Saturday, November 11, 2006

Books read in November 2006 (2)

1. The Political Animal: An Anatomy by Jeremy Paxman

What makes for a politician? According to Paxo it is ambition, drive and liking to hear your own voice. To get to the top he unearths the surprising statistic that you most likely will have lost a parent, especially a father, when young. Paxman writes well in an entertaining fashion so he is a pleasure to read. He charts how one becomes an MP and the duties involved. It is not a family friendly life. Conformity is required, enforced by the whips. If one conforms one may rise to ministerial office and the ministerial life is surveyed all the way up to prime minister. Life beyond office or parliament is also examined. The treatment is both sympathetic and critical. Corruption is shown to be rare. What Paxo omits is the commoner, more hum drum life in local politics. Councillors are too dull beasts for the top journalist. Yet many who become MPs follow the local government route, even those from political dynasties like the Benn family.
I have experience of Paxo's subject. When a councillor I failed to get past the selection weekend and onto the Conservative's approved list of candidates. On reflection and reading Paxo I conclude I lacked ambition. It is the sine qua non, that and self confidence. I am not strong there too when it comes to new ventures. Nor am I a conformist. I am not sorry the Conservatives turned me down. Now I have returned the compliment. They are a New Labour tribute band

2. Simply Christian by Tom Wright

The publishers think this is the most thrilling attempt to re-express the heart of the Christian faith since C S Lewis. I am not so sure. There is much to commend in this book. This Bishop of Durham is thankfully a long way from his predecessor but one, Jenkins, the liberal mocker of biblical Christianity. Wright will be regarded as evangelical . But though he here attempts to reach non-Christians with the gospel by starting where he thinks they are longing for justice, relationships, and beauty I wonder how many non-Christians would take the time and make the effort to read this book. I think it is well written. it is not hard to read and grasp. he has a freshness of approach and some excellent illustrations. But it is a long wat removed from a simple presentation of the ABC of the gospel.
If I understand Wright's new perspective on Paul correctly, Wright has moved from a forensic understanding of justification to one of being included in the covenant community. This seems to be worked out in this book for the emphasis is more on being part of the covenant community, the church, than on sin borne by Christ in our place and God pronouncing us the recipients of Christ's righteousness.
The index gives us some idea of what Wright does not talk about. Sin gets three mentions starting 7/8 of the way through the book. To be fair, the index has missed at least two earlier uses but the fact remains, Wright is not dealing with man's rebellion against God. Where is grace? No-where except under means of grace. There is nothing on wrath, judgment or hell. So I ask is this not a watered down presentation of part of the Christian message to make it more palatable?
I would also take exception to his teaching on the Lord's Supper as it really plays down the differences between Rome and the Protestant churches. One might on the basis of this book aks if the bishop really believes what the 39 Articles of his church say, especially on the mass. Rome seems to have no blasphemous fables any more. He also divorces the sacrament from proclaiming the word of Scripture.
So, in conclusion, there is much that is very good indeed in this book. It is a great voice against Enlightenment rationalism and individualistic Christianity. But it has some omissions which make me sad. I think Wright is moving away from historic reformed Christianity, but he remains much better on the faith than your average bishop.

In over a year of reading, this has been my least read month. There are several reasons.
1. In winter I cannot sit outside and read while having a pipe in the garden
2. At least two lunchtimes in each week I have not been reading but visiting a housebound customer who lives on his own and has had multipe sclerosis for many years.
3.The other lunchtimes I have usually been sleepy. Katy tells me to go to the Quack and say I have sleep apnoea. I reply that is hearsay evidence only.
4. Evenings I have been researching the family genealogy. Over 500 in the family tree now.
5. I am working through a 700 plus page history.

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