Thursday, March 09, 2017

Books read in March 2017

1.The Roots of Sorrow: Reflections on Depression.and Richard Winter

It is a pity that this most helpful book is out of print. This Christian psychiatrist gvies a really professional treatment of his subject and of pastoral theology. He has a vey balanced approach, carefully testing the presuppositions of secular psychology and why Christians may sometimes benefit from a non-christian therapist. Different Christian approaches are surveyed in a most helpful and biblical way. Extremes,like, it is all demonic, are rejected, though the possibility, if rare, of the demonic, is taken into account. Think this is a book for those dealing with depression in themselves or others though it is not a self help guide. Mu only criticism is that the section on forgiveness is weak, first all on the theology of forgiveness and then on forgiveness as a transaction.I should like to see consideration of forgiveness when the offender is unrepentant or no longer available to confront.

2. Nigeria: A New History of a Turbulent Centuryby Richard Bourne 

Back in the early eighties a Radio 4 humour show dubbed Nigeria, the land of the greasy palm. Nothing has changed. The author has held several high commonwealth related posts but does not seem to have lived in Nigeria. I would describe his viewpoint as a top down one on the first century of Nigeria. Lugard was the progenitor of Nigeria and the man who put through indirect rule, specially by the northern then emirs. Lugard did not have it all his own way but the basic principle of leaving the emirs alone protecting them from Christian missionary influence is rightly shown to be at the root of future divisions. Then after independence in 1960, the First Republic dies under Igbo officers' bullets. Shortly after come riots in the North. Here I found the acount wanting. The scale and brutality of the killing seems brushed over. The counter coup, Gowon's magnanimity after victory over Biafra. Then Murtala is murdered and again little is related of the less than just trials of those alleged to have been plotter. Obasanjo comes and plans for civilian rule which is taken by Shagari, but not for long. Buhari, Babangida, Abacha, the latter, the worst dictator after losing an election. Obasanjo elected twice, 'Yar Addu'a dies in office as did Abacha and Goodluck takes over until Buhari is recently elected. So a mix of elections and coups but one theme throughout is the venality and corruption.I was astonished to read that all federal legislators earn over $1,000,000 a year -without the bribes etc. How to unify this artificial construct of a state?  Go from south to North and everything is diverse, climate, vegetation, ethnicities, languages, religions. Everyone wants a share of the oil wealth and that is not efficiently extracted or distributed.I have not gone onto recent troubles with Islamist insurgents. On a human level one does not feel full of optimism but Nigerians usually come up trumps

3. 'Eat the Heart of the Infidel': The Harrowing of Nigeria and the Rise of Boko Haram  by Andrew Walker

The author, a journalist living ten years in Nigeria, wrote this between 2013 and 2015 so it is as up to date asana available book though it cannot cover the latest atrocities like young girls with babies on their backs as suicide bombers nor does it deal with the middle belt conflicts in Kaduna and Plateau states though the historical background for them is found in the early chapters.
Walker has been on the ground so this is no discourse from the heights of academe or government. He starts in 1804 with the jihad of Uthman Dan Fodio, the Fulani Muslims conquering the pagan Hausa north and preparing the way for colonial indirect rule through the emirs.
    1850 we have the story of Barth's six year expedition which was to tell Europe of the life there and of the continuing brutality of slavery and warfare.In 1903 comes Lugard,, conquering the north with a small force and machine guns. Three years later he had an estimated 2000 massacred after a brief rebellion which cost the lives of three Europeans. Though he was removed, what Lugard established remains an influence to this day. His indirect rule through Muslim emirs was at the price of keeping Western education out of the North. Missionaries had been educating the south for nearly a century. The Muslim north wanted its Islamic superior culture untainted by the West. Long term the price paid was a civil war, 1966 to 70. I was in Nigeria in the seventies when universal primary education, free for all was lauded. Now is related that that ideal is no more.
    Several chapters tell of the corruption at all levels of society, an all pervasive rot. in military, police and particularly politics. The politics are explained from the local level up. All is corrupt patronage with, in the north, strong currents to promote and purify things Islamic, the shari'a.
   Te third part of the book is the rise of Boko Haram and the conflict it brings. There are horrifying stories of brutality from both sides. One is left at the end wondering what is  BH. Is it basically Islamic or is that a mere front for political manipulation. Walker explains the nature of news in Nigeria and why the truth is hidden. The failure of the military is very apparent. The only effective group against BH seem to have been South African mercenaries who could use trackers in the bush and a helicopter above to cut off insurgents. One item though I categorically dismiss as fabrication is reference to a You Tube clip purporting to be of Christian Beroms feasting on the flesh of Muslims.I lived among the Berom. Only some few tribes have a cannibal past by reputation and the Berom was not one of them.
The book does not end on an optimistic note. Buhari has done better than Jonathan but the task is not over. If  far links develop with the likes of IS and worldwide Islamism, the future is not bright.  Well written but the subject is not for enjoyment.

4. ESV Study Bible [Edited by Crossway Bibles] 

This has been my Bible in daily use since my wife bought it for me, Christmas 2010. I have completed my seventh annual reading. Previously I used NIV, RSV and KJV going back to childhood.  I went to ESV when our church moved from NIV. It is a more accurate, literal translation bit may not read publicly as well as NIV. The notse are reformed and evangelical. This was my seventh reading the whole text but in the seven years I have completed three more readings of the New Testament and 57 more the Psalms. The pattern was originally form M'Cheynes scheme but I have developed it over the years, especially more Psalms.

5. Ravenspur: Rise of the Tudors (The Wars of the Roses) by Conn Iggulden

Iggulden is among the most talented writers of historical fiction. This is his concluding account of the Wars of the Roses, We go through Henry VI, Edward V restored then up to the demise of Richard III who seems to attract the admiration of the author albeit he was in someway responsible for the demise of the princes in the tower. Richard is portrayed as brave and unscrupulous but no hunchback. But this is outstanding writing. It is history told like the thriller genre.

6. Jericho's War by Gerald Seymour 

My favourite thriller writer is back to top form. Set in Yemen, this is a rather long book and slow at times. Seymour does not do a great deal of his usual plotting where very disparate threads in the story are eventually knitted together. Here only one strand seems distant. An experienced M16 man on the ground with two ex SAS snipers sent to take out two high value targets with the aid of an English recruit to Al Quaeeda who has been turned, a female archaeologist is a reluctant courier to an eccentric M16 man in the gulf, Jericho. I do not want to give spoilers but I question the likelihood of the bomb plot and the final drone attack. Despite my foreboding there is a surprising happy ending - unless you are a terrorist.

7. Talking Points: Transgender by Vaughan Roberts 

An excellent Christian introduction to this vexed subject. Roberts shows that contemporary views are part of human autonomy which rejects any external standard. It is a logical progress of Enlightenment thinking. You can be whatever you want to be. Biology is no bar. Roberts then shows that the fall, sin , has adversely affected our minds, bodies and hearts. We are all affected. He then urges a compassionate approach to those identifying as  trangendered on a personal or church level but a resolute opposition to any LBBT political agent. Roberts counsel is all the more relevant as he confesses to being a same sex attracted man committed to celibacy.

8. The Law of Promise by William J U Philip, P T Media

This booklet from Proclamation Trust concerns the way God's law functions. Law shows the right response to the covenant God and can only be understood in terms of God's self revelation and covenant relationship. Law requires a relationship with God. It promises more to come, fulfillment in Christ. One niggle. I am not happy with headings like, 'A fuller revelation', "A fuller response'. Full is a superlative. It is complete. Fuller is not appropriate here. In conclusion we are introduced to the law as a trusted friend to be loved as we travel onward to glory.

9.  Topical concordance to Quran by A Whitehouse 

My English edition was published in 1981. 1956 was the Arabic original. Brief and incomplete but better than nothing to help you round the rambling lack of sequence that is the Quran. So of some help finding subjects. Poor of people .

10. Churchill, A Study In Failure by Robert Rhodes James 

A comprehensive survey of the middle years of a very complex man. It starts with his entry into parliament, age 26. His character and gifts are examined. He was not popular politically force for he committed the cardinal sin of crossing floor of the house. Conservative to Liberal and back again. In a personal levelhe could be very popular. He had to work very hard as a public speaker.All speeches were meticulously prepared. He wasn't natural orator. Rose to home secretary and first lord of the admiralty only to crash over the Dardanelles campaign for which he carried the can. After service on the Western Front, Minister of Munitions then secretary of state for war, then for colonies. Chancellor of the Exchequer. Advocated return to the gold standard against much advice. Enjoyed a leading role breaking the 1926 General Strike. Next big mistake, opposing reforming the government of India and advising Edward VIII to resists ministers over his marriage.  Out of government until 1939. Spends his years on the backbencher urging the need to rearm and prepare to confront a militaristic Germany. His bipolar personality is discussed.He had few close friends. His moral probity is unquestioned. This is right sexually but he nearly went bankrupt several times only to be bailed out by wealthy friends. He was an inveterate frequenter of casinos and managed while chancellor to manipulte taxation rules in his own favour as an author. These financial failings are not mentioned. What we do have, as well as biography, is a political history of the first third of the 20th century. Quotes to sum him up, If you're going through hell, keep going. ---Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965). Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never- in nothing great or small, large or petty-never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Winston Churchill 1941--Harrow School. Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. - Winston Churchill

11.Vintage Muggeridge: Religion and Society by Malcolm Muggeridge

Copyright in USA 1981, published in UK 1985, my copy is signed and dated by the author at his home, 6 Aug 1986. I was in Robertsbridge to spend a week as locum pharmacist for my friend the shop owner. He had told Muggeridge that I was looking forward to greeting him as a customer. To mu surprise he invited me and the family to his home for tea. I was able to put to him some of the questions in this book talks, essays and interviews. In particular I has a much more succinct reply when asking why the RC church. His one word reply, abortion. In line with many tributes to and quotes from Solzhenitsyn  in the book, when I asked Muggeridge for the greatest personhe  had met in a lifetime of journalism and meeting ll the great and the good, Solzhenitsyn  was his choice. This book is a delight for any Christian, In some respects Muggeridge bore the mantle of Lewis as foremost lay apologist of his time. He was an even greater master of the pithy phrase. 'Whenever mortal men try to live without God, they  infallibly succumb to megalomania or erotomania or both: the raised fist or the raised phthallus, Nietzsche or D H Lawrence.' His resignation speech as rector of Edinburgh university is a classic and the consequential failure of the Roman Catholics in Scotland to support him over free contaception for students tells much about the modern world which has moved to new ills since the publication of the first address here in 1967. But this book brings out the warm, loving character of an old man facing death as a welcome friend. 

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