Sunday, May 04, 2008

Books Read in May 2008 (5)

1. The War the Infantry Knew: A Chronicle of Service in France and Belgium by J.C. Dunn

I started to read this while visiting The Somme. A very long, moving account of life in Royal Welch Fusiliers in WWI. The compiler was their medical officer. To be more accurate the book is the war the infantry officers knew. Little is from other ranks. Tommy Atkins, or Dai Jones in this case, was not so literary as to keep diaries and write memoirs.

As this is compiled from many authors not always individually identified the continuity can be poor and the quality varies. Top quality is Sassoon. The original sketch maps are not very good, The addition of modern maps would have helped. You really do learn what trench warfare was like and the horror of shelling, sniping and gas. Men hoped the latter would kill the lice. As this book was compiled over 70 years ago, the language is sanitised and references to matters sexual omitted. This MO never tells of the problems with STDs from the brothels. I was also surprised by the lack of religious conviction and comfort expressed. All that is reported is church parades which were ordered and the poor attendance at voluntary services conducted b the padres.

At times the book seems as long and never ending as the war. But it is the first hand account. As literature the historical novel, A Covenant With Death, is a far better account of the times.

2. Let Christ Be Magnified: Calvin's Teaching for Today by J.H.Merle D'Aubigne

This gem of an introduction to Calvin was first published in 1864 on the tercentenary of Calvin's death. It was an address given in Geneva to mark the anniversary. It is a concise summary of Calvin's teaching and and a not uncritical appreciation of the greatest theologian of The Reformation. The author was the most popular church historian of his time and a man who shared Calvin's passion for the glory of God. There is an informative preface from the publisher concerning the biography of the author and a concise biography of Calvin. A great introduction to a much misunderstood man. An heart warming read

3. Catch the Vision: Roots of the Reformed Recovery by John J. Murray

This book is a fascinating account of how Reformed Christianity came to be revived in the English speaking world, especially in England in the middle of the 20th century. It is a story of the recovery of almost forgotten truth though the instruments of preaching and literature.

However this book is limited in scope to what I would call The Banner of Truth constituency. With the exception of Packer there is little from Anglicanism It is Reformed pietism with no mention of a world and life view with Christ as Lord over all of life. No room for Schaeffer here. Donald MacLeod is another notable absentee.

But the biographies of these men who are described are fair and informative and not without some critical assessment of the chief of them to whom so many of us are forever indebted, Lloyd-Jones.

This book is a testimony to the providential working of God to revive a nearly lost heritage. However I believe we need a wider vision to be taught and caught, embracing more Christians and all of life.

4. The Lost Message of Jesus by Steve Chalke

One might say that Chalke's title has an unexpected appropriateness. He has lost any message about sin. He denies original sin. In his desire to make the gospel only good news, he plays down the bad news that we are sinners who need to be awakened to our desperate plight. Chalke is a gifted communicator but I fear he has gone too far trying to remove the offence of the cross. Chalke seems much influenced by N T Wright's new perspective. I believe he is in danger of a serious departure from biblical orthodoxy.

5. What St. Paul Really Said: was Paul of Tarsus the real founder of Christianity? by N. T. Wright

This is a challenging and exciting book and a good introduction to N T Wright;s new perspective. Paul is seen as a violent Pharisee not unlike the Islamists of today in his zeal. but he was a man transformed by his Damascus road encounter with the risen Christ. He sees Christ is Lord, God himself, the fulfilment of Israel;s hope. Jesus is LORD. In his resurrection the new age has dawned. Faith in Christ is the badge of membership of he covenant community, no works of the law. Justification by faith is not he gospel. it is the lordship of Christ. The zeal Saul displayed to get errant Jews back to what he saw as the truth is now transformed into the zeal of Paul, apostle to the gentiles, denouncer of their paganism. Wright's teaching contains an antidote to the individualism of Protestantism if justification is seen not as a mere individual matter but as entry into the covenant community of those God will pronounce as righteous on the last day.

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