Books for Today – May 2022

Produced in association with the Faraday Institute for Science & Religion and their youth & schools’ team, God Made The Dinosaurs (SPCK, London 2022: 64pp: £12.99 hardback) by Michael and Caroline Carroll is beautifully illustrated by Jesus Sotes, and is full of fantastic facts. It is a superb book which will fascinate many. The book concludes:

Who knows what other amazing clues we’ll find to tell us about the animals that roamed God’s creation long, long ago. Maybe you’ll be one of the paleontologists who finds out more!

First published last year, Dear England: Finding Hope, Taking Heart and Changing the World (Hodder & Stoughton, 2022. 184pp: £9.99) by Stephen Cottrell has been re-published in paperback. As I said in my review a year ago [ed. also discussed in We are all equal in Christ], the Archbishop of York presents a wonderful vision of the Christian faith, which in turn makes this a great book for people to read who have yet to follow Jesus. It is very much a personal apologia of faith. Indeed, as Cottrell states: “I’m writing this because I want to explain to you why I am a Christian and why I’m trying to follow the Christian way”. The book’s strength is that it is written with a light touch for people who do not believe and do not go to church. To quote Cottrell again: “I’m trying to convert you, but I’m going to do it by asking you to look at your own experience and the claims of the Christian faith in a fresh light. And if you end up not converted, I won’t think I’ve failed. This is your decision, and no one can make it for you. And since… God isn’t going to force your hand, I won’t try to either. But I do hope you enjoy the ride.” This is a book to give away to non-Christian friends – so go and order your copies. Last year I gave away five copies of the hardback!

Priesthood for All Believers: Clericalism and how to avoid it (SCM, London 2022. 149pp: £19.99) by Simon Cuff, an Anglican vicar in the Diocese of London, is a fascinating book and deserves to be read widely. The author defines clericalism as “the elevation of certain models, vocations or ways of being Church in such a way as to diminish others”. Significantly he argues that “one of the best ways to overcome clericalism is a more intentional focus… on the particular ministry of the ordained”. However, this is not to restrict ministry, but rather to enable all God’s people to fulfil their particular ministries. Or in the words of the author: “Ordained priesthood.. exists only to enable the flourishing of the entirety of the priestly body of Christ”. What a welcome emphasis this is! Apart from anything else, if these insights were taken on board by the Church of England as a whole, burn-out in ministry would largely become a thing of the past. My one regret is that the author goes on to defend the Anglican and Catholic notion that the ordained form a special priesthood, but to do so he has to root his argument not in the New Testament scriptures but in the writings of the early church fathers.

Grief Notes: Walking through loss. The first year of bereavement (BRF, Abingdon 2022. 160pp: £8.99) by Tony Horsfall, charts the first year of the author’s grief journey since the death of his wife from cancer. It is made up of notes he kept and postings he made online during the time, to which he subsequently added insights gained along the way from scripture as also from books on grief. It is a deeply moving story, Although no one’s grief is the same, nonetheless it will undoubtedly be of great help to many. If I were still a local church pastor, I would buy ten copies to give to those seeking to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. Full of common sense, it is also full of Christian faith!

The Apollos Old Testament Commentary series is now beginning to develop. Named after the Alexandrian Jewish Christian who was able to impart  his great learning fervently and powerfully through his teaching, the aim is to publish commentaries which exhibit “scholarly excellence along with practical insight forb application”. I confess that I had been slow to realise that the Apollos Commentary on Hosea (Apollos/IVP, London 2018: 253pp: £34.99 hardback) by Joshua N. Moon has been available for several years. I appreciated in particular the short introductory section on ‘Theology and Hearing Hosea’, where Moon states: “If the triune God is speaking, then any creature’s proper posture is to strive to listen, not to critique or simply analyse”. Preachers will be grateful for this commentary.

DLT of London continue to add to their My Theology series in which some leading Christian thinkers explain some of the principal tenets of their theological beliefs. Walking with Jesus in Strange Places (2022. 84pp: £8.99) by John Swinton, a Church of Scotland minister with a chair in practical theology and pastoral care at Aberdeen, is a stimulating exploration of discipleship in relation to disability and mental health, not least with its challenge to love people who are different. Why is it, for instance, that a woman suffering from schizophrenia “can’t seem to find friends within the community of friends of Jesus?”. By contrast, The Audacity of Peace (2022. 95pp: £8.99) by Scott McKnight, a NT professor at Northern Baptist College, Illinois, with its argument for Christian pacifism seemed to lack punch. Yes, I agree, “the way of the Cross is not the way of the sword”, but what we are currently witnessing in Ukraine is very different from Vietnam and Iraq. The book fails to address such a situation.

Twenty Questions Jesus Asked – and how they speak to us today (SPCK, London 2022. 162pp: £10.99) by John Pritchard, the retired Bishop of Oxford, is a wonderful guide for preachers, but also a great resource for small groups with each chapter giving ‘points to ponder’ along with prayer suggestions. In the words of the author: “The point of these questions is that …. they invite exploration, they open a window, they disturb the peace, they awaken a dream. They might even start an avalanche”. Buy it!

IVP have been revising The Bible Speaks Today series which for the most part simply involves updating with contemporary language and new Bible translations. I was grateful to receive The Message of Galatians (IVP, London 2020. 160pp: £9.99) by John Stott, first published in 1968. My copy of the 1974 reprint is now breaking up – a sign of much use! SPCK have also reprinted for the fourth time Paul for Everyone: Galatians & Thessalonians (First published in 2002. 177pp: £9.99) by Tom Wright, who has a wonderfully fresh way of expounding Scripture.

BRF of Abingdon continues to provide a range of superb resources for those engaged in children’s work. One such is Comfort in Uncertain Times: Helping children draw close to God through Biblical stories of anxiety, loss and transition (2022. 125pp: £8.99) by Rachel Turner, who until recently led the BRF Parenting for Faith team. This book will be of great help to many as we all begin to emerge from the pandemic. Each of the fifteen chapters tells a Bible story, and then provides conversation starts and end with suggestions on how to ‘connect with God’. Written for use by parents, it also can be used with great profit within a church setting by leaders of groups for children and young people. Another creative  resource is Caring for the world we live in: Messy Church Goes Wild (2022. 153pp: £12.99) edited by Lucy Moore, founder of Messy Church. Topics addressed include caring for animals and birds; caring for trees and plants; caring about plastics; caring out climate and plastics; and caring for all God’s Messy people!

Recent booklets from Grove of Cambridge, all 28pp and £3.95 each include John Wimber and Spiritual Renewal Legacy in the UK (Spirituality 159, 2022) by Judy Hughes Robinson which begins with the amazing statement of Sandy Millar that “John Wimber had the most significant impact on the Church of England in the UK since John Wesley” – with no mention of Charles Simeon and John Stott or indeed Billy Graham; Wimber was a divisive rather than a unifying figure in the Evangelical world. By contrast Making Missional Disciples through Small Groups: Why small groups are essential for today (Mission & Evangelism 136, 2022) by Laurence Singlehurst & Trevor Withers makes for excellent reading – thought-provoking and full of ideas, anyone involved in church leadership needs to get a copy! Public Worship with Communion by Extension: A revised and updated commentary (Worship 249, 2022) by Philip Tovey addresses an issue which is increasingly important in the Church of England, where in 1901 there were 15,000 ‘priests’, not there are only 7,700 clergy. Intentional Discipleship – A Global Perspective: Learning from the Anglican Communion (Discipleship 4, 2022) by John Kafwanka & Jolyon Trickey repays study even by non-Anglicans, and not least the three page ‘chapter’ on ‘Being Disciples Today’ which amongst other things asks three revealing questions: ‘Who discipled you?’ ‘Who is discipling your now?’ ‘Who are you discipling?’ Sexual Violence: An issue for the church (Ethics 204, 2022) by Mia Smith begins with the hard-hitting statistic that 68% of women “felt most objectified, harassed and uncomfortable” at church rather than at work, and as a result is essential reading for all in church leadership.

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