Thursday, August 02, 2018

Books read in Aug 2018

1. HELP! How can I ever forgive? by Paul Williams (Author)

An excellent concise introduction to practical forgiveness. I found it weak on forgiving someone who sinned against you but has died. Otherwise very helpful and worth its price for the story of the most famous photograph of the Vietnam War; how the young girl seen fleeing with napalm burns forgave the pilot who dropped that bomb.

2. Help! Someone I Love Has Dementia by Jo Johnson (Author)

A brief booklet of practical help to someone suspecting they may have dementia, for relatives and friends of a patient so diagnosed and for their church officers.  A little more on power of attorney would be helpful and a listing for Dementia Concern. 

3. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller  (Author)

A very helpful book which I intend to read again slowly and seek to follow its advice. Keller is always first rate. Here he shows himself to be spiritual, learned and erudite. One of the best books on prayer and it references works by Bennett and Matthew Henry which I have found practically useful in prayer. The practical theology of post reformation prayer is most informative. Two things missing - an index and a treatment of the imprecatory prayers as in the Psalms. I believe there is a mistake on p.24. Surely prayer was eight times a day not seven?

4. Salvation: Full and Free in Christ (Banner Mini-Guides) by Ian Hamilton  (Author)

A fine introduction to a Reformed evangelical understanding of salvation suitable for anyone seeking truth to r for a young Christian. The chapter on union with Christ is particularly helpful. One omission. There is no application to salvation extending to all spheres of life. Being Christian should transform all of life but this is not addressed.

5.Every Mother's Nightmare: Abertillery in Mourning by Neil Milkins  (Author)

My second read of a  most detailed and well illustrated account of a a most infamous 1921 double murder. The second victim of 15 year old Harold Jones was my third cousin once removed. He killed her two weeks having been found not guilty of the murder of another young girl. He pleaded guilty to the second murder for a prolonged trial might have gone on until after he was 16. At 16 he would have been hanged. On release over 20 years later, Jones may well have killed others. The author's next book is on murders in West London which may yet be laid at Jones door. A chilling read about a young psychopath. I have now reread this having attended the memorial service the author organised for the public restoration of the girls' graves. He is to be commended for his research and diligence and I hope this fine book will soon be back in print.

6. Christian Interpretations of Genesis 1 (Christian Answers to Hard Questions) (Apologia) by Vern S. Poythress  (Author)

This for me scratches where I do not itch. It brings in esoteric theories but fails to deal with the big question, what does 'day' mean. Must it be 24 hours or not? It also seems to me to be too kind to 'science'. If no person was there to observe an event , whether it took place is not in the realm of science but history - unknown history. To assert anything depends on certain philosophic presuppositions. These are not investigated here. The question is, what are the limits of science? Surely the point of Genesis is to teach this world all comes from the God who was there in the beginning. What he made was good. Now it is messed up. The date it happened and the time it took are not shibboleths to be set up and divide opinion. On those, agnosticism may be an option.

7. Twentieth Century Dictionary of Christian Biography by James D. Douglas (Editor)

Published in 1995 so no records of deaths after that and one has to have lived in the 20th century to be included. So no figures who became important in the last two decades like N F Wright. Useful biographies and pretty comprehensive but where is Elizabeth II? Some entries appear somewhat quirky perhaps reflecting on the character of the biographers. Packer 'has an ironic attitude towards Anglican comprehensiveness., Paisley -'violently  opposed to Rome'. Surely only verbally. Rookmaaker's lifestyle seems to be disapproved of by his biographers. But nevertheless a useful reference book.

8. The Westminster Confession: : The Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, the Sum of Saving Knowledge, the Directory for Public Worship, with Associated Historical Documents by Westminster Divines (Author)

The publishers are to be commended for this new edition. It is comprehensive in terms of detailing the subsequent American variants for the Confession but also including the relevant ancillary documents like acts of parliament and general assembly authorising these documents as well as national covenants. One has The Sum of Saving Knowledge, Acknowledgement of Sins, directories for public and family worship and the form on Presbyterial Government sadly never adopted in England by the national church. All in all the theological documents are here well set in their historical context.

9. God in Our Midst by Martin Reith  (Author)

A holiday visit to Iona stimulated my interest in Celtic spirituality. This book has prayers and a few other brief portions from very diverse Scottish sources. It is good to read things from different Christian traditions if one has discernment as to what might not be acceptable like prayers to anyone else than the one Mediator. One certainly gets the flavour of a godliness situated among the islands and Highlands of Scotland. 

10. Voices from the Past: Volume 2 by Richard Rushing  (Author)

started with this as the first volume was unavailable. It is excellent and stimulating and fine for a daily additional devotional to one's regular bible reading. It is Puritan excellence. Two criticism though. No dates for the authors. Was watts a Puritan? Secondly, when I trained at All Nations fifty years ago we had godly lecturers but some were not reliable exegesis. What they said was soundly evangelical but it was blessed thoughts not exegesis. This is sometimes the case here. These meditations may be more hung on a text rather than derived by exegesis in context. So not examples of grammatical-historical exegesis but very good devotions.

11. Like The Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell by Simon Heffer  (Author)

Simply the best political biography I have read - and the longest. The best prime minister we never had. Professor at 25, private soldier to brigadier in WW2, politician who rose to cabinet rank but was sacked by Heath who like many others thought him a racist. He became out of office more popular than any other politician for he dared today what most people thought about the dangers of immigration. He was simply too principled to get to the top of the greasy pole. he was all about principle not political compromise. He probably won an election for heath who even on Powell's death could not find a good word about him. A towering intellect and keen fox hunter. An atheist turned Anglican and biblical textual critic. We shall not see his like again. This book reads like a thriller with many twists in the plot. And there are surprises. Why was this arch-conservative socially liberal over capital punishment and homosexuality?

12. Heroes of Our Faith: Inspiration and Strength for Daily Living by Patrick Sookhdeo (Author)

A daily devotional for the year based on martyrs' testimonies ancient and modern. The author initiated Barnabas Fund alerting Christians to the needs of the persecuted believers across the world. This book helps keep the suffering church in our prayers.

13.All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class by Tim Shipman  (Author)

This is a most informative and important book but why no index? It introduces many names then when one comes again you wonder, what was said about them before - and there is no index. A list of the characters in the drama with potted biographies would also enhance the book. These omissions led to me giving only four stars to an otherwise entrancing read. I learned a lot. Cameron and Osborne were at odds over hiding a referendum but they kept their divergence secret. Great insight into hw modern politics is all about the antics of the people behind the scenes. They are the experts but fallible. The front people are the politicians and one gains a lot of inside information on them here. I am amazed the Brexit happened as those for it were such a disunited shambles with too many big egos fighting one another for pre-eminence. I am confirmed in my view that sovereignty was the top issue not immigration or economics. But the experts behind the scenes for Brexit seemed to want to play down immigration. We do not seem to have moved from how Powell was criticised for saying what people thought but dare not say. We have too many immigrants for comfort and do not want more. Then and now the establishment favour immigration and Joe Public is not so sure. Farage would say it. The official leave campaign would not so he was not to be their leader. I was not surprised that the Remain did not like the BBC's balance and impartiality before the vote. Now there is no such thing and Remoan seems to be the BBC stance. But for once, that is during the campaign, the BBC seem to have got it right and refused to adjudicate the truth claims of the two sides. I think the book confirms my view that Corbyn will never be prime minister and that Boris is not fit to lead his party.The book is long. A shorter version would sell more copies.

14. The Death of Western Christianity by Patrick Sookhdeo  (Author)

 This is a timely and penetrating analysis of Western Christianity and modern culture. It is an informative wake up call to Christians to not be conformed to the spirit of the age. Western culture now means moral relativism ,atheism, post-modernism, hedonism, consumerism, materialism, individualism, globalisation, existentialism. indifference and cultural Marxism .  The church has been influenced  in its morality and materialism . Individual choice is supreme . Christian mission no longer involves commitment. Worship has become entertainment Christianity is considered in a post-truth and post-modern world. People choose to believe falsehoods. Lies are not challenged. The family is threatened by state interference in parenting. Society is being destroyed by the abolition of the family. Christianity is being marginalised. He gives many examples nationally.  Islam now gives people clear identity but all too often Christians no longer know what they believe. They cannot state their creeds. They fail to show the proper community that is necessary to be evangelistic. They fail to keep God's commandments and all too often downplay God's requirements. All in all he presents a pessimistic picture of Western Christianity and seems to see nothing but revival to cure it. This is a most stimulating and challenging book. One small criticism is that though it is well indexed and has a list of his sources and references there is no direct reference  by  footnotes telling you the origin of his quotations. This seems a regrettable omission.

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