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Book Reviews

By Ministry Today Reviewers.

A Companion to Genethics

J Burley and J Harris (Editors)

Blackwell, Oxford 2002; 489pp; £unknown; ISBN 0 631 20698 1

The response of many to the flood of information now becoming available through molecular and genetic science is bewilderment. Every week there seems to be a news item with the latest controversial ‘breakthrough’ - a newly cloned animal, a gene for behaviour, a 50-year-old woman who has conceived through in vitro fertilisation. The list seems never ending, and the impression is given of the public and policy makers running, somewhat breathlessly, to try and keep up with the scientists who are sprinting ahead down uncharted paths. Any ethical input seems to be somewhat post hoc, and rather in the nature of fire fighting, rather than fire prevention. As a scientist one sometimes gets the impression that the public would like us all to take a five year holiday so that everyone else can catch up and set in place regulations and frameworks to control and harness what we do.

While this picture may contain an element of truth, it is incomplete. There is indeed a lively ethical debate (as evidenced by this book). In addition, most of the ethical questions raised by the new sciences are not new. They may be highlighted or pushed to extremes by new technologies, but issues such as whether it is right to clone animals touch on the area of animal welfare, the use of animals as means to human ends and the ability to manipulate the nature of animals. These are all questions that are (or should be) raised by modem farming and husbandry. What is needed is help for non-professionals in boiling the issues down to the underlying questions, so that the problems and benefits of any new technology can be readily identified and addressed.

This book is a welcome contribution to the debate. Justine Burley and John Harris have collected a highly diverse group of authors, who have produced 34 chapters covering various aspects of the genetic revolution. These include eminent scientists, such as lan Wilmut, Tom Kirkwood, David Weatherall and Richard Dawkins. The philosophers and ethicists are less well known to me, but are clearly leaders in the field.

The first book is divided into five sections, covering the science behind genetics, issues raised by genetic research, gene manipulation and selection, the relationship between genotype and phenotype and finally the interactions of ethics with law and policy.

However, those who pick up the book hoping for an easy primer to the issues should be aware that this is an academic tome, not light reading. In part this is because of the language used by the different specialists. Much of the debate is carried out by people using very different grammars and vocabularies, and it takes real effort and time to wrestle with the concepts that others are using. At one stage I considered entitling this review ‘Scientists are from Mars, but Philosophers are from Alpha Centuri’, to indicate the very different types of reasoning used by these groups. However, it is worth working through the differences. This Martian had to work very hard at it, but was rewarded by a thought-provoking and stimulating experience.

The other thing that struck me was that many of the difficulties are to do with language, and with our knee-jerk responses to what others say. A classic example is the chapter by Dawkins (reproduced from one of his books) who is often seen as an irredeemable genetic determinist, highlighted by widespread (mis)understanding of his ‘selfish gene’ concept. This chapter is an eloquent description not only of why strict genetic determinism is wrong, but also explores why people have chosen to interpret scientists’ comments as indicating genetic determinism.

This is an excellent book, but you need to work hard to benefit from it. If you do buy it, I would plead that you make the effort to master those chapters written by people outside your field - it is only by such cross fertilisation that we can explore each others’ territories.

Andrew George

Covenant Theology: contemporary approaches

Mark J Cartledge and David Mills (editors)

Paternoster, 2001; xiv+128pp; £unknown; ISBN 1 84772 007 9

I have an indirect interest in this book because one of the editors was a former colleague in the Liverpool University chaplaincy team and this collection of essays originated as four chaplaincy lectures delivered in the University of Liverpool between 1997 and 2000. Regrettably, I left Liverpool before the first of these lectures was given. I am glad to be given the opportunity to catch up with them now.

Each of the four lectures is followed by a response that was not part of the original series, so this book provides more than a degree of added value. The list of contributors is impressive, and includes such distinguished scholars as Stephen Clark, James Dunn, Gary Badcock, Robin Gill and John Goldingay.

Stephen Clark begins by examining the nature of God’s covenant with the creation and argues for vegetarianism. James Dunn asks why Christians should include what they call the Old Testament in their Scriptures while at the same time regarding the old covenant as having been abrogated. He thinks that there is only one covenant in Scripture, so that talk of the new covenant is properly understood in terms of a renewal and more effective application of God’s covenant with Israel. Such thinking turns Jewish-Christian relations from an interfaith issue to an ecumenical one. Gary Badcock focuses on the thinking of Calvinistic theology and of Karl Barth to discuss the relevance of the concept of covenant to our doctrine of God. He affirms the Barthian view that what gives us access to the being of God is God’s primal decision to be God in Jesus Christ, and so not to be God in isolation from us, but only with us, i.e. to be the God of the covenant. Nevertheless, there must be a proper humility in our talk about God. Finally, Robin Gill applies an understanding of the covenant to issues in medical ethics, particularly the difficult matter of withdrawing or withholding treatment. He suggests that the related concepts of contract (to do with principles) and covenant (to do with relationships) are relevant in contemporary health care.

I must admit that on the whole I found the original lectures more exciting and stimulating than their considered responses, but perhaps that is simply a reflection of the nature of lectures as opposed to what is written only to be read. Nevertheless, this is a recommendable and stimulating little book that opens up fresh understandings and applications of the Biblical concept of covenant.

Philip Clements-Jewery

Eschatology and the Shape of Christian Belief

Robert C Doyle

Paternoster Press, 1999; x+342pp; £ not available; ISBN 0 85364 8182

Robert Doyle, who teaches Systematic Theology at Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia, has written a worthy and comprehensive survey of eschatological thinking over the centuries. The book could be described as solid rather than exciting.

After a short introductory chapter, we are immediately thrown in the deep end with a discussion of judgement and universalism in the Bible, followed by detailed descriptions of eschatological themes such as the Kingdom, the parousia, death and resurrection. Subsequent chapters continue with an historical survey of eschatological thinking, beginning with the Fathers of the Early Church, through Augustine, the medievals, the Reformers, millennialism in the modern era, and ending with twentieth century theologians such as Barth, Moltmann and the Latin American theologians of liberation. Each chapter contains description followed by critical assessment. It is plain that the author’s sympathies lie with the Reformers and possibly also with their modern day successors, Barth and, especially, Moltmann, although he is not uncritical of any of them.

Readers of Ministry Today will probably find the chapters on the Bible, the Reformers, millennialism and the moderns the most interesting and relevant. It is especially noteworthy, in the light of the kind of premillennialism that is being popularised in the USA and which is also reaching these shores, that Doyle is critical of this view. He accuses it of failure to understand the literary mode of apocalyptic and the general flow of Biblical thought. Above all, premillennialism fails to understand the centrality of the Christ event. This latter is also the basis of Doyle’s vehement criticism in his concluding chapter of the modern day movements within evangelicalism that have to do with signs and wonders (John Wimber, the Toronto Blessing and the Kansas City Prophets in particular). He thinks these movements have a deficient gospel and promote an immature and ineffective Christian life because they replace the power of the weakness of the cross with the power of signs and wonders.

The book contains an extensive bibliography, divided into pre-twentieth century and twentieth century authors, and both subject and name indices. Each chapter concludes with discussion questions under the heading ‘Over Coffee’, although it has to be said these are not questions anyone would hear being discussed over refreshments at the back of the church (e.g. “How successfully does millennialism challenge determinism in eschatological thought?”)! It also has to be said that the proof-reading is not always of the highest standard and in particular there is an extraordinary garbled footnote on p.166, where what were probably Greek characters originally have been (electronically?) transmogrified into gobbledegook. The book should not have been approved for publication with such serious proof-reading errors as these.

However, in spite of these niggles, it remains a useful and comprehensive survey of eschatological thinking and deserves a place on the minister’s bookshelves as well as in theological college libraries.

Philip Clements-Jewery

Hope for the Church

Bob Jackson

Church House Publishing, London 2002; xii+196pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 7151 5551 2

If I had not been familiar with the ‘stable’ from which this book comes, I would naturally have been very sceptical of a book with such a title. But this book has its origins in the very highly respected work of Springboard, the Archbishops’ Initiative for Evangelism, of which the author is Research Missioner. Before ordination and twenty years in parish ministry, Bob was a Government Economic Adviser, and thus brings considerable skill to the tricky task of making sense of statistics. The foreword is written by Robert Warren, formerly Rector of St Thomas’, Crookes, in Sheffield, and the book is commended by David Hope, Archbishop of York. So the pedigree is impeccable!

And the message of the book ought to be read by leaders of all denominations. Non-Anglicans may want to skip over the first chapter in which the author uses a wealth of statistical evidence to demonstrate that “the Church of England’s bucket has been leaking for years”, but “few have thought of finding the leaks and mending them” (p.16).

In the next chapter he sweeps away pious pronouncements that ‘bums on seats’ don’t matter, arguing strongly that they do very much, if only because, without a critical mass of people, the rest of the work of the kingdom is going to be severely hampered. And he firmly believes that growth is possible, arguing that despair is a subtle form of faithlessness.

Chapter 4 returns to statistical analysis, demonstrating that, if the church is growing in some places, but not in others, then someone is doing something right and others are not doing it. And fascinatingly, it is the small, poor, apparently weak churches which are doing most of the growing, not the large, wealthy and strong ones (a colleague of mine did some work on the parishes in our diocese and demonstrated convincingly that Bob Jackson’s analysis is correct). By the end of chapter 6, Jackson says that the Church needs to rethink the nature of the Christian faith, discern a new role of the Church in society today and re-imagine what it means to be Church.

The remaining 120 pages are all about how we need to respond to all this, namely, return to getting the basics right. The headings of the chapters give only the merest hint of the wealth of creative thinking which is contained here: nurturing faith, welcoming all, taking risks, acting small (whatever your size), planting churches, making young disciples, supporting the leaders and renewing the spiritual heart.

A superb and timely book for the Church of England, but other denominations should not ignore it. If you have a heart for the growth of the Church in the UK, this book should be on your reading plan for the next six months. Better still, buy one for your fellow leaders in your local congregation and read it together.

Alun Brookfield

Christianity in a Post-Atheist Age

Clive Marsh

SCM Press, 2002; 149pp; £9.95; ISBN 0 334 02869 8

Clive Marsh is Secretary of the Faith and Order Committee of the Methodist Church and here he has written an interesting and thought-provoking book, presented in a novel and intriguing way. Following Luther, the book takes the form of 95 theses and Marsh’s comments on each of these are intended as discussion starters. Like his other model, Schleiermacher, Marsh writes to his “bemused contemporaries” from the standpoint of a liberal faith. Admirably, the book advocates a form of Christianity which, unlike some of its other contemporary expressions, retains its head as well as its heart and therefore has a critical, challenging edge to it.

The first chapter deals with aspects of living that are touched on by religious faith, and the second describes the religious context of contemporary society in which a rediscovery of Christianity has to be made. It was in the third chapter, however, where I began to have questions. Eclectically, Marsh wants to keep what he finds good from the various traditions of Christian faith that we know - catholic, liberationist, evangelical, ecumenical, pentecostal, charismatic and liberal. So far, so good. But to these he adds radical orthodoxy, of which I have never heard, and post-liberalism. Both of these, I suggest, are so marginal to the mainstream of Christian life in this country that the latter (a “chastened” form of liberalism), especially, does not deserve the attention it is given in the fourth chapter. This particular chapter therefore, which is the heart of the case that Marsh wishes to advocate, was not one that particularly engaged my intellect or imagination.

The fifth chapter explores what it means to be a “Protesting Christian”, while the last gives expression to the content and form of a “new Christianity”. There is throughout a recognition of the pluralism of our times. However, if this is emphasised too much we detract from the universality of Jesus Christ and turn Christianity into the tribal religion of those who have been brought up within that culture and tradition.

I have one further grumble. It is one I have made of other books I have reviewed. The notes here are substantial and contain more than mere references to other works. But they are placed towards the end of the book. Needing to be read, it is disruptive to the reading process to have continually to turn to them. Why, in these days of electronic publishing, the notes could not have been placed at the foot of the page I do not know. If it is argued that this would in places give the notes more space than the text, then I would suggest that much of what appears in the notes could be incorporated into the main text instead.

But do not let these criticisms put you off listening to the case made within these pages. There is much which you will find you can agree with, and the rest will make you think. Commendably, Marsh has written out of a passion to make the church and its message credible in our post-modern generation and readers must judge for themselves whether or not he has succeeded. Even if this is, in the end, a form of Christianity for the chattering classes, it nevertheless deserves the attention not only of ministers but also of thoughtful lay people. There is an agenda here to keep discussion going for a long time.

Philip Clements-Jewery

After Religion - ‘Generation X’ and the search for meaning

Gordon Lynch

Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2002; 126pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 232 52429 7

Are you a ‘boomer’ or a ‘buster’, an ‘evangelical’ or a ‘post-evangelical’; are you part of ‘Generation X’ and, if you are, what does that mean? These are just some of the questions that Gordon Lynch very helpfully considers in his book.

‘Generation X’ is a phrase that is much used, and to be honest, prior to reading this book, one I knew little about. Lynch begins by defining what ‘Generation X’ is or, more specifically, to whom it refers. He argues that it is not necessarily about a group of people born at a certain time, but is more about a prevailing attitude and approach to life. Lynch’s primary concern in his book is, as the title suggests, how this particular group find meaning in life, particularly as he suggests that they have a suspicion of organised religion, which he also shows, using statistical data, is in decline.

He explores a number of places where it has been argued that ‘Generation X’ look to find meaning in life. In the chapter entitled “MTV Is My Bible”, Lynch examines the suggestion that, for ‘Generation X’, popular culture is one such place. In addition to the influence of popular culture he also explores the influence of club culture and asks whether there is a clubbing spirituality.

The book concludes by asking ‘Does Generation X need God?’, and in answering this question Gordon Lynch considers the work of three people who each offer opposing views about how ‘Generation X’ find meaning and briefly how the established church might have a part to play in this, building on earlier comments about the place of alternative worship.

The level at which I found this book most helpful was that it defines terms in a clear and helpful way, particularly so in the first half and the conclusion. It is a well written and readable book and one that I found informative and at times challenging and thought-provoking. It is a useful introduction to the theme of ‘Generation X’ as well as some of the other writers on this topic, to whom Lynch refers extensively.

This book could be a helpful resource for those involved in a variety of ministries as Lynch shows how the influence of the ‘Generation X’ affects many aspects of contemporary culture.

Matt Noble

The Strange New Word of the Gospel: re-evangelising in the postmodern world

Carl E Braaten and Robert W Jenson (editors)

Eerdmans, Grand Rapids and Cambridge, 2002; vi+176pp; £16.99; ISBN 0 8028 3947 9

This thought-provoking collection of essays comes from an ecumenical group of evangelical scholars from the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox traditions. The concern that binds all the contributions together is put by Carl Braaten in the concluding essay: “If the church of Christendom...did not adequately succeed in critically transcending the limits of modernity, how will the church now relate to the culture of postmodernity without succumbing to its pitfalls?”

One such pitfall is clearly explained in a couple of contributions towards the end of the book in which the phenomenon of “Seeker Services”, as developed at Willow Creek, is put under the microscope. Many readers of Ministry Today will no doubt be interested in what is said about this approach to mission, which has become very popular in the Baptist circles in which this reviewer moves. It is clear that Seeker Services are a development in the revivalist camp meeting tradition. In form, structure and content they reflect the shift made in Protestant worship during the Enlightenment from a focus on the glory of God alone to a concern for the edification of the congregation. The outcome of such a shift has been the dumbing down of the message, and an accommodation to the secular world-view of its hearers. However, what is really needed is the deconstruction of that world-view in those who fall into the category of “seekers”, so that they might be reconstructed in the world-view of the gospel. Seekers must be invited into the transforming and transformative life of God, and this is something that can be best done through a revival of the historic catechumenate: “Seekers should be invited to discover Christ himself in the church’s age-old seeker service, the liturgy of the catechumens”. This is precisely the opposite of what proponents of Seeker Services say when they claim that unbelievers cannot worship, so must be offered something less. That “something less” is seen in the songs used in contemporary evangelical worship, which has become “a unitarianism of the second Person of the Godhead”. No doubt readers of Ministry Today will be able to identify exactly in their own context what exactly is being referred to here. The “something less” is also seen when the Great Thanksgiving, rehearsing the whole of God’s great acts of creation, redemption, sanctification and consummation, is omitted from the celebration of the Eucharist, or when such celebration offers no more than a recital of the Words of Institution and the distribution of bread and wine. Things might have been taken to a greater extreme in this latter respect in the USA, but similar tendencies can also be observed in the worship of non-liturgical evangelical churches in the UK.

This review has dwelt at length on these matters because the reviewer judges that they will be of the greatest interest to readers of this journal. Of course, there is much else that is worth pondering in this collection of essays and lectures. Readers will not agree with everything that is said here, and sometimes comments are more applicable to the contemporary scene in America than to Europe. That is excusable, because this book is addressed first and foremost to an American audience. However, it is not difficult to translate its judgements into the British context. This book is worth getting, reading and pondering. Above all, we must arrest the tendency for the contemporary church to become what the book calls “McChurch Americana” (or, perhaps, Anglicana), exchanging the truth of the Gospel for a mess of postmodern pottage.

Philip Clements-Jewery


Christopher H Partridge

Paternoster Press, 2001; xxiv+314pp; £ not available; ISBN 0 84227 083 4

This is a useful and informative collection of papers and addresses dealing with various aspects of the phenomenon known as fundamentalism. The approach is basically that of descriptive analysis from various perspectives, including the sociological, anthropological, cultural and theological, mainly, although far from exclusively, from a fairly conservative Christian perspective. One of the contributors, in fact, is Jewish. The book deals not only with Christian fundamentalism, but also with parallel phenomena within other major world faiths, and even finds room for a chapter on contemporary paganism! Some knowledge of these different faiths is required on the part of readers in order to fully appreciate what is being described, so this may not be a book for everyone. Inevitably in a collection such as this there is some repetition.

Perceptive readers will have noticed the plural in the title of the book. This begs an enormous question about the nature of fundamentalism and the applicability of the term outside its original use in connection with early 20th century conservative Protestant Christians in the USA who were reacting against what they perceived as modernism in the Church. This is an issue which is debated within the pages of this book. Some of the authors take the line that a certain number of common characteristics can be discerned in the various groups to which the term fundamentalist is applied, thus enabling a group to be labelled in such a way if it displays a sufficient number of these characteristics. There is a ‘family likeness’ between the various expressions of ‘fundamentalism’. Others suggest that fundamentalism must be defined in terms of absolutism and a strong foundationalism. The difficulty with this last position is that most people, probably, own a set of basic principles on which their values and lifestyles are based. Does this mean that we are all fundamentalists at heart? The danger, then, is that the term may come to have such a wide and general application that its meaning dissolves and it becomes useless as a description.

Of course, in common usage the term ‘fundamentalist’ is applied to militantly political groups with a religious inspiration who may sometimes resort to violence in pursuit of their aims. Even Christian groups fall under such a description - witness the extreme activities of some pro-life groups in the USA. Like it or not, fundamentalism is a reality in our contemporary world and has immense political and social relevance to the present world situation. This book provides a balanced assessment of the causes and nature of fundamentalism. If I have any criticism, I could have wished for more critical reflection on the content of fundamentalist beliefs, particularly those that are Christian in nature. But perhaps that is beyond the scope of this book. All in all, a thought-provoking read about a phenomenon that won’t go away and which we need to understand.

Philip Clements-Jewery

The War on Terrorism and the Terror of God

Lee Griffith

Eerdmans, Grand Rapids/Cambridge; xv+399pp; £19.95; ISBN 0 8028 3935 5

One reviewer said ‘all politicians, the military and strategists should read this book because it challenges the way experts normally think’. Christianity Today chose a book by Griffith on the prison system as one of the best books of 1993. This is prophetic writing at its most profound and most formidable. Completed almost a year before 9/11 (the postscript apart), it is a reminder that the answer to the old essay question, ‘Is prophecy foretelling or forth telling?’ is that at its best it is both. With five pages of Biblical references, over twenty seven pages of bibliography, eighty pages of notes and with each chapter having three sections - current events, church history and theological reflection on biblical texts - this is the kind of book of which even Karl Barth (quoted by the author) would have been impressed.

Lee Griffith is a Protestant American peace activist and biblical scholar living and working in New York. His starting thesis is that democratic states can be as committed to terror as the ‘terrorists’ they confront, and they ignore this fact at their peril.

There are five chapters. In the first (‘The Meaning of Terror’) he defines terrorism as “the intentional effort to generate fear through violence or the threat of violence and the further effort to harness these fears in pursuit of some goal”. One leading expert says, “Terrorism is like pornography. No one can really define it, but everyone recognizes it when they see it”. So often, however, it depends on one’s point of view: terrorism can assume the guise of, for example, war against terrorism. He reminds us that it is quite easy for the comfortable to denounce the violence of the wretched of the earth while simultaneously subsidizing and benefiting from the violence that keeps them in a wretched state. ‘Terror’ is as much practised by democratic governments (including, perhaps particularly, his own) as by so-called ‘terrorist groups’. But in the record of Scripture, terror - even the ‘fear of God’ - is finally overcome by ‘fear not’, by recognizing the terror God’s love.

The second chapter (‘Terror and the Death of Community’) describes the effects of terror on communities round the world and the constant dualism of mixed motives and loyalties. A Hutu pastor is quoted as writing to his threatened Tutsi congregation: “You must be eliminated. God no longer wants you”. An IRA leader described terror “as one method of getting rid of the terror that causes it”. What has happened to the biblical vision and experience of community where we are all our brother’s keeper?

The third chapter (‘The Ethics of Terrorism’) is a sustained exposure of this dualistic tendency. The author’s own government had destroyed a television station because, as its spokesman said without any hint of irony, it broadcast ‘propaganda’. Underlying so many actions is the view that “the world is populated by the responsible and the mad, and thankfully, weapons of mass destruction are currently in the hands of those who will use them for only the best of reasons”. Some Russians touring the States before ‘Glasnost’ were amazed that all the newspapers and television channels seemed to have the same opinion. “In our country to get that result we have a dictatorship, we imprison people, we tear our their fingernails... what’s your secret ? How do you do it?”

As Jeremiah put it: “We are becoming a terror to ourselves”. Griffith explores the prophetic tradition, summarizing it with Paul’s, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow”.

In chapter four (‘The Terror of God’) the author explores the theme of the breaking in of the Kingdom of God both in the New Testament and in Christian history. Terror can be interpreted as ‘growing pains’, but not in the Apocalypse. Revelation is not a book about the end of the world: it is about a vision here and now.

In chapter five (‘Beyond Terror and Counter Terror’) he explores “not making concessions to terrorism” and he includes three people who illustrate his theme of non-violence: Tolstoy (“Love as the path beyond terror”), Dorothy Day (“Non-violent resistance as the path beyond terror”) and Desmond Tutu (“Reconciliation as the path beyond terror”). How far can churches and other faith communities be zones free from terror? There is only one antidote to terror: the terror of the cross and the hope of resurrection.

In a brief preface the author points out that in all the references to the attack on the World Trade Centre, he is referring to the bombing in 1993. In his postscript after 9/11 he asks what, if anything, has changed? Perhaps our present debate about possible war against Iraq suggests that something has shifted. Griffith is more sanguine.

A review can simply summarize the thrust of his thesis, but cannot do justice to the wealth of detail, the accumulated power of his arguments, and the challenge it poses to the relativist thinking that envelops so many of us. This is sustained prophetic writing on world events that is all too rare.

Julian Reindorp

Glimpses of Hope - God Beyond Ground Zero

Johnston McKay

St Andrew Press, Edinburgh,2002; xviii+172pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 7152 0801 2

Johnston McKay is, apparently, “one of the UK’s foremost religious broadcasters” and he has written here a perceptive and thought-provoking little book exploring some of the feelings which followed what has become known as ‘9/11’ and groping for a theology which begins to make sense of that experience.

In my view, it is aimed at a Christian reader whose faith was wounded by the events of 9/11, and who is “having to come to terms with the fact that he was committed to a God who seems useless in a crisis”. In so doing, it provides a wealth of biblical, poetic and narrative material for the thoughtful pastor and/or preacher trying to address the issues of apparently meaningless suffering in almost any context.

I am happy to commend this book and am glad to have it on my bookshelf, but I’m glad that it can sit alongside the even smaller book by Archbishop Rowan Williams (who was in Manhattan at the time of the catastrophe), Writing in the Dust (Hodder, 2002) which delves into the pain of the event at a much more profound level.

Alun Brookfield

Healing Wounded History - reconciling peoples and healing places

Russ Parker

Darton, Longman & Todd, 2001; 209pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 232 52251 0

Healing Wounded History: the workbook

Russ Parker & Michael Mitton

Darton, Longman & Todd, 2001; 93pp; £5.95; ISBN 0 232 52252 9

Billed as “an exciting presentation of a new approach to healing by one of the UK’s leading exponents of pastoral care and Christian healing”, this book by Russ Parker, Director of the Acorn Christian Foundation, and the accompanying workbook co-authored with Michael Mitton, are accessible and refreshing to read. In them Parker explores the power of wounded group stories, demonstrating how individuals are shaped not only by personal experiences, but also by the group history they carry within themselves, such groups being family, church, community, tribe or nation. We must take into account the past and present world of shaping circumstances that people bring with them when they come to the place of prayer. Healing Wounded History attempts to offer both a theological and a practical examination of reconciliation, the healing of group stories, and their relationship to and their effect upon the land or place where these stories are located.

The early chapters focus on healing the land, and the concept of land as gift and sacrament. Here Parker links understanding the history of a particular community to the current practice of prayer-walking. Then follows a chapter on the importance and the power of memories, explaining how the influence of unhealed memories over several generations continues to affect the present: “History repeats itself until we find ways to listen to it.” Chapter 6, “Representational Confession: the right to reconcile”, focuses on the role of corporate intercession aimed specifically at group needs. Chapters on the healing of family, church and community group stories follow, using examples from Scripture. The accompanying workbook, “A course for small groups”, contains material for a seven session course with sections for both leaders and participants. It contains questions for discussion, practical exercises and examples of group healing. Both books provide a valuable resource for ministers, especially those whose role it is to try to unite divided and hurting communities.

Sue Clements-Jewery

Listening to the Soul

Sandra Holt

SPCK, London 2002; 135pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 281 05459 2

This is a book to be read slowly and, almost without realizing it, you find yourself being drawn into a journey of discovery with Jesus. The author is clearly an experienced spiritual director but she shares her insights, her reading, her questions directed at us, gently but persistently. She has been inspired by the Ignatian tradition, but she has woven this into her life as a wife, mother, computer programmer and more recently trainer of ministers for the Church of Scotland. But this is not an indulgent book. Rather it is about our growth for the sake of the world. My experience is not just of a personal saviour, my growth, my story; it is woven into the story of the Saviour of the world.

She has two main themes: first, what God has in store for us - we all have a soul which needs nourishment and development. As the little boy said to the sculptor as he began to recognize the features of a lion emerging from the rock: ‘How did you know the lion was in there?’ “We are on God’s mind, not because we are human, but because we are divine.”

Her other concern, and I found this particularly refreshing, is how our growth can mirror our Lord’s. She is constantly reflecting on how he grew, how he changed his mind, the mistakes he made, what he discovered in his journey. The Jesus of Nazareth who learns as we do “by groping”, agonizing over decisions, is a Jesus with whom we can identify today.

Each chapter is developed out of an incident in the life of Christ. The author mixes biblical illustrations, with the insights of Ignatius, and more recently Thomas Merton and Scott Peck. Her quotation from John Pilger’s description of a blind Indian child sewing ‘Eric the King’ onto football boots for Manchester United fans is typical of her ability to weave everyday life into a challenge about the whole of our lives.

Her aim is to enable us to say the prayer used by Ignatius: ‘Anima Christi’, but this is a life long process, for she knows how easily we run away from “the love which you offer”. Teilhard de Chardin describes God’s work of wholeness and holiness not as a diamond being uncovered, but as a crystal being formed (p.129). In case I have made her sound too formidable as a guide, she is particularly perceptive about our doubts. “Faith is not a certainty for me, but a strong hunch by which I have chosen to live...a little atheism is a healthy sign in any numinous or religious experience.”(p.19). A book in which you feel listened to, but also challenged and encouraged.

Julian Reindorp

Scribbling in the Sand - Christ and Creativity

Michael Card

IVP, Leicester 2002; 166pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 85111 985 9

At one level I enjoyed reading this book. Like the author, I believe profoundly that God is glorified through human creativity. So this book appealed to and confirmed all my existing prejudices in favour of creativity as an act of worship.

But at another level, I was left somewhat perplexed and disturbed. For one thing, the design of the book (discoloured paper with even more discoloured edges, presumably to give an appearance of antiquity) seemed pretentious. For another, the author fills many pages with retelling Bible stories in his own words. Tragically, I was left with a feeling that he actually didn’t have a great deal to say and was ‘padding’. That feeling was made worse by the generous line spacing (1.5, rather than single, throughout).

Theologically, this book is very thin fare indeed. For example, in spite of many pages talking about responding to God through creativity, at no point does he touch on the great Pauline theology of being ‘in Christ’, with its linked challenge to ‘become what you are’, which should surely be at the heart of any theology of creativity.

My final whinge about this book was that it is peppered with what I hope are song lyrics. No doubt, if I knew the music that went with them, they would communicate something profound and moving. However, as so often happens when a lyric is separated from its musical context, and treated as though it were poetry, the result is very disappointing indeed.

The end result of all this was that I didn’t think this book was worth its price.

Then I found chapter 10, entitled ‘Letters to Christian Artists’. If I were writing this book, I would have titled it ‘Letters to Christian Leaders of All Sorts’. The author tells us that he asked several gifted creatives to write a letter to a Christian artist (although I question whether there is any such thing - surely he means artists who happen to be Christians?), and the result is a goldmine of sound wisdom about how to exercise and develop one’s gifts, live with criticism and acclaim, coping with success and failure, preparing to ‘perform’, humility, craftsmanship and all the rest of what is involved in being a ‘public’ person. This superb chapter alone is worth the £9.99 for any pastor or priest, youth leader or worship leader. So buy it for the sake of chapter 10, which should be read slowly, thoughtfully and prayerfully.

Alun Brookfield

Men Don’t Cry ...... Women Do: Transcending Gender Stereotypes of Grief

Terry L Martin and Kenneth J Doka

Brunner/Mazel, London 2000; 188pp; £15.00; ISBN 0 876 30995 3

When Shirley’s first child died at birth she was hurt and disappointed at her loss. Being of an intellectual bent and not given to shows of emotion, she reasoned out her loss to herself. Others, however, were aghast at her lack of visible reaction and she was told to seek help “for her repressed grief”.

This example is one of many which the authors of this book use to challenge the assumption that unless you let it all out emotionally, you are storing up trouble for yourself. They argue that there are many ways of experiencing grief and describe two main patterns of grieving. One they call ‘intuitive’, which is an overt emotional expression of grief. The other, which they argue is much neglected, is labelled ‘instrumental grieving’, where grief is expressed through physical activity, or as in Shirley’s case, through cognition. Unless this latter mode of grieving is recognised as legitimate and healthy, many instrumental grievers may feel disenfranchised in their loss, which could heighten feelings of guilt and isolation.

This is a significant contribution in the “Series in Death, Dying and Bereavement”. The main thesis is well argued and backed by current research and numerous case examples, making it a relatively easy read. Every minister or counsellor who is working regularly with those who are bereaved should be aware of the insights offered here. However, if you are expecting a focus on gender differences, you will be mistaken. It is only about gender insofar as instrumental mourners are stereotyped by society as male. In this respect, I found the title a poor description of the book’s contents. Also, it comes from America, a culture that may accept the emotional expression of grief more readily than we do in Britain. In this respect, there may be a greater acceptance here of instrumental grief. The authors do recognise that different cultures will shape the experience and expression of grief in different ways.

The book concludes with two helpful chapters offering strategies and interventions that may be used by those counselling bereaved people. These chapters, together with Grief Pattern Inventories in the Appendices, will certainly focus the interventions helpers offer.

Overall this book has done a great deal to broaden concepts around mourning and should enable those working with people like Shirley to let them know that their mode of coping is normal and so lift unnecessary feelings of guilt.

Vernon Muller

Authentic Spirituality: moving beyond mere religion

Barry L Callen

Paternoster Press, 2001; 271pp; £not available; ISBN: 1 84227 130 X

I warmed to this book as I worked through it. Basically it is a guide to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christian believers. Although written by a scholar (a Professor of Christian Studies at Anderson University in the USA), the book is accessible to people without a theological education.

The basic method of the book, in successive chapters, is to relate an aspect of the Spirit’s work to a key biblical concept, a particular season in the Christian year, one aspect of Christian spirituality, and the relevant part of the Apostles’ Creed. This structure sometimes comes over as something of a straightjacket, forcing certain aspects of spirituality uncomfortably into contexts where one is surprised to find them.

But this criticism is far outweighed by what is the most commendable virtue of the book. Although written from a Wesleyan Holiness perspective, it is ecumenical in spirit and generous to insights from all traditions, Catholic and Orthodox as well as Protestant (and not only conservative evangelical Protestants, either). Despite the efforts of people like Richard Foster, evangelicals on the other side of the Atlantic are perhaps less used than their European counterparts to drawing on the riches of the Christian tradition across the whole spectrum. If this book succeeds in widening the experience and deepening the spiritual life of readers it will have admirably fulfilled its purpose to lead them “beyond mere religion”.

That is not to say that I do not have other criticisms of the book. For instance, while it is good to have both a list of spiritual leaders in the Christian tradition and a number of select bibliographies, including works of spirituality down the centuries (divided into pre-1980 and post-1980), in the main text of the book there is a slight bias towards transatlantic writers who have hardly travelled to this side of the ‘pond’ - people like Elton Trueblood and Georgia Harkness, for example. There are also some surprising omissions from the various lists. For instance, I would have thought that Hildegard of Bingen, Peter Abelard, Julian of Norwich, the author of The Cloud of Unknowing and St. John of the Cross would be prime candidates to be included among the all-time spiritual greats, but they are not mentioned.

Again, when he discusses what he calls the social justice tradition in Christian spirituality, the author seems to limit this to racial and social inclusivity. There is no mention in this chapter of the great issues of international justice and peace - Third World poverty, debt reduction, or fair trade, for example.

Overall, however, I am happy to commend this book. Its call for growth towards maturity in Christ and its invitation to explore the depths of the Spirit is one that we should all heed.

Philip Clements-Jewery

Single Woman: Challenge to the Church?

Kristin Aune

Paternoster Press, Carlisle, 2002; 163 pp; £7.99 paperback; ISBN 1 84227 115 6

Over a third of UK church members are single; a quarter of the total are single women, but only a tenth are single men. ‘Singleness’ for these women encompasses a huge range of human experience: never-married (63 per cent), separated (4 per cent), divorced (9 per cent) and widowed (24 per cent). It is not usually a chosen status. Younger single women are in a ratio of three to two with younger single men, but among those aged over 60, there is a ratio of six women to one man. This book first presents these facts in their wider social context, in a style that is clear, accessible and well-researched but not over-academic.

In a church scene that is predominantly family-oriented, what is it like to be a single woman? Is ‘singleness’ defined as painful: ‘waiting not to be’ (Sophie, aged 31), or in positive terms: ‘that happy state where one is self-reliant and independent’ (Fiona, 32)? What are the main issues? The responses of 94 women aged between 18 and 78 have been analysed, and are fascinatingly illuminated by at least one quotation from each of them. The issue most frequently cited is ‘the church’s attitude towards single women’. The next most often mentioned concerns ‘men, sex and dating’. Each of these has a whole chapter devoted to it. The other topics mentioned - emotional issues associated with feelings about being single and facing the future; questions of loneliness and social need; roles and ministry within the church; and practicalities of living and working within contemporary society - are grouped in a third chapter. Although there are plenty of positive comments, at times it seems as though being a single woman member of a church is to invite a sensation of having received a ‘double whammy’ from church attitudes towards women, compounded by attitudes to those who are not married.

Aune’s interesting chapter entitled “Theology” explores, among other things, the role of eunuchs, and underlines the fact that in the Gospels, which portray the life of the never-married Jesus, other people’s marital status is rarely mentioned. Jesus himself repeatedly subverts his culture’s attitudes to women and family, and teaches that both lifelong marriage and singleness are gifts from God. Paul’s teaching is also explored. A final chapter gives ten practical recommendations for local churches.

Ministers and church leaders would do well to listen to the varied voices calling out from this book and then, to complement advocacy of and instruction about marriage, should encourage and enable single women in their congregations to teach about aspects of singleness, to mentor one another, and to model openly the gift from God that singleness is.

Trisha Dale

Older People and the Church

Ian S Knox

Continuum, Edinburgh 2002; £unknown; ISBN 0 567 08882 0

I was delighted to discover that Ian Knox, perhaps best known for his evangelistic ministry with the 40:3 Trust shares with me a passion for ministry to, by and for older people. I was especially pleased then to receive a copy of this book to review.

It is the most wonderful mine of information, quotations, ideas, statistics and challenges about our ageing population and the need for the UK Church (in all its manifestations) to take much more seriously the resourcing of ministry to, by and for the over 60s. From the very first page, Knox pulls no punches, terrifying the reader with the sheer demographics of a culture in which the percentage of people over 80 years of age has increased nearly four-fold in 50 years and the number of individuals over 100 has risen from 300 in 1950 to many times that figure today and is estimated to reach 34,000 by 2031.

But far from leaving us frightened by the statistics, Knox goes on to explode many popular myths about older people, including that they are a drain on resources, more dependent, less mobile, more reactionary and less creative. He regards all these myths, rightly in my view, as ageist propaganda, which need to be exposed and challenges the Church to play its part in doing so.

Knox’s research explores older people’s attitudes to the Church, including the attitudes of those who don’t attend, and challenges the Church to match the resources put into youth work with a similar level of resources for supporting the ministry of older people.

I could go on indefinitely listing the vast range of information gathered together in this book, but I do have one or two little niggles. First, the text is cluttered by having the source of each quotation in the text itself, usually in brackets. It would have been much easier to read if all this clutter had been confined to either footnotes or endnotes. Second, it does read at times more as though it is a piece of research than as a popular paperback, often becoming somewhat repetitive. Indeed, there are a number of occasions where Knox quotes one older person followed by another, making a fine shade of distinction between what they were saying, a delicate exercise which entirely passed me by.

But these are minor matters. Buy it, devour it, but most of all act upon it. And if you are one of those church leaders who regards your older members as a handicap, read and repent - they are not chronologically challenged, but experientially gifted, and in many cases, they are the future of the Church.

Alun Brookfield

Transforming Communities - Re-imagining the church for the 21st century

Steven Croft

Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2002; 226pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 232 52456 4

Here’s a book that every minister should read, if they dare. It is well written in an informative style, challenges some preconceptions and makes a valiant attempt to encourage a major rethink on the structure of the church, both with a big and small `c’. This paragraph at the end of the book sums up for me the whole approach: “The church in Western Europe has played a remarkable role in the story of Christianity. At the present time, however, that church is in great need of new energy and vision. The problems and difficulties we face cannot be solved simply through the development of a richer understanding of ministry. We need to examine again our understanding of what it means to be church and renew the patterns of community around which we shape the life of the people of God. This is not the work of a single moment, but the task of a generation”.

The book begins with a story illustrating very well the points the author is making, namely that a church should have a noticeable change in five years, for the better if you attempt to follow his suggestions. I like his choice of scriptures to illustrate a possible approach to “The church in the present and the future”, the heading for Part Two of the book. I warm very much to the models for the future based on the story of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son who listened to the wrong advice. He asks the straightforward question: what is your church like today? Part of a chain of cinemas? A local franchise, as you try to copy someone else’s success? A unit of production by going Christ’s way and making disciples? Is your church only concerned with making the whole experience of Sunday of the very highest standard? Is your church seeking to mirror the society in which it lives? He argues that all of these approaches can be found in books by a number of well-known and respected authors.

What model then is Steven Croft suggesting? To quote: “small communities of Christian people which are effective as contexts for nurturing relationships, identity and mission. In the twentieth century, such small communities were desirable, but not essential. In the twenty-first century such communities are now a requirement if the church is both to maintain and develop its common life.”

Part Four of this book sets out a possible approach that enables the church to be a much more effective witness by growing what he calls “Transforming Communities” of people who are not distracted by church structures and meetings, but are enabled and encouraged to be the church in a real and living way in today’s world. From personal experience of trying to move one small group forward in this style of thinking (before I read this book), it is fraught with difficulties, but I feel encouraged that someone else has a vision for change.

I commend this book to you whether you are a minister or an enthusiastic lay person, like me, determined to make church work today.

David Small

The Transformation Principle

Ian Cowley

Kingsway, 2002; 175pp; £not available; ISBN 1 84291 054 X

Ian Cowley is an Anglican priest presently ministering in Cambridge. His origins lie in South Africa where he was caught up in and witnessed at first hand the extraordinary changes that have taken place in that country during the last decade.

This is a fairly light read (I took only two hours from cover to cover), but a fairly interesting and inspiring one as Ian Cowley describes the various ministries he has exercised both in South Africa and in the UK. The stance from which he writes could be described as ‘Evangelical-Charismatic’, but he has wide sympathies that take in justice, peace and environmental issues as well. This is a most attractive form of Christianity that is expressed in these pages. If I have any disappointment it is that, in his final chapter on holiness, the author confines himself to the traditional ethical issues of personal relationships and does not in this context, at least, mention the weightier matters of international justice and environmental concerns. However, these are not absent from the book by any means, so perhaps the omission is understandable even if it is, to my mind, unfortunate.

As one who hopes shortly to return to the pastoral ministry, this book helped to kindle my sense of excitement about future possibilities, and I commend it to other readers in the hope that they too might learn from and be inspired by it.

Philip Clements-Jewery

Growing Together, Working for Unity Locally

Flora Winfield

SPCK, London 2002; xviii+141pp; £12.99; ISBN 0 281 05348 0

This book is an excellent resource and thoroughly practical. For eighteen years I worked in two ecumenical parishes (Flora was a colleague in one of them) and I miss the challenge and variety that ecumenical working brings. At its lowest it can be about “washing up in other people’s kitchens”, as the Archbishop of York says in his foreword. At its best it enriches both congregations and ministers - “Each of us has what the other lacks”.

Flora tackles all the key issues: What kind of Unity are we working for? Why divisions matter? What is Ecumenism? She clearly describes the differences, not just between Christian traditions, but also within them - “most of us have had the experience of relating to those from different traditions who seem closer to us than others from our own church.” In a long chapter - “Who are your partner churches?” - all the main Christian communities in this country describe their background, ministry, worship and mission - sixteen churches or partnerships e.g. the Evangelical Alliance. All the main ecumenical bodies are described.

There is a very Anglican Chapter on “Are we really allowed to do this?” And in a wide-ranging chapter - “What does it mean to be the people of God in this place?” - the author describes a great variety of ways in which Christians of different traditions are working together, including relationships with other faiths. Town and country, inner city and suburbia, there are examples from all over the British Isles as well as Bosnia. This reflects the author’s wide ranging ecumenical experience, most recently as Local Unity Secretary for the Church of England’s Council for Christian Unity.

There are clear exercises for personal or group use, a section on useful sources of information, a good contents outline, a further reading section and a clear index.

The final chapter is entitled ‘Is it worth all the effort?’. Flora is well aware of the frustrations of ecumenism. “Few people can find the energy to face the hard issues of Christian disunity unless they find our divisions offensive, even cruel, and unless they also hold on to a vision of our unity as a place where the Holy Spirit is at work”. There are now nearly 900 Local Ecumenical Partnerships in England, but as she concludes in this stimulating and wide-ranging book, “ecumenism is far too important to be left to the ecumenists”.

Julian Reindorp

The Bishops

Trevor Beeson

SCM Press, 2002; 256pp; £19.95; ISBN 0334 02867 1

The Bishops is a series of 48 pen pictures of holders of episcopal office in the Church of England in the past 200 years. The first qualification for inclusion is that they are all dead! The pictures are organised under twelve different categories depicting the bishops as aristocrats, scholars, headmasters, statesmen, prophets, pastors, controversialists, reformers (church and social), evangelists, pioneers and odd men out!  Each sketch follows a similar format - a pithy assessment of their influence, and a short, sometimes racy, biography. Reader be warned - those not familiar with Anglican church history may find it confusing not to have the bishops placed in chronological sequence.

Beeson’s choices for inclusion are naturally personal - much in the same way as we would each choose a different all-time World Cricket XI. I would query whether John Robinson is best classed as a ‘prophet’ or B F Westcott as a ‘social reformer’ and would have found a place for Michael Ramsay, J C Ryle and Joe Fison.

The treatment is not always even - Hensley Henson gets nine pages and Frank Weston only two. Knowing little previously of Edward Lee Hicks or George Ridding, I found the entries a helpful introduction. For those who have been the subject of recent biographies (Robinson and Mervyn Stockwood), I didn’t learn a great deal. There is an excellent bibliography for those who want to pursue the lives of individual bishops further.

The format feels a little repetitive in reading through (rather than dipping in), but Beeson wants us to do that because his underlying thesis is that the present set of bishops aren’t a patch on their predecessors (and there are some broadsides fired against the current bench). He is convinced that episcopacy needs to change to meet the needs of contemporary church and society - although he doesn’t always spell out in what directions that might go. He begins to raise questions which the Church of England will have to face, including the issue of women bishops, of which he is in favour.

It is difficult to see many outside of the Anglican church wanting to read this, although it is Beeson’s hope that they will. Perhaps this is a Bishop’s egg of a book.

Chris Skilton

Will the Next Archbishop Please Stand Up?

Ted Harrison

Zondervan, Michigan 2002; 172pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 006 28140 0

The day I received this book to review, the Church Times’ leading article was entitled “The probability of Rowan”. The Times had on its front page that the “Church turns to Wales for Archbishop”. By the time you read this, the appointment will have been made and digested.

Ted Harrison is a former BBC Religious Affairs correspondent and he has written a journalist’s guide to this archiepiscopal race. If The Times is right, the Crown Appointments Commission will have chosen the man both Tony Blair and George Carey are said not to want at Lambeth Palace, but 42% of General Synod preferred, and 47% of a much wider poll chose. Almost the final chapter is entitled ‘By a Holy Whisker’ since four of the five key candidates have beards or side whiskers - Rowan Williams, Richard Chartres, Michael Nazir-Ali, James Jones and Christopher Herbert.

This book is a snapshot of the Church of England today with nine of its eleven chapters describing the history, the background and the key issues that the CofE faces. It is well-written and easy to read and only talks about individual candidates in the last three chapters. Harrison describes the worldwide nature of Anglicanism, but also its growing North-South divide illustrated by its attitude to prayer: “In the North the attitude is that it’s like talking to a wall: you don’t expect a reply. In the South, they hear echoes even when no one has spoken.” The book is full of interesting asides - the black bishop, John Sentamu, formerly of Stepney now of Birmingham, has been stopped eight times in eight years by the police while driving through London.

Is this a book for non Anglicans? It does give a very good brief description of the CofE. But essentially it’s a journalist giving us the background to the situation the next archbishop faces with pen portraits of the likely candidates. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Wales, was in New York on 9/11 and his reflections make interesting reading. He may be an outstanding theologian in the Michael Ramsey mould, and he has something of the prophet about him. But he will need a strong team around him if he is to fill the many roles that face the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, as Ted Harrison’s book so graphically describes.

Julian Reindorp

Short Notes - by Paul Beasley-Murray

In the tradition from which I come, ‘set’ prayers are not the norm. For the most part I write my own prayers. However, I am more than happy to look at prayers written by other people to gain inspiration, and the book to which I refer most is The Book Of A Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin. First published by Marshall Pickering in 1996, it was re-issued in 2002 by Zondervan of Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the bargain price of £9.99 (ISBN 0 310 24872 8). Angela Ashwin’s A Little Book of Healing Prayer, first published in 1996, has also been reissued (Zondervan, 2002; 120pp; £5.99; ISBN 0 310 24949 X). I commend them both.

Studying The Historical Jesus: A Guide To Sources And Methods (Apollos, Leicester 2002; 230pp; £12.99; ISBN 0 85111 273 0) by Darrell L Bock, Research Professor in New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, is essentially a basic introduction to the Gospels for theological students. Bock is typical of many modern evangelical scholars who are not afraid to use the tools of Biblical criticism to uphold a strong belief in the historical trustworthiness of the New Testament documents.

The New SCM Dictionary Of Liturgy And Worship (SCM, London 2002; Hardback £35; ISBN 0 334 02883 3) edited by Paul Bradshaw is a successor to the earlier dictionary of the same name published in 1986 and edited by J G Davies. All the entries have been re-written, and in nearly every case by a new contributor, and there are new entries too. As in the earlier edition, there is an unusual breadth of scholarship. I particularly appreciate the way in which due weight is given to different denominational approaches to worship. Beautifully produced, it is a delight to read. Paul Bradshaw and his team of contributors are to be congratulated on this magnificent reference work. Here is a book into which every minister should regularly dip!

Patrick Goodland is a gifted Baptist minister. After exercising 22 years of effective ministry in a London suburb, in 1976 he accepted the call to Gorsley Baptist Church in the middle of rural Herefordshire, where his ministry bloomed even more. The Greening Of Wild Places: English village life over two centuries - the story of Gorsley Baptist Church 1800-2002 (Privately printed, 2002; 136pp; £4.95; ISBN 0 954298 0 4, and available from Gorsley Baptist Church HR9 7SE) is a very personal account of a highly unusual village church. An inspirational read!

Anything that encourages people to read the Bible is to be welcomed. However, I am not convinced that many young children aged between 7-10 will actually read in a year the Day by Day Kid’s Bible (Tyndale House, Wheaton, Illinois 2002 - available in UK through Kingsway; Hardback $17.99; ISBN 0 8423 5536 7), a paraphrase by Karyn Henley. My own feeling is that there is far too much material, whether for personal devotions or for family prayers.

Shades of Sheol (Apollos, Leicester 2002; 288pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 85111 266 8) by Philip Johnston, Tutor in Old Testament at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, is a painstaking examination of Israelite views on death and afterlife. From an academic perspective this highly detailed and comprehensive treatment of the subject is to be welcomed. However, for the ordinary pastor it has limited value. The resurrection of Jesus has put everything else ‘in the shade’!

Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, has produced a revised edition of When The Kings Come In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2002 - available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh; 131pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 828 3996 7), first published in 1983. Mouw explores the theme of culture from the vision of the ‘Holy City’ recorded in Isaiah 60, and in so doing looks at such issues as commerce, technology and art; the nature of political authority; and race relations. Although much praised, I confess this exercise in speculative theology left me unconvinced.

The Iona Community is a rich resource for meditative material. I particularly enjoyed A Telling Place: Reflections On Stories Of Women In The Bible (Wild Goose Publications, 2002; 107pp; £10.99; ISBN 1 901557 68 5) by Joy Mead, written not just for women, but for men too. Refreshingly original, it includes, for instance, a piece entitled ‘The Prodigal Son’s Mother’! This book could be used in a number of settings - for private devotion, in a small group, but also in public worship. Reclaiming the Sealskin: Meditations In The Celtic Spirit (Wild Goose Publications, 2002; 192pp; £14.99; ISBN 1 901447 66 9) by Annie Heppenstall-West is very different in style and is much more of a personal workbook. Inspired by the Celtic legend of the Selkie, a mythical seal-like creature who could also live on land in human form, but sometimes became trapped because a human stole its sealskin, the author compares the Selkie’s longing for the ocean to the soul’s longing for God. Whereas Joy Mead’s meditations are essentially Biblically-focussed, here the focus is on natural and man-made human objects which then become creative pointers to God. An unusual book!

First year theological students will find helpful the Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies (IVP, Leicester 2002; £4.99; ISBN 0 85111 268 4) compiled by Arthur G Patzia and Anthony J Petrotta in which over 300 terms receive concise definition.

The Apostle’s Notebook (Kingsway, Eastbourne 2002; 220pp; £8.99; ISBN 1 84291 007 8) by Mike Breen, Team Rector of St Thomas, Crookes, in Sheffield, a large, vibrant, charismatic, and still growing Anglican/Baptist church, is a difficult book to review. Its exposition of the Biblical basis of the so-called five-fold ministries of Ephesians 4 is to my way of thinking highly questionable. What, however, is not questionable is that the author has developed a highly effective model for a missionary congregation and in this respect this challenging book is to be warmly commended.

Question Time (IVP, Leicester 2000; 176pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 85111 259 5) by ethicist David Cook consists of a series of wide-ranging questions (e.g. How far should I follow fashion? Is it right to be ambitious? Why shouldn’t I go to bed with someone I love? A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle? Why should I love my black, Jewish, crippled, gay, elderly, and mentally handicapped neighbour? When does life begin? Is committing suicide wrong? Is it wrong to own property and shares? Are animal-rights protests wrong? Is there too much invasion of privacy in the media?) and three-fold answers in which are found the background to the problem, society’s responses and Christian perspectives - followed by a series of further questions for thought and discussion. Preachers will find this useful for a series of topical sermons. It could also be invaluable for leaders of youth groups.

Europe - the Exceptional Case; Parameters of Faith in the Modern World (Darton, Longman and Todd, 2002; 180pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 232 52425 4) by Grace Davie, Reader in the Sociology of Religion at the University of Exeter, is an examination of the nature of European religion within a global context. Her essential thesis is that the secularisation experienced by Europe is peculiar to Europe. Scholarly yet accessible, this horizon-broadening book will probably make little difference to the ministry of most of us!

Paternoster are to be congratulated for its willingness to publish scholarly monographs. A new series containing such monographs is Studies in Baptist History and Thought of which the latest contribution is More Than A Symbol: The British Baptist Recovery of Baptismal Sacramentalism (Paternoster, Carlisle 2002; 276pp; ISBN 1 84227 052 4) by North American theologian Stanley K Fowler. Somewhat provocatively he writes on the penultimate page: “One of the key elements in the British Baptist reformulation of baptism along sacramental lines was a reassessment of the New Testament baptismal language. If other Baptists in the world are true to their historic principles, then they should at least admit that the non-sacramental paradigm which has dominated their baptismal theology for some time may be inadequate and in need of modification”. There is little doubt that this will be required reading for all students in British Baptist theological colleges.

A special welcome deserves to be given to The Letters To The Thessalonians (Apollos, Leicester 2002; 400pp; £28.99 hardback; ISBN 0 85111 781 3), one of latest contributions to the ‘Pillar’ commentary series. Gene Green, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, Illinois, has written a highly informative yet accessible commentary, which preachers will greatly enjoy using. In a day when second-rate commentaries abound, this is a commentary well worth saving up for and buying.

Michael Green is a past master at re-hashing material he has previously published and in that respect But Don’t All Religions Lead to God? Navigating The Multi-Faith Maze (Sovereign World, Tonbridge, and IVP, Leicester 2002; 92pp; £5.99; ISBN 0 85111 281 1), which in essence bears great similarity to his earlier book, You Must Be Joking. The book, however, is non the worse for that and is in fact to be warmly commended as providing a lively defence of the Christian faith.

Grieving A Suicide: The Search for Comfort, Answers and Hope (IVP, Leicester 2002; 190pp; £6.99; ISBN 0 85111 275 7) by Al Husu is written for those who have experienced the suicide of a loved one. Al Husu is an editor at IVP USA and knows from personal experience the effect of a suicide within the family. The quotation from Gilbert Meilaender with which the introduction is headed sets the tone for the rest of the book: “One of my students once described her cousin’s suicide and its continuing effects on his family by saying, ‘He didn’t just take his own life; he took part of theirs too’”. With over 6000 deaths per annum by suicide in the UK, there is clearly a very real market for a book of this kind.

I greatly enjoyed dipping into The Company of Preachers: Wisdom On Preaching, Augustine to the Present (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Cambridge, 2002; 478pp; £19.99; ISBN 0 8028 4609 2 - distributed in the UK by Alban Books of Edinburgh) edited by Richard Lischer. It was good, for instance, to read the context in which Philipps Brooks defined preaching as “truth through personality”, and to see the way in which P T Forsyth developed the argument that “with its preaching Christianity stands or falls”. This collection of extracts of the church’s wisdom on preaching is organised around seven themes: What is Preaching? The Preacher; Proclaiming the Word; Biblical Interpretation; Rhetoric; The Hearer; and Preaching and the Church. Insights on preaching are gathered from such diverse ‘giants’ as Karl Barth and Richard Baxter, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Walter Brueggemann, David Buttrick and John Calvin, Oscar Romero and Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

The Apollos Old Testament Commentary Series has rapidly established itself as a significant contribution to the exposition of the Old Testament and therefore has become an essential item for any thinking pastor’s library. Daniel (Apollos, Leicester 2002; 359pp hardback; £19.99; ISBN 0 85111 780 5) by Baptist scholar Ernest C Lucas, is no exception and contains all kinds of unusual insights for the preacher. When next I preach on Daniel, I shall certainly have to revise my earlier sermons! And, if you ask about dating, Lucas happily sits on the fence - “both a late sixth-century date and a second-century date are consonant with belief in the divine inspiration and authority of the book”.

Love Taking Shape (Eerdmanns, Grand Rapids & Cambridge 2002 - available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh; 143pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 8028 3952 5) consists of a series of ‘sermons on the Christian life’ by American Lutheran ethicist Gilbert Meilaender. I confess that I do not identify with the rave reviews quoted on the back cover.

Theological Issues In Bioethics: An Introduction With Readings (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2002; 286pp; £14.95; ISBN 0 232 52441 6) edited by Neil Messer is a wide-ranging collection of articles culled from authors such as Leonardo Boff and Stanley Hauerwas, Paul Ramsey and Oliver Barclay, John Hull and Margaret Atkins. Divided into 10 sections it deals with Theological Visions; Respect for Life; Persons, Bodies and why they matter; Health, Disease and Wholeness; Death; Professional-Patient Relationships; Economics and Bioethics; Humans and Other Animals; Humans and Nature; Christians and Public Debate on Bioethics. An ideal resource for students, but also a useful reference tool for ministers.

The Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan and Cambridge 2002; 329pp; £17.99; ISBN 0 82 8 4438 3 - distributed in the UK by Alban Books of Edinburgh) by the late Rudolf Schnackenburg, one of Germany’s most distinguished Roman Catholic New Testament scholars, is the English translation of the German commentary first published in the mid-1980s. It is a masterpiece of careful verse-by-verse exegesis.

Preachers and also Bible study group leaders will appreciate Hannah’s Prayer and Its Answer (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids and Cambridge 2002 in association with Rutherford House, Edinburgh; 113pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 8028 6068 0 - available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh) by Ronald S Wallace, a gifted expositor of the Old Testament. From an imaginative yet faithful reading of 1 Samuel 1-7, Wallace shows how the story of Hannah stands as a powerful example of the importance and efficacy of prayer.

The Message of Creation (IVP, Leicester 2002; 296pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 85111 269 2) by David Wilkinson, Fellow in Christian Apologetics and Associate Director of the Centre for Christian Communication at St John’s College, University of Durham, is a sparkling contribution to IVP’s new Bible Themes: The Bible Speaks Today. The book is divided into five sections, which are then further divided into a series of four lively expositions. For instance, the first section, ‘The beginning of creation’ is an exposition of Gen 1-3; the second section, ‘The songs of creation’, is an exposition of Proverbs 8.22-36, Psalm 8, Psalm 19 and Psalm 148; the third section, ‘The Lord of creation’, is an exposition of Luke 8.22-25, John 1.1-18, Colossians 1.15-20, Hebrews 1.1-14. The book abounds with all kinds of illustrative material. This is a ‘must’ for every preacher.

Free to Be: Discovering The God of Freedom (Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2002; 136pp; £8.95; ISBN 0 232 52394 0) by Andrew Wingate, canon theologian of Leicester cathedral and lecturer in mission and religions at Birmingham University, is a wide-ranging exploration of the theme of Christian freedom in the light of his own inter-faith experiences. Unfortunately I do not share the theological approach to other faiths advocated by the author - no doubt in his terms I need to be freed from my theological conservatism!

Many Cambridge graduates will be interested to read From Cambridge To The World: 125 years of student witness (IVP, Leicester 2002; 256pp; £6.99; ISBN 0 85111 499 7), by Oliver R Barclay and Robert M Horn which tells of the amazing influence CICCU (Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union) has had upon the lives of generations of Christian students. This popular history is an updating of Whatever Happened to the Jesus Lane Lot? which was published to celebrate the centenary of CICCU.

I agree with 19th century French writer Edouard Fournier who said “Quotations are useful, ingenious and excellent, when not overdone, and aptly applied”. I therefore welcome 5000 Quotations For Teachers and Preachers (first published 1994; republished in this edition by Kingsway, Eastbourne, 2001; £8.99; ISBN 0 85476 403 8) compiled by Robert Backhouse.

Liberated to Lead (Kingsway, Eastbourne, 2001; 283pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 85476 890 4) by Colin Buckland, a Baptist minister who runs a trust devoted to the care and development of Christian leaders, lives up to its claim of offering “‘sanctified common sense’ - a realistic and earthy view of ministry life written by an experienced minister who has helped hundreds of Christian leaders find new levels of leadership health and effectiveness”. Although using material written for a correspondence course run through the Open Theological College scheme, this is essentially a non-academic introduction to ministry and deals with issues such as self-awareness, expectations, power and authority, sexuality, and burn-out.

Jesus (Oxford Readers series, OUP, Oxford 2002; 572pp; ISBN 0 19 289316 5) edited by David F Ford and Mike Higton, contains more than 340 extracts of people’s responses to Jesus over the past two thousand years. The full range of responses is represented: Eastern and Western; Catholic and Protestant; orthodox and heterodox; Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist and Zoroastrian. Primarily a student text-book, it is nonetheless absorbing reading.

Although rarely encountering ‘the great and the good’ in my ministry, I found Memorial Services (SPCK, London 2002; £9.99; 84pp; ISBN 0 281 05406 1) by Donald Gray, a former Canon of Westminster Abbey, to be immensely interesting and stimulating. He tells of how ‘memorial services’ (otherwise called ‘services of thanksgiving’) which take place a few weeks if not months after the funeral, have become a growth industry in the church - in the words of Ralph Richardson, they have become the “cocktail parties of the geriatric set”. Unlike funeral services, which are rooted in the Christian faith, memorial services tend to be less God-centred and more ‘man’-centred. Essentially a how-to-do-it guide, this book will be of practical use only for ministers of major Anglican churches.

The cover of Shapes of the Church To Come (Kingsway, Eastbourne, 2001; 286pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 85476 891 2) by Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester lists generous commendations by Steve Chalke, John Reardon and David Coffey. Personally, I found the book lacking in originality, drive and vision, as also irritatingly defensive of the Church of England!

In The Provocative Church (SPCK, London 2002; 176pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 281 05476 2) Graham Tomlin, Vice-Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, argues for a fresh approach to evangelism. His basic theme is that “unless there is something about church, or Christians, or Christian faith that intrigues, provokes or entices, then all the evangelism in the world will fall on deaf ears... Churches need to become provocative, arresting places which make the searcher, the casual visitor, want to come back for more”. This is surely a welcome emphasis.

Recent offerings from Grove of Cambridge (all priced at £2.50) include: Dementia: Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Care (Pastoral Series 89, 2002; 24pp; ISBN 1 85174 492 4) in which James Saunders challenges the way in which much pastoral care tends to exclude the person with dementia and makes the interesting argument that “the life of dependency in dementia models faith as relationship, and could be seen as a more perfect way of being human”; Antisemitism and the New Testament (Biblical Series 23, 2002; 28pp; ISBN 1 85174 493 2) in which Steve Motyer engages in a careful review of some of the more difficult Biblical texts and demonstrates that in the New Testament we have instances of inner-Jewish controversy and (occasionally) of inner-Jewish anathematization as distinct from the incitement of hatred against Jews by non-Jews; Surviving Child Sexual Abuse: Supporting Adults In The Church (Pastoral Series 91, 2002; 28pp; ISBN 185174 508 4) by Jeanette Gosney who points out that statistically, in a congregation of 100, about 18 will have some experience of sexual abuse as children; The Problem of War in the Old Testament (Biblical Series 25, 2002; 28pp; ISBN 1 85174 509 2) by Philip Jenson, who shows that the OT approach to war is complex, ambivalent, conditional and incomplete. Collects: an Alternative View (Worship 171, 2002; 28pp; ISBN 1 85174 505 X) in which Colin Buchanan, Mark Earey, Gilly Myers and Tim Stratford engage in the mysteries of Anglican praying; Ian Dewar’s Church Schools and Spirituality (Spirituality 82, 2002; 27pp; ISBN 1 85174 506 8) which looks at what parents and others can do to encourage the development of Christian spirituality in Anglican schools; Faith and Film: Close Encounters of an Evangelistic Kind (Evangelism Series 59, 2002; 28pp; ISBN 1 85174 507 6) in which Ian Maher discusses ways in which films can prove opportunities to build bridges and share faith; Abortion: Choosing Who Lives (Ethics Series 126, 2002; 27pp; ISBN 1 85174 503 3) by Rick Simpson is a helpfully sane yet challenging overview of the present situation in which now 2% of all pregnancies in England and Wales are terminated legally; Testimony: Its Importance, Place and Potential (Renewal Series 9, 2002; 28pp; ISBN ?) reflects on the way in which testimonies can be used effectively in the context of worship.

Ministry Today

You are reading Book Reviews by Ministry Today Reviewers, part of Issue 27 of Ministry Today, published in February 2003.

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