Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 6, 2002
Divine Hunger hits affluent Boomers
Divine Hunger: Canadians on Spiritual Walkabout, by Peter Emberley, HarperCollins Canada: Toronto. 2002. 294 pages. Hardcover.
Review by WAYNE HOLST
Divine Hunger is a stimulating consideration of today's fermentive Canadian religious landscape.
Some of his most interesting ideas challenge commonly held assumptions. For example, he questions the orthodoxy of the respected theologian, Jean Vanier. Vanier, he says, is deemed by many boomers to be Canada's most prominent Catholic thinker.
Yet, if Vanier's discourse passes as enlightened contemporary Catholicism, then Roman Catholicism is in peril of losing its characteristic identity. He considers Vanier's work a kind of spiritualized Gnosticism that quietly glosses over much of what has been understood to be classic Catholicism.
Rev. Bill Phipps, former moderator of the United Church of Canada, in a famous 1997 interview with the Ottawa Citizen, was evasive about the truth of Jesus' resurrection, the reality of heaven and hell, and the literal meaning of the gospels.
Emberley, nonetheless, sees much good in Phipps' theology. Though he gained fame in notoriety, says the author, he had actually spent much of his career working quietly behind the scenes with the sick, the poor and the imprisoned.
For Phipps, the utter transcendence of God is paramount. Justice issues and mystery must go together. The Church needs to find ways to help people link the two rather than leaving them to explore mystery in private and cultic activity.
Emberley's contribution is in the challenges he raises against too easily accepted assumptions about spirituality and spiritual questers today. His reflections are sometimes convoluted and his logic a bit difficult to follow in places.
But Divine Hunger is a stimulating consideration of today's fermentive Canadian religious landscape. He is probably best read alongside Bibby's work. Bibby presents the issues more empirically.
Emberley spins intriguing speculative arguments and poses salutary questions.
(Rev. Dr. Wayne Holst is a writer who has taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary.)
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