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MEANINGS OF LIFE

by
02 November 2006

iStock

DLT £10.95 (0-232-52489-0); Church Times Bookshop £9.85

This is, in some ways, an unconventional sequel to Alex Wright's Why Bother with Theology? The publication of that book, in which theology was told to "get a life", contributed, the author says, to the ending of his job in religious publishing, and to a self-questioning  that led to this book.

Wright's first book's challenging critique of the traditional methods of Christian theology, and develop-ment of a secular theology, is complemented here by an attempt to outline a secular spirituality, within which those with an "open and enquiring mind" are encouraged to wrestle with questions of ultimate concern.

Dismissing as "anachronistic" and "distastefully imperialistic" the possibility of finding the meaning of life in any one religious tradition, Wright looks for meanings in personal remembrances. He is confident that reflection on the story of one's own life-journey, and of the relationship between self, people, places and creation, can illuminate a more transcendent, overarching meta-narrative. 

This method underlies each main chapter, as personal reflections from different staging-posts along the author's journey invite the reader to consider meanings of life under the headings of self and the world, loss, love, and fulfilment.  Examples from contemporary fiction and film, woven into the story-telling, provide a map to guide readers through their experiences.

The openness and creative depth of Wright's self-reflection is, perhaps, this book's greatest strength; but he bears the scars of his unemployment, and not far beneath the surface of this exploration of secular spirituality lie bitterness and resentment directed at Christianity. But those who wish to defend traditional forms of organised religion will here find challenging questions and an insightful methodology that conventional responses will not satisfy.

The Revd Dr Jones is Chaplain of Merton College, Oxford.

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