Friday, February 01, 2019

Books read February 2019

1. Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee  (Author)

I was impressed by Pachinko for its insight into two cultures, Korean and Japanese, and its Christian themes. In the her first novel we have the same but this time it is Korean and American cultures. One learns a lot about Koreans and their culture, their success material and their Christianity. Korean Presbyterianism is at the heart of this society. Casey Han reads her Bible daily writing down a daily verse yet she has a life far removed from Christian sexual moral standards. She is an interesting self-willed character educated at Princeton so at home with educated wealthy Americans as well as with rich and poor Koreans.
   The story starts with her leaving home after an altercation with her father. He is an elder in the church but does not seem to have a strong personal faith and his unforgiving spirit is unworthy of a church elder. Easy would live with her American boyfriend who she is too ashamed to introduce to her family but her relationship suffers a terrible shock. The book does have some surprises and tests.
   Casey seems to be an irresponsible materialist maxing out her credit cards. She eventually settles with an equally irresponsible partner, a Korean with a gambling problem.
    Korean social customs are movingly portrayed but a glossy of Koran words would have been helpful especially so one could appreciate the flavours of the food. I love Korean food but can name nothing except kimchi.
    While the sacred, church going is a mainstay of life' the amount of sex in the book is at times shocking and it is explicitly portrayed at times. The book does not preach but it does teach about the consequences of infidelity - unwanted pregnancy and STDs.  One rarely finds a modern novel explicit on sin, prayer and the gospel. 

2. A way of seeing by Edith Schaeffer  (Author)

Edith rightly states the being brief is not her talent. Her prolixity in other books and prayer letters left me wishing she employed a capable editor. But here she was writing short articles for publication so he verbosity is not a problem. These pieces give an encouragement for further reflection. They would be fine to read for family devotions. A spiritual, insightful lady.

3. Christianity and Islam under Colonialism in Northern Nigeria - Jan H Boer

I have Boer's thesis and summary book which deal with the relationship of the Sudan United Mission to the British colonial regime in Northern Nigeria, 1092 -60. This short booklet goes into more detail. He believes Lugard was not the enemy of missions. He would have tolerated them. But his successors and underlings often were much more antagonistic and Kept missions out of the north in order to pursue peaceful indirect rule through the Muslim emirs. He shows how early missionaries, particularly the pioneer Bingham of SIM were forceful in expressing their anger at colonial policy.

4. L'Abri by Edith Schaeffer  (Author), Deirdre Ducker (Illustrator)

This was first published in 1969, the year I found English L'Abri and became part of the church founded there that year. Deirdre the illustrator was also a founding member of the congregation and her drawing of the gate to the L'Abri house withe two Schaeffer grandchildren brings back memories. Here is related how the Schaeffer's work started in Switzerland.  There is no index which would have been helpful to include.

5. True Spirituality by Francis A Schaeffer  (Author)

Schaeffer wrote that this book should have been published prior to his other books for without it they would not have been written. He had endured a seminal spiritual crisis and this work was the result.  He tells how there can be freedom n this present life from the bonds of sin and the results of the bonds of sin. There can in Christ be freedom from conscience, evil thoughts, psychological problems and alienation from others. There can be true love and communication. A practical work on true sanctification.

6. Everybody Can Know by Francis and Edith Schaffer (Author)

I am a huge fan of the Schaeffer's but I have no personal enthusiasm for this book. The introduction says it is for all ages and may be read in a family. It has of course good biblical teaching presented in a down to earth manner but I was immediately put off by what I regard as the silliest opening line, - 'Close your eyes tightly". No good for the individual reader. Also the chapter on Luke 4  refers to Jesus stopping reading Isaiah at a comma. There is no punctuation in the Hebrew. So while I am sure this may be read with profit, it is does not grip me. The illustrations by Franky do not seem to add to the understanding of the text and only seem to be there to promote the author's son's artistic endeavours.

7. The God Who Is There. Speaking Historic Christianity Into The Twentieth Century. by Francis Schaeffer (Author)

Mine is the first British edition, 1968. This was the second book after Escape from Reason. I found it most helpful then. An expanded edition dealing with developments in the last half century would make this seminal work even more valuable. FAS described the intellectual and cultural climate of the second half of the last century. He looked at philosophy, art, general culture in the path to despair. He looked at how developments in theology reflected this. He showed how historic Christianity is different and speaks to the contemporary world. He called for personal and corporate witness , orthopraxy as well as orthodoxy.

8. Ash Heap Lives by Francis A. Schaeffer (Author)

I started listening to Schaeffer's sermons on the old reel to tell seven inch tapes around 1967 when studying theology and missions. I was greatly helped in contemporary understanding for apologetics and found his sermons challenging. Then in 1969 I heard him preach at the particularisation of our church in Ealing, in the then L'Abri house there. So I am a fan of FAS's preaching. My only criticisms of this volume are that it lacks an index and any indication of where and when the sermons were first preached. 

9. He Is There and He Is Not Silent by Schaeffer Francis A

Epistemology is not an easy topic so the this the third volume in FAS's initial trilogy is harder going than the predecessors but equally worthwhile. Schaeffer deals with the metaphysical necessity., the being of God. He looks at why a proper epistiemolgy is need as a moral basis for the universe.  God in the high order of trinity with perfect love and communication before the world was made is the answer. I have never found it better stated than FAS's treatment. The book lacks an index. Also revision in the light of postmodernism would be helpful.

10.Escape from Reason byFrancis A. Schaeffer

Mine is the first edition March 1968. FAS's first work. 'Every generation of Christians has this problem
 of learning to speak meaningfully to its own age. It cannot be solved without an understanding of the
 changing existential situation which it faces. If we are to communicate the Christian faith effectively,
 therefore, we must know and understand the thought forms of our generation.'-So FAS wrote in his
 introduction. He then expounded on nature and grace, the leap of secular existentialism, the upper
 storey, rationality and faith.  His first and most influential book. No system of apologetics but the
 basis on on laying on the foundations of Van Til's presuppositialism.

11. The Church at the End of the 20th Century by Francis A. Schaeffer  (Author)

This was FAS's fourth book. He considers the student revolution. Moving to the church he sees it as being in a dying culture. In this respect I and FAS was too western centred. The southern church is only just starting.. But this is in line with his pessimistic premillennialism. He teaches on form and freedom in the church and how we must practice true community. His appendices on spiritual adultery s profound. The mark of the Christian is widely quoted. An index would be an improvement.

12. Tombland (The Shardlake series) by C. J. Sansom  (Author)

One of the longest novels I have read and the best historical one of those set in England. A gripping page turner of epic proportions about a forgotten event in the time of Edward VI. Shardlake is now in his forties. I hope he lives to give us novels in the time of the next two Tudor queens.I leant a lot about the time and liked how it had an accurate treatment of the effects of Cranmer's reforms in the church. I do wonder if there is too much of the author in Shardlake. He is critical of the established order in society, he seems agnostic with no strong faith, and he dislikes blood sports and the influence of Calvin..

13. Back to Freedom and Dignity by Francis A. Schaeffer  (Author)

The twelfth publication by FAS. He critiques Monod's chance evolutionism and Skinner's deterministic behaviourism. Lacks an index.

14. Two contents: Two realities - Francis A Schaeffer

This was FAS's 1974 address to the Laussane International Congress on World Evangelisation. Mine is the first edition published that year. FAS taught the first content needed is sound doctrine, orthodoxy. The second content is honest answers to honest questions. His ability to do this was what attracted young people to come to L'Abri. He called for the reality of true spirituality. His book by this title teaches it well. The second reality is the beauty of human relationships. he personally exemplified teaching the truth in love, living it out : orthopraxis. 

15. Pollution and the death of man by Francis A Schaeffer  (Author)

Mine is the 1970 first edition of this FAS's fifth book. He was ahead of his time twih a Christian view of ecology at a time when green environmental issues were not in the news. It lacks an index.

16. The New Super-Spirituality by Francis A. Schaeffer  (Author)

FAS looks at the early seventies after the Free Speech movement and New Left political activism and concusses that the younger generation have settled for personal peace and affluence, drugs, promiscuity and hedonism. They are attracted to transcendental mysticism. This became the New Age movement. The churches have failed to give a proper intellectual response. An unloving, legalistic orthodoxy has had little appreciation of art and culture. The new Pentecostalism has majored on experience. He cliques an ascetic legalistic  cult group The Children of God who seem to have been lost in the last forty years. He says Christians are often anti-intellectual. He calls Christians to engage their minds and also to engage with the modern culture around.


A 1974 guide to FAS's trilogy which introduces his thought and terminology. This would be helpful to any study group. When he wrote this he has published nineteen books as well as many taped lectures and sermons totalling about 1300-1400 hours. He tells how he came to write and the order of his publications.

18. No Final Conflict by Francis A. Schaeffer  (Author)

In this 1975 work FAS says the Bible is without error in all that it affirms whether in the areas of theology, history or science. He saw the doctrine of Scripture as the critical area for evangelicalism. He taught that Scripture os Gd verbally giving men propositional truth touching history and the cosmos not merely religion. 

19. John Ploughman's Talk; Or Plain Advice For Plain People - C H Spurgeon

Mine is not dated but it is by Passmore and Alabaster, 160,000 printed. It is from after 1871. Pithy lectures to the ordinary working manor woman, stating with those not working, the idle. A master of the language with vivid word pictures. The one talk to preachers on their dress reflects his own prejudice against not only priestly garb but the academic too. Not even a plain Geneva gown.

20 . Against the stream by David W. Smith (Author)

The author has gone from pastor to missionary in Nigeria to academic missiologist. Much of this book comes from his lectures in Nigeria shortly after 9/11. It is an insightful study of missiology committed to future mission in a changing world.Not the easiest or most gripping of reads and more for the theologian than the ordinary Christian. One assertion I found hard to believe and it requires a citation. "In a 10 year period at the end of the 18th century over 300,000 African slaves passed through the port of Liverpool en route to the Americas" Surely the leg of the triangular trade transporting slaves did not do via England?

21. A Disruptive Generosity: Stories of Transforming Cities through Strategic Giving by Mac Pier (Author)

This is mainly about how rich Americans have aided mission. There are accounts from Asia and South Africa but only one from England. Encouraging stories but not exactly gripping or motivating for this British reader.

22. A Guide to Commentaries by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Author)

Commentaries published as late as 1875 listed by Spurgeon from his 'Commenting and Commentaries'. It whets the appetite for the full volume where the books are evaluated not merely listed. Listed by author. Indexed by Bible books. Publishers listed as in 1968.

23. The Salt-Cellars - Being a Collection of Proverbs Together with Homely Notes Thereon Volume 2 M to Z - C H Spurgeon

Mine was published 1889 by Passmore and Alabaster.  remarkable collection of proverbs and quaint sayings with notes from Spurgeon. Some as well known proverbs, some were new to me. I wonder if CHS did this all by himself or did he have helpers. It is in alphabetical order from M to Z. I have not seen an earlier volume.

24. Spurgeon and the Church of England by Iain Murray (Author)

This is a chapter from Murray's 'The Forgotten Spurgon' which I read as a young Christian introducing me to 'the Prince of Preachers'. I note this was published the year Lloyd-Jones called for evangelicals to leave their mixed denominations. This was a repeat of CHS's call over a century before. CHS was younger and more intemperate, appalled by the Oxford movement which he saw as a path to Rome. Interesting to see that CHS was raised in a village where the established church and the dissenters had good relations. 

25. The Soul-Winner: Or How to Lead Sinners to the Saviour by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Author)

Mine is by Passmore and Alabaster, 1895. Spurgeon on evangelism. The bulk of this are lectures to his students at the Pastors College.

26. Our Own Hymn-book: A Collection Of Psalms And Hymns, Compiled By C.h. Spurgeon 

Mine is by Passmore and Alabaster 1871. From 1866 CHS used this book in worship.1130 psalms and hymns. Five blessings and thanks for grace at meals.

27. An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (Author)

Published in 1965 this was one of the Banner's early printings and it introduces Iaian Murray the publisher as an accomplished author of church history. The introduction is with the price of the book. From it I learnt that if my maternal grandfather had been born a generation earlier he could have gone to Spurgeon's College and not had to do his pastoral training while a ploughman supervised by the local Primitive Methodist minister. Foe CHS would train any man with a proven call to preach no matter how basic his education. Murray writes that 'Since Spurgeon's day there has not been a college in England which has upheld his views which he advanced on theological training'. Thankfully less than fifty years after that was penned, London Theological Seminary is I believe, following CHS's footsteps. The talks here by CHS were addresses to ministers and his students.

28. On Call by Valerie M. Inchley (Author)

I have known the author since she did her theological training as a fellow student with my wife. Her account of her childhood and youth rang many bells but her petrol at 2/6 a gallon is the sixties is a mistake. I pumped petrol at 19/10 for four star. Her going to Nepal by sea and rail in 1970 was far more of an adventure than our flying to Nigeria that year. Few missionaries are life long in service. For us, long term was open ended, short term three years. Now hardly anyone does more than a few years and short term is a vacation trip. So Val with her life time work richly deserved her OBE. Her life style, no running water or electricity rang many bells as did the medical work, insects and transport though Nigeria did have fewer mountains and more roads. I had a different approach to furlough as I enjoyed travelling and speaking. This is a deeply moving account of how the doctor moved to Bible teaching and then ministry to the Nepalese diaspora. It is a book rich with the history and b cult  of the country of Nepal and its church. It is missionary autobiography warts and all. Perhaps the only thing missing is her thoughts on singleness.

29. Grace triumphant: A series of sermons by C. H Spurgeon (Author)

Published in 1904 by the Religious tract  Society these were not among fifteen earlier unpublished sermons of CHS.

30. Charles Haddon Spurgeon by James J. Ellis

Mine is the hardback published by James Nisbet, undated. The author was one of his Pastors College students. It looks like this was published shortly after CHS died in 1892. A precocious, quick wide youth. pastor in rural Cambridgeshire at 17. At 19 he was called to London and took the city by storm. His sense of humour was such he cheered himself up with his collection of cartoons satirising him. A 7000 seat building was erected to house the congregations drawn to his preaching.  He pioneered training of pastors and evangelists, founded an orphanage and was a quiet philanthropist. The book is very much of its age in style, anecdotal and sometimes lacking historical detail. The controversies are there but not at length. His smoking is defended whereas many modern biographies are silent.

31.Last Days According To Jesus, The by R. Sproul (Author)

A good presentation advocating a moderate preterism. It is a good book on different aspects of eschatology. My one criticism is that he never refers to Kik' on Matthew 24, the book which convinced me of a preterits position and of the imminence of the parousia. Once you get that there are no signs to be fulfilled. Christ may come today. You need not have an expectation of the conversion of ethnic Israel.

32. The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward  (Author)

My copy has a personal dedication, a gift from the author. I love her Derbyshire setting which comes across so well. A captivating story which keeps one puzzled to the surprising ending.

33. Knowing Christ by Mark Jones  (Author)

One of the warmest theological books I have read. It brings you closer to Christ in short easy chapters. Simple enough for any Christian it is replete with quotations from the Puritans and other giants. The only shortcoming I noted was on Son of God. No mention that the basic idea is likeness to  a father, not the Muslim idea that it implies sexual generation.. But an excellent volume that could well be used for devotions and meditation.

34. What Is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics by R. C. Sproul  (Author)

As usual, Sproul writes with clarity and simplicity. A book to educate any Christian on the basics of theology in the Reformed tradition concentrating on what is theology, its biblical basis and the five points of Calvinism. My only criticism is that Reformed theology is so much more than Calvinism and involves a world and life view, the gospel affecting all of life. That is omitted.

35. D Martyn Lloyd-Jones Letters 1919-1981 by D. M. Lloyd-Jones (Author)

One learns more about the Doctor as man, son, husband, father pastor and evangelical leader. Here is why he left the Chapel and why they failed to get a first rate Scot in his place. Living in Ealing it is helpful to read where the Doctor lived and when and the fact that a V2 rocket falling on Hayes shook his West Ealing home.

36. Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer: Spiritual Reality in the Personal Christian Life by Francis A. Schaeffer  (Author), Lane T. Dennis  (Editor, Introduction)

One gets a real feel for FAS as a person and pastor from these letters. They are in three parts. In the first, the reawakening of spiritual reality, there is something of a spiritual autobiography. We have his spiritual struggles in his Christian life and with his separatist denomination. He leaves the security of a denominational mission and L'Abri is established in with. The spiritual reality in daily living goes on from 1953. Good pastoral council is given emphasising orthodox belief resulting in holiness and love.  Finally spiritual reality in relationships deals with contemporary sexuality. I would concur with all his loving counsel except FAS limits the grounds for divorce to the two specified in the Westminster Standards, infidelity and desertion.I believe this treats the Ne Testament like case law and does not sympathetically deal with other contemporary grounds for divorce,


Billy Bray was a drunken Cornish tin miner who became a great preacher for the Bible Christians who looked to Wesley for their origins but thought the Wesleyans too formal and unemotional. Bray sang, shouted and danced to the glory of God and saw this happens as a sign of new birth. He believed in a second blissing of sanctification. His theology was from Wesley, not Reformed, but there is no doubting the genuine of his spirituality. Today he would have been among the charismatics. The Primitive Methodists were likewise more exuberant than the staid Wesleyans. Bray was a supernaturalist. God spoke to him and guided him in remarkable ways. But one should not derive theology from experience so though one may admire Bray's teetotalism and discarding his pipe, one sees him as fleeing idols not establishing laws for Christians. He saw God answer prayers for healing but claimed no special gift nor did he describe any tongues speaking though he saw many overcome by the Spirit. A man of great and practical faith building three chapels without any funds to hand. he had good relations with many Quakers and e=received much practical help from them. Not remarkable is his friendship with the Anglo-Catholic vicar Haslam who was remarkably converted while he preached in his parish church. There is a very informative chapter on the arduous tin mining at the time. A well researched book.

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