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EFAC Australia

Essentials

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.

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.

God’s love for Cain and for Abel   Genesis 4:1-10

T he story of Cain and Abel speaks to guilty people who have screwed it up, and to innocent victims. It speaks to those who are tempted to resentment and bitterness, and to those who despair when believers fall prey to evil. It speaks most fully when seen together with the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

When considered on its own, Genesis 4:1-10 is a story about Cain, and how the Lord deals with him as he becomes a murderer and an outcast. Cain is angry when God favours Abel’s sacrifice, but not Cain’s. Perhaps Cain felt he was the victim of some divine unfairness. Perhaps he wanted to be lord of his brother, but God’s favour threatened this aim. The Lord draws near to Cain, precisely because he is in this sullen, angry state, and asks him some hard questions: ‘Why are you angry? … If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?’ These questions challenge any assumption Cain may have that he has a reason to be angry, or that God is treating him unjustly. The Lord does not explain the favour thing to Cain. He simply but earnestly warns Cain that he is at a crossroads. Will he do what is right, despite being the unfavoured one, or will he let the vampire sin in, and become himself one who crouches to spring, and take the life of another? This is not perhaps, what Cain would have liked from God, but it is, nonetheless, the good gift that the Lord has for Cain on the verge of Cain’s selfdestruction; it is what he needs.

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.

Gender

There has been plenty of attention given to current issues in gender and sexuality in the pages of Essentials in recent years. However, discussion has generally been about developments in the wider culture to which evangelicals have a
more or less united attitude. But in this issue we look at issues involving gender where unanimity does not exist amongst evangelical Anglicans, and so there will surely be things you disagree with in the pages that follow. On the whole, I aim for Essentials to be irenic and to stay close to the things which unite us (not always successfully) but this quarter, I’m relaxing that approach, and I think it is good from time to time to be able to include a set of articles that may not have everyone
nodding in agreement together. Before we get to that, however, Chase Kuhn gives us a lovely and pithy opening piece on the late Donald Robinson’s enduring influence. Once you go on, you will find a fine pair of articles on the evolution of the egalitariancomplementarian debate. First, Tim Foster gives an account of the development of these disagreements from an egalitarian perspective, and then Kara Hartley does the same from a complementarian perspective. Some of the frenzy may have gone out of the discussion, but, as Tim demonstrates, that does not mean new proposals are not being brought forth, tested and adopted or discarded, and, as Kara points out, the social context of the debate colours the issues in new and different ways. 

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.

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