EFAC Australia

Book Reviews

Unveiling Paul’s Women: Making Sense of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Lucy Peppiatt, Wipf and Stock, 2018

her recent book, Unveiling Paul’s Women, Lucy Peppiatt writes with reference to 1 Corinthians 7-10, that ‘The only real application of these verses, if we think that Paul wrote them, and we think that he is an authoritative voice for the church, is that women should wear head coverings in church when they pray and prophesy’ (p. 55). She had just pointed out that ‘there are no cultural reasons given in these verses for the shame that an uncovered woman and a covered man causes … the disapproval comes from God and the angels’ (p. 54). To deal with this Peppiatt proposes a bold re-reading of the passage. By an act of interpretive judo, she flips everything around and finds that Paul is actually arguing against the practice of women’s head covering. She writes, ‘Paul was faced with a group of domineering, gifted, prophetic men who had implemented oppressive practices for women in Paul’s absence. They constructed a theology to support their practices that was a blend of Paul’s original thought and their own distorted view of the world’ (p. 86). Paul is presenting their thinking (not his own) in vv4-5 and 7-10, which Paul then opposes with his own corrective in vv11-16. Verse 13 expects the answer ‘yes’, and the uniform custom of the churches is to allow women to pray and prophesy without a head covering.

Enriching our Vision of Reality:Theology and the Natural Sciences in Dialogue
Alister McGrath, SPCK, 2016

Molecular-quantum-theorist turned- theologian Alister McGrath is a prolific writer with 42 major works to his name in the Wikipedia article under his name (which is current only to 2015). He has written several books since that date including this one. The relationship between Christian faith and science is a major pre-occupation of McGrath’s and this book is one of the best of many which he has written in my view. It is more personal than many of his previous works and it describes something of the progression of McGrath’s understanding of Christianity throughout his eventful career so far. The book is in three distinct parts: first, an opening essay on The Christian Vision of Reality. Second, a comparison of the work on science and religion produced by three major influences on McGrath’s life and thinking, namely chemist and physicist Charles Coulson, Thomas Torrance (a Scottish theologian with a scientific bent), and Oxford professor of mathematics (and later Oxford professor of theoretical physics) John Polkinghorne, who also turned to Christian theology later in life. The final part of McGrath’s book is a series of ‘parallel conversations’ between theology and science including topics such as ways of seeing reality, the legitimacy of faith, models and mystery, religious and scientific faith and natural theology as well as an interesting study of Darwin’s religious thought. The book has detailed explanatory references and notes, a core reading guide and a more specialist reading guide.

What the Bible Actually Teaches on Women
Kevin Giles, Cascade, 2018

This book is, in my opinion, the best book available today on the controversial topic of the status and ministry of women. It is wide ranging in scope, very well researched and easy to read. The book is the fruit of Kevin Giles’ forty years of careful study of the scriptures and of debates with those of counter-opinions both in Australia and on the international scene.

Ministry Under The Microscope:
The What, Why, and How of Christian Ministry
Allan Chapple
Latimer Trust, 2018

Here is everything you need to know to set the foundations for a biblical and effective ministry. Which ministry and who ‘you’ are are discussed in the introduction. Ministry is defined broadly as what all believers do, but in fact this book is for people who are in some designated ministry role, or who think they may be called into such a role. Chapple seeks to clarify what is Christian ministry, and to do so in a broad big picture way.

Scientists as Theologians: A Comparison of the Writings of Ian Barbour, Arthur Peacocke and John Polkinghorne,
John Polkinghorne, SPCK, 1996

This is an unusual book in that a commentary on a group of writers would normally be written by someone outside the group, but in this case Polkinghorne includes himself as one of the authors under discussion. On Polkinghorne’s own admission (p. x) this is problematic and he owns that inevitably he gives greater space to his point of view in those areas where there is a difference of opinion amongst the three. I have been reading all three of these authors throughout most of my academic life, and I need to declare my own bias that I find Polkinghorne’s theology far more congenial to my evangelical and Biblical understanding of the Christian faith than the more liberal/process theological approach of Barbour and Peacocke.

Side by Side:
Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love
Edward T. Welch
Crossway 2015

We love to help people but we’re not so keen on being helped. We want to support people in church but we don’t know what to say. We feel like it’s the job for the experts so we leave it to them. What have we to offer anyway?

Side by Side by Ed Welch is a gentle yet persuasive book about walking alongside others in love and wisdom. It prompts us to face our fears and engage in the relational struggle of others, knowing that ours is the struggle too. It’s a vital commentary about creating authentic, active community, the best kind, by walking humbly alongside others.