Un-Conditional: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs-Christians Debate
Justin Lee // Hodder & Stoughton
How does a young believer handle the growing realisation that he is gay when he understands that to be both sinful and anti-Christian? Justin Lee tells his compelling personal story, sharing the discoveries he has made and the insights he has gained along the way. Denial of his sexual attraction, attempting to become heterosexual and seeking God’s help and healing did not provide the outcomes that he prayed for. All the time he sought to be true to God, chaste in his behaviour and engaged with God’s people. While the attitudes of Christians were often ill-informed, offering explanations that didn’t fit and hope that did not bear scrutiny, he powerfully advocates an approach to the Christian/gay issue that involves respect and dialogue. As he recounts his journey, he seeks to expose the inadequacies of the ex-gay movement and to differentiate between the vastly different lifestyles of celibate gays, lifelong monogamous gay relationships and the hedonistic gay community. Committed to biblical integrity in his thinking, he nonetheless poses provocative and uncomfortable questions that will cause the reader to think. Chapters on the biblical material relating to homosexuality, explanations of the causes of same-sex attraction and proposals for a way forward that put the gospel into the centre of the debate epitomise the approach he advocates. With high-profile individuals such as Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke already having endorsed same-sex unions, and popular commentators Rob Bell and Jim Wallis both coming out in support of same-sex marriage in March, this is a timely contribution to the conversation. Not everyone will agree with Lee’s conclusions that embrace monogamous, committed gay marriages. However, reading his book offers the prospect of better understanding for all, even if we have to graciously agree to disagree. RS
RS Roger Standing is the deputy principal at Spurgeon’s College, London
More or Less
Jeff Shinabarger // David C Cook
How much is enough? As John D Rockefeller answered, ‘Just a little bit more.’ That questing desire we have for endless stuff is what Jeff Shinabarger addresses in this inspiring book. He wants us to have an excess ? of generosity. And he shows us how, without preaching or inducing guilt. When the author became friends with a local homeless man, his views on life and possessions changed. Using his creativity and passion, and eschewing embarrassment, he embarked on a series of projects to release resources from those who have more to give to those who have less ? such as gathering up unused gift vouchers, consolidating them and then giving the proceeds to single parents, those who just lost a job, etc. Challenging, but winsome. Read, knowing you’ll be changed. ABP
ABP Amy Boucher Pye is a writer, speaker and editor in north London
Jesus: Pure & Simple
Wayne Cordeiro // Bethany House
The premise of the book is brilliant. In the midst of our busy lives, Christians need to get back to having Jesus right at the centre. Wayne Cordeiro, the pastor of New Hope mega-church in Hawaii, rivals Rick Warren on his engaging and practical soundbites: ‘Jesus is not the rest from our labours. He is the rest in our labours’, ‘Being efficient is doing things right. Being effective is doing the right things’. Yet the weakness of the book is its tendency to remain at the surface level. Cordeiro is sometimes guilty of cherry-picking his scripture quotes, ignoring the depth of their meaning and context. Also, the stories of his successes seem to outweigh the stories of his struggles. A very helpful book, but perhaps verging on being too superficial. JW
JW Jago Wynne is associate rector at Holy Trinity Clapham
The Big Ego Trip
Glynn Harrison // IVP
Search for ‘self-esteem’ on Amazon and you’ll find almost 75,000 books. The self-worth industry has grown exponentially since the 1960s. Glynn Harrison, a professor of psychiatry from Bristol University, is not the first person to challenge the self-esteem movement for having failed to deliver what it promised. But in bringing together his acute academic observations with some pithy theology about how true self-esteem (or rather selfcompassion, which avoids the pitfall of self-evaluation) comes from understanding our position in ‘God’s big story’, Harrison has produced a very accessible Christian critique which I cannot recommend more highly. JM
JM Jeremy Moodey is Chief Executive of the Christian development charity Embrace the Middle East (formerly BibleLands)
Reasons for Belief
Norman L Geisler and Patty Tunnicliffe // Harvest House
Early Church Christian apologists interacted vigorously with pagan critics, and won. They wanted ‘to baptise their memories into Christ’ by adjusting confused minds to God’s truth and reality. Geisler and Tunnicliffe have done a great job in helping us do this by commending our faith today. Such books can be hard going. Not this one. It’s one of the most clear, informative and engaging I’ve read. Thirteen scintillating chapters cover today’s ‘hot issues’ in readable, persuasive, accessible ways. Topics include truth, God’s existence, Jesus’ uniqueness, deity, miracles, resurrection, and reliable historicity. This will equip 14 to 94-year-olds to share real answers to honest questions posed by friends and foes alike. A gripping ‘gem’. GH
GH Greg Haslam is the senior pastor of Westminster Chapel, London
The Essential History of Christianity
Miranda Threlfall-Holmes // SPCK
We are often warned that we ignore history at our peril. This is no less true with regard to the history of Christianity. We must understand our roots, especially when change and challenge threaten the Church’s health and growth. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes writes as both a historian and a theologian, giving a broad-brush treatment to Church history without glossing over the details, which make her picture thought-provoking, challenging or just plain quirky. Her detailed study provides an excellent introduction for readers who need to grasp a bit of Church history fast, but it also provides a timely reminder that the past matters, both in understanding the Church of the present and in safeguarding the Church of the future. WB
WB Wendy Bray is a freelance writer and an ordinand at Trinity College, Bristol
Am I Missing Something?
Ruth Roberts // Authentic
Former News of the World journalist and Christianity columnist Ruth Roberts had a wonderful encounter with God and started going to an evangelical Christian church and house group as an adult. She has a foot in both camps. She is a product of the UK’s smart, sentimental, witty, consumerist, vibrant and broken culture. She is also getting involved with the strange, kind, frightened, sentimental, confused, certain and sometimes dogmatic people in her church. Her stories of living in these two environments while wanting each to understand the other are both painful and hilarious. With great skill she lets us in on her journey and how she comes to realise God is present in unlikely places ? the story of meeting the woman on the bench made tears roll down my cheeks. How clever Ruth Roberts is: using a self-deprecating tone of ‘I don’t really understand all this ethical stuff’ when she is happily dancing on taboos and eggshells. It gives a feeling of her perspective being self-evidently right, whether or not more careful (or biblical?) people would agree. How can kind and inclusive ever be wrong? Even as I read every word with joy, I am disturbed. The tone changes as the book goes along. It starts asking for help to understand. But then a strong agenda seems to show regarding homosexuality and other controversial issues among evangelical Christians. I’m not sure that this message is balanced. I think it could really harm some people. I want to say to them, ‘Don’t pick this up. It’s powerful. And for you, it’s dangerous!’ But, like the News of the World before it, I am almost certain they will read it anyway. So, instead of shouting, ‘Back!’ at the incoming tide, I’m going to get ready for its impact. HA
HA Hugo Anson is an evangelist, Bible teacher and a director of Grassroots (grassroots.org.uk)
Silence: A Christian History
Diarmaid MacCulloch // Allen Lane
In his comprehensive discussion of the spectrum of attitudes towards silence throughout Christian history, MacCulloch considers its role in early Judaism, the New Testament, monasticism and the Reformation. His book aids reflection on the silences of God and the Church.
Rhythms of Grace
Tony Horsfall // BRF
This is the ideal introduction to contemplative forms of spirituality for the evangelical or charismatic reader. It will help you begin to practise silence, solitude and meditation.
The Power of Silence: The Riches That Lie Within
Graham Turner // Bloomsbury
A smorgasbord approach to the benefits of silence; exploring the role of silence in music, psychotherapy, the arts, Zen Buddhism and the practices of the Desert Fathers. All Turner writes serves to reinforce his own experience of encountering the Christian God in silence.
Invitation to Silence and Solitude
Ruth Haley Barton // IVP
Haley Barton’s invitation to discover the presence of God through solitude and silence takes the life of Elijah as a structure. A reflective call to hear God’s voice aside from the noise clutter of our world.