Friday, February 03, 2017

Books read in February 2017

1. The Whistler - John Grisham. 

I have read all of Grisham's adult fiction. His is one of my top two thriller writers and here he is back on top form after a couple of books which were slightly below par by his high standards. Here is a great thrilling mystery about a secretive whistleblower exposing a corrupt judge in league with gangsters whose crimes go all the way up to murder. There is real tension and surprise. Read and enjoy.

2. Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now byAyaan Hirsi Ali

Ayan Hirsi Ali gets better with each volume.  She shows an in depth understanding Islam, Christianity and its Reformation and the West. She exposes the lie of Islam as the religion of peace which our politicians and liberal elites have been paroting for years. They are frightened to confront the true nature of Islam. AHA is not. She helpfully divides the Muslim world into three parts. The majority she calls the Meccan Muslims are peaceful, maybe traditional or modern,  some pious, some not.  OTOH the Medinan Muslims are the Islamists, the violent minority who want the jihad of ISIS and the suicide bomber. She shows this strand has always been there ever since Mohammed wrote his warlike verses form Medina. Her hope is in the last group, the smallest one, people like her who want to see a reformed Islam. She has five pillars for he reformed Islam, reform Mohammed's and the Quran's infallible status, move to invest in life now not in the next life, reform Shari'a, reform the empowering of individuals and families to enforce their views of right and wrong, reform the imperative of jihad. She has the practical suggestion for doing this, the same tactic that worked against the Soviets, subversive literature. However, my view is the subversive literature needed is not merely about Western freedoms. That could be counter productive. What is needed is Christian literature which exposes the false claims of Mohammed and promotes the gospel Of Jesus. This battle is no mere ideology but a spiritual battle.Islam isomer of an evil empire than the Soviet's. Secular ideology or military might will not defeat it, only a true spiritual power. AHA is surprisingly optimistic. On her atheism I cannot be optimistic, but long term, the battle is the Lord's. Finally, I would nominate AHA for the Nobel Peace Price. She is far more worthy than Obama and has contributed more than brave Mulala.

3. Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions about the World's Fastest-Growing Faith by Robert Spencer 

Before I read this I wondered what the author had done to be banned by Theresa May, the then home secretary, banned from the UK for several years.There is nothing in this book to warrant a ban unless truth telling is now prohibited. Spencer was banned because he was coming to address the EDL.  If like Wilders he had been coming to address the House of Lords he would have been granted entry. After all Wilders is far more offensive for he would ban the Koran altogether. No, Spencer is a Christian with a much calmer approach. He starts by questioning the epithet, religion of peace and then goes on to compare Islam and Christianity on beliefs, ethics, moral values, and human rights. He asks if Islam is compatible with liberal democracy, secularism and pluralism. Can science and culture flourish under Islam? Does Islam tolerate dissenting minorities? Has the West nothing to fear from Islam? This last chapter starts with these words. ' There are not two but three certainties in human affairs, death, taxes and jihad. '  As long as there is Islam, so long will the world have conflict. Religion of peace? Yes, but only where it rules.

3. This Was a Man (The Clifton Chronicles) by Jeffrey Archer 

The last of the seven Clifton Chronicles set in the years 1978 to 1992, once again against the background of the great political events of the years. Once again chapters focus on different members of the family and on the scheming Lady Fenwick. Archer is probably our greatest story teller. He wins no Booker prizes but I have never found Booker listed books to be as readable as Archer. I look forward to his next work. BTW, if you do not read the chronicles in order it is hard to understand some plots and characters.

4. SASRA at the Somme by William Ransley (Author), Shona Wilkie (Author, Editor)

Over the past three years I have read a number of books on the FirstWorld War. This one is unique. The Somme diaries of William (Old Bill) Ransley who left the army in 1889 and became an Army Scripture Reader in SASRA, the Army Scripture Readers' Society. This charitable society still ministers to the spiritual needs of service personnel with the approval of the official chaplaincy of which they are not a part. In the first war they were not allowed to go to the front but ministered to the spiritual needs of the wounded and dying brought back from the front. Some harrowing stories. Some wonderful testimonies of God's grace. Stories of care for wounded Germans as well as the brutality of killing without mercy. But in the midst of so much suffering we see al witness to the power of prayer and of the gospel. A short, encouraging at times horrifying read.

5. Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) Robert Spencer 

Spencer sounds a clear warning as to the true nature of Islam from its texts and history. Western people, politicians and media have been hoodwinked. Though most Muslims, at least in the West, are peaceful citizens, their religion in essence is one of war not peace. It must strive to conquer the world. One quote suffices, 'Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those (who say this) are witless Islam says kill all the unbelievers just s they would kill you all!' There is much more in this vein from Ayatollah Khomeini, he who pronounced the death fatwa on Salman Rushdie. Read here the true agenda of Islam, of its clear and present danger. Also here are the reasons that Europeans need not be so ashamed of the Crusades

6. No Adam, No Gospel by Jr. Richard B. Gaffin 

Gaffin clearly demonstrates from Scripture that if there was no historic Adam, then the nature of sin, its origin and solution. salvation in Christ are all denied. This capitulation to evolutionary theory is but a rehash of the old Scripture denying theological liberalism, all too common since the 19th century. Gaffin does not deal with scientific or genetic objection to a single source of humanity. He is a theologian and exegete.

7. What Is a Healthy Church? (9marks) by Mark Dever 

Dever is a gifted communicator, pastor of a large Washington DC baptist church. This is a book for ordinary Christians as well as leaders. It is practical telling the reader why he should join a church and be a committed member but also what to do if thinking of leaving a church and finding a good church. His marks of a healthy church are expository preaching, biblical theology and biblical understanding of the gospel/. Here I would want to add orthopraxis, a healthy welcoming, inclusive body life He then lists the following important marks of a healthy church. All these are preceded by Biblical: Understanding conversion, evangelism and membership. Then church discipline, discipleship, growth and leadership. Dever seems to be a baptist with reformed theology. His final appendix, a church covenant is excellent.

8. A Sad Departure: Why We Could Not Stay in the Church of Scotland by David J Randall (Author)

The title is a deliberate ambiguity. The Church of Scotland has sadly departed from Scriptural teaching and as result, sad to say, ministers and members have as a result departed from her. David Randall starts by putting the increasing secularism of society as a root cause of the C of S conforming to the world rather than standing for transformation of the national life as it once did. He delineates the history of General Assemblies over recent years which have tried to make compromises between traditionalists who hold to the Scriptural rejection of homosexual relationships and the revisionists who want to accommodate active homosexuals among the ranks of its ministers. Traditionalists are evangelicals and they are not united over whether to stay in the C of S or to leave. Both viewpoints are explained. He then goes on to show that homosexuality is but the presenting issue. The real problem is does the church accept the authority of Scripture which never commends homosexuality. Then present day majority votes in the C of S show it no longer sees itself as bound by what the Bible teaches.  He gives a helpful chapter on historic church divisions, especially in Scotland, the Secession and Disruption of 1843. He explore what the future holds for the C of S with a rapidly declining membership and few in training for its ministry. Finally he gives us accounts of churches and ministers who have left. Numbers cannot be comprehensive but he lists 21 new congregations, most comprised of former C of S members. He identifies four as now part of The International Presbyterian Church, a denomination started by Francis Schaeffer in Switzerland with congregations in England and several European countries. Nine congregations are described which have joined the Free Church of Scotland, no doubt encouraged by the Free Church relaxing its rules on exclusive unaccompanied psalmody, . Two congregations are now in the United Free Church. One is with the Associated Presbytering Church and four congregations have either not yet decided on joining another Presbyterian grouping or seem to going forward with independency, a course of action which saddens this Presbyterian reviewer. Forty ministers are listed as having departed the C of S. This is a sad story of how theological liberalism and conformity to the world will ensure the decline of even a national church. It is also a story of people who have been strong in faith and sacrificed for their fidelity to gospel truth. 

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