Spurgeon: A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore

This is not really a new biography anymore – written in the mid 90’s. I read this around ten years ago and having read the two volume autobiography of Spurgeon I wanted to read this again.

Dallimore is a wonderful writer. His master piece, two volume work on George Whitefield (Vol1 here & vol 2 here is incredible. However, I don’t think he is quite as good here with Spurgeon, despite the limited space. Spurgeon was an incredible, passionate, god focused, Christ centered man. His ministry was huge, his ability amazing and his drive unquenchable.

He was the pastor of the first modern ‘mega’ church. The Metropolitan Tabernacle in South London, the Church he built (physically) and pastured for the last 30 years of his ministry until his death, would be packed with over 5000 people every Sunday.

Spurgeon was converted at the age of 15 years of age almost by accident (if you can say that about a Calvinist!!). He was sent home from the boarding school he attended due to an outbreak of fever. While at home he attended a small Methodist Chapel one Sunday morning. No more than fifteen people were there due to a snow storm the previous evening. Dallimore, (quoting Spurgeon himself) writes:

“The minister did not come that morning: he was snowed up, I suppose. At last a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up to the pulpit to preach. Now it was well that preachers be instructed, but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was – ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the end s of the earth.’ He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimmer of hope for me in that text…….When he had managed to spin out about ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “And you will always be miserable – miserable in life and miserable in death – if you don’t obey my text: but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.”….I saw at once the way of salvation…”

And hence the journey for Spurgeon began.

This book is a wonderful introduction to Spurgeon – and by reading it I hope you will be encouraged to read his sermons and his books.

C.H.Spurgeon Autobiography Vol 2

What can i say – an awesome read!! This second volume of Spurgeons life goes from the building of the Metropolitan Tabernacle (1861) to his death in 1891. Spurgeon was really the first mega church pastor – a consistent regular congregtion for nearly thirty years of 5000 plus – plus hundreds of thousands who read his sermons and magazine throughout the world.

A man of phenomenal energy who quite literally worked himself to death for gospel and ministry. He read 6 books PER WEEK and by the end of his life had preached to over 25 million people and written 140 books.

Great read!

A Short History of Christianity by Stephen Tomkins

Actually, a REALLY short history of Christianity. Tomkins manages to squeeze the entire history of the church in 242 pages – and he does as good a job as you can. Of course he skips huge areas and does not expand on some areas I thought he should have but overall you get the sense of how the Church and christianity progressed. Also, Tomkins style is very easy, which is a bonus when it comes to history!!

The weakness with the book is largely down to its size. There are some places where to skip chunks of info is more confusing – the chapters on the reformation are a little in adequate, as are the explanations for the west and east split in the 11th century. Also you are bombarded with a LOT of information which you are likely to forget.

With regards to its use to teach church history, I still think that if you are going to do a short course on Church History Mark Noll’s book Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity is ideal and the book I would (and have, for a 12 session course) use. Noll focuses upo the ten decisive turnin points – which give you a deeper, more profound understnding of the most vital aspects of Church History, which I think is more helpful. In any event, every student and believer should have a copy of The History of Christianity and / or Justo L. Gonzalez’s two volumes The Story of Christianity (volume 2) for reference.

But otherwise I really enjoyed Tomkins book.

What Is A Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile

This would have been a ground breaking book for me if I had read it before November 2007. As it is, having read ReThink (check out my review HERE, HERE and HERE)
which I think is a step further and more theologically focused this book does not have the radical-ness for me that it might have had. In saying that, this is still a book to read to get your thinking around family based youth ministry and making parents a main foundation in youth ministry, both in terms of ministering TO and providing resources FOR and having them join IN youth group.

Family Based Youth Minstry by Mark Devries

This would have been a ground breaking book for me if I had read it before November 2007. As it is, having read ReThink .
which I think is a step further and more theologically focused this book does not have the radical-ness for me that it might have had. In saying that, this is still a book to read to get your thinking around family based youth ministry and making parents a main foundation in youth ministry, both in terms of ministering TO and providing resources FOR and having them join IN youth group.

The Shack by William Young

The Shack by William Young has become a huge best seller, as well as a source of controversy. You can read various reviews from Christians which are both very negative HERE some very positive HERE. I had no intention of reading this book until I received an emaiil from a friend and fellow youth minister, who asked me whether I had read it and I said no, but suggested we read it together and blog about it (check out his fine blog HERE).

I will post more in the coming days but these are my initial thoughts and reflections. The Shack is about a guy called Mac who now lives in the aftermarth of his young daughters murder. She was murdered in a shack by an evil person. Some years after the murder Mac is convinced that he has to go back to the shack for a weekend – he does not know why, but he goes and there discovers three people, who in fact are the Trinity. God the father is an African American woman, God the Son is white young man in jeans and the Holy Spirit is a woman who seems very artistic and ‘floaty’ (my term for a person who is constantly dancing around). Here in the shack Mac has a conversation with God. Much of the conversation revolves around his anger at why God would allow his daughter to die.

The book tackles two huge theological issues in a novel – the Trinitarian relationship and the problem of evil and God’s role in suffering.

Can a novel, a fictional story bring light to topics on which many scholarly books have been written? Of course, the author would say that is not the purpose of The Shack – but then again, he enters into these topics and dialogues from a ‘god’ perspective – which is to do and present theology. Whatever else is said – this is a theological book simply because of the topics he is tackling and by the fact he tries to explain them from God’s perspective (more on that in later posts).

My first reaction then, to this novel, is that it is heretical from the time that Mac meets God at the Shack. The author has all three members of the trinity at the shack and God the father as an Afican American woman.

Exodus 33:18-22 says: Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

21 Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

No-one has seen God the Father – no-one CAN see God the father and live. Also it goes against the commandment to make an idol.

Yes, I know its a novel – but it claims to be Christian and it claims to be about the trinity. Having Jesus there is fine (the representation of the invisible God!!), even the Holy Spirit is fine – but not God the father.

In fact this is one of the biggest objections I have with Mormonism. They claim Joseph Smith was visited by the Father and the Son and when i object and say that would make Joseph Smith greater than Moses and that God himself has said no-one can see Him, they struggle – but thats another issue.

The Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis

With the past few weeks being SO busy (Mystery trip to Florida – Camp Chaplian and speaker in Charleston for a week, VBS this week) I have had little time for reading. But I managed to finish this a week or so ago. That Hideous Strength is a wonderful read. My colleague here told me that its one of the most significant and prophetic books of the 20th century.

The story is set in a small english town around a university professor who is wanting to ‘get on’ in the world and make his mark. He gets involved with an organization called N.I.C.E. who recruit him and then slowly ask him to do some questionable things. Mark (the young professor) is lead to wrestle with his conscience. Meanwhile his wife has become friends with another group who realize that her recuring nightmares are actually prophetic. This is a plain old battle between the spiritual forces of good and evil. It also is a statement on how evil subtly gets into society and tries to turn it for its own purposes.

If you read some of the reviews on Amazon they don’t really get to the heart of what Lewis is saying in this book. Yes, Merlin makes an appearance but also see that Lewis is making a striking statement about the fact that we have demonic forces who will try and destroy what God is doing – but that God has his faithful people, who do not use the same methods but as they trust in God they will see ultimate victory.

The Silent Planet trilogy is not as well known as Narnia – but it should be!! A great set of books – go read them.