Christian Book Reviews - September 2020

Christian Books - Reviews

 

You, Me and Jesus by Cliff Richard.

 

This is an old book now, but copies can be found easily on Amazon. Essentially the book contains a number of everyday topics that Cliff relates to the scriptures, giving his own personal experience and thoughts on how we might apply these scriptures in our everyday life. This is a simple book, not one about serious study or deep theological thought, but these bite size pearls of wisdom resonate with our ever-changing circumstances and situations. A gentle introduction to looking at selected scriptures a bit more deeply, the book is fun and accessible to read. 

 

When I came to faith this book was a great way of getting to think about God on a daily basis, and being introduced to Christian principles. You don’t need to read the reflections in order, and can dip in and out of the book. It is probably most useful as a series of daily reflections, to accompany your morning or evening prayers. A good starter for relating the words of scripture to our modern world, looking through the lens of Cliff’s own, and sometimes comical, experiences. Reviewed by Fr Kevin

 

 

From the Fathers to the Churches – Daily Spiritual Readings.  Published by Collins

As indicated, it is a book of daily readings from eminent Christians of the early days of the church. Of course, some of the language may be a little obscure and some of their thought patterns a bit different. But the knowledge they had, and the lessons shared in these pages far more than compensate for that. They faced often the same difficulties that we may have and came through these by the grace of God which is always an encouragement in these strange times in which we currently live.

Consider this:

“Let us move forward then unflinchingly to face the contest before us.  We know that many compete in secular games but that few win the victor’s crown, only those who have exerted themselves to the full”

What more encouragement could we need? Reviewed by Peter Hann

Mere Christianity, CS Lewis, First published in full in 1952.

The book is based on a series of wartime radio talks by Lewis first broadcast in the early 1940s.

You might think the language is a little dated but this book is highly readable and remains one of the most important Christian books of the 20th Century, by someone who described himself as ‘a very ordinary layman of the Church of England’. Lewis was an atheist for many years and when he finally recognised that God was God said that he was ‘perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England’. Given this background it is perhaps no surprise that his approach displays a remarkable empathy towards those who are unfamiliar with Christianity or who have rejected organised religion on the basis of rational argument.

When presenting his case, Lewis takes care to avoid denominational bias within the western Christian tradition, dealing only with what he considers to be the essentials of the Christian faith. He sought views from those of the Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic traditions when finalising the text, to try and tease out the basic agreed elements of the faith.

Lewis does not assume much prior knowledge by the reader. He sets out the text in 4 main parts, starting with an examination of the broad human understanding of right and wrong and any possible meaning behind the existence of the universe. He then goes on to consider the human concepts of a higher power and works logically towards his conclusions about nature and person of Christ and what Christians believe.

In the last 2 parts of the text, Lewis explores Christian behaviour, morality, putting faith into action and finally the concept of the Trinity and how we are changed in our faith to become new people.

This book emerged at a time of great difficulty in the world and the text seems to have a special resonance again in these strange times. If you haven’t already read this book then do and if you have done already and know someone who would benefit from reading it, then give them a copy. Reviewed by Julian Davies

What’s So Amazing about Grace?   By Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey is an American author, journalist, speaker and former editor of Christianity Today. Yancey quotes CS Lewis who once responded to the question “What makes Christianity unique amongst religions?” by saying “Oh that’s easy. It’s grace.”

This book is not a detailed theological exposition of grace in terms of a detailed biblical analysis. If you want that you need to look elsewhere, because this is a provocative, personal examination of grace in action. The book includes many moving examples of grace in history and more recent times and a retelling of the parable of the prodigal son.

Yancey challenges the way the established denominations of the church respond to God’s love for the undeserving (that includes us!). He considers how we can see God’s grace in the sometimes raw brutality of the modern world and illustrates the unquenchable life changing power of true grace, inviting us to examine ourselves and live more authentic recognisable Christian lives. This book will speak to your heart as well as your head.  Reviewed by Julian Davies

The Unknown God by Alister McGrath

Alister McGrath has a Phd in molecular biology, is an Anglican priest and is currently Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford and Professor of Divinity at Gresham College.

In this book McGrath explores people’s longing for happiness and spiritual fulfilment using a series of short meditations with illustrations, quotations from writers through the centuries and Christian poetry. Despite his academic background, McGrath writes in an accessible and digestible style and helps to answer some of the most profound questions humans have asked through the centuries. Through 17 short meditations and reflections McGrath convincingly explains and defends the central elements of the Christianity and as a former atheist himself, effectively argues that atheism is just as much a matter of faith as Christianity.

The title of the book refers to Paul’s speech to the philosophers of first century Athens recorded in Acts 17:16-34, when he draws attention to an altar inscribed with the words ‘to an unknown god.’ Whoever had constructed that altar was aware of a deity who could not be named, of a presence within themselves and the natural world, but did not know who or what it was that they worshipped. Paul was able to reveal the nature of God to them and the idea that He has created us so that we may enter into a relationship with Him.

McGrath argues that God chose to come and find us, to come to where we are and to give us that we have been searching for, but would have never have found in our own strength.

This is an excellent book to read and share with someone who is looking for credible answers to difficult questions.  Reviewed by Julian Davies

Alive in Christ by Charles W Price.

The strapline being “How to find renewed spiritual power”, this book was recommended to me at a time of spiritual exhaustion. Price describes the book as “Raiding the Lost Ark” as this biblical exposition explains the relevance of the ark of the covenant and its contents. However, its focus is how the new covenant through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit relates to the old covenant and how to rekindle the power of the resurrected Lord. At 126 pages, it is not a long or difficult read. It did help me start to renew my spiritual power and also was enlightening from an Old Testament teaching perspective.  Reviewed by Natalie Greenfield

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

I am so glad I have read this book; it has been a revelation and great source of help in re-evaluating where I am in life and what my priorities should be. I was not even half way through and I bought another copy to lend out as mine has so many notes written in it.

I read it as a 40 day journey; 5 sections each divided into 7 chapters. We are urged to only read one chapter a day which starts with a reading and ends with a point to ponder, verse to remember and question to consider. Each daily reading will take you around 15 minutes. You will discern what you are here for, how you were planned for God’s pleasure, formed for God’s family, created to become like Christ, uniquely shaped to serve God and our mission.

Lots of Bible quotations and references from a wide range of Bible translations which was interesting.

My favourite quote is “The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.” Reviewed by Natalie Greenfield