image: iStock

image: iStock


Dr Calum MacKellar asks about the prospect of crossing humans with animals, which could be manufactured by modern science

The other F-word (book review)


Faith, the last taboo
By Steve Maltz
Saffron Planet. 128 pages. £4.99
ISBN 978 0 956 229 632

This is not a book for you. It’s a book for you to give away to others.

It’s written to connect with people who have imbibed, consciously or not, the popular culture. It aims to get under the skin — and does so, directly, naturally and effectively.

The intention is to gain a hearing for the ‘divine defence’ — explaining life as it is through God’s Word and holding out to the reader life through faith in Christ.

Chapter 1 scratches the surface of the popular culture with imaginary conversations between people and God. In chapter 2 he introduces the expression of ‘the longing’ — what’s really going on with the world and why it is as it is — looking to be reconnected with its maker. He sets up the rest of the book by reminding the reader that the onus is with God to make his case. He then follows God’s case — through God’s story, God’s remedy (through the theme of blood shedding) and considers Christ and explores what faith in Christ is.

Written in a quick, conversational style, it is easy to read yet wonderfully straightforward. It oozes biblical faithfulness and confidence expressed with a refreshingly jargon-free choice of terms. He challenges well a number of misconceptions — that faith only has a religious dimension, that only atheistic philosophy is valid and that the authority and reliability of the Bible is easily dismissed.

It could offend. Dearly-held views are exposed and challenged with speed and ease — so knowing the people you give it to is vital.

It’s written by a man who knows the culture into which he speaks. It’s written for people who don’t know that their culture is not neutral, but who would be willing to be challenged to think about it.

Stuart Harding, 
co-pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Southport

This article was first published in the July 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057


Confident Christianity (book review)

Conversations that lead to the cross
By Chris Sinkinson
IVP. 224 pages. £8.99
ISBN 978 1 844 745 241

This book is designed to give a wide-ranging introduction to apologetics — not the art of apologising, as the author explains, but, instead, ‘a spoken defence for the Christian faith’ dealing with answers to important questions non-Christians ask.

Rather than just giving practical tips and knowhow, Sinkinson endeavours to equip us by considering how apologetics links with philosophy, the different theological debates within apologetics and a brief history of the discipline. He gets us to think hard about our culture before ending with four chapters dealing with biblical reliability, science, other religions and suffering. This is quite an undertaking in a relatively short book!

I appreciated the book’s comprehensiveness, but if every area was new to a reader the amount of information would probably be overwhelming. The author manages to simply explain complex ideas and is clearly an able communicator. There could have perhaps been an extra chapter justifying the subtitle of the book, helping readers to move from specific questions to opening up conversations about the cross.

I found the section on the different theological approaches to apologetics particularly stimulating. However, I would have liked the author to explain further how he synthesises the strengths of each while retaining a consistent theology.

Despite these small points, I am very happy to recommend this book to anyone wanting a comprehensive crash course in apologetics. Sinkinson obviously knows his subject inside out (he lectures in apologetics at Moorlands College), has considerable experience in conversations with non-Christians and is very able in conveying his expertise to other Christians.

Sheri Newton, member of Shepherd Drive Baptist Church, Ipswich

This article was first published in the May 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057


The intolerance of tolerance (book review)


By D.A. Carson
IVP. 200 pages. £12.99
ISBN 978 1 844 744 053

This book is a ‘must’ for Christian leaders — especially those who hear that line all the time.

Not because of its author — though Carson is always worth reading. It is a ‘must’ because of the staggering importance of its subject and because few evangelical scholars have Carson’s competence to tackle it. ‘Staggering’ is actually one of Carson’s own repeated words to describe what he’s observing in Western culture. It is not just that we are destroying our freedoms, but that this self-destruction is now celebrated, and it is the one thing that no one must criticise. What is it? Tolerance.

Everybody hurts

Anyone familiar with Don Carson’s writing knows that he is not an alarmist and does not make foolish generalisations. Instead, he carefully traces historical patterns, makes nuanced distinctions and engages with leading social commentators in the secular world. And yet he’s still staggered by what he sees: how the championing of vacuous democracy is leading to democracy’s demise; how the privatisation of religion is curbing the freedom of religion, and how that results in losing civil freedoms generally; how a mistaken moral high ground is removing morality from public life. And this hurts everyone.

Old and new

Carson begins by making a distinction between what he calls the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ tolerance. From there his thesis is simple: the ‘new tolerance’ is intrinsically intolerant. It is therefore self-contradictory and self-destructive — and so is any public square built upon it. And yet, he argues, having rejected almost everything else, the ‘new tolerance’ is the only absolute ‘good’ the West now values.

The ‘old’ tolerance is seen in the conviction that everyone has the right to express differing views, especially when we disagree with them or find them offensive. This, he says, comes from a conviction that truth and goodness can be known and should be pursued by discussion and argument, and that Jesus himself will return to put wrong to right. The ‘old tolerance’ is a good thing and has come in large part from the influence of Christianity within Western heritage as the Reformation gradually led to a clearer distinction between the roles of church and state, expression and coercion.

The ‘new tolerance’, however, is the belief that one should not disagree with another view, but should accept everything (and hence nothing). Its flaw is that it cannot tolerate any view that is intolerant of it. To do so would be to tolerate intolerance; but not to do so would be intolerant! Therefore this ‘new tolerance’ is a self-contradiction. While claiming to be value-neutral, it inevitably becomes the tool of bullying selfish interests, and Christianity itself is targeted most frequently.

Much at stake

This book echoes the content of Carson’s earlier work, Christ and Culture Revisited, but applies it to the specific area of the public square. In places the book requires careful attention. It is flooded with good quotations and contemporary examples (including many from the UK), which makes it authoritative, notably up-to-date and a tremendous resource. It also makes the book slightly repetitive, as the topic is addressed from a number of complementary angles.

But this is why it is a ‘must’. If Carson’s book is full of repeated examples, our contemporary lives are filled with them all the more — and yet ordinary Christians rarely notice what they are or understand what is happening. Christian leaders are in a unique position to serve their people by engaging with Carson’s book and repeating the content even more simply to equip disciples to understand and engage lovingly with the world around them. The need is great and much is at stake. Carson’s conclusion gives ten practical applications for how to do it — including the social priority of truth and evangelism. But if Christian leaders don’t engage with this book it is unlikely that other Christians will deal adequately with its staggeringly important message, which affects all our lives and how we love our neighbours and stand for the gospel.

Timothy Laurence, London Chairman, Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship
This article was first published in the May 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057


Dear Abdullah (book review): 8 questions Muslim people ask about Christianity

Eight questions Muslim people ask about Christianity
By Robert Scott
IVP. 160 pages. £7.99
ISBN 978 1 844 745 289

Isn’t it lovely that we can talk to people about our faith today? Not many are interested in talking about faith in Christ. But many Muslims are interested in talking to Christians about the faith they have in Allah. They have many different questions, which need to be answered. Are the members of our churches prepared to answer those questions?

Robert Scott in his book very wisely answers the ‘eight questions which Muslims ask’ us while we stand at the book table or distribute leaflets, or speak at work. And how important it is for a Christian to explain about the Trinity and the things that are of importance for the sake of the gospel! We must answer these questions in a manner which is ‘gentle’ and with ‘respect’ (1 Peter 3.15).

This book opens our minds to ‘click’ and hang in with Muslims. We must be ready to explain why ‘sins forgiven’ is only in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that we are all born with a sinful nature (Romans 5.12-21) and that the entire human race is affected. By contrast, sin in Islam is only considered a ‘mistake’ of Adam with no ‘consequence’ for anyone else, according to Qur’an 53.38-41.

It is so important to explain that our good works or rituals will never ever save us. Although they are important as a sign of our salvation, they can never be enough to help us reach heaven. It is Christ’s blood shed on the cross that cleanses us from every stain. It is though him alone that we are saved. Salvation is though the death of our Lord and not by our good works.

In our friendship we must be prepared to answer the questions which Robert Scott rightly mentions. He helps us to work through this from ‘Creation’ to the ‘Assurance’ and a ‘hope’ that we have in Jesus Christ our Lord. Many Muslims have no assurance and no hope of heaven. This book is a helpful guide to get into the mind and hearts of a Muslim and to help us be prepared biblically in answering their questions.

Evangelicals Now

This article was first published in the July 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057

The Cross (book review)

By Andrew Sach and Steve Jeffery
10Publishing. 44 pages. £2.99
ISBN 978 1 906 173 593

This is a great little book for all Christians, but especially for new Christians.

It is a simple study on the cross which brings out the wonder and glory of the cross. The first two sections are more theological. They show how, on the cross, Christ died in our place for our sins, that his substitutionary death bears the penalty for our sin. Then they cover how, on the cross, Christ defeated Satan and his work.

The next two sections are helpful applications of the cross. The cross calls us to a life of self-denial and suffering. In this, Christ is our great example of both service and suffering. They give practical help on how suffering and service may work out in everyday life. Secondly, they draw out the implications of our being crucified and raised with Christ. They explain how the believer has new life in Christ and is no longer a slave to sin and again how this applies to our lives.

It was good to be reminded of the glory of the cross, what it achieved, and how it affects everyday living. This book is a must for all new Christians. I shall be recommending it to all our new Christians. For myself, I would give many away if the author and publishers could adapt this book for non-believers.

Daphne Ross, 
wife of the senior minister at Farnham Baptist Church and someone who loves to speak to others of Christ

This article was first published in the October 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. 0845 225 0057


Joined-up life (book review)

A Christian account of how ethics works
By Andrew J.B. Cameron
IVP. 336 pages. £16.99
ISBN 978 1 844 745 159

Andrew Cameron lectures in ethics at Moore College, Sydney. Like all human beings, Christians face a whole range of ethical decisions and dilemmas. We feel instinctively that we have important things to say in this morally complex world. The problem with most Christian treatments of the subject is that they give us ready-made answers without any underlying rationale. An even greater danger is that ethics becomes divorced from the gospel, leading to a form of legalism and moralism.

Cameron’s book is a brilliant effort to avoid these two tendencies while locating ethics within the context of biblical theology, Christian truth and the wisdom of Jesus. He is determined to demonstrate that ethics flow from and are intimately connected to the gospel of grace. He aims to give us a framework in which we can think about ethical questions, coming to wise decisions consistent with the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The book is in seven parts. Part 1 deals with the way we talk about right and wrong, while Part 2 explores some of the forces that determine the way we act — our passions and our need to belong. Part 3 is the crucial section — how can we live good lives? We find our true identity in Christ and it is the power of his gospel which enables us to please God. ‘This book is about finding our best humanity in Jesus Christ. It’s about how to understand ethics as springing from Jesus. It seek to show how identifying with Jesus Christ brings order and clarity to human life.’ We live in a ‘Christ-empowered universe’ and he provides all we need to live good lives.

Part 4 deals with the ‘sources’ that will determine our moral choices — creation, community, God’s character, the future and biblical commands. These sources determine the way we act. This applies to the way we approach everyday life (Part 5) and to our ‘life-package’ or vocation (Part 6).The last section (Part 7) deals with some of the ‘hotspots’ — such as homosexuality and bioethics — where painful and disturbing questions must be addressed. There are 47 short chapters making it easy to dip into.

The book is stimulating, original and accessible to the intelligent reader. It is not intended to be a primer in ethics but to challenge us to joined up thinking. Cameron encourages us to look at ethical questions through ‘a different lens’ — the gospel of Jesus. He is not into giving us easy ready-made answers — his purpose is to make us think in a wise biblical way. The gospel sets us free from attempting to justify ourselves and gives us liberty to follow the wisdom and example of Jesus. This new perspective enables us to ‘join up’ the fragments of our lives and thus give cohesion to the way we live.

The book is delightfully Christ-centred — ‘He gives us a better angle on life. We find an understanding of created good, a glimpse of God’s character, a place to belong, the hope of a better future, and some changes to our desires by his Spirit. We don’t live it very well- after all, we’re Just fumbling extras in the game he pioneered. But he forgives and accepts us, and we’re finding the Jesus-shaped version of ourselves. We’ve begun to find, in him, a joined-up life’.

You will not agree with everything you read, but you will be stimulated to think in new ways about complex and unavoidable issues. I highly recommend this book.

Paul Mallard,
a pastor at Monyhull Church, Birmingham