Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book review: John Stott - a portrait by his friends

Product DetailsKoorong have finally sent my copy of "John Stott - a portrait by his friends", edited by Chris Wright.

What a treat!  Chris Wright has pulled together 35 personal accounts written by UncleJohn's friends over the years.  As always, others with greater insight and skill than I have written excellent reviews. 

Some dot point impressions from me!

  • The consistency and discipline of Stott's personal life have been incredible
  •  His committment to the centrality of the cross and the need to encounter Jesus have been unflagging
  • The sheer impact of a life totally dedicated to a cause (in his case Christ) is amazing
  • His love of birds and his genuine care and affection for young children make him human!
I loved this book but then, I am a great fan.  It is wonderful that this book was published for his 90th birthday.  Many will be inspired by the tributes his friends have written.  As Chris Wright wrote in the final chapter:

"When I find myself saying, 'I simply could not be like John in personal devotion and detailed regular prayer for so many friends', my heart answers, 'Why not?'  It is not that I could not, but that I do not.  So at the very least, the exemplary life of John Stott is a challenge, a question, a rebuke, an encouragement, an inspiration, all in one." 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Books I want to read

Here's a list of books that keep popping up in my surfing/reading that I want to read at some stage - listed here so (a) I don't forget them, and (b) I can get them at cheap prices as they become available.

More Than Matter?: Is There More to Life Than Molecules? - Keith Ward
God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? - David Lamb
The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission: Towards an Evangelical Political Theology (Theopolitical Visions) - David Fitch
The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind - Mark Noll ($27.95)
King's Cross - Tim Keller ($17.95)
The God I don't understand - Chris Wright ($9.95)
The Language of God - Francis Collins ($19.95)
Cross-Examined - Mark Meynell ($11.95)
Africa Bible Commentary ($42.95)
John Stott - a portrait by his friends - Chris Wright ($16.95)
Hearing God's Words - Peter Adams ($19.95)
The Cross of Christ - John Stott ($10.95)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The King's English in 100 phrases

Very clever and a tribute to the impact of the dear old KJV on our culture and language.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book review: "Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions"

Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions

I've been following the blog of Rachel Held Evans (LINK) for some time.  I cannot recall how I came across the site but have appreciated her honesty and insight in relation to her faith journey.  She, like me, has found herself on the 'wrong side'of orthodoxy in a number of debates that rage within evangelical circles - e.g. women and ministry, evolution/creation - and her blog gives expression to that struggle and the need to (a) be faithful to the scriptures, and (b) be Christlike in her responses and attitude to those who think differently,

I'm not intending to write a detailed review of EMT - you can find some excellent ones HERE, HERE and HERE

Some brief comments/observations from me:

  • I read the book in just 48 hours - for me that makes it a real 'page-turner'! I have this bad habit of not finishing books because I lose interest or find another one that gets my attention ('bright shiny lights' as my friend Lamond says).  I could not wait to get to the end of this one and it did not disappoint.
  • I am amazed that someone who is only about 30 years old can write with such depth of insight, piercing honesty and self-awareness. 
  • I appreciate Rachel's ability to maintain her faith despite an ability to see the glaring inconsistencies in doctrine and practice that she identifies in the evangelical church - reminds of Peter's response to Jesus along the lines of, "To whom shall we go Lord?"  She seemed to have a real understanding of what was 'baby' and what was 'bathwater'.
  • The writing itself is just beautiful - there are so many sentences and paragraphs that capture the thought perfectly and I found myself saying, 'yes, yes, yes" (or even 'Amen').
This is a book I would love to pass around but I think I would have to be very careful - people open to questions and shades or grey would find great comfort and resonance.  Folks who want/need a more black and white faith may find it too challenging, too edgy, too unsettling.

Here are a few quotable quotes to give a bit of the flavour of the book:

  • "We are not saved by information. We are saved by restored relationship with God, which might look a little different from person to person, culture to culture, time to time...When we require that all people must say the same words or subscribe to the same creeds in order to experience God, we underestimate the scope and power of God's activity in the world." (p. 132)
  • "The more committed we are to certain theological absolutes, the more likely we are to discount the work of the Spirit when it doesn't conform to our presuppositions." (p. 155)
  • "I would tell them that the idea of a single, comprehensive biblical worldview to which all Christians can agree is a myth and that it's okay to ask questions about people's interpretations. I would tell them that this doesn't diminish the beauty and power of the Bible but rather enhances it and gives Christians something to talk about." (p. 185)
  • "The Bible is perfection crammed into imperfect language, the otherworldly expressed in worldly ways, holiness written down by unholy hands, read by unholy eyes, and processed by unholy brains...In truth, the Bible represents a cacophony of voices. It is a text teeming with conflict and contrast, brimming with paradox, held together with creative tension." (p. 189)
  • "The Bible doesn't exist in a vacuum but must always be interpreted by a predisposed reader. Our interpretations are colored by our culture, our community, our presuppositions, our experience, our language, our education, our emotions, our intellect, our desires, and our biases." (p. 192)
  • "Perhaps our love for the Bible should be measured not by how valiantly we fight to convince others of our interpretations but by how diligently we work to preserve a diversity of opinion." (p. 194)
  • "My interpretation can only be as inerrant as I am, and that's good to keep in mind." (p. 195)
  • "But it seems to me that if evangelical Christians were the only ones to have God all figured out, then they would be the kindest, most generous people around...Most Christians I know are only interested in winning arguments, converts, and elections." (p. 201)
  • "...But most rejected Christianity because they thought it means becoming judgmental, narrow-minded, intolerant, and unkind...Most weren't looking for a faith that provided all the answers; they were looking for one in which they were free to ask the questions." (pp. 203-204)
  • "In fact, I am convinced that what drives most people away from Christianity is not the cost of discipleship but rather the cost of false fundamentals. False fundamentals make it impossible for faith to adapt to change." (p. 207)
  • "In a way, we're all fundamentalists. We all have pet theological systems, political positions and standards of morality that are not essential to the gospel but that we cling to so tightly that we leave fingernail marks on the palms of our hands." (pp. 208-209)

Friday, May 13, 2011

A provocative and very challenging Christmas poem - not the usual stuff

are you flesh of our flesh, bone of our bones
It's hard to get beyond the glitz of Xmas and the sentimentality of the stable and manger. But at the warm, beating heart of the Christmas story is "the word becoming flesh". In a Christmas meditation, Martin Wroe thinks aloud about the body and God.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A powerful piece of writing

A Humble Obituary for Osama bin Laden
by John Harris, Christian Peacemaker Teams
Osama bin Laden, organizer, crusader, defender, soldier, terrorist, son, husband, and father has died last night at the young age of fifty-four.  He was assassinated by the US military at a compound in Pakistan after being on the most wanted list for some twelve years.  He will be remembered primarily for his attack on the World Trade Center and US Pentagon on September 11, 2001.