The Great Divorce – by C.S. Lewis

28 03 2021

I was thinking about what books I should aim to read this year, and having had this set of C.S. Lewis books for several years, I thought I should aim to read at least one each year, and I remember a friend saying how good this one was a long time ago, and at under 150 pages, it seemed like a doable step into “clever” books.

The book is essentially an illustration of Heaven and Hell, expressed in the first person of someone who’s in a grey town, and gets on a bus to a bright country. It feels very much like someone telling you about a weird dream they had, and takes some work to get your head around until they explicitly say what those places represent (around halfway through!), but once that’s happened, it makes a bit more sense!

When he reaches the bright place, everything is so much more solid than those who have arrived, so much so that he describes those from the bus as Ghosts in comparison. There are several stories where Ghosts are met by Solid People who they maybe knew in life, and we see examples of different ways people have lived, which they think are fine and good, but maybe weren’t so much.

Towards the end of the book I think I started to feel out of my depth again, I imagine cleverer people would get more out of it than I did, but certainly I enjoyed it and it gave me plenty to think about from the rest of the book!

A few lines that made me think:

  • “A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that pint, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good.”
  • “Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them.”
  • “Do not fash yourself with such questions. Ye cannot fully understand the relations of choice and Time until you are beyond both.”
  • “There have been men before now wo got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself. […] There have bene some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.”
  • “I am in love. In love, do you understand?”





Theologygrams – by Rich Wyld

30 12 2018

My brother got me this for Christmas. I generally don’t consider myself intelligent enough to read books on theology, but this is practically a picture book full of graphs and diagrams, and those I can do!

Some of them are serious, but many are a mixture of humour too – three involve Doctor Who and one involves Mr T, so it’s pretty lighthearted, but still got some interesting content – seeing Paul’s missionary journeys presented as a London tube map was inspired!





Paradoxology – by Krish Kandiah

3 11 2015

If you find someone who claims they didn’t initially pick up this book because of its cover, I bet they’re lying! The author even ended up talking to the public from a matching sofa! Yes, I did pick this book up because it was a brightly coloured, geometric pattern, but normally I’d have a quick look and put it down again. Instead, I read the back and thought, gosh this sounds interesting. And I wasn’t wrong.

I take forever to read non-fiction, so the fact this took three months isn’t a bad thing. If you saw the number of page corners I’ve folded down, that speaks for itself. For each chapter, the book takes a character (or occasionally a book) and the paradox tied in with it to look at, so the book could be dipped in and out of, chapter by chapter if you wanted to. The chapters are as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Abraham – The God who needs nothing but asks for everything
  • Moses – The God who is far away, so close
  • Joshua – The God who is terribly compassionate
  • Job – The God who is actively inactive
  • Hosea – The God who is faithful to the unfaithful
  • Habakkuk – The God who is consistently unpredictable
  • Jonah – The God who is indiscriminately selective
  • Esther – The God who speaks silently
  • Interlude at the border
  • Jesus – The God who is divinely human
  • Judas – The God who determines our free will
  • The Cross – The God who wins as He loses
  • Romans – The God who is effectively ineffective
  • Corinthians – The God who fails to disappoint
  • Epilogue – Living with Paradox

He highlights in his introduction how these aren’t questions every asks, but that a lot of people avoid asking, for fear of shaking our faith. At one point I was going to put in here the bit from each page that I folded down, but that would now be a tad excessive. But I’ll share two or three – Kandiah’s text is littered with citations, quotes and footnotes, so I’ve given credit to others where it’s due:

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentence, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confessions.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“It was no accident, either, that God appeared to Moses as a flame. The movement of a flame and its bright colours attract us, and yet the heat of the flame pushes us away.”

“There is no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” – D F Wallace

There’s a lovely story from a Royal Film Premiere when he didn’t quite get to meet the Queen, an excellent look at the hotel with infinite rooms problem, and wave particle duality and Schrodingers Equation. He also introduces us to some paintings and the significance in what they show – I felt quite well educated after reading this!

The only critique I’d give this book is that some chapters could have been helped by starting with either an overview of the story of the character we were looking at, the relevant bible passage, or at least a reference to the correct bible passage. I have to confess, when we jumped into Habakkuk, I didn’t have a whole load of background knowledge to go by!

paradoxology





Red Letter Christianity – by Shane Claiborne & Tony Campolo

22 06 2014

My colleague Wendy recently said, “Most people who go to a Tony Campolo event know that they’re going to get ‘beaten up’ for justice.” and this book wasn’t far off of a punch in the face either – in a good way of course! I’ve heard both of these guys speak before, and always find they challenge my way of thinking and being. The book was no different.

The idea of Red Letter Christians is that they live their words specifically by the words that Jesus said. In some copies of the bible, every word Jesus spoke is printed in red so as to stand out from the black text.

Each chapter of the book took a different topic that Campolo and Claiborne would then discuss between them, sharing thoughts and perspectives. I found some of what they shared truly refreshing; they didn’t just go down the line you might expect them to!

In the chapter on pro-life, I expected this to just be a discussion on abortion, and of course some of it was. But there was also a lot of discussion on the quality of life throughout the whole of a persons life: “from womb to tomb”. They covered poverty, sin, and the death penalty alongside the obvious.

In the chapter on homosexuality, they open by discussing gay marriage, but actually when Tony shared his view on it, it took a whole new direction:

“While I believe that the government should not legalise marriage for people who are gay, I also believe that it should not legalise marriage for heterosexuals either. In fact, the government should get out of the marriage business completely and instead focus on civil rights for all of its citizens. It should treat both homosexual couples and heterosexual couples the same, guaranteeing both the same rights and privileges. Homosexual couples and heterosexual couples should be able to go down to the city hall and register as couples who want to be legally recognised as belonging to each other and receive the same civil rights available for all citizens who want to be in committed relationships. Then, if a couple wants to call the relationship a marriage, that couple should go down to a church and let the church perform the ceremony.” – Tony Campolo

The chapter on giving I found particularly helpful, confirming some stuff I’d been thinking about recently anyway, and looking at some prosperity gospel stuff which seems to keep rearing its head lately too.

Every chapter of this book had something to make you think, from liturgy to the middle east, from reconciliation to national debt, there isn’t a lot they don’t touch on somewhere and just stir some of your thought patterns that maybe had sat still for a bit too long.

Red Letter Christianity