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The Seven Deadly Sins - & how to overcome them

Author: Graham Tomlin
Published By: Lion (Oxford)
Pages: 187
Price: £7.99
ISBN: 978 0 7459 5221

Reviewed by Alun Brookfield.

Graham Tomlin, Principal of St Paul’s Theological Centre at HolyTrinityChurch, Brompton, London, is well known as a gifted communicator and theological writer. In some ways, this is an excellent and timely book for a new generation of Christian believers, but I also found myself strangely unconvinced.

Perhaps it’s the rather dated-sounding concept of ‘seven deadly sins’ which doesn’t ring true in our present world - perhaps it ought to! Perhaps it’s the ‘how to overcome them’ subtitle, suggesting (although the content of the book clarifies) that there’s some sort of ‘quick fix’.

It’s punchy, well-written, at a fast pace (perhaps that’s why it doesn’t work as well as it ought to - perhaps a slower pace would have been more appropriate to the subject matter), and is easy to read, but I wonder who is going to read it. I can’t imagine loaning this book to members of my congregation; nor can I imagine myself preaching a sermon series based on it. I certainly wouldn’t offer it to someone whom I knew to be engaged in any of these seven deadly sins, not least because I struggle constantly with them myself!

I was particularly disappointed with the narrowness of his definitions. Gluttony, for example, is not just about food and drink, but about self-indulgence in a much broader sense. Lust, too, is not just about sexual temptation, but about power and ambition too.

So I give this about seven out of ten. Buy it, by all means, if you want to preach a sermon series on the subject, but tread carefully. Read Tomlin’s expositions, but keep your mind open and make your own decisions about how to present this kind of material. It is one thing to be against sin, but it’s quite another to be offensive and judgemental in saying so.

Alun Brookfield

Editor of Ministry Today

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You are reading Issue 42 of Ministry Today, published in March 2008.

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