Blog Archives

Believing not belonging, Mike Grimshaw

New World, New God: Rethinking Christianity for a Secular Age
Ian Harris
Mākaro Press, $30.00,
ISBN 9780994137869

In 1967, Lloyd Geering, Principal of Knox Theological Hall and Old Testament lecturer, was tried for heresy by the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand – and liberal, mainstream Christianity was never the same. Geering’s heresy was, in the language of the church, actually two different charges of doctrinal error, from two opponents (who did not agree on much). Geering was at this time, as he has told me, actually just “an old-fashioned liberal”, but one with a broad interest across many issues of science, religion, humanism and biblical studies.

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Prior tense, Paul Morris

Arthur Prior: A “Young Progressive”: Letters to Ursula Bethell and to Hugh Teague 1936-1941
Mike Grimshaw (ed)
Canterbury University Press, $60.00,
ISBN 9781927145593

A N Prior graduated from Otago University in philosophy and taught there and at the universities of Canterbury (1946-58), Manchester (1959-66) and Oxford (1966-69). At Canterbury, he developed a new form of logic, “tense logic” (1949-1954). Standard logic was atemporal, having no place for timed inferences.

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Lead kindly light, Paul Morris

Sunday Best: How the Church Shaped New Zealand and New Zealand Shaped the Church
Peter Lineham
Massey University Press, $55.00,
ISBN 9780994140777

Saints and Stirrers: Christianity, Conflict and Peacemaking in New Zealand, 1814-1945
Geoffrey Troughton (ed)
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781776561643

A leading scholar recently referring to the burgeoning interest in Yiddish language and literature waggishly commented that there is nothing like terminal decline to spark renewed interest at the universities. As we await the results of the 2018 New Zealand census, it looks likely that the total of all those who identify with the different Christian churches will be re-confirmed as a certain and diminishing minority, and that the numbers of those who report “no religion” will have risen yet again, especially among the young. How different from a few decades ago, when more than eight out of 10 declared themselves Christian, and only a tiny percentage did not identify with religion at all. How did this transition occur? What happened? What has been lost? The story of the radical decline of “Christianity” in this country and the contemporary meanings of these Christian legacies have yet to be fully told or understood.

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Demythologising, Mike Grimshaw

Sacred Histories in Secular New Zealand
Geoffrey Troughton and Stuart Lange (eds)
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781776560950

My late grandmother was a Presbyterian, who had some Catholic friends. They lived in working-class Stanley Point (when it was working-class) in Devonport. During the week, they existed very happily as friends and neighbours. But, on a Sunday, according to family lore, my nana, despite her bad hips, would walk the long way to church so she didn’t have to go past – and therefore acknowledge the existence of – the Catholic church. Apparently, her friends did the same thing in reverse. They were lives in which religious identity and practice were important components, yet these did not create sectarian communities, as during the week they lived interrelated non-sectarian lives. These were the respectable working class, whose children became middle-class, but a middle class that was still religious in framing culture and ethos, if not so regular practice, into the 1980s. Up to the end of the 1980s – and longer in the provinces and rural areas – there was still a large swathe of broad-church Protestantism and Catholicism in New Zealand.

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Reiterating a theme, Peter Lineham

Reimagining God: The Faith Journey of a Modern Heretic
Lloyd Geering
Polebridge Press, $37.00,
ISBN 9781598151565

Professor Lloyd Geering wrote his first book in 1968. Fifty-six years later, the grand old man is just shy of 100 years old and has published his 17th book, at least on my reckoning! Quite an achievement, and well worthy of celebration. Those who have heard Geering lecture will, on opening this book, recognise the scintillating clarity which has always been his mark as a lecturer.

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The life of Brian, Paul Morris

Destiny: The Life and Times of a Self-Made Apostle  Peter Lineham Penguin Books, $38.00, ISBN 9780143568919 A Rising Tide: Evangelical Christianity in New Zealand 1930-65   Stuart Lange Otago University Press, $40.00, ISBN 9781877578557 Recently, the International Association of Religion

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Jesus with a human face, Hugo Petzsch

New Zealand Jesus: Social and Religious Transformations of an Image, 1890–1940 Geoffrey Troughton Peter Lang, US$78.95, ISBN 9783034310475 The figure of Jesus and the powerful ideas that are often associated with him have attracted men, women and children for centuries.

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Hot gospels and wowserism, Paul Morris

The Spirit of the Past: Essays on Christianity in New Zealand History  Geoffrey Troughton and Hugh Morrison (eds)  Victoria University Press, $50.00,  ISBN 9780864736543 Theology no longer forms part of a university education in the social sciences or humanities, where

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Tikkun olam, David Zwartz

Jewish Lives in New Zealand: A History Leonard Bell and Diana Morrow (eds) Godwit, $55.00, ISBN 9781869621735   “Don’t skite!” said my loving family when I came home with the story of some success at school. Jewish Lives in New

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Retro righteous indignation, Paul Morris

Shaping Godzone: Public Issues and Church Voices in New Zealand 1840-2000 Laurie Guy Victoria University Press, $50.00, ISBN 9780864736413   This is a 600-page, somewhat pious, lament for the New Zealand churches. These individual and collective Christian voices once heard

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