Keith’s book reviews

Keith SA series of Book Reviews from Keith Scott. These reviews are  part of the work that Keith is doing in the  Equipping for Ministry course.


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1. Name of book/resource & author : Re-enchanting Christianity by Dave Tomlinson
2.    Where/how you came across it

In the theological book group I have recently joined where it divided opinion sharply.

3.    What did you find helpful or inspiring about this book or resource?

Coming from a Charismatic background Tomlinson has become a “progressive orthodox” Christian – neither liberal nor conservative he claims although his views seem to me to liberal. I find his journey fascinating and his vision of the church exciting and challenging (he is a vicar in the Church of England).

“Church is not supposed to be a place of theological purity…but a mishmash of believers, doubters, dissenters  and malcontents, each of whom is grappling in his or her own way towards the mystery that is God.”

4.       What, if anything, was not so good?

Much of the book is quotes from liberal theologians woven together with his own experiences. One of the Amazon reviews suggests it would be better to go back to these theologians themselves. Not having read them I found the text stimulating.

5.       Was there anything that offered a useful challenge or difficulty?

By seeking to make Christianity relevant to society today and seemingly succeeding in his own church I was left wondering if we have much to learn. Are we relevant to society today or have we become a fringe movement with little relevance?

6.    How does it relate to your EFM journey?

I like many Quakers turned away from the certainties of orthodox Christianity and found Friends  openness refreshing. Part of doing EFM is to reconsider what I think about my Christian roots and this book has struck many deep chords with me.

7.       Would you recommend it to others?

Very much – unless you have read all the theologians quoted already.


Name of book/resource & author : First among Friends by H. Larry Ingle
Where/how you came across it : In Farnham meeting house library>
3.    What did you find helpful or inspiring about this book or resource?
Authoritative – 38 pages of bibliography, 70 pages of notes this is an impressive book and yet reads well. Published in 1994 by OUP its market is wider than Friends and is an objective biography. To quote from the review in the Historian “This book has two sets of qualities that help explain why it will long stand as the definitive biography of one of history’s most intriguing figures: a strong interest and empathy for its subject and meticulous scholarship with intellectual honesty”.

He shows a rounded view of Fox – as a child “George was not something of a prig, he was a prig” and shows that Fox bore grudges and did not like to admit he was wrong – and seldom did. Yet he also shows Fox’s “essential genius”.

I learnt much from this book – that the peace testimony was written by a small group of Friends including Fox but was not brought before a wider meeting before being published and he never denied the right of a ruler to take up arms in a just war; that the issue of hats became so important and that Fox who urged people to look within to the Light made it a matter of principle that men should pray with their heads uncovered; the incredible suffering he went through and his energy.

4.    What, if anything, was not so good?

It is a brilliant book. It would have been good to have interspersed some more of Fox’s own words to illustrate the author’s points and to give a better sense of Fox himself.

5.    Was there anything that offered a useful challenge or difficulty?

The nature of authority within Friends is a key issue in the book that remains vital today.

6.    How does it relate to your EFM journey?

I have a much rounder view of the founder of Quakerism and can more easily understand how different strands of Quakers can emphasise different elements of his teachings and all claim to follow in his footsteps.

7.    Would you recommend it to others?

Unreservedly.


Name of book/resource & author : Jim Pym – Listening to the Light: how to bring Quaker simplicity and integrity into our lives
Where/how you came across it : In our meeting book shelves and on recommended list for EFL.
3.    What did you find helpful or inspiring about this book or resource?

This is a book by a Quaker and a Buddhist – not he says a Quaker Buddhist. The book has three strands – the author’s personal spiritual life; Quakers and Quakerism and a how to incorporate the ideas in our own spiritual life. Written in 1999 it is still very relevant. He explains the basics of Quakers in this country really well and for me one of the best parts is how he shows that everyone can use Quaker insights to improve their lives. Perhaps surprisingly as he is a Buddhist he is wonderful at describing ways of discovering the divine. I looked up the reviews on Amazon and I have to share this one.  “I have read quite extensively in investigating Quaker faith & practice and this is just about the best introduction I’ve found. This is the one that finally got me to get … off the couch and seek out a meeting. Elegant, understandable, and personable writing by a guy with an obviously sweet spirit. Wholeheartedly recommended for those seriously considering a move toward Quaker-ism or those who are just interested in making the Quaker spirit part of their life’s journey” (Paula from Milwaukee).

What, if anything, was not so good?

5.    Was there anything that offered a useful challenge or difficulty?

It seems so easy to put it into practice..

6.    How does it relate to your EFM journey?

I came on the EFL to search, find, refresh the sense of the Divine in myself. I think if I take some time using this book it would be a great start.

7.    Would you recommend it to others? Yes

Name of book/resource & author : Much Madder: The chronicles of a Quaker meeting by Basil Donne-Smith

Where/how you came across it : In the meeting house library.
3.    What did you find helpful or inspiring about this book or resource?

A light hearted look at Quakers set in Much Madder meeting..

4.    What, if anything, was not so good?

It sometimes labours the point too much.

5.    Was there anything that offered a useful challenge or difficulty?

At first I thought this was just silly but it grew on me and found it quite a profound look at Quakers.

6.    How does it relate to your EFM journey?

I’m not sure.

7.    Would you recommend it to others?

If you want a light hearted book not on the reading list but still about Quakers this is for you!


Name of book/resource & author : The unequal world we inhabit: Quaker responses to terrorism and fundamentalism – Paul Lacey
Where/how you came across it : The Swarthmore Lecture for 2010 which I have just got around to reading!
4.    What did you find helpful or inspiring about this book or resource?

An excellent and nuanced examination of the motives of terrorists with a wide analysis of the research that has been conducted and dispels many myths. He shows that terrorists are rarely strongly religious and tend to be better educated. Lacey then goes on to look at how we can respond to failed states where there is a breakdown in the state’s duty to protect the lives of its citizens and considers the Responsibility to Protect. Should we then sanction an armed police force intervention?

5.    What, if anything, was not so good?

A fascinating read but he deals very briefly with specifically Quaker interventions which considering the title of the lecture is surprising. Perhaps we are not called to create a blueprint for every situation but to intervene where we can supporting the oppressed and build peace. This will not always succeed but we can support people working for peace in very difficult situations.

6.    Was there anything that offered a useful challenge or difficulty?

Is the Quaker peace testimony too idealistic? This is a question we will all struggle wih throughout our journeys.

7.    How does it relate to your EFM journey?

There is a wealth of experience in the Swarthmore Lectures I have just begun to tap into.

8.    Would you recommend it to others?

Yes – it is an excellent study of the question and gives no easy answers. For a fuller review see  John Lampen’s review at http://thefriend.org/article/the-swarthmore-lecture-2010/


Name of book/resource & author : The Covenant Crucified: Quakers and the rise of capitalism by Douglas Gwyn
Where/how you came across it : In our library at Woking meeting house – and on the recommended book list for the course.
3.    What did you find helpful or inspiring about this book or resource?

Looking at history as a story of covenant is prominent in the Old Testament but is rarely seen today outside Evangelical churches and is often there used with a simplicity I find off putting.  Gwyn presents to me a radically different look at the covenant early Quakers were engaged in and how it changed in the first twenty years to a less radical approach – a story similar to the early church.  This has shown me how Quakers endangered the fabric of society in the seventeenth century. How conventional we are today by comparison.

4.    What, if anything, was not so good?

I found the attempt to apply this to the present disappointing after the masterful analysis of the early Israelites and the early Quakers.

5.    Was there anything that offered a useful challenge or difficulty?

So much that I will need to come back to this many times.

6.    How does it relate to your EFM journey?

It opens me up to fresh possibilities.

7.    Would you recommend it to others?

Absolutely.


Name of book/resource & author :Barbara Brown Taylor – When God is Silent
Where/how you came across it :A book discussed at a local ecumenical theological book group I have just joined.
3.    What did you find helpful or inspiring about this book or resource?

A very powerful slim book. Written by a preacher for preachers there is much beauty and wisdom here. An appeal to “say only what we know to be true, to say it from the heart, and to sit down” (p101) It ends with “Our words are too fragile. God’s silence is too deep. But oh, what gorgeous sounds our failures make: words flung against the silence like wine glasses pitched against a hearth. As lovely as they are, they were meant for smashing. For when they do, it is as if a little of God’s own music breaks through”.

An appeal for economy, simplicity and silence not what I had expected.

4.    What, if anything, was not so good?

Taking a literal approach to the Bible the author argues that God spoke face to face  to Adam and Eve, to Abraham and to Moses and tries to explain why this is not so today.

5.    Was there anything that offered a useful challenge or difficulty?

I find it difficult to believe that God once spoke to people face to face in such a way and that does not happen now. Wasn’t the coming of the Holy Spirit to reinforce this connection? So I am inclined to take the earlier stories as myth rather than reality.
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6.    How does it relate to your EFM journey?

It is good to have read something from a different perspective and to have talked about it with people from a different perspective. I have moved further from the Christian tradition since I have been a Quaker and one of the reasons I am doing EFM is to try and see where I am and where I still connect.

7.    Would you recommend it to others?

Yes – it is beautifully written and not just for preachers..