Death by Civilisation
The title of this book promises a coherent critique of modern civilisation and its ever-increasing ills. But what comedy writer James Cary gives us here is a rambling anthology of about 50 short essays attacking Britain’s great institutions in the media, business, politics, academia and organised religion. The articles are disjointed and polemical. On his website Cary suggests that the book is a ‘heady toxic mixture guaranteed to bring any dinner party conversation to a grinding halt’. And that is the problem: the articles sound as if they are the verbatim transcripts of a dinner party bore.
The subtitle hints at a cure, but only in his brief four-page conclusion does Cary suggest that the systemic failure of many of Britain’s institutions should provide an opening for the Church to offer an alternative narrative rooted in unconditional love. This is a great thesis, but surely worth better treatment than this? JM
Simon Holley, pastor of the King’s Arms, Bedford, tells the story of how his church started to see the miraculous and challenges us to be open to God doing the same with us. Holley underlines how the foundation to seeking God’s power is to understand who we are as children of God. Jesus promised that ‘streams of living water’ would flow within us. Holley identifies the ‘rocks of the heart’ that hinder the streams that should be equipping us.
As well as faith-stretching stories, the book helpfully charts the struggles we often face, and how to overcome the twin enemies of fear and unbelief. Holley candidly reflects on his own experience in a way that gives hope to those who may assume he lives in an alternative spiritual zone. It’s a challenging read, not least because this is a story of a church in Bedfordshire, and therefore too ‘British’ for us to think: ‘Well, God wouldn’t do that here!’AP
Gagging Jesus: Things Jesus said we wish he hadn’
I Wish Jesus Hadn’t Said That...But I’m really glad he did!
Two books. Similar titles. Very different styles. One bombastic, clear, tub-thumping, traditional teaching. The other far more thoughtful, careful, meditative, nuanced, while still based in the same biblical text. Phil Moore writes in short sentences and calls his readers to simple obedience to what he sees as the clear teaching of scripture. Steve Timmis uses amore self-deprecating style that lets the reader relate to his struggles and then leads them to see why Jesus’ difficult sayings make sense. Such an interesting contrast between the two, but both books could be useful.
Moore often demonstrates a lack of scholarship, particularly in the way he interprets texts on hell. With that criticism you may be surprised that we will still be giving Gagging Jesus to all those coming to a men’s weekend. For all its faults, Moore fearlessly brings up subjects we need raised ? such as pornography, anger, possessions and poverty. It also enables us to ask, ‘Do you agree with him?’ And learning to disagree with dogmatic Christian teaching is an important part of Christian discipleship.
But we like Timmis’ book so much more. The subjects he tackles are less populist, such as how to forgive ‘seventy times seven’. How to love our neighbours ? even when they are part of groups or religions that we despise or fear. Denial of self. Evangelising nice people in a pluralistic society. Loving God rather than money. These are hard questions to which he opens up a multi-faceted discussion, rather than shouting rabble-rousing, banner headlines. Timmis is a leader we wouldn’t be afraid to follow. H&SA
The Reason for my Hope: Salvation
In July 1967, my teenage classmate, Neil, invited me to watch Billy Graham’s London Gospel Crusade, TV-relayed in Liverpool’s Methodist Central Hall. Cliff Richard shared his testimony; choirs sang. Graham preached for 35 minutes, then invited seekers to ‘Get out of your seats and come to Christ’, while Bev Shea sang ‘Just as I am’. I was the last person to respond that night, unsure that Jesus would have me. He did. Forty-six years ago, Graham’s message permanently changed my life.
Graham’s biblical authority, passion and integrity all remain legendary. His organisation has recorded 3.2 million responses similar to mine to his clear, Christ-intoxicated messages over his lifetime. His latest (and possibly final) book at the age of 94 is a magnificent overview of his gospel message in all its Christ and cross-centred essence. Nothing of his power, cultural relevance, piercing style and sense of urgency has diminished. Hope is currently in short supply. We need to find a supplier.
These marvellous chapters are packed with insight, heart surgery, stunning stories and scores of powerful insights. What we all most need is one of God’s most passionate evangelists to electrify our hearts again, and fire us up with ‘The old, old story, of Jesus and his love’. Billy Graham’s startling new book is a good place to start. GH
HUGO & SHARON ANSON ? directors of Grassroots Trust; RUTH GARNER ? coordinator for threadsuk.com; GREG HASLAM ? senior pastor, Westminster Chapel; JONATHAN LANGLEY ? writer and former DJ; JEREMY MOODEY ? CEO, Embrace the Middle East; ANDY PECK ? tutor at CWR