says: "What Religion can Learn from Near Death Experiences." To my mind, this qualitative study has a value for those seeking information about the NDE experiences of others. It allows those not having had a NDE some insight into the phenomenon. The author wisely offers a disclaimer, "The conclusions of the research have then been made based on the level of agreement among the participants, which means that the conclusions are relating to general consensus," and he acknowledges that the sample he considers is small. But he hopes the reader will overlook any of the book's imperfections and "value the research and insights that would have otherwise not been available to you." Chapters One through Six, as I understand them, do not contain anything objectionable to doctrine or dogma to orthodox Christian thinking. However, to my mind, Chapters Seven, Eight and Nine offer some interesting challenges to an inherited Christian theology. Among these challenges is viewing sin as "false consciousness" (p. 126). This is a view that deserves more serious consideration by theologians. For theologians who do this, the traditional Catholic understanding of Purgatory may have something to contribute as Jorgensen acknowledges. Also, NDE experiences may have something to offer concerning the personal "immanence" of God, (without falling into the heresy of Pantheism), and concerning the "outward" personal experience of God as experienced in the Churches that have been established on a model of civic politics. That, "mixed with the politics of a ruthless Roman Empire it is clear from history that Jesus' Kingdom of God became one with the Kingdom of Rome" (p. 141), needs further theological investigation in our day. Finally, the notions of a "co-created experience" (p. 161), and "if we love one another, God lives in us" (p. 178), have introduced concepts that may be better probed via a phenomenological philosophy than the traditional scholastic approach at least that is my contention. Frustratingly for me as an academic, however, the book lacks formal citations for the claims it makes. But, a search on the Internet for the sources that Jorgensen mentions does reveal that they are contemporary credible researchers into the NDE phenomenon. Its limitations notwithstanding, the book presents a good starting point (or challenge) for theological reflection within the Christian tradition on near death experiences. And since theologians ought not to ignore the insights of those individuals who have had an NDE experience this book is worth the time to read it.

    KAUFMANN, Walter/Martin Buber (1970) - I and Thou

    Kaufmann, rather than Buber, is the subject of this review. I have never read Buber entirely but his book was the talk among many students in philosophy during my undergraduate years at the University of Toronto. Thus, I had a sense that I had been sufficiently exposed to his ideas via these peer discussions when a friend suggested that I read Kaufmann’s translation. This accounts for me limiting my attention to Kaufmann’s Prologue in this edition of “I and Thou.”


    Upon reading the Prologue it reminded me of the purpose of the first Psalm – an introduction to the rest of the Book of Psalms. In his Prologue Kaufmann emphasized certain interpretive perspectives worth noting. These perspectives are not explicitly in Buber’s book as Kaufmann frequently reminds the reader. First, “Buber’s immense posthumous popularity is not confined to him” (p. 23). This phenomenon is true of many famous authors. Works of significant worth take on a life of their own, as it were, after the deaths of their authors. If the works are of true value their life is sustained by a new generation of readers as is Buber’s book. Secondly, Kaufmann has interpreted Buber religiously suggesting that an individual cannot live the Sabbath every day, but rather must live in the Sabbath every day (p.30). In short, nothing is truly secular from this understanding. God is all and in all. Thirdly, that Buber was not that close to Christianity in his thinking as some commentators have suggested needs to be re-examined (p. 35). Claiming that there never was any truly pre-Hellenistic Christianity; that Christianity was born out of the denial of a God that could not possibly be seen; that (in John’s gospel) those who only live by Jesus’ moral teaching cannot enter the Kingdom of God (baptism is necessary); and a few other insights, Kaufmann leads the reader to challenge the notion of Buber’s closeness to Christianity. Such closeness is more academic fantasy that fact, Kaufmann suggests.


    Further, Kaufmann notes that Buber’s book is not theology. In fact, “the book will survive the death of theology, for it appeals to that religiousness which finds no home in organized religion, and it speaks to those whose primary concern is not at all with religion but rather with social change” (p.38). To survive, theology needs a personal living religion worth interpreting to its followers, as I see it. Some theological interpretation may have its roots in “I and Thou,” Buber’s comment notwithstanding. To my mind, theology can be like a good book in Kaufmann’s perspective, “is not primarily an object to be put to use, or an object of experience: it is the voice of You [God] speaking to me, requiring a response” (p.39). Without prejudice to Kaufmann’s Prologue, it is the first sentence of Buber’s “Afterword” that may provide sufficient intrigue for me to eventually read “I and Thou.” He writes: “When I drafted the first sketch of this book (more than forty years ago), I felt impelled by an inner necessity” (p.171).

    KELLY, Anthony Bernard (1999) - The Process of the Cosmos: Philosophical Theology and Cosmology

    This book is not an easy read and I found myself having to re-read certain passages so I would not get lost in its argument. Kelly presents his case well. It is presented from the point of view of Natural Theology as he clearly states. Initially, for me, the book held more promise than it delivered. I concluded, however, that my disappointment is probably due to my understanding of theology and not Kelly's arguments or academic effort. I do not contest Kelly's thesis that "Natural Theology can now provide an answer to the question as to the reason for the existence of man and the world." But does this answer suffice? Can we expect another reason should circumstances change, or should our experience not bear out "that the world can be understood as a process involving the possible self-creation of an entity like God." These questions arise from my uneasiness about the conclusion Kelly draws from his investigation. He understands Natural Theology to be distinct from revelation (p.24). He initiates his investigation as a speculative activity but concludes it as an existential activity thus preserving a form of dualism in his thought. He writes: "When our contemporary understanding of the world is applied to the raw material of revelation, the essence [speculative term] of revelation will no doubt be maintained but the expression [existential term] of revelation may be quite different" (p.125). One way to overcome this dualism, to my mind, is to consider response in the existential theological interpretation. A responsive interpretation is a unified act which incorporates speculation and expression, be it to a set of circumstances or God's grace. In fact, need we preserve the distinction between Natural Theology (Philosophy) and Revealed Theology? In his Catholicism, (study edition), Richard McBrien (1981:113) notes: "It is not clear, for example, whether one can be both a philosopher and a theologian at the same time, or whether such a choice has to be made at all." If no such choice is made, one wonders what becomes of Kelly's concluding statement: "What will need to be considered in a future work is the extent to which this thesis is consistent with revelation" (p. 125). These remarks notwithstanding, Kelly's thesis is a challenging read worthy of the time and effort needed to do it justice.

    KERSEY, John (2009) - The University Outside State Control: Writings on Independent Universities, Non-traditional Education and Related Matters

    This book explores options in adult self-directed education and envisions the University of the Future as a community of like-minded learners, who are highly motivated individuals and are established leaders in their careers. Many of the articles, of which this book is composed, contain advice for the prospective student. Endorsing non-traditional education, the author explains that it is not a term designed to substitute for correspondence, or distance education programmes offered by regular universities which are campus-based. Rather, it is a philosophical approach to education. Traditional knowledge providers must change in their approach and become learning facilitators and assessors to Kersey’s mind. A weakness of many American universities is that they have become the location for a “rite of passage” experience for many students. In his critique he brings out the tensions between private and public sector understandings of market values and subsequently stresses the advantage of market values in determining educational options. Throughout the book, the various articles often compare and contrast the British and American approaches to post-secondary education. Among the topics discussed are, diploma mills, state licensing, accreditation, and responsible choosing of learning options, etc. The interview with John Kersey, as an Appendix to the book, throws additional light on the preceding articles.


    Finally, a blurb promoting the book reads: Despite historic ties, universities have generally enjoyed relative freedom from state control until the coming of the post-war era. In this collection of writings, Professor John Kersey, who is [ Chancellor of the Western Orthodox University] and an established consultant with over 1,000 expert opinions on international credentials submitted for use before the US government, looks both at the mechanisms by which this freedom has been eroded and considers the theory and practice of the independent private sector university today. This unique book, the first to examine its subject in significant depth, is written accessibly to introduce the reader to a range of complex issues necessary for the understanding of the relationship between universities and the state. It makes a powerful case both for university freedom and for allied individual freedom in tertiary education through the use of distance and non-traditional educational methodologies.

    KWANT, Remy ( 1967) - Critique: Its Nature and Function

    Critique asks, according to Kwant, “is the thing what it should be?” Further, this question can be asked only when is can differ from should be. And humans are the only type of beings that can be criticised, given their responsibility for themselves and their existential world. Criticism, Kwant maintains, is the evaluation of facts in light of a norm, and these facts must be freely developed from experience and not existing because of necessity. Necessity cannot be critiqued. There is the critique of pre-scientific speech and that of scientific speech, Kwant believes. In the modern world it is through speech as scientific reason, not speech as mythology, that humanity situates itself in the world through a proper critique. Scientific solutions to problems notwithstanding, however, Kwant suggests, that humans ultimately remain as mysteries to themselves. In order to improve, humanity needs to critique itself in its existential situation and re-create a world suitable for all human life. He notes that, “obsolete forms of life continue to exist because an historically determined form of life is identified with the eternal, the absolute” (p.147). Critique will liberate humanity from its confining and obsolete past as it introduces a philosophical analysis into the human situation.

    KWANT, Remy (1965) - Phenomenology of Language

    The means “par excellence” to encounter others is language, according to Kwant, and a privileged way to understand this encounter is through philosophical reflection. Through a clear discussion Kwant introduces the topic to anyone interested in acquiring a deeper understanding of the function of language in the contemporary world. The footnotes contain little gems of insight which are developed in the main text. I cite some of them to give the prospective reader a sense of the book’s content: “Only when the individual surrenders his own mode of existence within the group may one speak of the group as a ‘mass’.…One who refers to the others as a ‘mass,’ places himself outside the group, makes the group an object of his stare, and reduces his fellow-men to a single homogeneous object. ● Man is a manifold searching for meaning. If reason plans the whole of life by itself, certain aspects of man may fail to receive due regard. ● Language is the principle means through which man is humanized. ● [T]he denial of God is sometimes provoked by the way in which others affirm God. Likewise, moral principles are sometimes denied because others misuse these principles to preserve a petrified system. ● Being-man is not a complex of fixed characteristics but rather a mode of having characteristics -- namely, the mode of being in such a way that one always transcends what one is. ● According as we live in different circumstances and find ourselves in different fields, we assume a different attitude and speak a different language….Each perspective has its own significations, its own words, its own tone of voice. All of these together constitute a unity, just as our life is marked by unity. But the unity of our life is certainly not the unity of a rational synthesis. ● Past ages regarded the difference between Christian denominations too much in terms of homogeneous truth and falsity. Our era begins to realize that the fundamental message of Christ can be regarded in different perspectives which do not always necessarily exclude one another. ● The renewal of the liturgy must be on guard against exaggerated rationalization. The celebration of the liturgy wants to place us in the presence of the mystery “par excellence,” and this intention can certainly not be realized in a rigidly rational fashion. ● By speaking we change the empirical being into an ideal being and consequently into a general being. ● There is a form of security which is being lost and has to be lost. Many people are sacred by the dimensions which unfold themselves for their existence. This anxiety, however, is one of the phenomena accompanying the birth of a new kind of man. ● The achievements of the West…do not have to be taken over in the way they exist in the West, but may be adapted to the character of the other peoples.” The non-inclusive language notwithstanding, a convention of Kwant’s time, his book is well worth the effort to follow his presentation of the phenomenology of language as a means of encountering others.

    LEONARD, Ellen (1982) - George Tyrrell and the Catholic Tradition

    This book came to my attention relatively late after I had begun my research and writing into the theology and life of George Tyrrell to which I was introduced in my theological studies at St Michael’s College, University of Toronto. Leonard’s book is an excellent introduction to the so-called Modernist Movement within the Catholic Church. As well, to my mind, she has captured Tyrrell’s personality which deeply affected his theological thinking. (Regarding his theological thinking I wrote my own book on Tyrrell, “The ‘Avant-garde’ Theology of George Tyrrell: Its Philosophical Roots Changed my Theological Thinking.”) Even though “Modernism” as a phenomenon is waning in theological circles, much of our contemporary theological insight has its roots in the thinking of many “Modernists”, Catholic and Protestant, as is acknowledged by Leonard. Her style of writing is pleasant to read, with no glossing over or misinterpreting of significant and pertinent sociological, historical and theological details. To individuals interested in the development and study of theology, to divinity students, undergraduate and graduate, and to those who might just be interested in significant personalities of an earlier period of church history, I recommend this book.

    LEVI, Peter (1987) - The Frontiers of Paradise: A Study of Monks and Monasteries

    Even though the publisher has classified Levi’s book as “religion/history,” Levi does not present his study in a scholastic or formal academic manner. Rather, he is a poet interpreting history. This must be understood by the reader to truly appreciate the value and attraction of Levi’s study. “What I have chosen to do is to discuss the most important historical turning-points in some detail, but to show as much as possible by examples, which have been picked for the light they shed on this or that,” he writes. He concentrates on the monks and monasteries of the West more than the East because Western records are fuller and more reliable than Eastern ones. Regardless of the culture, theology, or the historical context, all desires to found monasteries, the author maintains, is personal in that it is the desire for God and the need for silence and for study and meditation that is at the root of this desire. In voluntary isolation from the world a constant process of the self-reform for the monk and of the monastery is undertaken. Neither is permitted stasis, but both must move either forwards or backwards, Levi contends. He concludes that in this study of monks no one conclusion, yet many conclusions are possible on the reader’s part.

    MANNING, Stephen (2007) - Psychology, Symbolism, and the Sacred

    This is one of the more significant books today available to the serious "self-help" reader. Although, anyone with knowledge of psychology, and specifically clinical psychology, will most likely gain much from the book, it remains a useful and advantageous reading experience for the non-clinician but informed reader. In short, I view this book as a call to Christian maturity in the contemporary Western world. The author is critical of the Catholic Church in light of the recent sexual scandals that have been given much publicity in the media. Manning accounts for this situation through the psychological principles expounded by Freud, Jung and James, regarding what is healthy or unhealthy in contemporary religious behaviour. In this account he is quite straight-forward. What is novel, to my mind, is his introduction of "chromatic archetypes" and his unique understanding of colour in the interpretation of myth and religion. Throughout the book, which is a difficult read at times, Manning has the reader in mind and generously supplies explanations of his use of terms and technical specialized vocabulary. During my reading of the book, I found myself re-evaluating my position on a number of occasions. I sometimes agreed with Manning wholeheartedly, sometimes partially and other times I was not sure what to think. I read the book conscious that I am on the "inside" of the Church he criticizes. But also I am a philosopher and theologian. And it is from that point of view that Manning's presentation of philosophy disappoints me. His understanding of phenomenology, which is summed up in a brief remark on page 18, to my mind, is inadequate if not inaccurate. He describes phenomenology as a "realism-based system of philosophy." Readers of this book should be aware that "the thesis that the objects of presentation and belief are ordinarily extra-mental was formulated in opposition to idealism and was common to all of the forms of realism. But Husserl was to reject it in the later stages of his phenomenology" [Chisholm, Roderick. Realism and the Background of Phenomenology, Free Press, 1960:3]. Manning is critical of the institutional church although, in fairness, he does not disparage the sacredness of the religious life. Rather, he questions the competency of the church's hierarchy as being the primary expositors of that life, that is, as being "doctors of the soul" - at least in the contemporary Western context. In addition, the book does undertake a brief overview of symbolism that is in keeping with a Jungian understanding of non-Christian world religions. The book's value, as I see it, is in the reader's subjective appreciation of Manning's arguments and reasoning process. I would classify this book as written for and characterized by our times and as being most valuable to religious individuals troubled by a stifling experience of the institutional church. The publisher is CheckPoint Press, the author's own publishing company, whose motto is "books with something to say." Whether or not this book has any appeal or, something to say beyond the "self-help" section of contemporary book stores and airport kiosks remains to be seen.

    McLAUGHLIN, Anne Kathleen (2001) - A Place Called Morning

    Anne's is a sacred story for our ordinary lives. She invites us to encounter the "truth of the story" for ourselves. "And perhaps you, if you are adept at reading between the lines, at sorting out what really happened, from what might have happened, from what I wish had happened", are words that truly reflect her character as I remember it. Having worked with Anne I can say, with some degree of certainty, that Anne is truly in the book. But whether it is the contemporary Anne or the Anne of a different time, I am not sure. This requires further discernment. If sacrament is opportunity spoken through ordinary events that bring us to a vivid awareness to God's presence then this book is sacramental. There is no feigned ceremony, ritual or "other-worldly" mystery here but ordinary things and relationships that bear sacramental grace. However, this is not a religious novel. There are no miraculous events here, no sudden conversions, nor "coming to the faith". Rather, there is just the reality of an invitation to live one's ordinary life in God's truth. Anne weaves a good tale of mystery amid mundane experience. There are surprises and revelations in this story which, upon reflection, will not be that separated from the reader's own experience. Rich in description, Anne gives us insight into the spiritual life of her characters without becoming intrusive or voyeuristic. In short, her story is a discovery of the sacred within the ordinary at a place called "Morning."

    MORROCCO, Mary (2011) - Living With the Hours

    This little book is an excellent introduction to praying within the Church. Based on the Roman breviary, the booklet prayerfully leads one through the day respecting the natural cycle of morning, daytime, evening, and night time. Through these "hours" the day is sanctified and we are connected with the ancient practice of the Church in giving glory and praise to God. These hours are, in fact, a liturgy that stresses the communal character of the People of God; Catholic, Reformed and Orthodox. For anyone sensing a lack in the spiritual life or feeling unfulfilled this is an excellent antidote. The companion book is entitled, Living with the Liturgical Year.

    MURRAY, Gilbert (1950) - Stoic, Christian and Humanist


    Murray makes this philosophical inquiry a pleasant and insightful experience for the reader. His clear expression and precise use of language accounts for this. He does not take up countless pages with explanation but manages to identify clearly, from the beginning of his investigation, the points at issue. This book arises out of "special reading and study" and the "by-products of a long life in which I have had almost constantly in the back of my mind, as a half-conscious preoccupation" (p.7). This little book is an excellent resource to the average serious and somewhat philosophical thinker who desires something more than sketchy platitudes in developing a deeper understanding of the relationship among Stoic, Christian and Humanist ways of thinking. I found the book challenged the suppositions and presuppositions of my own convictions without being negatively critical in its approach. The book discusses issues of importance to mankind, Murray tells us, and he conducts his investigation of these issues with fresh philosophical insight. This is one philosophical book that clarifies more than confuses.

    NEWELL, Philip (2011) - Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace

    This non-denominational book presents a weekly programme of spirituality for busy people. It is intended to afford the reader an opportunity to undertake a quest in search of the human soul as much as contemporary life with its distractions allows. The author claims that the spiritual life sought through these meditations transcends the limiting factors often found in Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions. The format of the little book facilitates this process and its pages are illuminated with artwork that emphasizes the spiritual themes that emerge from these distinct spiritual traditions. To my mind the book presents an opportunity for the seeker of spirituality in a secular age to engage in an activity of spiritual development that ultimately will spill over into the world. In the author's concluding remarks, he says: "If as nations and religious traditions we were to follow the wisdom of artists, if we were to remember what they seem never to forget, then we would know the themes that underlie the human soul are deeper than the patterns that distinguish us."

    NOLAN, Albert (2001) - Jesus Before Christianity

    There are many reviews posted for this book. As far as I can see, at the moment, none acknowledges the significant philosophical change in perspective that Nolan has adopted in this book. He does not write from the classical philosophical perspective of the Western philosopher or theologian. Any philosopher of phenomenology will appreciate what Nolan says in Chapter 19 about the spirit that motivated Jesus of Nazareth and that motivates us today. Chapters 1 through 18 will be of special interest to the theologian. They are especially significant when understood from a phenomenological perspective. I dare suggest that a phenomenological understanding of Nolan's work will correct the long-standing habit of Christians noted by Nolan. "Jesus has been more frequently honoured and worshipped for what he did not mean than for what he did mean" (p.3). In short, phenomenological philosophy discloses the baggage of scholastic philosophy that has contributed to this undesirable habit. To my mind, any Thomistic, neo-classical, or Hellenist philosopher who chooses to become familiar with the phenomenological perspective and then re-read the book will encounter additional personal insights about the Christian spirit.

    O'MURCHU, Diarmuid (2000) - Religion in Exile: A Spiritual Homecoming

    O'Murchu states that he seeks to befriend religious questions rather than seek answers to them and, in fact, he does just that. Not much by way of an answer is provided. He offers a critique of the underlying assumptions to religious and spiritual issues which he has identified as problematic for the individual seeking a spiritual home, or an understanding of a world in which to be "at home." His is a phenomenological approach that presents current religious and spiritual issues in the popular vocabulary of religious critique. I can identify with his critique. However, doubt I can agree with all of his interpretations. Agreement among academics is a perpetual problem. For theologians who read about religious issues treated by competent individuals in other disciplines agreement seems particularly problematic. Although theologically trained, O'Murchu thinks about religious issues from a perspective more properly psychological than theological. This is not necessarily an undesirable approach but a theologian needs to be cautious and not accept psychological thinking as theological thinking. As I understand him, O'Murchu speaks more of the psyche than of the pneuma. The psychological perspective of the book makes this a good "self-help" resource for those troubled or curious minds who desire more than a shallow presentation or description of spiritual or religious issues. O'Murch says: "The need to talk things out is the pastoral context where possibilities begin to unfold"(p.198). Issues are "talked out" in the book. But as I read I found myself asking: "So what?" and "Yes, but how is change to happen?" Thus, while I have no reservation about his description about returning home, I am disappointed to find no suggested direction on "how to return home." I suggest that theologians could benefit from reading this psychological work.

    PUNGENTE, John (2011) - Finding God in the Dark II

    Traditionalists, conservatives and classicists beware. This is not a book for you. The spiritual exercises of St Ignatius, as present here, are not intended to reinforce or confirm anything about our knowledge of God. Nor are they intended to reinforce or confirm our inherited habits of belief or knowledge of ourselves as seekers of God's presence in our lives. Rather, this book is intended for the person in contemporary Western society suffering from an inadequate and no longer satisfactory understanding of how God is to be understood in the present time. Emphasis is placed on our subjective understanding of God's gifts to us. What changes is not God, but our understanding of God's presence in our lives. In keeping with the spiritual literature of our time this book is a postmodern spiritual manual that requires time and effort on the part the seeker desiring to deepen the spiritual life. The authors move away from the traditional retreat house as a locus deepening one's spiritual life. Two reasons are given for their decision. One, the retreat house no longer attracts individuals seeking spiritual development and, two the operation of the retreat house is economically unfeasible. The location of our spiritual development today is a secondary consideration according to the authors. Where we learn a new language for our understanding of God, does not need not to be reserved to a retreat house but, can happen wherever our lives happen to be lived. All one must do is reserve the time needed and explore the fictions representing our lives which we have created through the movies. The authors adopt an anthropological and philosophical approach that recognizes that the human animal must act through fictions if it is to be human. No other animal acts this way.

    Also, the means by which we learn this new language can occur through the new vehicle of the media - something not available to St Ignatius. However, because this is a new vehicle and somewhat untested approach to spiritual understanding there are may be dangers not envisioned at this point. Watching contemporary movies, as an act of contemplative prayer runs the danger of the rhetoric becoming more important than reason in the quest for spiritual enlightenment. Our non-classical world is constructed around four focal points according to the authors. Security, meaning, liberty, and belonging characterize the construction of our personal worlds in contrast to the world of humanity. Our personal worlds, when properly understood, reveal a change in status between God, as creator, and the person as creature. We become co-creators with God in the construction of our personal worlds. In other words, in this view, the whole acceptance of ideology as a philosophical basis is called into question and further, is abandoned if need be. Our imagination constructs and subsequently presents to us our personal worlds. In the authors' words: "In this personal and sacred space of encounter, the energies of our lives are integrated with the divine energies of God. It is not that we are doing all the creating, or that God is doing all the creating. The creation of the world we contemplate is done by God and us working together" (p. 16).

    The 'manual'form of this book follows a very rigorous, pre-ordained structure, very much in keeping with the Ignatian-inspired origins of the Jesuit order. The book itself is divided up into four parts; each called a 'week', which can be dealt with in a calendar week, perhaps less, or more. Each 'week' has a spiritually-inspired title and theme, with the requisite 'exercises' in the form of questions which the reader is encouraged to answer before beginning to watch that 'week's' movies.

    The choice of box-office fare which the authors have chosen for the reader's spiritual analysis is quite impressive from the point of view of its sampling of the last decade or so of Hollywood's post-modern production of popular art work: It starts with the sci-fi thriller 'Inception' with Leonardo DiCaprio, and runs the gamut from everything from 'Magnolia' with Tom Cruise, to the 'Social Network', 'The Hurt Locker', 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows', 'Brokeback Mountain', with the late, great Heath Ledger, 'Julie and Julia', 'Toy Story 3', 'Slumdog Millionaire','American Beauty', with Kevin Spacey, 'The Green Mile' with Tom Hanks, 'Billy Elliot', Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice', and lastly, the animated film 'Up'.

    There are just over fifty films in all to view for the whole four 'week' program of the Spiritual Exercises. Anybody who takes this lightly or who thinks that this is just pop cultural fluff is seriously mistaken. The questions which are posed after each movie is viewed give strong pause for reflection for those who are the least bit spiritually engaged on their life journey, and may very well be of significant use to those less familiar with the more mainstream or conventional forms of Roman Catholic praxis, be they liturgical, or in this case, contemplative.

    In light of the above remarks a more appropriate title for the book might have been, Finding Our Way out of Classical Darkness. The authors write in the Conclusion: "Through the Exercises of St Ignatius, you have gone on a journey where you have allowed yourself to be found by God" (317). The fact is, God has found you in your personally constructed, that is, subjective world view as opposed to finding you in a human, that is, objective world view. The seeker in the spiritual life must now transcend his or her personal world by bringing the love of God into the universal world of humanity, for fear the personal world becomes a private world. (Reviewed in collaboration of Peter Stuart)

    SABATIER, Auguste (1898) - The Vitality of Christian Dogmas and Their Power of Evolution

    This short book consists of a lecture Sabatier gave in London in 1897. The subject is “the faith,” not “religion.” The lecture is not presented with any polemical intent or controversy in mind. Rather it is a truly theological work laying down a theme to which Sabatier will return in other works. Sabatier was an evangelical Protestant whose purpose in writing this book was to present church dogmas as evolving within human experience. Since human experience precedes the formulation of any dogma and since dogma follows upon experience one may conclude that dogma evolves. The classical conventional wisdom of Christian theology was that dogma is expressed in fixed philosophical formulas. The emerging modern scientific methodology challenged that inheritance, forcing the theologian to ask: must we choose between pious ignorance and bare knowledge?


    I regret not having been aware of Sabatier and his influence on George Tyrrell (1861-1909) when I wrote my book on Tyrrell, The “Avant-garde” Theology of George Tyrrell: Its Philosophical Roots Changed My Theological Thinking. In that book I content that theological problems are, at root, philosophical problems and a contemporary philosophy, appropriate to a scientific and digital culture, is required to support contemporary theology. Ellen Leonard in, George Tyrrell and the Catholic Tradition, suggests Sabatier had an influence on Tyrrell’s theological thought. I agree. To my mind, then, Sabatier’s work has much to comment itself to contemporary Catholic theological thought without getting caught up in the politics of religion.

    SABATIER, Auguste (1899) - Religions of Authority and the Religion of the Spirit

    Sabatier examines the methods of explanation for a theology of authority and a theology of experience. In this book, unlike his Outlines of a Philosophy of Religion, he does cite other authorities in making his case. The notes in the Appendix amount to an annotated bibliography that serves the theologian very well. To my mind, this book is best read after one has become familiar with his other two books in which he addresses the same intellectual problem. He writes: “The question that occupies us, let us again repeat, is neither concrete religion nor established science, but the intellectual effort which creates science and the profound sentiment which gives birth to religion, independently of their more or less striking manifestations in everyday life” (p. 343).


    Sabatier maintains that Christian consciousness is discovered through a history of the religious evolution of humanity. Whereas, Christian doctrine is best understood through three stages of experience, one developing from the other. Ultimately, progress through these stages leads to an eternal union of the soul with God. To reconcile these two methodologies that explain consciousness and doctrine is the existential task of the pious Christian. The study and explanation of the Christian experience may be understood through an historical and psychological system of education which consists of three parts. First, the religion of nature, or the elementary consciousness of God, and the metaphysical opposition between God and man. Second, the religion of law, or the moral cognisance of God, and the moral opposition between God and man. Third, the religion of love, or the Christian cognisance of God, affording salvation by redeeming love.


    For my part, this book is a theological approach that every serious Christian theologian ought to consider.

    SABATIER, Auguste (1897) - Outlines of a Philosophy of Religion Based on Psychology and History

    This book is about religious philosophy, as the title indicates, but it is not reserved to the Christian religion. It arises out of the author’s concern for young people and how they will need to struggle with the relationship between religion and the new discipline of science. He writes, “Our young people, it seems to me, are pushing bravely forward, marching between two high walls: on the one side modern science with its rigorous methods which it no longer possible to ignore or to avoid; on the other, the dogmas and customs of the religious institutions in which they were reared, and to which they would, but cannot, sincerely return” (xiv).


    He sets out to answer the question what is the essence, or principle, of Christianity and he rejects all denominational polemics claiming “all we need is a little history and psychology” (137). Sabatier’s engaging approach to philosophy became evident to me when he describes religion as the beginning of the childish form of science, which ultimately will give way to higher and more rigorous forms. Within these two perspectives of history and psychology, the attitude of Jesus, which we must adopt, plays a very important part in Sabatier’s theology. Jesus’ actions placed him at the centre of human consciousness to delve down to the source of life accessible to everyone.


    The volume I read was published by George H. Doran Limited and is composed of three books: Book 1 on Religion, Book 2 on Christianity and Book 3 on Dogma. Part of Book 3 appeared as an independent lecture entitled, The Vitality of Christian Dogmas and Their Power of Evolution: A Study in Religious Philosophy (1898) which I also reviewed. While reading Sabatier I had a sense of an authentic engagement with the mind of the author. He was not simply rehearsing ideas reflective of discussions on the philosophy of religion. Thus, I was not surprised to read In the Appendix, “In this book I have hardly noted any but facts that have been verified in myself and by myself…. Those who are able and wishful to re-read my book in themselves, and thus verify my analysis, may perhaps draw some benefit from it” (348). To my mind, the title of the book notwithstanding, Sabatier does not merely write about theology, he theologizes.

    SALZMAN, T. A./ T.M. Kelly/J.J. O'Keefe (2004) - Marriage in the Catholic Tradition: Scripture, Tradition and Experience

    This is more of an assessment than a review. I say that because I comment more on the structure and purpose of the book than its content. I began reading the book only to realize that all that was necessary for me was to have read the introduction which gave a detailed thumb nail sketch of the content of the book in its major sections. What became clear to me that this was a popular presentation of a university syllabus on the Catholic theology of marriage. Indeed, there is an appendix in the book which offers a course based on the essays presented. There is a wealth of Catholic information for students, discussion groups and the general reader in this book. However, as I progressed through the book I detected something was missing. Written in 2004, there was no mention of contemporary marriage issues, i.e., same sex marriage. And all the essays were written from a theological or pastoral perspective. No essay addressed marriage from the point of view of Canon Law. An examination of the list of contributors shows that ten of the twenty-four authors are associated with Creighton University, a Catholic University in Nebraska. This may account for the book’s academic flavour. The authors are not speculating about the future of marriage in the Catholic Church but looking to give an exposé of the development and current understanding of marriage up to its recent past. Hence, a course outline in the appendix ends: “The History of Marriage as a History of Change: Future Directions? Possible Topics: same-sex unions and church teachings; civil law and ecclesial law: separate but equal.” I was pleased to read “ecclesial,” law, not “ecclesiastical,” law. To my mind this indicates a change towards a philosophy/theology which is more in keeping with the contemporary context and this affords an opportunity for further development of the Catholic theology of marriage.

    SHELLY, Christopher (1998) - Contemporary Perspectives on Psychotherapy and Homosexualities

    Shelley is the editor of this collection of essays. The Introduction to the collection and the essay that is his contribution forms the basis of this review. Shelley is an Adlerian psychoanalyst who proposes a fresh methodological approach to understanding the homosexual person. He suggests that an individual is not characterized by one understanding of homosexuality but rather is understood through a varieties of homosexualities. He recommends an abandonment of the traditional definition of homosexuality which seems to be an impediment to understanding the homosexual person in his or her environment. This would allow for the individuated and special needs of homosexual persons to be recognized by therapists in their professional approaches. He takes a stand against "reparative practices" by therapists and against those social institutions which perpetuate unhealthy pressures on homosexual individuals by accepting the uncriticized social perspective as the norm. In an insightful comment he criticizes affirmative therapy as a reaction to the illness model of homosexuality and proposes that a thought-out response to the person-in-community replace it. To Shelley's way of thinking affirmative therapy as understood by many practitioners is not in keeping with proposed developments in Adlerian psychology. The seven articles selected represent a number of points of view and are intended to allow the reader to make dialectical comparisons and stimulate debate, he says (p. 8). Given my limited understanding of Adlerian psychology, and then only from a theological perspective, Shelley's suggested re-interpretation of Adler's thought concerning the homosexual person appears convincing. As I see it, his overall argument strives towards understanding the person in a natural order with the intent of constructing a healthy psyche.

    SINASAC, Joseph (2011) - John Paul II


    John Paul II is on the road to sainthood and this brief, but succinct, booklet reveals how this man received and had the courage to live the faith he professed. Anyone struggling to make sense out of their secularly dominated lives and seeking to overcome what seem insurmountable obstacles will find the late Pope's life an inspiration. As the author notes, John-Paul espoused an inclusive theology, and encouraged the youth of all nations to think in this way. In discussions with Native Canadians he insisted that First Nations were "full-fledged members of the Church, although not of society." He was quick to forgive his would-be assassin. Both are examples of his faith-filled life.

    SKRBINA, David (2005) Panpsychism in the West

    Skrbina writes a book about theories, not a theory, he claims (p.2). He restricts his discussion to the notion of "mind" as it has been understood from various perspectives in living and non-living things in this philosophical history. Panpsychism, as a philosophical perspective, links beings and mind in a way no other system does, he maintains. However, due to the data and context in which he philosophizes he is confined to discussing his position from within a Hellenized philosophical perspective. His work is a western philosophical treatise and this is reflected in the title words, "in the West." Perhaps, at a later date, a book might appear entitled, Panpsychism in Philosophy. With that as a possibility, I view, Skrbina's work as a preamble to a discussion on "mind" within a de-Hellenized, that is, Western conception of epistemology uninfluenced by Greek notions. I view Skrbina's perspective on Panpsychism, as part of an evolutionary process leading to a possible de-Hellenized understanding of mind. Whether or not such de-Hellenization is his intent is conjecture on my part. However, he hopes to introduce us into a broader concept of mind that may arise from considering "the evolution of panpsychist thought from the time of the pre-Socratics through the present" (p. 22). He does this successfully within the Hellenist heritage. As a sub-stratum to theology, my own discipline, Skrbina's critical philosophical history provides theologians with the incentive to re-visit the philosophical underpinnings of western theology although this is not his intent (p.2). Even though Panpsychism in the West, as a theory about theories, does not attempt a philosophical de-Hellenization it does offer to theologians a sub-stratum from which to re-conceive the person as sharing in mind-like qualities with the rest of its environment. From my perspective, the broader concept of mind Skrbina seeks may be found in a de-Hellenized worldview.

    SPARKS, David (2002) - Prayers to Share Year B: Responsive Prayers for Each Sunday of the Year

    These are truly wholesome and appropriate "responsive" prayers that engage the pray-ers. This liturgical aid does not aim to persuade, convince, or instruct but rather presupposes a degree of faith commitment on the part of the congregation. These prayers help to name and give voice to the congregation's pre-existing convictions arising out of the Christian experience. The prayers, composed with an eye to the contemporary religious climate, are truly "about us" and our beliefs as a worshipping body of Christ's faithful. Sparks has included a thematic index along with the Hebrew and New Testament indexes. This makes for easy reference to the Church's year and its biblically-centred liturgical life. His "Confession Prayers" remind me of the options for an "examination of conscience" that appear in the various penitential services in my own R.C. tradition. Sparks writes concerning his Confession Prayers: "I have tended not to use the traditional 'miserable offender' approach but to offer affirmations, reminders, encouragement, and questions instead." To my mind, this is handy liturgical resource that will bear fruit in a parish, congregation, and civil institution where worship services are conducted.

    TANNER, Norman (2011) - New History of the Catholic Church

    This book is a most interesting presentation of Catholic Church history. In fact it is a history of Catholicity, and not merely one of the institutional presence of the Church in the lives of believers. Tanner leads the reader through the complex stages of historical development of the presence of God beginning with the Apostolic Age through to the Twenty-first Century. Much ground is presented within the book and the interpretation made of the historical significance of the events is fair and balanced. It is refreshing to see the emphasis placed on the lives and biographies of the people concerned with significant historical events in a Church that has become a world religion whose beginnings were a little more than a sect within Judaism. The author warns the reader of the dangers of oversimplification of historical data and has made an honest, and successful, effort in avoiding this pitfall by providing sufficient detail without boggling the mind of the contemporary reader. The section on Vatican II concludes optimistically with the suggestion that the final chapter of Catholic history is yet to be written. The stage on which Trent and Vatican I undertook their work differs greatly from the stage on which Vatican II was presented to the world. The ubiquitous presence of the media on the world's stage will influence how the Good News is presented and remembered by future generations. While recognizing the opportunity for positive developments, Tanner warns, "Subtly, too, there is danger that the church will concentrate too much on its public presentation, on the more obvious and easily grasped dimensions of the Christian message, and so come to minimize or forget the wonder and depth of this mystery" (p. 236). I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone interested in Church history.

    THERON, Daniel J. (2006) - The Apostle Paul: His Gospel Before the Gospels

    True to his evangelical roots, Theron tries to avoid creedal and dogmatic controversies in his interpretation of St Paul. Given the many translations of St Paul’s writings available to the scholar, he writes, “I have made my own translations, trying to steer clear of creedal and dogmatic interpretations” (p. x). He aims to test the traditional views about the Pauline corpus that have become fossilized, stale and taken for granted. The author discusses Paul’s Christomysticism and such mysticism is often dormant in any religious person, the author maintains. “Its seed [Christomysticism] was most likely sown in the likelihood that he had witnessed the crucifixion in person. It had been germinating in him and took charge of him in the fundamental transformation of his Damascus road experience” (p. 281). In his study of St. Paul, gospel, apostleship, gospel, mystery and truth are concepts that Theron revisits and presents to contemporary secular society for its re-creation and restoration. As a Catholic, I found this a refreshing read on a subject that has been thoroughly research by a committed Christian.

    THORNTON, Martin (1974) - My God: Reappraisal of Normal Religious Experience

    This is a truly "personal" book. Thornton tells us: "I have collaborated with nobody and discussed it with nobody. Nobody has even read the proofs and offered valuable suggestions" (p.9). In this, his eleventh book, he shares the personal fruits of an ordered religious life. This is not a book on apologetics, doctrine or dogma. It is "faith speaking to faith". To my mind, the greatest contribution in the book is Thornton's suggestion on how to overcome the fear that the Church seems to have about ordinary religious experience. This book, with its roots deep in personal, not private, religious experience, is a valuable aid in understanding contemporary religious life. Professional theologians will gain insight from Thornton's existential distinctions in understanding the presence of God and pastors will appreciate his practical introduction to a "panentheistic" pastoral theology which moves away from an "intrusive" speculative or substantive theology. Readers of Thornton's earlier works will recognize how they have influenced the understanding of the experiences shared with the reader in this work.

    THORNTON, Martin (1988) - Christian Proficiency

    Like his 'English Spirituality', this book, 'Christian Proficiency' is written for the English context but is capable of speaking to Christians everywhere. Thornton acknowledges that certain literary accommodations have been made for North American readers in the Morehouse-Gorham edition (1959). These accommodations do not alter the book's premises and this review is based on that edition. Thornton reverses the perspective of his writing in this book compared to his approach in 'Pastoral Theology: A Reorientation' (1958). 'Christian Proficiency' is addressed to the faithful laity, not to clergy and theological students. Thornton warns of a lay tendency to over-rate devotion in the Christian life which takes on the character of a particular age and culture. What is needed currently is a pastoral theology not a devotional theology. In typical English fashion, he writes: "My assumption is that the faithful, the serious but perfectly 'ordinary' Christian to whom I write, does not want to be particularly 'pious' or 'devout' or even vaguely 'good': he wants to be efficient." This is truly a pastoral (practical) book for developing the spirituality of a Christian life. It is a prayer book, not a book on praying. Engaging and digesting the content of this book illustrates how secular and pseudo-prayerful our present Christian thinking has become. The book contains a valuable theological glossary which lists 200 entries succinctly and clearly.

    THORNTON, Martin (1986) - English Spirituality: An Outline of Ascetical Theology According to the English Pastoral Tradition

    This book is written out of the English experience and for that reason should be read by American theologians and clergy. Thornton lives up to his promise and presents a practical pastoral approach to matters spiritual without an inordinate emphasis on the influence of psychology as is often present in American publications about spirituality and pastoral practice. Martin is honest and says that his book "contains nothing very new, but I think it contains a good deal that is old enough to have been forgotten..." (P. xiii). His claim arises after years of personal experience. This is important because he notes that the science-religion relationship, that developed in favour of the dominance of science, seems to be reversing. He writes that " theology looks like becoming the only frame of reference into which current questions can be fitted" (p. 7). He fits spiritual questions into a framework of an English School of spirituality within the diversity of Catholic Christianity. To address the spiritual needs of the twentieth century he pays attention to the biblical roots and early theological interpreters, especially English, of the Christian experience. It is a great help to the reader that Thornton explains how and why his interpretations depart from other authors who have written in this field. These have been addressed by other authors. Written, not as an academic text, but as a resource for the contemporary spiritual director, the books fulfils its purpose admirably. Finally, this is the same author who later, in 'Prayer: A New Encounter' (1972), criticizes and alters his original perspective from an academic theologian to embrace a pastoral-theological stance. His reasons for this are well worth knowing.

    TRUDINGER, Paul (1988) - Leaves from the Note Book of an Unashamed Heretic

    To my mind Trudinger could have entitled this collection of essays, Dehellenized Leaves from the Notebook of an Unashamed Heretic. This small book begins with the author introducing himself and giving his reasons for writing it. In examining the Creed, he arrives at conclusions that are very far removed from his youth. He recalls, “I was brought up in a very conservative Christian tradition. My parents were what are sometimes labelled ‘fundamentalists.’ They were good warm–hearted, compassionate folk. I found a great deal of vitality, of living faith in that tradition…. I am grateful for that experience; grateful to my parents, teachers and pastors who guided me in my youth” (p.1). The book is a personal testimony to others who may have, or had, similar doubts and/or convictions. His conclusions are often so unconventional and not in accord with tradition, that is, the expression of the faith in Hellenistic philosophical categories, that he reminds his readers that he is a member of the Church, a Quaker, writing from within a community of faith. After his commentary on the articles of the Creed he offers some observations about the social and ethical life of persons of faith. A lecture given at McMaster University in 1986 is appended to the book. In a statement, typical of his approach to theological matters, Trudinger says, “If I were pressed to say in one short statement how I would describe the shift in my thinking and convictions, I would say it was a movement away from a strong ‘Christocentric’ focus to the conviction that ‘God’ must always be at the centre” (p. 60). This is a challenging little book and I recommend it to anyone who seeks to deepen the understanding of his or her faith in the light of contemporary experience.

    TYRRELL, George (1981) - Letters from a Modernist: The Letters of George Tyrrell to Wilfrid Ward, 1893-1908

    To Tyrrell's letters Weaver has written annotations which are exceptionally detailed and prove, to my way of thinking, to be the most valuable part of this book for the historian and anyone interested in specifics of the relationship between Tyrrell and Ward. In her introduction she says that the demise of the relationship between Tyrrell and Ward "helps us to understand more clearly why late nineteenth century Catholic intellectuals were drawn to one another and to a common dream of a more expansive church" (p. xiii). Her presentation acknowledges Newman's role in the Modernist controversy as reflected through Tyrrell's correspondence. This book is an enlightening chronicle, albeit a one-sided chronicle, since Ward's letters are no longer extant. However, while I was left informed by Tyrrell's letters as presented by Weaver I was not as passionately moved by this book as I have been by other books on Tyrrell. Nevertheless, Weaver allows Tyrrell's letters to speak for themselves without any annoying overlay of opinionated interpretation. That consideration on her part is a joy in itself. Given all the material available on Tyrrell and Modernism this book is not a "must read", yet, one is poorer in choosing not to read it.

    WELLS, David (1984) - Prophetic Theology of George Tyrrell

    Wells says: "I have tried to develop an understanding of the theology of George Tyrrell that is historically sensitive but re-evaluated from a post-Vatican II position " (P.4). If I have understood Wells correctly, the post-Vatican II position from which he evaluates Tyrrell is an existential one. In this exciting presentation of Tyrrell's thought Wells has succeeded in identifying the prophetic aspect of Tyrrell's character. Many scholastic investigations of the writings of significant theologians are undertaken from the perspective of the historical context or crisis that precipitated their works. Wells has managed to present an investigation that illustrates Tyrrell's historical significance and reveals his prophetic character which transcends the historical context. Wells writes: "...it needs to be said at the outset that my concern centers wholly on Tyrrell; where questions of relationship between his thought and contemporary views arise, my sole intention remains that of eliciting the proper significance of the Irish priest's ideas" (P. 5). As an existentialist, Tyrrell wrote with the intention of finding himself and the journey of this volatile personality parallels the journeys of many of Christ's faithful today. In our age of heightened individuality, which often turns to narcissistic individualism, Tyrrell's journey into self-conscious understanding of himself and the Church, which he claims to have never left, is accurately documented by Wells. Tyrrell's individuality is that of the theologian. It is not the individualism of the philosopher. Wells is faithful to the title of his book and helps us to understand that "What is of concern is that Tyrrell's role as an almost prescient formulator of things to come be recognized" (P. 42). This is not a book which is written to address, in popular fashion, the existential angst among Christian believers today. Rather, it is a thoughtful and richly rewarding intellectual appreciation of the prophetic legacy of one who suffered through the formulation and re-formulation of his ideas for the good of the individual and of the Church. Wells, in re-evaluating Tyrrell from a post-Vatican II perspective, shows how Tyrrell's thought transcends the Victorian theological constraints of his time.

    WILLIAMS, Shirley (2003) - God and Caesar: Personal Reflections on Politics and Religion

    I chose to read this book on the basis of its subtitle: "Personal Reflections on Politics and Religion" expecting a personal account. Rather, a practical account was offered such that, to my mind, the subtitle could be more accurately expressed "Practical Reflections on Politics and Religion." The book is based on a lecture series and as a result is not a difficult book to read. Williams, by her own admission, is not a theologian, nor scholar but a politician. She claims the "authority of experience" for the right to make comments on the relationship between religion and politics. She embraces, and is embraced by, a political and an historical aspect of the institutional church, not its founder. "It seemed to me that, if I was to be a Christian, I should embraced Christianity in its strongest form. It was the huge claims and the huge demands made that drew me to the Church of Rome" (p. 6). In her embrace, I believe, she differs from the politician W E Gladstone who believed that politicians ought to be inspired and motivated by religious convictions. She does support the institutional Church, "warts and all" in addressing the social and global ills of our day. But her support appears to lack Gladstone's personal evangelical commitment to political activity. Her support of the Roman Church, however, does not exempt the Church from undertaking a critical self-reflection. I was not disappointed after reading the book for there are many significant insights clearly and appropriately expressed. Her highly practical insights helped me to become better informed about the relationship between church and state in a contemporary context. However, I remain no better informed about her personal understanding or personal commitment which for me was the initial attraction of the book's subtitle.