The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come by Rob Moll

As someone who reads a lot (and I mean a lot), in the midst of the bad and average books there are some good ones. The rarity is a GREAT book. This is a GREAT book. By GREAT I mean a book which is so well written, on a topic which is important that people just have to read it. Because of the subjective nature of reading it is somewhat perilous for a reviewer to declare a book to be a future classic. However I do feel that this will be a classic.

This book tackles the most difficult and avoided  of subjects – death and dying. But this is a vital book to read. Moll challenges us to think about the art of dying – an art which has been lost of the last century and a half. For Christians, we must be preparing for death in the midst of our life. Running the race, glorifying God, deep spirituality is a LIFE LONG process – not just in terms of every part of our lives, but in terms of length. Scripture says we need to persevere to the end; finish the race. Dying well is a part of our Christian walk and spiritual journey.

Too many  people do not die well. They pursue anything which will give them more life, even if that is a few weeks more. Medical intervention and medical science has created a culture by which there can ALWAYS be something more to be done, another machine, another tube to keep you alive. However Moll challenges us to think about when we should say “No – no more intervention – no more drastic treatment, it’s time to go home, speak with my family and prepare for death.”

Death and dying is one of the most intense spiritual experiences. We must learn to prepare for it. This book is filled with wonderful pastoral insight and wisdom as well as stories and illustrations from the medical and hospice worlds.

Who should read this book? Firstly ALL Christians should read this book and, regardless of age – 20, 30, 50, 60 – we should begin to prepare for dying – for we never know when we may encounter death. Secondly all pastors should have copies on hand. I have already given two copies away. Moll challenges pastors to be far more proactive in speaking and helping those who are dying. Too often we can enter a room of a parishioner who is terminally ill and not know what to say or how to act. We pastors need to begin to discern when it is right to challenge people to stop the striving for more treatments which will, at most, squeeze out a few extra weeks or months of life, and encourage them to begin to prepare spiritually and mentally to meet the living God of the Universe. Thirdly, family members of people dying must read this book. It will give them a (spiritual) hope as well as the confidence to begin to face the death of their dearest loved one in a way which will help them after their loved one has died.

This is a GREAT book. An important book. Highly Recommended.

Angelology: A Novel by Danielle Trussoni

I usually read the odd fiction book to relax. And I usually only read historical fiction. However there are times when some novels just grab my attention or curiosity that I just can’t help but read it. This was the case with this book. I read a review in the New York Times Book Review and I just wanted to read it.

The story is a fascinating one. It is about the on-going war g between the Nephilim (fallen Angels who married daughters of men) and a secret society of Angelologists, who, for centuries, have been committed to keeping the Nephilim at bay. The Nephilim have become powerful and wealthy – owning corporations and involved with politics. However, the persistent union with humans have caused many Nephilim to contract a virus, or a disease which decays them slowly. Nothing can be done – expect for an angelic artifact – a lyre – which, according to legend, was dropped by the Archangel Michael when he cast the rebellious angels into their prison in the depths of the earth. This lyre, through its music, would restore those Nephilim under the virus. The angelic lyre also has immense power. The Nephilim will not stop until the lyre is in their position and the Angelologists will not rest until the lyre, which is has been hidden by the society, is destroyed.

Trussoni writes a captivating story, even using some historical documents such as the Book of Enoch to build an incredibly convincing world of angelology , including a complex history. You almost believe that the professors and the society of angelologists are historical and real.

I did not find this novel cringy. On the contrary, her descriptions of the angels are wonderfully detailed, and by no means is she mocking the idea of angels. She has cleverly taken the concept of angels and built an entertaining novel revolving around the idea of the Nephilim. She has obviously spent time in the Bible (Genesis 6 and Revelation), the Book of Enoch as well as Jewish Tradition and other writings about the angelic. While ‘God’ or Jesus is, sadly, mostly absent, (the battle revolves around humans and angels) it is not entirely excluded. There is one scene in the book when the ‘mightiness’ of heaven does appear. It does not appear enough for my liking, but Trussoni does not ignore it entirely

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I quite lost myself in the story – which, after all, is the point of fun reading!

Giving Church Another Chance: Finding New Meaning in Spiritual Practices by Todd Hunter

Todd Hunter reveals a startling error in how we think about church; Church is NOT the place we go once a week to worship. Church is, should be, the launch pad for our spiritual life and practices.

Church should not be something we DO but something we LIVE. This is the core of what Hunter outlines in this book.

One of the most vivid illustrations which Hunter gives is that of baseball! The baseball team talk about various hitters and how to pitch to each person, knowing where they tend to hit and how they can position their catchers. The team talk is important, very important, but it is not the game! For Hunter Church is the team talk. It should be preparing us to go out and live in the 167 hours of the week that we are not in Church.

So Church and all that it is, the liturgy, the reading of scripture, the offering, communion,the benediction should be launch pads for our own spiritual practices in the world as we go as ambassadors of Christ to live the work he has called us to do.

What is wonderful about Hunter’s thesis is that it does not hold out one particular model of church as right, or more conducive, while at the same time, he emphasis the importance of Church and it’s role in our lives as believers. In fact the issue of style, or method is irrelevant. The issue is are we going OUT to live the life of the Church using the spiritual practices which the church embody and encourage us to do.

A fascinating read.

It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement by Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence

Penal Substitution (PS) has been a hot topic for some of late. There have been a number of books of late, ranging from the academic to the popular, defending PS. There are some in the debate who would argue that PS is the ONLY atonement model in Scripture. Fortunately this is not one of those books. While acknowledging that there are other atonement models, what this book endeavors to do is to show that PS is a prominent theme throughout the Bible. And they succeed.

Each chapter is an exposition of a passage of scripture. While the text is easy to read the expositions are very good, taking you through the relevant verses skillfully. Mark Dever begins the book in Exodus 12, showing how the theme of PS is found in the first Passover, when the angel of death went through Egypt. From there each chapter builds the case that Scripture teaches emphatically that God sent his Son to die in our place, as a substitute, having the sins of the world placed placed upon him and Jesus dying in our place.

To deny PS as a biblical model (and a core one at that) is really a very difficult position to hold from the Bible and this is shown through these expositions. However reading this book is not just going to give you an understanding of what scripture teaches you about PS, it will also give you a wonderful model of what a good exposition looks like and ultimately, and most importantly, these expositions will point you to Christ and his work.

The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects Of Our Calling by John Stott

Quite simply this is classic Stott. Most of what he writes in this book he has written else where. But that really does not matter. Having Stott’s thoughts on discipleship compiled in one volume is wonderful. John Stott is one of the most important and influential evangelical, Anglican figures in the last 100 years. A new generation of ministers are enjoying his writings afresh, and this volume should be a favorite. Short and concise each chapter brims with Stotts indubitable style and wisdom.

The final chapter, on death, was my favorite. His wisdom, humility and honesty (he is 87 years of age and, as he says, he is reflecting on death and seeking to prepare for it) was touching. This is a book which should be given away. It’s as good as any book on encouraging and challenging us in the way  of being a disciple of Christ.

Books Read In May – updated

.

.

.

.

.

This is a wonderful biography of Churchill. It is well written, full of information and brings out Churchill the man and Politian very well. At only 160 pages it is a great way to get into this giant of a man.

This is a great little book. At only 85 pages this should take you an hour to read – but it will be a profitable hour. Despite it’s size, this packs a heavy punch theologically, giving the reader a straight forward, and yet in-depth, biblical understanding, of death, what happens when we die, what happens at the resurrection, what happens at the final judgement and what happens in heaven.

This book should be bought in bulk by pastors so that they can always have a copy handy to give to parishioners who are facing illness, or have family facing illness. We need to be confronted with a biblical theology of death and this does it. Highly Recommended.

.

Very basic, biblical theology encased with stories and illustrations. Maybe too simple for some.

A must read and a great asset for teaching doctrine. This is also a wonderful gift for the lay person in Church who wants to have a substantial understanding of the major doctrines of Christianity. Highly Recommended.

.

.

.

.

.

Packer and Parrett argue for the benefits of using a catechism. Having layed out the Bible foundations for catechism they go on to describe the why’s and the benefits of catechism, as well as resources for churches. I did not think the book lived up to the expectation.

.

.

.

.

.

Reflections on the church and ministry by a true patriarch of the Church. With 60 or so years of faithful service to Christ and ministry within the Church of England, we should really be listening to what John Stott says.

.

.

.

.

.

For me this book throws down a challenge to the scientific and academic world. The challenge is – “Please – engage with New Atheism, and it’s claims vigorously. Make Dawkin, Harris and Hitchin’s defend their position. Compare it with scientists who accept intelligent design as well as the claims and teachings of Christianity and then make your mind up. Please, let’s have an open, fair, deep and impartial examination.”

As the authors suggest, if this were to happen, this will mean that for the first time new atheists will have to defend their position rather than merely taking skeptical shots at christianity.

.

.

.

.

.

This book is a wonderful resource on Spiritual Formation and should be used by Pastors and Church Leaders as a foundation for building their own theology of Spiritual Formation and then as a launch pad for teaching their congregations to do likewise.

.

.

.

.

.

A challenge to the church to start thinking about unity, especially on a personal and local level.

.

.

.

.

.

The work of the Church is not possible with JUST a resurrected Christ – the Church, we, NEED the Ascended Christ to minister, for without the ascended Christ we would not have the Spirit. His unpacking of this is excellent.

.

.

.

.

.

This is more than a biography of Lewis – it analysis his work in relation to his life. If you are Lewis fan, of course it is a must read.

The Resurrection of Ministry: Serving In The Hope of The Risen Lord by Andrew Purves

John Piper wrote almost 30 years ago, “What I have learned from about twenty-years of serious reading is this. It is sentences that change my life, not books. What changes my life is some new glimpse of truth, some powerful challenge, some resolution to a long-standing dilemma, and these usually come concentrated in a sentence or two. I do not remember 99% of what I read, but if the 1% of each book or article I do remember is a life-changing insight, then I don’t begrudge the 99%.”

I can relate Piper’s quote to this book. I confess that I found it hard to get into this book. But when I did his main point was powerful; we need to move from ministering in Holy Saturday, to Ministering in Easter Morning and the Ascension. In other words, ministry and the Christian life has to be done in the power of the Resurrected AND Ascended Christ. His emphasis on the Ascension was eye opening, challenging and exciting. The work of the Church is not possible with JUST a resurrected Christ – the Church, we, NEED the Ascended Christ to minister, for without the ascended Christ we would not have the Spirit. His unpacking of this is excellent. Too many of us are ministering in Holy Saturday, without the power of the Spirit, relying on our own ability. For this reason the book is worth reading, especially by Pastors and other Ministers.


Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity In Christ’s Mission Is Vital To The Future Of The Church by John Armstrong

This book is a careful study on the issue of unity within the church. Armstrong does not argue for wide ecumenicalism  or unity at any cost. Far from it. But he does ask the question, and raises suggestions as to why it is that the church – those who declare Jesus Christ to be Lord, are so divided. Where is Unity amongst those who profess the core beliefs of the faith? And it’s a good and challenging question. While there are groups claiming to be Christian which we should not unite to because of unscriptural beliefs why does the orthodox church (by this I mean  churches believing in the core doctrines of the historic faith) find it SO hard to unite? This book provides some background to this question, as well as some analysis. Armstrong is heavily influenced by J.I Packer.

Is there a solution? Armstrong does not give a solution so much as a suggested pattern. For him unity is created in the trenches of shared life – person to person, congregation to congregation. It is made through human relationships within families and communities where we live. Will the Episcopal Church and the Baptists unite to work together on a denominational level? No. Should a bible believing, orthodox Episcopal Church be united with a local Baptist church for the work of the kingdom in their city – of course they should. Should two families from different church traditions but sharing the same core beliefs of biblical Christianity work together for the gospel – yes they should. And it is on this level that such unity, for Armstrong, is so vital to the future of the church. On the local level we need to smash down the walls which divide orthodox believers so that more unity, working together, even pulpit swaps can take place. This would transform our cities.

Life In The Spirit: Spiritual Formation In Theological Perspective Edited by Jeffery Greenman and George Kalantzis

.

This collection of papers originally presented at the 2009 Wheaton Theology Conference aims to set a perspective on the topic of Spiritual Formation. We may have heard of this phrase – it has become a buzz word amongst some – but what does it mean and what kind of theology does it espouse? This book answers that question. Each chapter covers an area of  Spiritual Formation or Disciplines, providing the reader a framework that is theological, historical and practical.

Too often we divorce spiritual formation from theology, and theology from the spirit. We need to merge them back together so that we have a living theology which is simultaneously forming the work of  Christ in us and in the world, through and in the experience of the Holy Spirit.

While all the chapters were excellent, Kelly Kapic’s chapter on John Owen (Evangelical Holiness) and his concept of holiness was especially good, showing how the puritan Owen’s approach to holiness was  both Christ-centered AND Spirit-enabled.

Christopher Hall gives a very helpful chapter on Lectio Divina outlining the benefits of slow and intentional reading of scripture not for analysis sake, but for receiving and bathing in the word of God.

The Church needs to get serious about our spiritual formation and growth. Too few christians today take seriously the need to spend time (significant time) in the scriptures and in prayer before the living God. We must become disciplined is spending time, daily, immersed in and soaking up the words of life found in the scriptures, and allowing that to shape a living and spirit empowered theology which translates itself into Christ centered living, individually and corporately.

This book is a wonderful resource on Spiritual Formation and should be used by Pastors and Church Leaders as a foundation for building their own theology of Spiritual Formation and then as a launch pad for teaching their congregations to do likewise.

Against All God’s: What’s Right and Wrong About The New Atheism by Phillip Johnson and John Mark Reynolds

This is a clever little book. Johnson and Reynolds are not writing an apologetic, or polemic against the wave of New Atheism (although they do not agree with it.) What this book does is to call out Scientists and Universities to seriously study the claims of new atheism and to scrutinise it’s arguments. And this is the reason the authors and this book are very clever.

The new atheist movement is on the offensive. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchen’s are not just atheists – but they have become evangelical atheists. They have moved from not believing in God, to actively trying to bring down theism as a rational position. They have moved from saying religion is a waste of time, to religion is evil.

Yet the authors of this book argue that while they disagree with  the conclusions of the new atheists, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchin’s are asking the right questions. They are bringing the issue to the forefront. And this is a GOOD thing for the authors of this book. Why? Because it will force universities and scientists to engage with the claims of the new atheists. Dawkins especially, has pushed the boundary of what science is beyond the comfort zone of many scientists. Would the scientific world endorse Dawkins claim (scientifically) that the logic of Darwinism supports atheism, or that the answer to cosmic fine tuning is in fact that there are a huge number of alternative universes? Surely this has left the discipline of empirical science and entered philosophical speculation.

For me this book throws down a challenge to the scientific and academic world. The challenge is – “Please – engage with New Atheism, and it’s claims vigorously. Make Dawkin, Harris and Hitchin’s defend their position. Compare it with scientists who accept intelligent design as well as the claims and teachings of Christianity and then make your mind up. Please, let’s have an open, fair, deep and impartial examination.”

As the authors suggest, if this were to happen, this will mean that for the first time new atheists will have to defend their position rather than merely taking skeptical shots at christianity.

Very clever!

Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears

I think this is a really impressive work. Why? There are ten to a dozen Systematic Theologies in the market. For the most part they are big books which can intimidate or look to daunting for many Christians. Driscoll and Breshears have pulled off something unique. They have a substantial book, and  by substantial I mean it has lots of information. Each chapter covers the topic thoroughly. And yet, the book is not dense, or hard to read. Far from it. It is remarkably easy to read. But what this book does very well is to limit itself to 13 chapters and thus, providing a template of doctrines which we should all as Christians uphold. While Driscoll and Breshears do take positions their writing and presentation of the material in each chapter is so comprehensive that you come away with an all round understanding of each doctrine. A must read and a great asset for teaching doctrine. This is also a wonderful gift for the lay person in Church who wants to have a substantial understanding of the major doctrines of Christianity. Highly Recommended.

Dug Down Deep: Unearthing What I Believe And Why It Matters by Joshua Harris

A very basic, bare bones, biblical theology wrapped in anecdotes and illustrations. The book is easy to read and Harris is engaging. And what he writes is solid.On this basis, it is a book which you could give to an enquiring teenager as a very first step into biblical theology. A first step, mind you. For some it will be too simple and so you might need to jump up a level.

Fear Not by Ligon Duncan

This is a great little book. At only 85 pages this should take you an hour to read – but it will be a profitable hour. Despite it’s size, this packs a heavy punch theologically, giving the reader a straight forward, and yet in-depth, biblical understanding, of death, what happens when we die, what happens at the resurrection, what happens at the final judgement and what happens in heaven. 

This book should be bought in bulk by pastors so that they can always have a copy handy to give to parishioners who are facing illness, or have family facing illness. We need to be confronted with a biblical theology of death and this does it.

Books Read For April

For Beckwith we need to hold a balance in respect to politics. Politics is not everything, but neither is it nothing. It has its place. That is why Christians need to be informed of the laws and statutes of our land and discerning as to when they need to or should get involved.

I think this is a valuable book for those seriously interested in politics. It has some wonderful insights, simply lays out the various areas of study in politics and succinctly discusses the major issues. Finally, it points you to further study.

Recommended.

Evangelism requires words, but as the authors point out, words can be cheap. No, evangelism, interaction with people, requires more than words – it requires a commitment to get involved. It requires an investment of time, energy and compassion. It requires the willingness not just to open a can of worms, but to help be involved in its clearing up. It involves learning to get into friendships with people for the long haul.

If the church exhibited more of the characteristic of friendship at the margins we would have a revolution on our hands. It will also shake up our schedules. Recommended.

Cordeiro has produced a book that should be on the book shelf of every seminary student and pastor. Knowing how to manage yourself and the demands of ministry is so important. Knowing what God has called you to do and to live intentionally in that calling; willing to delegate and assign tasks that others can do and when to take time out, and away, to be with the God and to seek him. What are your priorities in the limited hours of a day and how you must make time for family and yourself.

Wayne Cordeiro knows first hand what happens when you lead on empty!

Highly Recommended.

Stott is a scholar of the highest order and his commentaries are first class. Yet what makes them different is that all of Stott’s commentaries can be used as devotional tools, and this is very useful. Technical Commentaries are great and needed (and I have many) but when preparing for Bible Studies where there is lots of engagement, Stott’s commentaries are invaluable. Mixed in with the scholarship is the heart of a preacher / evangelist and this gives the commentary real practical teeth. To spend a month or so going through Acts with this commentary by your side would be a wonderful devotional study.

Highly Recommended.

The first serious biography of John Stott since Timothy Dudley-Smith’s comprehensive two volume work. Roger Steer has done a good job in revealing to us Stott.  Of course, this is one volume and so the events are truncated and the major events of Stott’s life and ministry and not developed as fully as they might have been if there was more space. One of the draw backs of the size of the book is that some of the transitions are a little too abrupt, causing you to reluctantly move on, but leaving you wishing for some more inofrmation.

Over all a good biography which I enjoyed.

The Message of Acts: The Spirit, the Church, and the World by John Stott

Our Men’s Breakfast Bible Study has just finished studying the book of Acts. We started it 7 months ago, and we meet every week. After we eat breakfast, each study is around 45/50 mins long, including questions and discussion. My boss and I (along with Jon our Music Director) have team taught. One of the many commentaries I used was John Stott’s, The Message of Acts. This is really a first class commentary and I will give you just two reasons. First, Stott is able to summarize succinctly  what other commentators take pages to explain. I used other commentaries in the preparation of the 14 studies I gave on Acts (including David Peterson’s excellent work), and there was never a time when another commentary said something that Stott had not already mentioned And of course Stott is wonderfully biblical in how he handles the text. Secondly, all of Stott’s commentaries can be used as devotional tools, and this is very useful. Technical Commentaries are great and needed (and I have many) but when preparing for Bible Studies where there is lots of engagement, Stott’s commentaries are invaluable. Mixed in with the scholarship is the heart of a preacher / evangelist and this gives the commentary real practical teeth. To spend a month or so going through Acts with this commentary by your side would be a wonderful devotional study.

Highly Recommended.

Leading On Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion by Wayne Cordeiro

80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively. 33 percent say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family. 75 percent report they’ve had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry. 50 percent feel unable to meet the needs of the job.

90 percent feel they’re inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands. • 25 percent of pastors’ wives see their husband’s work schedule as a source of conflict. • Those in ministry are equally likely to have their marriage end in divorce as general church members. • The clergy has the second highest divorce rate among all professions. • 80 percent of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse. • 56 percent of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends. • 45 percent of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout. • 52 percent of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health. • 45.5 percent of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry. • 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.

Such are the statistics which Wayne Cordeiro quotes near the beginning of his book. Statistics which are both, simultaneously frightening and not surprising. Pastoral ministry is a privilege, honor and a blessing, but it is also tough. It is demanding. And, unless ministers are wise and aware, it can destroy us, and our families.

Cordeiro himself came close to being destroyed by ministry. His own journey through burnout, depression and ‘leading on empty’ is the foundation of this book.

Cordeiro has produced a book that should be on the book shelf of every seminary student and pastor. Knowing how to manage yourself and the demands of ministry is so important. Knowing what God has called you to do and to live intentionally in that calling; willing to delegate and assign tasks that others can do and when to take time out, and away, to be with God and to seek him. What are your priorities in the limited hours of a day and how you must make time for family and yourself.

There is some wonderful wisdom in this book; wisdom we as ministers should chew on:.

A leader’s greatest asset is not necessarily time. It is energy. A person with energy can accomplish more in four hours than another would in four days.

[My] Number One [priority] Is My Daily Devotions.

Steward your energy well, and in seasons of dismay, you will still have enough of a reservoir to lead.

Healthy marriages require intentionality and planned investment. So will your waistline, your family, your ministry, your faith, and your emotional health. The Scriptures exhort us to “run in such a way that you may win” (1 Corinthians 9:24). It is not automatic.

I thoroughly recommend this work.

Friendship At The Margins: Discovering Mutuality In Service And Mission by Christopher L Heuertz and Christine Pohl

I hesitate to say this, but a few evangelists and church leaders that I have meet have not  always been the most friendliest or approachable of people. I find this ironic because one of the required characteristics of a leader is hospitality. Often evangelists and pastors are busy, driven, goal orientated people, leaving very little time for the ‘small talk’ of life.

This book is a reflection on the question What does reconciliation look like when you love Jesus and want the best for people who are caught in situations of terrible evil, need or despair? How would our lives and our ministries be different if our understanding of love employed friendship?

It’s a great question and this book seeks to turn this reflection into a reality.

Friendship at the Margins is filled with stories and testimonies; stories and testimonies that we need to hear and learn from. It should both pull on your heart strings and challenge you in your own approach to the issue of ‘friendship’.

We need books like this one so that we can get a small dose of reality – a glimpse of how our brothers and sisters on the mission field are ministering in places and into situations which we would find challenging.

For us in the west evangelism can be very impersonal. We share the gospel to someone and move on to the next person. We give a tract out and we move on. We invite someone to a service and we move on. There are times when we need to be told to stop; to take stock; to check out our motive. To realize that we must learn to invest in people’s lives rather than as  another name on our membership roll.

This books does that.

Evangelism requires words, but as the authors point out, words can be cheap. No, evangelism, interaction with people, requires more than words – it requires a commitment to get involved. It requires an investment of time, energy and compassion. It requires the willingness not just to open a can of worms, but to help be involved in its clearing up. It involves learning to get into friendships with people for the long haul.

If the church exhibited more of the characteristic of friendship at the margins we would have a revolution on our hands. It will also shake up our schedules.

Recommended.

Here is a link to a video of one of the authors, Chris, discussing the book. CHECK IT OUT HERE

Politics for Christians: Statecraft As Soulcraft (Christian Worldview Integration) by Francis Beckwith

Beckwith describes his book as an introduction to politics – an introduction that should inspire continued study for the Christian. Beckwith looks at politics through the lense of liberal democracy. Although Liberal Democracy has been absent for most of Christian History, it has been embraced enthusiastically by Christians in the modern era for four major reasons: (1) it affords Christians the liberty to worship, (2) it protects the people’s power to hold the government accountable, (3) it allows citizens to participate by voting, forming political parties, running for office and / or campaigning for causes and candidates, (4) it seems consistent with and supported by a Christian understanding of the human person as well as the natural law and natural rights tradition that spring from that understanding.

In other words, liberal democracy seems to enhance many of the ideals the Christian faith does.

Beckwith takes care to define liberal democracy, liberal referring to the liberties or freedoms the government is supposed to guarantee, and democracy covering both a government that is accountable to the people, and has a developed civil society.

The question Beckwith seeks to answer is what does it mean to be a Christian citizen in a liberal democracy, and how should we interact with politics in relation to our faith. Beckwith’s plea is not necessarily that ALL Christians should become involved politically, but that ALL Christians should be politically AWARE. They should understand the effects of legislation that is passed by governments and make measured responses to any injustice or hindrance such legislation may make, especially upon the gospel. Beckwith writes: The scriptures seem to teach that people have an obligation to understand the nature of their government and its laws, and employ that knowledge so that the gospel is not disadvantaged by the state.

One interesting example that Beckwith sites is a 2003 ruling in Massachusetts which required the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Catholic Charities which were at that time helping families to adopt children were told that they could no longer exclude same-sex couples for consideration. Of course, the Catholic Charities were not prepared to abide by this ruling. The sad consequences was that these worthy charities withdrew from offering children for adoption. This ruling, while seemingly removing discrimination for one group, now discriminates against another group – a group whose outstanding record in placing children in good homes.

It is examples like this that Beckwith argues should inspire Christians to resist such intrusion by the state on the churches moral theology.

Beckwith has a wonderful discussion on how the apostle Paul used political knowledge and status for himself and the gospel.

Another very interesting discussion is who should Christians vote for. What if a Mormon gets into the general election? Beckwith, somewhat provocatively writes, One mistake is to be inordinately concerned with a candidates creedal allegiance to a particular faith, which may cloud people’s judgment and cause them to ignore or down play the point of politics – to do justice and advance the common good.

Insightfully, Beckwith provides us with two mistakes the we as Christians involved with politics must be careful to avoid. The first is the Kennedy Mistake. In 1960 Kennedy, in response to concerns about his Catholicism seemingly dismissed his beliefs as almost irrelevant or inconsequential to any decisions he would make as president. The second mistake is the confessional mistake. This is when a candidate believes that his creedal belief or theological confession are the BEST standard by which to judge the suitability of his candidacy.

For Beckwith we need to hold a balance in respect to politics. Politics is not everything, but neither is it nothing. It has its place. That is why Christians need to be informed of the laws and statutes of our land and discerning as to when they need to or should get involved.

I think this is a valuable book for those seriously interested in politics. It has some wonderful insights, simply lays out the various areas of study in politics and succinctly discusses the major issues. Finally, it points you to further study.

Recommended.

Books Read In March

There is a lot of information in the 168 pages of this book. A sweeping view of Anglican history, its development, the issues both in the past and today are all covered.

A great book for those who are interested in finding out about Anglicanism and   an excellent resource for those wanting to join an Anglican congregation. I plan to recommend it and probably use some of it for our New Members Class.

Recommended.

A great book – thorough and in-depth (800 pages). Witherington argues that we must not separate theology and ethics. He examines what he calls the individual witness in this volume, discussing Jesus, Paul, the author Hebrews, Peter and the Johannine Literature.

This book is not for the faint hearted or the impatient. While it is eminently readable, it will take some time.

Read my review HERE . Highly recommended!

A great book which highlights that need to have a theology and doctrine of church membership and discipline – and that this has to be linked to the Doctrine of God and specifically to God’s love.

This is a must read for pastors, although for some folk in the church they may struggle with it. This book blows out of the water the issue of ‘inclusive, affirming, non-confrontational love’ which is so prevalent in the church today.

Check out my review HERE

Both a fascinating and sad book. A ‘tell’ all behind the scenes of the Presidential Campaign. The authors recount stories and meetings which, if accurate, came from the staffers of the candidates. Of course, the book has no footnotes or references – but if a third of what is reported is accurate then this is a sad tale. They say there are somethings you should never reveal how they are made – maybe presidential campaigns should be added to that list! I know that no campaign for such a high office is pleasant – but having read this book, I find it sad that the democratic process of a country like the USA is so ‘primitive’.

Would not recommend this book.

McLaren’s new kind of Christianity is not Christianity. The problem with this book is that many will read it and love it, because they have locked into the notion that to even concieve of a God who demands that we change our entire life to conform to HIM is simply unreasonable. McLaren talks of a loving God; a God who accepts us as we are; who has mercy; who desires the best for us (yes, all true), all without any talk of judgment, wrath, repentance and consequences for sin.

Old, tired and inadequate liberalism dressed up for the 21st century! Sigh!

David Jackman’s little commentary series on Judges and Ruth is a great resource for preachers. Great comment on the text, and good exposition which allows the reader to think about applying the passage in biblical and practical ways. I used this recently for our adult education series on Ruth, and Jackman’s insights were very helpful.

.

.

This is a follow up to James Bryan Smith’s book ‘The Good and Beautiful God’ (which I have not read.) In fact, these books make up a curriculum which Smith developed at the encouragement of Dallas Willard. This particular book is a spiritual formation / disciplines book. This is a tough market to compete in when you have Richard Foster and Don Whitney’s books as established classics. But this is a book which can be used as a group (with discussion questions and activities to be done during the week) or individually. There is much wisdom in this book. I found his insights in the chapter about lying particularly helpful and I will be using some of that chapter in our church. Recommended.

A New Kind Of Christianity by Brian McLaren

I wrote a while back about the fall of Brian McLaren (see HERE). I wrote that without having read McLaren’s book. I have now read the book. I am not going to spend time doing a thorough review because you can read in-depth reviews from Scott McKnight HERE and from Kevin Young (in pdf form HERE).

Suffice to say that it would appear that when Brian McLaren went into the dark room of doubt regarding his faith, instead of coming out the door he went in he decided to break out of the room through his own door. And this is the result.

McLaren has ‘reconstructed’ a belief in God which helped him out of his doubt, and settled his questions, and removed his problems with God; and this reconstructed christianity bears little resemblance of the orthodox faith and 2000 years of tradition. This reveals the very darkest side of the emerging movement.

The Church and The Surprising Offense Of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline by Jonathan Leeman

This is SUCH a timely and needy book. Jonathan Leeman has written a wonderful book which will be a great encouragement and help to pastors.

Rediscovering the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline is about discovering exactly WHAT the love of God is all in the context of why it is important to be a part of a church fellowship. His primary thesis is that we (the world and many Christians) have made love into an idol that serves us and so redefined love into something that never imposes judgments, conditions or binding attachments. Such a love is NOT the love which God shows and gives. God’s love brings BOTH salvation and judgment. In other words, God’s love creates and affirms us, but it’s purpose is so that we can glorify God. And t is this model which we MUST take into our Church structures.

Leeman expresses it brilliantly on pg122. He writes:

God’s love is a boomerang that natural man loves and despises. We love the embrace of the boomerang as it flies outward; we despise the demand of the boomerang as it calls us back to loving him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. We also despise the suggestion that his love will cause him to judge…. God’s gospel is a boomerang that natural man loves and despises. We love the announcement of forgiveness and love through no merit of our own; e despise the call to repent, forsake everything and follow Jesus….God’s church is a boomerang that natural man loves and despises. We love the idea of a warm fellowship that will embrace us; we despise the fellowship’s requirement that we abandon the familiar blandishments of family and friends and submit to its oversight and disciplines.

Leeman goes on to argue (correctly in my opinion) that the purpose of God’s love for us, is that we might glorify and worship God.

This also should have an  effect on HOW we meet. Leeman takes great pains to tell us that the ‘how we meet together’ is not a periphery issue but a main one. He argues on pg 226 that Churches need boundaries and structures and authority. It is the church’s responsibility to discipline those who deviate form the gospel. For to do so is LOVING! Writing on 1 Corinthians 5, Leeman says:

Paul calls on the Corinthian Church members to protect the gospel by no longer identifying themselves with the man committing a sin that even non-christians would question…[the church] is responsible on Jesus’ behalf to ensure that this man is not allowed to publicly identify himself with Jesus…. They should exclude him…. Paul cannot know for certain that this man is not a christian but the church needs to speak for Jesus. Since the man is unrepentantly acting like a non-christian, Paul, in love, exhorts them to treat him like one by removing him.

This will be a difficult book to read for many. It blows the idea of the exclusive, non-confrontational love which has become the hallmark of our culture (as well as many Christian denominations) out of the water. What Leeman expounds here is not a harsh love, but an incredible powerful love which transforms, changes and leads to intimacy with God.

And it is this ‘love’ that should be reflected in our church membership and in our church discipline. Which is why it is important for us an believers to be a part of the Church. The Church itself in its structure and outworking should demonstrate the love of God. This can be seen clearly in the nine reasons why, for  Leeman, we should submit to a local church:

1. Identifies us with Christ

2. Distinguishes us from the world

3. Guides us into the righteousness of Christ by presenting a standard of personal and corporate righteousness

4. Acts as a witness to non-christians

5. Glorifies God and enables us to enjoy his glory

6. Identifies us with Christ’s people

7. Assists us in living the christian life through the accountability of brothers and sisters in the faith

8. Makes us responsible for specific believers

9. Protects us from the world, the flesh, and the devil

This book is not exhaustive in its study. But it is a great framework and it highlights how badly we need to have a theology, a doctrine of Church Membership and discipline which is rooted in the Doctrine of God.

I highly recommend this book.

The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical World of the New Testament, Vol. 1: The Individual Witnesses by Ben Witherington

Ben Witherington is one of those rare theologians who, while solidly ‘orthodox’, is refreshingly adventurous, tackling huge ranges of subjects, and even (gently) treading on some toes (such as his paper exploring the possibility of Larazus being the ‘beloved’ disciple).

This is shown with this first of two volumes, The Indelible Image: The Theological And Ethical Thought World Of The New Testament. Remarkably this 800 page book is really an introduction to the second volume (which I have not yet read).

Witherington lays the ground work in his thesis that New Testament Theology cannot be separated from New Testament Ethics. Indeed, they are irrevocably intertwined. Here in volume 1, he demonstrates how each of the New Testament figures  and authors did their ‘theologizing and ethicizing’. Volume 2 will examine the subject from the perspective of the whole New Testament.

In a nut shell, Witherington argues that God wants his moral and spiritual character (and behavior) replicated in his people. Witherington writes:

The goal [of salvation, knowing God] is that the indelible and perfect character of God be indelibly stamped on his creatures such that God’s image is perfectly reflected in those creatures.

Theology and ethics should NEVER have been separated and this is the underlining point of the whole book. The words repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand meant a change in moral and spiritual behavior. Two of the many challenging and insightful statements in this book, for me at least, were;

Both [Jesus and Paul] believed that the new eschatological situation called for, demanded and through the Spirit enabled one to behave according a higher standard of ethics than even Moses or the Pharisees could have endorsed… (pg 272)

And…..

One must go through all three tenses of salvation – I have been saved, I am being saved and I will be saved – in order to enter the dominion.

Salvation is an ongoing process; new birth, progressive sanctification and finally glorification. Witherington argues that this process is not perfect or complete until it has reached its terminus.

Witherington hits you between the eyes demanding us to wrestle with and realize that it is not acceptable to just be theological – theological thinking, for it to be TRULY theological must involve the ethical – belief, without any doubt, demands change in our behavior and character. Such a change is done primarily through the power of the spirit, but also with our cooperation and participation.

A hallmark of Witherington is that his books are steeped in scholarship and yet he is wonderfully readable. But this is a big book.  It is thorough. At 800 pages there are only seven chapters, and so patience is required in reading. Read steadily, and carefully, knowing that you will in this book for quite a while – it is not one to be skimmed.

I HIGHLY recommend this work.

Books Read In February

A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden

A great intro to Jonathan Edwards, his life, work, ministry and writings. Marsden has a fuller biography of Edwards (Johnathan Edwards – A Life; 640 pages) but tghlyhis at 152 pages, will wet your appetite to pursue further reading of this remarkable man and theolgian.

Marsden’s writing style is easy and flowing and so wonderful for just getting immersed into the story. Highly recommended.

Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John And The praying Imagination by Eugene Petersen

I have to say that I expected more from this book. We used this as our recent men’s book club group which meets at 7am at a local cafe for breakfast. I learnt that 7am may be too early to read this book. Eugene is obviously a master with language but at times he left me in a wake of his poetic language and imagery. It was hard to follow – and when revelation is hard to follow, and the commentary commenting ON revelation is tough to follow then we are struggling.

If you are steeped in english literature, poetry and some philosophy then you might enjoy this, but otherwise I would not recommend this book.

Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry by John Piper

This is really a great little book. For me this is like a personal treatise to ministers from someone who cares (that is how it reads). You can sense the passion and heart-felt conviction of Piper leap from the page as he writes on topic after topic exhorting those in the ministry to stop being ‘professional’ and start to be men of God – called ministers to the gospel of Christ and to the glorification of God. Professionalism is killing the church. Piper opens the book with “the mentality of professionalism is not the mentality of the prophet. The more professional we are the more spiritual death we leave in our wake.” Piper writes one of the best chapters on prayer I have ever read – convicting, powerful and challenging. It is a rare writer who can write such a chapter and still leave you wanting to go and pray and develop a deeper prayer life. Each chapter is short enough that this might be an excellent devotional book. Highly recommended.

The Message Of Ephesians by John Stott

Our Adult Education program this past 7 weeks have been in Ephesians. We have had four groups meeting each week to discuss and work through a chapter of Epheisans. It has been a real blessing and a wonderful book to study. Stott’s commentary is really outstanding. It is understandable but also very thorough. Most of all, it is filled with spiritual insight and great exegesis.

I would highly recommend this commentary as both a scholarly work for preparing sermons and talks but also for devotional reading. That is the gift Stott has – reaching the scholarly level and yet readable for the layman.

God’s Passion For His Glory by John Piper

This book works on two levels. Firstly, it gives us an introduction to the life, work, passion and theology of Edwards by one of his biggest fans and advocates, John Piper. Secondly it provides us the text of Edwards great work – The End for Which God Created the World.

This is a delightful book, with much information and snippets of gold about Edwards. Highly recommended.

The Unwavering of Resolve by Steven Lawson

This is a great little book on the 70 Resolutions which Edwards began to write during his first, brief, pastorate in New York in 1722. The book examines Edward’s and the topics of holiness and spiritual disciplines from the perspective of the resolutions. Highly recommended.

Books Read in January

Second in this series of crime novel based in the Tudor period. Again, lawyer Matthew Shardlake is sent to investigate a mystery by the powerful Thomas Cromwell. However this time the results of his mission may determine whether Cromwell remains Chancellor or is toppled from power. A really entertaining read and highly recommended.

____

A new series from Philippa Gregory. This time, the novel is set pre-Tudor – in the times of the war between York and Lancaster Houses as they fight for the throne of England. Gregory bases the novel in much fact although her reading of what actually happened, especially to the princes in the tower, is conjecture.  This is the first of a series of novels which will follow. This was really hugely enjoyable to read.

_____

The Hole In Our Gospel. What Does God Expect of Us? Written by the CEO of World Vision. Here he challenges us to be both believers and doers of the word – to be active in the world showing the gospel through our money, and involvement with those in need. Much of the book revolves around his personal testimony in how God called him to World Vision.

_____

Gospel Powered Parenting by William Farley. Godly parenting is about modeling the gospel in the home with the goal of leading your child to Christ. See my review HERE.

_____

A published poet has been commissioned to create an Anthology of Poetry. He must write the introduction to the anthology. This book revolves around his inability to finish the introduction. He is procrastinating. And the author illustrates his procrastination and his wondering attention so well. There will be a section of wonderful dialogue as he explains the benefits or progress of some aspect of poetry when all of a sudden he writes “I think the dog needs a wash.”

____

Second book by young and Kluck. Why We Love The Church is a useful defense of the traditional model of Church (and by traditional I mean – regular services, in a building, with programs etc.) (see larger review HERE)

___

In this study of the atonement, Cole examines why there was the need for the atonement, the effects of Christ’s death and the aftermath of living post-atonement. In all of this, Cole’s underlying point is that atonement (should) bring us shalom – peace. There is no shalom with God without sacrifice. Peace is made through the blood of the cross. And ultimately the goal is God’s glory. Why did God create? Why salvation history? Why the Cross? Why a new heaven and a new earth? So that we might glorify God.

God The Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom by Graham Cole

The Atonement, according to Graham Cole, does not just bring us great spiritual benefits as Christians, but it should also have a ‘physical’ impact on us. It should bring us peace. Christ’s death and resurrection should allow us to live lives controlled by Christ’s love. It is a life, as Cole writes, which pursues mercy-showing and shalom-making as agents of peace, in evangelism and witness.

In this study of the atonement, Cole examines why there was the need for the atonement, the effects of Christ’s death and the aftermath of living post-atonement. In all of this, Cole’s underlying point is that atonement (should) bring us shalom – peace. There is no shalom with God without sacrifice. Peace is made through the blood of the cross. And ultimately the goal is God’s glory. Why did God create? Why salvation history? Why the Cross? Why a new heaven and a new earth? So that we might glorify God.

As part of this discussion Cole examines in-depth the various view of atonement, especially christus victor and of course penal substitution. This is as clear a presentation of these two models as I have read. And Cole’s conclusion acknowledges that both the christus victor and penal substitution are vital in understanding the ‘why’ Christ died and in explaining ‘what’ happened when died and rose again.
Cole writes: Any delineation of the atonement centerpiece needs to do justice not only to penal substitution but also to the christus victor motif.. .

This book gives you the framework to actually live out the atonement in everyday life. It gives you BOTH the theology and the response, which makes it a great addition to the books on the atonement which are available.

I highly recommend it. Go buy it HERE

Gospel Powered Parenting: How The Gospel Shapes And Transforms Parenting by William Farley

Parenting is hard. It is a mixture of joy, laughter, tears, sadness, disappointment (with self and with your children), struggles, rewards, satisfaction, fear, worry, contentment, thanksgiving and a hundred other adjectives.

Parenting books and especially Christian parenting books are plentiful – all with advice, plans, schedules and more advice on how to parent `successfully’.

This is an interesting addition to the `Parenting’ library.

Farley’s main point is that there is little direct biblical instruction on parenting. And the reason for this is that the Gospel is (or at least should be) the tutorial that informs our parenting.

Farley begins with five assumptions which parents must hold – and then he unpacks these five assumptions throughout the book. The five are:

1. effective Christian parents assume that parenting will not be easy but that rewards will ultimately make it worth while
2. effective Christian parents are willing to hold God’s sovereignty and their responsibility in tension
3. effective Christian parents assume an offensive mindset. They pursue their child’s heart – they do everything possible to make the gospel attractive. The gospel is the focus and goal for the parent NOT protecting their children from worldly influence
4. effective Christian parents are shrewd about new birth. They do not assume it. They understand the nature of new birth and they carefully look for its symptoms.
5. Effective Christian parents labor to focus their families on God not their children.

There is much in this book which is not politically correct in our society today. For example he advocates the use of corporal discipline (spanking). And, he says, a spanking SHOULD hurt the child. However, once the child is spanked, you should hold them. Much of modern society and many in the Christian church would disagree with that.

Also, I found the chapter on `Gospel Fathers’, which expresses his view of headship, unbalanced. I do not think he portrayed a biblical or balanced view on headship and that was frustrating. In fact, the way he wrote the chapter suggested to me he really does not understand biblical headship. Rather than coming across as someone who advocates Biblical headship (which I advocate) he simply came across as a male chauvinist. Biblical headship has two sides of the coin – a wife IS to submit to her husband – but the husband is to love his wife AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH. Farley never mentions this side of headship in the book – the dying of the husband for his wife – he only mentions the wife submitting to the husband and when you present only ONE side of biblical headship it comes across as male domination.

Farley’s main premise; that the Gospel should shape and be at the center of our parenting is of course right. Not necessarily because it is THE right parenting model – but because as Christians the Gospel SHOULD shape EVERY aspect of our lives. So on one level this book should be redundant. Of course we should be parenting from a foundation of the gospel. The fact that there is a need for this book shows just how far the gospel can be from being the center of everything we do. The next book could be “Gospel Powered Employee”, then the “Gospel Powered Employer” or “Gospel Powered School Teacher” etc.

Another thing this book (and other parenting books) do not develop (although I guess its partially covered under #2 of his assumptions) is what happens when you follow ALL of this and still your child does not respond. The mantra is too often “My child was rebellious but now they are a perfect son / daughter.” Perhaps we need a book which is written by a godly parent who parented in a gospel powered fashion, and it did not work – that the child rebelled and continued to rebel. For the danger of these type of books is they can subconsciously suggest that if you follow this path your child WILL be fine. Sometimes children are not fine. And many a good parent loses their child to a life of rebellion through no fault of the parent, but because we are steeped in sin and sometimes people do not respond to the gospel. And that is hard.

Having said all that – I would still encourage parents to read this book. There is much to be gleaned from its pages.

Why We Love The Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

This is the second book from DeYoung and Kluck (although both have authored other books individually). Their first joint book was Why We’re Not Emergent, which was a critical look at the emergent movement.

This book continues the offensive against ‘emergent’ or post-modern Christian thinking regarding the church. The authors say that the book is for the committed, the disgruntled, the waffling and the disconnected. And their aim is to try and show that the emerging approach to ‘church’ and especially it’s extreme negativity and even outright rejection to the traditional mode of church is damaging, unhelpful and more importantly unbiblical. As they write, church is not…

….three guys drinking  pumpkin spiced lattes at Starbucks talking about the spirituality of the  Violent Femmes and why Sex and the City is really profound. I mean the  local church that meets-wherever you want it to meet-but exults in the  cross of Christ; sings songs to a holy and loving God; has church officers,  good preaching, celebrates the sacraments, exercises discipline; and takes  an offering. This is the church that combines freedom and form in corporate  worship, has old people and young, artsy types and NASCAR junkies….

They acknowledge that the church is flawed and messed up but that is not reason enough to simply dump it, not to constantly rip it apart. Also, they decry much of the statistics which proclaim the ‘death’ or ‘demise’ of the church. As they write, when over a hundred million people in this country attend church  at least once a month, it seems a bit of a hyperbole to suggest that the church  in America is about to disappear into thin air.

There is value in the traditional, (that is program oriented, structured, pastor led) church…

….I’m also glad that my church is “organized.” I’m glad I know where to  put my toddler on Sunday morning. I’m glad somebody was institutional  enough to think through topics for a Sunday school class or two. I’m glad my  pastor, rather than just freewheeling it, cares enough to study Scripture and  a bookshelf full of dead authors to give me real spiritual food each Sunday.  I’m glad somebody leads a social outreach ministry to those less fortunate  in our area. I’m glad somebody (not me) makes sure the kids are learning  something biblical in their classes. It is, at its most basic, organized religion.  And I love it….

DeYoung and Kluck equate a dissatisfaction with the church with a relaxing of  orthodox theology; “substitutionary atonement,” “justification  by faith alone,” “the necessity of faith and repentance,” “the utter inability  of man to save himself,” and “the centrality of the cross and resurrection” and their concern is for such people five or ten years down the road. For the authors, while the ‘traditional’ church  has problems there are the checks and balances, especially theologically, which can stop a descent into heresy or error.

This is not a polemic against fresh expressions of church or house churches. They can be valuable. What the authors emphasize is that “house  church” in America often means anticlergy, antiauthority, antiliturgy, anti-sermon,   antibuilding, anti-most ways of doing church over the past 1,700  years. And that is not right.

One area where I think DeYoung and Kluck get wrong in the book  is they under estimate, to the point of dismissal, the influence of Constantine and his legacy in the modern church. One of their final attacks is against the notion that the influence of Constantine may have to some extent derailed the early church, and left a legacy which we feel even today. They write…

Not only does it strain credulity past the breaking point to think that  buildings caused the wheels to fall off the unstoppable church bus, it’s also  unhelpfully idealistic. No wonder so many people are disillusioned with the  church today. They think it was nigh unto perfect back in the good old days.  And then came institutionalism, or Constantine, or Christendom, or Greek  thinking, or the Enlightenment, or modernism, or systematic theology, or  Old Princeton, or whatever your boogeyman looks like. The church used to  be a rockin,’ sweet place, and then, bam!, it all fell apart, and now we are  finally enlightened enough to start picking up the pieces.

Ironically the authors say this directly after quoting ME. They quote me from an article I wrote (The Paradox Of A Divided Church Called To Be Reconcilers To The World) which was published in a book by Spencer Burke. Without defending my article (which I am sure is both flawed and inadequate) my aim was not to try and defend the emerging church approach but rather to show that the effects of Constantine’s influence on the church was to legalize Christianity. The legalization of Christianity meant there was no cost to conversion, and in many cases probably little repentance – the Emperor is a Christian and therefore so are we. The church became wealthy and landowners from this time forth and now today, buildings have become more important than the Gospel. I do not advocate that we should return to a ‘house’ church model, nor that we should get rid of buildings for meeting places. But when a building and it’s up keep becomes more important than the ministry the building contains there is a problem.

Their dismissal of this point, without reference to scholars such as Alan Krieder, Rudi Heinze, Alistair Kee (Constantine Versus Christ), A Jones (Constantine And The Conversion Of Europe) and John Eadie (The Conversion of Constantine) was a little too shabby.

But then again, I would say that, wouldn’t I.

But having said all that, this is a vigorous and mostly useful defense of ‘traditional’ church although I do think Jim Belcher’s chapter on Ecclesiology in his book, Deep Church (I reviewed it HERE) does as good a job in upholding the traditional church alongside the need for change as Why We Love The Church.

Dark Fire by C.J Samson

The second of a four book historical fiction, crime series based in the tudor period. Once again the man character is Matthew Shardlake, a London lawyer who is dragged into a mysterious adventure which turns out, once again, to put his life in danger. The sub-plot in this book is Thomas Cromwell and his impending down-fall. While the story revolving around Shardlake, the main character, is fiction, the sub-plot is based in history. 1540 was when Thomas Comwell’s influence began to wane, and with the disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleaves failing, Cromwell feared that he would soon fall. Samson writes this thriller with skill. You are taken to London in the 16th century and in the midst of the excellent story telling in the riches of the descriptions of tudor England and its struggles between the Catholic and Protestant faiths. Samson weaves in the tension and problems which had occured after the dissolution of the monasteries, and the political infighting between Cromwell, Richard Rich and the Duke of Norfolk. Excellent novel. Great read.