The right to decide (book review)


 

THE RIGHT TO DECIDE The right to decide
Seeking justice for choices around unwanted same-sex attractions
By Michael R. Davidson
Core Issues Trust. 52 pages. £5.00
ISBN 978 0 957 373 907

This booklet is a collection of testimonies from those who have sought help with their unwanted same-sex attractions.

For most of the 13 stories, this preference comes from their Christian faith. Interestingly, though, the first account is from a non-Christian, which perhaps reflects the author’s desire to emphasise the case that the demand for therapy goes beyond the faith community.

The Preface and Introduction emphasise the agenda, along with the booklet’s title and cover (illustrating scales of justice), to fight back for the right of individuals to make their own choices and receive whatever form of therapy they want. This comes amid the current climate of professional counselling bodies (such as the UKCP and BACP) trying to label such therapies as unethical.

Some readers may agree with these introductory sections, but also find themselves uncomfortable with the emphasis on individual ‘rights’ (arguably not a biblical concept). I found myself wishing that the booklet had let the stories speak for themselves. The playing-down of the moral issues in the Preface (e.g. ‘some find homosexual practice morally wrong. In a sense, none of the reasons matters’) also suggests a secular target audience.

Testimonies have an astonishing power to persuade and even disarm those holding contrary views. In a way, no one can really argue against another person’s experiences, particularly in this postmodern age. Overall, then, these stories are powerful and persuasive. I would recommend this booklet to anyone with an interest in the subject.

Stuart Parker,
Associate Director of True Freedom Trust, a charity supporting those struggling with same-sex attractions (see http://www.truefreedomtrust.co.uk)

 

This article was first published in the January 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.

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The other F-word (book review)


 

THE OTHER F-WORD The Other F Word
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.
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Confident Christianity (book review)


CONFIDENT CHRISTIANITY
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.
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The intolerance of tolerance (book review)


 

THE INTOLERANCE OF TOLERANCE
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.

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Editors commentary: UK’s big pic


We are told that Britain is a place of ‘tacit atheism’.

Whether it is the tragedy of St. George’s Tron being thrown out of their building for taking a stance for biblical standards or the economic recession our greed brought upon us or ongoing cover-up that seems to now be coming to light about Sir Jimmy Savile’s abuse of young girls, it is the laissez-faire attitude to morality which atheism promotes which underlies most news stories in our country.
Although atheists like to give the impression that they are very modern, avant garde and daringly radical, actually there is nothing new about saying there is no God (see Psalm 14.1, Psalm 53.1). And, interestingly, Moses, some 500 years before David the psalmist, explained one of the primary reasons for ‘forgetting God’. He warned Israel. He told them that once they entered the Promised Land they would become prosperous. The land was so fertile that their labour would produce much more than they needed. It would be then that they would be tempted towards tacit atheism. Prosperity gives us the illusion of human independence (Deuteronomy 8.11-18).

Prosperity and ‘no God’
This connection between atheism and material prosperity has been traced by academics. For example, in her book Holding Up A Mirror: How Civilisations Decline, Anne Glyn-Jones explains the findings of the Russian-American thinker Pitirim Sorokin. Sorokin classified societies according to their ‘cultural mentality’ (the way they think about the world). This can be ‘ideational’ (reality is spiritual), ‘sensate’ (reality is material), or ‘idealistic’ (a synthesis of the two). He suggested that major civilisations evolve from an ideational, to an idealistic, and eventually to a sensate (atheistic) mentality. Each of these phases of cultural development not only seeks to describe the nature of reality, but also stipulates the nature of human needs and goals to be satisfied. Sorokin interpreted contemporary Western civilisation as a sensate civilisation dedicated to technological progress and prophesied its fall into decadence.
Putting his theory of the decline of civilisations simply, Sorokin said that society requires a moral framework to function in a stable way. The authority of morality has always been derived from a sense of the divine or the supernatural. It is religious in essence. However, here a dynamic begins to come into play. The proper functioning of a stable / moral society produces economic prosperity. But, as this grows, it tends to influence people to think that material things are all that is really important. From here society feels that it does not need religion or a sense of the divine. This undermines the authority of moral standards, and so leads eventually to the decline of the very social stability which caused the society to prosper in the first place. Sorokin’s work sought to trace this trajectory in the rise and fall of civilisations such as ancient Greece and ancient Rome.
So he, too, would not be surprised at the denial of God in the prosperous contemporary West. This is the big picture for Britain. This is how we got where we are.

The atheist experiment
Since the 1960s, we have decided that we don’t need God. So, we have turned the UK into a gigantic nationwide laboratory to see what happens to life when God is sidelined. Now, after 60 or so years, the results are coming in. Romans 1, which describes the consequences of denying God, has come to life before our very eyes. It’s a rough ride for Christians at present. But have courage. God knows all about the landscape through which we are travelling.

John Benton

This article was first published in the November 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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What do you think of me? Why do I care? (book review)


WHAT DO YOU THINK OF ME? WHY DO I CARE?
Answers to the big questions of life
By Edward T. Welch
New Growth Press. 160 pages. £8.31
ISBN 978 1 935 273 868

Other people control us far more than we think. Where there is constant pressure either to fit in with the crowd or to stand out from the crowd, we are controlled by the crowd and this is the heart of peer pressure. How does the gospel bring hope?

Ed Welch has developed the insights of his earlier book, When People are Big and God is Small, and shows us how our answers to three key questions will reveal the idol in our hearts — that which in fact controls our behaviour. When, as Christians, we ask, ‘Who am I?’ ‘Who is God?’ and ‘Who are you?’, we know what the ‘right’ answers should be.

In practice we replace trust in the goodness of God with something else, and this is what really guides our behaviour: it may be the desire to be liked or the need to be in control. ‘What would you say you love the most? Follow the track of your emotions — your happiness, sadness, hopelessness, despair, and anger — then you will find what you love’ (p.44).

The great news is that God knows this and still loves us. It is this gospel which can give us the strength to displace the idols and rightly worship the Lord. When we do this we find that ‘version 2.0’ of ourselves is secure enough in God’s love to give love to others. When we learn to walk humbly before the Lord we find that the skill transfers to our relationships with other people (p.135).

This is an excellent book, and deserves to be widely read by all ages, including the 18-25s for whom it is intended.

Ed Moll, 
senior minister, St. George’s Church Wembdon, Bridgwater, Somerset; no longer young; still Reformed; apparently contented

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


‘DEAR ABDULLAH’
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.
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