Search our archive:

« Back to Issue 24

Book Reviews

By Ministry Today Reviewers.

Changing World, Changing Church

Michael Moynagh

Monarch with Administry, London 2001; 190pp; £7.99; ISBN 1 85424 516 3

This book deserves the rave reviews it is getting: “An essential guide to how the church can be transformed”; “Not a book for the faint hearted, though visionaries and prophets will love it”; “This book is a gem”; “Read it now. It’s urgent. By 2020 it will be too late.”

It outlines the challenges facing the shrinking British churches and suggests a wide variety of responses. It is a conversation starter (rather than a thesis) written in a punchy and readable style. It could be recommended to a congregation, but it is a book for all church leaders to read and then reflect on their reactions.

The Background: The author, Dr Michael Moynagh, was policy adviser on unemployment to the CBI before ordination. He has been an Anglican team rector in the West Country and now teaches at St John’s College, Nottingham. He coauthored the The Tomorrow Project - a three year research project sponsored by a number of organisations with a foreword by the Prime Minister (Details from: PO Box 160, Burnham, Norton Kings Lynn, Norfolk PE31 8GA.01328 730 297, E-mail: r.worsley@virgin.net and web-site www.forsight.gov.uk). The project looks forward 20 years and suggests two possible scenarios on a number of issues - income; health; work; learning; families; cities; consumers; government; faith and values. It is this research that has clearly influenced Moynagh’s thinking.

The Challenge: The sea change is from an ‘offthepeg society’ to a ‘tailor made society’. All organisations are relating to people in a more personalised way and the church must do the same. We need a tailormade church for a tailormade society, as opposed to a one size fits all approach, if there is to be a revival of Christianity. The chapter headings and their sub titles give vivid clues to what he wants to communicate: ‘One Click from Extinction - the vanishing church show’; ‘Hello, It MustFitMe World - the tailormade society’; ‘Choice Busters - coping with option paralysis’; ‘The TwoFaced Society - work place values’; ‘Consumer Values’; ‘Why Churchgoers Don’t - the disconnected church’; ‘God Refused to Die! - growth under our noses’; ‘A Template for 2020 - getting a grip on the future’; ‘Fragments of Tomorrow - some new kinds of church’; ‘Church ‘R’ Us - thinking differently about church’; ‘Falling Off the Biblical Track? too many compromises?’; ‘Implanting a Radical Genetic Code - discipleship in a customised world’; ‘Wizards of the New - taking the first steps.’

His suggestions: This is a radical, but positive analysis with lots of ideas, many of them describing best practice from different parts of the country. I identified particularly strongly with his chapter on ‘The Disconnected Church’ where he describes how the church has almost abandoned any concern for peoples’ working lives. He revealingly admits that when he became a minister, “I became trapped by the domestic agenda”. Research shows that, “many Christians act as if the church was the ‘be all and end all’ of the kingdom of God.” “The church’s absence from the workplace will prove a growing missionary scandal.” In the same week that I read this book, I also read Mark Greene’s excellent Supporting Christians at Work, a practical guide for busy pastors, also published by Administry, which compliments my own Equipping Christians at Work, published by ICF (see Julian’s reviews elsewhere in this section of the journal. Ed.).

Moynagh sees workplace values as based on the assumption that absolute truths do exist, and if we present faith in a logical way there, it will be in tune with the linear, sequential thinking that is essential for work. In the rest of our lives, consumer habits will dominate. There truth is relative. This is less fertile ground for traditional apologetics. He still believes that apologetics has huge potential in the workplace. How far is he right? Industrial Mission fairly early on moved from deductive to inductive ways of thinking, starting from the situation and then reflecting on what the Christian tradition had to say to a situation - what has become known as ‘bottom up thinking.’

The Questions: My guess is that you will identify with his analysis, but argue with his suggestions. But in comparison with John Drane’s The McDonaldization of the Church (DLT 2000), this is more of a scatter gun approach, fizzing with ideas, illustrations, pieces of research and summaries.

Moynagh argues that the future church will need to go niche marketing, but what about our prophetic task? What about being transformed by the Gospel rather than being conformed by society? He acknowledges the challenge: “Justice is at the heart of God’s character, but it is far from being at the heart of personalised scale”.

I write in my books and I wrote a lot in this one! Give copies to your leaders and I guarantee you will have a good discussion. And because many of them come from the world of paid work they will have much to teach us about where to seek God’s kingdom.

Julian Reindorp

Mark for Everyone

N T (Tom) Wright

SPCK, London 2001; 243pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 281 05299 9

Luke for Everyone

N T (Tom) Wright

SPCK, London 2001; 319pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 281 05300 6

These little books are exactly what the title says - they make the gospels of Mark and Luke accessible to everyone, from the newest Christian to the most experienced. Preachers especially should put these books at the very top of their list of what to spend the next book token on!

Why are they so good? First, they come from the pen of one of the finest of present-day New Testament scholars. Tom Wright is Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey and author of over 20 books, including the splendid The New Testament and the People of God and Jesus and the Victory of God.

Second, Mark for Everyone and Luke for Everyone take the reader through the whole of each gospel, section by section, giving a short exposition of each section in a way which could almost be read aloud in church as a ‘sermonette’.

Third, in spite of (or perhaps because of?) his extensive scholarship, Tom Wright takes nothing for granted in his readers. Maps are included wherever helpful in order to clarify and make sense of the gospel accounts. A glossary of terms is included at the back of each book and appearances of those terms is highlighted in bold throughout the text. The contents page gives a title to each section, making it very easy to find one’s way around.

Fourth, the author, instead of relying on published translations of the original Greek text, provides his own. And what a translation! Mark positively fizzes (as we were all told at theological college, but have never seen in translation before!), while Luke is just as clear, but softer, more gentle in tone and style. Try Mark 4.39, for example. In most translations, Jesus is recorded as saying to the storm something like, “Peace! Be still!”. Tom Wright, however, gets much closer to the original: “Silence! Shut up!”.

Fifth, the expositions, while being underpinned by the author’s scholarship, are shot through with stories and illustrations, most of which are easily adaptable to preaching use.

And finally, at £8.99 and £9.99 respectively, both books are superb bargains. My only regret is that, in the Church of England, our Sunday lectionary readings for this year are based on Matthew, so I’ll have to wait until Advent to make significant use of these books. But Mark will be well thumbed by the end of 2003! Meanwhile, I hope Tom Wright is working on Matthew and John. I can hardly wait.

Alun Brookfield

The Synoptic Gospels

Scot McKnight, John Riches, William R Telford and Christopher M Tuckett

Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield 2001; 359pp; £16.95; ISBN 1 841 27210 8

This is a combined reissue of the three Sheffield New Testament Guides on Matthew, Mark and Luke. The additional material is provided by a new 30-page introduction by Scot McKnight, which I found to be the most valuable contribution in the book in that it attempts, among other things, to show why a theology derived from the Synoptic Gospels is vital for reconstructing human virtue at the beginning of the third millennium.

This series is aimed at introducing students to both critical and theological issues in the study of the Synoptic Gospels. The emphasis, however, is on critical issues, whereas the preacher needs help on getting to grips with the theological message of each gospel. A curiosity is that the shortest gospel gets by far the longest treatment. I would recommend that preachers invest in a good commentary that takes account of theological and literary readings.

Terry Griffith

The Bible Guide

Andrew Knowles

Lion UK, 2001; £16.99 (paperback); ISBN 0 7459 50906 (paperback)

In these days of Alpha and Y courses, many people are coming to the Bible for the first time. The heading on page 7 begins at the beginning by asking “What is the Bible?”, and from this point forward the author seeks to answer that question in an attractive and non-intimidating way. Here is a book that succeeds where others have failed. The typeface is clear and modern, the illustrations are relevant and mainly in colour. The use of the word ‘discovering’ throughout will surely attract the new Bible reader to do just that - discover some of the reasons why this book is still the world’s best seller.

It was hard to know where to begin this review, so I decided to concentrate on just three books: Nehemiah, Mark and Timothy. Rightly the author combines together Ezra with Nehemiah and touches on the problem of who came first to the city. He suggests that the return from exile and the rebuilding of the city and temple took place ‘over a long period’. The introduction points to the other people involved (Haggai and Zechariah) and explores some of the theories around the complications of the return from exile without overloading the reader with details. The discovering part includes a helpful feature listing the Persian Kings and gives a useful reminder to the reader called `What’s been going on?’.

Mark, while having the same approach, includes many more very useful inserts such as ‘The Son of God’, ‘The Kingdom and God’, and ‘Five loaves and two fishes’, all adding very helpful ‘asides’ to the text. The writing about Mark lacks a little of the urgency that is in the Bible text, but makes a geography of the ministry of Jesus very clear - “until now Jesus has lived and worked in the northern part of the country in Galilee. Now he starts to journey south to Jerusalem where he knows that suffering and death await him”(page 459).

For new Christians the letters must present a very complex and easily misunderstood part of the Bible. They are sometimes just one side of a ‘conversation’ between Paul and the recipients, who may be either churches or people. The introductions to each of the letters help to make clear this onesidedness and take the reader forward into the text. The two letters from Paul to Timothy include an excellent ‘aside’ with the title “When did Paul write the pastoral letters?” and then explains the term ‘Pastoral Letters’ in his next aside. His text on one of the many 3:16 texts is an excellent summing up of why the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments, is a crucial document for all Christians “The scriptures not only tell us that God saves, but teach us how to live the good life. The scriptures are the main means of knowing God’s truth. They correct what is wrong and commend what is right. They lead us to a mature understanding of God’s will and equip us for his service” (page 654).

Here is a book with a fresh approach that should move new Christians forward and refresh the minds and thoughts of those of us who are somewhat longer in the spiritual tooth. I heartily commend this book as one you could give to a new Christian knowing that they are more likely than not to make use of it.

David Small

‘If this be from Heaven ...’: Jesus and the New Testament Authors in their Relationship to Judaism

Peter J Tomson

Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield 2001; 455pp; £25.95; ISBN 1 841 27196 9

This book is, in effect, an ‘Introduction’ to the New Testament, written from the sole perspective of what we might learn about not only the Jewish background, but also about the perception of Judaism, of the New Testament (plus the Didache). There are no footnotes, and the author begs forgiveness for presenting certain conclusions without adequate argumentation. This is both the strength and weakness of the book. The strength is that we are presented with a manageable general introduction to the gains made in modern New Testament scholarship in understanding Christianity as profoundly Jewish in its origins. The weakness is that the nature of an ‘Introduction’ requires far more attention to detail than is given. The result is that some highly speculative reconstructions of the development of certain streams within the Christian movement are presented as ‘givens’, and these serve to form the basis for the author’s conclusions about relationships between Christians and Jews as viewed through the window of the New Testament. The reader also needs to be aware that alternative understandings of important issues (such as divorce) are not given.

The author provides extensive quotations of Jewish sources which are not nearly well enough known, and these serve to correct common misunderstandings of the nature of Judaism, or at least several strands of Judaism. He also provides a fascinating introduction to recent scholarship on the letters of the ‘Jewish’ churches (Jude, James, Hebrews, the Johannine Epistles, and Revelation). However, surprisingly, I found his treatment of Hebrews to be the least satisfactory part of the book.

The final chapter is where the rubber hits the road. Given the author’s conclusion that the New Testament provides validation for hatred of the Jews, he asks how the church needs to read its scriptures in the light of a long history of anti-semitism. The fact of anti-semitism needs to be faced by Christian leaders, and we need to question an unthinking portrayal of Judaism in our preaching and teaching.

You will find a lot to fascinate you in this book, but it is by no means the last word on this subject.

Terry Griffith

Jesus and the Fundamentalism of His Day

William Loader

Eerdmans, Grand Rapids/Cambridge, 2001; vi+ 156pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 8028 4796 X

This book uses the way in which Jesus approaches the religious traditions of his own day, according to the four Gospel writers, in order to explore the way we read the Bible, handle the religious traditions we inherit and how “we sort out what matters most from what matters little or not at all” (p.2). Rather than engage with the contemporary issues about hermeneutics which absorb so much energy (such as divorce and remarriage, or homosexuality), Loader takes a step back and sees what we can learn from Jesus and the gospels about approaches to Scripture. In brief chapters, each of the Gospel writers, as well as the source Q, is investigated as they describe the response of Jesus to the religious fundamentalism of his day. Thus, for instance, the theme of the stories attributed to Q is that people matter more than laws. For Luke, Lawkeeping was important, but the agenda of the God who gives the Law is concern for the poor.

This study is an example of careful Biblical criticism, obviously generated by academic study (just look at the bibliography), but which is in no way ‘difficult’ or arcane. Preachers looking to a fresh, warmhearted and careful analysis of the ways in which the different gospel writers approach this theme of Jesus and the Law will find plenty of material to invigorate their preaching here.

Paul Goodliff

Interpreting Together: Essays in Hermeneuties

(Ed) Peter Boutenoff and Dagmar Heller

WCC Publications, Geneva, 2001; 164pp; £9.50; ISBN 2 8254 1333 X

This product of the Faith and Order commission of the World Council of Churches handles the tricky issue of how much diversity is possible in interpretation. It provides further reflections on the process of ecumenical hermeneutics arising frorn the publication in 1998 of A Treasure in Earthen Vessels: An Instrument for an Ecumenical Reflection on Hermeneutics, (WCC). Included are papers given at the consultations which gave rise to that earlier document, and other papers explored the implicit hermeneutics in the Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry text of 1982 and its subsequent reception. Thus William Tabbernee looks at ‘BEM and the Eucharist’, while William Henn explores ‘Apostolicity’. Other chapters reflect upon tradition and the Spirit, and the problems of understanding one another in the ecumenical movement. Many of the chapters are short, with the feel of a short paper given at a conference, which I suppose they were. This is not, however, a cohesive exploration of the issues (it does not claim to be), and perhaps is too specialized for the average pastor.

Paul Goodliff

Twentieth-Century Religious Thought

John Macquarrie

SCM, London 2001; 496pp; £19.95; ISBN 0 334 02828 0

My 1971 edition of this book cost £I.50! It was first published in 1963 and for this final edition Macquarrie has updated it till the end of the century.

For many of us Macquarrie has been a wise guide for our theological education. This book has long been a classic. He divides the century into twenty-five sections and gives brief but incisive surveys of a variety of thinkers within each heading. Reading the new sections I particularly appreciated his comments on Pannikar’s The Unknown Christ of Hinduism, but felt Macquarrie could have said more about Hick’s more recent nuanced writing about other world faiths. In his final section on postmodernism he suggests ten contrasts with the past: Postmodernism and Modernism; Objectivism and Subjectivism; Fragmentation and Totalization; Particular and Universal; Self and Others; Relative and Absolute; Pluralism and Uniformity; Passion and Intellect; Ambiguity and Clarity; Opinion and Truth.

In the last decade he might have chosen a heading about other faiths and included Paul Knitter. He could have included John Milbank as well as Graham Ward in the postmodern section. But these are quibbles. If you have read him before or listened to him you will know what to expect. Could you have a wiser guide to twentieth century religious thought? He is invaluable for the beginner and a constant teacher for all others.

Julian Reindorp

With the twentieth century well and truly over, John Macquarrie’s classic overview of religious thought in that century can now be considered complete. First written in 1963 and updated four times already, this final (probably) incarnation includes a completely new chapter on postmodernism. I compared it to my second (revised) edition of 1981, and all is absolutely familiar until chapter 23: ‘Concluding Comments’, followed by chapter 24, ‘Postscript 1960 -1980’ in my old edition, now become chapter 23, ‘The Fourth Phase’ and chapter 24, ‘Postmodernism in Religious Thought’.

‘The Fourth Phase’ includes sections on the renewal of Catholic Theology (Rahner, Schillebeeckx and others), PostExistentialist Philosophies (Pannenberg, Jungel, Solle and others), Liberation Theology, Black Theology and Feminist Theology. Brief overviews they may be, but his touch is sure and the breadth comprehensive.

The new chapter brings the survey bang uptodate. Macquarrie wisely assumes that “Postmodernism is unlikely to be either the herald of a glorious new age or an early warning signal of the disintegration of western culture” (p.447) and proceeds to analyse the break with modernism, the predominant culture of most of the twentieth century, by means of the ten contrasts listed in Julian’s review above. Thus describing the landscape of Postmodernism, he continues by exploring those three doyens of Postmodernism: Emmanuel Levinas, Jean Francois Lyotard and Jacques Derrida.

The concluding section follows the pattern elsewhere in the book and gives brief overviews of postmodern theologians, among them Mark Taylor, Graham Ward and JeanLuc Marion. This concluding chapter reestablishes the book among the first rank of summaries of a century’s philosophy of religion, and as good a starting place as any to come to terms with the rich variety of our last century’s religious thought.

Paul Goodliff

The First Christian Centuries

Paul McKechnie

Apollos, Leicester 2001; 270pp; £12.99; ISBN 0 85111 479 2

It is now thirty years since IVP published a book on early church history, so this book is to be welcomed. The author is well-versed in modern writing on the subject and approaches it in a detailed way which is nevertheless quite easy to read.

The book is arranged thematically, and on occasion you have to look at other chapters to see exactly what was happening at a particular point. It is interesting to read about the debate on the numbers of the early Christians and also about the feminist reactions to church history.

While this would be a good introduction to the subject for newcomers, I feel that there are some secondary points which are missed out. He mentions the Nag Hammadi Gnostic library, but nothing is said about the hugely important Gospel of Truth of Valentinus. He totally omits the Tours papyri, which record Origen in debate with Arabian bishops. He only mentions the Hippolytus/Novatian schism. There is little or nothing on worship or normal church life (e.g. baptism and baptismal instruction). Among the women, no mention is made of Ammia of Philadelphia or Marcia the concubine of the emperor Commodus. And he does not consider whether the antics of Priscilla and Maximilla, the Montanist prophetesses, were detrimental to women’s ministry. And he accepts uncritically the Arepo-Sator square as Christian.

His ‘Primary source-finding list’ would be very useful if it were complete, and I would have thought that E Yamauchi’s Pre-Christian Gnosticism would have merited inclusion in the bibliography. Having said this, I am glad to have this book and feel that it is a helpful addition to anyone’s library.

Mike Smith

Faith Stories and the Experience of Black Elders

Anthony G Reddie

Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London, 2001; 144 pages; £12.95; ISBN ?

This book is sub-titled Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land, and in it, Anthony Reddie celebrates the theological creativity, educational aspirations, travails and triumphs of our Black Elders. It is good to know that the inevitable judgement of time has not completely replaced the songs of our Elders with an awkward silence. On the contrary, the author's work seeks to provide a voice for the so-called voiceless, ensuring that their stories live on. Partly because of the books incoherency and repetition in places, the purpose of the book is difficult to explain. Arguably, Reddie seeks to facilitate the telling and sharing of stories from a cultural context about the survival, adaptation, and for some, triumphing of our Black Elders. This is not about writing in a vacuum. Anthony’s hope is that these stories be told to black children and their children to help them depersonalise oppression and enable them to aspire to becoming somebodies.

The author introduces a timely debate. It reminds readers of the achievements and contributions that these heroes and heroines have made to British society since the arrival of Empire Windrush some fifty years ago. It encourages its readers to struggle with the discipline of Black theology. Many find this discipline to be esoteric and abstract, but the author explains the practice as a “dynamic relationship with God in which meaning and hope are found in the figure of Jesus Christ.”

His approach to theology is holistic and contextual. Unlike some scholars, he is aware that the cultural vehicles that assist African people in their knowledge of God are primarily expressed through story telling, festivals, celebrations, parties, role-plays and acting as well as objective analysis and exegesis of the written text.

At last we have an academic book that can be helpful to Ministers who are seeking to understand the world view and experiences of their Black constituency, assist Blacks of different generations in their intergenerational conversations, and empower the Black elders and their younger relatives to continue “Singing the Lords Song in a Strange Land.”

Wale Hudson Roberts

Uncommon Sense. God's Wisdom for our Complex and Changing World

John Peck and Charles Strohmer

SPCK, London 2001; 362pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 281 05428 2

Among the most commonly given reasons for leaving the church (although not necessarily leaving faith behind), is the prevalence in the church of far too much navel gazing and an astonishing lack of continuity between ‘churchly concerns’ and the world of work and society. Endless dull and boring sermonizing on church leadership, worship and ways of evangelising lead many to suspect, probably correctly, that the church has precious little concern for the issues of the wider world and almost nothing to say about them that connects with the ninety percent of life that is lived outside of church.

Peck and Strohmer have written a book that addresses those concerns, that seeks to connect a biblical faith with the issues that dominate modern life and to demonstrate that far from being an irrelevance, the Christian faith has much to say that is eminently sensible and wise. The bibliography alone testifies to the breadth of concerns addressed here. It is not organised around ‘the issues’, as, say, John Stott’s admirable book, Issues Facing Christians Today (a generic approach), but rather the process by which we can think about everyday life in the light of Scripture and theology.

For those wanting a generic approach, the bibliography and index constitute a launch pad, but this book “does not do your thinking for you” (p.xv). The view of many Christians which consciously, or probably unconsciously, split ‘religion’ from ‘the world’ has led to our inability to connect with culture, and so this book strongly advocates a faith which engages, rather than a pietism which separates from the world. It then explores how that engaging faith connects with themes as diverse as the new physics, feminism, parenting, education and economics. While you will not find the outline to crib that sermon on, say, genetic engineering, if you are concerned to develop a Christian mind, you will find this book absorbing and thought provoking. An absolute bargain at less than fifteen pounds!

Paul Goodliff

Church Without Walls: Church of Scotland report to the General Assembly 2001

Parish Education Publications 21 Young Street Edinburgh EH2 4HU; 80pp; £3.99;

ISBN 0 86153 328 3

There can be few denominations of the Christian Church, which have not reviewed what they do and how and why they do it in order to spread the Good News. This report from the Church of Scotland is a recent addition to our resources to inform discussions about change and renewal. The report was produced by a special Commission set up by the Church of Scotland and represents the conclusions drawn from listening to a wide range of people. There are some useful starter questions for use by individuals or groups and these are available in pamphlet form. There are plans to produce study materials based on the report. The intention is that every congregation should consider their action plan in response to this document.

This report is very readable. The text is well organized and has useful summary points picked out on most pages. More detailed treatment of some topics is supplied by appendices. Provided that the particular context of the Church of Scotland is accepted this report will be a useful guide to any church wrestling with life in today's world and reaching out to its community. There are sections on the primary purposes of the church, the shape of the church and proposals for continuing reform.

At the heart of A Church Without Walls is a plea for a change of mindset across the Church, so there is a useful section on the barriers to change. There is also a great emphasis on the need to follow Jesus: “We are to be disciples before we can make disciples”. The report also states that “the heart of reform is the reform of the heart” and “the first proposal for reform is a call to prayer”.

This is a radical document. It recommends that each congregation should have a sabbatical and set people free from the normal programme in order to make time for meeting as friends, for retreat, reflection and prayer and to follow this retreat with a time to share what God may have shown and decide on action.

This report would repay reading by any leadership team seeking to go Christ’s way and make disciples.

Colin Selby

The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance

Thomas R Schreiner and Ardel B Caneday

IVP, Illinois and Leicester 2001; 344pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 85111 551 9

Many pastors will know that one of the questions most often voiced by the anxious Christian concerns the certainty of salvation and the possibility of apostasy. Does the bible teach ‘once saved always saved’ or does it teach the possibility of falling away and losing salvation? Was that keen teenager who was so clearly exhibiting the signs of genuine faith, but who thirty years on has renounced all claims to faith, not really a Christian, and so never saved, or have they lost their faith and are now apostate?

This book is a full and evangelical exploration of these themes combining thorough exegesis with spiritual and pastoral sensitivity to produce a magnificent contemporary answer to those ageold questions. What is their answer? A refusal to ‘play God’ and pronounce upon the eternal fate of those who appear to be apostate. Instead, the assurance of faith is for those who continue to run the race, and no assurance is possible for those who quit running the race, and yet enquire whether they still receive a prize for running! Assurance is strengthened as we persevere.

Furthermore, a careful examination of the love of God in both its conditionality and unconditionality, allows them to refute the claim that they are propounding a doctrine of worksrighteousness. The electing love of God establishes and maintains our perseverance, and the salvation we have in Christ comes with the conditions that we persevere, keep God’s commandments, love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and so forth. Here is a robust dismissal of the gospel of cheap grace that allows for a certain kind of commitment to the truths of the gospel confessed in initial repentance but which does not continue in ongoing transformation. If the gospel is ‘absolutely free’ and yet ‘costs us all we have’, such a travesty as cheap grace only attends to the free gift, ignoring the daily taking up of a cross. This book should be read by any tempted to preach a gospel of cheap grace, or, heaven forbid, live grace on the cheap.

Paul Goodliff

Priests in a People’s Church

George Guiver and others

SPCK, London, 2001; 148pp; £?; ISBN 0 281 05405 3

This book was consciously written as a sequel to The Fire and the Clay, an earlier exploration of the same question, namely, “What is the role of the priest in modern society?”. It is certainly a question in need of answers in the contemporary Church of England, although I suspect my free church colleagues may want to pass it by.

But that would be a shame, because the role of the free church minister is similarly under scrutiny and there are many insights in this little book which would be of value, provided free church readers can doggedly read ‘minister’ for ‘priest’ throughout.

Each chapter is by a different author, some lay, some ordained, some in favour of the ordination of women, others against, so it is not surprising that they are by no means of the same opinion about how to answer the question. A lot of ground is covered including the place of marriage and family in ministry, the specific roles of the priest (pastor, chaplain to the Christian community, public figure and focus of faith. The primary functions of priesthood are also touched upon, including the importance of the Daily Office, the prayer and devotional life of the priest and the dramatic image of the priest celebrating Holy Communion. And the element of suffering which is at the heart of all who would represent Christ is not ignored.

Although the quality is a little patchy, this is a worthy successor to The Fire and the Clay and would be of value to any Christian leader of any denomination to read it.

Alun Brookfield

Theology, Music and Time

Jeremy Begbie

Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000; 317pp; £?; ISBN 0 521 78568 5

In the middle of last year I saw an advertisement for a series of talks to be given by Jeremy Begbie at the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity on the subject of Theology through Music. I was unable to attend them, but contacted the Institute and they sent me the tapes. The talks, illustrated with many musical examples, were captivating, stimulating, inspiring, challenging. And then came the book. And this book is all these things and more. But be warned, it is no light read!

Jeremy is well equipped to write on the subject, as he is a very able theologian who teaches at Ridley Hall and Cambridge University. But also he is a highly competent musician - a pianist, an oboist and conductor. I first encountered his writing through his accessible, but substantial Music in God’s Purposes, a booklet published by Handsel Press. His doctoral thesis, Voicing Creation's Praise, I found stretching to the extreme. Theology, Music and Time comes somewhere between the two.

The starting point for his study is not the question: ‘What can theology do for music?’, but: ‘What can music do for theology?’. “My guiding conviction in this book is that music can serve to enrich and advance theology, extending our wisdom about God, God’s relation to us and to the world at large”. Jeremy does this with particular attention to the dimension of our world we call ‘time’. He explores a wide range of musical phenomena - rhythm, metre, resolution, repetition, improvisation - and through them opens up some of the central themes of the Christian faith - creation, salvation, eschatology, time and eternity, eucharist, election and ecclesiology.

On the sleeve we are informed that this study is “Without assuming any specialist knowledge of music”. I think this is overstating the case a little, but for the person who has some knowledge and real interest, it is a brilliant work of integration. A wide range of musical examples abound, and the theological sources are extensive.

There were a number of areas which I found of particular interest, especially his exploration of improvisation in the context of tradition, but to highlight any one area runs the risk of compartmentalising a work which is carefully and skillfully developed into a cohesive whole. If this subject is of any interest to you, I highly recommend it.

By the way, Jeremy Begbie is Director of ‘Theology Through the Arts’, so keep your eyes open for further creative initiatives from this source.

Geoff Colmer

Supporting Christians at Work: A Practical Guide for Busy Pastors

Mark Greene

Administry, Sheffield 2001; 40pp; ISSN 1362 3494

Thank God It’s Monday: Ministry in the Workplace

Mark Greene

Scripture Union, Bletchley 2001; 180pp; £5.99; ISBN 1 85999 503 9

Mark Greene has worked with great skill and enthusiasm to put workplace issues at the heart of the church’s agenda - to equip Christians at work. He has provided a range of well produced and stimulating material including two videos.

The practical guide for busy pastors was so much appreciated by one reader that he arranged for every Baptist minister in England to have a copy. It is excellent value and subscribers to Administry can get bulk copies for £3 each. The seven chapters are packed with analysis and ideas: Why the workplace matters; How the workplace was lost; Issues facing workers today; Four keys to supporting workers; 50 ways to support the workers; The great opportunity; Resources including helpful questionnaires for the congregation to fill in; and a worker’s check list. This is the best resource of its kind available. It has been beautifully produced and it is easy to read.

Thank God It’s Monday is the third edition of this book first published in 1994. It has all the Mark Greene virtues - racy style, lots of illustrations and is biblically based. You could give it to any member of your congregation and they would be stimulated.

However, I have two concerns with both these publications. First, the writer makes clear his concern for the Kingdom of God at Work and mentions ‘transforming structures’, but in reality I am left feeling he wants us all to make Christians at work rather than to make work Christian. My second reservation is that good as this written material is, most of the key questions and dilemmas that people face at work begin where the written material ends. That is why in my book ‘Equipping Christians at Work’ I have focussed particularly on the setting up of Christians at Work groups in a parish/congregational setting. Here issues can be teased out, new ways forward explored and seemingly impossible situations shared.

These concerns apart, Mark Greene and all his publications are full of ideas to equip people for ministry ‘in the place where many of us spend sixty to seventy per cent of our waking lives’.

Julian Reindorp

Building SelfEsteem

Sue Atkinson

Lion Publishing, Oxford, 2001; 224pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 7459 3113 8

This practical and readable book would be a useful resource to place in the hands of those afflicted by low selfesteem, or indeed to help inform the pastor who wishes to know how to help someone who lacks confidence.

Born of personal experience, Sue Atkinson has essentially written a selfhelp book, with case studies and activities. While I want to commend this resource, I wonder if a selfhelp book is sufficient. Sue Atkinson explored her own low selfesteem with therapists (John, then Ruth), yet in her section on how to use this book, she makes no mention of the potential need to work at the issues with a counsellor or therapist. Some may find this a helpful start to recovery and growth, but will need the personal relationship of a therapist to complete it. With that caveat, this book can do a great deal of good.

Paul Goodliff

Self-Esteem, the Cross and Christian Confidence

Joanna McGrath and Alistair McGrath

IVP 2001; 160pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 951 11547 0

This book has been rewritten “to help all those concerned with the problems of those with low selfesteem in Christian ministry.” The original edition appeared in 1992. The authors, a psychologist and a theologian, have tried to bring together their disciplines. The central chapter deals with these tensions which arise, such as that of most secular psychotherapies versus the cross.

The first three chapters deal with the psychological approaches to selfesteem, while the fourth tackles the tensions between Christian and secular views. The book goes on to build up the confidence of the believer in the efficacy of the cross of Christ to change the status of the disciple and to solidify the relationship so that there is a secure attachment to God the Father, through our Redeemer. It is intended that the insight and ideas explored in the book should be used to encourage and edify Christian communities through teaching and preaching, together with the practice of valuing one another as each day we live out our Christian faith.

This is a stimulating and thoughtful book. It is clearly set out and helps to undo some of the tangles of the insecure psyche. It is a constructive book to lend to brave and troubled people. It gives plenty of scope and encouragement for discussion and hope for healing without sacrificing an enquiring mind or damaging further the wounded heart. It is a wholesome, enticing book written with authority and sensitivity for those who want to be healed.

Ursula Franklin

Biology and Theology Today

Celia E Deane-Drummond

SCM Press, London 2001; 248pp; £16.95; ISBN 0 334 02823 X

This is a book written for undergraduates and more general readers wanting to explore the place of science and theology in the postmodern world of genetic engineering including human cloning, ecology and the modification of food.

There are useful chapters on the history of the debate between science and theology, the nature of science and the response of the churches to the current discussions about the ethics of some aspects of genetic engineering. We are also introduced to the value of considering wisdom from various sources as a way of reflecting theologically on biological science and emerging ethical issues. Discussions on the place of the Gaia hypothesis and the feminist point of view in mapping the debates between science and religion are also valuable in emphasizing the need to go beyond the mechanistic view of life and see God at work in an integrated creation.

The book ends with a chapter summarizing the main arguments put forward. The notes and bibliography are also helpful. With the general reader in mind a glossary would have been useful. Also the book assumes, understandably, a basic knowledge of the history and philosophy of science and of theology since, as the author states, “the whole field of biology is so vast in scope that an adequate and comprehensive engagement with Christian theology would take many more volumes to complete”.

This is a scholarly work based on wide reading and careful evaluation. Here is a good background reader for anyone planning the discussion of some of the issues facing Christians in this new Millennium.

Colin Selby

Rethinking the Beloved Community: Ecclesiology, Hermeneutics, Social Theory

Lewis S Mudge

Maryland, University Press of America, 2001

A compendium of Mudge’s articles, culled from various journals, is what this book essentially is, and because of that its coherence as a book is very weak. Moreover, the accessibility of some of the articles is limited, to say the least. They presuppose that the reader is conversant with the technical language of sociology, thereby losing the interest quite rapidly, one would suspect, of those reared on more overtly theological language.

This is a shame because the theological message of this book is a very compelling one. Concerned with the place of the church in an increasingly hostile environment, Mudge’s assertion is that the church, rightly conceived, is the social space God creates, thus becoming a sign of God’s salvation in the world - an ecclesiology that is sectarian, yes, but not isolated from culture. In fact the church is the truly human community, the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

At a time when the only options that seem to exist are the polarities of fundamentalism or liberalism, Mudge’s position is refreshing. In it he upholds the tradition of the church. Indeed, he makes a strong case for the importance of confessional Christianity at a time when the church is increasingly letting go of her doctrinal foundations. But he does it in such a way as to bypass the church versus sect dichotomy, claiming instead that the church has the potential to transform culture, by faithfully adhering to the logic of her own gospel. Readers of Niebuhr will recognise some of the themes here, and understand that the task of the church is not so much to pit herself against culture, but instead to embody a faith community that can actually be the vanguard of the world as it is meant to be. It remains for church practitioners to work out the implications of this ecclesial and sociological vision, for Mudge provides us with few clues of what this might look like.

Ian Stackhouse

The Education of Desire

T J Gorringe

SCM Press, London, 2001; 144pp; £13.95; ISBN 0 334 02847 7

The saying that one should “never judge a book by its cover” was never more true than with this little volume. The cover photograph of a rather effete young man carrying a basket of fruit, apart from its very dated appearance, bore no relation that I could see to the subject matter, which is a fine exploration of the role of the senses in theological thinking and Christian living.

This book originated as a series of lectures delivered by the author at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, under the title In the Realm of the Senses. In chapter 1, The Instruments of Grace, Gorringe explores the, to some, radical notion that our senses are the means by which God chooses to explore materiality through us. This is not to say that “God is dependent on the creature to know creation, which would be absurd”. But it is to say that God, precisely because he is wholly transcendent and ‘other’, is exploring the wonders of what he has made though the very senses he has given his creatures.

Chapter 2, The Senses Stilled, attempts a response to the question, inevitably raised by the earlier chapter, that, if God is exploring creation through our senses, what does it mean for those of us whose senses are impaired in some way? Is it so surprising, asks Gorringe, that so much of what we know about Jesus has him restoring lost senses of hearing and sight, or that the promises of the afterlife so often include physical wholeness and well-being?

Anticipating the next question, Gorringe’s next chapter is entitled Sins of the Flesh. What is happening when we use the flesh for sinful purposes? As in Chapter 1, he lists the five senses, exploring how we attribute certain sins to each of them, and concludes that “to live graciously is to seek the kingdom and pursue it, and that, finally, is what we are called to use the senses for, and it is failure to do so which is what we mean by that much misunderstood term, ‘sin’, which never refers primarily or above all to the flesh”.

The fourth chapter is about asceticism, the mortification of the senses, and depicts how, in the 20th century, we abandoned the idea of disciplining the soul through the body and began instead to deify the body and through it, the senses.

Finally, under the title Celebrating the Body, Gorringe explores the way in which the Eucharistic feast can be seen as the place where all these issues may be drawn together and resolved.

I found this a fascinating read and highly recommend it. My only reservation is that the price of £13.95 seems very high for such a small book, even if the contents are full of rich pickings.

Alun Brookfield

The Psychology of Mature Spirituality - Integrity, Wisdom, Transcendence

Edited Polly Young-Eisendrath and Melvin E Miller

Routledge, London and Philadelphia, 2000; 210pp; £16.99; ISBN 0 415 17960 2

This collection of fourteen essays is an attempt to discover a mature spirituality for the 21st century. The essays are divided into three sections under the headings Integrity, Wisdom and Transcendence. Each essay is, however, an entity on its own and the reader may dip in on those titles that catch the imagination.

This book will be of interest to students and practitioners of theology, psychology and counselling. It is a mixed bag, some essays being heavily academic while others are easier to read and well illustrated with case material.

Three essays stood out for me. The one on spiritual abuse was a sobering account of how good people may unconsciously do harm under the guise of spiritual help. This essay, together with the ones on Wholeness and Transcendence and on Green Spirituality, grounds spirituality in the issues people are facing today.

Vernon Muller

Sex and Love in the Home

David Matzko McCarthy

SCM Press, London, 2001; 260pp; £15.95; ISBN 0 334 02842 6

Like the Gorringe book I have reviewed elsewhere in this journal, McCarthy’s book cover is most off-putting. So dated is the appearance that I expected to find myself reviewing a re-issue of a much older book. I was surprised, therefore, to find a very modern piece of creative reflection on marriage and family relationships from a Christian perspective. I was also surprised to find that the main thrust of the book is not about Sex and Love in the Home, but about home and family relationships in the context of modern culture and society.

McCarthy’s main thesis is that marriages and families flourish when they perceive themselves as part of an interconnected network of similar people-units in community. It is also claimed that this is new, radical thinking about the theology of sex and marriage.

The first is reasonably self-evident, the second is manifestly publisher’s hype. Is it merely a happy coincidence, I wonder, that the Common Worship marriage service which we have started using last year in the Church of England includes a promise to be made by the congregation that they will support and encourage the couple in their life together? If not, then this awareness of a marriage as existing in community has clearly been around for some time.

In spite of that, it was an entertaining read, with many fascinating insights. For example, the author draws our attention in the Introduction to the fact that children are now in many households the primary decision-makers for consumption, which in turn has wide-ranging effects on the relationship of their parents to them, to each other and to the global market in which we all have our part to play, like it or not.

For church leaders wanting to explore how they might work with the wider community in order to strengthen and affirm the marriage bond and the family/household which results from it, this is a worthwhile and thought-provoking read.

Alun Brookfield

Unheard Voices

Jeffrey Heskins

DLT, London 2001; 236pp; £12.95; ISBN 0 232 52427 0

Jeffrey Heskins is an Anglican priest in an innercity parish that decides to offer services of blessing to gay and lesbian couples. Drawing extensively on a narrative style that allows the couples to tell their stories, this is a contribution to this particular debate from the liberal side.

As an example of narrative and contextual theology it makes fascinating reading, but of course, the issue of how far the churches accept gay and lesbian partnerships, and whether they are willing and able to bless those relationships in some sort of ceremony, remains one of the most hotly debated moral and practical issues facing the church today. In my own Baptist tradition, for instance, whatever my personal views, if I were to ‘marry’ a gay couple, I would face a charge of ‘conduct unbecoming a minister’, and be removed from the list of accredited ministers, and in my role as a superintendent I would have to discipline any who did so. This, then, is no case of theoretical morality, but a live issue for the churches today.

Heskins’ book is timely, because it allows us to hear the story from the point of view of those who so often feel utterly rejected by the church, and if we are to move beyond the invective and prejudice so often encountered on both sides of this argument, then we must learn to listen carefully to one another with open hearts and generous spirits, for such, in my view, is the way of Christ. This is probably not the first book to read on this issue, but it ought never to be the last and any pastor wanting to listen to unheard voices should read this.

Paul Goodliff

Intimacy Human and Divine

Sandra Holt

SPCK 2001; 153pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 281 05388 X

Sandra Holt expects Scripture to change our love life and, in particular, our marriage. The gospels and the Song of Songs are our reference books for contemplation. She encourages us to reconsider how God has made the human body good and beautiful. The ‘grace of intimacy’ is what God longs to give, exemplified by our relationship with Him and also practised in our faithful relationship with our spouse. Such a relationship is for those able to be open with each other, allowing the Holy Spirit to penetrate the vulnerable heart.

I have no doubt that this book will be of great value to those who are working with those seeking enrichment within marriage. The style is relaxed and it is an easy book to read.

Ursula Franklin

A Charmed Life - the Spirituality of Potterworld

Francis Bridger

Darton, Longman and Todd, London, 2001; 150pp; £8.95; ISBN 0 232 52433 5

Being a fan of Harry Potter, I approached this book with trepidation. Why? Because I love the stories as stories and was a bit hesitant about reading an analysis of their alleged ‘spirituality’. I need not have worried, however. Francis Bridger is clearly as big a fan as I am and approaches the stories with commendable sensitivity and insight.

He draws comparisons with C S Lewis’ Narnia stories and J R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and insists that, like those earlier explorations of the worlds of magic and mystery, the Potter books do not lead children into the world of the occult. Instead they lead their readers into a world of flawed human beings grappling with the realities of life, love, loyalty, fear, fun and redemption. Bridger asserts that magic is not the main component of the stories, but is merely an extremely effective and clever vehicle for exploring the development of character.

I commend this book to anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of what is going on in the Harry Potter adventures, and for anyone who wants to be confident that their children or grandchildren will not be irreparably harmed by reading them. The only trouble is that Francis Bridger’s book will make no sense at all to anyone who hasn’t actually read all four Harry Potter novels. So I recommend you read this excellent volume only after your own personal ride on the Hogwart’s Express!

Alun Brookfield

The New Sermon Slot - All-Age Ideas for the Common Worship Lectionary (Year A)

Sharon Swain

SPCK, London, 2001; 184pp; £?; ISBN 0 281 05192 5

I don’t mind admitting that I dread being asked to preach (is that even the right word?) at all-age worship! So any resource that claims to offer me the basis of an all-age service ‘sermon’ for every Sunday of the Christian year is high on my list of ‘must-haves’. And there is no doubt that Sharon Swain, already well known and respected for her creativity, has provided a truly wonderful resource which will be of benefit to many.

But sadly not to all. Too many of these ideas require a church environment in which all-age worship allows the possibility of the congregation separating during the service into small groups for short discussions. Some even require a considerable amount of mobility around the building during the service - almost impossible with many pew-filled buildings. Some ideas also require a fair degree of artistic skill (or at least, confidence!) to prepare props for the talk.

So although I will certainly consult this book every time I am asked to speak at an all-age service, I doubt whether I will use many of the ideas as they are presented. Instead, I will use them as root ideas from which to develop my own talk which will have to work within the constraints which either the building or the tradition of the congregation place upon me.

Alun Brookfield

Short Notes

A recent addition to The Old Testament Library commentary series is Joel and Obadiah (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville/London/Leiden; 168pp; £25; ISBN 0 664 21966 7) by John Barton, Oriel and Laing Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture at Oxford. Scholarly in approach, one of Barton’s chief interests is to seek the original location of both books. This kind of commentary offers no short cuts for the preacher!

Clinton Bennett, a Baptist minister and former missionary who now teaches at Baylor University, Texas, has written a remarkable wide-ranging and easy-to-read survey of the ‘search’ for the real Jesus by not only Christians, but also by Jews and Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and scholars of no religion at all. In Search of Jesus: Insider and Outsider Images (Continuum, London 2001; 404pp; £16.99 ISBN 0 8264 4916 6) is a veritable mine of information in which the author summarises image after image after image. Whether or not by the end the reader is any wiser (as distinct from more knowledgeable) is perhaps a moot point!

The fifth edition of Don Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey (IVP, Leicester 2001; 144pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 85111 196 3) is now available. Although not everybody will agree with Carson’s final list of ‘best buys’, the survey itself is magisterial and of great help to young ministers beginning to form their own libraries.

Faithworks 2: Stories of Hope (Kingsway 2001; 159pp; £?; ISBN 1 84291 014 0) by Steve Chalke and Tom Jackson tells the story of eight churches from difference denominations across the UK who are seeking to tackle a wide range of social issues. An ‘inspirational’ book, this popular volume gives much food for thought - as also direction for action.

The Holy Spirit: Transforming Us And Our World (Scripture Union, Milton Keynes, 2001; 172pp; £5.99; ISBN 1 85999 527 6) by Clive Calver is an unusual book in that Biblical teaching on the Holy Spirit is related to the author’s experiences of working for World Relief. As the cover ‘blurb’ rightly says: “The Holy Spirit is more than just a feel good factor for Christians”. This is a book to lend to those whose vision of the Spirit is limited to 1 Corinthians 12-14!

Over the past 15 years Gordon E Fee, Professor of New Testament Studies at Regent College, Vancouver, has produced a steady stream of articles and academic papers. Now some twenty one of these articles and papers are gathered together in one volume, entitled To What End Exegesis? Essays Textual, Exegetical and Theological (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2001; 378pp; £18.99; ISBN 0 8028 4925 3 - available in the UK from Alban Books, Edinburgh EH4 3BL). A book for the serious student rather than for the ordinary preacher.

In The Stories of Jesus’ Birth: a Critical Introduction (Sheffield Academic Press, 2001; 184pp; £14.95; ISBN 1 84127 132 2), Edwin D Freed examines the genealogies of Jesus, the use of Old Testament material, and Matthew and Luke’s accounts of the birth of Jesus. In common with many scholars, Edwin Freed sees the stories of Jesus’ birth as having no historical substance; rather they “express religious truths and theological convictions of Matthew and Luke in beautiful and edifying legends, myths and poetry”. The material Freed assembles makes for fascinating reading, even if one is not always convinced by the arguments advanced; unfortunately no help is offered to the preacher as to how to deal with this material.

An unusual book, combining scholarship with polemic, is Jesus the Word According to John the Sectarian: a Paleofundamentalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelicalism, especially its Elites, in North America (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2001; 137pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 8028 4980 6 - available in the UK from Albans Books, Edinburgh EH4 3BL), in which New Testament scholar Robert H Gundry argues that North American evangelicals - especially those who are “liberally educated and aesthetically attuned” are in danger “of blurring the distinction between believers and the world, of softening - or not issuing at all - the warning that God’s wrath abides on unbelievers (John 3.36), in short of only whispering the word instead of shouting him, speaking him boldly, as the Word himself did”! Although Evangelicals in the UK are also a mixed bag, I wonder to what degree this manifesto is apposite to evangelical leaders here.

Discovering Isaiah (Crossway, Leicester, 2001; 192pp; £4.99; ISBN 1 85684 203 7) by Philip Hacking is one of the latest contributions to the Crossway Bible Guides. It is a ‘practical’ rather than a ‘scholarly’ commentary. With questions at the end of each section, it is primarily a tool for personal devotion or for use in small groups.

A new revised edition of Why Bother With The Church? The Struggle To Belong (IVP, Leicester 2001; 221pp; £5.99; ISBN 0 85111 254 4) has been produced by Simon Jones. The final chapter, “Does the future have a church?”, is particularly challenging.

A related book, Gone But Not Forgotten: Church Leaving and Returning (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 1998, 1999; 192pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 232 52236 7) by Philip Richter and Leslie J Francis examines the problem of church leavers - for every adult in church, four others used to attend regularly, but have given up. The final conclusion needs to be heeded by every minister: “Churches are most likely to retain their members and encourage leavers to return when they: avoid pigeon-holing people into tidy membership categories; notice and react sensitively when people are leaving; avoid blowing out any embers of faith; meet and respect people where they are culturally and spiritually; help people grow in their faith; offer practical support as people cope with life’s changes; encourage parents in their upbringing of children; offer people a gospel worth investing in; authentically embody the gospel; offer people a sense of true community”.

Another related book, Joining and Leaving Religion: Research Perspectives (Gracewing, Leominster 2000; 336pp; £20; ISBN 0 85244 517 2) edited by Leslie J Francis and Yaacov J Katz, contains a wide variety of 17 papers on the subject. These include: “The sovereign consumer? Religious allegiance and disaffiliation in a traditionalised world” by Alan Aldrige; “Entering the sheepfold: a new look at infant baptism” by William Strange; “Leaving before adolescence: profiling the child no longer in the church” by Mandy Robbins; “Fresh through the door: newcomers to church life in Australia” by Peter Kaldor and John Bellamy; and “On gaining and losing faith with style: a study in post-modernity and/or confusion among students” by Jeff Astley. Gracewing are to be congratulated on having the courage to publish such a book and make this material accessible to a wider audience.

The publications of Leslie J Francis, Director of the Welsh National Centre for Religious Education and Professor of Practical Theology, University of Wales, Bangor, are indeed prolific. One of his more recent literary ventures is, together with Jeff Astley, to edit a reader entitled Psychological Perspectives on Prayer (Gracewing, Leominster 2001; 392pp; £20; ISBN 0 85244 518 0) which draws together studies originally published during the late 1980s or the 1990s, but also includes a few classic studies from an earlier age. There is an introductory ‘overview’ of the “empirical research on prayer”, which is then followed by a further 30 articles dealing with prayer and psychological development, prayer and adolescence, personality and prayer, effects of intercessory prayer, prayer and carers, prayer and faith, prayer and quality of life, prayer and coping, prayer and health, and prayer and therapy. It is a fascinating collection!

Wanda Nash, one of the speakers at this year’s Ministry Today conference on Seasons of Ministry has written a good deal on stress. Two of her books which are still available are At Ease With Stress: The Approach of Wholeness (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 1983; 222pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 232 512777 0) and Christ, Stress and Glory (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1997; 239pp; £9.95; ISBN 0 232 52178 6). The former is more a DIY approach, while the latter reflects on the way in which Jesus coped with “the most stress-generating task in the world”. Both have a lot to offer over-busy pastors!

Fans of Henri Nouwen will welcome Finding My Way Home: Pathways to Life and the Spirit (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2001; 157pp; £8.95; ISBN 0 232 52435 1), a posthumous collection which speaks about our collective sense of homelessness today and the universal thirst of truly being at home. It comprises three previously published essays (“The Path of Power”, “The Path of Peace” and “The Path of Waiting”) and also one unpublished article (“The Path of Living and Dying”).

Preachers will warmly welcome The Message of Salvation (IVP, Leicester 2001; 311pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 85111 897 6) by Philip Graham Ryken, one of the latest contributions to the new Bible Speaks Today: Bible Themes series. The seventeen expositions of passages of Scripture selected from Old and New Testament alike are grouped under four headings: “Saved from sin”, “Saved by grace”, “Saved through Faith”, and “Saved for God’s glory”. Here biblical theology and practical application are helpfully married together.

The SCM Press has re-published some its former ‘best-sellers’. These SCM Classics include: The Shadow of the Galilean (London, 2001; 241pp; £9.95; ISBN 0 334 02852 3), in which Gerd Theissen conveys the Gospel story in the form of a novel. First published in English in 1987, it is now introduced with a short preface by the New Testament scholar, James Dunn. Honest to God (London, 2001; 112pp; £8.95; ISBN 0 334 0281 5) by John Robinson, a New Testament scholar turned ‘pop’-theologian, has been described by The Guardian as ‘Probably the most talked about theological work of the twentieth century’. First published in 1963, this new edition is helpfully set in its historical context by David Edwards, a former Editor of the SCM Press who was responsible for the original publication. Missiologists in particular will welcome Christianity Rediscovered (London 2001; 168pp; £9.95; ISBN 0 334 02855 8) by Vincent Donovan, an American Roman Catholic who, as a result of experiences gained in pioneer missionary work among the people of Tanzania, argued that Christianity in its fulness can only be rediscovered in a non-Western context. First published in 1978, this new edition has a preface by Lamin Sanneh of Yale University.

A warm welcome is due to a major publishing exercise, namely a new revised edition of the Daily Study Bible Series by the great Scottish Bible expositor, William Barclay, and published by the Saint Andrew Press of Edinburgh. While retaining the familiar Barclay style and his own original translation of the New Testament text, many changes have taken place. For example, in the interests of ‘political correctness’ inclusive language is now used; quotations are taken from the NRSV; archaic references have either been omitted or explained; where possible, details of the sources as also of the authors of Barclay’s many quotations have been provided. The result is that William Barclay’s ‘magnum opus’ is now able to delight and serve a new generation of Bible students - as also of preachers! The revision process has involved John Drane and Ronnie Barclay (William Barclay’s son), but in particular, Linda Foster, the series editor. As of October 2001 the following volumes are available: Matthew I and II; Mark; Luke; John I and II. Each volume is priced at £8.99. In association with this new publishing project a video has been produced, Barclay at the BBC, Volume 1, in which William Barclay presents lectures on Paul’s Letters to the Romans and to the Colossians (£13.99: length 62 minutes), as also a CD, entitled Basic Christianity, in which Barclay expounds the Beatitudes, the Prologue to John’s Gospel, Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 13 (£7.99; length 67 minutes). These recordings will bring back happy memories to those of us still able to remember William Barclay, but will also evoke admiration by those who never had the opportunity to hear him.

A Book of Blessings and How to Write Your Own (Wild Goose Publications/the Iona Community, Glasgow 2001; 169pp; ISBN 1 901557 48 0) by Ruth Burgess contains a wide variety of blessings for people at all stages of life. A ready source of inspiration, this collection will undoubtedly help many pastors to write their own blessings for the varied situations they may face.

Areopagus (Paternoster, Carlisle 2001; 59pp; ISBN 1 85078 427 2) by evangelist Roger Carswell is in essence a contemporary exposition of Paul’s address on Mars Hill, with some helpful quotations included.

There is a dearth of helpful commentaries on Deuteronomy. Thank God, the latest contribution to the Epworth Commentaries, The Book of Deuteronomy (Epworth Press, Peterborough, 2001; 150pp; £9.95; ISBN 0 7162 0543 2) by Ronald Clements, a distinguished Baptist scholar and retired Professor of Old Testament Studies at King’s, London, goes a long way to meet the need in providing a non-technical commentary which ministers and lay-preachers alike will be able to use with much profit, not least because the author seeks to relate the Biblical text with the world in which we live.

There are some books which deserve to remain in print. One such book is surely Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship re-issued in the SCM Classics Series (London, 2001; 252pp; £9.95; ISBN 0 334 02856 6) with a brief preface by the South African scholar, John W de Gruchy, and a more lengthy memoir by G Leibholz. Bonhoeffer’s insistence on ‘costly discipleship’ is something which Western Christians of the 21st century still need to hear.

I am ambivalent about One Foot in Heaven: Growing Older and Living to the Full (SPCK, London 2001; 120pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 281 05399 5) by Michael Hare Duke, a former chairman of Age Concern Scotland. On the one hand, I am saddened that its author, retired bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church, cannot be more positive about the New Testament teaching of the life to come. On the other hand, I found myself stimulated by his enormously positive approach toward old age! This is not a book I would wish to lend to members of my church, but it is a book I would commend to pastors who wish to help their older members continue to grow and develop. I was particularly struck by the suggestion of holding ‘living funerals’, at which friends might come together to say farewell to the dying, rather than to the dead! The bibliography is very helpful.

The CAFOD/DLT Lent Book for 2002 is Fruits of the Earth (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2001; 95pp; £4.95; ISBN 0 232 52443 2), with contributions from Joseph Donders, Jeanne Hinton, Jayne Hoose, Matthew Kukah, Oliver McTernan and Margaret Silf. Deceptively slim, it contains much food for thought - those who make use of this devotional tool will find it to be a challenging companion for Lent.

Ministry Issues: Mapping the Trends for the Church of England (Church House Publishing, London 2001; 316pp; £12.95; ISBN 0 7151 8122 X) by Gordon W Kuhrt, Director of Ministry for the Church of England, is an exceedingly wide-ranging survey of ministry in the Anglican church. The first part of the book deals with ‘Ministry and strategy’, while the second and longer part entitled ‘Mapping the areas of ministry’ contains contributions by some 40 ‘specialists’ on subjects as diverse as ‘patronage and appointments’, ‘two clergy couples’, ‘continuing ministerial education’, and ‘deaf people and disability issues’. I confess that I found this a somewhat disappointing, if not frustrating, book. Perhaps inevitably, it is very Anglican and thus very parochial, yet the truth is that many of the issues raised are of importance way beyond the Anglican church.

To my mind the occasional well-chosen quotation enhances good preaching. I therefore warmly welcome The Westminster Collection of Christian Quotations (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky 2001; 497pp; £?; ISBN 0 664 22258 7) compiled by Martin H Manser, with over 6000 quotations ranging over the centuries, including some from people still alive today. To quote just two: “It’s difficult to stand on a pedestal and wash the feet of those below” (Charles Colson) and “I find it much easier to accept the fact of God incarnating in Jesus of Nazareth than in people who attend my local church and in me. Yet that is what we are asked to believe; that is how we are asked to live. Jesus played his part and then left. Now it is up to us, the body of Christ” (Philip Yancey).

Joy to the World (Eagle, Guildford 2001; 230pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 86347 373 3) by Joyce Huggett consists of a series of meditations and is in effect a radical revision of her earlier book Approaching Christmas. Some may well find it a helpful devotional tool, but I confess that it failed to help me as a preacher in looking for new ideas for Christmas sermons!

Challenging Catholics (Paternoster, Carlisle 2001; 208pp; ISBN 1 84227 096 6) is based on a lively twelve part radio conversation for London’s Premier Radio conducted by John Martin, an Australian evangelical Anglican, currently editor of the Church of England Newspaper, and Dwight Longenecker, an American Roman Catholic who at one stage was an evangelical Anglican priest. The result is an immensely readable and highly informative exposition and critique of Catholic beliefs from a biblical perspective. Both stimulating and challenging, I warmly recommend this book.

Caring for a Child with Autism: A Practical Guide for Parents (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London 2001; 286pp; £12.95; ISBN 1 85302 996 3) by Martine Ives and Nell Munro is a highly informative handbook from the National Autistic Society, written for parents with a recently diagnosed autistic child. Although clearly research-based, it is a very readable and easily accessible book, and will prove helpful not just to parents, but also to ministers wanting to understand autism.

Operation World: 21st century edition (Paternoster, Carlisle, 2001; 798pp; £12.99 introductory offer; ISBN 1 85078 357 8) by Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk claims to be “the world definitive prayer guide to nations, peoples, and cities of the world”. Completely updated and revised (the last edition was produced in 1995), it gives information on every country in the world. Although offering a mine of information, it is inevitable that the coverage is at times patchy and superficial. For example, one of my children who is a Slovak specialist pointed out that the article on Slovakia fails to deal with the very real social problems in that country in which society is deeply polarised between ‘nationalists’ and those with Western leanings; where race relations are poor and where Romanys are persecuted and denied educational and employment prospects. Similarly the article on the Czech Republic fails to mention that recent surveys reveal that the country has the highest level of atheism in the world, and although the article does mention the steep decline in Roman Catholicism, it fails to mention that, unlike the neighbouring countries of Poland and Slovakia, the Roman Catholic church has no serious political influence. In other words, the information offered is to be used circumspectly.

A volume on the Song of Songs (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 2001; xvi+3238pp; £24.99 hardback; ISBN 0 8028 2543 5) by Tremper Longman III is a recent addition to the New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Although it contains Greek and Hebrew words (transliterated), this is essentially a non-technical book and is accessible to the ordinary pastor. The lengthy introduction (over 80 pages) will be appreciated, not least the sections on the history of its interpretation as also on its significance and theology. To what extent, however, this commentary will encourage me to preach a sermon series (as distinct from a one-off sermon) on the Song of Songs is debatable! [Please note that in the UK, Eerdmans titles are distributed by Alban Books, 14 Belford Road, Edinburgh EH4 3BL]

Dorothy McRae-Mahon, a minister in the Uniting Church in Australia, has written In This Hour: Liturgies for Pausing (SPCK, London 2001; 109pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 281 05444 4), which contains a wide variety of creative liturgies to mark or celebrate key moments in the lives of individuals and whole communities. In particular, this collection includes a series of Advent ‘meditations’ as also ceremonies giving space for hope and grief, pain and healing. I shall look forward to using this material to enhance the worship in my own church.

Ministers preaching a series of sermons on the life of Peter might find it helpful to consult When We Get It Wrong: Peter, Christ and our Path Through Failure (Paternoster, Carlisle 2001; 104pp; £5.99; ISBN 1 85078 378 0), which in essence is a printed collection of talks given to young people by Dominic Smart, a pastor working in Aberdeen.

The Incomparable Christ (IVP, Leicester 2001; 250pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 85111 485 7) by John Stott is an expansion of the AD 2000 London Lectures in Contemporary Christianity. There are four major ‘parts’ to the book, each then further sub-divided into numerous sections. Part I deals with ‘the original Jesus’ and looks at the way in which the various strands of the New Testament witness to Jesus. Part II deals with ‘the ecclesiastical Jesus’ and looks at how church theologians, from Justin Martyr to N T Wright, and from St Benedict to Gustavo Guitterez, have presented Jesus. Part III deals with how ‘the influential Jesus’ inspired people as diverse as Francis of Assisi and Roland Allen, Thomas Barnado and Joni Eareckson Tada. Part IV deals with ‘the eternal Jesus’ and on the basis of a series of expositions of the Book of Revelation looks at the way in which Jesus challenges us today. This broad-ranging examination of the person of Jesus is yet another ‘tour de force’ on the part of Stott. Those of us who are pastors must surely be humbled by the brilliance of this unusual ‘teaching pastor’.

Scripture Union has produced a further revision of Understanding the Bible (Milton Keynes, 2001; 170pp; £9.99 hardback; ISBN 1 85999 569 1) by John Stott, first published in 1972, and then revised in 1984. Beautifully illustrated with charts, diagrams and colour photos, this classic work looks at issues such as the authority and interpretation of the Bible, as well as giving a general introduction to the Old and New Testament. It is the kind of book every home group leader should read.

Pastors Under Pressure: Conflict on the Outside, Conflicts Within (Day One Publications, Epsom 2001; 96pp; £?; ISBN 1 903087 10 4) by James Taylor, a former President of the Baptist Union of Scotland, is a highly readable and down-to-earth survey of problems facing pastors today, including discouragement, criticism, loneliness, dryness, failure and temptation. The final two chapters are given over to the challenge of retirement to ministers and their spouses. Many going through a tough patch, will undoubtedly find reading this book a spiritual tonic!

In You Were Made For Me (SPCK, London 2001; 88pp; £4.99; ISBN 0 281 05427 4), David Wilbourne, vicar of the Yorkshire market town of Helmsley, reflects on pronouns such as ‘I’, ‘It’, ‘You’, ‘We’, ‘They’, and ‘Me’. Each chapter of this unusually thoughtful book for Lent is followed by a series of questions for discussion. However, I somehow think that this will not be the easiest of books for small groups to use.

Not Least in the Kingdom (SPCK, London 2001; 115pp; £6.99; ISBN 0 281 05421 5) by retired Anglican bishop Roy Williamson, contains a series of fairly basic biblical reflections on some of the lesser characters in the New Testament such as Ananias, Andrew, Barnabas, Matthias, Mark, Stephen, John the Baptist, Simeon and Anna. Preachers may well find inspiration here for a series of sermons!

HarperCollins have recently published a new Cross Reference Edition of the NRSV Holy Bible with the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical Books (London, 2001; £16.99 hardback; ISBN 0 00 220119 4). In addition HarperCollins have published a NRSV Study Hardback Bible (London 2001; £35; ISBN 0 06 065580 1), which includes the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical Books together with notes supplied by members of the Society of Biblical Literature. Both these editions are well printed, and will form useful reference tools for ministers and thoughtful lay people.

Spring Harvest, with its slogan of ‘Equipping the Church for action’ have entered the publishing field in co-operation with Paternoster and have recently issued a series of thoughtful books. These include More Than A Job: Creating A Portfolio Lifestyle (Carlisle, 2001; 88pp; £5.99; ISBN 1 85078 430 2) in which Jani Rubery, a management training consultant, explores the new trend of combining a number of working roles, some paid and some unpaid, and gives advice to those considering taking up this option; The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (first published by Word Publishing in Nashville, 1998, now Carlisle, 2001; 249pp; £7.99; ISBN 1 85078 429 9) in which the well-known writer Os Guinness, through 26 individual ‘mediations’, argues that each of us has a specific purpose for which we are created and to which we are called, providing a veritable gold-mine of illuminating quotations culled from the writings of others in the process; Through Changing Scenes (Carlisle, 2001; 134pp; £5.99; 1 85078 433 7) in which David C Potter tells the story of ‘Prospects’, a Christian voluntary organisation, which he himself founded and which “values and supports people with learning disabilities so that they live their lives to the full”, with a view to stimulating local churches to reaching out to people with special needs; All Alone? Help and Hope for Single Parents (Carlisle, 2001; 138pp; £5.99; ISBN 1 85078 439 6) in which Jill Worth, editor of ‘Home and Family’ magazine, who is herself a single parent, and Christine Tufnell, the Single Parent Project Officer for ‘Care for the Family’, and a former single parent, offer practical advice and a Christian perspective on issues faced by single parents - this will be a book which I will certainly lend out to single parents in my congregation; and Prayer-Life: How Your Personality Affects the Way you Pray (English edition, Carlisle 2001; 156pp; £7.99; ISBN 1 85078 436 1) in which Pablo Martinez, a Spanish medical doctor and physician blends biblical teaching with insights into human nature as he seeks to encourage his readers to discover that prayer is “more a pleasure than a burden”. The quality of all these books is such that I look forward to more books from this new publishing arm.

Ministry Today

You are reading Book Reviews by Ministry Today Reviewers, part of Issue 24 of Ministry Today, published in February 2002.

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