Sunday, September 12, 2010

Books read in September 2010

My reading this year has been hampered by five months of bad depression. However, normal service can now be resumed.

1. Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West by Christopher Caldwell

I lived in Nigeria when apartheid was ruling in South Africa. South Africa was a subject I never discussed with Nigerians for any attempt to show reasons for understanding the regime would be regarded as racism. Similarly, today in England it is nigh impossible to critique immigration without being accused of racism or to criticise Islam without accusations of Islamophobia. Rational discussion is lost as accusations of hatred fly.

But Caldwell has given a forthright critique of immigration policy and history and warnings about Islam without sounding like his sympathies are on the far right. He shows how most immigrants throughout history have been economic migrants and that postwar Europe encouraged such migration. However he is critical of the benefits to host countries and also rejects the guilt ridden socialist justifications for liberal immigration policies. In no way is he disparaging of immigrants crediting them with an above average knowledge of European laws which can be used to their advantage.

He examines the reactions to Muslim immigration in various countries. He sees Muslim communities set for growth while birth rates fall among the indigenees. His conclusions are, 'It is certain that Europe will emerge changed from its confrontation with Islam. It is far less certain that Islam will prove assimilable. Europe finds itself in a contest with Islam for the allegiance of its newcomers. For now, Islam is the stronger party in that contest, in an obvious demographic way and in a less obvious philosophical way.... When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture meets a culture that is anchored, confident, and strengthened by common doctrines, it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter'

Once again, a book great in diagnosis but lacking in any prescription for a hopeful cure.

I confess that my attitude to immigration is drastically changed due to my Christian faith. Left to myself I would be very, very critical. But I welcome the fact that I no longer have to go overseas to spread the gospel across cultures. The world has come to London.

2. The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth

Once you start a Forsyth you cannot put him down. This time it is war on cocaine. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil and here they are described. The war is not won but much blood is shed. Far fetched perhaps but a good read.

3. Visual History of Nigeria by John D. Clarke

This is a school text book so we are spared some of the harsher details of the story. It is a very good brief introduction to Nigerian history up to the seventies. Here is a country that was united only by British colonialism though that seems to have been a reluctant imperialism at first. It was driven by the desire to suppress slave trade and promote other trading, particularly palm oil.I found the book to be rather secular with no story of the Christian missions and the colonial policy of stopping them in the north so that rule could be through the emirs.

4. Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

The author is a doctor and limits his book to bad science around his profession. His main targets are charlatans, homeopaths and journalists. The reader is given a basic course in evidence based medicne and how not to be deceived by quackery. It should be required reading for journalists so they stop misleading Joe Public.

I did not find it a compelling read. Parts were boring. But my major criticism is that the book limited itself to medicine. Environmentalism deserves a similar volume. But more fundamental would be to take on the common views of origins which derive from science not knowing its own limits. The folly of not examining presuppostions besets so called science. The uniformity of natuural causes in a closed system is an article of faith. It is not science. It is presupposition. This should be exposed as well as the reductionism which assumes that if you have described how a thing happens you have understood why. More debunking is needed.

5. The Assembly of the Lord: Politics and Religion in the Westminster Assembly and the 'Grand Debate' by Robert S. Paul

The Westminster Assembly is here put in historical context. Called by Parliament during the civil war in response to the Solemn League and Covenant it was tasked with devising a uniform Reformed church for all of Britain. Paul shows how politics and national characteristics led to its failure to produce uniformity. A minority of English Independents concerned for liberty of conscience sabotaged the Scots Presbyterians desire for uniformity. He shows that from the start the differing histories and the characters of the two nations were at the root of the difficulties. It was generally thought that men who submitted to Scripture from a Calvinist perspective would come to agreement. They could not. Paul shows how the military situation affected the Assembly. As Cromwell grew in power so the Scots influence waned. They converted a majority of the English commissioners to their way of church government but toleration of dissent was being firmly planted among the English. In an age when providences were seen as significant we can but conclude God's ways are not our ways and in this history God put his seal upon Christian liberty and not on a divine right of presbytery. This is not an easy read but it has an important message. History, politics, national characteristics and theology are not separate but intertwined. Life is more complicated than we think.

6. Heart speaks to Heart - The Pope in the UK

This booklet is the official RC one issued in preparation for the visit to the United Kingdom of Pope
Benedict XVI.

Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Why is the Pope meeting the Queen?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
What has the Pope got to say about how our Society works?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Why are there different churches?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Why is Pope Benedict meeting leaders of other faiths?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
What is the Holy See and its contribution worldwide?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
What is the Catholic contribution to British society?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
What about child protection? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Why are there Catholic schools and colleges?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Why is the Pope beatifying John Henry Newman?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
How do I connect with God?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Prayer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
So what is the Catholic Church for?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

Much of this is I believe a fair statement of RCC teaching where I have few quibbles. But...

Why are there different churches?
'Members of different churches now embrace each other as
friends and allies instead of as rivals or even enemies. '

I believe the RCC claims a monopoly on saving grace. No salvation outside the RCC. On this I am totally opposed to the RCC. I am one with them on catholic creeds but then we part company. On many social issues we can be co-belligerents

Why is Pope Benedict meeting leaders
of other religions?
'.. respect is not achieved by regarding all faiths as “equally true”, because that can easily
mean they are all equally unimportant.'

What is the Catholic contribution to British society?
Notable in this section was the lack of any protest over the banning of their adoption agencies by RC Blair's government.

Why are there Catholic schools and colleges?
'Education's gradual growth in Britain from the 18th century means the system wasn’t
born in one piece and then set up throughout the country.
Our present state education system was initially based on schools funded and staffed
by the various Churches, as well as industrialists and the labour movement from the
start of the nineteenth century.
Only in 1902 did these networks become loosely connected together into the
beginnings of a proper school system. ....
The Catholic system remains the single most
significant exception to the view that there should
be a uniform educational culture in Britain today.'

No. There are far more C of E schools than RC ones.

'The Church never forgets
that the first and primary educators of children are their parents, and technically schools
act on their behalf, in loco parentis. Children do not belong to the state. Rather it is the role
of the state to support and supplement this fundamental duty of parents. '


How do I connect with God?

'The story of the fall of Adam and Eve explores that failure. It is not a literal historical
account. It explores a deeper truth, of how the relationships of human beings to God and
to each other are somehow skewered and distorted. '

I am surprised at such liberal theology. It the first Adam is not historic, what about the second?

'Jesus himself was asked by his disciples how to connect with God. He answered by
suggesting a simple prayer, known ever since as the Lord’s Prayer. It talks of failing and
forgiveness, or God’s concern for our daily needs, and above all of doing God’s will - “Thy
will be done.” That means understanding and carrying out our duty to ourselves, to our
neighbour (which includes the stranger in our midst) and to God. In fact there is an even
deeper truth here. Jesus was himself God’s own answer to the question “How do we
connect with God?” For he is God’s presence on earth, among us even today. In the words
of Scripture “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son...” (John 3:16).
He is closer to us than our own souls, and always instantly available to us through prayer.
Christians are invited to develop an ever-closer relationship with him, a relationship of
friendship and love. So how can we deepen this relationship with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit? To start
with, by loving our family, friends and ultimately our enemies too. We are apprentices of a
love which is purified of all contempt or superiority, so that it is an ever deeper sharing in
the love that is the Trinity. '

No real repentance for sin or clear faith in Christ alone here. Classic obscuring of the gospel by the RCC.

So what is the Catholic Church for?
'The Bishop of Rome, the leader of the church
community, was the direct successor of St Peter, the leader of the first apostles. Throughout
its history the fundamental role of the Pope, the traditional name given to the Bishop of
Rome, has been to act as a sign of the unity of the Church. '

A hotly disputed claim.

So there is much good in this booklet but also a clever plan to reclaim our country for Rome and no real gospel.

No surrender!

7. A Foot in Two Worlds by John Chapman

A first rate short book from a respected Australian Anglican, It is about the joy of new life in Christ and the life long battle with sin, the flesh and the devil. No bed of roses but an ongoing warfare with victory assured for it was accomplished on the cross. The Christian already has hope in the world to come but must live with the tension between being part of a new creation while living in this fallen world. This is a sure, short biblical guide. It also warns against modern evangelical errors.

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