Friday, 14 August 2020

Human Rights and the Christian - A Review

The notion of human rights, that is rights which are owed to people purely by virtue of their humanity, is one which has in the space of a few decades grown from obscure legal jargon to become a common phrase in political and moral debates. Dr. Charmley’s book usefully shows how these rights do not, as many people claim, originate from enlightened secular values, but have their foundations strongly in Christian doctrines. He details the emergence, growth and effect of human rights by moving through history, with a particular focus on the development of rights in the French Revolution, campaigns for civil and religious liberties in Britain, and the American movement for civil rights, though the Ancient world and the Reformation are by no means neglected. One possible criticism is opened up by this tour through history – that there is a lack of depth about specific events, and too much history is addressed in too little space. Despite this, Dr. Charmley writes as an expert historian in analysing history, while the intention of the book as a summary of the Christian approach to human rights means that any further depth of description would dilute its focus. 

This brings up perhaps the most useful part of this book – as a discussion of the attitude of the Christian to the concept and language of human rights. Its abuses are also focused on, especially ‘rights inflation’, the growth of victim culture, and when rights are used against Christians. As he says, ‘the concept of human rights is a noble one, being based upon the idea of equal respect for all human beings. It is, however, a concept that has become corrupted, and may well become more corrupted still. This should be no surprise to Christians, believing as we do in a fallen world’ (p. 263). Yet he argues that the Christian should largely be supportive and encouraging of human rights, though not to the excesses of the modern world, remembering they have their foundations in Christian doctrines of benevolence and equality. He raises the important point that human rights ultimately serve to protect the free exercise of Christian worship, though that this liberty has only been possessed for ‘little over a century’ (p. 265). 

Dr. Charmley also brings attention to Particular Baptists in history, and their role in campaigns for religious liberty and against poverty, evoking such figures as William Gadsby and John Kershaw when arguing for the need for the Church to be ‘concerned with the rights and duty of man insofar as this is necessary for her existence and relative comfort, and the comfort of our fellow creatures, … but let us not forget that the mission of the Church is to preach the gospel of God’s grace to sinners’ (p. 267). This book is invaluable for all those questioning what the approach of the Church and Christian should be to the idea of human rights, and how they should be regarded when it so often seems that they are marshalled against Christian beliefs.

Reviewed by Matthew Roe, August 2020

 G. Charmley, Human Rights and the Christian (Gospel Standard Trust Publications, 2020)

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Summer Reading Club 2020



Our Summer Reading Club launched on June 1st and will run until the end of August.  To join, all you need to do is...

1. Spend over £5 on your first summer order
2. Make sure you are on our mailing list

That's it!

You will then be sent a voucher code that gives you a whopping 25% off new and secondhand books for the rest of the summer.
What's not to like!

Check out all the terms & conditions on our website.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

The Subversive Puritan

Perhaps this is not the most colourful re-telling of what must have been a very colourful life. But it is a thoughtful biography, in which Mostyn Roberts considers what Roger Williams' life and belief have to say to present day Christians. He had to find answers to important questions which divided opinions among godly people - and still do. Should the church aim to gain civil power? Does it seek freedom of conscience for itself alone among the different faiths making up society? Should it be expected that Christian observances and values are enforced by the powers that be? Williams wrestled with these issues both before and after embarking for New England, where Puritans had sought a new home and a fresh start free from interference in the mother country. He found that, sadly, the persecuted soon became the persecutors. Thus he was eventually banished from Massachusetts for his views on the separation of church and state, which entailed tremendous hardships for him and his family as it was winter at the time. But he was a true pioneer, first in going out to find a place to settle, and then in helping to establish a new colony, Rhode Island, and ensuring that its charter was the first in the world to protect full liberty of conscience - for all.
Williams has been rewarded with a statue at the Reformation wall in Geneva, yet all too few know of him today. This book goes a long way to put that right, and throw light on a man of uncompromising integrity - yet so as to show him as Cromwell desired to have his own portrait painted - 'warts and all.'
The Subversive Puritan. Roger Williams and Freedom of Conscience by Mostyn Roberts, published by EP Books, £9.99.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Trusting Through the Tears

Keren Baker and her family have experienced many trials of different kinds: bereavement, chronic illness, mental health issues and financial difficulty, to mention a few. Trusting Through the Tears was written to show how God's grace has shone through the trials of their lives. This is not just their story though, and in fact it doesn't give much detail on their particular trials, but it does have much to say on the care and compassion of the Lord they trust.  The practical elements of coping with the difficulties of day to day life is woven in amongst the spiritual necessities of handling trials. Indeed we are exhorted to focus on the spiritual when all around us is falling apart, but we are also given practical ways of doing this from Keren's own experiences.
We read about the need to be honest in our weakness and how this weakness will show forth the glory of God better than any show of 'false' strength we have in ourselves.  We also learn about how to combat loneliness, with very real examples of how loneliness can be a problem even in a crowd.  The practicalities of prayer when struggling mentally or emotionally is not glossed over and we are shown the necessity of recognising the sovereignty of God and submission to the mystery that may surround our circumstances. Peace is considered: what this really means and feels like in a seemingly chaotic situation. The definitions of comfort and true joy in all these things is another topic, plus a recognition that a sense of brokenness can actually in truth, mean a fuller wholeness.
The chapter that really resonated with me highlighted the beauty of spiritual depths found in those who have suffered and the spiritual fellowship that can be found there.  It was a reminder to look for those depths in ourselves and others, and not to be satisfied with the shallowness of so much of our routine conversation. The ugliness of suffering causes the beauty of grace to shine ever brighter and will bring a richness to relationships that would not otherwise be there.
I hesitate to write this, but this is a very 'British' book (there is a subtle difference between British and American authors, which is not to say that one is better than the other 😉). In a practical and realistic way, it has a lot to teach us about trials and how we grow through them. I have found it helpfully thought-provoking and would recommend it to those who are suffering or those who are supporting the suffering (which should be all of us!).
Trusting Through the Tears by Keren Baker published by Evangelical Press.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Reading Recommendations...

Our latest eBulletin has been sent out with some new reading recommendations & offers...
In particular this book 'Counting the Cost' has been proving popular and is well reviewed.  It is a sober and inspiring testimony of God's help and grace given while enduring the most terrifying ordeal.  British missionary doctors David and Shirley Donovan were taken hostage with two others by a crazed gang in Nigeria and held to ransom.  Their gripping story is interwoven with their search for meaning in it, and what they came to learn of the sovereignty, yet nearness, of God through it.  It challenges the flabby Christianity too often evident today, and is a humbling and searching book to read, and to confidently recommend to others.

Have a read of our eBulletin here

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Friday, 10 January 2020

God Sings! (And Ways We Think He Ought To)

The curious title of this book reflects Zephaniah 3:17, which reveals that God in some sense sings with joy over his people.  Douglas Bond has turned back to non-fiction again in this his latest book, and is concerned with how and what the church should be singing back to God in worship.   He has clearly thought long and hard, and visited many churches, to research this issue, which has great practical impact right across all denominations.  Bond is a hymn enthusiast with a love and appreciation of music.  But he is not concerned with merely lobbing grenades over the divide between those who favour contemporary worship music, which has had a huge take up in the last few decades, and those who hold to traditional hymn music.  Even though it becomes apparent that he comes down on the side of the latter, his concern is rather with genuine enquiry than with recrimination.  A compelling part of his investigation is his concern to analyse the church music scene using biblical principles.  Hence Bond critiques ‘high art’ music as well as ‘folk art’; ‘solemnity’ as a criteria for hymn singing as well as 'emotion'; psalm-only convictions as well as culture-sensitive ones.  However, as this is achieved in his lively and familiar style of writing it doesn’t feel too intense to be useful in a book of this size and purpose. In following out his view of hymn composition as the most exalted form of poetry, he gives profitable space to the analysis of some of Isaac Watts’ and Augustus Toplady’s hymns. And he justifies his concern over contemporary lack of formal poetic education, and the way music takes priority over words, by taking a look at one of the most successful modern worship songs, '10,000 Reasons' by Matt Redman.  Just one gripe I have with this book is that it is not well edited in my opinion.  Only at the end of the book where the acknowledgements are placed, does it become clear that it began life as a series of articles and lectures over a period of years.  This explains the small degree of repetition, but it is regrettable nevertheless. But don’t let that itch put you off - this is a good theological guide to the sung praises of God.
God Sings! by Douglas Bond, Scriptorium Press, £11.99

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Joy in the Sorrow

Suffering.... No-one is immune to it, but everyone reacts differently to it. Joy in the Sorrow is a collection of stories from Christians who have suffered. Matt Chandler, pastor of a large American church, introduces the book and includes his own experience of having a brain tumour. But then the remainder of the book is written by various members of his own congregation. Not well known Christians, but 'normal' everyday Church members who have walked through deep trials and have learnt to rejoice through them. These stories show the greatness and goodness of God in his gracious, personal dealings with each believer. From the death of a young child, to the death of a young spouse; from chronic physical illness, to long-term mental health issues; from family breakdown, to childlessness. Each story is a clear testament to a God who sanctifies suffering, who walks with his people through trials; who teaches, guides and directs in these difficult pathways.
This is a moving read, but well worth it.

Joy in the Sorrow - How a Thriving Church (and its Pastor) Learned to Suffer Well by Matt Chandler, published by Good Book Company, £8.99.