Thursday, July 10, 2014

Books read in July 2014

. The Carrier by Sophie Hannah An interesting psychological thriller. She draws some complex characters which give us several puzzles. It kept my attention. Most original was what I would call an open ending. Do they live happily ever after? Let the reader decide.

2.Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty This starts as a story about adultery and is not until well into the book that we have crime and court room drama. Gripping story showing the differences between the sexes in the matter of sexual relations. This is a moral tale and a gripping one.

3. Like This, For Ever by Sharon Bolton

A perplexing mystery thriller about a serial killer of young boys. The killer is well concealed from the police and the reader. A good gripping page turner.

4. Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulde
I have not read much in the way of historical fiction but this author encourages me to read more. Here he makes the time of Henry VI come alive as a really good story. This entertaining as well as an educaitonal read. I look forward to the next volume in the Wars of the Roses.

5. The Reluctant Hero by Michael Dobbs A thriller set in a fictitious Central Asian republic in post-soviet times. The hero is a James Bond sort of character, who, like Bond is a man of incredible feats and unrealistic escapes. A bit too far-fetched for me.

6. The Westminster Confession of Faith (Pocket Puritan) This mid 17th century confession of faith is the doctrinal confession of Presbyterian churches. It was the product of the Westminster Assembly, called by Parliament to produce confessional documents for all the church in the British Isles. It remains a masterpiece of reformed theology. You can indeed put it in your pocket and read as you travel. This edition also contains the variants adopted by American Presbyterians who have a different view on church and state.

7. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her by David Gibson & Jonathan Gibson It is over forty years since I read Owen on The Death of Death. It was hard going but my conclusion was that Owen had given us the definitive work on definite atonement, Christ died for God's elect. Now the Gibson brothers have brought the doctrine into the 21st century. This is an easier read than Owen but not it is demanding of the reader. This is deep theology and while it is not essential that the reader has Hebrew, Geek and Latin, knowledge of those tongues is a help. I found this book comprehensive in dealing with different aspects of the doctrine, exegetical, historic, systematic and pastoral. As well as being informative there is heart warming doxological teaching here. I should also note you may need a dictionary at hand. There are words here not in common use in everyday speech. As the book is by a variety of authors there is some measure of repetition in different chapters. But this is a great book to be read slowly. May one look forward to similar volumes on the distinctive doctrrines of Refeormed theology? I hope so.

8. Students of the Word: Engaging with Scripture to Impact Our World by John Stott

This must be one of the last books of the late John Stott as it is based on lectures to Christian students in 2006, five years prior to his death. I have heard form different sources that in his latter years he suffered some loss in his faculties when public speaking. There is none of that in evidence here. It is the Stott we knew, learned, lucid, Biblical, logical, teaching profound truths with simplicity. How to study the Bible and apply it in the world by developing a Christian mind. Important lessons for all Christians. Stott concise as ever. Great book by a great Christian teacher and pastor.

9. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Lesslie Newbiggin

Bishop James Edward Lesslie Newbigin (8 December 1909 – 30 January 1998) was a British theologian, missiologist, missionary and author. Though originally ordained within the Church of Scotland, Newbigin spent much of his career serving as a missionary in India and became affiliated with the Church of South India and the United Reformed Church, becoming one of the Church of South India's first bishops. These lectures were given to theological students in Glasgow in 1988 but have lost none of their relevance.

He tried to communicate the serious need for the church to once again take the Gospel to post-Christian Western culture, which he viewed not as a secular society without gods but as a pagan society with false gods] From Newbigin's perspective, western cultures, particularly modern scientific cultures, have uncritically come to believe in objective knowledge that was unaffected by faith-based axiomatic presuppositions. Newbigin challenges this ideas of neutrality and also the closely related discussion concerning the distinction between facts and values, both of which emerged from the Enlightenment.

He emphasises that it is the corporate task of the church to bear witness to all concerning the gospel. Jesus Christ is the absolute truth and only hope for mankind. There is no dualism between gospel witness and cultural transformation. This book is both intellectualy stimulating and heart warming for a Christian.

I have given only four stars because there are points where I think he is weak. We have a chapter on election but it not an election to personal salvation. It seems that all are elect in Christ. This leads to an agnostic view on the fate of those who do not hear or respond to the gospel. Both these weaknesses show a denial of penal substitutionary atonement. He fails to teach a real distinction between common and particular grace.He writes against what he calls a biblical fundamentalism but misrepresents it when he says that leaves the fundamentalist claiming to be free from error in his interpretation. In fact he seems to rarely if ever quote from scholars with an evangelical view of scripture preferring respectable theologians from academia who he says are operating within the plausibility structures of modern secularism, the very structures he is opposing. I think his thesis would have been helped by reference to the insights of sphere sovereignty as taught by Kuyper.

But my points of criticism do not diminish the force of this book contra pluralism and secularism. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. The mission of the church is to bear witness in and to the transforming power of His Spirit.

10. The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

Having enjoyed Gregory' White Queen on TV I chose this sequel. It is a real page turner, a mix of history, supposition fiction and fantasy. The history is the reign of Henry VII and his queen Elizabeth of York. This was the marriage that was to unite the houses of Lancaster and York and put an end to civil war. But here the king is portrayed as under constant threat from Yorkist pretenders, real or imaginary. The most important pretender claims to be Richard of York, son of Edward IV so the rightful king. His real identity is the question throughout the book. The fantasy is a curse pronounced by the queen and her mother, a curse on whoever killed the princes in the Tower. He, his son and grandson are to die and his line end in a virgin queen. Indeed the history of the Tudors. The story is told from the perspective of the queen. I look forward to the next in the series. My only criticism is that the family tree of royal England is not extended to encompass all in the book who are related or married into the royal houses.

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Blogger Phil said...

Newbigin an absolute favorite. Similar to Middelmann, Barrs and Schaeffer.

10:14 am  

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