EFAC Australia

Book Reviews

Is God Green?
Lionel Windsor
Matthias Media, 2018

Most Christian commentary on caring for the environment leaves me completely cold. I just can’t seem to muster up the motivation that other people have to ‘live sustainably’. There, I said it out loud.

The topic often makes me feel enormously guilty for my pathetic failures - I keep forgetting my Keep Cup and reusable bags, I haven’t done enough research into what products I buy that have microbeads ruining the oceans, and yes I know I shouldn’t duck to the shops in my petrol guzzling car to pick up dinner (that probably comes in too much plastic packaging) but I excuse myself by claiming that I just don’t have enough time to do better because I’m a busy mum who is just trying to get through the day. Too much mental load, people! Am I the only one who feels like this? I suspect not.

A Secular Age 

Charles Taylor
Harvard University Press, 2007

It took me a couple of years to work slowly through Charles Taylor’s massive tome A Secular Age, before finally finishing it in 2011, but I thoroughly enjoyed the journey. It was like a good fruit cake; eaten in small slices (mostly) but each piece rich and delicious. This will be not so much a review as an impression: the book is 776 pages long, with another 75 pages of notes at the end. Taylor is Canadian, now Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at McGill University in Montreal after a long and distinguished career as a philosopher. He is also a believing Roman Catholic.

Taylor opens his book with the question, ‘What does it mean to say we live in a secular age?’ He is not going to give the kind of answer that some give – that is that to live in a secular age is to live in an age which has (rightly) outgrown religious belief and where more and more people have been freed (and will be freed) to live without the distortions that such illusions foist on us. He has the eyes to see that things are more complex than that.

Still a Theory in Crisis
Michael Denton
Discovery Institute Press, 2016

It was 3 am. Unable to sleep, I arose to continue reading Michael Denton’s Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (2016). To my surprise I turned a page and found it was the last. Some authors have a lot of footnotes!

Sadly, I have never studied biology, so am unable to assess much of the evidence and argumentation, except in a superficial common sense way. I wish someone better equipped than I would help us here. Having said that, the book reinforces my own growing conviction that the Darwinian model of evolution is too simple by far, and fails to bring us to a right understanding of what one of my childhood books on evolution called ‘the miracle of life’.

Christianity’s Dangerous Idea:
The Protestant Revolution—A History From the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First
Alister E. McGrath
HarperOne, 2007

Biblical Authority After Babel
Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity
Kevin J. Vanhoozer
Grand Rapids, Brazos, 2016

These are two books which should be read together. First, McGrath: Christianity’s Dangerous Idea is a large book and a big read, but, for anyone interested in the history of non-Catholic Christianity it is profoundly interesting. McGrath is a meticulous scholar and his research has taken him all over the world. It is a book of scholarship but not written for scholars but rather an attempt to identify the inner principles and dynamic that have driven the vast array of non-Catholic ministries since the Reformation.

The dangerous new idea is of course the principle that all Christians have the right to interpret the Bible for themselves. This was the idea that drove first Luther in Germany, then Tyndale in England to translate the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible into German and English respectively. But who now had the authority to interpret the Scripture as they read it their own language and who had authority to define the faith of the church? Institutions or individuals? Who has the right to interpret its foundational document, the Bible? Uncharted and dangerous waters lay ahead.

A Failure of Nerve:
Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix

Edwin H. Friedman
Seabury Books, 2007

The purpose of this review is to help Christian leaders engage with Edwin Friedman’s genuine insights into leadership in a society that has become increasingly anxious. I will offer up at points, in no great triumph of exegesis, some scriptural observations as to why we might not always wholeheartedly agree with him, yet in general affirm his conclusions on leadership. Edwin H. Friedman was an ordained rabbi who was for twenty years a leader in a synagogue. He was also a practicing family therapist and consultant to leadership in different spheres of life, from the family through to the American defence force. A Failure of Nerve was published sometime after his death and is at points an incomplete manuscript. This book is great, a summary of a secular sage’s life investment in leadership. 
Here is Friedman’s own confession of who the book is for and what it is about:

C.S. Lewis: A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet

Alister McGrath
Hodder & Stoughton, 2013

I confess: I have never been a big fan of C. S. Lewis. My early attempts at reading his apologetic writings foundered on the register of his prose. In my undergraduate evangelism, I was trying to present the truths of Christian faith in a vernacular that could easily be understood. Lewis seemed to move in a different direction. So I was taken aback then when I lived in a graduate student dormitory at Yale and got to know a non-Christian friend who voraciously read anything by Lewis that I could lay my hands on. The time had now come to get serious with the Apostle to the Imagination.

So I read the biography of Lewis by Alister McGrath, called C. S. Lewis: A Life, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2013. Though intimidating by its size, I discovered that its thick pages, frequent photos, and penetrating analysis of Lewis’s life and times made it a much easier read than I anticipated. In fact, McGrath has inspired me to dig deeper. It takes the normal shape of a chronicle, starting with Lewis’s birth in 1898 and early life in Northern Ireland, and ending with Lewis’s death in November 1963, the same day on which JFK was assassinated. McGrath alerts us to the fact that Lewis disengaged from Irish politics in the 1920s when his identity was increasingly English. His service in World War I and call to explain Christian faith on the BBC during the darkest days of World War II portray him not as an absent-minded professor but as profoundly immersed in the vicissitudes of the life of the nation.