Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Philip Comfort's book New Testament Text and Translation Commentary is just what you need in cases like this. I call it 'The Big Book of Textual Variants', as it's a good description of the book. This 900+ -page volume is certainly big, and it's all about textual variants. Comfort goes carefully through the New Testament text, listing the significant variants, which printedGreek Text includes them in the main text, the manucripts that contain them, and which English translation (if any) has each variant. There then follows an explanation of the variant, and the reason why it may or may not be the original text. There are, of course, some variants which no English version contains, and which is found in the main text of no printed Greek text. While the previous standard book in the field, Bruce Metzger's Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, only contained those passages that were included in the apparatus of the UBS 4th edition, this book has all of them. This book does not require a knowledge of Greek, although of course that would help!
This is an important book, written by a good conservative scholar, which ought to reassure Christians that we ought not to be afraid of the textual variants! Invaluable for pastors, seminary students and apologists.
[Readers will understand that I am unable to supply books reviewed. I got this one from the EMW bookshop in Cardiff, and suggest readers do the same.]
Monday, March 30, 2009
The Protestant Truth Society bookshop is, as the name suggests, Protestant. This part of the name means that no ecumenical or Romanist books are found here. Secondly, the word Truth should indicate that no false books are found on the shelves. Sadly, a few years ago I caught them stocking books by Gail Riplinger, a notorious and hysterical King James Only advocate who is not above using any and every for of smear tactic, and telling vast and bizarre lies about anyone she disagrees with. A strongly-worded e-mail followed. This aside, the PTS bookshop is predominantly Reformed in character, and the books stocked are, with the exception of some bizarre KJV-Only stuff, useful and helpful. A lot of Banner of Truth books can be found here, as can books that are quite difficult to find elsewhere in England. The range of stock is broader than the Tabernacle Bookshop, not tht this is difficult. Staff will order in books in the fairly unlikely event that what you want isn't in stock (assuming you are of a Reformed persuasion). Highly recommended.
Future In Many Bookshops posts will follow as and when I visit more bookshops. These will, God willing, include the Heath Bookshop in Cardiff, the EMW Bookshop in Swansea, and Shepherd's Christian Bookshop in Newport.
Friday, March 27, 2009
The character of this shop is best decribed as 'broadly Evangelical'. Anyone who knows anything about the Evangelical movement today will have some idea what that means: it means that The Shack will be found alongside books by R. C. Sproul and Geoff Thomas. This is only to be expected, really, seeing as The Shack has been promoted by 'Evangelical' personalities whatever that means these days), and therefore a lot of books stock it on the mistaken assumption that it muct be all right. The stock is very small, understandably, as the shop is fairly tiny, and of course has to contain the crafts as well as the books. I could have wished that the stock had been selected with more discernment, as is the case in other craft/bookshops, such as that in Droitwich. Nevertheless, an effort has been made to have a good range of books, including good Biblical commentaries. The shop will order in books on demand from customers. I found the staff helpful and friendly, and as this is the only Christian bookshop for some miles, it deserves to be made use of. And of course, a shop's stock is decided in part by demand. If people want certain books, they will be stocked. On the other hand, books that are not bought will eventually not be stocked. I will probably go back there next time I go to Pontypridd. Whenever that is.
Next: Back to London.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Because of this perennial issue, The Word Became Fresh is an extremely welcome addition to homiletic literature. This is a book written by a man who knows what he's writing about, which is always a good start with a book. Dale Ralph Davis is probably well-known to readers as the author of a number of excellent commentaries on historical books of the Old Testament, something that makes him eminently qualified to write on this subject. Davis does not offer a 'magic bullet' that will make preaching from Old Testament narrative texts a doddle, but a well-written book in which he lays out some commonsense suggestions for understanding and preaching narrative texts. Chapter one deals with the approach to the text. Happily, he opens with the need for the help of the Holy Spirit in opening the Bible. Only then does he go on to the technical elements of the approach to the text. Chapter two is entitled 'quirks', and deals with the peculiarities of narrative. Chapter three is on theology, referring to the theology of the text. Chapter four, 'Packaging', deals with the structure of the text. Chapter five deals with 'Nasties', particular texts that are difficult for us to preach from for various reasons - difficult because they're off-putting for some reason or other. Chapter six is called 'Macroscope', and is about interpreting the passage in light of the whole book in which it is found. Having done all that, we come to chapter seven, in which Davis deals with the question of application, something that is quite important in a narrative text - we can retell the story, but what does it mean? Chapter 8 is 'Center' (sic. Davis is American), in which he points out that we need to have a theocentric focus. Here there is a disagreement. I, with others, prefer to say that it ought to be Christocentric. Not in a shallow, allegorizing way, but in that we approach the texts as Christians, in the light of the New Testament, not as Jews. That is to say, as a Christian, I have to read the whole Bible in the light of the fulness of God's revelation in Christ. But then, perhaps Davis and myself are using the term 'Christocentric' in two slightly different ways. Finally he gives us a worked example in the final chapter. This is a book that every preacher ought to read, and perhaps it will help to make sermons from the narrative books of the Old Testament less of a rarity than they have become of late.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
The shop stocks a wide variety of materials, from children's books to the huge and more intellectually-challenging. On one visit I picked up Philip Comfort's huge New Testament Text and Translation Commentary. The majority of Christian bookshops, especially evangelical ones, have to maintain a delicate balance between selling what the managers like and what the public are asking for. The question of how far to go is up to management at the shop. One way to go is that of the Norwich Christian Resorce Centre, and other ecumenical shops - sell anything and everything - the other is that of the Tabernacle Bookshop - sell only what Dr. Masters wants to. Which is fair enough, since he runs it. Still other shops cater to the lowest common denominator of evangelicalism - Dance Praise and The Shack, with more CDs than books. The EMW shops seem to be closest to the balance that keeps a shop financially viable, yet without making the name 'bookshop' something of a misnomer. Cardiff Christian Bookshop also has a secondhand section, which usually contains something useful as well as books that seem to have been given to the EMW because no-one wants them any more - such as A.S. Peake's book on the true nature of Christianity. The answer, of course, is not what Prof. Peake thought it was.
Next: Pontypridd gets the In Many Bookshops treatment!
Disclaimer: This is an opinionated blog piece, and as such may safely be ignored if you disagree with it. All opinions contained in this piece are those of the author, and possibly no-one else.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
R.N. Carew Hunt's Calvin (London, the Centenary Press, 1933), is probably my favourite biography of John Calvin. I find it a slightly better read than Reyburn, though it's a close call. This book is a classic, and it wasn't written by a Calvinist either! Robert Reymond writes of it:
“As a biography it is unsurpassed, but Hunt is somewhat hard on times because of his doctrine of predestination.” T.H.L. Parker writes of this book:
"whatever qualifications must be made about its interpretation of Calvin's theology, [it] is reliable and well-written history." Simply put, this is one of the classics, a book that I can recommend to everyone who wants to learn more about Calvin. It is not merely a rehash of what is found in Reyburn, and Hunt's racy English prose is a joy to read. Since Hunt is not a Calvinist, this can be a good book to use to correct a victim of Dave Hunt's silliness. The final paragraph of the book is wonderful. I give it here:
"At this point what we may think of his doctrine or his system become of no
importance. We are left in the presence of a man who followed what he believed
to be the truth, and consecrated his life to its attainment, and for this he
will be had in honour as long as courage and singleness of purpose are held as
virtues among men."
Monday, March 16, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
1. William J. Bouwsma: John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait (New York, Oxford University Press, 1988) : A scholarly study of Calvin by the Sather Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, this is an extremely accomplished tour de force study of Calvin’s life and teaching. Rather than taking a strict chronological approach, Bouwsma takes a more thematic view of Calvin's life and thought. Those who agree with Calvin theologically will find things they disagree with, but this is a well-researched book. Available from Amazon.
2. Alister E. McGrath: A Life of John Calvin (Oxford, Blackwell, 1990). A modern scholarly biography by an Oxford Don, McGrath’s work is an in-depth examination of Calvin’s life by an evangelical Anglican scholar. McGrath treats Calvin in his historical context, and gives a readable and engrossing book. I debated where to put this, but decided that it belongs in the 'scholarly' category. He does not shy away from difficult issues. This book distils the results of 20th century Calvin scholarship. Available from Amazon.
3. Hugh Y. Reyburn, John Calvin (Reprint, Bibliobazzar, 2009). I am really excited by the reprint of this classic 1914 biography of John Calvin. I possess a first edition of it, and I ahve found it extremely useful. Its original release was overshadowed by the First World War, and it has not received the recognition that it deserves. This 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth is a perfect time for this book to be re-issued. It is a work that impresses by its level of scholarship and the author’s evident familiarity with the original source documents, which he draws on with masterly skill. Reyburn’s own theology is rather liberal, but he does not let theological disagreement colour his assessment of Calvin. T.H.L. Parker wrote of this book: “Reyburn’s book has been unjustly neglected; no doubt it suffered from being published in the year that the Great War broke out. Reyburn made good use of the original sources and quotes liberally from them.” (John Calvin P. viii) Available from Amazon.
4. Herman J. Selderhuis: John Calvin: A Pilgrim's Life (IVP, 2009). This latest biography of John Calvin by an accomplished Dutch historian is a real treat for the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth. Each chapter is entitled for an aspect of Calvin's life, a character that Calvin bore, such as 'Orphan', 'Pilgrim', 'Stranger' and 'Refugee'. The subtitle says it all, this is Calvin as a man of suffering. Excellent. Available from Amazon.
Next time: Specialist studies.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
The Evangelical Movement of Wales maintains a number of bookshops, located in strategic places in Wales. The bookshop at Bryntirion, Bridgend, is located in the EMW headquarters at Bryntirion House, also home to the Wales Evangelical School of Theology. These two institutions impact the nature of the bookshop. While it stocks many general titles, the fact that the buildings see a relatively high proporion of ministers and theological students means that there is a great quantity of more intellectually demanding material as well. The stock is balanced, and there is a wide range of books on the shelves. The books found here are generally Reformed in their orientation, with a certain amount of general evangelical stuff as well. Our photograph shows just one corner of the shop, and mostly the 'New Titles' shelves. There is a small second-hand section, the books in it of course being very much dependent on what people want to get rid of at the time. I found the staff helpful and knowledgable, and they are willing to order books that they do not have in stock. The shop is located on the ground floor of the building, with level access. I found this a good bookshop to use, but then I was going to a fraternal in the EMW offices at the time!
Friday, March 6, 2009
A.W. Tozer was a prophetic voice in the wilderness of American Fundamentalism in the first half of the 20th century. Born in rural Pennsylvania in 1897, he began his life's work as a minister in the final years of the First World War, and continued until his death in 1963. His books are still widely read, and yet little is known about the man in most circles. Lyle Dorsett's book A Passion for God (Moody, 2008) is therefore especially welcome.
A writer of biography himself, Tozer disliked those books that applied a liberal coat of whitewash to their subjects. He knew there was only one perfect man on earth, and that was the Lord Jesus. Thus I think Tozer would have welcomed Lyle Dorsett's honest appraisal of his life. We have here both the good and the bad - and, indeed, the ugly. Dorsett paints a picture, not of a plaster saint, but of a real man who seems often to have been so wrapped up in the affairs of the Kingdom and the things of God that he forgot his role as a husband and a father. I do not bring this up to attack Tozer, but as a warning, it is possible to be so taken up with the work of the Church to forget that we also have a life as a human being to lead!
Dorsett is always a refreshing read because he is so honest about his subjects, even when those subjects are iconic figures in evangelicalism, such as Tozer, Moody and Billy Sunday. Thus the reader can evaluate for himself the character of the man. In A Passion for God, Dorsett gives us Tozer 'warts and all', yet without the sort of exaggeration of faults that makes the picture more a close-up of the warts than a portrait of the man. So we have Tozer the pastor and preacher, Tozer the man who cared for the Church, and who was grieved to his heart by the fact that the Church in America seemed divided on racial lines, "I do not believe there is any color line in the Kingdom of God", he said. Yet even in Chicago Sunday morning seemed to be the most segregated time in the life of the community. We see the man who prophetically challenged the attempt to draw crowds to the churches with sensational and tasteless gimmicks - the example that Dorsett gives is Tozer's criticism of a church that advertised "Moving pictures of cannibalism" to draw people to a missionary convention!
This is a book the only real complaint about which is that it could have been longer. Long may Dorsett be spared to give us such volumes! It is available through Amazon.co.uk, and from good Christian bookshops.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Bethel Baptist Church, Laleston, is located, as the name suggests, in the village of Laleston, just outside the town of Bridgend (Pen-y-bont Ar Ogwr). It is an historic and evangelical church, originally founded in 1848 by Ruhamah Baptist Church in Bridgend itself. The cause of this was that a large number of members of Ruhamah were living in Laleston, and in 1848 a branch Church was formed at Laleston. This became independent of Ruhamah in 1892, and in 1905 it was placed under the oversight of Rev. W. Hill. In 1911, together with the Baptist Church at Corntown, the congregation at Bethel called Rev. Evan Jones to a joint pastorate. He served for five years. The first pastor of Bethel alone was Rev. J.H. Jones, a graduate of the Cardiff Baptist College. The present minister is Rev. Jim Grindell.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
"Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah." The name means 'Having Obtained Mercy'. I have never come across another church with this name in the UK before, although I am sure there are some. This is the original Baptist Church in Bridgend, and was the mother-church of a number of Baptist causes in the area.