Just Mission: Practical Politics for Local Churches

Just Mission: Practical Politics for Local Churches

Author Helen Cameron
Publisher SCM Press £19.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780334052296

There are clearly two approaches (at least) to tackling injustice in our society. One is the large-scale attack on the systemic failings that lead to inequality and poverty, which we might believe should be the focus of the national church, e.g. through the presence of Bishops in the House of Lords; the other is the local – which is the focus of Cameron’s helpful and thought-provoking book. She offers practical advice on how to understand what is happening and then what to do about it. In that sense her book might be what you need if your church is already embroiled in dealing with an issue for your community. But the book is also designed to help people recognise sources of injustice before too much damage has been done, and to raise awareness of effective routes to action so that valuable time and energies are not wasted on remedial measures that are never going to work.

Cameron’s book can also be used as a study guide for churches who have not yet ventured into the stormy seas of local action and who wish to prepare themselves for the fray, or who are interested and have not yet focused their thinking on any one particular issue. The text is sprinkled with references to other helpful resources, including websites and organisations.

MARION GRAY

Mission, Social Policy

 

Contemplative Prayer: A New Framework

Contemplative Prayer:
A New Framework

Author Dom David Foster
Publisher Bloomsbury/Continuum
£12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781408187104

This is a thoughtful, rewarding book which explores a way of prayer where an awareness of God’s presence is cultivated through stillness and silence. Foster approaches his subject philosophically. The book contains short readings of Nietzsche and Heidegger, both of whom, in their different ways, grappled with the subjectivity of human experience and how the individual faces their own frailty and vulnerability. Both philosophers sought to answer the subjectivity of human existence without the resources of traditional faith. In contrast, Foster argues, contemplative prayer makes us aware of our limitations and subjectivity in the light of God. Prayer which is a deep listening to God rather than, say, a talking to God, brings us to a place of threshold and limit; a place of creative mystery where we wait upon God’s initiative instead of our own.

Foster also draws on Wittgenstein, in considering prayer; a philosopher who highlighted the provisional and limited nature of language and indicated the places where language must give way to silence. Foster is good at drawing out the ways contemplative prayer can inform our lives. Prayer which practices a listening to God enriches our capacity to listen to others. A prayer which restrains our own wills and emotions and thoughts allows us to deepen habits of selflessness as we follow Christ. This book will help anyone who wishes to develop ways of prayer built around a loving listening to God in silence.

BEN BROWN

Prayer, Philosophy

 

Jeremiah for Everyone

Jeremiah for Everyone

Author John Goldingay
Publisher SPCK  £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780281061389

Goldingay’s mammoth project of commentaries on the Old Testament has reached the major prophets. Jeremiah has had a bad press, but with Goldingay’s assistance we can find our way through its confusing structure and come to distinguish the themes of its fifty-three chapters. We find that it’s not all doom and gloom, but the many parts that are have different targets and different emphases. Just don’t try and read it straight through all at once.

As usual in the series, Goldingay provides his own readable translation, but in order to fit everything into one volume the amount of commentary, excellent though it is, has had to be much reduced. The translation has some quirky moments, with ‘Thus says the Lord of Hosts’ becoming ‘Yahweh armies have said this’, and ‘Says the Lord’ becomes ‘Yahweh’s declaration’. One gets used to it.

PETER THORNTON

Old Testament Commentary

 

Inventing the Universe

Inventing the Universe

Author Alister McGrath
Publisher Hodder £20
Format hdbk

ISBN 9781444798456

The purpose and direction of this book is difficult to comprehend and it is only in the last chapter that the author states his reasons. It is neither a ‘defence of either science or Christianity, but to explore what happens when they are allowed to speak to each other…’ The narrative of nine chapters forms partly around autobiography (I forget how many times he tells us he was a student at Oxford), extensive quotations from a wide range of authors and thinkers and the inevitable reliance on countering new atheists, especially Richard Dawkins whose name starts to dominate the text after a while. I found the lack of structure and repetitiveness irritating and detracted from some of the insights presented. I suspect most scientists would feel the same but if you want a taste of what an after dinner chat in an Oxford senior common room might be like, you might enjoy it.

JOHN WOOD

Science & Religion

 

The Trinity – How Not To Be a Heretic

The Trinity – How Not To Be a Heretic

Author Stephen Bullivant
Publisher Paulist Press/Alban Books £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 0809149338

At the start of a new lectionary year, it can be useful to read through the whole gospel, accompanied by a short and simple guide. Harrington’s book is such a guide, taking the reader through many of Luke’s central themes and contrasting when appropriate with the other Gospels. Helpfully, the author demonstrates links with the Acts of the Apostles, seeing both books as two parts of the same work. As this is an introduction, I would have hoped for a fuller bibliography but there is a useful glossary of main terms used. If you are looking for a commentary to assist in sermon preparation, then you need to look elsewhere.  If you want an overview of the gospel and its relationship with other New Testament material then this is a good place to start.

CHRIS BRACEGIRDLE

Doctrine, History

 

Reading Luke for the First Time

Reading Luke for the First Time

Author Wilfrid J Harrington OP
Publisher Paulist Press/Alban Books £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780809149308

At the start of a new lectionary year, it can be useful to read through the whole gospel, accompanied by a short and simple guide. Harrington’s book is such a guide, taking the reader through many of Luke’s central themes and contrasting when appropriate with the other Gospels. Helpfully, the author demonstrates links with the Acts of the Apostles, seeing both books as two parts of the same work. As this is an introduction, I would have hoped for a fuller bibliography but there is a useful glossary of main terms used. If you are looking for a commentary to assist in sermon preparation, then you need to look elsewhere.  If you want an overview of the gospel and its relationship with other New Testament material then this is a good place to start.

CHRIS BRACEGIRDLE

New Testament Analysis