EFAC Australia

Book Reviews

Book review: Joy Sandefur
Gumbuli of Ngukurr. Aboriginal elder in Arnhem Land. By Murray Seiffert Australian Christian Book of the year 2012. Published by Acorn press. 414pp. ISBN 9780987132925

I warmly commend this biography of Rev Gumbuli Wurramara, AM, of Ngukurr. I first met Gumbuli in 1976 when I went to live at Ngukurr and work in what was to become the Kriol Bible Translation Project. He has remained a significant figure in my life ever since. I was delighted and surprised when he made the trip to Darwin to present me at my ordination as a priest in 2006.

This warmly written biography gives an insight into his life moving from his childhood on remote islands in the Gulf of Carpentaria to his move to Ngukurr in South East Arnhem Land as a young man, his later significant contribution to the Anglican Church in the Northern Territory and his leadership in the community at Ngukurr.

Have you ever wondered how the gospel came to Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory? Why were missions established?  Is it true that the missionaries destroyed the local culture and language? What was the reason for the missions to be handed over to the Government? How did the Indigenous churches and clergy emerge? What are the reasons for today’s high unemployment rates, passive welfare, high death rates and other social problems? This carefully researched biography of Gumbuli Wurramara will give you some insight into these issues as the story unfolds.

Review Article.
Joy Sandefur reviews a controversial and groundbreaking book on indigenous life and ministry.
The politics of suffering : indigenous Australia and the end of the liberal consensus.  Peter Sutton, Melbourne University Publishing, 2011. ISBN 9780522858716

To understand the pressures that Aboriginal clergy and church leaders face every day in their communities and the stress they work under you need to read this book. When you have, you will have a clear idea of how you should pray for Indigenous Christian leaders. In The Politics of Suffering Peter Sutton directly confronts the question of why so many remote communities are such dangerous places to live in.

The book is controversial among some anthropologists and other scholars. However it resonates with my own experiences. I have been associated with Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land since 1973. I recently retired with a heavy heart because life in many of these communities is like living in a disaster zone. It is difficult to wrestle with the fact that life is now much worse than it was 40 years ago. How has this happened with so many programs carried out and billions spent by the government?

Peter Sutton writes passionately out of the deep hurt that he has experienced from the many early deaths and suffering of his Aboriginal friends. From his sadness and pain he addresses the question of why life for the residents of these remote communities is so much worse today than it was in the 1970’s when he and others of us first lived and worked in them.

God’s Lesser Glory: A Critique of Open Theism
Bruce A Ware
Apollos 2001
ISBN 9780851114811

Tim Johnson finds an ally in confronting an evangelical heresy.

It’s not often that I finish a book and decide to contact the author to thank him or her for writing such a helpful contribution to the Christian church. However, after reading ‘God’s Lesser Glory: A critique of Open Theism’ by Bruce Ware I did just that.
Open Theism is an ‘evangelical heresy’. It’s main proponents are from evangelical churches, it presents itself as a legitimate variant within evangelicalism, and its influence is growing very quickly in evangelical churches in the Western world. But what is Open Theism?
Some years back I preached a sermon series on the book of Job. In the final sermon I was particularly emphasizing the sovereignty of God even in the midst of great trials and hardship. As Job himself says to God in Job 42:1, ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’ On Monday morning I received an irate email from a member of the congregation. What I had taught was untrue, he argued. God’s purposes can indeed be thwarted because God’s sovereignty and indeed God’s knowledge of future events is limited. So when faced with atrocities in Rwanda or personal trials and sicknesses we must not blame God. God is doing all that he can to prevent these things but sometimes he is blindsided by events and powerless to prevent them occurring.

Five useful books reviewed by Cailey Raffel and Ben Underwood

Married for God: Making your marriage the  best it can be

Christopher Ash IVP 2007 ISBN 9781844741892
167 pages, with discussion questions after each chapter plus a comprehensive list of books for further reading

This is not a book of commonsense wisdom about sex and marriage with a coating of Bible verses to make it Christian. Rather, Ash wants to start with God and have God central to his whole discussion about marriage. Recognising that disappointment is one of the biggest reasons for marriage breakdown, he starts with the question, ‘What are proper hopes and aims for marriage?’

Ash calls us to line up our goals behind God’s rather than expecting God to line up his energies behind my goals. His bottom line is: put God at the centre and strive to want what he wants, and you will have a better marriage. 

Edited by Michael Bird and Gordon Preece
Anglican Press Australia 2012
ISBN 9781922000491

Justin Denholm assesses an evangelical response to ‘Five Uneasy Pieces’.

Questions relating to sexuality are fiercely contested and deeply felt. In Australia’s current political and social climate issues of sexuality are frequently encountered. Should the definition of marriage be expanded to include same-sex relationships? Should churches and individual ministers be free to decide conscientiously if they will conduct such weddings? What voice in the public space do Christians deserve on this matter? More fundamental conflicts exist. If Christians oppose homosexual activity, on what basis do they do so? Because God prohibits it, or because it leads to personal or social problems, or because children should live with their biological parents? Even Christians who agree about an issue like same-sex marriage may have very different reasons for doing so and might choose to speak about it differently.
With so many questions like these being asked, it is essential that Christians be equipped to respond and engage in a faithful and respectful fashion. We need to be well prepared both to speak clearly and carefully into the world outside the church, while also ensuring that discussions and decisions with our brothers and sisters inside the church are faithful to the message that we have been given. Critically, we need a robust and intelligent understanding of what the Bible has say to say about sexuality and homosexuality in order to engage with these questions in a faithful way.