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Books To Read...Or not to Read

There are lots of books I'd like to read that are quite related to this site. There are others I have read that were really helpful to me. Let's get some reviews up here so others know where to start looking when they realise they're not alone in the feeling that no-one is saying what's really important:

Disappointment with God

by Philip Yancey

Quite simply the only book I've ever read that actually addresses the questions I've got. Looks at the story of Job particularly and talks about how we can possibly understand what God puts us through as part of a larger spiritual battle in which we are soldiers. There will inevitably be casualties.

I can't recommend this enough if you're interested in the themes that come up again and again on this site.

What's So Amazing About Grace?

by Philip Yancey

I'd recommend 'What's so Amazing about Grace' by him, too. Really thought-provoking about how to be distinctively gracious. DavidB

I agree with DavidB - WSAAG not only showed how much Christians have done to make Christianity seem un-gracious and unloving, but also inspired me with a vision of how powerful God's grace is and what it'd be like if we really showed the world what God's grace was about, as that's what the world desperately needs. (A friend of mine who's studying conflict between people of different religions in India mentioned WSAAG yesterday. He said he always thought the solution to these conflicts and hatred was education about the past, but then he saw how even university graduate students were stirred up by a speaker talking about how they should hate and fight the others. When he was in India though among Christians who'd been persecuted, he experienced amazing grace and forgiveness. When he read the chapter in WSAAG about conflicts yesterday, it really struck him how grace was the only hope for real peace and reconciliation.) Midge

The Post-Evangelical

... can someone who's read this let us know whether it's worth it?

I read it about 4 years ago. It's easy to read, being lots of short chapters on different themes. All I remember is that I wasn't v impressed by the concept of 'post-evangelicalism'. It was right in pointing out some problems of evangelical churches - at least, some British middle-class evangelical churches - e.g. over-emphasis on the head rather than the heart, not enough relevance to the world outside etc. - and the idea of a radical shake-up sounded exciting. But I wasn't satisfied by the solution, which seemed to be the usual switch to the opposite pole rather than keeping what's good and adding what's missing. Either it was just another liberalism - a 'post-modern' approach to the truth of the Bible, which seemed to mean not just emphasising the symbolic and the emotional effect of Scripture but also ditching facts and the idea of things being true in themselves, a pick and choose approach. Or it was a new approach to worship which seemed less satisfying than what we've already got - though a friend of mine said 'it couldn't be much worse'. But I'd be more happy taking someone to my church than to one where they make strange sculptures to think about the world. It made me feel "I'm glad I'm not a post-evangelical." Maybe it'd be good to hear from someone who's read it more recently tho. There's also a reply-book from some evangelicals, which I felt I agreed with much more. (Or maybe I'm mixing the two up. Maybe I only read the second book.) Midge

I found his criticisms of the evangelical church often to be bang on, but his suggestions as to what to do about the problems weren't at all satisfying to me. I'd rather stay an evangelical and work towards solving the problems in that context. DavidB

Beyond Fundamentalism

... Fantastic title! Anyone read it? Check out WhatIsaFundamentalist ...

'Fundamentalism' and the Word of God

by J. I. Packer. A very helpful book for looking at the history of fundamentalism; it argues for a strong belief in the authority and truthfulness of the Bible, while rejecting an unthinking approach. DavidB

Beyond Sex Roles

by Gilbert Bilezekian - I really love this book, because it helps me when I have to argue against travesties of the Bible put forward by fundamentalists of the old school like J.I.Packer. It is not overly scholarly - he wrote it with the aim of its liberating godly message being accessible to everybody. Alice

- (Smile) I see that we have differing views of JI Packer :) I wonder why you call him a 'fundamentalist of the old school'? It's not something he'd call himself, I think... What particular travesties has he been putting out, I wonder? Never read any Bilezekian, but on a similar theme, my favourite author on gender issues is currently Mary Evans - very very good for showing how much the Bible is positive towards women and women's ministry. Cheers, DavidB :)

Sweet DavidB, unlike you or I or Mary Evans or God or the Bible, J.I. Packer certainly DOES NOT have a positive view towards women and women's ministry. There is something on the CBE website about his views - the article on the website responds to his views on women, pointing out what is wrong with them. What books have you read by Mary Evans? I'd like to read such books. Mentioning J.I. Packer again (although believe me, he is not my favourite subject), I tried to read a book by him - I can't remember what it was called - but it was written in such a dull style I couldn't stand it. And that was before I learnt about his views on women, so don't say that my opinion of him clouded it! Alice

Hi Alice, I'm sorry about some of Packer's views you point out. His views on this issue are somewhat puzzling to me; however, I'd say in his favour that there are many things he's written which are very very good on other subjects. I guess it's inevitable that there will be some things he believes that we won't agree with - that's true for us all; we all believe some things that will be objectionable to others, but it'll still be worth us learning from each other :) Warmest wishes, DavidB

-I agree that Jim Packer's style isn't everyone's cup of tea. Mary Evans' book is called Woman in the Bible, published by Paternoster in the Biblical Classics Library series (so it only costs �2). (The ensuing discussion has been moved to GenderAndWebsites.)

A Churchless Faith: Faith journeys beyond the churches

by Alan Jamieson.

I've just come across this book, which came out in 2002. Has anyone else read it? It seems to parallel a lot of our discussion on this website - about why people aren't satisfied with church, what they've done, and what churches can learn from all this. The blurb says 'Thoroughly researched, this ground-breaking and eminently readable book is an account of the lessons learned from groups seeking to work with those who have left evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic churches but who are nevertheless pursuing a journey of faith. It outlines some of the supportive structures and one-to-one help that churches can offer leavers, and suggests that a conversation between post-church groups and churches would be of considerable value to all.' When I've read it, I'll tell you what I think! Can't put it down so far... Does this sound familiar?

I remember trying to tell a guy at church once how I was feeling. He just said nothing. He couldn't deal with it. He was a guy who you would say was a mature person, but he just couldn't deal with it. Another day he asked me if he could pray with me and I told him no (ha ha). I thought, you can't even listen to me, you haven't even earned the right. Maybe the word 'earned' is a bit harsh, but that was how I felt. (page 77)

A Doll's House

by Henrik Ibsen

A play that touches on the gender stuff we've been talking about.

'A Doll's House'(1879) caused a furore when it was first played on stage. It exposes the hypocrisy and double standards of marriage in the nineteenth century. Ruled her whole life by her father and then her husband, Nora Helmer must question the foundation of everything she believes when her marriage is put to the test. Nora has always been treated like a doll by her husband, who is very proud and patronizing in his belief that he has authority over his wife. What I found sad is that this play is still relevant nowadays...especially when I think of what certain 'Christians' believe. What I love about Henrik Ibsen is that when someone said something about him being a feminist, he said something like 'While I am honoured to be connected to that movement, I would say that I am campaigner for human rights.' Which is good, because some people - some Christians, certainly - don't view women as humans.

Healing for Damaged Emotions

by David Seamands (not the goalie with the ponytail)

Another book I've mentioned but haven't read. I'll review it when I have read it. In the meantime, George Verwer says "It is hard to express how excited I am about this book and the way I have seen the Lord use it." And from the preface:

Early in my pastoral experience, I discovered that I was failing to help two groups of people through the regular ministries of the church... I saw one group being driven into futility and loss of confidence in God's power. While they desperately prayed, their prayers about personal problems didn't seem to be answered... they were going deeper and deeper into disillusionment and despair. I saw the other group moving into phoniness. These people were repressing their inner feelings and denying to themselves that anything was seriously wrong, because 'Christians can't have such problems.'

My review so far: It's one of those books where I want to write "Yes" on every page by the things that sound familiar, that I can relate to.

Can It Be True? A Personal Pilgrimage Through Faith and Doubt

by Michael Wakely

Only dipped into it so far, but the author has confronted lots of issues that people avoid because they're uncomfortable or afraid of airing them. And he has come out with his faith strengthened, which encourages me. One chapter which people on this site might appreciate is the one on 'Dishonest Christians'.

Great so far. Enjoyable to read, and he puts his finger on lots of doubts people don't like to bring up, but which feel very familiar to me - like "I often wonder if God is really there at all". He doesn't give answers that are supposed to solve everything, but thoughts that help to deal with the questions. Encouraging to see someone who's honest about these things and struggles with them but has found some answers, and has continued to believe strongly in the Bible and in God. Having a 'questioning, honest faith' doesn't mean retreating from a historical Bible-based faith in Jesus. In fact, I feel more excited about the Bible and about God, realising that He is beyond our understanding and yet has revealed so much of Himself to us. Having an easy-to-understand God and faith, whether a liberal one or a coldly intellectual and systematic evangelical one, is nothing like as appealing. Or on the other hand, a God who's so mysterious and unknowable, you can just believe what you like.

It's great to see how my struggles are not something I need to clear up or can expect to clear up before I've really 'made it' as a Christian and have a proper faith - Michael Wakely says his faith has had to grapple with doubts for 40 years so far!

I also laughed when he said he believed God could speak through dreams, but his dreams were usually so bizarre that he didn't want to risk trying to interpret them.

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