Author offers insight into religious, scientific trends

Published April 1, 1999

AS THE THIRD millennium nears, many people reflect acute interest in matters spiritual. What is disconcerting, however, for many of those who have invested their lives in organized religion, much of the current quest for meaning is occurring outside the formal teaching and ritual guidelines of the established religions. “One thing is clear,” says author Mark Parent in his introduction to this book, “the questions of life and death will never go away. The deep haunting cry inside when gazing at the stars cannot be silenced. As the theologian Paul Tillich noted, ?we are incurably religious.'” While dramatic shifts are influencing the great faiths worldwide the author is particularly intrigued by those affecting the Christian church in Canada. In his attempt to discern the signs of the times, in chapters of about 20 pages each, Parent assesses the influences of nine new movements he believes offer hope for contemporary religious renewal. [pullquote]These are, in the scientific terrain: alternative medicine, the Gaia theory (which understands the earth as a self-regulating organism which maintains conditions necessary for its own survival and should be cared for and allowed to heal itself), and the new physics (which proposes that reality exists in both the empirically determined “here and now” as well as in an transcendent realm “beyond time and space” and advocates the integration of scientific awareness with spiritual awareness). In the spiritual terrain he identifies the New Age movement, the increase in near-death experiences, and revivalist pentecostalism; and in the theological area, fundamentalism, liberation theology and religious feminism. Spirit Scapes offers a somewhat uneven examination of this strange mixture of contemporary phenomena. Admitting that much in these new configurations is vague and unhelpful, the author believes their cumulative effect is a strong alarm about gaping holes in the teaching and practice of modern institutional Christianity. What this book offers, which tends to be missing from other presentations, are insights from the physical as well as the social sciences. What it lacks is in-depth analysis of the subject matter. Don’t read this book if you want a developed understanding of why the Gaia hypothesis seems more attractive to religious than scientific thinkers today. Consider reading it, however, if you want to start understanding why, after much conflict, there is significant new consensus among some physicists and some theologians on key issues concerning the “hows” and “whys” of the cosmos.


Don’t read it if the word “fundamentalist” prompts an immediate mental turn-off. Do read it, however, to discover how modern fundamentalism is re-inventing itself leaving other expressions of Christianity hamstrung with incomplete stereotypes and ways of dealing with the modern world. Peering into the next century, Parent suggests that modern incarnations of revivalistic pentecostalism and theological feminism offer the most promising spiritual paths for a humanity consumed with a passion to believe and live an integrated and religious way, linking science and faith, willing to say “yes” to spirituality but “no” to organized religion, yearning for personal and social healing and wholeness, having a mystical desire to link heart and mind in that search. Rev. Dr. Wayne A. Holst is a lecturer at the University of Calgary. His work focuses on the comparative spirituality of indigenous peoples and cross-cultural awareness.


  • Wayne Holst

    Wayne A. Holst was a Lutheran pastor (ELCIC) for twenty-five years; he taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary for a quarter century and, for 15 years, he has coordinated adult spiritual development at St. David’s United Church, Calgary.

Keep on reading

Skip to content