Archive for March 2018

The Book of Thomas the Doubter- George Tyrell   Leave a comment

I requested this book from NetGalley expecting it to be an exposition of the contents of the gnostic Gospel of Thomas. In fact, it is a novelisation of Saint Thomas, his life and his beliefs (treating the views of the non-canonical gospel of Thomas as his writing). I thought this a very interesting idea, indeed taking this approach simplified a lot of things for the author.
The novel begins as Thomas is drawn to Jesus’ group of disciples and finds that his questioning attitude is well received by The Master and they often talk long into the night, Thomas thereby receiving a deeper understanding of many of Jesus’ teachings than the other members of the group. This is the primary claim of the Gospel of Thomas.
Some of the other disciples are also sketched, this too matches the information provided in the gospel. As Thomas begins to understand the essence of Jesus’ teachings, he is challenged to try out this faith in healing. In the novel Thomas explains his own understanding of these deep concepts and of his experiences in healing alongside Jesus.
The death and crucifixion are hurried over, but Thomas does talk of his experience with the risen saviour, where he answers his challenge to touch the places of wounding. Here he talks of touching a body which is throbbing with spirit energy. His understanding is of a resurrected body which has been changed. This again accords to Gnostic belief.
The remainder of the book covers Thomas’ travels to Egypt and eventually to India always spreading the news of Jesus until his martyrdom in India. At the close of the novel, the author supplies information regarding the deaths of the other disciples, as far as we know it.
The novel is a light read, not too dense of deep that anyone would enjoy reading it. I was impressed by the way Tyrell had attempted to write this as if Thomas was truly a Gnostic and author of the spurious gospel, sharing gnostic ideas throughout, along with many of the sayings contained in the gospel. It certainly brought the gospel to life.
The actual gospel of Thomas is merely a collection of sayings and is only 15 pages long. It is really not a very inspiring read. It contains no storyline, nor does it refer to Jesus’ death or resurrection. It does however contain a strong gnostic flavour. These beliefs and those of the sayings contained in the gospel were strongly reflected in the novel.
It is important to remember when reading this novel, that Saint Thomas is not thought to have written the gospel at all, it may have been by another person named Thomas, but from the 2nd Century AD.
Another point worth making is that the novel should not be read as reflecting true Christianity, it has been deliberately twisted slightly to reflect the gnostic views of the gospel it is named for.
I would gladly recommend this book, particularly to anyone studying Gnosticism, as it quite brought the theories to life for me. However, it should not be reserved for research, it is suitable just as a light read for any interested reader.

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Posted March 29, 2018 by dianne7 in book review

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How to listen so people will talk-Becky Harling   Leave a comment

I chose to review this on NetGalley, as I felt it was a topic we should all read up on regularly to ensure we are being the best at listening that we can be.

I was not disappointed. I have read books by Ms Harling before and enjoyed them immensely. This time, instead of a bible study, it is a self help book on listening.

This is a great book, easy to access, wth clear chapter headings, so you could just dip in, or research a particular topic, if you did not read the whole book.

The book covers such topics as not offering unsolicited advice, not interrupting, and not jumping in with your own personal parallel stories when not asked. In addition the author challenged us to ask appropriate questions, to consider our body language, to offer empathy and validate feelings.

There is also a chapter on how to handle conflict, which was very considered and helpful. I greatly appreciated her advice to just let a person continue when they are venting, explaining that no-one can take anything in at this point and to try reasonable suggestions later. This was accompanied by a personal example which although made me smile was very timely.

I believe everyone, whether they are christian or not would benefit from reading this book. It is not overtly christian, merely talking about our concerns for good relationships and a peaceful happy family, which all of us share.

All of us should own a book like this, which sits on our bookshelf and is read and reread every couple of years. Regardless of whether we think we know all of this stuff, we tend to forget and go back to our old habits.

This book would be useful at home, in families, in a church setting but also in any work setting too. Her advice on toxic relationships is very good and clear.

I got a lot from this book and will be watching what I say in future for a while. I recommend this book to everyone.

Posted March 27, 2018 by dianne7 in book review

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Age of Crowns – Kori de Leon   Leave a comment

 

This NetGalley christian book has a subtitle of ‘pursuing lives marked by the Kingdom of God’. I chose it expecting it to contain an exposition of the doctrine of the second coming or the fulfilment of Kingdom doctrine. I was very disappointed.

It is intended to be an inspirational or motivational book intending to urge us on in our present walk with God whilst holding a picture of the ‘age to come’ in our minds.

The book is divided into 3 sections and the first section I really did not enjoy at all. Every chapter seemed to be challenging the reader to salvation, yet this was not a book many non christians would select.

In addition the author rambled, often straying far from her initial point with irrelevant personal memories. It reads much like a cross between an inspirational sermon and a journal.
I felt much of the first 4 chapters needed reordering and reediting. For instance, at one place the author tells us our life will be an adventure, yet within a few paragraphs she says, ‘there is no epic adventure to take’, which reads as a contradiction.

The 4 principles with which she opens the book are not scriptural, but randomly connected to fairytale literature, which does not help the entire feeling of shallow unreality which pervades the entire book.

When considering wounded christians she is brusque, suggesting the lonely just pray over a picture of a bride and groom (not even explaining the symbolism intended). An insecure child’s issues are dismissed with a short statement that Christ can no doubt heal them!

There was a lot of unexplained church jargon, ( to pray back through a situation, dominion language, the slumber of sin) none of which are explained. However half a chapter is given to explaining what meditation is; yet despite this she gave little guidance how to meditate, there were no actual examples.

Some of her theology is very imaginative, there is no scriptural evidence Abraham’s family worshipped the moon, nor that we shall each rule individual cities when Christ returns. Just 2 examples from the first 2 chapters. When explaining the small portion of scripture ‘awake O sleeper’ she herself seems confused. Initially she tells us it refers to us living in a false reality, then quotes C S Lewis more recognised opinion that it refers to moving from one kingdom to the next at salvation.

In chapter 3 she explained idolatry as referred to in the Old Testament and applied it to her daughter’s dolls, but then in one sentence glossed over the modern applications purely as a list. There was no explanation how this was idolatry and how to approach the issue. It appeared throughout as if she was prepared to explain simple theology yet avoided the more difficult aspects expecting us to already know, whilst still preaching the gospel repeatedly throughout the book.

She seemed to have no interest in pain and suffering, just exhorted us to deal with it, indeed in one section she told us that failure to move forward during hardship can ‘be an indicator that a person is an unbeliever’ Luke 8v13, a singularly condemning interpretation of the scripture. That could have devastating consequences with an unwitting struggling reader. We are exhorted to build up not tear down!

The last two sections of the book were much improved, but her application of the doctrine of the bride as a personal destiny for each woman reading the book is questionable. The bride is a concept which applies to the church as a body worldwide, not to individuals.As teachers of the flock we are accountable before Christ for every word we teach and adjusting scripture to suit our purposes is not acceptable, however nice it may sound.

I presume after reading the book, that it is aimed at christians who have been saved for a while, but the repeated salvation calls and the fantasy imagery suggest other audiences. Her claims that christianity is no ‘humdrum existence’ and repeated calls to adventure suggest to me someone with no obvious life
-threatening or overwhelming problems in their life, which is great for her. But, this book could have been such a great tool for someone who living in overwhelming current circumstances, instead, had the author shown more love and compassion in her words.

I was not inspired by the teaching, I was continually stopping to question what I was reading and work out where it was incorrect. By the end I felt I was marking a students work.

It is not often that I so thoroughly criticise a book, and I repeat, the last 2/3 are not too bad. However with christianity, truth is integral, and although we differ often in small doctrines, the argument should be scrupulously supported in scripture and overflow the love of Christ.

I could not recommend this book ultimately because I will not take the responsibility for the consequences of someone being affected negatively by the fanciful teaching which may not all be incorrect, but are skewed in such a way that someone could assume something which is not the truth.

Posted March 21, 2018 by dianne7 in book review

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Reading the bible with Rabbi Jesus- Lois Tverberg   Leave a comment

 

This is a NetGalley christian theology book which I have chosen to review.

This book essentially addresses the cultural differences between the western world and that of the Bible, and considers how this understanding can broaden ur understanding.

The author considers the broad palette of the Hebrew language and how it is important to consider that one word may have several meanings, all of which may be relevant in a bible passage; otherwise some of the meaning may be lost.

The example of the meaning of the word Messiah is used, emphasising the aspect of kingship. In addition the words ‘forgive’ and ‘name’ are extrapolated among others. There is also a useful appendix of 30 difficult Hebrew words at the end.

The book discusses the differences between the Greek and Hebrew philosophies and how they approach a teaching for different but nevertheless complementary angles. In addition the author explains the methods used in bible study in the bible time period and after by Hebrew scholars, and tries to get us to understand their way of seeing.

She goes on to explain the use of Old Testament concrete imagery which was also used by Jesus and explaining why He used this system and how He proclaimed Himself Messiah through His parables and scriptural references.

The significance of the family as an identity as opposed to modern individualise is also explained.

I thought this book was wonderful, I was fascinated by the numerous ways I had missed illusions and the broader paths now available to me when studying the scriptures.

I would greatly recommend this book to anyone interested in Bible study.

 

Posted March 20, 2018 by dianne7 in book review

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Awaiting The King- reforming Public Theology vol 3 of Cultural Liturgies- James A K Smith   Leave a comment

 

This is a NetGalley review of a christian nonfiction book. This was a very different book for the one I had expected after reading the blurb. Instead of a book preparing hearts for the second coming and perhaps expounding on the theology of the ‘Church’ as referred to in Ephesians, I found I was reading a book concerning our need as a church to become involved in culture and politics in the present day; due to our hope in the future.

The book is academic in style, the writing is dense and complex. It is often difficult to understand. This is no light read!

The author has determined to explain his views of church involvement in our secular society based on his reading of St Augustine’s ‘City of God'(this is a book I have not read, so cannot comment on the author’s interpretation) and on writings by other modern authors I did not recognise, which probably hindered my understanding.

It took me a few days to get through chapter 1, but I persevered and once I had a grasp of the argument was able to follow relatively easily.

I appreciated the author’s use of modern life metaphors and literature references to elucidate some points. I found them helpful and often just broke the pressure of the writing.

I did feel challenged in art, particularly with the concept of interlocking circles, which was Kuyper’s theory. The idea of the church equipping disciples who then went into the community to give service without expectation that those they worked with would become converted was most appealing to me.

Some of the arguments I found overly calvanistic, and being an Armenian myself was forced to differ, but essentially the argument was interesting and thought provoking.

This is not a book I would have read by choice, but I was personally motivated by it at times, which I expect was the point.

I would warily recommend this book to deep thinking readers

Posted March 17, 2018 by dianne7 in book review

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The life and Theology of Paul – Guy Prentiss Waters   Leave a comment

 

This is a NetGalley review of a nonfiction Christian book.

I am very impressed with this book. It is straightforward and easy to understand, yet contains very complex and often misunderstood theological concepts from the New Testament.

The book begins by giving a biography of Pail, which is necessarily brief, as we have so few facts to go on. The author expounds on Paul’s life before the ‘Damascus Road experience’ and considers the significance of his conversion and call to ministry.

The remainder of the book explains Paul’s basic theology in careful detail with copious scriptural references for each point made. Mainly the author works through the book of Roman, explaining how Paul gradually unveiled the workings of salvation in this book.

The first theology concept is sinfulness, then the complex concept of justification is tackled. This is done in a very clear manner, relating the principe to a courtroom situation, which is most helpful.

Next sanctification is explained and the daily struggle we must face with our ‘inner man’ and the role of the Holy Spirit in this.

Finally the concept of the church as a body and a building as it is referred to in Romans and Corinthians and then as it is enlarged on in Ephesians and Colossians. Church structure is also considered.

The last chapter, entitled ‘The Future’ concerns God’s future work with humanity and in the world and also broaches our assurance of salvation.

Each chapter has thorough notes and ends with a section where the theology which has been explained applied to our everyday lives.

I would recommend this book as an essential part of any Christian’s library. I was already familiar with all of this theolgy, but was impressed by the clarity the author brought to these deep, often misunderstood concepts which are integral to our religion.

A truly useful theology book.

Posted March 16, 2018 by dianne7 in book review

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Who do you say I am- Becky Harling   Leave a comment

This is a netgalley review of a christian bible study book. It is subtitled ‘a fresh encounter for deeper faith’ and contains a series of 8 weekly studies based on the 7 ‘I am’ statements in John’s Gospel and 1 additional ‘I am’ statement in Revelation.

This book is aimed at a more mature christian, but would still be relevant to any reader. Essentially, as with most bible studies, you get out only what you are prepared to put in.

Each weekly study consists of 5 days work, the last day tying up the thoughts of the week. Each week was dedicated to one of the ‘I am’ statements and was juxtaposed with another scripture which was used to expound the statement more clearly.

I particularly enjoyed the mention of relevant songs each day, to aid in worship. All of these I found easily on Youtube.

I very much enjoyed this bible study, finding it well written and the theology sound. I myself was challenged by some of the studies.

I was especially affected by the use of Psalm 23 to illuminate the statement, ‘I am the good shepherd’ and then relating it to encountering fear and insecurity in our lives.

This is one of the best bible studies I have encountered for a while.

Posted March 15, 2018 by dianne7 in book review

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