Search our archive:

« Back to Issue 19

Book Reviews

By Various.

Practical Theology

Gerben Heitink

Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1999; 358 pp; £28.99; ISBN 0 8028 4294 1

One of the more encouraging aspects of pastoral theology over the past 25 years has been the increasing academic rigour with which it has been taught and practised. No longer would it be fair to demote it to some minor academic league compared with, say, New Testament studies or Systematic Theology. Nowhere is this more characteristic than on the European Continent. Practical Theology, or its more familiar descriptor, Pastoral Theology, in the British scene, has been linked much more closely with the United States and so to have this new American series, Studies in Practical Theology (edited by that doyen of Practical Theology, Don Browning, amongst others), inaugurated by this serious tome written by the Professor of Practical Theology at the Free University in Amsterdam comes as something of a shock to the system. Not only is it clearly a serious academic work, replete with all of the usual academic paraphernalia, it also opens up a world of European practical theology that most in this country barely knew existed.

Therein lie its strengths and weaknesses for the practising minister. It barely connects at all with the American or British worlds of pastoral theology (Browning gets acknowledged, but not Oden nor Patton, Pattison nor Hunter) and so the reader familiar with pastoral theology will be plunged into unknown waters, in itself not a bad thing, but adds to the considerable demands made upon that reader by its dense style. Neither are there the usual 'case studies' and pastoral examples which we have come to expect in this field.

For the post-graduate student of pastoral theology this will become an essential text, I predict, and for the minister whose continuing academic interests lie in pastoral theology it makes a fascinating and illuminating journey into unfamiliar territory. It cranks up the academic gravitas of practical theology by a gear or two! However, the pastor looking for some help in the practicalities of the day-to-day pastoral care of the congregation should look elsewhere.

Paul Goodliff

Bible Doctrine. Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith

Wayne Grudem

IVP, Leicester, 1999; 523pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 85111 594 2

Since the mid 1990s, Grudem's Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (1994), has been a popular choice for those wanting a conservative Evangelical approach to systematic theology in one volume: a Louis Berkof's Systematics for the late twentieth century (and not to be confused with Hendrikus Berkof's Christian Faith). Jeff Purswell has abridged the 1,264 page original to the 523 page offering we have here. Each section concludes with review questions, questions for personal application and a Scripture memory passage, making it a usable study tool for those who want to engage with the doctrines of the faith from the particular standpoint of conservative Evangelicalism. It is probably the best available exposition of that kind of theology for the preacher and general reader, and is certainly more digestible than the former complete work. Personally, 1 am more at home on what Grudem calls 'the evangelical left' and find Stanley Grenz's Theology for the Community of God more helpful, but for those who want a conservative, but not reformed, position, this is the Systematics for you.

Paul Goodliff

An Introduction to Christian Ministry

Gordon W Kuhrt

Church House Publishing, London, 2000; xvi + 128pp; £6.95; ISBN 0 7151 8111 4

Many ministers of all denominations feel under threat. More precisely, they feel that their distinctive ministry has been undermined by the rapid development within a single generation of so-called 'lay ministry' and 'lay leadership'. Within the Church of England, there is a growing feeling that the only distinctive remaining is eucharistic presidency. Even within Free Church denominations, the question of the role, task and ministry of the ordained minister is rising higher and higher up the agenda.

Gordon Kuhrt is better qualified than most to offer insights into the nature and practice of ministry, having been a parish priest for 20 years, followed by a period as Archdeacon of Lewisham and then becoming Director of Ministry for the Church of England. In this book he provides a mostly very readable exploration of Christian leadership, which, as an Anglican, he equates with some form of ordination or at least public recognition of office and ministry.

In An Introduction to Christian Ministry, Kuhrt explores the history and development of Christian leadership as we nowadays understand it. He starts from an acceptance of the priesthood of all believers, but not necessarily of every individual believer. For him, all believers are ordained by their baptism for ministry, but leadership is a special calling for some and that calling needs to be recognized by the church and a clear and distinctive role needs to be identified for those called into such leadership.

That distinctive role is never quite established within the body of the book, but in a helpful appendix, Kuhrt includes the edited text of a sermon based on 1 Tim. 4.6-16, in which he suggests that the old ways of being a minister amounted to a hijack by the clergy of ministry and that in a much more collaborative world, the new role of the minister is to be the leader of the ministry of the whole local Christian community. He or she is no longer to do it all, but to enable others to do it all (or most of it, anyway!).

If I have a complaint about this book, it is that it raises many questions, but attempts few answers. The one place in which the writer allows his own views to surface with any clarity is in the chapter on the ordination of women, of which he is clearly in favour.

In my view, this little book should be compulsory reading for anyone in the early stages of considering ordination in the Church of England and therefore should be on the bookshelf of every Diocesan Director of Ordinands. Having recently completed the selection process, I wish I had been given chapter 8 ('Choosing leaders') to read three years ago!

However, although written primarily for an Anglican audience, this book can be read with profit by leaders and potential leaders from all denominations, provided that they are prepared to do the mental hard work of translating some aspects of the content into their own denominational language. The chapter on protecting oneself from the dangers inherent in ministry is particularly useful as a simple and realistic checklist of our current situation.

Alun Brookfield


Preacher and Cross: Person and Message in Theology and Rhetoric

André Resner Jr.

Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1999; x + 205pp; Price not available; ISBN 0 8026 4640 8

How far should we allow for the personality and character of the preacher in assessing the effectiveness of a sermon? Karl Barth would say, 'not at all'. But this may be to fall into the heresy of homiletical Docetism. However, those who disagree with Barth are in danger of falling into the error of homiletical Donatism. This book shows how to steer a safe course between the two.

As may be perceived from these remarks, this volume is a serious and scholarly contribution to the debate in the discipline of homiletics. It is also very readable. The author is an assistant professor in the College of Biblical Studies at Abilene Christian University, Texas. He begins by examining the various theories of rhetoric in ancient Greek philosophy and in the Fathers of the early Church, above all Augustine, and continues with a consideration of St. Paul's contribution to the discussion in 1 Corinthians 1-4. His conclusion is that Paul certainly does pay attention to matters of rhetoric and of the preacher's character and personality, but that these must be seen as being shaped by the preacher's message, which is above all the message of the cross. This gospel frame of reference transcends both the rhetorical frame, where the persuasiveness of the preacher is seen to be all important, and the theological (Barthian) frame, where the efficacy of the sermon is entirely a matter of divine grace and nothing at all to do with matters of presentation and the perceived character of the preacher.

All this theory is applied in the final chapter to the contemporary homiletical challenge. In particular, Resner seeks an answer to the appropriateness in preaching of the use of illustrations from the preacher's own personal experience. He concludes that there is indeed an appropriate use of such illustrative material, provided always that it serves the proclamation of the message of the cross. Of course, many preachers use personal stories that serve only to draw attention to themselves, so the warning given by the author is a salutary one.

If I have a minor criticism of this book it is that it does not question the validity of the sermon as an effective means of communication in our post-modern age. The American provenance of the book may partly explain this omission, since listening to sermons is something that far fewer people do in our society than in the USA. Nevertheless, all preachers would gain from a close reading of this book and paying attention to its message. There is a challenge here that we should heed and I thoroughly recommend the book to those who are called to the ministry of preaching.

Philip Clements-Jewery

Shaping the Tools - study skills in theology

Ruth Ackroyd and David Major

Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 1999; x + 123pp; £7.95; ISBN 0 232 52342 8

This is a very practical and useful book written for Christian adults who are returning to study, perhaps in later life long after the end of their formal education. It deals with subjects such as reading skills, using libraries, how to take notes, plan and write essays, make references and so on. As such, the book could have a usefulness far beyond the Christian audience for which it is primarily written, although all the examples and exercises are taken from Christian and Biblical theology.

Ministers in pastorate who are about to embark on postgraduate studies some time after leaving college would benefit from reading this book as a kind of refresher course on study skills. But even if they are not following such a course, this book on their shelves would be valuable as a resource to recommend, lend or give to any members of the congregation who are undertaking a formal course of study, whether that course is part of training for ministry or otherwise.

Philip Clements-Jewery

Faiths in Conflict?

Vinoth Ramachandra

IVP, Leicester 1999; 192pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 85111 650 7

The biggest hindrance to evangelising Asian immigrants to this country is the ignorance of Christians, even theologically trained ministers, of the real beliefs of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. British people accept cliches and caricatures of other 'faiths' only paralleled by anti-Christian polemic and disinformation among non-Christians.

Ramachandra is Associate General Secretary of the International Federation of Evangelical Students in the Indian sub-continent, so we might expect him to be well informed on the Theravada Buddhism and Hinduism of his native Sri Lanka. But it is his much wider reading (just scan his Bibliography and footnotes) which puts most of us to shame, were it not for his generous willingness to share his sources with us in this most helpful book. He reads as widely as David Bosch did, quoting widely from Islamic and Hindu authors, as well as Inspector Morse!

Being limited to the series of five London Lectures in Contemporary Christianity allows no chapter on contemporary Buddhism. His Asian Christian viewpoint is objective and fair in its challenge to Western secular democracies.

In days when many swallow uncritically that missions were an unfortunate product of colonialism, his account of the impact of Protestant missions on India is heartening. Chapter 3 on "The Jesus Enigma" would help all of us in our Gospel proclamation. Indeed, this book would be useful evangelistically as an apologetic to lend to thoughtful Muslims and Hindus.

Nobody could read his closing paragraph quoting Kenneth Cragg, without being deeply moved, longing to restore to Islam the Christ spoken of with such respect in the Qur'an, of whom they have so sadly lost sight.

Michael Griffiths

Streams of Living Water - celebrating the great traditions of the Christian Faith

Richard Foster

HarperCollins, 1999; xiv + 424pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 00 628130 3

I remember reading with great profit and enjoyment the earlier books by Richard Foster, especially his Celebration of Discipline, so I came to this one with a good deal of anticipation. I have to confess to a degree of disappointment.

Foster's thesis is that the great traditions of the Christian life - the Contemplative, Holiness, Charismatic, Social Justice, Evangelical and Incarnational - are united in the life and work of Jesus and belong together in an integrated Christian spirituality, rather than exist in isolation from each other as they have often done throughout history. As such, the thesis is unexceptional, so why am I disappointed?

I think the reason is the style of the book, which is very American in its wordiness, its use of slang and its didactic, preachy style. Furthermore, each chapter fits more or less into the same schematic structure. After an historical timeline with significant people and movements listed, an historical paradigm is provided, ever so slightly disguised. But the disguise feels artificial and trendy. Why try to hide Augustine behind the name Aurelius, Francis of Assisi behind Francesco, or Susanna Wesley behind her maiden name of Annesley? Such a guessing game seems just a little bit too clever. Next comes a Biblical paradigm, followed by a contemporary one. Each chapter is rounded off with further description and an analysis of strengths and weaknesses of the particular tradition. Personally, I found the style of the book off-putting and the common structure for each chapter somewhat predictable and constricting.

The main text of the book takes up only just over half the pages. There are two very substantial appendices, adequate endnotes and two indices, a subject index and a Biblical one. Both appendices are written in association with Linda Graybeal. The first seeks to describe the critical turning points in church history. I commend its inclusion of the Orthodox tradition as well as the Catholic and Protestant, but there are also omissions, such as the failure to describe the development of the doctrine of the Trinity in the first centuries of the Church alongside the rather fuller description of the development of Christology. The second substantial appendix is an alphabetical list of profiles of notable figures and significant movements in Church history. Each character is assigned to one or other of the streams of tradition, although Foster does offer a caveat that some might well fit in more than one tradition.

In spite of my reservations, I am sure that the message of this book needs to be heard, particularly within the evangelical and charismatic traditions which is where I guess it will find its greatest number of readers. The message is that Christians of different traditions do not hold within themselves the wholeness of the gospel. We all need each other and we can all learn from each other. I just wish that the substance of the appendices could have been incorporated into the main text and that before publication in this country the book could have been rewritten for a British readership rather than an American one.

Philip Clements-Jewery

The Heart of Silence - contemplative prayer by those who practise it

Paul T. Harris

Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 1999; 224pp; £12.95; ISBN 0 232 52361 4

This book is a collection of testimonies loosely grouped into various categories by people who have been inspired by the teaching and example of the Benedictine monk John Main. The contributors, both lay and ordained, celibate and married, come from the main English-speaking countries of the world and are predominantly Roman Catholic by tradition. There are a few Anglicans among them, but I could find only one who admitted to a past involvement with one of the Free Churches. Some confess to being influenced by the Charismatic Movement as well as by the more contemplative tradition of meditation. In the chapter on meditation and the priesthood, apart from just one Anglican, all the rest are records of the experiences of Roman Catholic priests. I could have wished, then, that the ecumenical scope of the book was wider.

I also question the value of this book (and whether it is worth paying its price). Devotees of John Main may find the book helpful, but there is only so much praise that can be offered for one man and his vision, and after a while the sameness of the testimonies begins to grow wearisome. This is certainly not a book for reading from cover to cover in one sitting, but rather for dipping into. It is not an in-depth exploration of the theory of meditation nor is it really a how-to manual of prayer. I wish it had been.

Philip Clements-Jewery

Love Bade Me Welcome

Robert Llewelyn

DLT, London, 1984 (new edition 1999); 108pp; £7.95; ISBN 0 232 52327 4

This is a new edition of a book that was first written over fifteen years ago. The author, Robert Llewelyn, is a well-known writer on spirituality and is an expert particularly on the thought of Julian of Norwich. Coming back to this book after more than a decade I found an interesting experience, aware that I have moved on spiritually since.

It is a somewhat strange book, in two very different parts. The first part is a theological defence of the idea that there is no such thing as wrath in God. Obviously, the author takes his thought directly from Mother Julian herself. The point of this theological exploration is, of course, the age-old debate concerning lex credendi, lex orandi - what we believe about God will affect the way we pray and the truer our view of God the more authentic will be our prayer life. It is probably right that we should separate the concepts of divine wrath and divine judgement, and see the latter as an expression of God's love rather than of God's anger. But it is still debatable whether the total elimination of wrath from God does justice to the personal nature of the divine reaction to human sinfulness or takes seriously enough the extent to which the divine love is wounded by that sinfulness.

The second part of the book is a great contrast to the first, being a practical guide to prayer. In it, Llewelyn explores matters such as posture, breathing, silence, dealing with distractions, and the use of physical aids such as the Rosary (which need not be linked to a Marian theology). Such cross-fertilisation of spiritual traditions has, of course, become commonplace today, however new it might have been during the 80's when the Retreat movement first began to take off among Christians who had not been brought up in the catholic or orthodox way. However, those who are new to such matters may find them helpful, and if the re-publication of this book serves to introduce a new generation to the spiritual treasures of the whole Church then its renewed availability will be amply justified.

Philip Clements-Jewery

Come, Let Us Play! - Playfulness and Prayer

Wanda Nash

Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 1999; xxi + 119pp; £7.95; ISBN 0 232 52345 2

Wanda Nash is a author new to me, but I am glad to have been introduced to her writing through this unusual book. Her thesis is that worship and spirituality are often far too solemn and serious and that we need to recover a childlike (not childish) spirit in order to connect fully with a God whose dealings with us can often be regarded as playful. These ideas are presented in a playful way, through the use of cartoons, fancy bullet points and diagrams as well as words. She points to texts such as Proverbs 8.29ff and to the teaching and experience of Jesus as evidence for her thesis.

This is not to say that my eyebrows were not raised at times. Wanda Nash clearly comes from the liturgical tradition in which the approach to God is first in contrition and penitence, the very opposite of playfulness. That tradition may well need the corrective which this book provides. However, the way worship has developed in many Free Churches and among Charismatic groups might suggest a need for a greater, not lesser, degree of solemnity in worship. Furthermore, the author hardly provides a good model when the very first sentence in the book is a word of apology!

There are two more serious criticisms. The first is that in her discussion of the growing to maturity of the human Jesus she fails to mention his developing sexual awareness. That Jesus had such an awareness is surely beyond argument, otherwise the fullness of his humanity would be brought into question. There is an area of argument that could be built up around the links between sexuality and spirituality and the playfulness that rightfully belongs to both.

My other criticism is that the author's concept of prayer appears to be a reductionist one. Prayer alters us, but not God. She quotes with approval Roly Bain's words: 'The prayer of a vulnerable lover is not a shopping list...(it) leaves everything in God's hands...(it) has no strings attached, no limits to its intention and no advice to proffer.' If these words mean that we are not to ask God to change things, then I could not disagree more. Intercession does make a real difference to the world and to God as well as to ourselves. Indeed, Wanda Nash's emphasis on the playfulness of God suggests yet another way of understanding the dynamic of intercession as the engagement of the ever-playful Creator with the still-plastic creation.

In spite of these criticisms, however, I would recommend the book as an interesting and stimulating read that offers a useful corrective to our sometimes over-serious and solemn approach to God and to spirituality.

Philip Clements-Jewery

Conversations with God

Sharon Swain

SPCK 1999; 142pp; £6.99; ISBN 0 2810 51518

This is a very good book, packed full of sketches and dialogues that could be used in a number of settings. The sketches are humorous and light and yet still manage to focus our attention on God and his power.

I would be happy to use these as starters for a youth worship service, family service or even as a tool for a children's holiday club. The book is well laid out and the sketches short, making them easy to learn and easy for those listening! For me it will be a first port of call as I seek ideas and inspiration for youth services.

Martin Hills

Help your Kids Stay Drug Free

Paul Francis

Harper Collins 1999; 104pp; £5.99; ISBN 0 00 274038 9

This is an interesting hour's read. It gives some very useful pointers and advice for parents worried about their children and drugs.

This book is full of stories, advice and helpful hints for bringing up children. It focuses on the need for healthy relationships with the teenagers, for keeping lines of communication open, for listening, valuing, affirming and loving teenagers. It gives, however, very little information about signs and symptoms of drug addiction and almost nothing at all about rehabilitation; although a list of useful contacts is given at the back of the book.

As one who works regularly with drug abusers in Chelmsford, I have seen the effects of drugs on teenagers, most of whom, with a more stable home life, may never have gone down this road to addiction.

Martin Hills

Christianity in a Changing World - Biblical insight on contemporary issues

Michael Schluter and the Cambridge Papers Group

Marshall Pickering, London, 2000; xvi+351pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 551 03241 3

I began this book warily. Years ago I was challenged by Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind (SPCK 1963), but an introduction describing the writers as, 'trying to think God's thoughts after him', seemed like an attempt to create a grand ethical meta-narrative in a world which cries out for careful, systematic and detailed thought issue by issue. I was irritated by the lack of an index. Would this book be deductive theology at its worst?

Buy it and see. You get a great deal for £10. This book is written is seven sections - Human Identity and Sexuality; Christianity and Society; Crime and Justice; Economics and Finance; Science and Medicine: History and Providence; Postmodernism and Culture. In each section there are three or four essays written by different people, mainly experts in their field. Each author seeks to apply biblical insights to a wide range of key issues - including genetic engineering; the Euro; women, men and the nature of God; homosexuality; the rise and fall of nations; investing as a Christian; engaging with the cinema.

One writer, John Coffey, notes, 'how intellectually marginal the American evangelical community has become, despite its size'. This book is a real attempt to tackle this issue. Each paper has been through several drafts and discussed by the group which meets in Cambridge. It is both an individual but also a collaborative enterprise.

Each chapter has a summary at the beginning, clear headings and a brief conclusion. Even if you disagree with the arguments, you are given a great deal of information and an update on the key issues they tackle. For a busy minister it was both accessible and extremely stimulating. I scribbled on lots of the margins.

If I pick out two of the writers it is because they were writing directly in their area of expertise. Dr Denis Alexander, Chair of the Molecular Immunology Programme at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, has three very clear chapters - Science: Friend or Foe?; Genetic Engineering; Can Science Explain Everything? Among the people who had read and commented on his writing was Professor Lord Winston. As an expert he had also consulted a panel of experts on each of his chapters.

The other section which I particularly valued was on Economics and Finance. Dr Paul Mills, who works as an economist at the newly created Debt Management Office, an agency of the Treasury, writes provocatively on, 'The Biblical Ban on Interest - dead letter or radical solution?' Christians are often accused of changing the biblical guidelines when it suits their pockets, and only sticking to biblical insights when it comes to sexual issues. For three quarters of our history, the church upheld the prohibition of interest found explicitly in The Old Testament and implicitly in The New. Mills commends a non-interest economy on the basis of justice and efficiency. This is not a popular view but a variety of radical groups across the world are questioning the whole basis of our capitalist system. Mills also writes challengingly on 'Christians and Financial Security' and on 'Investing as Christians'.

One essay in this section revealed what seemed to be the case with a number of the essays. Dr Michael Schluter, writes on, 'Should Christians support the Euro?'. He quotes William Temple but makes no mention of Temple's whole idea of 'middle axioms'. Schluter seeks to apply biblical insights directly to the debate on the Euro. Surely there needs to be an intermediate stage to which Temple's idea of middle axioms can contribute - second order concepts derived from over arching biblical truths. As Schluter himself says, 'It is not generally possible to lift precepts out of their context and apply them immediately today' (p.163).

Another concern is that writers do not seem always to have mentioned obvious books in their field - Mark Devers writing 'On Providence - can we "read" events?', makes no mention of Herbert Butterfield's Christianity and History (Collins 1949). I was surprised too that Mills does not mention Richard Harris' book, Is there a Gospel for the Rich? (Mowbray 1992).

I was particularly interested as an Anglican in Julian Rivers' conclusion in his 'Disestablishment and the Church of England' that while some reforms are desirable, the principle of Christian establishment is correct.

My key question to the writers is: do they think this is the only way to do theology - deductively from the Bible? Is there no place for inductive theology based first on the situation with which we are faced? Two essays about which I had serious questions raised this issue. Michael Ovey writing on, 'Women, men and the nature of God' seeks to justify the role of women through his analogy that while the Son is equal to the Father he is also subordinate to his will - 'the voluntary submission by an equal to an equal' (p.19). Then Christopher Townsend on 'Homosexuality - finding the way of truth and love' doesn't do justice to the nature of the homosexual condition and sets revelation over against human insight and 'pastoral concern'. There is surely much more to be said and discovered in this field.

I hope I have said enough to encourage people to read this book and wrestle with the issues it raises. It is packed with information, insight and Biblical wisdom.

Julian Reindorp

Companion to the Revised Common Lectionary (Volume 2) - All age worship - year A

Julie M Hulme

Epworth press 1998; £9.95; 240pp; ISBN 0 7162 0522 X

Designed to be used alongside the Revised Common Lectionary, this book is well laid out, easy to read and the headings are clear.

The author gives lots of presentation ideas that one could use to present a children's talk, within a formal church service, on a particular theme. I found the prayers too formal and too wordy: they are OK for adults, but would lose the interest and the understanding of children very quickly, although I accept that this may well depend on the setting - more traditional churches where children are used to this style of liturgy may well find it useful, but I fear that for the young people in my own church it would be alien and unwelcome.

This is a book on the shelf to check out from time to time, for occasional inspiration. It is, however, not a book that I personally would choose to have open every week.

Martin Hills

Who Am I?

Mary Pytches.

Hodder and Stoughton; 167pp; £6.99; ISBN 0 340 72234 7

This book sets out to explore the area of influences and pressures which make us the people that we are. Mary Pytches looks at the people and events that shape us and looks at the effect of culture on our personalities. She seeks to explore how our work effects our personality and how other's perceptions of us effect us.

For me the most interesting section of the book was the last two chapters. Here, listening to God becomes the key theme - realizing your value to God as an individual, learning to listen to Him and be guided by Him and being assured that we are part of his eternal family. In the midst of all the pressure in the world comes the calming influence of God. Understanding our relationship with Him will help to ease the pressure and the burden placed upon us from the world.

As one who has recently received training on the whole area of peer influence and adolescent development in relation to society I found that this book offered nothing new, except for the last two chapters. I would suggest that experienced counsellors could jump straight to the back of the book.

For those just beginning to start exploring the issue, this book would make an excellent place to start. In fact I have loaned this book to a young person who was struggling with this whole area of self-worth and self-identity, and she found it very useful.

Martin Hills

Use and Misuse

Ollie Batchelor

IVP, 1999; 164pp; £5.99; ISBN 0 85111599 3.

I congratulate Ollie Batchelor on such a good book. It is one of the best that I have read on the drugs issue and is the most complete with regard to the Christian approach.

The book is essentially in three parts, part one looking at the history of drugs, the language of drug culture, the classifications of drugs and the reasons behind drug use. Section two adds a Christian dimension to the book and looks at biblical principles towards alcohol and drug abuse. The final section seeks to deal with Christian attitudes towards drug users, how we work with them, how we accept them as part of the community and how we move forward.

The first section is clear, easy to read and right on the button as far as it goes. It is not so complicated as to make it unreadable for parents and interested parties, but it has a depth of understanding that makes it acceptable for those engaged with drug work. Many of the books that I have read on drugs come from a purely secular point of view and seek only to spell out the culture, the law and the benefits and risks in drug taking. Ollie goes further and gives a Christian response to the problem - in essence not to run away or bury our head in the sand, but to engage with it, to work through it and into the lives of the people it effects.

This book is a must for any youth worker who fears that drugs are an issue for their young people and is a book that parents should read so at least they can become clued up on the effects of and the culture surrounding drugs.

Martin Hills

Get God 2000

Andy Hawthorn

Marshall Pickering 1999; 30pp; £4.99

As a run up to the Manchester 2000 event that the World Wide Message Tribe is running this summer Andy Hawthorn has produced this new booklet. In my opinion, however, it is essentially a reworking of their older material.

The book tackles the basics of the Christian faith well, it is bright and glossy in its approach and as such would be a good alternative to Youth Alpha. However, in no way does it live up to its claim to be the 'ultimate youth guide'.

Martin Hills

Instant Art for Youth Work (ISBN 0 86209 947 1)

Instant Art for Youth Issues (ISBN 184003 329 0)

Instant Art for Youth Outreach (ISBN 184003 330 4)

Kevin Mayhew Ltd.

This is a series of books to help youth workers publicise events and make attractive handouts or discussion starters for their youth work. All the books are copyright free as long as they are used for non commercial purposes.

Unfortunately these books will date quickly and are probably not suitable for older young people who have access to a wide range of multimedia presentation. However, for younger people and churches with srnall budgets these may be useful resource packs.

Martin Hills

Short Notes

Jonathan Aitken's Pride And Perjury (HarperCollins, London 2000; 392pp; £19.99 hardback; ISBN 0 00 274075 3), which describes his fall from Cabinet Minister to the day when he was sentenced to prison for perjury, makes a light and intriguing read, and along the way provides a few useful sermon illustrations!

Middle-aged and older ministers looking for a refresher course on developments in Old Testament scholarship over the last thirty years or so, would be well advised to get hold of the collection of essays entitled The Face Of Old Testament Studies: A Survey Of Contemporary Approaches (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA, and Apollos, Leicester 1999; 512pp; £27.99 hardback; ISBN 0 85111 774 0), edited by David W Baker and Bill T Arnold. The sixteen essays range from "Archaeological Light on the Old Testament" to "Recent Trends in Psalms Study", from "Pondering the Pentateuch: The Search For a New Paradigm" to "Religion in Ancient Israel". Here is evangelical scholarship at its best. It might be a bit much to cope with at one sitting, but reading an essay a week would stimulate the mind and also be a tonic to the soul. I appreciated the way in which the Preface describes advances in Old Testament study in terms of the advice offered by the track coach Sam Mussabini to the runner Harold Abrahams in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire: "I can't make you win, but I think I can get you a couple more yards"! Although not cheap, this volume is warmly recommended!

A collection of essays by American Evangelical and Roman Catholic scholars, brought together under the title of Sin, Death and the Devil (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, 2000. Available in UK from Alban Books, 79 Park Street Bristol BS1 5PF; 132pp; $15/£9.99; ISBN 0 8028 4695 5) and edited by Carl E Braaten and Robert W Jenson explores what Martin Luther called "the unholy trinity". To my mind the two most interesting contributions are by Stanley Hauerwas and Carl Braaten. Hauerwas' essay, entitled "Sinsick", looks at the way in which in the West "sickness has become our way to indicate deviancy without blame". Braaten's essay, "Powers in Conflict: Christ and the Devil", amongst other things looks at current manifestations of the demonic. He makes the interesting observation that "The Devil is the inventor of all those de-words - destruction, decadence, debasement, defilement, deception, defamation, degeneration, desecration etc.", and therefore gives substances to those theologians who argue that the Devil's true being is his lack of being!

I was a little disappointed with The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering The Call (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, 2000. Available In UK from Alban Books, 79 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5PF; 256pp; $14/£8.99; ISBN 0 8028 4678 5) by Marva Dawn and Eugene Peterson. Essentially the transcript of a series of expositions on Ephesians (Marva Dawn) and the Pastoral Letters (Eugene Peterson) given at a ministers' conference, this book somehow lacks the originality and the bite of other Peterson writings. Nonetheless, even although at times there seems a considerable amount of chaff, there is also some food for thought. For example, "Congregations get their ideas of what makes a pastor from the culture, not from the Scriptures: they want a winner; they want their needs met; they want to be part of something zesty and glamorous"; "Getting the right information is the smallest part in the curriculum of wisdom. Living rightly and robustly in faith, hope and love is what we are about".

Katharine Dell, lecturer in Divinity at the University of Cambridge, has written a useful introduction to Israel's Wisdom literature, entitled Get Wisdom, Get Insight (Darton, Longman & Todd, London 2000; 203pp; £12.95; ISBN 0 232 52266 9). Aimed primarily at the undergraduate market, it is scholarly but eminently readable. Preachers, as distinct from students, will find it somewhat limited.

Prophetic Balloon Modelling (Eagle, Guildford 2000; 239pp; £5.99; ISBN 0 86347 362 8) by John Guest, who combines the roles of Anglican priest and professional clown, has a somewhat misleading title: the subtitle, "Foolish Reflections On Work, Rest and Play", is more accurate. It is easy to dismiss this unusual book (with a balloon enclosed in the back cover) as having no substance - in fact John Guest's light-hearted approach poses a serious challenge to many of us 'workaholic' ministers.

The intention of Transforming Rituals: Daily Practises For Changing Lives (Alban Publications, Bethesda, Maryland USA, 1999; 157pp; ISBN 1 56699 219 2) by the experienced church consultant Roy M Oswald in collaboration with another ministry consultant, Jean Morris Trumbauer, is "to encourage and assist congregational leaders to move beyond their concern for Sunday ritual and to begin to envision the roles church leaders might play to assist members to ritualise their everyday lives". This imaginative approach to the whole of life contains material for use after a miscarriage or still-birth; rituals for use after divorce as also to honour the movement into puberty, and a service of Word and prayer after school violence. Unfortunately the proposed liturgies seem somewhat mundane compared to the proposals themselves.

Letting Go: Transforming Congregations for Ministry (Alban Publications, Bethesda, Maryland USA, 1999; 153pp; ISBN 1 56699 221 4) by Unitarian minister Roy D Phillips seeks to encourage congregations to make four shifts: from membership to ministry, from entitlement to mission, from education to spiritual development, and from toleration ("in which congregants politely allow otherness, but keep it at arms length") to engagement ("in which they embrace diversity as a source of ongoing spiritual transformation"). Not everything in this challenging book resonates with the British scene. It does, however, contain a number of helpful insights and could form a useful study book for a weekend away for church leaders.

The First And Second Letters To Timothy (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2000; Available in UK through Alban Books, 79 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5PF; 77pp of introduction + 918 pages; $65/£35 hardback; ISBN 0 8028 2443 9) by Jerome D Quinn & William C Wacker is the inaugural volume of The Eerdmans Critical Commentary on the Bible. The intention of this new commentary series is to be "accessible to serious general readers and scholars alike.... Although exposition is based on the original and cognate languages, English translations provide complete access to the discussion and interpretation of these primary sources". This first volume reflects solid scholarship. The bibliography alone extends to well over 50 pages, while the index to ancient sources (as distinct from the Scripture index) runs to some 20 pages. This scholarship is in the first place the work of Jerome Quinn, a leading American Roman Catholic scholar, who had already published a major commentary on Titus in the Anchor Bible series. Unfortunately Quinn died in 1988 after only completing the first draft of this commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy, and it was left to one of Quinn's former students, William Wacker, to prepare the manuscript for publication. There is no doubt that this volume is a major contribution to our understanding of the Pastoral Epistles. Although not a preacher's commentary, any preacher willing to study hard will undoubtedly be able to give added depth to his or her preaching. Even at £35 it is good value for money.

In C.S.Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces (HarperCollins, London, 2000; 894pp; £25 hardback; ISBN 0 00 628157 5), edited by Lesley Walmsley, the publishers have done a great service in bringing together 135 essays, letters and short stories written over the years by C S Lewis. The editor has helpfully tried to group the material into eleven 'logical' sections, namely; The Search for God (e.g.. 'The Grand Miracle' and 'Must Our Image of God Go?'); Aspects of Faith (e.g. 'Miracles' and 'Christian Apologetics'); The Christian in the World (e.g. 'Why I am not a Pacifist' and 'We have no "Right to Happiness"'); The Church (e.g. 'Christian Reunion' and 'Priestesses in the Church?'); English and Literature (e.g. 'On Science Fiction' and 'Sex in Literature'); The Art of Writing and the Gifts of Writers (e.g. 'Sometimes Fairy Stories may say best what's to be said' and 'Prudery and Philology'); Education and History (e.g. 'My First School' and 'Is History Bunk?'); Philosophical Thoughts (e.g. 'Vivisection' and 'The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment'); Some Everyday Thoughts (e.g. 'The Necessity of Chivalry' and 'Screwtape Proposes a Toast'); Letters (e.g. 'The Conditions for a Just War' and 'Capital Punishment and Death Penalty'); and Short Stories (e.g. The Dark Tower' and 'Ministering Angels'). The very titles of the essays show the extraordinary range of C S Lewis' thinking.

Themelios, a theological journal written specifically for undergraduate students of theology and religious studies, has for the last 25 years been produced by the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, the Religious and Theological Studies Fellowship, and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. The editors of Solid Ground (Apollos, Leicester 2000; 319pp; £14.99 hardback; ISBN 0 85111 4650 2), Carl R Trueman, Tony J Gray, and Craig L Blomberg, celebrate "25 years of evangelical theology" by reproducing some of the best articles published in Themelios. The volume is divided into four parts: Biblical Studies, Hermeneutics, Systematic and Historical Theology, and Application. Essays range from 'The rise of apocalyptic' by Richard Bauckham to 'Methods and perspectives in understanding the New Age' by John Drane; from 'Can we dispense with Chalcedon?' by Gerald Bray to 'The Bible and homosexuality' by J.Glen Taylor. The postscript contains perspectives on the future of British and American evangelical theological scholarship. This is a most stimulating volume and is to be warmly welcomed. Every pastor would benefit from reading it.

A Celtic Liturgy (HarperCollins, London 2000; 159pp; £9.99 compact hardback edition; ISBN 0 00 599380 6) compiled by Pat Robson, an Anglican priest ministering in Cornwall, is a delightful resource of material ancient and modern. As well as morning and evening prayer, it includes a marriage service, a funeral service, a service of healing, as also prayers of intercession. My one gripe is that much of the material contains the old 'Thees' and 'Thous', and therefore is difficult to use.

Recent offerings from Grove of Cambridge (all priced at £2.25) include Introducing the New Testament (Biblical Series 1999; 28pp; no ISBN given) in which Markus Bockmuehl and others give a brief survey of the NT documents - I was a little baffled as to the audience for which this booklet was written. In Real Hymns, Real Hymn Books (Worship Series 156, 2000; 24pp; ISBN 1 85174 423 1), Christopher Idle gives a personal survey of recent hymnody - his rough and ready measure for a real hymn is "that we do not need to sing it twice"! Whose Fault Is It Anyway? (Ethical Series 116, 2000; 24pp; ISBN 1 85174 424 X) is a theological reflection by Jeremy Brooks on divorce and the Family Law Act 1996. In Hope From the Margins (Evangelism Series 49, 2000; 24pp; ISBN 1 85174 425 8), Stuart Murray and Anne Wilkinson-Hayes give a fascinating overview of new ways of being church - these new ways, springing from a "conviction that we live in a society that is heartily sick of Christianity and of the institutional church but.. has yet to encounter the radical Jesus", need to be studied by those of us who lead more conventional churches. Life On The Dark Side Of the Cross (Pastoral Series 81, 2000; 24pp; ISBN 1 85174 427 4) by Ali Walton addresses the issue of supporting depressed people. The author's analysis of depression, although basic, is helpful. However, ministers of larger churches would find her expectations of them somewhat unrealistic. Rosemary Cox's Using The Bible With Children (Biblical Series 15, 2000; 24pp; ISBN 1 85174 428 2) is a thoughtful and well-researched approach to the issue of what we seek to do on a Sunday with children. Would that every Sunday School teacher were as theologically self-aware as the author! Each chapter of In The Name Of Jesus (Spirituality Series 72, 2000; 23pp; ISBN 1 85174 426 6) by Keith Hubbard takes a word or phrase from the Jesus Prayer ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner") and explores very simply what it means to pray as a Christian.

Reviewers in this issue

The Revd Dr Paul Beasley-Murray is Senior Minister, Victoria Road Baptist Church, Chelmsford, and chairs the RBIM Board of Management.

Alun Brookfield works for the Diocese of Bristol as a Parish Development Advisor. He is editor of Ministry Today and a member of the RBIM Board of Management.

The Revd Dr Philip Clements-Jewery a Baptist minister, is Director of the Christian Enquiry Agency. He lives in Essex.

The Revd Paul Goodliff is a Baptist Union General Superintendent and was until recently Minister of Bunyan Baptist Church, Stevenage. He is a Trustee of the RBIM.

The Revd Michael Griffiths is a former Principal of London Bible College and is now engaged in an itinerant ministry.

Martin Hills is Youth Minister of Victoria Road South Baptist Church, Chelmsford.

The Revd Julian Reindorp is Team Rector of Richmond, Surrey, and a member of the RBIM Board of Management.

Ministry Today

You are reading Book Reviews by Various, part of Issue 19 of Ministry Today, published in June 2000.

Who Are We?

Ministry Today aims to provide a supportive resource for all in Christian leadership so that they may survive, grow, develop and become more effective in the ministry to which Christ has called them.

Around the Site

© Ministry Today 2021