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Son of Hamas

21 Aug

Reading a hugely interesting book at the moment about the son of a Hamas leader who defected to Israel and was subsequently converted to Christianity before seeking political asylum in the US. It provides a fascinating insight into the current situation in the Middlle East. He now blogs here.

Great to see how God was at work in bringing him to Christ – even if it was slowly over a long period!

The Shack Revisited: Tim Keller

28 Jan

Browsing the Gospel Coalition site today and found this article on the Shack. Here’s an extract from Tim Keller’s excellent and balanced “impressions” – he makes clear that it isn’t a review!

“At the heart of the book is a noble effort — to help modern people understand why God allows suffering, using a narrative form. The argument Young makes at various parts of the book is this. First, this world’s evil and suffering is the result of our abuse of free will. Second, God has not prevented evil in order to accomplish some glorious, greater good that humans cannot now understand. Third, when we stay bitter at God for a particular tragedy we put ourselves in the seat of the ‘Judge of the world and God’, and we are unqualified for such a job. Fourth, we must get an ‘eternal perspective’ and see all God’s people in joy in his presence forever. (The father in the story is given a vision of his deceased daughter living in the joy of Christ’s presence, and it heals his grief.) This is all rather standard, orthodox, pastoral theology (though it’s a bit too heavy on the ‘free-will defense’).  It is so accessible to readers because of its narrative form. I have heard many reports of semi-believers and non-believers claiming that this book gave them an answer to their biggest objections to faith in God.

However, sprinkled throughout the book, Young’s story undermines a number of traditional Christian doctrines. Many have gotten involved in debates about Young’s theological beliefs, and I have my own strong concerns. But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible. In the prophets the reader will find a God who is constantly condemning and vowing judgment on his enemies, while the Persons of the Triune-God of The Shack repeatedly deny that sin is any offense to them. The reader of Psalm 119 is filled with delight at God’s statutes, decrees, and laws, yet the God of The Shack insists that he doesn’t give us any rules or even have any expectations of human beings. All he wants is relationship. The reader of the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Isaiah will learn that the holiness of God makes his immediate presence dangerous or fatal to us. Someone may counter (as Young seems to do, on p.192) that because of Jesus, God is now only a God of love, making all talk of holiness, wrath, and law obsolete. But when John, one of Jesus’ closest friends, long after the crucifixion sees the risen Christ in person on the isle of Patmos, John ‘fell at his feet as dead.’ (Rev.1:17.) The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.”

iPad: Apple evangelism

27 Jan

Can’t help noticing the religion-like status now afforded to Apple. Not helped by the launch of another very cool looking product!

If you are in any doubt about this new ‘religion’, people have even been calling the new iPad the ‘Jesus Tablet“. How about that.

Atul Gawande: Better

19 Nov

Atul Gawande seems to have done quite well for himself. Not only that, but he has done a great deal for others in the process, especially patients. The Harvard Associate Professor, writer and general surgeon desparately wants doctors to be better at their jobs, which is the focus of his book, the aptly titled Better, published in 2007. It’s all about getting better at being doctors.

Better is possible. It does not take genius. It takes diligence. It takes moral clarity. It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try.

I know how often I witness  doctors who fail to do simple things like washing their hands. This is nothing new. The author explores how hard it has been throughout history to get doctors to comply with simple, obvious guidelines for infection control etc. Gawande then moves on to deal with a variety of other issues from the ethics and practicalities of intimate examinations, doctors involved in legal executions and how lucrative private practise affects clinical practice.

Gawande is all too aware of the limits of medicine, and of the potential for doing more harm than good in our attempts to push the boundaries of modern care. One of the chapters which intrigued me most dealt with how more people are living longer than ever, but with more disease than ever too. Now people are living long enough to get cancer where in the past they would have died of something else first. Gawande explores this phenomenon among horrifically wounded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. He asks searching questions, not least what sort of quality of life these “saved” soldiers will have if they are kept alive with no arms and only one leg. I don’t think it’s our place to judge how someone else views their quality of life, but it does make for a thought-provoking read.

Gawande acknowledges his own failings as much as he points them out in others. Better is a good exploration of a world where mistakes happen all the time, yet where the consequences can be disastrous. Looking forward to getting my hands on his latest book The Checklist Manifesto, out soon.

Death by Love

3 Oct

Death by LoveDriscoll and Breshears give us a solid biblical treatment of issues facing many today. In terms of content, I find little to complain about. The introduction to penal substitution is brilliant. Nevertheless, the idea of reading letters meant to confront someone else’s stuggles with sin and/or dispair does seem a little wierd, even if the advice is good. Driscoll doesn’t pull any punches and I’m left feeling quite uncomfortable in places. Maybe that’s a good thing; after all, sin is a big deal and it should be dealt with seriously.

Driscoll’s explanation of modern biblical relevance is worth taking note of:

The gospel message comes from God to the culture but does not eminate in any way from the culture, though it must be effectively communicated to all cultures. Because of this, the truth of the gospel of Scripture is binding on all peoples, times, and places.