Brother John: a book review

A few years ago, I read one of those genre-busting books by this guy I never heard of. It was called Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks by August Turak. Turak took the wisdom of the monks of Mepkin Abbey in Raliegh, North Carolina and applied their insights to business. I enjoyed the book, and I even reviewed it here. The book was unique enough that it stayed with me, though I have to admit, I forgot the author’s name.  

Brother John

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my latest genre-busting read about monks, was actually by the same guy and set in the same monastery. This time it wasn’t a business book, it was a picture book, called Brother John. It was written for adults but nothing suggestive( not that kind of picture book). In it, Turak describes his time on a Christmas retreat at the Mepkin Abbey, and how the particular witness of a monk-saint called Brother John stoked Turak’s spiritual hunger and helped reveal to Turak his life’s purpose. 

This book is two decades in the making. The events described in the text happened over twenty years ago (1996). In 2004, wrote of his experience at the monastery for an essay contest on “the purpose of life” from the John Templeton Foundation. The essay won him the coveted Templeton Prize. Turak was able to turn this same essay into a picture book by enlisting award-winning artist, Glenn Harrington to illustrate it. Harrington provides over twenty full-color paintings of the Monks and Mepkin Abbey.  

The book describes Turak’s encounter with a holy life, revealed to him, first by a selfless act, Brother John walking him back to his cottage in the rain. But this small act opened up space for Turak to examine the condition of his own heart and his hunger for the holy.  

This is a quick read (it’s a picture book) but thoughtful and evocative. The art is stunning. I love the way the book communicates a sense of the sacred. It is set in a monastery, and the monks are located in the Christian tradition, though Turak writes broadly and inclusively enough that all spiritual seekers could find themselves in these words. I give this four stars. 

Notice of material connection: I received this book from the author or publisher via SpeakEasy for my honest review. 

Watch a Trailer for the book. 

Get Naked . . . and Unashamed: a book review

My wife and I have been married for 16 years. Over that time, and in my role as an erstwhile and intermittent pastor, I have read my share of marriage books. There are some good ones, but a lot of them are pretty terrible. I am always on the hunt for a good marriage book which will help couples, especially those who are engaged, think about how to be married, and do it well, particularly from a Christian faith perspective. So I was pretty excited to read Naked and Unashamed by Jerry & Claudia Root with Jeremy Rios. Naked and unashamed are literally my two favorite ways to be married! I’m kidding (no I’m not).

Naked-and-UnashamedJerry Root was Jeremy Rios’s mentor and professor when he attended Wheaton College.  The material in this book parallels the material which Jerry and Claudia had used for Jeremy and his wife Liesel’s premarital counseling. Later when Jeremy became a pastor, they used this same material for premarital counseling with other engaged couples, corresponding with Jerry to fill in the gaps in what he was missing in their notes. Jerry had a manuscript for a book he and Claudia wrote which he sent Jeremy to use in counseling. Jeremy used it in counseling, refined it and helped prepare the material for publication. As Rios says, “Jerry and Claudia’s wisdom is the beating heart of the book, and it is the wisdom I have sought to inhabit and live in my own marriage” (201).  The Roots bring wisdom won by 42 years of marriage. Jeremy and Liesel Rios have been married for 14 years.

The premise of the book is that marriage asks each of us to reveal ourselves wholly to our spouses. Rios and Roots encourage couples to open up about our histories, our understandings, our spiritual lives, our understanding and experience of gender, our expectations for family and parenting, expectations of finances, and of course, sex.  The hope is that women and men would enter into marriage fully, holding nothing back from their spouse, and entering into the sort of relational covenant which God intended for marriage.

Rios and the Roots describe this opening up and revealing’ in four sections of their book. In part 1,  they describe undressing the areas that allow for greater relational intimacy for couples: sharing our stories (personal histories), our hearts (how we give and receive love), our minds (our goals and dreams), and our souls (our relationship with God). In part 2, they unpack gender, dynamics of communication and woundedness, Part 3 is about exploring expectations shaped by our family and cultural identities (race, nationality, etc), our expectations about parenthood and child raising, and finances.  Part 4, intentionally left to the end, describes undressing our sexual selves for the life of sex, and expectations for the wedding night.

The Roots and Rios operate from a conservative, evangelical perspective on marriage and they say a lot that is really helpful. In fact every area they address, or. . . ahem . . . undress, is necessary for the type of life sharing which enables the sort of covenantal life-sharing where the two become one. There is not a single area they discuss, which is unimportant. Part 1 of their book  “Unmasking for Intimacy” is really good and they say some wonderful things about exploring each others’ histories, how we express intimacy, our life goals, and our spiritual life. They also explore communication well, drawing on the research of John Gottman. Throughout the book, the chapters each end with an assignment for couples to explore together their thoughts on the topic. A couple who reads this book on their own or in the context of premarital counseling would share with one another their hopes and hang-ups, expectations and understanding. This is all really good stuff.

This is a book I could use as a pastor in leading others through premarital counseling, but not without some caveats. I didn’t agree with everything Rios and the Roots had to say. For example, I am a Biblical egalitarian, and what I read in the chapter on gender advocated a sort of soft complementarianism, advocating for gender roles, where my tendency is to see mutuality. They quote Ephesians 5:22-33 to show that wives are called to “submit” and husbands are called to “sacrifice” (73-74), without referencing Ephesians 5:21 which describes mutual submission and supplies the whole ‘submit’ verb for the phrase, “wives submit to your husband” in Ephesians 5:22—the more literal rendering being simply, ‘wives, to your husband’. They describe male headship as the husband getting to cast the final vote if the couple is at loggerheads and can’t agree on a big decision(76). However, the Roots and Rios do present their views on gender humbly and acknowledge you could be complementarian, egalitarian, or not identify with either camp and have a successful marriage “so long as you acknowledge the complexities of gender, discuss them together and are striving to love one another sacrificially according to the command of Scripture” (74).

One of my pet peeves about marriage books is that I don’t always find myself in their description of the characteristics of ‘the genders.’ Now, I am a cis-gender heterosexual man, and not a particularly feminine one, but whenever someone says ‘men are more like this’ and ‘women generally are more like this,’ I discover I am the exception to their rule. Rios and the Roots do this a little bit, sometimes gendering things which were perplexing for me, such as making Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 4:26 a  description of how the  genders get angry (103-105): “Be angry, but do not sin (men lash out), and do not let the sun go down on your anger (women hold grudges). I didn’t find this description of the male and female halves of anger a helpful distinction at all.  I can hold a grudge with the best of them.

Another area some will find disagreeable is their discussion of the discipline of children, they make the case for physical punishment of kids, ” One of the principles of the world, it seems evident that where you will not be taught by reason or reward you will be taught by pain. This is simply a principle of how the world operates and in parenting we are instructing our children in these rules” (144-45).  How they frame it, they are careful to underscore the purpose of discipline (training a child) and they bracket out an abusive lashing out, but readers who are suspicious of the value of corporal punishment will disagree on this point.

But agreeing with the Roots and Rios on every point is not the point. The point is getting naked . . . and unashamed. There is a lot of wisdom in what the Roots and Rios discuss here, and even when you disagree with the authors, they have framed the discussion so couples can explore together what their convictions are and understand each other in each of these areas. I give this four stars. ★ ★ ★ ★

Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book from Paraclete Press in exchange for my honest review. I also know Jeremy Rios, having attended Regent College with him.

 

God of the Gospel: a book review

Robert Jenson is one of the most creative contemporary systematic theologians.  However his trinitarian theology is only now starting to get the critical attention it deserves. Scott Swain, Associate professor of  systematic theology and academic dean at RTS, Orlando, has written an informative book on Jenson.  The God of the Gospel: Robert Jenson’s Trinitarian Theology summarizes Jenson’s understanding of the Trinity and offers Swain’s  assessment.

In his introduction, Swain gives the background  to the modern resurgence of Trinitatian theology and Barth’s framing of the question: Who is the God of the Gospel? According to Swain, theology after Barth seeks to answer to what extent an ‘evangelically responsible trinitarian theology’  requires revising of the church’s traditional doctrine of God(24)? Swain explicates Barth’s trinitarian theology in the Church Dogmatics and demonstrates the importance of divine election and divine incarnation in his theology, and the significance of wrestling with these doctrines in trinitarian theologies after Barth (32). For example, Barth’s contention that Jesus Christ is both object and subject in God’s election is picked up in Jenson’s theology. Likewise Barth’s determination to set the Trinity at the head of all dogmatics (34) and to root his understanding of the doctrine in revelation (35) provide a framework for which Jenson develops his narratival approach.

In part one, Swain examines Jenson’s theology in three chapters ( ch. 3-5).   Swain  explicates Jenson’s view of God’s identity in the Old Testament, New Testament and his metaphysical understanding of the Trinity.  According to Swain, “Jenson’s theology creatively and critically retrieves [the] tradition of expounding the doctrine of God by explicating the divine names revealed in Holy Scripture (79).”  Jenson roots his trinitarian theology in his theological interpretation of the exodus  (80).  The exodus becomes the paradigmatic way of describing God’s nature and saving action (which has implications for understanding of the gospel). Jenson says we know who God is by attending to historical relationship between YHWH and Israel. In other words, “YHWH’s relationship to his son Israel is a relationship internal to his identity and therefor constitutive of his identity(86).” God’s nature is given dramatic coherence as we attend (with Jenson) to the historical relation between God and his people described in scripture.  However Jenson sees the full resonance of this in turning to the New Testament and the evangelical events described in the gospels (the  Old Testament anticipates God’s final confrontation with death, Jesus is the example par excellence of the Triune God’s ). This isn’t to say that Jenson comes to scripture without any theological framework. Jenson affirms the theology of Nicea and the Nicene Creed. The creed provides a rule of faith, by which he  interprets the events of sacred history.

However, Jenson’s attention to the historic, narrative events in scripture, cause him to look askance at traditional articulations of the  doctrine of God. As Swain describes, Jenson repudiates notions of God’s timelessness, immutability, impassibility, etc., as evidence of Christian theology’s Hellenization.  Jenson seeks to develop his metaphysics from a historicist reading of Scripture, and in so doing takes aim at what he sees as the imposition of Greek categories on the doctrine of God in the Christian tradition (123-5).  This means he sees his theological task as purging Nicene trintarianism of depersonalized Hellenization (134).

In part two, Swain moves on from his descriptive task, to offering a critical assessment of Jenson’s theology. He does not offer a point by point critique of all that Jenson says; instead Swain gives a dogmatic account of: (1) how God wills to relate to us as Father, (2) God executes his will in history by becoming one of us through the incarnation of the Son and (3) how God consummates his eternal will in the fellowship of  the Holy Spirit (144).  Swain offers many cogent and salient points and demonstrates where Jenson’s dogmatic project leaves lingering questions.  For example,Jenson’s reading of the Christian tradition’s supposed Hellenization entirely fair.  Christian theology has appropriated Greek concepts and ideas critically (not to mention Jenson’s ideas of religion also flatten Greek religious ideas, making it far less ‘personal’ than it really was). Jenson’s theological revisionism also fails to hear the wisdom of the ages in describing divine simplicity, the aseity of God, etc.  In the final chapter in this section, Swain also offers his assessment of Bruce McCormack’s  historicist approach. As with Jenson he sees much that he is appreciative though ultimately unsatisfied by all of McCormack’s answers.

I have appreciated Jenson since  I was in seminary. I also appreciate his ecumenical work.  I feel like I have a better grasp of his theological project through reading Swain.  I also found I appreciated Swain’s own theological perspective. He proposes a project of evangelical ressourcement (in a Reformed key).  He disagrees with Jenson that hellenized sources wholly understood theology in terms of predicates instead of persons.  But his engagement with the theological tradition does not mean tossing concepts like  self-determination or narrative identity (hallmarks of Jenson’s theology). Swain describes his program of ressourcement as an “inclusive and enlarging adventure. It is never a matter of simple repetition or repristination but rather of tapping into a vital root, of communion of saints, all in the service of thinking and speaking faithfully about God in the present (234).” This vision of ressourcement seems fundamentally correct to me and Swain demonstrates that Jenson overstates his case against the theological tradition.

This is a good read for those who are interested in trinitarian theology and want to get a better grasp of Jenson’s theology.  I give this book four and a half stars. Laypersons who are uninitiated in the discussions of the trinity in the academy, will find this book too technical. Swain does a good job of describing Jenson’s theology and framing his argument, but he does simplify things too much for neophytes.  However, I found this a worthwhile read and it made me want to read more of Jenson’s works (not to mention Barth and McCormack).  Theological students will find this a useful guide to Jenson’s theology.

Thank you to InterVarsity Academic for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Around the Word in 90 Days (a book review)

Thru the Bible in 90 Days by Chris Tiegreen

I am a big believer in studying biblical languages, exegesis, hermeneutics and  theology. I am grateful for my seminary education but for all it has taught me, the best advice I can give to those who wish to understand the Bible is this:  read it.  My New Testament professor once said that the Bible is full of treasures but that it does not reveal itself to occasional inquirers. In other words, if you want to understand what the Bible says about creation, what it means to be human, the problem of evil, God’s plan of redemption, the mystery of the Trinity and the coming kingdom then you have to immerse yourself in scripture, inhabit the story and learn its symbols and metaphors.

90 Days Thru the Bible is a devotional resource put out by Walk Thru the Bible which (cleverly) is based on a 90 day reading plan which takes readers through the entire Bible.  The plan laid out has you read through each of the books of the Bible. Most of the 66 books are each read in a day where some of the longer books are divided over two days or more(Genesis and Psalms are divided into five daily readings; and Exodus Isaiah are divided into three).  Chris Tiegreen wrote two-three page reflections based on each of the daily readings.

I am currently using this devotional for my daily Bible reading. No doubt many will find reading through the Bible in three months ambitious. However, from my experience reading through the Bible in a short time is easier than reading through the Bible in one year. One year reading plans often have you reading through chapters from both testaments (and maybe a Psalm and a Proverb). Often they break up literary and thought unit,s making it difficult to follow the overarching themes of a particular book of the Bible. While reading through the Bible in 90 days takes a longer daily commitment on some days (some books of the Bible are really short and this plan never has you do more than one book a day), it enables readers to read through a book or  section at one time.  This is much easier than spending a month in 1 Chronicles and wondering what the point is. Even if you take longer than the 90-day allotment you are still likely to read through the Bible in 120 days and you will have read the Bible in a more connected and less disjointed way.

Chris Tiegreen’s reflections do a nice job of summarizing the passage and pointing out major themes.  Each day also provides questions for reflection. Because the format of this devotional is dictated by the Biblical text, it seems more substantive than thematic devotions. That being said, this is a 90 day romp through the Bible  so therefore is opaque on some of the details. Tiegreen also can gloss some of the sections that people find difficult (conquest, geneologies, etc.) But this isn’t a book for in-depth study, it is a guide through a quick reading of the Bible. The format dictates that all the details do not receive the same attention. I know from experience that when you read the New Testament with the Old Testament still fresh in your mind, you are much more able to appreciate the nuances of the text.

For me, I need a simple plan for reading through the Bible or I find it hard to practice the discipline of daily Bible reading. This book is great for my purposes, with just the right amount of detail to keep me attentive to what the text might be saying to me. If you are looking for a daily devotional guide, this seems like a good choice to me.

Thank you to Tyndale House for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

 

Um. . .Maybe You Should Crack A Window: a book review

Fresh Air: Trading Stale Spiritual Obligation for a Life-Altering, Energizing, Experience-It-Everyday Relationship With God By Chris Hodges

Have you every experienced seasons of your spiritual life that were . . .not so fresh? Where you are going through the motions of the Christian life but inside you is cesspool of destructive emotions: anxiety, self-doubt, anger, distrust.

Chris Hodges, the senior pastor of  Church of the Highlands in Birmingham Alabama has written a book to help bring a ‘breath of fresh air’ into your life. He aims to help us steer a course out of ‘the doldrums’– that lifeless and dull slump where there is no wind in our sails to propel us forward–so we catch the breeze and go to all the exiting places God has in store for us.

How do you beat the doldrums? [SPOILER ALERT: God is Involved]. Hodges wants you to cultivate a relationship with God, and his people, which will help you live an exciting, connected and not-at-all-dull life. He urges us to allow fresh air into all areas of  life but especially the following areas:

  • Live with Eternity in mind: focus on heaven and invest your life in what has lasting significance.
  • Adjust your attitude by focusing on ‘the positive’ and going to God with all your worries.
  • Read your Bible with an eye to  where it propels your life forward.
  • Have a prayer life which focuses on building a loving and trusting relationship with God.
  • Worship God expressively.
  • Become involved in a supportive community of faith (i.e. church).
  • Trust God in the areas of our finances.
  • And develop rhythms of rest (Sabbath) in the midst of your work and vocation.

But Hodges ultimately says making room for ‘fresh air’ is about making room for the wind of the Holy Spirit to blow in our lives. It is the Spirit of God who leads us into all truth, commissions us and empowers us for witness and the exciting life God wants for us.

Hodges says a lot which I think is helpful and I love that he uses relational language to talk  about God (and not formulaic techniques).  I also appreciate that in the end, his answer to what brings spiritual vitality  is not what we do, but the Spirit’s work. This is fundamentally correct and well worth noting.  Nevertheless while reading this book I had several problems which give me pause:

  1. Hodges tells people in the ‘doldrums’ to choose to have a better attitude. This is good advice for a lot of people, but not for people who suffer from clinical depression who despite not wanting to be as anxious, self-abasing and down-in-the-dumps as they are, cannot ‘choose’ to focus on the positive without some sort of medical intervention. If this is you, thank God for chemistry and good counseling and please avail yourself to it. There are certain parts of this book, which made me wonder if they would hurt people in a particular mental state.
  2. While Hodges ultimately sees Christian witness as the outflow of life in the Spirit, there is little emphasis through out this book on the mission of God. Honestly, my big advice to people who sit in a smelly room looking bored is find out what God is doing in your neighborhood and community and get involved. If true religion involves care for widows and orphans, find out who they are around you and find ways to love them in risky ways. This might not make you happy, but you won’t be bored. For Hodges, we get involved with God’s Mission when we spend time with him and are changed into the sort of witness who overflows with the love of God. I don’t disagree with him, but I would add that as we take risks to become part of God’s mission in the world,  God changes us as we step out. The way is made by walking and I wish this book took a more missional focus.
  3. Lastly I wonder a little bit about the ‘self-help’ tone of this book. No doubt I want a satisfying spiritual life myself, but the focus here seems highly individualistic. Even in his description of community, Hodges talks about how we need supportive people to experience fresh air in your life.  I agree, living in community makes me better and I love the wisdom, encouragement and challenge I have received from others. What I also love, but don’t often appreciate is how life and community means I have to die.   Other people in the church do not exist to aid my journey of self actualization. They are there for me to love, and sometimes love sacrificially.  

With these concerns, I am not so much disagreeing with anything Hodges has said, but wishing for fuller picture of the Fresh Air life he describes. He says  good stuff here, but some of it seems too safe for me. I would give this book a 3/5 and certainly believe that it can be read fruitfully and will likely encourage a lot of people. There is a discussion guide available online, making it an appropriate choice for a church small group.

Here is Chris Hodges talking about his book in his own words. Feel the excitement: 

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

A Life More Ordinary (And Less Mediocre): a book review

There are few voices that have been so prophetic and formative in my own life as that of Leroy Barber. About eight years ago my wife and I did a program called Mission Year in Atlanta and Leroy was our director (Mission Year is a one year long urban mission program which seeks to incarnate the love of God in an inner city neighborhood). Leroy was someone full of energy, enthusiasm, wisdom and challenging insights. During my time in Atlanta I had to face parts of myself and had to wrestle with ways  l had benefited from white privilege and I had turned a blind eye to systemic injustice.  Leroy was a gracious mentor and friend through the process, sometimes issuing challenges, other times dispensing wisdom and always listening and  eager to pray for me. Some of my favorite memories of my time in Atlanta were sitting over grits and pancakes at a local breakfast stop and talking with Leroy about what was going on in my life. A lot of my thoughts on leadership, ministry, marriage and life are heavily influenced by my friend Leroy so I am glad to commend his book to you.

I like Everyday Missions because it has the same energy, enthusiasm and wisdom I have come to expect from Leroy. The book is an extended reflection on what Romans 12:1-2  means. In the Message it translates as:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well formed maturity in you.

This is what Leroy want to see: ordinary people offering their everyday life to God and being used by him to effect change in a culture that is not always friendly to people on the margins.  In his capacity as an urban minister (he’s Executive Director of Mission Year, CEO at FCS Urban Ministries and founded several other urban ministries) he’s seen what it looks like when us ordinary people offer our lives to God and this book is interspersed with stories of people who have done just this.  Leroy challenges the idea that it is extraordinary people  that do great things for God. Rather it is the people who submit their (ordinary) lives to God and look around to see how God can use them where they are at.

And so Leroy casts a vision of how we can do this, encouraging us to take risks about how to reach our neighbors with the love of God. This is what he means by everyday missions. ‘Missions’ is the sort of term that people struggle with because ‘missions’ are often badly done. I caught up with Leroy a few days ago and he said, he wants to rehabilitate the term, reconnecting missions to the missio dei (the mission of God: God’s heart for the world/culture). As we find our life call and step out in faith, what we are doing is connecting our life mission, to the missio dei.

One of the things that stands out for me in this book is Leroy’s encouragement to be out of step with our culture. Particularly when you consider systemic injustice means that going with the flow means you are participating in and actually perpetuating systems that hurt people. Leroy sits at the helm of several urban ministries and as an African American leader knows the alarming statistics about how difficult it is for people of color to secure funding for urban mission (this has more to do with historic networks of trust more than blatant racism).  Leroy reflects on how far we still have to go as we confront racism and poverty and injustice and he is grateful for those Christians who do not just go with the flow of culture but take a stand for the common good. Churches are still segregated, people of color are often are disproportionately imprisoned. Being out of step with the culture, means choosing to not go with the flow and to take a good, hard look at reality.

But Leroy is always gracious and hope filled, even when confronting injustice. What this book will do for you is give you permission to dream what God can do with you in your life, where you, when you offer him your life.  The kind of dreaming Leroy commends are not narcissistic and self seeking but rest confidently in who God is and what he can do through you where you are at, Leroy closes one chapter with this prayer,”May the God who holds all power reveal himself to you in a way that guards you from elitism and inspires more than medicrity from you, a way that brings hope, restoration and peace to and through your ordinary life.”

So read this book and be inspired to offer your ordinary life to God in creative, risky and gracious ways. I know you’ll love Leroy as much as I do!

My family with Leroy at the Q Cafe in Seattle, July 2, 2012

The Late Great John Stott: a kid’s book review.

While Protestants do not canonize saints ,we do honor great Christian leaders  and hold them up  as examples for the next generation. In The Humble Leader Julia Cameron presents the late, great John Stott as part of Christian Focus Trail Blazers series.  This is a series of biographies profiling notable Christians for young audience (published under their CFP4Kids imprint).

Author Julia Cameron, director of publishing for the Lausanne Movement and the series editor for the Didasko Files, wrote this book in the hopes that readers would come to know more about John Stott, be moved by his love for Christ and would benefit from his writings.  The portrait she paints of the man unfolds chronologically.  She describes his birth and early family life, his schooling, his conversion and call to Christian ministry under the influence of E.J.H. Nash (AKA “Bash”) and his involvement with Bash’s camp ministry, his student days at Cambridge as a conscientious objector during World War II, his curate and appointment as rector at All Souls, Langham (the church he grew up in), his influence on the World Evangelical Movement, his writing at the Hookses, and his strong sense of personal call which caused him to turn down bishoprics, professorships and marriage in order to devote himself more wholly to the task God had given him.

John Stott remains one of my favorite biblical commentators and I have read several of his books but there are parts of his life story I didn’t know until I read this book. I also appreciated several aspects of John Stott’s ministry which have had an abiding influence on me which Cameron explores here. I love his dedication to the life of the mind, beginning in his student days, his involvement with  Tyndale House at Cambridge, his involvement with University and college ministries and his many publications.  He also dedicated his life to evangelism and promoted social activism and care for the poor. When Evangelicals (particularly American Evangelicals) were failing to thoughtful engage or offer practical care for their world, John Stott was a prophetic voice.

This is a ‘youth biography’ and therefore not a ‘critical biography.’  It is written to commend Stott’s life to the young so it does not offer much in the way of historical analysis; instead its tone is sympathetic and appreciative of what Stott accomplished. But that doesn’t mean that Cameron does not challenge her readers toward deeper engagement. The chapters are broken up by ‘fact files’ which share interesting tid-bits and noteworthy aspects of John Stott’s life and challenge readers and she closes the book with suggestions of further reading, thoughts to ponder and ideas to put into practice having reflected on the life of John Stott.  My kids are too young to appreciate this book but I enjoyed it. I have not read Timothy Dudley Smith’s two part biography or Roger Steer’s more recent biography. I imagine that they would be better for an adult audience, but if you want to introduce your young ones to John Stott, this is a good choice.

I received this book from Christian Focus Publications in exchange for this review.