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EFAC Australia

Book Reviews

NarcissismDeGroat, Chuck.
When narcissism comes to church: healing your community from emotional and spiritual abuse.
IVP: Downer’s Grove, IL., 2020.

"Many pastors get fired, but Driscoll got fired for being an a**hole" So goes the tag line of the recent long form journalistic podcast investigating the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill and its pastor Mark Driscoll. However, as emotive as this assertion is, it subtly misses the mark. While Driscoll may embody that trait, the more troubling problem was tied up in a personality trait that our culture slavishly fêtes: narcissism. Often we are too cavalier as we toss this term around and use it for informal diagnoses of all kinds. Nevertheless, narcissism—in its pathological and popular types—is profoundly damaging in personal and social relationships. Yet as the church elevates the humility espoused in Philippians 2 as a model for Christian discipleship it correspondingly seems to ignore the presence of narcissism within its bounds.

Chuck DeGroat's new book When Narcissism Comes to Church speaks into this difficult space. From a wealth of knowledge from twenty years of both practical and academic pastoral and counselling experience, he builds a

solid and sobering picture of narcissism within the church, and how the church often fosters such traits within those who minister. It is this experience that also tempers the detached approach and sees narcissism as built upon power, desire, fear, and shame wrapped up in the 'compelling package' (19). Musing 'Could it be that the very men and women who are called to be shepherds of the flock struggle most with narcissism?' (19)

While many books have been written on the good, the bad, and the indifferent of narcissism, this work takes a different tack to many. After a helpful examining of the clinical basics of narcissism, DeGroat casts a wider net by highlighting other forms of narcissism than the traditional 'grandiose' incarnation. By including vulnerable narcissism a richer picture of overt and covert narcissism is built.

UnleashedArnold, John & Heather Wood (compilers)
Unleashed: Stories from All Saints’ Booval.

JF Arnold Publications, 2021.
Available from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. $20 + $6 postage.

John Arnold and Heather Wood have done us a great service by collecting and publishing these twenty-one testimonies from parishioners at All Saints’ Booval, in celebration of the parish’s 125th anniversary. The faith journeys of the contributors had their origin in the period between 1955 and 1965, during the incumbencies of the Rev Colin Ware and his wife Judith and the Rev Don Douglass and his wife Margaret.

Booval is a working class suburb near Ipswich on the western fringes of Brisbane. Members of the parish were employed at the nearby railway workshops, woollen mills and underground coal mines. In many ways these are the stories of ordinary Australians at an ordinary Anglican parish in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Yet this was no ordinary parish, as is evidenced by the extraordinary number of children in the Sunday School and Youth Group, and the extraordinary number of parishioners who went into full time vocational ministry, including service with the Church Missionary Society and Bush Church Aid (seven ordained priests and eleven missionaries). Many lives were extraordinarily transformed. Nor was the parish wealthy or educated. Yet God in His mercy delighted to make “something out of nothing”, enabling vibrant congregational life, evangelism and discipleship, substantial property improvements and even the establishment of a half-way house for residents discharged from the nearby Goodna Mental Hospital, where the parish maintained a long-standing ministry of visitation.

Very few parishes have such a record of sending so many into ministry. Furthermore, there have been few large and dynamic Anglican parishes in working class contexts. It is therefore illuminative and helpful to discern some of the common threads woven through this tapestry: A strong commitment to corporate worship and prayer – and not just on Sundays;  a commitment to expository preaching; the promotion and training in daily Bible reading and prayer, using Scripture Union resources; a massive commitment to relational children’s, youth and family ministry; a commitment to systematic gospel outreach, including parish missions; together with a commitment to global  mission, evidenced in a strong local Church Missionary Society League of Youth group.

MarksSonOfManThe Son of Man in Mark’s Gospel: Exploring its Possible Connections with the Book of Ezekiel,
DAVID FORREST MITCHELL
ACT MONOGRAPH SERIES,
WIPF AND STOCK, 2019

This book achieves what many would have assumed to be unattainable. Despite the immense amounts of scholarly effort invested in the study of Jesus’ use of “Son of Man”, David has contributed something that is not only new but also worth saying—and he has done it in less than one hundred pages! (This is the published version of the dissertation for which he was awarded the Master of Theology by the Australian College of Theology.)

The only surprise about what he says is that it needed to be said. There has been a long-standing consensus that Jesus derived this unusual self-designation primarily from the vision reported in Daniel 7. This leaves many thoughtful Bible-readers wondering why the scholarly eggs have been confined to this one small basket, when there is another that is much bigger and surely no less worthy of attention: the fact that the Lord never addresses Ezekiel by name but always (ninety-three times!) calls him “son of man.”

HarryGoodhewBiogPiggin, Stuart
Harry Goodhew: Archbishop, Godly Radical, Dynamic Anglican.
Morning Star Publishing: North Sydney, 2021.

Apparently, Marcus Loane thought that biographies ought not be written of the living, though he attended the launch of John Reid’s biography of him. Is this biography of Harry Goodhew, Archbishop of Sydney, premature therefore? Stuart Piggin argues that twenty years in retirement provides sufficient time for a good perspective. Is he correct? Piggin concedes that many would regard him as being too close to Goodhew, but Piggin then argues that he did not know Goodhew as well as he himself thought he did, thus implying more objectivity than might otherwise be anticipated. Is he right?

The closeness of Piggin to Goodhew certainly adds a personal dimension to this biography. Goodhew is not portrayed in any remote way. His warm personality and personal piety are always evident. Harry appears to be widely known as gentle, gracious, humble and godly in character. While Piggin’s depiction of Harry is always full of praise – too hagiographic? – the main point of commending Goodhew’s godly character is indisputable.

Character is undervalued in our world, even in Christian circles, where achievement and ability are rated so highly. We excuse people’s poor character in politics, sport, business and church because of their track record of getting things done. Secular leadership manuals often frame Christian leadership expectations, usually again devaluing character. This biography’s constant reference to Goodhew’s prayerfulness, humility, graciousness and spiritual fruit is as refreshing as it is important. Character matters, godly character above all.

Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind
Dominion
TOM HOLLAND
LITTLE, BROWN, 2019

So how did we get the culture, structure and morality of the Western world? Where did it come from? For many of us there is a vague feeling that many of the good things we appreciate in the West started in Ancient Greece but came to fulfilment in the Enlightenment. At that point in history humankind awakened to its own sweet reason and became aware of self-evident truths such as, for example, “all men are created equal”.

Not so, says eminent historian Tom Holland in his tremendously written book, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind. These so-called ‘self-evident truths’ are not self-evident at all. Having written extensively on Ancient Rome and then having turned to Islamic history, Tom Holland has swum in different historical cultures, cultures that show no indication of seeing the self-evidence of such truths as Thomas Jefferson wrote about. Christianity is the towering force that has shaped the Western mind and continues to have impact even in institutions and societies that have long rejected, or even spurned faith. It is from Christianity that springs all the many concepts we have long taken for granted, such as women’s rights, freedom, science and secularism just to name a few. Many a Christian has suggested as such but Holland, who interestingly, is a bit slippery about his own conviction of faith, writes with passion and persuasion.

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