Andrew Atherstone and Andrew Goddard (Editors) Lion Books
‘Christians disagreeing badly’ could sum up Church history. Abusive language, schisms, splits, killing and even war have not been uncommon over the years. As some of this continues today, we must ask: ‘Is another way possible?’ and ‘Can there be good disagreement in the Church today?’
Andrew Atherstone and Andrew Goddard have assembled a variety of writers, including Tom Wright, to shine different lights on these important questions.
The New Testament Church is examined thoroughly, particularly through Paul’s epistles. The Reformation is shown to have had strong advocates of good disagreement, whose voices, largely, did not prevail. Examples of recent disagreement, mostly good, between and within denominations, between religions and within congregations are recounted. All the authors are Anglican, but they write for the wider Church with care and scholarship. Practising grace and holding to truth are both commended but no clear consensus emerges as to how to disagree well, other than to maintain goodwill. Good Disagreement? fails to address directly the key question of whether our disagreements are over matters of foundational importance. Jesus’ distinction between the first and second (‘great’) commands, and others, is not explored. Nor is Jesus’ distinction between meticulous tithing and ‘weightier’ matters of the Law. The book of Acts, highlighting the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit, is also unexplored.
We are pointed to Paul’s passion for both the unity and the holiness of the Church. Staunch Christian disagreement with both pagans and Pharisees is affirmed, with a similar attitude to those in the Church who act according to either paganism or pharisaism. Nevertheless, grace is to precede truth, and every effort must be made to maintain unity. Love must cover all.
Church leaders at all levels will find in Good Disagreement? food for thought and hope for Christians that we will not repeat some aspects of our history. RH
GERALD COATES PIONEER
Ralph Turner Malcolm Down Publishing
There’s no doubt that Gerald Coates’ ministry has had a significant and positive effect on the UK Church. But this new biography by Ralph Turner isn’t as well-written as it could have been. Jarringly, the story is entirely written in the present tense and there’s an overproliferation of exclamation marks. Turner has also included some anecdotes which (while important to Gerald) aren’t significant enough to the rest of the world to warrant multiple paragraphs in this book. This is an authorised biography and there are some signs that Turner’s spectacles may have been at least a little bit rose-tinted. Gerald has even been allowed to give his two-pence worth in an ‘Endpiece after the endpiece’.
Despite these flaws, much of the book’s content is rousing and the conversational style makes it quite the page-turner in places. The stories of how Gerald has shared his faith with royalty and has both given and received strikingly accurate prophecies are inspiring.
As Gerald enters his 70s, this presents a good opportunity to look back on all that he has achieved thus far. Despite its stylistic problems, this book is a useful account of the optimism and excitement that broke into the UK Church during the beginnings of the charismatic movement. SH
MY JOURNEY SO FAR
Andrew White Lion Books
Andrew White loves ‘adventure, excitement and risk taking’ and this autobiography proves it. He enjoyed a secure childhood, has a strong marriage, qualified as an anesthetist, subsequently being called into Anglican ministry – although he cannot recall any ‘conversion experience’.
He trained at Cambridge and had a room previously occupied by John Stott and David Watson.
His Christian faith and commitment to an international reconciliation ministry and extensive relief work has taken him on a fascinating and frightening journey into the cauldron of Middle East religious divisions and politics, and has seen him become vicar of St George’s, Baghdad.
He tells of miraculous healings (and yet he personally battles with MS and has not been healed) and of sitting down with leaders of radical groups,
because ‘the only way one can bring about change is by working with them’ – and of the Lord meeting with him ‘in supernatural ways and imparting incredible wisdom’.
He is unafraid to tell you how bright he is and what an illustrious A-list of friends he has – from Billy Graham and Pope John Paul II to Yasser Arafat. Yet he honestly admits his own fallibility, vulnerability, and explains that family life hasn’t been easy because of his absences.
Replete with anecdotes, wry humour and down-to-earth realism, this is an easy read, if not a light one. There is much that challenges and provokes serious political, spiritual and theological thought. White’s voracious appetite for life and work left me wondering: ‘Does he ever have an ordinary day?’ DB
THE SONG OF SONGS
Charlie Cleverly Hodder & Stoughton
This is a big book, both in format and spiritual stature, about holy longing.
Cleverly writes with a sharp mind and a warm heart. He takes the view that the Song of Songs is to be understood both literally (the sanctity of human love) and spiritually (divine romance between Christ and the Church).
Reading this book is not meant to be an academic pursuit but a spiritual encounter. The reader is neither lost in a mass of allegorical detail nor exasperated by forced application.
Understanding the Song can ignite our hearts with the kind of holy fervour that will see us through the challenges ahead. It may also help us to find intimacy and connection.
If you read this book with an open mind and a seeking heart you will find your soul enflamed with love for God. Your ministry could be revitalised, your joy in service restored, and most importantly your relationship with Christ renewed. TH
Christopher Basil Brown Cascade Books
Spiritual direction meets storied theology in this book about a fictional pilgrim called Gideon. Gideon is winsome, engaging, pained and aspirational, just like us.
Covering life, faith, health and the pursuit of God, Guiding Gideon is unique and engaging. With fast-paced chapters, godly insight can be found on almost every page.
This is a very nurturing approach to a classic discipline of pilgrimage for contemporary readers. Brown offers rich and textured prose, and the spirit of new monasticism is unpacked in a thoughtful way. It’s undoubtedly a springboard for weightier engagement in Gideon’s story.
There is grace, journey and progress for Gideon and for all of us in the power of the Holy Spirit. Just as Job 26:14 signposts: ‘these are the mere edges of His ways, And how small a whisper we hear of Him!’ (NKJV). Guiding Gideon is worth your time and engagement. JD
Bob Kauflin IVP
You would expect someone with 35 years’ experience as a pastor, songwriter and worship leader to write with perception and passion on the subject of worship. This book doesn’t disappoint. True Worshippers is rooted in scripture, suitably centred on Christ, and is full of practical wisdom to help keep worship healthy and strong.
In our evangelical world, where worship is in danger of becoming an industry or a commodity, there is much in here to point us back to first principles. Never mind the packaging, personalities and platforms, worship is about God and the triumphs of his grace. Worship is a matter of the heart, savouring beautiful truths and expressing the many moods of the soul.
Reflecting Jesus’ requirement to worship in spirit and in truth, True Worshippers explores the attitudes
of the heart that lift worship to a higher level of wholesomeness, such as receptiveness, humility, maturity and perseverance. There are excellent reflections here on why worshipping with others is so important, why singing and music are not supplementary but significant, and what we mean by the presence of God in worship when God is everywhere.
Kauflin rarely quotes outside of his Gospel Coalition constituency. A book on a subject as wide and high and broad as the worship of Almighty God might perhaps be richer if it embraced some thoughts from people whose saviour is the same but whose customs and theology are different. But if there’s one recent book on worship I’d want the worship leaders, preachers and musicians in my church to read it would certainly be this one. JL
Catherine Butcher Monarch
‘Try and find something useful to do, something to make you forget yourself while making others happy.’These are the life principles of a kind British nurse and the words she passed on in a letter to a young protégé days before facing execution by German soldiers in 1915.
Edith Cavell had an unwavering Christian faith. She provided holistic care to patients, praying while offering medical treatment. As World War I began, Edith harboured 200 Allied soldiers at her training hospital in German-occupied Brussels but, as the net closed around her, she was arrested, placed into solitary confinement, found guilty of treason and shot dead.
Butcher’s book is comprehensive and skilfully researched, with pertinent extracts from letters and diaries. Although Edith’s caring nature undoubtedly shines through, we are also allowed a glimpse of her strictness, naivety and aloofness. This is a moving biography about a woman whose faith allowed her to ‘remain unflinching in the face of the firing squad’. AD
Daniel Strange and Michael Ovey Christian Focus
My first question upon picking up this slim volume by the principal and vice principal of Oak Hill theological college was ‘Do we need another book on why the Bible is trustworthy?’
Although the book follows a well trodden path, it does bring several fresh perspectives to the issue of biblical authority. In particular it notes the quite different apologetic approaches that need to be taken with non-Christians and Christians. The writers say that we all place our faith in some kind of authority. If there is a divine creator, why would we not believe that he has sought to communicate with his created beings through words? As the authors note in their conclusion: ‘This book is really all about faith and trust.’ The book also emphasises the importance which Jesus himself attached to the Bible, contrasting this with merely human wisdom or words. A brief commentary on Mark 7 (Jesus rebuking the Pharisees for their preferring human tradition over God’s word) is particularly insightful. This is a worthwhile read. JM
PROM PRAISE: LOVES EXCELLING (4 Stars)
All Souls Orchestra Integrity
This is a fabulous recording featuring the All Souls Orchestra led by Noël Tredinnick, Matt Redman and Christy Nockels. It features a mixture of traditional hymns, inspiring classical music and modern worship that in some cases have been adapted, giving a new take on more well-worn lyrics. This is a clever concept that captures an exceptional night, and yet still provides us with close to an hour’s-worth of great worship music.
Elgar’s ‘Pomp & Circumstance’ is the opening track, and it’s sure to stir patriotism in the listener.
Other stand-out tracks include ‘The Father’s Song’, ‘O For a Thousand Tongues’, and ‘When I Survey’. Unfortunately, ‘I Give You My Heart’ fails to shine as brightly as the rest of the tracks. But on the whole, this is a great mix of contemporary and classic worship, and as such, I recommend it. NB
LIVE AT THE KNIGHT (5 Stars)
John Mark McMillan Universal Music Digital Services
John Mark McMillan’s sixth solo album, recorded live in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina is exceptional.The writer of ‘How He Loves’ combines the gritty feel of classic country music with the liberating sound of contemporary Christian music. The CD and DVD package also features well-known artists such as Kim Walker-Smith and Bryan and Katie Torwalt.
Live at the Knight has already reached number 14 in the USA Christian chart, and has been hailed as McMillan’s best work. All 16 tracks are written by McMillan and there’s a combination of old and new songs.
One of the high points is the duet with his wife, Sarah McMillan, on ‘Glorious Things’, as it captures the essence of this intimate and exciting album. Despite the meander towards the end of this record, overall this is an exciting and impressive release. The quality of recording is beautiful and the musicianship represents some of the best in Christian music today. LS
THE KARMA SHEMA D
Andy Gray RAMA
This book is about the Shema – a Jewish prayer found in Deuteronomy 6:4 which says, ‘Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ As a boy, Jesus would have recited this prayer, and Jews are still taught it today. But Christians rarely speak about it.
This book isn’t about embracing an ancient tradition. Instead it takes you on a fascinating journey of belief and spirituality; it helped me to see that God is interested in every little detail of our lives and he wants to be part of it. The Karma Shema Drama is a call to love God with all that we are. This book won’t just change your life – it will change someone else’s too, because you can’t read it without wanting to impact your community and the people around you. ‘Shema’ means to hear…God wants us to hear his call to live our lives overflowing with the life-changing power of his love.
by Guvna B