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Doing Theology in the New Normal: Global Perspectives

Jione Havea (Editor)

SCM Press, 2021

Review by Isabelle Hamley, Secretary for Theology and Theological Adviser to the House of Bishops in the Church of England

<strong><em>Doing Theology in the New Normal: Global Perspectives</em></strong>

Doing Theology in the New Normal is both a bracing read, and an easy read. Easy, because it is written in bite sized chapters, most of which are accessible and engaging, and draw readers into different, fascinating and at times heart-breaking contexts. But it is a bracing read because it asks multiple difficult questions. The guiding thread that unites the book, regardless of context, is the question, ‘was the old “normal” actually normal?’ Was it normal to have a world full of such vast inequalities? Was it normal that a small number of nations double and triple vaccinated their populations whilst vast parts of the world could not even offer one vaccine to every person?

Underlying the question of how we think and speak of God in light of the pandemic, lie deep questions of justice, and of how we see the world, what people in different contexts see, what they cannot see, and what they choose not to see. As such, this is a book that forces all of us to open our eyes and see our neighbour – wherever that neighbour is – and ask, what does it mean that we are neighbours, one to another?

The questions are not new, nor are the theologies underlying the questions; but they have been made more urgent by the pandemic, and prompt Christians everywhere to stop and explore how we might construct the ‘new normal’, so that that it is not an uncritical return to the past, nor a headlong rush into a future we have not though about. This book begs us to interrogate our choices, our practices, our prayers – in other words, it calls us to a whole life approach to doing theology, one that is not divorced from the reality of life in different parts of the world. It asks how the actions we take in one country affect someone often invisible to us in another country. It is a call to a spirituality that characterises the people of God in a particular way, and often recovers the deep integration of all aspects of life so clear in the Old Testament’s call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

As an aid to preaching, Doing Theology in the New Normal could be invaluable: it can help congregations broaden their understanding of what it means to be part of God’s church worldwide; it can help congregations everywhere to ask themselves how their faith shapes their social and political belonging; and it can help congregations interrogate their local lives, by being helped to see better by those who come with a different perspective, and with different questions. But of course, there is a catch. To choose to do theology with God’s church, the whole church, is never easy – because the God we discover together is often stranger and more challenging than we thought, and so are our neighbours. But to know more of God, more of God’s people and understand ourselves better in this landscape, is part of our vocation and calling for today, and tomorrow’s new normal.


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