Friday, September 23, 2005

Books read in September (4)

1. K.I.S.S. Guide to Dreams - Lisa Lenard

Lots of theories about dreams and what you may learn from them. A really eclectic mix from ancient and modern thought on dreams. Oh for a Joseph to pass on true interpreation!

2. Fields of God: Football and the Kingdom of God by Mark Roques, Jim Tickner

This has to be the most original Christian book I have ever read. Full marks to the authors for producing a book to link Christian faith with the beautiful game. This book is theologically profound and erudite about football too, racy and very colloquial.. It is written from a reformed evangelical perspective giving us no mere gospel presentation but a look at creation, the cultural mandate, the flow of redemption history and the coming of the kingdom with realised eschatology. This is done with everything illustrated from the soccer world. Here you will meet soccer heroes and villains and marvel to ponder how the game would be if played according to the way of the kingdom of God.
Here is Christian faith that touches all of life. Pietistic, here called Platonist Christianity, is exposed as short-changing the full message of the kingdom.
If you love the gospel and football, this book is for you. If you want to know how to use the contemporary scene of football for sermon illustrations, here is a gold mine. I think it has evangelistic potential too.

3.Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899 - 1981) and Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism - John Brencher

John Brencher writes, "That he, like all men, had feet of clay does not affect my view that Martyn Lloyd-Jones was unrivalled as an expository preacher in the twentieth century. That I was able to sit under his ministry at Westminster Chapel from 1950 to 1959 and intermittently for the next nine years was an experience which has had an extraordinary effect upon my life and ministry and, for better or worse, has not wholly ceased today.

I would echo , That he, like all men, had feet of clay does not affect my view that Martyn Lloyd-Jones was unrivalled as an expository preacher in the twentieth century. That I was able to sit under his ministry at Westminster Chapel from 1964 to 1967 and intermittently in various places for the last years of his preaching was an experience which has had an extraordinary effect upon my life and ministry and, for better or worse, has not wholly ceased today.

Donald MacLeod wrote that M L-J was "arguably the greatest British preacher since the Reformation". I would concur. Whifefield in the 18th century seems to have been the greatest orator, but his printed sermons seem to lack much substance. Spurgeon was the Prince of Preachers, a wonder of Victorian England, but he was not the careful expositor we heard in M L-J. I believe I have heard at least one better expositor but never an oratorical preacher to surpass "The Doctor".

Brencher's is a far more critical work than Iain Murray's biography, but great men have great faults, and I believe Brencher is more open on this matter than Murray.

Foremost in Brencher's criticism is the aftermath of the 1966 Evangelical Alliance address when evangelicals were call to leave mixed denominations, As a result the influence of The Doctor is seen to have declined among evangelical Anglicans and others who stayed in their various denominations. brencher believes The Doctor deliberately wanted to make his stand, alone if necessary, contra mundum; at least contra the British ecclesiastical world. He marginalised himself post 1966.

For myself, a lesser criticism is the one most relevant personally. Brencher says the Doctor ran Westminster Chapel more like a consultant's surgery than a local church. As a student who attended the chapel but was never invited to stay for any sort of after-church fellowship nor challenged to join as a church member, I have to say The Chapel under the Doctor failed me as a young Christian. If I learned a great deal about preaching from those years, I learned nothing about vital church life.

Macleod is also quoted as saying that The Doctor, "functioned as the Cardinal Archbishop of evangelicalism ". I confess at the Westminster Conference I saw him being deferred to as such when R T Kendall gave his paper asserting that particular redemption was not part of the teaching of Calvinism according to Calvin, but a later, next century development. When it was evident that kendall had the chairman's approval, most listeners seemed to follow suit out of deference to the Doctor.

However, Brencher's book is among that select few books I have made time to read more than once.

Brencher is a Baptist and in part his criticism of the Doctor's administration of the sacrament may be coloured by this. But as a Presbyterian I too am unhappy to read what he did. Preaching was so exalted as THE means of grace that the sacraments seem to have been downplayed.

One factual error which Murray also makes is to state that the Doctor's first sermon in Wales was in Newport. Murray's index says this was Newport, Gwent, which is now in Wales. but when the doctor preached and when I was born there it was still in Monmouthshire, England.

Brencher seems to me to contradict himself stating there were many students from different countries and races at the Chapel, than saying there was a general absence of young people between 16 and 25. Did Brencher only see post-doctoral students? I for one was aged 18 to 21.

But I want to end on a positive note. The book reminded me of that unforgettable preaching I once enjoyed. I shall never forget his sermon the Sunday after Aberfan., or his reference to the fall of Nkruma and the toppling of his blasphemously inscribed statue. Great preaching for which I continue to thank God.

4. D Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Letters 1919-1981

Insight into the life and character of The Doctor from his correspondence. He had a very formal style in his letters, ever the consultant physician of souls. His love for his mother, wife and daughters comes across very strongly .

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