Mark Parent, Spirit Scapes: Mapping the Spiritual & Scientific Terrain at the Dawn of the New Millenium

Kelowna, B.C.: Northstone Publishing, 1998, $15.95 US

Reviewed by Robert Brow   (web site -

The book begins with a quote by Robert Lewis "There is a rising interest in spirituality and a remarkable level of faith in God, even as attendance at traditional places of worship declines" (Macleans, July 7, 96). Mark Parent is a Baptist Minister in Nova Scotia, and he adds "Many who feel the way I do have stopped attending church; the gulf between what they find and what they hope to find has become too painful" (12). "In Canada, church attendance has plummeted from 60 percent in 1957 to 32 per cent in 1986."

But that does not mean that people have become irreligious, and many who no longer darken the door of our churches still have a deep Christian faith, pray, and discuss the Bible with friends. That alone makes this book worth reading. It is also a very important post-modern preface to theology.

Theology is no longer a matter of arguing for faith as opposed to unbelief. And stringing together some bits and pieces of science, archaeology, and the Bible persuades no one. So Parent rightly begins by outlining nine of the models that thinking people now feel free to explore. After a helpful Introduction we have a chapter each on Alternative Medicine, Gaia, The New Physics, New Age, Near-Death Experiences, Revivalism, Fundamentalism, Liberation Theology, Religious Feminism. Parent helpfully describes the search, the problems, and possible directions for faith. I think he could have added a tenth exploration. Most people I know who no longer bother with churchgoing devote themselves to gardening, love of nature and the great outdoors.

The chapter on the Gaia hypothesis was alone worth the price of the book for me. "The entire range of living matter on Earth, from whales to viruses, and from oaks to algae, could be regarded as constituting a single living entity, capable of manipulating the Earth's atmosphere to suit its overall needs" (James Lovelock, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, Oxford University Press, 1979).

I called this a preface to theology because Parent begins with explorations from our human point of view. It reminded me of Paul's sermon in Athens "that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him" (Acts 17:27). But Christian theology begins with God, and in particular with the resurrection.. Which is why relevant theology has to look at four models of the resurrection. Atheism says there is no God, and death is the end. Modified Monism (Robinson's Honest to God and Matthew Fox's Panenthism) says God is the living soul of our world, and death is not the end but a hope for reincarnation. Islam says there is a God, and he will judge and resurrect us to heaven or to hell. Trinitarian Theism says that God loves us and intends to perfect us in and through the resurrection of Jesus.

These four basic theological models will have a different slant on each of the nine explorations that Parent has outlined so helpfully. For example atheists can view alternative medicine as one more possibility for living a bit longer. India has had alternative medicines for 4,000 years, but Monism views healing in this life as irrelevant to genuine salvation. Islam permits all forms of medicine, but submission to Allah is all that counts for making it to heaven. Trinitarian Theism views the Son of God as concerned for our healing by every means.

Similarly Atheists cannot believe that Gaya or God is the soul of our world. The Gaya Hypothesis has been part and parcel on Hindu Modified Monism for 2,500 years. Islam must deny that any being could in any way be called God. Christian Theism assumes that God will keep our world in functioning order till he has finished his purposes for it.

So the challenge for Christian apologetics is to take our very human directions of search, and show how they fit into and are more than satisfied in a theology which I call Creative Love Theism. God love us, and all three Persons of the Trinity are out to perfect us in love to enjoy heaven by every means in their arsenal. And that is awesome.

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