Books read in July (9)
Detailed account by a RC historian of our first real terrorist plot. See my post "On terrorist plots" below
2.Robert Murray Mccheyne - David Robertson
McCheyne died in his 30th year but in a short ministerial career he made a lasting impression on Dundee where he was a Presbyterian minister.
This new biography is no hagiography but an account of a man struggling with illness, depression and other trials yet living a holy, Christ-centred life of evangelism and devoted pastoral care. Revival came to his church while he was away on a missionary survey of Jews in Palestine.
We are given questions and a prayer at the end of each chapter to bring home lessons from this short but blessed life. An unusual but helpful innovation in biography.
3. The Great Divide - The Failure of Islam and the Triumph of the West.
Not a book your Muslim friend will like as it pulls no punches about the false prophet and his religion, how it has been spread by violence in the past and today. Totally partisan and at times I think a bit simplistic and inaccurate. e.g. On the Atlantic slave trade he says it was started by the British. No, the Portuguese were the first European slavers. He says nothing about the white slaving of the Moors, a surprising omission. But it is a corrective to the "Islam is a religion of peace brigade." Its aim is world domination.
4. London The Biography - Peter Ackroyd
A comprehensive historical survey of our great city done topically rather than chronologically. Recommended as preparatory reading for all visitors who like history. As of this month, a new chapter might be apposite.
5. Vital Christianity - The Life and Spirituality of William Wllberforce - Murray A Pura
Not an historical biography but an account of Wilberforce's spiritual life. He was a man who believed he could accomplish nothing unless he daily walked close to God.
6. Marching on Together - My life with Leeds United - Eddie Gray.
Reliving the glory days with one of Revie's legends. How have the mighty fallen since his concluding words in 2002 that Leeds have the potential to be in the same bracket as Arsenal or the red devils :-( Not even the same league now.
7. Wild at Heart - John Eldridge
A good friend gave me this as he was so impressed by it as to buy a number of copies to give away. I can see why my friend loved the book. It is about the need for Christian men to be masculine. My friend was for many years beset by the conviction he was transexual. God freed him to be a masculine man. It is also good on why men like pornography.
That men have become emasculated and feminized is IMO self evident. How to be a Christian male without being a macho chauvinist is well taught in this book.
But I am still left with a question. The author was arrested by these words. " Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go and do that, because what the world needs is people that have come alive." - Gil Bailie.
When it comes to guidance, should I base it on what I want to do with my gifts or should I seek to know what God wants for me through his providence?
8. Infidels - A history of the Conflict between Christendom and Islam. - Andrew Wheatcroft
Starting with an account of the great sea battle of Lepanto between the galleys of Europe and the Turks, the author surveys the whole of the history of conflict with Islam up to the present day. He perceptively put Christendom not Christianity as a participant in the conflict which today ends with a secular West versus Islam.
The author has some Christian family history but little sympathy with the faith. He is a secularist who rightly says the Enlightenment never reached Islam. But his only appeal is then to reason, ever the inadequate refuge of the liberal, for the reform of Islam. He has no concept of a spiritual battle taking place and criticizes those who do. I do though agree that the word crusade should have no part in the evangelistic vocabulary of Christians today.
He regards G W Bush as a sincere Christian who is not a master of communication, hence some faux pas in talking about the response to Islamist threats.
I also enjoyed the book for filling me in on the history of Spain and Islam as well as conflict in the Balkans.
9. Emancipation and Apologetics: The formation of Abraham Kuyper's Anti-Revolutionary Party in The Netherlands, 1872-1880 - Mckendree Langley
This is a 1995 doctorate thesis. I heard the author lecture in London on Kuyper so bought his thesis.
The context for Kuyper is given in analysis of the Enlightenment and its political manifestation, the French Revolution. This rejection of God's rule is shown to be critiqued by Burke, Lamennais and van Prinsterer before Kuyper gave practical political response to secularisation.
The biographical part recounts Kuyper's education, conversion and the development of his worldview with Christ the king over all of life, including politics. Here is a principled, not a pragmatic approach to politics, a Protestant Christian democratic response which led to the ARP, a party whose rise the author charts. The ARP eventually shared power in co-alition governments with Roman Catholics and provided several of the country's premiers, including Kuyper, but that is to go beyond this volume. Kuyper is shown to be a man of vital evangelical faith who could work in politics with those he would not tolerate in his church fellowship.
Kuyper always stressed antithesis as part of his apologetics. In politics the antithesis is between Christian thought with God supreme originating government as against the Revolution's view of government deriving from the social contact where the voice of the people has replaced the voice of God.
Kuyper is shown to have clear stated Christian principles underpinning his politics, though the practical outworkings will always have a pragmatic aspect to accommodate the needs of the age. Like all of us Kuyper was a product in part of his age. He was a Victorian patriarch, a big man with accompanying big faults which the author does not shrink from critiquing. The age is distant form ours. When Kuyper set out on his political journey the electorate was only some of the male property owners. Kuyper wanted the franchise extended to heads of households and to have proportional representation.
Education gave the first impetus to Kuyper. He campaigned for Christian schools to receive the same state recognition and funding as secular ones. Eventually he founded a free university too.
Kuyper's political career was made possible because of his gifts in another sphere, journalism. The thesis shows how Kuyper communicated his message through the newspapers The Standard and The Herald which he edited. Much of this thesis comes from the author reading The Standard. We must be grateful that he has culled so much for those of us who cannot read Dutch and made it available in this form.
Kuyper was criticised for being a theocrat but he repudiated any state establishment of Christianity, teaching political pluralism with firm separation of church and state. It is sad that so many Christians and non-Christians alike cannot distinguish separation of church and state from separation of faith and politics. The latter was anathema to Kuyper.
However I question how far Kuyper took his antipathy to the establishment of religion by the state for in the Dutch colonies he wanted the government to promote Christian mission and disadvantage Islam.
Kuyper is shown to be an admirer of Gladstone's politics and this now stimulates me to read more about the Grand Old Man whose churchmanship was very different from Kupyper's.
The thesis is available from UMI Dissertation Services, www.il.proquest.com