­
EFAC Australia

Essentials

Servant of the Church of God:
Donald William Bradley Robinson, 1922–2018

A series of highlights from the full tribute by Rory Shiner which you can read online at au.thegospelcoalition.org
Early on Friday 7 September one of Australia’s most brilliant biblical scholars and influential church leaders went to be with the Lord whom he loved and so faithfully served. If you are an Australian evangelical, you owe him a great debt, even if you’ve never heard of him. His name was Donald William Bradley Robinson. He was 95 years old.

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.

Known by God:
A Biblical Theology of Personal Identity
Brian Rosner
Zondervan, 2017.

This remarkable book combines Biblical truth, personal honesty, theological reflection, Biblical theology, contemporary relevance, and pastoral usefulness! Brian Rosner points out that though ‘self-knowledge’ is frequently recommended, being known by others is vital for human life, and being known by God is of central importance. And again, while we might rightly focus on ‘knowing God’, the deeper truth is that God knows us.

He shows us the ways in which we naturally define and understand ourselves, and then shows us what the Bible teaches about human identity. Next, he unpacks the rich Biblical theme of being known by God in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. This includes belonging to God, being chosen by God, being a child of God and being remembered by God. It also includes being known by Christ, being known by God in Christ, and recognising our family likeness to God and to Christ. He then explores the themes of shared memory and defining destiny, as we are shaped by the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ, and await our resurrection bodies. Rosner then reflects on how being known by God shapes our lives in humility, comfort, direction and purpose. The book concludes with 8 things we should do if we want to know ourselves as we are known by God.

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.

Who’s Building Your House?

The Parable of The Two Builders: Luke 6:46-49

Adrian Lane serves as the Victorian Regional Officer for Bush Church Aid

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not do what I say?

Here we have two men, each building a house. Both are listening to Jesus’ words. Both hear exactly the same words. Furthermore, both houses look exactly the same. Ultimately both houses face the same flood. One man’s house isn’t even shaken, while the other man’s house is swept up in the torrent, collapses into wreckage and is carried off downstream, totally destroyed in one quick gulping swoop. Could this be us? I don’t know if you noticed or not, but both men call on Jesus as Lord. One isn’t some godless atheist or follower of another religion.

Why does one man’s house stand, while the other’s is smashed to smithereens? ‘The answer is obvious,’ you say. ‘One man built his house on a foundation, while the other didn’t.’ Of course, but why? Is he just cheap? Not wanting to pay the price for a solid house? Is he lazy, cocky or cavalier? ‘This’ll do. A flood? The last one was 70 years ago!’ Or perhaps that’s where most people are building their houses? ‘Everybody else is doing it this way’ No doubt the river flats look attractive and comfortable, with plenty of grass and trees. 

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.

If evangelical votes have been credited as part of Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the last US presidential election, does this damage the evangelical brand? If so, is it time to drop the moniker? Rhys Bezzant asks us to treasure the name ‘evangelical’ and its story.

Rhys Bezzant is Dean of Missional Leadership and Lecturer in Christian Thought at Ridley College, Melbourne

No doubt you are hearing this question too: why is it that so many evangelicals voted for Trump? Many used this term to describe their voting choices in the US, even if amongst the unsophisticated media pundits it meant simply ‘white, non-Hispanic Protestants’. Of course, if your politics don’t align with Trump, you might be asking the question to distance yourself from those Christians who take on this label. There are however many who vote Republican, but have serious questions anyway about whether the evangelical brand is damaged. The populism of American presidential elections is often a bellwether for other countries too. Many nations around the world are experiencing either discomfort with, or disdain for, the international order, and are making their opinions known through the ballot box. Here is not the place to canvass the economic drivers which lead to different kinds of extreme politics, or to analyse the strategy of fear-mongering adopted by world leaders. But here is the place to ask the question whether the word ‘evangelical’ is past its use-by date. I say it is not.

Subcategories

­