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EFAC Australia

Book Reviews

EdwardsandChurchJonathan Edwards and the Church
By Rhys Bezzant

Oxford University Press, 2013

Reviewed by Chris Porter

Although Jonathan Edwards wrote and preached on an exceedingly wide variety of theological subjects, many scholars declare that he did not have any independent ecclesiology. Rather that his ecclesiological impulses were driven by social and broader theological focuses. In Jonathan Edwards and the Church Rhys Bezzant demonstrates that Edwards actually held a robust ecclesiology that took into account both social and theological drivers. Bezzant sets out to expound Edwardsean on his oft-repeated model of the church as a ‘focused domain where God’s promises, presence and purpose are to be discovered.’ (ix) In doing so he opines that Edwards’s ecclesiology was ultimately ‘a revivalist ecclesiology within a traditional ecclesiology of nurture and institutional order.’ (xi)

In order to investigate Edwards’s ecclesiology Bezzant follows a diachronic model, describing the various aspects of Edwards’s ministry, writings and church engagement throughout his life. In chapter one Bezzant paints a rich picture of the church world of the New England colonies before Edwards’s ministry, highlighting a vast array of ecclesiological and social pressures upon the Puritan endeavour. Chapters two, three, and four trace Edwards’s ecclesiological development through the three primary stages of his life— delineated by two works A Faithful Narrative in 1735 and A Humble Attempt in 1747. Bezzant traces Edwards’s reflections from his less-conventional conversion narrative through his early life, developing theology and burgeoning ministry—the period heavily influenced by the Great Awakening—and then into his mature ecclesial ministry and global focus. These chapters mine the depths of Edwards’s own writings—recently published as a letterpress edition by Yale University Press—as well as the copious secondary literature on the variety of topics. Within the investigation of Edwards’s writings these chapters are shaped by the contours of the New England history and are firmly set within their broader context.

WHAT IF?what if
By Kristen Young

Fervr: CEP, 2014

Reviewed by Adam Cetrangolo

Adam is a Pastor and Church Planter currently serving at St Catharine’s Anglican Church at Caulfield South. He is currently the Branch Chair of EFAC Victoria-Tasmania and the National Secretary of EFAC Australia.

Whether you are a teenager or you work with teenagers, Kristen Young’s compact book: What If? Dealing with Doubts is an excellent resource to help stimulate your thinking about the key apologetic issues associated with the Christian faith.

In her forward, Young invites the reader to see each theme as Beginnings of answers.  As an accompaniment, however, she includes references at the end of each section to further related reading materials authored by well-known Christian leaders and thinkers.  Therefore while this work is designed with teenagers in mind, it is both robust in its treatment of apologetic issues as well as thorough in scope for the reader to independently delve deeper into the issue.

Secondly, Young also invites the reader to utilise What If? as a reference guide, suggesting that the reader is likely to not necessarily read the book from cover-to-cover but rather refer to the various sections that are immediately relevant to them.

Captains of SoulCAPTAINS OF THE SOUL
By DR MICHAEL GLADWIN
Big Sky Publishing, 2015

Reviewed by Principal Chaplain Geoff Webb

In 1942 the Reverend Hugh Cunningham was serving as a chaplain with the elements of the Australian Army captured with the fall of Singapore to the Japanese. He went into captivity with the rest of that unhappy band finding his way to imprisonment on the notorious Burma Railway. There he was treated extremely badly by the guards until one of them gained an inkling into his special status among the men and gave him an arm band with green Japanese characters on it. It was only after the war that Hugh Cunningham found out that they said, “Captain of the souls of men”. With this anecdote Dr Gladwin begins his history of Australian Army Chaplaincy which he entitles in the light of this story “Captains of the Soul”. He sums up the story of Hugh Cunningham this way, “As I will attempt to show, Cunningham personified a model of practical service and religious and moral leadership that had been forged by the Australian Army Chaplains’ Department during the Great War, and by the generation of chaplains before them in South Africa”. So he summarises in his typically clear, winsome and succinct style his aim in writing a history of the Royal Australian Army Chaplains’ Department. The book was commissioned and published to coincide with the formal centenary of the RAAChD on the 1st of December 2013. As such it is part of the Army History Unit’s goal of having an official history of every corps in the Army. “Captains of the Soul” goes well beyond simply an official history to be a very accessible account of the courage and commitment of Australian clergy who left their parishes to bring the presence of God to men and women who had taken up the challenge of serving their country and as a result often faced, death, injury, privation, disease and all the other horrors attendant on armed conflict.

TIME POOR, SOUL RICHtimepoor
By Anne Winckel

Ark House Press, 2015.

Reviewed by Andrew & Camille Bowles

‘What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?’ (Mk 8:36). This question from Jesus is the subject of Anne Winckel’s book Time Poor, Soul Rich, a manual of ’60-second solutions and other lengthier remedies for busy professional women’. There are many books around that deal with setting life goals, fine-tuning priorities, managing your time, and deciding what are the most important things for you to be doing. Winckel is more focussed, however, on those women who are doing basically what they feel is right or necessary, but want to do so without losing the joy and vibrancy of life.The goal is to provide these women with simple and quick strategies for re-engaging with areas of life that bring richness to our souls, without requiring radical changes in lifestyle. In Part A each chapter engages with an aspect of our inner or outer lives (such as our relationships, our engagement with the world, our knowledge and experience of our our emotions and passions), and offers stories and tips to inspire, equip and motivate women to live more richly in that area. Part B addresses obstacles to soul enrichment such as personality traits that sabotage our efforts and negative beliefs and experiences that hold women back.

GIVING GENEROUSLYGiving generously
By Rod Irvine

Barton Books, 2015

Reviewed by Chris Johnson
Rector, North Pine Anglican

This book is as much about a personal journey as it is about raising money. It tells the story of Rod Irvine and how he grew in his understanding of this important area of ministry during his tenure as Rector of Figtree Anglican Church in Wollongong. He talks about overcoming his fears and the breakthroughs that happened both personally and corporately as he applied the principles he writes about.

Of course there is much theory and great practical advice set out in the book which any leader in the church can take hold of and use in their own ministry context. Rod is widely read in this area and draws on much academic research as well as the insights of other church leaders. The book is well grounded in the latest literature on the raising of church finances. What makes it so readable is the way Rod sets this theory in the midst of his struggles and wrestling with both God and his people through the ups and downs of parish ministry.

This is the work of a pastor rather than prophet. Rod is concerned with resourcing the ministry of a local church to enable it to preach the gospel and win others to Christ. He understands the need for gathering people around a vision and being the leader who enables that vision to happen. He is not an Amos haranguing people about their hedonistic materialism and calling on them to repent in dust and ashes. He is a pastor seeking to woo his people to the higher ground of greater generosity.

The Gospel of the LordGospeloftheLord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus
By Michael Bird

Eerdmans, 2014

Reviewed by Bishop Stephen Hale

Any review of a Michael Bird book starts with a comment on his amazing output. I liked this comment from Nijay Gupta. ‘Now that Michael Bird has finished a major book on systematic theology as well as numerous works on messianism, the historical Jesus and the Theology of Paul, I wonder if it is time for Mike to extend his brand into cook books and romance novels!…. Let’s see if the Romans commentary he is working on kills him first.’

Michael lectures in Theology at Ridley College but has an extensive background in New Testament studies. ‘The Gospel of the Lord’ has received excellent reviews and was listed by Christianity Today as one of the books of the year in 2014.

The Gospel of the Lord is concerned ‘primarily with the questions of how the Gospels came to be, what kinds of literature they are, and how they relate to Christian discourse about God’(viii). It is not a Gospel survey, but rather a book that covers the complex issues related to the origins and development of the books we call ‘Gospels’ in the context of early church. Michael covers such matters as the transmission of the ‘Jesus tradition’, the Synoptic problem, the genre question, and the canonisation of the ‘Fourfold Gospel’, Mike deals with the non-canonical Gospels – why they were written, what they are about and how they were received by the early Christians.

In our highly skeptical age it is critical that we have a clear understanding of how the primary source documents for our knowledge of Jesus came into being and can be relied upon. Bird uses his typical aussie humour to enliven the book and traverses many scholarly disputes and discussions with clarity and a genuinely fresh perspective.

I enjoyed the book and gather from other reviews (from genuine Scholarly types) that it should become an standard academic text for years to come.

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