People ask me, ‘What are you reading?’ You will find here some books that I have just finished, some finished some time ago, yet others, classics in my opinion. I have chosen four categories, and having done so, will occasionally need to shoe-horn a book into one of them - please forgive me if the book, like the glass slipper on the stepsisters feet, doesn't quite fit.
Religion for Atheists
I was amazed to read recently that an English literary writer had become, along with her spouse, an avid Lee Child fan. She said they’d stocked up on the entire series. This is like a classical musician admitting to playing tunes on a ukulele, and, what’s worse, enjoying it.
Child has become one of the world’s most prolific novelists writing about a dispossessed ex-military policeman – Jack Reacher. Tom Cruise, no slouch when it comes to a winning franchise formula, has apparently brought out the rights to all the Reacher novels, for future potential movies
What is all the fuss? Simple. The character, whilst not developed quite like Bronte, Wodehouse or Maugham’s are, is none the less compelling, in a sparse sense. His hiddenness is his exposure.
And Child can spin a good yarn - a rollicking good yarn. It is hard to put his books down, even though you realise a basic formula drives them all. For some reason you get inside Reacher’s head and imagine like him – or he gets in yours. I have said too much already.
Pick one up, get over any literary snobbery, and be thoroughly entertained. By the way Child hails from the UK.
Salvation By Allegiance Alone
Matthew Bates has done the church a great service in writing this, no doubt, to be, controversial book. The premise of it is his disquiet, as to the outcome in belief and lifestyle, of some Reformation perspectives on faith, grace and works.
He raises the issue that grace, at the time/context of the writing of Scripture, was essentially, if not only, seen in reciprocity. In other words it wasn’t a one sided contract. It requires correct response for it to be grace. (John M G Barclay has written extensively on this topic in his tome – Paul and the Gift.)
Bates does not think it is biblically or practically possible to separate our faith from the works faith produces. When we hear the terms ‘faith alone’ we are not, according to him, hearing the intent of the apostle Paul. Faith to many of us is a state of mind, a belief (albeit in the truth), forensic by nature. Rather, we would see what the scriptures are committed to if we see faith as allegiance - an en-fleshed, lived out obedience to the words to Jesus. His point is that Jesus is not just soon coming King, but now the ruler of the world. The gospel has more to it than the vital matter of forgiveness of sins. It doesn’t end in the death and resurrection of Jesus but rather, and more fully, in his enthronement as the King. It is not enough to just believe. We are to live in obedience to his Lordship, and not merely be the recipient of his forgiveness.
And, uncomfortably, he addresses the matter of the final judgment, which will have profound and a not always happy influence/determination in our lives.
Worth a read – recommended.
Look Who's Back. This is a fictional book that could not have been written 20 years ago, and no doubt some will insist it shouldn’t have ever been written. And the only person that could have, or shouldn’t have written it, as the case may be, is German. Judge for yourself.
“Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive, and well. Things have changed - no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognizes his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman. People certainly recognize him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own TV. show, and people begin to listen.”
This book is funny, or not so funny at all. You will laugh, and then ask yourself why you laughed. You may be disturbed by your own reaction. Maybe you would have drunk the cool-aid in the 1930’s yourself - a Germany in depression, and unwisely punished with the Versailles Treaty of WW1. Along comes a person that promises national renewal and ‘other things’ – it is always the ‘other things’ that are slipped in with the apparent logic of the prime appeal – that cause it to go south once power is grasped, with wicked results.
This book is a clever satire on modern life. We don't escape its biting logic. The book is also about the gullibility of human nature given a convincing reason, and person to articulate it. He seems convincing at times – which he must have been in the first (real) instance. And then he slips into rant and rhetoric, which he also did.
This book is worth reading, but it is chilling underneath the humor- which, I suspect, is quite the authors point.