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Christian churches in New Zealand are experiencing a drop in numbers attending Sunday worship as the younger generation question the traditional biblical teaching, but Ian Harris’s book New World New God provides new thinking on how to perceive God and his relevance in today’s world.
Ian Harris’s Faith and Reason columns – which have featured in the Otago Daily Times for fifteen years, and in The Dominion Post and Touchstone as “Honest to God” – argue that Christianity in this millennium is not the paradox it appears to be, but religion at its most creative. I have read them over the years in the Otago Daily Times, but having them together in a publication made for a challenging read for me and had me questioning much of my thinking, having been raised in a Presbyterian household, and continue to follow the Christian faith.
Harris believes ‘new doors are opening, new insights into the Bible are superceding understandings that once seemed chiseled in stone and new interpretations of the Christian faith tradition are emerging, that are fully in sync with our secular world.’
The collection in New World New God explores different aspects of Christianity under the chapter headings God, Jesus, the Bible, Easter, Christmas and the Holy Trinity, and each column has the date at the end when it first appeared in newspapers.
He says ‘one purpose of the column is to pass on to people the thinking of leading theologians of our lifetime’ and he includes comments by Sir Lloyd Geering, as well as Stephen Hawking and Phillip Pullman. To survive in the modern world the church needs to change its teaching, Harris believes, focussing on the new ‘God as symbol’ rather than the God out there of traditional theism.
I found this an interesting read, the columns are well written in language which people can understand. The columns can be read individually and I am sure I will pick this up and re read many of the pieces in the future. The author has acknowledged a number of references at the rear of the book which will be useful for further research .
Ian Harris’s career straddles the worlds of journalism and the church, as he grew up in a Methodist parsonage, and he gained an honours degree in English at Auckland University. He has worked for a number of years as an editorial writer on The Dominion as well as church publications. Instrumental in founding the Ephesus group in Wellington whose purpose is to explore new ways of understanding and expressing Christian faith in this millennium, he and his late wife Jill also wrote The Ephesus Liturgies series.
Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh
New World New God
by Ian Harris
Published by Mākaro Press