Philosophy and Christian Faith

Philosophy and
Christian Faith

Author Ben Pugh
Publisher SCM  £22.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780334057109  2018

This contribution to the SCM Study guide series would be a useful tool to anyone studying, teaching, or simply wishing to have an over-view of the philosophy of religion. The book’s structure is chronological, starting with Plato, ending with postmoder-nism, and setting the various ideas in their historical and religious (mainly Christian) contexts with admirable clarity. This is but one respect in which it differs from the many lamentably poor textbooks recently published for A level use, which take a thematic approach, and present each topic in a muddled way and with little reference to context. Here, the author is particularly successful in showing how, although philosophical ideas and religious beliefs increasingly clashed from the early modern period onwards, neither philosophy nor the scientific method should in themselves be seen as threatening to belief. Not only can any Christian learn much that is positive from engaging with philosophy, but in recent years there have emerged many eminent philosophers of religion whose ideas are informed by a robust Christian faith. In such an overview, each section is inevitably rather brief, but an impressive range of names and ideas is covered with special sections helpfully set aside for discussion and reflection.

ADRIAN ROBERTS

Philosophy

 

Resilience in Life and Faith

Resilience in Life
and Faith

Authors Tony Horsfall & Debbie Hawker
Publisher BRF  £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780857467348

The assertion on the back of this book – ‘Read this if you want a faith that persists to the finishing line – develop resilience and prepare for the challenges life throws at us’ sums up the authors’ intention. Does it do what it says on the cover? Debbie Hawker, a clinical psychologist, introduces the subject and contributes chapters on the psychological aspects of resilience using a model of resilience under the following domains: spiritual, physical, emotional, cognitive and creative, and finally social and systemic. Tony Horsfall, a trainer and retreat leader, provides studies of biblical characters illustrating each aspect considered. Each of the 15 short chapters concludes with some questions. Finally there are two appendices – a self-assessment ‘Resilience Rating Scale’ using their model, and then a ‘Resilience Creed’, using scriptural truths to strengthen faith during times of hardship. For those of an investigative nature, 145 annotated references are cited. It is a readable book; I found several nuggets amidst the many referenced opinions and conclusions. In summary, the book should interest Readers keen to investigate and develop the psychological aspects of their faith.

ROGER THORNINGTON

Psychology, Resilience

 

Does Religion Do More Harm Than Good?

Does Religion Do More Harm Than Good?

Author Rupert Shortt
Publisher SPCK  £7.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780281078714

In eighty pages Shortt sets out to rebut the arguments of Hitchens, Pullman and others hostile to religion because of the harm it has caused. Following a well-trodden path, he argues: first, that one must distinguish between what religions teach, in terms of openness and tolerance, and the abuse of those same teachings by believers; second, that, properly understood, the ethical dimensions of all religions create an environment in which human beings can be most fully themselves. The writing, replete with references, is very much of the style, ‘on the one hand’ but ‘on the other,’ in order to appear even-handed, but inevitably the atheists fare badly. Occasionally in his exposition, despite his best intentions, he strays into implicitly negative judgments of non-Christian religions, thereby risking the kind of simplistic generalisation he warns against; but his conviction that all religions contribute to the general well-being, by urging us to embrace a vision of life that is broad and inclusive and not confined within a naturalistic perspective, is surely one which all readers of this journal would endorse.

C W WATSON

Apologetics

 

Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell

Author Catherine Butcher
Publisher Monarch  £8.99
Format pbk
ISBN 978085721671   2015

The sub-title tells all: faith before the firing squad – and that is where the first chapter takes us: a graphic description of the last hours of a
nurse who had saved the lives of over 200 Allied troops but who had confessed to the crime of helping to conduct those soldiers to safety and, of course, to a chance to return to battle against the Germans. Catherine Butcher’s biography of Edith Cavell is detailed, with a strong emphasis on her faith. Child of the vicarage, she was brought up with daily services from the Book of Common Prayer, often quoted. Later, she trained as a nurse working in England, and then in Belgium where she became matron of a training school. Here the focus is more on her humanitarian and brave approach, especially towards soldiers whom she helped; their stories and the danger involved add a tension to the work. Readers will find the book of interest but may find the explanations, such as that about confirmation, frustratingly simple.

MARGARET TINSLEY

Biography

 

Faithful Grandparents

Faithful Grandparents

Author Anita Cleverly
Publisher BRF  £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780857466617

This book is for Christian grandparents. Anita Cleverly writes of her own journey and approach as a grandparent, and covers the responsibilities of the grandparent’s role in the twenty-first century, together with the opportunities we have, and the limitations we are subject to. The chapters on sensitive listening, the wonder of the created world, Bible stories and children’s questions are well covered. There is an encouraging view of the church today, and valuable advice regarding the changing landscape of culture and today’s technology. The chapter I enjoyed most was the one on praying for and with our grandchildren. Anita Cleverly has written a book of authentic Christian wisdom and grace, sprinkled with real comments from real people, and pieces of practical advice, for ourselves as well as for our families. She writes with feeling about the difficulties of being a faithful grandparent as well as the joys. I commend it to you.

HOWARD ROWE

Family, Lifestyle

 

Psalms

Psalms

Author Simon P Stocks
Publisher BRF  £6.95
Format pbk
ISBN 9780857467317

This book is small in size, but substantial in content – 111 pages filled with important ideas and helpful insights. It is part of the BRF ‘Really Useful Guides’ series, and this designation is most apt. Stocks has written for a wide audience, including those with little previous knowledge of the psalms, but those who have used them daily for many years will nonetheless find much that is new and fascinating. He is especially strong on the poetic imagery of the psalms, and how these relate to the context of life in ancient Israel. I was also impressed by the way the author is not afraid to address the difficult questions posed by the so-called ‘vengeful’ psalms, including the seldom-used Psalm 58. While some of these may never become favourites, the ideas described will open our minds to wider issues, including the overriding need for justice. This book will help readers to pray the psalms with new hearts, and greater dedication, and is strongly recommended.

ELIZABETH HOGG

Old Testament Analysis