Oct 16

Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, by Alister McGrath ?????

I had varied throughout the reading of the book, at rating the book between 3-5. I finally settled on a 5 in spite of a few serious misgivings. Alister McGrath is known as a conservative Protestant scholar working out of Oxford. McGrath takes a fairly event stance in spite of his supposed academic and conservative stance. Sometimes, he goes a little too far in trying to be moderate, such as when he seems to side with Fosdick in the Fosdick/Machen controversy, Machen accusing liberal Christianity of having abandoned Christian roots and thus not being Christian at all. I think Machen was correct. Yet, McGrath also is very even keeled in his presentation of Pentecostalism as being the dominant force now driving the massive spread of Protestantism throughout much of the rest of the world, including South America, Africa, Asia and Korea, as well as possibly the Philippines. Thematically, McGrath holds tight to his thesis of displaying how the Christian “dangerous” idea that put the Bible into the hands of the layman, allowing them to read and interpret scripture outside of the forced interpretation of the church, has allowed the Protestant movement to adapt to other cultures and societies well beyond the expectations of the west. The book is divided into three parts, the first being a standard historical outline from Luther and Zwingli and Calvin to the present day. It is a focused history, examining the fundamental thesis of what happens when you put the Bible into the hands of a layman. True, you get diversity, heresy, secularization, etc., but you also get adaptability to various cultures. The second part outlined Protestant influence on Western culture, including music, art, science, etc. I’m not sure all of his analyses were entirely accurate, especially with issues of evolution and science, but again, McGrath is possibly attempting to not takes sides in the issue. He still leans toward the evolutionists, sadly. The third part speaks of the rapid growth of Christianity through the rest of the world, and his hypothesis as to why that is happening, which is, as mentioned above, Pentecostalism and other forms of spirituality that are more directed to the culture, thinking  of the lifestyle of people outside of the Western world and adapting Christianity to those cultures, rather than forcing a pure Western cultural interpretation on Christianity. Missing in the book is discussions as to how a large part of Christianity has trashed the Scripture. This is especially true of liberal Christianity. Since the basic thesis of this book is the freedom to interpret Scripture, when you deconstruct Scripture rather than interpret it, does that produce a Christian? I don’t think so. Also not included is the concept of the “heretic”. Essentially, Islam, as well as Jehovah’s Witness and Mormonism are heresies, that I would fail to define as essentially Christian, yet he doesn’t address this issue of deviants of interpretation and belief that delegitimize being a Christian. This is a book worth reading, though a bit dense and sometimes controversial, it reads easily and is very thought provoking.

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Sep 22

Don’t Let the Goats eat the Loquat Trees, by Dr. Thomas Hale ????

I really wanted to give this book 5-stars as I truly enjoyed reading it. Thomas Hale is a wonderful writer, mixing an entertaining style with a story line that is quite fascinating. I truly appreciated his frank, honest style, that seemed to hit home with the experiences that I had in Bangladesh, with the overwhelming number of patients, the extreme poverty, the prejudices against Western medicine, the personal struggles, the struggles with natives and their own peculiarities. He never paints himself as the miracle doctor, and seems to spend more time describing his failures than his successes. The book starts out as a chronological narrative for several chapters, which left me ready to put it down. He describes himself and his wife as not having a clue as to exactly where they were going, or under what conditions they would be living. The first thought was that I was reading the story of a quasi-clueless but deeply atruistic missionary dragging God along as the magic puppy-dog who bales him out of every trouble created by dumb decisions. This book ended up being anything but that, and reflected a very pragmatic, hard-working surgeon who had a very realistic sense of what he could expect and accomplish in Nepal. Much of the book was written in non-chronological order, but with chapters divided into various topics, such as the living conditions, certain events, and philosophical reflections. I enjoyed the chapters where he vignetted various patients.  So, my criticisms. 1) I get a flavor for his character, but read almost nothing of his wife, kids, other doctors, or other people involved in his life. 2) He speaks some of Christ, but little about the intention to bring Christ to the Nepalis. I am not certain whether his motivations were altruistic vs. Christ oriented. 3) The final few chapters entails rhetoric of a Malthusian nature, with him fretting over population growth and food supply and wealth distribution. It seemed like a chapter right out of the clueless mutterings of Tony Campolo, Thomas Sines or Ron Sider. Overlooking the criticisms, this is a fun book to read and reflective of what it is really like to be a missionary surgeon. I hope that someone like Dr. Kelley offer an autobiography of their own experiences in the field, which certainly would be as enthralling, but leading toward a more appreciative conservatism and reflective of a work of God in the mission field.

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