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Journal of Christian Nursing: July 2003 - Volume 20 - Issue 3 - p 43–45
doi: 10.1097/01.CNJ.0000262440.16737.39
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BOOKS

WALKING AWAY FROM FAITH

UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY OF BELIEF AND UNBELIEF

By Ruth A. Tucker 240 pp., Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002, $17.00, hardcover.

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Why start with a book about unbelief in an issue focusing on approaching the spiritual realm? Because it is only in understanding unbelief that we can truly communicate with those who struggle with faith. Tucker, an associate professor of missiology at Calvin Theological Seminary, frankly confesses her struggles with doubt before examining the problem as a whole.

Part one tells the story of Billy Graham and one of his early partners in evangelism, Chuck Templeton. Graham's faith never wavered. Templeton, on the other hand, suffered “frequent bouts of despair.” He was a gifted preacher, who served as an itinerant evangelist, then pastored a thriving church before working with Graham in Youth for Christ. Eventually, he left the ministry and declared himself an agnostic. Shortly before his death in 2001, he was asked whether he would like to believe. Sadly, he replied, “Of course! If I could, I would. I'm eighty-three years old. I've got Alzheimer's. I'm dying, for goodness sake!” (p. 39).

Tucker toys with the idea that there may be some genetic predisposition to unbelief and, in chapter three, presents a case study of the Smith family. Hannah Whitehall Smith, author of the classic book, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, was initially not as well known as her husband, Robert. They served together as Bible teachers and evangelists with the Keswick movement. Robert became a world-famous preacher who drew huge crowds, but eventually he succumbed to some morally questionable doctrines, fell into a deep depression and lost his faith entirely. They had seven children and several grandchildren whom they raised, but none of them maintained their Christian faith into adulthood.

Tucker then examines some of the dynamics of unbelief. She looks at the problem of the “hiddenness” of God and how that has been perceived by Christians in their struggle to believe. She suggests that “coming to terms with mystery is a key element in retaining faith” (p. 65). Then she moves to the sense of God's absence, as perceived by those experiencing “the dark night of the soul.”

Part two examines the intellectual challenges to Christian faith throughout history. Tucker describes the struggles of individuals who have wrestled with honest scientific, philosophical, theological, biblical and psychological questions. Others were simply disappointed with God or with fellow Christians. Some tried desperately to believe but finally decided that they could not do so with integrity.

Part three begins with two disturbing chapters presenting both the agony and the freedom of unbelief, including those so delighted with their new-found freedom that they become “missionaries of unbelief.” Tucker attempts to answer some of the serious doubts of unbelievers with faithful responses. Finally, she tells the heartening stories of three contemporary authors who have returned to faith, Kathleen Norris, Madeleine L'Engle and Annie Dillard.

Faith has always come fairly easily forme. It has seemed much more reasonable to trust God than to doubt, even in perplexing situations. This book gave me new insights into how unbelievers think. It helped me to understand the integrity of their turning away from God when they could no longer sense his presence or accept the doctrines that surround him. This book would encourage those who struggle with faith, but it is also has excellent insights for those of us who might tend to judge unfairly.

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MAKING SENSE OF SPIRITUALITY IN NURSING PRACTICE

AN INTERACTIVE APPROACH

By Wilfred McSherry 184 pp., Edinburgh/New York: Churchill Livingstone, 2000, $17.00, paperback.

McSherry, a British nursing instructor, has organized this text for basic nursing students. Each chapter contains suggested learning activities, charts and diagrams and presents the content clearly and concisely.

While the book is designed to cover generic spirituality, it is basically compatible with a Christian worldview. McSherry draws from many Christian authors, including Ann Bradshaw, Verna Carson, Martha Highfield, Barbara Simson, Judith Shelly and Sharon Fish, Jean Stallwood and Ruth Stoll. Chapter one presents nursing's spiritual heritage. Subsequent chapters define spirituality, put it into the context of holism, and then discuss spiritual care. However, spiritual care seems to be little more than compassionate presence and active listening. The author shows great reserve in suggesting any clearly spiritual intervention.

The final chapter gives an overview of nursing research on spirituality and suggests various teaching strategies. Educators will find the book helpful as an introductory text but may feel frustrated that it doesn't offer enough in the way of spiritual interventions.

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SPIRITUALITY IN PATIENT CARE

WHY, HOW, WHEN AND WHAT

By Harold G. Koenig 123 pp., Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 2002, $14.95, paperback.

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This little book was written especially for physicians. The author, who is both a nurse and a physician, allows that, “Nurses and chaplains may also find this small book useful as they interact with doctors, other health professionals, and hospital administrators” (p. 1). At first, I found that statement rather off-putting, especially since the book itself is rather cursory and simplistic. His point was apparently that physicians don't have much time to read, so that this book is short and simple enough to draw them into it.

Chapter one gives a condensed version of the research on spirituality and a history of the relationship between health and religion. Koenig concedes that, “Even closer than the connection between religion and medicine is the historical link between religion and nursing” (p. 17).

Chapter two provides a good introduction to taking a spiritual history and suggests five qualities that should be considered for the instrument: questions should be 1) brief, 2) easy to remember, 3) have appropriate content, 4) focus on the patient's beliefs and 5) the instrument should have credibility. He offers guidelines for intervention, including supporting spiritual beliefs, participating in spiritual activities (such as prayer), and whether to “prescribe” religious activities and linking with religious communities (with emphasis on parish nurses).

Chapter three considers when to include spirituality, with emphasis on being proactive. He suggests doing a spiritual assessment when a patient comes for an initial visit, is admitted to the hospital or during a routine visit, rather than waiting until a crisis situation. He also recommends that physicians and nurses respect one another's spiritual assessments rather that subject the patient to repeated interviews. Koenig recommends that intervention proceed with caution and be offered only if: 1) the physician and patient share the same religious background, 2) a complete history has been taken and 3) there is a spiritual need and the situation calls for prayer.

Chapter four considers the potential consequences of spiritual assessment and intervention. These include: 1) enhancing the patient's ability to cope, 2) enhancing the doctor-patient relationship, 3) increasing patient compliance, 4) mobilizing community support, 5) improving the course of the illness and 6) enabling the physician to treat their patients as whole persons. Negative consequences are also discussed, including: 1) offending the patient, 2) offending the family, 3) raising emotional defenses in non-religious patients, 4) increasing anxiety in times of serious illness, 5) conveying an unintended message that the patient is near death, leading to loss of hope, and 6) spiritual issues may come up that the physician is unprepared to handle.

Chapter five examines boundaries and barriers to spiritual care. The boundaries include respecting the physician's role limitations and the need for patient consent. Barriers to spiritual involvement include lack of knowledge, time or training, discomfort with the subject, fear of imposing religious views on the patient, or the belief that religion is not relevant to medical care and it is not in the physician's job description.

Chapter six briefly explores situations when religion may by harmful or may conflict with medical care. The final chapter provides helpful resources, including several spiritual assessment tools, a list of key research studies on spirituality, books, articles and websites.

Overall, this book probably does speak in terms that physicians will appreciate. It is short, to the point and written from a scientific perspective. While nurses will be disappointed that it does not provide enough depth, we should not expect physicians to be masters of what is uniquely nursing. Spiritual care in the health care setting is really the domain of nursing and the clergy.

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NURSING AS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

A CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION OF FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE'S VIEWS

By Janet A. Macrae 144 pp., Springer Publishing Company: New York, 2001, $29.95, hardcover.

This book is basically a condensation and further interpretation of Macrae's co-edited volume (with Michael Calabria), Suggestions for Thought by Florence Nightingale (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994). From the preface, it becomes clear that the spiritual practice presented in this volume will not be Christian, nor will it be consistent with the views of most other Nightingale scholars. What vestiges of Christian terminology remain in her quotes from Nightingale, Macrae dismisses by saying that “word choices can be limiting” and Nightingale was “following the custom of her era.”

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Chapter one examines some influences on Nightingale's spiritual views, including the Medieval mystics, science and statistics, Unitarianism, the Anglican Broad Church, the Roman Catholic orders, family dynamics, her frail health and her divine calling to service. Nightingale's spiritual foundation for nursing is presented as a respect for natural law and a sense of God's immanence. Chapter two interprets Nightingale's views of spirituality, religion and health care. Macrae quotes Nightingale as saying, “Feelings called forth by the consciousness of a presence of higher nature than human, unconnected with the material, these we call spiritual influences; and this we are conscious is the highest capability of our nature” (p. 21). Macrae differentiates this from religion, which she describes as “a system of beliefs and practices, [which] ideally should serve to enhance and express the experience of spirituality” (p. 22).

Macrae points out the positive effect of faith on physical health. She then discusses Nightingale's interest in other religions and philosophies and compares her attitude toward religious beliefs with those of Buddha, while admitting that “It is not clear if Nightingale was actually influenced by Buddha” (p. 31).

By chapter three, Macrae has taken Nightingale's Victorian philosophical dabbling to “if Nightingale were alive today” speculation. Nightingale's writings are interpreted to support ancient and postmodern ideas such as “death as a stage of growth,” the practice of yoga and Plato's myth of Er. That sets the stage for the rest of the book, which covers topics such as stress reduction and relaxation, a Taoist view of compassion, listening to your “inner guide,” a rather unorthodox guide to prayer and some discussion of Nightingale's views on the ethical and moral nature of nursing.

Granted, many of Nightingale's beliefs were unorthodox; however, Macrae seems to have assumed too much in using Nightingale to support her spiritual beliefs and practices. Christians have erred in the same way, using Nightingale as a paragon of Christian womanhood. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

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SPIRITUALITY

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE SPIRITUAL?

By Rick Richardson 61 pp., Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002, $6.00, paperback.

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Spirituality means many things today. This six-session Bible study guide is designed to help seekers understand a biblical view of spirituality as a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Topics include: 1) What is spirituality? 2) Do all religious leaders say the same thing? 3) How do I find what works for me? 4) What's so unique about Jesus? 5) Why is it so hard to stay spiritually focused? And 6) How can I learn to pray?

Each study includes a brief introduction from contemporary media with discussion openers followed by sections entitled “Going Deeper” and “User's Guide” that make the transition into Bible study. The Scripture passage (“The Oracle”) is provided in the text, followed by discussion questions (“Musing”) and personal application (“Challenge”). The final section in each study, “God Moment” provides further reflection based on the writings of C. S. Lewis, with additional questions designed to stimulate personal journaling about the discussion.

This would be an excellent guide to use with colleagues or classmates who are intrigued by a vague spirituality but may not recognize how it differs from Christian faith. Page 21 provides a helpful chart comparing world religions. The many references to contemporary literature and media offer a level playing field for the discussion. While the guide is not specifically aimed at nursing or health care, the application will be easy to make.

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BOOK BRIEFS

JCN receives more books than we have space to review. Book Briefs are short synopses based on the publisher's descriptions. JCN staff have not read or evaluated these books.

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CHRONIC PAIN

BIOMEDICAL AND SPIRITUAL APPROACHES

By Harold G. Koenig 328 pp., Binghamton, NY: Haworth Pastoral Press, 2003, $24.95, paperback.

This is a beautiful book, written for both health care professionals and for anyone suffering from chronic pain. Not only is it comprehensive, covering biomedical, surgical, social and spiritual approaches to pain management, it is personal. Koenig shares his own experience with chronic pain, as well as the stories of several patients. The book provides information, comfort and hope for those who suffer chronic pain.

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HONORING OUR NEIGHBOR'S FAITH

Edited by Robert Buckley Farlee 132 pp., Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1999, $9.99, paperback.

This guide to faith traditions allows each religious group to describe its identity, beliefs and practices. Most major Christian denominations are included, along with Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and several quasi-Christian sects. Published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, each faith tradition presented is compared to Lutheran teaching, worship, governance and characteristics.

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SPIRITUAL QUEST

A GUIDE TO THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE

By Thomas Hart 180 pp., Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1999, $11.95, paperback.

Hart surveys the current religious landscape and attempts to provide a Christian alternative that will satisfy those who are exploring new forms of spirituality. He defines spirituality, describes the spiritual life and points to Jesus as the “Trailblazer” for our spiritual quest. He offers an invitation to experience the mystery of faith, provides “Ten Guiding Principles,” examines the relationship between spirituality and sexuality and discusses the work of the Holy Spirit. Each chapter concludes with discussion questions and exercises.

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SOUL SEARCHERS

AN ANTHOLOGY OF SPIRITUAL JOURNEYS

By Teresa de Bertodano 255 pp., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002, $25.00, hardcover.

De Bertodano has collected a delightful array of stories by spiritual seekers spanning four millennia and five continents. Some authors are well known, such as Billy Graham, Charles Colson, C. S. Lewis, Florence Nightingale and St. Augustine; others will be unfamiliar. Most are Christians, but others, such as Mahatma Gandhi, ventured close, but did not enter the fold.

The book is divided into three sections. The first relates to childhood and adolescence, asking the question, Who am I? The second comes from crisis points of midlife. The third moves into the final stages of life as death approaches.

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A RENEWED SPIRITUALITY

FINDING FRESH PATHS AT MIDLIFE

By Lynne M. Baab 208 pp., Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002, $13.00, paperback.

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This book deals with the losses, discoveries and responsibilities of midlife in the light of our relationship to God. It is written for readers between ages 35 and 55 or beyond but could also be helpful for younger readers. Baab introduces six patterns of spiritual discipline as resources for this stage of life. Patterns include: 1) Celtic Christian spirituality—finding God's presence in everyday life, 2) Nature—a gift from God that inspires worship, 3) Sabbath—learning to rest in God, 4) Benedictine spirituality—worshiping in ordinary life, 5) Soul nurture—drawing near to God with the heart and 6) Listening to God—the contemplative Christian tradition. Each chapter concludes with questions for reflection.

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NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME?

EVANGELICALS AND THE CHALLENGE OF WORLD RELIGIONS

By John G. Stackhouse, Jr. 208 pp., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001, $20.99, paperback.

This book brings together leading theologians from a variety of evangelical backgrounds to discuss contemporary Christian encounters with world religions. They examine questions such as: What are religions? Is there divine revelation in non-Christian religions? Is the “Jesus story” found in other faith traditions? How should evangelism and missions proceed within a multi-faith context? This provides a careful theological, sociological, historical and anthropological treatment of Christian interaction with people of other faiths. It asks tough questions and avoids simplistic answers.

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THE JOURNEY

OUR QUEST FOR FAITH AND MEANING

By Os Guinness 269 pp., Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001, $16.00, paperback.

Reflecting on a wide range of sources, Guinness has provided a context for raising questions about faith and the meaning of life and considering answers that will satisfy. The book investigates three major perspectives: modern secularism, Eastern philosophy and Christian faith, allowing proponents of each perspective to speak for themselves.

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PLEASURES EVERMORE

THE LIFE-CHANGING POWER OF ENJOYING GOD

By Sam Storms 317 pp., Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2000, $15.00, paperback.

In this compelling and highly readable book, Storms, a pastor, presents a fresh and liberating perspective on how a relationship with God is not only possible, but irresistibly pleasurable. The author contends that once we discover that God delights in our company, our desire for him will only be satisfied by drawing closer to his unquenchable love through a life of passionate service. This love relationship results in an ability to resist temptation and empowers us to live holy lives.

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THROUGH HIS EYES

AWOMAN'S GUIDE TO LIVING WITH AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE

By Kathy Collard Miller 224 pp., Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1999, $13.00, paperback.

Through His Eyes helps readers explore common attitudes that can distort spiritual vision and offers biblical help to change your view. Earthly and heavenly perspectives are offered on topics such as grace, identity, growth, purpose, service and transcendence. Miller writes, “Our future destination is guaranteed. But our present ability to live a fulfilling and godly life becomes more of a reality by cultivating an eternal perspective. That's a winning proposition” (p. 16). The book includes a ten-week Bible study.

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YOU CAN CHOOSE

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Copyright © 2003 InterVarsity Christian Fellowship