Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Books read in August (13)

1. Jack Charlton - The Autobiography
Big Jack, Leeds and England legend. 629 league appearances for Leeds, a record unlikely to be broken as the days of one club players have gone. From poverty in a famous football family to becoming world famous, Jack tells a fascinating story, particularly in relation to his younger brother, Bobby. Bobby had the natural talent. Jack was the grafter. How they grew up and drifted apart is a fascinating read. Also the memories of the great managers, Revie and Ramsey.
What I was surprised to learn was Jack's assessment of the hard men, Hunter, Tommy Smith et al as clean players and the likes of Giles as dirty.
Fascinating to read about the technique Jack pioneered of getting in the way of the goalie at corners.
A man's man. A blunt Geordie. Great footballer.

2 The Cube and the Cathedral - George Weigel
Weigel is an American Roman Catholic theologian who has the gift of being a compelling author. He is very readable. He gives a penetrating analysis of the European decline into secularism. How, he asks, can the EU produce a proposed constitution that ignores European Christian culture, jumping from the classical world to the Enlightenment as if nothing significant happened between them.
He describes a Europe facing a demographic and therefore economic and political crisis. This will result from a negative birthrate, except in non-indigenous, especially Muslim populations.
His sources though appear to ignore Protestant scholarship, especially the Reformed contribution of Kuyper and his heirs in combating revolutionary secularism.
The diagnosis is acute, but the treatment is, I fear, not the one that will work. He wants a return to the Roman Catholic Church and Thomist thought. It is not a surprise then, that he ignores the long history of Roman Catholic opposition to political pluralism. He wants to see Europe converted to Christianity again, but his Christianity seems to centre more on the Pope than on the gospel of grace. However this book is a valuable call for Christian re-entry into the public square and a warning against secularism and its consequences.

I enjoyed this book. it is a good read and I believe a timely warning.

Some years ago i read a book which said only three faiths had an eschatology of victory so were in contention for world domination. They were Christianity, Islam and Marxism. (The author discounted those varieties of Christianity with a pessimistic eschatology as pietistic and not interested in the world beyond preaching the gospel). Now that Marxism is gone as a serious contender, the future is between Christianity and Islam. This though is very different IMO than the conflict between the secular , the decadent West and Islam. Both the author reviewed and I, together with zealous Muslims are appalled by the decadent, secular West.
(BTW I use secular in the sense of godless or not influenced by religion, not in the sense that there is in all life, including that of the believer, a dualism of secular and religious)

3. The Ultimate Book of Useless Information - Noel Botham

Great fun and not really what its title says. It will be of great use for compilers of trivia quizzes. Here you find tha answer to which is the only London tube station not to contain any of the letters in "mackerel".
However there are factual errors. e.g. Boston is not the only place where a plane flies over a car over a train over a boat. Brunel's Three Bridges, Southall, was there long before Boston's bridge.

4. Among God's Giants - J I Packer

A great book on the Puritan vision of the Christian life. Packer is a good writer and a real expert on his subject, especially on Baxter, the subject of his doctoral research. Here we learn why the Puritans were spiritual giants. A book to challenge contemporary evangelical pygmies.

5. The Cross Centered Life - C J Mahaney

A short but very valuable and practical book on keeping the cross, the centre of the gospel of grace, at the centre of the Christian's life.

6. The Puritan family - Edmund S Morgan

This is one of a very select group of books, those I have read twice. How Puritan society was structured in 17th century New England. Innovative people, the Puritans, who introduced civil marriage and legal divorce. Teenagers were sent to other families for discipline through the difficult years. Morgan's big criticism is that the Puritans only really evangelised in the family and tried to breed a covenant people. A valuable work describing how godly people sought to construct a godly society.

7. The Mission - Dana Priest

A reporter wries on the American military and its involvment in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Colombia, Indonesia and the Balkans. Tensions between the military and the politicians are chronicled as well as the work of ordinary soldiers. A good insight into how hard it is to be the world's policemen.

8. Breaking the Code - Gyles Brandreth

An inside view of the Major government from a new MP who became a whip. An entertaining read and who's who of political Britain before New Labour. Brandreth appears to have been the complete political pragmatist with no principle other than political advancement through party loyalty. Witty, but spoilt by too much sexual innuendo.

9. The Search for Significance - Robert S McGee.

"We can build our self-worth on our ability to pleae others, or on the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ". These words on the cover sum up the message of this excellent practical book This is practical Christian cognitive therapy with a work book included. I would recommend it to all Christians, especilly those troubled by anxiety, depression or other such problems.

10. Creating a Christian Worldview - Peter S Haslam.

This is an exposition for the contemporary world of Abraham Kuyper's Princeton lectures on Calvinism at the end of the 19th century together with a biographical introduction to the great Abraham.

11. Abraham Kuyper a Centennial Reader - edited by James D Bratt.

Writings from Kuyper from 1869 to 1904. Sections are Church and Theology, Politics and Society, Culture and Education. Read the Netherland's great renaissance man first hand.

12. A History of Evangelicalism, Volume 1, The Rise of Evangelicalism, The age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys - Mark A, Noll

This is the most heart warming book I have read in some time. It is an academic history of the age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys, 1730s - 1790s, but it is not a book that is written from the naturalists chair. Noll believes the Holy Spirit was at work in this great period of revival in the English speaking world. Here is its history brought to life, Whitfied in his early twenties preaching New Birth to thousands, even tens of thousands at a time in Boston and Cambuslang. It is an English speaking world story except that it starts with the influence of the Moravians, continental pietists who were at the time without equal in their missionary endeavours, especially among black slaves in the Americas.
Noll gives us the historic context but not as much of the social setting as one finds in "England before and after Wesley". I would have liked to have known more about evangelicals and the American War of Independence.
Evangelicals are defined in short as those who were more concerned to preach the gospel of grace, to see new birth than to see conformity to established church structures. They were concerned for the social implications of the gospel but it was not their primary focus. That was on people being brought to new life in Christ through the gospel.
Strengths and weaknesses of the major figures are given though I would have like to have seen mention of Wesley being the first evangelical Arminian in the English speaking world. One learns more of his theological inconsistencies form Roy Hattersley.

13. A Twentieth Century Testimony - Malcolm Muggeridge

In the mid 80s I did a locum week in the Robertsbridge pharmacy where Mug was a customer. The owner told him of my interest in his work and to my great suprise when Mug came in the shop he invited the whole family to tea with him and Kitty. So to see their home pictured here brings back good memories.
It is a delightfully photograhed testimony to a life changed by faith in Christ. Not the place to find a really clear gospel presentation, but a delightful momento of a great communicator and Christian.