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Book Reviews

By Ministry Today Reviewers.

The Trinity

Roger E Olson and Christopher A Hall

Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2002; 156pp; £10.99; ISBN 0 8028 4857 3

This is the first volume in a series to give basic information about basic Christian doctrines. After a short introduction, it has two main sections, and a very large annotated bibliography. Its two main sections cover patristic contributions, and mediaeval, Reformation and modern contributions.

The treatment is clear and concise, with few obvious omissions. In the patristic section, the authors could perhaps have looked at the "homoiousion" party of the eastern churches. There is also the sad omission of Augustine's "God over us, God with us, God in us" experiential description of the Trinity which I always find useful.

The annotated bibliography is very helpful in summarising the views of many authors, but is somewhat frustrating in that it includes a considerable number of writers who do not appear in the main text. R F Torrance and Paul Tillich surely deserve a little more than a passing mention. Also it has to be said that many of the footnotes refer to books which may only be available in the USA.

However, these are minor quibbles. This is a book that will provide a good guide to Trinitarian theology, and makes it readily accessible to a wide public. It would be both a useful starting-point for students and also helpful for the theologically-literate church member.

Mike Smith

Christ on Trial

Rowan Williams

Zondervan 2002; xvi+141pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 00 71091 9

Do not be deceived by the new cover! This is a straight reprint of the same title published by HarperCollins as the Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent Book for 2001. But it is none the worse for that! Williams does not pursue historical or critical questions relating to the trials of Jesus in the gospels, but "attempts to trace the ways in which the evangelists let the truth of and about Jesus emerge in the way they narrate his trial" (p.xiii). In so doing, he also touches on "what there is about us that comes to light when we are faced with Jesus as he stands before his judges" (p.xiii). Hence the sub-title "how the gospel unsettles our judgement."

Four chapters on the gospels are followed by one about believers on trial and another that focuses on Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov and Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. Each one contains thought-provoking comments and some memorable sentences, such as "Jesus threatens because he does not compete" (p.69).

How often do we give attention to the evangelists' accounts of the trials of Jesus and the issues they raise, or encourage our people to do so? If the answer is not often (or even if it is), this book will help us in so doing, aided by questions for reflection and discussion and a prayer at the end of each chapter. It is readable, yet profound, and includes quotations from various sources, with the references at the foot of the page. Highly recommended.

John Matthews

Open to Judgement - Sermons and Addresses

Rowan Williams

Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2002; 279pp; £12.95; ISBN 0 232 52066 6

Resurrection - Interpreting the Easter Gospel

Rowan Williams

Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2002; xv+125pp; £8.95; ISBN 0 232 52470 X

The Wound of Knowledge

Rowan Williams

Darton, Longman and Todd, London 2002; 198pp; £12.95; ISBN 0 232 51913 7

I was given these three books to review with the comment: "Is the author sound and is he saved?". Having spent some time with him a couple of years before his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury, I suspect his own answer would be that it depends what you mean. If the question is asking whether Rowan is of the evangelical 'tribe', these books indicate that his scholarship and penetration of the Scriptures is far too broad to fit into any theological or ecclesiastical pigeonhole. So whether you are evangelical or liberal, high or low church, established or free, you will find plenty to challenge you in these three little volumes.

They are all reprints of books written by the Archbishop between 1979 and 1994, but they are none the worse for that - most of us are still trying to catch up with the gigantic intellect of this theologian, priest, pastor and poet. All three demonstrate a huge breadth of reading and learning, combined with a profound ability to reflect deeply on the issues raised.

The Wound of Knowledge is an exploration of Christian spirituality from the New Testament to St John of the Cross, but it is no dry historical journey. This is strong, spiritual meat. Starting with the spirituality of the New Testament characters, Rowan takes in Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine of Hippo, the Desert Father, Bernard of Clairvaux, Meister Eckhart and Luther, before arriving at the spirituality of denial of St John of the Cross. One sentence will give a flavour of Rowan's penetrative spiritual intellect: "The cry to God as Father in the New Testament is not a calm acknowledgement of a universal truth about God's abstract fatherhood, it is the child's cry out of nightmare. It is the cry of outrage, fear, shrinking away, when faced with the horror of the world - yet not simply or exclusively protest, but trust as well".

Resurrection is a brilliant analysis of what was going on during the Easter events. As an exposition of the full depth of meaning in the resurrection of Christ, I have yet to read anything better. So overwhelmed was I by it, that I plagiarized shamelessly in my preparations for preaching during the Easter period this year! The book needs, however, to be read through, rather than dipped into, because the author builds a careful argument on the theme of resurrection and forgiveness. I searched in vain for a quote which could be lifted out and included in this review, but nothing made sense without an awareness of the whole.

Open to Judgement is simply a series of 45 sermons and addresses given at different times to different audiences. The 'chapters' are grouped under various headings: The Word Was Made Flesh; Towards Easter; The Unknown God; Testing Questions; Callings; Celebrating People; Celebrating Occasions; and Mission and Spirituality. Unlike Resurrection, this is a book for dipping into and would make an excellent companion for a holiday or retreat. As usual, Rowan is theologically and spiritually insightful, but the shorter chapters, and the absence of a continuous development of an argument, make this perhaps the best of these three books for a Rowan Williams beginner.

Alun Brookfield

The Message of Heaven and Hell

Bruce Milne

Bible Speaks Today (Bible Themes) IVP; 351pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 85111 276 5

Contemporary western Christians need to rediscover the eternal. So asserts Bruce Milne, and he takes us on a journey through the biblical theology of human destiny. As is standard for BST thematic commentaries, the more speculative and philosophical aspects of the subject are not explored. Rather, a selection of key biblical texts are examined in an expository manner.

In the Old Testament, Milne considers such texts as Genesis 1 and 2, Psalms 16 and 72, and Daniel 7 and 12. Turning to the Gospels, he draws out the implications of teaching on the kingdom from Matthew, heaven and hell from Mark, when heaven starts from Luke, and encountering heaven and hell on earth (looking at the cross and the resurrection respectively). In a third section the book turns to the more familiar material in the epistles and Revelation: Acts 17, Romans 1 and Revelation 20 on the hell side; Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation 20 on the heaven side: plus informative chapters from 1 and 2 Peter and 2 Corinthians about living and ministering in the light of the future (good for pastor and people.

This is a book packed with solid teaching by an author whose clarity few can match, treating its subject with due awe and wonder. Contemporary and pastoral issues are well treated and there is due blend of the cosmic with the personal aspects of the subject. Although controversy frequently centres around hell, Milne does not allow himself to be distracted from the vision of a new heaven and a new earth.

As might be expected from an author of Milne's pedigree, a conservative, though well-argued approach to contemporary debates is taken: 1) universalism is rejected: the text of the book does not contradict the impression given by the title; 2) hell is future, it is not in this life; however it was borne by Christ on the cross, and is defined ultimately as abandonment by God (Milne embraces the penal substitutionary model of the atonement alongside other models); 3) conditional immortality is rejected in view of Christ's clear teaching, but those who hold to it are not anathematised; 4) the intermediate state is real but awaits fulfilment at the parousia.

It is not possible for straight biblical exposition (even of the BST variety) to avoid a certain heaviness, but the style is not academic, and would not put off the intelligent lay reader. Particularly useful are the summaries provided at the end of each chapter. Chapters and subdivisions are easily headed-up for quick reference and there is the nowadays obligatory study-guide at the end of the book, although for my money scriptural and thematic indexes would have been more useful if space was limited. My only real criticism is that for a book on Bible themes, there is no reference tool to track the ongoing thematic argument of the book, and there is no epilogue drawing the whole together at the end.

Yet these are minor niggles. I personally would buy this book. I can foresee uses for personal study, devotion, for groups and/or preaching. Focusing on a neglected, misunderstood yet critical area, and with more room than the standard dictionaries or individual commentaries can offer, this is set to be as much a classic as Milne's Know the Truth.

Philip Joy

Discerning the Spirit of the Age

Derek Tidball

Kingsway, Eastbourne, 2002; 156pp; £unknown; ISBN 1 84291 062 0

With its origins in a series of house-party addresses, this small book takes as its springboard three of the most familiar brands of today (Nike, Disney, McDonalds) and three contrasts between the spirit of the age and the spirit of Jesus (consumerism or discipleship, tourism or pilgrims, settlers or pioneers) in order to see what discipleship might call us to in a consumerist culture. There are more profound analyses of consumerism than this, but few as winsome and digestable. This would be a great book to give to your youth group, or it might help you to think how you might approach a sermon (or sermons) on contemporary culture. I recommend it warmly.

Paul Goodliff

In God's Time - the Bible and the Future

Craig C Hill

Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2002; viii+229pp; £11.99; ISBN 0 8028 6090 7

Any book that carries enthusiastic endorsements from Tony Campolo, Rowan Williams, Eugene Peterson, Jurgen Moltmann, John Barton and Walter Brueggemann, amongst others, promises to be very good and, in the opinion of your reviewer, this one is just that.

Hill writes "for people who want to come to grips with what the Bible says about the future" (p.vii), and for those "who find this whole issue baffling, off-putting or troubling." Because his approach to Scripture is avowedly non-fundamentalist, he does not feel compelled to go to great lengths to harmonize differences, as do Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye in arguing for their dispensationalist stance. Indeed one of Hill's aims is to show how such people misread the Bible in suggesting that Christ will return twice. "No New Testament writer speaks of two returns of Christ" (p.203). So while their approach "borrows from many New Testament books, it is foreign to them all" (p.207)

The biblical material is reviewed thoroughly and sensibly, with attention paid to the Old Testament covenants before moving on to Daniel. Not the least valuable part of the book is the discussion of 1 Enoch, which, Hill argues, needs to be taken seriously in any discussion of apocalyptic. He also helpfully lists twelve characteristics of apocalyptic literature. And his discussion of Revelation is similarly sensible.

The author is critical of the circular methods and negative conclusions of the Jesus Seminar, preferring the 'Jesus and Judaism' of E P Sanders. He is convinced that Jesus did proclaim the coming kingdom (Hill prefers the word 'dominion') of God and saw himself playing a central role in its realization.

Hill draws out the difference between present and future eschatology in thought-provoking ways, though it may be asked whether he overstates the differences at certain points here.

As well as providing an excellent overview of the subject matter, there is much good material here for Bible studies and sermons. If you are looking for a scholarly book on this subject, written in a very readable style, you will have to go a long way to find a better one. There is also a website www.InGodsTime.com which includes an interesting interview with the author.

John Matthews

The Trustworthiness of God - Perspectives on the Nature of Scripture

Paul Helm and Carl Trueman (editors)

IVP/Apollos, Leicester 2002; 289pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 85111 476 8

Any anthology has a certain unevenness, especially when you have wide-ranging articles side by side with detailed study of particular points. However, it must be said that this book also has a unifying theme that crops up in many places, namely, the importance of taking Scripture seriously in its open and literal claims.

The volume is divided into three sections, covering the Old Testament, the New Testament and "historical, systematic and philosophical perspectives". It also includes two 'reviews' of itself, which perhaps should be read before anything else!

There are a number of high points in this anthology. Gary Millar on Deuteronomy, and Donald McLeod on Jesus and Scripture, both face us with the question of how we can have a trustworthy God if the Scriptures that talk about him are the untrustworthy accounts that modern scholarship would have us believe. Then Gerald Bray's sensible description of patristic use of Scripture reminds us that, contrary to popular mythology, the church fathers did not go overboard on allegorisation - rather than only used it when there were problems with the literal meaning. Finally David Peterson's account of Hebrews provides a very clear and helpful exposition of the themes of the letter, which could become the basis for a very useful commentary.

In the historical perspectives, I found that some of the writers, such as Timothy Ward and Stephen Williams, are hard to follow, and I'm not sure whether they take us higher up the mountain or deeper into the clouds. Complex linguistic theories and discussion of modes of interpretation are no doubt necessary, but they might be beyond the understanding of some readers.

However, the cry for a God who means what he says, and is reliable, is one which all preachers must heed and respond to. This book would be a good place to start reflecting on the best way to respond to such a cry.

Mike Smith

Now My Eyes Have Seen You - Images of Creation and Evil in the Book of Job

Robert S Fyall

IVP/Apollos, Leicester 2002; 208pp; £10.99; ISBN 0 85111 498 9

The rewriting of a doctrinal thesis, combined with a series of talks given at Durham Christian Union, produces a book which is deep, stimulating and a demanding read. I needed to have my Bible open as I read, along with a Hebrew dictionary. And it was also helpful to have other reference works to hand. The book of Job is never an easy book to tackle, and where both philology and Bible-wide theology are used, the result is awe-inspiring.

Robert Fyall is well-versed in the Ugaritic texts, which provide for him great help at many points. He sticks closely to the Hebrew Massoretic text, rather than indulging in tentative and often tendentious emendations beloved of other scholars. He also draws useful parallels with other parts of the Old Testament and the New Testament as well, to provide a truly Bible-wide theology rather than an esoteric study of Job. Job is part of Scripture, and this should never to forgotten.

He rightly points out that Job is not primarily about suffering, but about how man can approach God. The concept of the "go-el" (usually translated as "redeemer") is pivotal here. He makes the very telling point that Job and his friends are largely unaware of the doings of the heavenly court, where God is met by Satan.

More controversial is his identification of Behemoth with Death, and Leviathan with Satan. He uses all his philological skill to establish both, and rightly says that this identification does not rule out the more basic reading of Behemoth as hippopotamus or Leviathan as crocodile. I leave it to others to pronounce whether this identification is completely proved.

I found the many parallels adduced from other parts of the Bible very helpful, and the little appendix on Job and Canaanite myth is highly sensible and instructive. For a student of Ugaritic texts, however, I was somewhat disappointed that there is only one mention of the Keret story (p.119), where a virtuous man like Job suffers various misfortunes before being restored. Perhaps the author could oblige with a monograph on this. It might help the vexed problem of dating Job.

This is a book that I will want to read again, as a prologue to going back to the book of Job, which is all too often left unread. Robert Fyall's book will stretch the average reader, but it is a stretching that can provide great rewards.

Mike Smith

The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity

Roger E. Olson

IVP/Apollos,2002; 365pp; £19.99; ISBN 0 85111 782 1

The author, a Baptist tutor in Christian Doctrine, offers this book as "a very basic, relatively comprehensive, non-technical, non-speculative, one-volume introduction to Christian belief", suitable for a foundation course in Christian Doctrine. Olson comes from an Arminian perspective, and aims at a non-polemical "mediating theology" which is 'both-and' rather than 'either-or'. Avoiding extremes, he draws on what he calls the "Great Tradition" of Christian orthodoxy, whilst allowing for genuine diversity of belief in secondary matters. For the technically minded, I should add that Olson 'does' theology according to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Other methods, such as the 4As, the Reflective Trialogue etc. are not really discussed.

Due to limitations of space this book is more descriptive than analytical, and only offers a sample of Scripture references or quotations from Christian thinkers. It has chapters on Christian Belief, Sources of Belief, Revelation, Scripture, God, Creation, Providence, Humanity, Jesus, Salvation, the Church, Life after Death and the Kingdom of God. For each chapter the unitive theme is pursued doggedly (for example: 'Christian Scripture: Divine word and human words', 'The Kingdom of God: already and not yet', 'Salvation: gift and task'). Furthermore, each chapter has a consistent structure: beginning with the key issues, then considering the Christian consensus, then the alternatives to that consensus, and finally proposing a unitive vision.

I liked this book the more I read. The consistent structure and unitive approach helped me locate particular doctrinal viewpoints within the spectrum of Christian belief, and to class them as primary, secondary or purely speculative (and thus not worth fighting over!). The book emphasises common ground, while providing handy summaries of erroneous views.

As far as preaching goes, I think I would dip into it more frequently than either the purely historical theology type books (such as McGrath) or the 'take-it-or leave-it' style doctrinal volumes (such as Berkof). My only complaint is that there could be more subheadings and a scripture index for reference purposes. Admittedly the discursive approach assumes that reader is already well-grounded in a tradition. Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see an evangelical book on doctrine which attempts to draw Christians together.

Philip Joy

The Faith of Israel

William J Dumbrell

Second Edition, Apollos, Leicester, 2002; 347pp; £16.99; ISBN 0 85111 280 3

Long established as amongst the best introductions to Old Testament theology from a conservative evangelical perspective, this second edition of The Faith of Israel incorporates insights from the two decades of scholarship since it was first written in the early 1980s. However, it remains substantially the same book, conservative in approach, scholarly without being unnecessarily academic. For instance, Dumbrell does not disagree with a tripartite structure to Isaiah, following Duhm's original division, now a literary commonplace, but does emphasise the inner theological connections to his message.

This survey is structured by individual Old Testament books (Genesis, Exodus etc.), which helps the student or minister wanting to explore an individual book's theological message, but does not create the same kind of over-arching theological scheme (such as covenant) so beloved of the great mid-century German theologians Von Rad and Walther Eichrodt, (the latter not even quoted in the bibliography). Instead we have something more akin to Harrison's Introduction to the Old Testament (now very dated, but likely to be the nearest equivalent volume on many a minister's shelves, especially if they trained before the 1980s), but dealing with theological issues instead of textual and literary ones.

This is a useful book to have in the minister's library, for it helps in the task of grappling with the Scriptures in order to make them sing for the twenty-first-century. The preacher who is primarily an expositor will want a copy, as will most students taking a course in Old Testament theology.

Paul Goodliff

Encountering Religious Pluralism: The Challenge to Christian Faith and Mission

Harold Netland

Apollos/IVP Leicester/Downers Grove, Illinois, 2001; 368pp; £17.99; ISBN 0 85111 488 1

How in today's world are Christians to think about other faiths? It is not just those who live in what Ram Gidoomal has identified as 'the Asian corridor' with Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, or Buddhist neighbours, who must consider this question. All Christians living in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ are confronted with this question, not only on the mission field abroad, but in the media, business and commercial worlds, politics, health care and schools of Britain today. We live in a religiously plural society.

Netland's book is an invaluable study of this subject and an excellent guide to a wide range of literature on its different dimensions. It is clearly written, well-informed and clearly organised and while it inevitably makes demands on the reader it provides a first class resource for any who are prepared to study these issues seriously.

The book is in two parts. The first is an account of the historical, social and cultural contexts of religious pluralism. Here Netland addresses 'shifting perspectives' on this question including a brief response to those who criticise Christian missionaries of the past for 'religious imperialism' and their links with colonialism. He also expresses reservations about the popular way of categorising Christian attitudes to other faiths as exclusivist, inclusivist and pluralist, which he himself used in an earlier book. However, apart from replacing 'exclusivism' with 'particularism', he continues to use these categories. He discusses recent cultural changes, modernism, postmodernism, and globalization. Then he gives an historical account of the emergence of religious pluralism and spirituality in 'the culture of modernity'. The final chapter of the first part makes this personal through a critical, but respectful, study of John Hick's odyssey in this field.

Part two responds to major issues raised by part one. Here the fruits of the author's long time living in Japan, and his studies under John Hick when he returned to the States, come together in an evangelical crucible to produce superb discussions of religions and truth, critiques of 'pseudopluralisms' and Hick's assumptions. He has written an excellent discussion of apologetics and then lucidly answered those who deny that there are any cross-cultural criteria for evaluating worldviews. He argues there must be some human universals and develops a thorough case for both logical consistency and moral adequacy. In doing so, he applies these criteria to Zen Buddhism and Christianity. Finally, he establishes first steps towards an evangelical theology of religions, which starts from the authoritative revelation of God in Scripture, is to be faithful to the central confessions of the church, and must be accurate and respectful in the way it portrays the beliefs and practices of others.

To my mind this will be the one essential reference book on this subject for some years to come for Christians concerned with how to live and lead others to live in today's world and it lays secure foundations on which others will build. It is one of the few essential books for every Christian minister.

Arthur Rowe

From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology, 2nd edition

Lawrence Cahoone (ed.)

Oxford: Blackwell, 2003; 622PP; £18.99; ISBN 0 631 23213 3

This hefty volume from Blackwell, in the series of Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies, is a serious attempt to chart a complex and extensive subject - philosophers' reflections on the specifically modern nature of the world in which we live.

Key to evaluating an anthology is a consideration of what the editor has chosen to include and what she or he leaves out. Cahoone opts for an inclusive approach. Thus, the anthology acknowledges the fact that reflection on modernity precedes the period that is conventionally described in terms of both the triumph and crisis of modernity, the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is useful, for example, to have extracts from Rousseau's polemic on the ills of modernization, The Discourse on the Moral Effects of the Arts and Sciences, dating back to 1750. Similarly, space is given not just to proponents of the still contentious notion of postmodernity, such as Lyotard and Baudrillard, but also to its critics, such as Jameson, as to its reinterpeters from post-colonial and feminist stances, such as Spivak and Butler. This breadth is to be welcomed. This does mean, however, that many thinkers are represented by exceedingly short extracts of longer works or by short essays alone, and, as a result, coherence suffers. It is, for example, difficult to see what sense a five-page extract from The Phenomenology of Spirit will make to anyone who does not already have a fair grasp of Hegel's complex diagnosis of modernity. In this respect, the very brief notes by the editor in introducing each thinker and extract are inadequate. Nevertheless, this text is perhaps the best of its kind on the market today.

Will this anthology be helpful to working ministers? Well, it certainly provides an introduction to the wide variety of (particularly continental) thought on modernity and postmodernity, and may prove a stimulus to the further reading that is important for ministers to locate their thinking in a historical and philosophical context. As reading on its own, however, it is not sufficient. As the extracts from reviews on the back-cover indicate, it will probably be of most use as a source book for University teachers teaching courses on the subject. It is also a pity that the anthology does not devote space to a theological approach to modernity such as is to be found in Barth's critique of Enlightenment rationalism.

Tim Beasley-Murray

To Canterbury with Love - Windows into a Church in Turbulent Times

Gavin Reid

Kingsway, Eastbourne 2002; 284pp; £8.99; ISBN 1 84291 066 3

Gavin Reid recently retired, evangelist, parish priest, writer, publisher, adviser on mission to the Church of England, chair of the Archbishops' Advisory Millennium Group, and for his last job, Bishop of Maidstone, has written what is really his autobiography. He remains President of British Youth for Christ and this illustrates his passion and his hope for the future of the Church in this country. The task for the churches - it needs all the churches - is the re-establishment of Christianity within the life and culture of our society. He writes as a convinced Evangelical, but never in a narrow or partisan way.

I enjoyed this forward-looking farewell. To use a phrase of my own diocesan bishop, "Gavin Reid is not of my tribe." (our Bishop, Tom Butler, a former missionary, sees his job as keeping the tribes in the Church of England in touch and working together!), but again and again I found myself ticking the margins:

* an inclusive church, open rather than exclusive about infant baptism;

* the need for a radical re-emphasis on children's work especially with those outside the church;

* why did the Church of England choose the decade of Evangelism to produce a new a worship book?

* the need for ministry teams and for very different patterns of selection and training;

* the bishop as a brother, not just 'a ritual odd-job man'.

The author summarises the Church of England's dilemma: "It does not have a consensus when it comes to understanding what the Gospel is and why the Church exists. It has always worked on the principle that if it keeps itself busy trying to 'be there' for people and maintaining public worship, it will not get caught out on this question!"

He notes that 40% of all parish churches have no children's work at all. About 65% of the hundreds of people he interviewed had taken crucial steps in faith in their childhood. The new Church of England Common Worship has no family service in it, and the rise in eucharistic worship has coincided with the decline in those worshipping. He is shocked by the young ordinand who complained "that there are so many unconverted people in Church of England services that it spoils worship"!

I appreciated Gavin Reid's gift of describing and bringing people together, particularly the different wings of evangelicalism. He has played a key role in a number of national evangelistic initiatives, including bringing Billy Graham to England in the 1980s. He is both modest and reconciling in his approach. He has clear priorities for the future - children and young people's work, the role of the church in community building, improving the attractiveness of public worship, and the encouragement of creativity and artistic flair within congregations. He genuinely loves our Lord and the Church of England, but the Kingdom of God hardly features in this book.

Who is this book for? For people who want to understand the Church of England, particularly from an evangelical perspective, and who long for it to be a vehicle for evangelism, and not just maintenance.

Julian Reindorp

Seeking a Life that Matters - Wisdom for Today from the Book of Proverbs

Katherine Dell

Darton, Longman and Todd 2002; 120pp; £8.95; ISBN 0 232 52402 5

This is a most helpful and delightful exploration of the Book of Proverbs, applying its wisdom to the concerns facing 21st century Christians. Katherine Dell is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge, but this is not an academic treatise on Proverbs for fellow academics, but a book which wears its learning lightly and would be suitable for the ordinary Christian, wanting to know what the Scriptures might say about work, money, family life, friends and so forth. Proverbs, the accumulated wisdom of many generations of ancient seekers after God, is like a map. Our journey might not fit the map exactly, but it points us in the right direction for living an ethical life.

Helpful to any preacher approaching Proverbs, it would also be a good resource for a housegroup exploring issues of ethics, or simply studying Proverbs. I warmly commend it.

Paul Goodliff

The Most Reluctant Convert - C S Lewis' Journey to Faith

David C. Downing

IVP, Downers Grove, Illinois 2002; 185pp; £13.00 h/b; ISBN 0 85111 984 0

David C Downing is Professor of English Literature at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown Pennsylvania. In this short biography of C S Lewis, the Christian writer, apologist, broadcaster and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge, he focuses his attention on Lewis' life up and until his conversion in 1933. His express purpose is to examine Lewis' intellectual and spiritual pilgrimage from avowed atheism to orthodox Christian theism. Professor Downing tells the story of Lewis' journey over eight chapters and adds an epilogue in which he reflects upon his achievements following his conversion. He writes: "The second half of his life brought forth one of the most remarkable writing careers of the twentieth century, a period in which he wrote more than forty books including acknowledged classics in the fields of Christian apologetics and meditation, science fiction, children's literature and literary scholarship."

In examining the influences upon Lewis' intellectual and spiritual development, Professor Downing includes both the circumstances of Lewis' life, such as his Northern Irish Protestant background, the early death of his mother, his education in England, his service in the First World War, his life as student, don and professor at Oxbridge, as well as the people and writings that shaped his thinking in a direct way. In this work we meet briefly, among others, family members, schoolmasters, writers and philosophers. We are reminded that Lewis' thought developed through many phases from his initial Christian family upbringing through atheism, dualism, occultism and idealism, before returning to theism and Christian orthodoxy. We are also shown that this journey was no smooth progression from one phase of thought to another, but rather one in which Lewis was capable of entertaining conflicting philosophies at one and the same time. However, it is precisely the complex development of Lewis' thought that fits him for the work of effective and vigorous Christian apologist.

It is not surprising, given that Professor Downing's background is in English literature, that he makes full use of Lewis' fictional writings as a source of biographical evidence. For example Professor Downing argues that Lewis' cruel master Robert Capron at the Wynyard School in Surrey makes an appearance in The Magician's Nephew. Downing writes: "In 1955, the year he published Surprised by Joy, portraying Capron as an ogre, he also published The Magician's Nephew, portraying him as buffoon. Lewis's imaginative transformation of the brutal Capron into the comical Ketterley illustrates the process sometimes referred to as 'shedding one's sicknesses in books.'"

Readers will need to judge for themselves how successful this approach proves to be. I wondered at times whether Professor Downing was being tempted to ask the evidence to bear too great a weight. However, the approach that Professor Downing takes, one which interweaves life circumstances, the development of Lewis' thought and his fictional writing, is one I found both creative and interesting and is overall I think convincing.

This is a well written and well researched book with extensive references at the back of the work. Educated lay people and ministers will find it stimulating and not over technical. It is a reminder to us of the extent of C S Lewis' achievements that were inseparable from his conversion to orthodox Christian faith. His books continue to sell by their millions and he therefore continues to be a figure of influence in the diverse fields of children's fiction, Christian apologetics and English literary criticism. In particular I was reminded how important it is for us to use both our minds and imaginations in knowing God through careful reflection upon the orthodox Christian Tradition.

Charles de Lacy

Living at the Edge

David Pytches

Arcadia, Bath, 2002; 411pp; £15.00; ISBN 1 904404 00 6

Bishop David Pytches, Anglican priest, missionary to Chile, Vicar of St Andrew's Chorleywood, and influential in the New Wine and Soul Survivor movements, has had a remarkable life (so far!). This is his autobiography, told in a fast paced and rather gauche style. It is a fascinating insight into the story of charismatic renewal in these shores as seen from the Anglican perspective.

He seems to have been trouble wherever he was, and ruffled the feathers of the powers that be, both in Chile and in England, but his passion for the gospel and for the renewing power of the Holy Spirit to be freed from institutional straight jackets shines through. Apart from his support for Pinochet (which I found extraordinary) and his predilection for name-dropping, I found this a rewarding read. The influence of John Wimber is substantial, as is the influence of his clerical home (his father was an Anglican priest,) and the unflagging support of his wife, Mary.

This is a great read and I commend it to all who want to know more about the story of charismatic renewal in the latter half of the twentieth century in England.

Paul Goodliff

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ

Dallas Willard

IVP, 2002; 227pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 85111 282 X

Dallas Willard is a professor of the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, though this book on sanctification has been substantially re-written for the UK edition. In an age of laid-back churches and lax values in society, parts of this book were helpful in focusing on the imperative of personal transformation.

The virtues of the book are threefold. First, for preachers who wish to connect, it expresses old truths in refreshing ways. Second, it is admirable in its refusal to be content with the present low state of Christians or churches. Third, it is laudable in its attempt to be specific about the transformation of all aspects of the human being. It features a chapter each for the mind, the emotions, the will, the body, the social dimension and the soul.

It is on this third point that I felt the book fell down, however. I felt bound to accept Willard's multipartite anthropology (the separate chapter areas), or reject the whole book. He introduces this anthropology as given, without any examination of biblical or theological, or even psychological sources, and then proceeds to base his entire thesis on it. To take one example, I have always understood that rather than having a soul, I am a soul, but Willard bases a whole chapter on the erroneous notion that the soul is a separate part of the human being which 'integrates...the various aspects of the self' (p.170).

There are also a number of missing dimensions. For a book subtitled "putting in the character of Christ", there is remarkably little about Jesus himself, the concept of discipleship only appears at the end of the book, there is no mention of the journey motif in which life-experiences offer potential for transformation, and there is none of that sixteenth-century pastoral realism that sanctification is going to be a struggle to our dying day.

Passionate about its cause, yet somewhat heavy in style and lacking simplicity in overall thrust, this book probably adds little to what most pastors and people already know - at least in theory - about consecration to Christ.

Philip Joy

Letters from the Desert (Anniversary Edition)

Carlo Carretto

DLT, London 2002; 132pp; £9.95; ISBN 0 232 52471 8

This edition is the thirtieth anniversary of the first publication in English of what has become a spiritual classic. At the age of 44, Carretto received a call from God to leave everything (he was a well-known Catholic activist) "and come with me into the desert" (preface, p.xvii). The letters describe his call and have become an introduction to 'desert spirituality'. They powerfully evoke the desert as a setting for the stripping bare of emotions and of spirit in pursuit of receiving, embracing and embodying the love of God.

The first nine chapters are written with an intensity that can only be read slowly and thoughtfully. Some may find it hard to enter into the depth of experience of God described and encouraged here, especially in following the chapters on the "Purification of the Heart" (Chapter 5) and of the Spirit (Chapter 9).

I especially valued the second half of the book (Chapter 10 onwards) which seeks to help the reader to put the discipline of contemplative prayer into practice in daily life and work. Carretto writes, "the desert is not the final stopping place. It is a stage on the journey...live your intimacy with God in the noise of their cities" (p.68). These chapters offer more practical help in discipleship in prayer without losing any of the spiritual depth of the earlier ones.

Christians of different temperaments may be tempted to read one or other parts of this book. To persevere and read both may be a timely reminder of the relationship between personal prayer and the demands of daily life. Many busy ministers would benefit from spending time with this book.

Chris Skilton

Making a world of Difference: Christian Reflections on Disability

Roy McCloughry and Wayne Morris

SPCK 2002; ISBN 0 281 05423 1

The world can be a cruel place. It can also be an environment in which we experience the most exhilarating acts of utter grace. The virtues that stand between the two are understanding, compassion and empathy. I hope this book will be read by people who are searching for more of all three.

Disabled people are forced to swim in a confusing sea where, on one hand, the news is good. Recent legislation and frequent medical advances provide some hope where there is discrimination and pain, and the proliferation of disability awareness groups brings fellowship and help to others. On the other hand, the increasing use of abortions to 'prevent' disability and the move to legalise euthanasia for those who judge that their quality of life has become unbearable confuses many of us and adds to the pressures exerted by a society that is wallpapered with more and more impossible images of visual loveliness.

McCloughry and Morris remind us that the Christian gospel provides us with a unique formula that could not only change our perceptions on disability, but truly integrate disabled people into society in a way that does not patronise or demean. They also remind us that God frequently speaks most powerfully through the weak, and that by truly integrating disabled people into our churches we might be holding up a mirror that will reveal many of the inconsistencies and shallow truths upon which many Christians base their own lives.

For this reason the book should be read by those who think they don't need to read it. It is pitched at an accessible level and faces issues like healing in a faith-filled, yet practical, way. In fact the practical guidelines for groups that offer prayer ministry would be of benefit to everyone. The world and the church are painful places for those with disabilities when those we meet are too fearful and self-obsessed to enter the world of someone who looks different, or are so lost in the jungle of political correctness that their fear of making a mistake becomes a hurdle too far. If this is you, Making a World of Difference may just do what it says on the cover.

Craig Millward

Journey to the Light

Linda Jones and Sophie Stanes (editors)

DLT, London 2003; 208pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 232 52464 5

This is an original and striking book. Twenty three people tell the story of times when religious doubt has invaded their lives. The stories are arranged in three sections. The first (and shortest) section tells of lives in which doubt has led to the abandonment of faith. In the second, the doubts are still being passionately wrestled with and in the third, wrestling with the doubts has led on to a new depth and wholeness of faith.

These are short, tightly and well-written pieces. Those which are presented in clear narrative form work better than those where the author reflects on their position. Some of the contributors are 'usual suspects' - Tony Benn, Bruce Kent, Lionel Blue, Gerard Hughes - but the book is none the worse for that. Some others - the Benedictine nun Joan Chittister, the former Archbishop of Durban, Denis Hurley and the author Myra Poole - may be less known to readers of the journal. Relatively few of the stories are from people wrestling with doubt from within a mainstream biblical position. The opening (and only anonymous) piece from a former minister who has completely lost his faith should be compulsory reading for all who share in pastoral care for the clergy.

Interspersed with the stories are readings, poems and prayers around the theme of faith and doubt, and loss and recovery of faith. These range from biblical texts, through medieval and metaphysical poets, to modern authors. Some again will be very familiar - for example, Arnold's Dover Beach and Robert Frost's The Road not Taken. Others were new at least to me and I was struck particularly by Maya Angelou's Saviour and Edwina Gateley's Healing.

A few of the pieces are chosen by the contributors - it would have been illuminating to know why and which part of their story it spoke from. The rest have been chosen by the editors. One of the contributors themselves (Rupert Loydell) has the most entries.

This book is a stimulating read and a valuable resource to return to, with plenty of material to illustrate preaching or to include in leading reflective worship, as well as for giving a better understanding of the way in which doubt strikes people. It would be worth lending to those undergoing a crisis of faith.

Chris Skilton

Anxious Christians

Kenneth Redgrave

SPCK, London, 2002; 179pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 281 05507 6

This is a helpful little book by a practising psychotherapist who has worked in church social work, in the statutory sector and in education. This broad experience shines through in the wisdom of this broad-based and biblical approach to the problem of anxiety. He takes nothing for granted, and assumes that his readers might know very little about therapy, psychiatry, psychology or human growth and development. This is clearly a book for the anxious Christian, and not a book about anxious Christians for the professional pastoral counsellor.

Using case studies to introduce each aspect of the spectrum of anxiety disorders, Redgrave unpacks the issues and applies biblical wisdom to them. Panic attacks, PMS, low self-esteem, eating disorders are all touched upon in the second chapter, while the third seems to focus upon more general anxiety states, such as shyness, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorders), chronic anxiety, IBS and stress. Chapter four looks at family related problems and the final chapter sums up the themes and offers some avenues of help.

The 'ordinary' Christian is the target audience for this book, and the anxious ordinary Christian in particular, It is therefore inevitably rather simplistic in its approach, but will be a useful first port of call for such anxious souls. In this regard, the minister who keeps a small library of books for lending out in pastoral contexts will find this a very helpful addition. Church libraries would benefit from a copy, and of course, this will be the book to recommend to a parishioner who might benefit from reading about how to face up to their anxiety.

Paul Goodliff

Face Value - God in the Place of Encounter

Vanessa Herrick and Ivan Mann

Darton, Longman and Todd 2002; 166pp; £9.95; ISBN 0 232 52377 0

The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ is one of the most pivotal events in the story of the Gospels, but has been unduly neglected. True, it has its own feast day, but falling as it does on August 6th means many of us are just too focussed on holidays to be aware of this! The timing, when we are 'cruising' through those long weeks of the liturgical season between Trinity and Advent when nothing much seems to happen, is compounded by the content. What are we to make of it? The authors remark upon how many preachers look for an excuse not to preach upon the theme, at a loss to know how to make sense of it. It almost goes without saying, of course, that the Orthodox in the East have never lost sight of its significance. The story continues as a standard panel on the iconostasis of most Orthodox churches.

Herrick and Mann use this story to illuminate a number of themes in discipleship and Christian experience so that we might 'open ourselves to encountering God and ourselves afresh.' (p.1) They describe those moments of revelation which might be insights into eternity, and how we might see beyond the face value of things.

The book explores the biblical story through the eyes of Peter, and in the Johannine account, and continues to tap a rich vein of experience, illuminated by art, poetry and spiritual writing. It is a stimulating and enriching read, and I hope that you will find it similarly so.

Paul Goodliff

Body and Soul: A Spirituality of Imaginative Creativity

Fintan Creavan

SPCK, London, 2003; 116pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 281 05524 6

When you pick up this book for the first time, it seems like a lot of money for 116 pages, but this reviewer was captivated from the first page. The moment I saw that here was a realistic attempt to fuse the insights of Ignatian and Celtic spiritualities, I knew I was in for a treat. And I was not disappointed.

Fintan Creavan is a spiritual director and retreat conductor living in Glasgow. His Jesuit training and experience makes him perfectly qualified to bring Ignatius and the Celts together. His primary thesis is that 'matter' (by which he means the whole created order, including humanity) is a force for good and that we need to resist both the world-denying tendency of the ascetic and the world-exploiting tendency of the materialist. Rather we need to learn to read the world with new eyes that see God reflected in all that he has made, and indeed in all that man has made of what God has made.

The author therefore encourages us to practise until we get better at it, and offers lots of practical exercises to help us open our eyes in the way he suggests. Each of the six chapters is introduced by a poetic reflection on the theme, and the chapter content itself is full of stories and word-pictures. And six chapters is the perfect length for a week-long silent retreat. Next time I take one, this little gem of a book will be in my rucksack.

Alun Brookfield

One is the Body

John L Bell

Wild Goose Publications, The Iona Community, 2002; 144pp; ISBN 1 901557 35 9

One is the Body is a book of hymns and songs from across the world. In addition, it contains some contemporary hymns and songs from people attached to the Iona community, primarily from John Bell, who also provides new English texts to old and foreign tunes. It contains helpful information about the origins of the chosen songs, but its paperback format makes it difficult to manage on a music stand.

There is no doubt that this book contains many lovely melodies, frequently in pleasant arrangements. "God it was" uses a delightful Gaelic melody which was previously unknown to me. I didn't like the musical arrangement of "Personent Hodie" - the harmonies seemed inappropriate and uninteresting - but I didn't react like this often as I explored the book.

I suspect that your reaction to the book will depend largely on your response to the lyrics supplied by John Bell, who has been a stalwart of the Iona song books for a long time. He is a sort of L S Lowry of the modern hymn, with lines like :

In factory, office, home or hall

where people struggle, strive or stall

seek out and serve the Lord of all.

Personally, I find texts like, "In concrete, brick and living stone, God builds a trysting place" rather off-putting. God isn't directly responsible for concrete and I certainly don't want to sing about it when I am worshipping Him. Bell likes alliterative lines, delivered at high speed, which leave my tongue wrapped around my tonsils. God's marvels are described as "raw, rich and rare." Bell does, however, deliver moments of thought-provoking poetry and there is a welcome focus on justice for the poor.

As a Christian music teacher in a multicultural school in East London, I am always on the lookout for good arrangements of African and South American tunes and there are several here. I particularly enjoyed: "Know that God is Good" from the Congo; "We Will Walk with God" from Swaziland; the round, "Now Go in Peace" from the Caribbean; and "We Belong to God" from Mexico. However, I find many of John Bell's alternative English texts and translations to be a bit clumsy, with many incidents of incorrect syllable stress, such as in the Irish tune, better known as The House of the Rising Sun, which has a verse which begins "Better the pennies of the poor". Problems like this abound. The lovely Brazilian song, Tu estas presente has an alternative English text that I can't fit to the tune.

John Bell has contributed some good new hymns for this publication. "Praise God for this Holy Ground" and "I Bow my Knee in Prayer" (to a traditional Scottish tune) should become established in the repertoire of the church. "I Owe my Lord a Morning Song" is beautiful, and contains the following which I thought to be unnecessarily controversial:

I owe my Lord a morning song

The Spirit gave me voice,

Nor did she force my soul to praise

But honoured me with choice.

There are several songs that have a similar subversive streak. The, otherwise excellent, song "There is a line of women", which commendably redresses an imbalance by praising the contribution of women in the Bible, seems to praise Sarah for laughing.

This book is a worthwhile addition to the library of Christian world music. It will please some and offend others, in terms of both theology and poetry, but it is well worth a look.

Ian Wilson

Short Notes by Paul Beasley-Murray (with Alun Brookfield)

Dying and Grieving: A Guide to Pastoral Ministry (SPCK, London 2003; 166pp; £12.99; ISBN 0 281 05526 2) by Alan Billings explores the way in which people's approach to death has changed over the years. Billings distinguishes three periods: (1) The traditional community, pre-1960; (2) The end of traditional communities, 1960-1980; and (3) The emergence of post-traditional society, after 1980. An interesting read, this book is a good introduction for the newly ordained, but has less to offer the more experienced minister. I did, however, appreciate the suggestion that a person in the earlier stages of a terminal illness might be encouraged to make a memory box as a way of leaving something tangible for their loved ones: "The memory box is a small lockable box or tin into which objects can be placed which have particular significance for the person dying and their loved ones, together with letters, notes and photographs. Much of the contents of the box - though not the box itself - can remain a secret until after the funeral".

Two other older books on death have only just come to my attention. The first, Through Grief: The Bereavement Journey (Darton, Longman and Todd in association with Cruse, London, first published in 1986; 90pp; £7.95; ISBN 0 232 51682 0) by Elizabeth Collick, an experienced bereavement counsellor, is a very useful book to give to people whose loved one is terminally ill or who have just experienced a death. The fact that in 1999 this book received its 12th printing shows how well it has been received. The second book is Just My Reflection: Helping Parents To Do Things Their Way When Their Child Dies (Darton, Longman and Todd, 1997; 169pp; £12.95; ISBN 0 232 52211 1) by Frances Dominica, an Anglican nun who established Helen House in Oxford, the world's first hospice for children with life-limiting illnesses. The book's title is taken from some words written by Garvan Byrne, aged 11, a year before he died: "My body is just my reflection...When you die you leave your reflection. Your real self leaves your body and goes into another world... where it will be the happiest life of all... God has the answers, we have the questions, and only in the end will he tell us the answers. God has kept that new life a secret and I am glad because it will give us a surprise, it will give us such a big surprise". A marvellous resource book, this should be on the shelf of every pastor.

Hope for the Church: Contemporary Strategies for Growth (Church House Publishing, London 2002; 196pp; £10.95; ISBN 0 7151 5551 2) by Bob Jackson, Research Missioner for Springboard and a former Government economic adviser, is a 'must' for any minister to read. Although it is a book about the decline of the Church of England, its findings are of great relevance to ministers of every denomination. As the title suggests, it is a book of hope, for the author is convinced that decline is not inevitable. A variety of strategies are put forward as to how churches might reverse the decline. For instance, larger churches are challenged to consider re-structuring themselves into small cells of at most six to ten people. The model the author adopts for such an exercise is taken from the IRA, which in the 1980s turned itself around when it moved from battalions to cells, each cell consisting of four members and specializing in a particular activity. Bob Jackson writes: "The level of members' commitment to the cell was much higher than it had been to the larger and more loosely structured battalion....The IRA cells are also known as 'Active Service Units', a term that seems accurately to describe what a church cell group should be... Cells, each with a clear mission and an efficient command and supply line, may be just the active service units the Church needs for its foot soldiers in the battle ahead"!

The Word for All Seasons: Services of the Word for Every Sunday of the Year and Major Holy Days (Canterbury Press, Norwich 2002; 129pp; £9.88; ISBN ?) by David Graham comes with a free disk in MSWord format and is the product of six years of ministry at St Luke's, Bromley Common. This flexible resource for non-eucharistic worship consists of a variety of prayers, Scripture sentences, and affirmations of faith, and will doubtless prove to be a welcome aid to Anglican leaders of worship.

Resurrection: Theological and Scientific Assessments (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2002; 326pp; £27.99; ISBN 0 8028 0519 1 - available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh), edited by Ted Peters, Robert John Russell and Michael Welker, is a wide-ranging collection of eighteen scholarly papers by faculty members of the University of Heidelberg and of the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. This dialogue of Christian theology with the natural sciences is hard-going and demands awareness not only of the theological debate but also scientific awareness.

A Barclay Prayer Book (SCM Press, London 2003; 349pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 334 02912 0) contains prayers which originally appeared in Prayers for the Christian Year and Epilogues and Prayers. Apart from revisions to make the material gender-inclusive, the prayers remain unchanged. Even though written forty years ago, they still remain remarkably fresh.

Companion to the Revised Common Lectionary 9: Dramatic Dialogues - Two-person Sketches for the Three Year Cycle (Epworth Press, Peterborough 2003; 180pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 7162 0567 X) by Methodist minister Paul Glass, contains scripts for every Sunday over a three year period. What labour must have been involved! I can see some of these dialogues working in a School Assembly or in a Family Service, but to my mind they would not be so effective for adults.

What About Other Faiths? Is Jesus Christ the only way to God? (Hodder and Stoughton, London; 186pp; £6.99; ISBN 0 340 86150 9) by Martin Goldsmith of All Nations Christian College, Ware, is a lightly revised re-issue of a book first published in 1989. This is a popular, but thoughtful, book by a distinguished evangelical missiologist.

When God's Voice Is Heard: The Power of Preaching (IVP, Leicester; first published 1993, new edition 2003; 191pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 85111 284 6) edited by Christopher Green and David Jackman, consists of twelve essays devoted to different aspects of preaching, all written by evangelical 'worthies' in honour of Dick Lucas, the iconoclastic evangelical preacher of St Helen's, Bishopsgate. For me the most interesting essay was the account of Dick Lucas' long and fruitful ministry in the City of London, with the fascinating statement: "One of Dick's greatest assets is the way he gets bored so quickly". I confess that I found the remaining essays by people like Peter Jensen and Edmund Clowney, Jim Packer and John Chapman, somewhat dry and of little immediate relevance to pastoral ministry (perhaps not surprisingly since only two of the contributors appear to be involved in regular local ministry). I was, however, challenged by the list of books and journals Don Carson tries to read in order to understand the world, but again he does not have the discipline of having to preach to the same congregation every week. I was also struck to note that only two of the twelve contributors live in England and the almost total absence of Free Church representation.

What They Don't Teach You At Theological College: A Practical Guide To Life In The Ministry (Canterbury Press, Norwich 2003; 200pp; £12.99; ISBN 1 85311 500 2) by Malcolm Grundy, an archdeacon in the Anglican diocese of Bradford, is an odd book, in that it addresses a series of quite diverse readers. On the one hand, the opening chapters are written with the would-be ordinand in view, while, on the other hand, the final chapter has some helpful things to say about retirement. The in-between chapters contain a variety of reflections on such subjects as church management, power and conflict, spirituality and a rule of life. I can't help feeling that the author should go back to the drawing-board and produce three separate books, and at the same time perhaps broaden out the parameters so that there is more material of help and relevance to Free Church ministers.

Biblical Theology: Retrospect and Prospect (Apollos, Leicester 2002; 297pp; ISBN 0 85111 279 X), edited by Scott J Hafeman, is a collection of eighteen academic essays by international scholars on widely differing aspects of Old and New Testament theology. Sadly this collection will be of limited interested to working pastors.In spite of its intentions, this book really is for the 'academy'.

Roger Hurding has produced an updated edition of his celebrated and now classic Roots and Shoots: A Guide to Counselling and Psychotherapy (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1986, 2nd edition 2003; 464pp; £12.99; ISBN 0 340 86149 5). Tracing the rise of secular psychologies, Hurding gives a detailed and objective critique of each before considering the Christian response. The changes in this new edition are minor, and essentially relate to developments in training programmes and alterations to names of institutions. Although of interest to working ministers, probably it will be most used by those preparing to become counsellors.

The Funeral Handbook (SPCK, London 2003; 120pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 281 05413 4) by Giles LeGood and Ian Markham sets out to provide a guide "to all those negotiating the practicalities of planning their own or some one else's funeral". To my mind the book is too comprehensive - a much shorter book is what is required. Furthermore this book is written with middle-of-the-road Anglicans in mind, and is therefore of limited value to people of other Christian traditions, let alone non-Christians.

Much as I like Nick Page, I confess that I am not greatly impressed by his latest offering, The Bible Book: A User's Guide To The Bible (HarperCollins, London 2003; 399pp; £16.99; ISBN 0 00 711966 6). Nick is a great communicator, but he is not theologically trained, and this is the weakness of this book. It is not enough to "think like the ordinary bloke in the pew" - a compiler of a guide to the Bible needs to be theologically aware. It was the combination of these two qualities which makes, for instance, Andy Knowles' Lion Bible Guide so much more helpful and trustworthy than this particular book.

If you like church history 'preached', then you may enjoy The Roots of Endurance: Invincible perseverance in the lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon and William Wilberforce (IVP, Leicester 2003; 175pp; £7.99; ISBN 0 85111 289 7) by John Piper, senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, USA. I confess that I did not enjoy the style (nor such Americanisms as 'the campus of Cambridge University'!). However, in a day when 'super-pastors' are all the vogue, it is encouraging to be reminded that some of the great souls of the past went through tough times. For instance, the first twelve years of Charles Simeon's ministry at Holy Trinity, Cambridge, were marked by opposition involving the 'pew-holding' parishioners boycotting the services and refusing to allow others to sit in their pews!

Scholarly commentaries, accessible to the ordinary minister, with helpful theological insights, are few and far between. One commentary, however, which falls into that category is The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary (Eerdmans Critical Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2003; 971pp hardback; £65; ISBN 0 8028 2605 9. Available in the UK through Alban Books, Edinburgh EH4 3BL) by Samuel Terrien, a prolific author and Emeritus Professor of Hebrew at Union Theological Seminary, New York. Checking out my favourite psalms, I found all kinds of new ideas. This is a good commentary for preachers wanting to take the text of Scripture seriously. The one cause for regret is the price, which presumably means that only libraries will buy it - the publishers should have been more ambitious, reduced the price by half, and then they would have doubled their sales!

When it comes to his new series of guides to the New Testament books, I cannot sing the praises of Tom Wright enough. They are ideal not just for new Christians, but for those who have been Christians for many years too. Indeed, at this very moment I know of two ladies in their 80s who are working their way through these Bible guides with the greatest of delight. Tom Wright is the new William Barclay - save that his exposition is, in my opinion, more soundly based. His two latest contributions to this series are Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians (SPCK, London 2003; 256pp; £9.99; ISBN 0 281 05305 7) and Paul for Everyone: 2 Corinthians (SPCK, London 2003; 164pp; £8.99; ISBN 0 281 05306 5).

From Shore to Shore: Liturgies, Litanies and Prayers (SPCK, London 2003; 108pp; £5.99; ISBN 0 281 05393 6) collected by Kate Wyle contains a wide variety of full orders of service as well as individual prayers from places as disparate as South India and the Caribbean, Sri Lanka and South Africa. An unusually stimulating and creative collection.

Recent offerings from Kingsway of Eastbourne include Effective Schools Work (2003; 222pp; ISBN 1 84291 082 5) by Lee Jackson, a schools worker with 'Leeds Faith in Schools', who has written a practical guide to the relationship between Christians and schools; and Children in the Heart of God: A Biblical Perspective on Church and Home (251pp; ISBN 184291047 7) by Dave Gidney, the new Head of Old Testament Studies at Birmingham Christian College, who looks at such issues as child conversion and the role of children in public worship. Of perhaps greater interest to readers of Ministry Today are two Kingsway 'Ministry Guides': The Teacher's Notebook (2003; 157pp; £8.99; 1 84291 003 5) by Mark Stibbe of St Andrew's, Chorleywood, and The Pastor's Notebook (2003; 253pp; £8.99; ISBN 1 84291 043 4) by John Hughes of St John's, Harborne. Both these warm-hearted renewal-oriented guides are essentially biographical in nature, and tend to be inspirational rather than mind-stretching.

Other Kingsway publications include: Faithworks: Intimacy and Involvement (2003; 108pp; £5.99; ISBN 1 84291 118 X) by Steve Chalke, who, with Simon Johnston, explores the way in which intimacy with God and involvement in the community relate to one another. A light read with some interesting quotes (e.g. "I've a definite sense of spirituality. I want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don't know into what religion yet" - David Beckham). The book is spoilt by a final chapter which sings the praises of the institutions and organisations sponsoring Faithworks; Culture Changers: How To Be An Agent Of Change (2003; 123pp; ISBN 1 84291 105 8), by Matt Bird with Row Bazlinton, is essentially a plea for Christians to get involved in the community and in the work-place. Popular in style, this short book could be improved by radical editing - a 30-page booklet could probably get the point over more effectively! Fifty Dramatised Bible Readings (2003; 222pp; £8.99; ISBN 1 84291 039 6) with its stage directions and tips for effective techniques in readings, is a useful resource provided by actor and script-writer David Burt. My one quibble is that it draws upon the New International Version - I am convinced that the Good News Bible is much more user-friendly. Finally, "No flowers, no fuss, no mourning, just lots of joy" was the un-premeditated comment Fiona Castle made to a reporter the day her husband died. No Flowers.. Just Lots of Joy (2003; 155pp; £7.99; ISBN 1 84291 102 3) is a bringing together and revision of two earlier books, Give Us This Day and No Flowers, in which Fiona Castle, together with Jan Greenough, tells the story of her life with Roy and her subsequent experience of bereavement. Although not a profound book, it is a well-written book, earthed and yet full of hope. It is a book to lend to the bereaved.

Craving for Love - Relationship Addiction, Homosexuality and the God Who Heals (Monarch 2003; 320pp; £8.99; ISBN 1 85424 607 0) is the lengthy title of Briar Whitehead's book arguing that homosexuality is an illness to be healed. Not everyone would agree, but the author argues that a great deal of relationship disfunctionality, including homosexuality and lesbianism, is the result of past rejections and deprivations. Unlike some other books which take this basic view, Whitehead is sensitive enough to recognise that changing one's sexual orientation, if it can be done at all, will take years of work, with many setbacks.

Short Prayers for Public Worship (Kevin Mayhew 2003; 96pp; £9.99; ISBN 1 84417 016 0) by Nick Fawcett is an excellent collection of exactly what the title says! A number of the prayers are also useful for private prayer and for pastoral prayer with others. For that reason, I wish it had been produced in a smaller (it's slightly smaller than A4) and less colourful format. A useful addition to the pastoral shelf and well worth the price tag.

Some readers will be old enough to remember the ground-breaking little book, Prayers of Life, published in the 1960s. Now David Gatward has trodden in the same footsteps with Monday Mornings and Traffic Jams (Kevin Mayhew, 2003; 96pp; £7.99; ISBN 1 84417 047 0), an anthology of 'chatting with God' prayers about the ordinary stuff of life for many in our congregation. Highly recommended as a gift to weary people and for publishing extracts in the church magazine (subject to copyright approval).

It's hard to believe that we need yet another Bible paraphrase, but Michael Forster has attempted one of the Gospels, entitled The One (Kevin Mayhew, 2003; 400pp; £9.99; ISBN 1 84003 974 4). Fans of the film, Matrix, will spot the agenda of the paraphrase immediately. This is a translation with footnotes and other 'helps' aimed specifically at demonstrating from the Gospels that Jesus is 'the One'. It's sub-titled All-Age Bible, but I'm not convinced - I think he means 'youth Bible'. The translation is fast-moving and user-friendly. Check it out.

Recent booklets from Grove of Cambridge (all 28pp and priced at £2.50 unless otherwise indicated) include Unweaving the Web: Beginning to Think Theologically About the Internet (Ethical Series 127; ISBN 1 85174 512 2) in which David Clough examines how the Internet might affect our conception of time, place, and personhood; Renewing the Traditional Church (Renewal Series 10, 2002; ISBN 1 85174 513 0) by John Leach, Mark Tanner and John Witcombe, who in their 'conversation' together comment on such issues as a renewal 'culture' which in turn needs renewing; The Laying on of Hands and Anointing (Worship Series 172, 2002; 32pp; ISBN 1 85174 511 4) in which Carolyn Headley, a physiotherapist prior to ordination, highlights the importance of touch; Fasting: A Fresh Look at an Old Discipline (Spirituality Series, 2002; ISBN 1 85174 514 9), a well-written practical guide by David Bolster and Anna de Lange; Liturgy and Urban Mission (Worship Series 173, 2002; ISBN 1 85174 516 5), in which Tim Stratford, a vicar on a large Liverpool outer urban estate, reflects on the need for working-class churches to adapt the middle-class liturgies produced by the Church of England; Counting Sheep: Attendance Patterns and Pastoral Strategies (Pastoral Series 92, 2002; ISBN 1 85174 517 3) in which Paddy Benson and John Roberts look at the challenge of the 'casual attender' whose frequency of attendance has dramatically reduced; and The New Perspective on Paul (Biblical Series 26, 2002; ISBN 1 85174 518 1) in which Michael Thompson, Vice-Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, evaluates the work of scholars such as J A Sanders, James Dunn and N T Wright; Common Worship in Church Schools (Worship Series 174, 2003; ISBN 1 85174 522 X) by Ian Dewar; Wisdom: the Spirit's Gift (Renewal Series 11, 2003; ISBN 1 85174 521 1) by Christopher Cocksworth; Ministry Leadership Teams (Pastoral Series 93, 2003; ISBN 1 85174 525 4) by Andrew Dawswell; and Celebrating the Trinity (Spirituality Series 84, 2003) by Myra Blyth.... If I am honest, I confess that none of these really grabbed me. By contrast, I found Church Planting: Past, Present and Future (Evangelism Series 61, 2003; ISBN 1 85174 524 6) by George Lings and Stuart Murray a fascinating read with much food for thought. It is, for instance, challenging to realise that, although in the 1990s some 1,867 churches were opened, in this same period some 2,757 churches were closed. In other words, contrary to the expectations of many, church planting did not reverse decline or stimulate overall church growth. Furthermore, although many church plants were effective in reaching those with previous church connections, few reached individuals without previous church connections. Again, because church planting relied heavily on the initiative of local congregations and entrepreneurial leaders, churches were generally not planted in areas of greatest need, but areas with greatest resources. So what then is the way ahead? The authors remain committed to the principle of church planting, but believe that only certain forms of planting will be helpful, namely planting that reflects on the cultural context in which churches are planted; planting that pays attention to the criticisms of those for whom present forms of church are not working; planting that attempts to incarnate the gospel into areas and people groups beyond the reach of existing churches. For anybody concerned with mission beyond their local church, this is an important booklet.

The other recent Grove booklet I found of interest was Blessing: Biblical Meaning and Pastoral Practice (Biblical 27, 2003; ISBN 1 85174 526 2) by Keith Gruneberg. I particularly appreciated the way in which the author sought to apply his Biblical scholarship to life today. In his chapter on 'Blessing Things', for instance, he deals with such matters as blessing food (when in fact we should be 'blessing God' for the food), blessing houses (when in fact we should be blessing the home), and blessing rings (a confusing rather than a helpful custom). An informative read!

Ministry Today

You are reading Book Reviews by Ministry Today Reviewers, part of Issue 28 of Ministry Today, published in June 2003.

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