Now I have visited Ireland (RoI and NI) I wanted to read about Patrick (Circa 390-Circa 460 AD). So I decided to read Patrick of Ireland: His Life and Impact by Michael A. G. Haykin. For such a small book there is an awful lot packed into it yet avoids being a dense read. Probably too short at 102 pages (total) for an index but each of the chapters has easy to follow headings. There are quite extensive footnotes throughout each chapter, mainly references to other works with the occasional helpful comment. The text is small but not difficult to read. There are a few pages at the end of the book with recommended further reading with helpful summaries of each work should you wish to research further into the life and times of Patrick.
The book is easy to read and not overly concerned about the historical difficulties: although at first, I thought it might overshadow Patrick Himself. However, Dr Haykin doesn’t shy away from the problems so the book isn’t a hagiography. The two primary sources are his ‘Confession’ and ‘Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus.’
The explanatory boxes throughout the book, I thought, are a nice touch and help the context. For example: ‘The fall of the Roman Empire’, ‘On The Teaching of Arius’ and ‘Celtic Paganism.’ Not all the pages are so full of page notes (see example below) but if notes are not your thing you can easily read through without referencing them. Unfortunately, I like to read them so it can break the flow a bit. Very helpful if I wanted to look into the life of Patrick in more detail. His Confession and Letter are referenced throughout.
After being captured by a party of Irish raiders Patrick is taken to Ireland. Patrick interprets this as a judgment for ignoring the Word of God. After coming to know Christ he escapes back to Britain and some 20 years later (after theological training) returns full of missionary zeal to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the very same people who kidnapped him!
There are quotes from his Confession and Letter throughout – all referenced. Embedded in the test the words of Patrick really brings the man alive. There were huge controversies in Patrick’s day, not the least of these was the Trinity. What comes over very clearly is a man committed theologically to The Triune God, The Gospel of Christ and a fearless missionary burden to bring the Gospel to the unreached no matter what the cost to himself. Patrick’s life challenges us in these areas: Theological commitment, Love for Christ and the Gospel and Missionary Zeal.
After a brief chronology and preface there are five chapters:
- ‘I Am Patrick’: The Life and Historical Context of Patrick.
- ‘One God in the Trinity of the Holy Name’: The divine foundation of Patrick’s theology
- ‘I am bound by the Spirit’: Patrick and his Irish Mission
- ‘God has spoken’: Word and Spirit in Patrick’s piety
- An Evangelical reflects on Patrick – Very brief
This a great introduction to Patrick. It gives a flavour of the man and his time. I enjoyed it very much and thoroughly recommend it. I bought it for a £1.00 with another book plus postage on 10 of Those (still £1). It normally sells for £7.99. Buy it anyway, you won’t be disappointed.
My second (of three now) book on the Gunpowder Plot has the catchy title of A History of the Gunpowder Plot by Philip Sydney. If I have it right this was published in 1905 – 300 years after the plot – by Protestants Today. I bought it for £5.95. There are few illustrations and no sub-headings to speak of and so the reader is confronted with page after page of dense text. Mercifully the text type is easily readable and most of the chapters are short. Every chapter has quite a few endnotes which need to be read. There is no index and no bibliography. Not a particularly inviting book – so probably a book of its time. Very plain.
Perhaps mistakenly, I read a few reviews on Amazon that said it was dry and difficult reading. One ‘reviewer’ didn’t finish it. If I’d taken any notice of their reviews it would have stayed on a shelf in the Christian Bookshop. I obviously took no notice of them and bought it anyway. But given my comments above and the reviews I can see what they mean.
But, I really enjoyed it. I think I must be weird! The book has no Evangelistic emphasis (as the previous book) and has no real context other than a few meager references as you move through the book. What I’m enjoying though is all the detail – another thing the ‘reviewers’ didn’t like. There are a lot of quotes from the original case and a number of letters are included.
Sydney is quite upfront about his own belief that ‘it was a put up job.’ The Government (that is, Robert Cecil – Secretary of State) it seems had all the main players on a ‘watch list’. It’s extraordinary the plotters thought they could get away with it, and even when the game was up they still thought they could stage an uprising in the Midlands. There are a few references to Dunchurch, Rugby (where I grew up), and several other places I know well. Dunchurch is built around a crossroads with a couple of historic Coaching Inns and a house (then The Red Lion Inn) that apparently was where some of the plotters met. I knew a guy some years ago that lived there and have been in the house. Sadly, at the time I had no interest in any of this – a shame that. Next time I’m in Dunchurch I’ll get a few pictures.
The propaganda value of gruesome public executions seems quite obvious – especially if the authorities knew all the time. Some things don’t change. Although, the plot itself, had they actually pulled it off, would have changed the country. It was of epic proportions. But it failed. Thank God.
The historic controversies (so I have learned) concern when the authorities (Cecil) knew of The Plot, the delivery of a mysterious letter to Lord Monteagle (or Mounteagle) warning him to stay away from Parliament on November 5th and whether the Jesuit hierarchy also knew of The Plot. Sydney deals with these and drops in his disagreement with other views as he goes along. The book seems quite thorough and as far as I can tell he argues his case.
The whole thing is an incredible story. I suppose there is always going to be room for conjecture on some of the issues but Sydney quotes from primary sources – letters, trial transcripts and secret transcripts between prisoners in The Tower (that is, The Tower of London). I need another visit to the Tower myself now after reading about The Plot.
Do I recommend the book? If you get hooked on the subject, then yes. If you are a history buff, yes. Otherwise, I think you’ll survive without reading it. But:
‘Please to remember
The Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot;
I see no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.’ (On the inside page)
The whole episode raises enormous questions, especially about propaganda, freedom of religion, security and torture as a means to elicit information. And so in that sense reading of The Plot is ever relevant as we face those very same questions in our own day.
So I have another book to read on The Plot that will be a bit more demanding. I’ll do a post in due time.
I recommended ‘Grieving, Hope and Solace: When a loved one dies In Christ‘ by Al Martin two years ago (almost to the day) but that was only on reading the first chapter. At long last, I have finished it. When I first started the book the grieving was still quite raw. It’s taken me these two years to read it maybe because I completely entered into the author’s own experience.
I don’t think on a practical level, for me, it’s quite as helpful as the book by James White. Al Martin’s book though is answering a different question. The book is focused on dealing with the bereavement of a spouse and is asking ‘What happens to a Christian loved one when they die?’ He not only answers that question but shows the relevance of that knowledge to the here and now for the grieving spouse.
The book (my copy) was first published by Cruciform Press in 2011 and written several years after his wife died, based on a series of sermons he preached soon after she died. It’s a short book at just 116 pages as this usually needs to be. it’s easy to read with short chapters with several headings for each chapter. There are only a few endnotes but with lots of scripture references throughout. It’s divided into Four Parts with a total of 13 Chapters plus a preface. Although there’s a lot of theology I definitely entered into his grief. It touched a lot of nerves for me. I’m grateful for that.
My copy is full of notes, underlining and asterisks. I can only mention a few things. The reality of his grief is evident. He doesn’t hide it. This paragraph from page 21 I thought was very helpful.
‘The idea here is not that if we truly obey these verses, we will no longer suffer the pain of loss. In my best efforts to fix my thoughts on the things above, I still felt the pain of my wife’s absence. Rather, in the midst of our grief (Italics are his) – which can be painful, sorrowful, lengthy, and at times even debilitating – the kind of grieving that brings glory to God nevertheless includes a grace-motivated determination, in obedience to these verses, to direct our thoughts to the things above. This both glorifies God and helps to ease – not eliminate – the pain and sorrow of our grief.’ (The verses he is referring to are Philippians 4:8 and Colossians 3: 1-2.)
Then this from page 95 & 96:
Few things more quickly and effectively snap some of the shackles that bind us to this world than does the death of a dearly loved one. Tenderly holding their lifeless form in our arms, or wistfully looking as they lie in a coffin, such experiences become powerful voices. These voices call out, urging us to obtain the wisdom that alone can enable us to live as those who “number our days.”
There are three sections in Chapter 10 (God’s Purposes In Us Through This Death) that I noted by writing Vital!!! Couldn’t be overstated!
The headings are: We Have Opportunity to Grow in Fellowship (page 93). For this, I had in mind some very special people who helped immensely during Sue’s illness and after she had died. Also: The Word of God comes more Vividly Alive (page 94). This is so true. The Scripture becomes alive in a completely new and fresh way. And: We Become More Heavenly Minded (page 94). Heaven is close.
There’s an extremely poignant paragraph at the beginning of that chapter where I wrote the following in the margin: I have no doubt about this. This was upon my mind very early on. However, it made me feel responsible for her death. I realise I’m not. But even so…. This is the paragraph I was responding to:
‘When a servant of God prays from the heart, “Lord, do whatever you need to do to me and in me to make me a better shepherd of your people,” we have no idea how God will answer. For me, such a prayer was answered in part by God’s severe mercy in taking Marilyn from me. (page 85)’
A severe mercy. Indeed so. I’m not a shepherd but God will sanctify His people. In all honesty, as I’m writing this and looking through the book at my notes and underlinings I realise how helpful the book has been. It helps enormously to have your own experience confirmed. Not everyone can enter into it with you but this author, for me, has done that. And for that, I’m truly thankful. I’m sure he will do that for others. Not for everyone, but it will help some. Maybe it will help you.
The only parts of the book I found unhelpful and that jarred with my own experience is how perfect his wife was through her illness right up until her death. Sue wasn’t like that, and yet I think for all her struggles with dying she displayed the grace of God in a way that wouldn’t have been possible had she been so perfect. Obviously, I can’t criticise Al Martin’s wife Marilyn for dying so well (by the grace of God in that way). My note in the book reads: ‘We must not make these things the norm, wonderful though it is.‘ I’m glad that was her testimony. I just don’t think that is the experience of most people. As Christians, we don’t want to admit how hard dying is. Death is the final enemy. And it is horrible. Really horrible. So in Sue’s dying, I saw a paradox. I saw how hard it was for us both, especially for her, and yet I saw the grace of God displayed through her in a truly remarkable manner. That glorified God I believe.
The book closes with a Gospel message that tells it straight but points to the only hope. That hope is found in The Lord Jesus Christ, the only one who has conquered death.
I still recommend the book. I do wonder about the recommendations that come on the cover with this type of book. Do they know anything of what the author is talking about? I think the answer is often, no they don’t. That’s just my opinion, as all this is. There is so much in the book, not a word is wasted. Ministers of the Gospel ought to read it as they are going to encounter grief in their people. The book will help prepare you. Grief is such a personal thing. I’m not sure it would be the first book I’d reach for to give to a grieving spouse, but then it depends who it’s for. It’s not a touchy-feely book, but it is real. Above all, we need the reality of Christ and His Word and His presence. This book by God’s grace will help. Order it from your local Bookshop.
I’d love the opportunity to speak with the author.
I thought it might be a good idea to read Augustine’s ‘The City of God’. A good idea until it arrived! It is a massive great thick tome. I decided to get help ‘if’ and it’s a big ‘if’ I decide to read the thing. There were some old Westminster Conference papers going cheap and in 2005 a paper was given by Dr Michael A. G. Haykin on Augustine’s work with the title ‘”The most Glorious City of God”: Augustine of Hippo and The City of God.’ I don’t know if the paper is available online.
Reading Michael’s paper it was a surprise to find that Christians had attached themselves to The Roman Empire to such an extent they were at such a loss over its fall.
‘Many Christians were equally stunned and shocked by the horrors that had overtaken the city of Rome. Jerome, for instance, was absolutely overwhelmed by reports that he heard and for a while could do little else but weep.’ Later Jerome lamented “The whole world is sinking into ruin” (Haykin, Page 39, Westminster Papers, 2005).’ On page 40 we read ‘… many other Christians of his (Jerome) day, seems to have been utterly unable to conceive of a Romeless world.’
Not so Augustine. Eusebius, sometimes called the father of Church History, viewed history through the lens of The Roman Empire. So that in ‘Eusebius’ hands the Roman state has become a sacred realm. (page 42).’ This is the beauty of Augustine’s work, it doesn’t rely on particular Empires but is a Biblical view of history that works for all ages. It was great to discover this because it is exactly what I was hoping for. Many Empires have come and gone.
I was left asking if the European Union is an Empire? Is it? I believe it is. It has a President and a Parliament with Vassal States just like any other Empire. And it will come to an end just like the rest. I find it astonishing some are so Anti-Western Colonialism or Imperialism. Don’t they realise there were a great many Eastern Empires? Western Colonialism will go just like the rest. The British Empire has gone. The Ottoman Empire has gone. The Egyptian Empire has gone. The Persian Empire has gone and so forth.
It seems to me that (some) Christians are unable to conceive of a world where The UK is not part of The European Union. So, one reason for reading Augustine’s weighty tome is to come to a better understanding, not only of history, but the flow of history, and of the European Union as an Empire. And, as an Empire that will not last.
Dr Haykin sets the context and then very helpfully gives an overview of the book which I won’t detail here. When I do finally get round to reading the book it will be good to have an overview to hand. Maybe I’ll write some more at another time.
Dr Haykin’s last quote (Westminster, page 54) from Augustine is powerful and relevant. Augustine writes:
‘Look, my brothers and sisters, do you wish that unto you should belong that peace which God utters? Turn your heart unto him: not unto me, or unto any man. For whatever man would turn unto himself the hearts of men, he falls with them. … Our joy, our peace, our rest, the end of all troubles, is none but God: blessed are they that turn their hearts unto him.’
If your hope is in the State (The City of Man) you are going to be hugely disappointed and will ultimately fall with it like ancient Babylon. But if you are looking for another city, namely, The City of God, then you will also share in its final triumph when the King in all His Glory comes to take residence.
The New Testament Documents: Are they reliable? by F. F. Bruce. IVP. 6th Edition, 2009.
It’s taken me till now to read this book. And what an excellent book it is. I was very encouraged by reading it. It does have a downside. So let’s get that out of the way first.
The latest reference to any work is 1990. To me, because I’m older, that sounds quite recent – modern even. But when I think it through, that’s 28 years ago! Many of the reference works are much older, even though the research may still stand up. It’s an obvious point of criticism. I’m sure there are more recent books that build on and enhance the work in this book. A more recent book to recommend is Michael Kruger’s ‘Canon Revisited‘ Nov 2013.
Given that, it’s a great read. It’s very helpful. It isn’t long. Just 141 pages. It has page footnotes which I like, a scripture index, suggested further reading for each chapter, and an index which I also like. If you’ve never read anything on this subject before, this is a great place to start.
In the opening paragraph to his preface (p.7) Bruce writes:
‘Reliable as what?’ asked a discerning reviewer of the first edition of this little work, by way of a comment on the title. His point, I think, was that we should be concerned with the reliability of the New Testament as a witness to God’s self-revelation in Christ rather than with its reliability as a record of historical fact. True; but the two questions are closely related. For, since Christianity claims to be a historical revelation, it is not irrelevant (or irreverent, my comment) to look at its foundation documents from the standpoint of historical criticism’.
He doesn’t shy away from the problems but shows how in terms of their historicity the New Testament documents fair very well. In fact, they fair much better than other ancient texts (ch 2, pp 21-23). He mentions the Chester Beatty (Library) Biblical Papyri. I was able to see some of these on a recent trip to Dublin. I’m not quite sure which ones are referred to in the book but see one of the pictures below I took of the manuscripts.
He takes some time looking at the miracles (ch 5) but points clearly to the resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ.
‘This response of faith does not absolve us from the duty of understanding the special significance of the several miracle-stories and considering each in the light of available knowledge, historical research and otherwise, which can be brought to bear upon it. But these are secondary duties; the primary one is to see the whole question in its proper context as revealed by the significance of the greatest miracle of all, the resurrection of Christ’ (p.82).
The chapter on Lukes Gospel (ch 7) was really excellent. Especially so when it came to the accuracy of places, names, and titles. Very encouraging. An obvious point, which I hadn’t thought about, was how there were many writings out there that Luke was able to use in order to write his Gospel and The Acts of the Apostles.
Luk 1:1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us,
Luk 1:2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,
Luk 1:3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
Luk 1:4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
The most important aspect of the book wasn’t his proof of the NT Documents historicity, which he does admirably, but his confession that it takes a work of the Holy Spirit to make a person alive to Christ. In the final analysis, even if they are accepted as completely reliable, which they are, it’s only the Holy Spirit that can grant repentance and give life. The question Christ asks of us all is ‘Who do you say that I am?’.
Mat 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
Mat 16:14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Mat 16:15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Mat 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Mat 16:17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
I should have taken notes or made comments and underlining in the book. I didn’t. Nevertheless, I thoroughly recommend this book to any believer or unbeliever for that matter. If your church has a library, put this book in it.
Here are the Chapter Titles:
- Does it matter?
- The New Testament documents: their date and attestation.
- The canon of the New Testament.
- The Gospels.
- The Gospel miracles.
- The importance of Paul’s evidence.
- The writings of Luke.
- More archeological evidence.
- The evidence of early Jewish writings.
- The evidence of early Gentile writers.
The author is ‘Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at Newcastle University and works as a consultant psychiatrist in the National Health Service’. He is also a ‘church elder with preaching and pastoral responsibilities’. Professor Thomas explains in the introduction that this is not an academic work (as other books he has written) but is for ministers and leaders in the Church. I’m neither, but my wife (Sue) worked for a counseling organisation for several years so I have an interest, albeit as a layman. Also, I have friends that have suffered from or are suffering from some sort of mental disorder and I have experienced in a small measure anguish of the soul and mind. I also believe an appropriate measure of understanding is called for, by Christians of other Christians, that suffer in this way. Professor Thomas is a Christian and is writing from that perspective. My first wife Sue, surrounded as she was at work with political correctness, humanistic thinking and opposition to the Biblical message would have very much appreciated this book.
Just a personal preferential moan so I can get it out of the way. It doesn’t have an index, which is a little disappointing. It would have been helpful. I’m not a big fan of endnotes either but an additional bookmark works well. The endnotes give helpful explanations without being too technical and there’s a Glossary of the most used ‘technical’ terms. For what could be an incredibly dense text, given the subject, the style is easy to read with good divisions and (amusing) headings and at the end of each chapter he gives a bullet summary which again is really helpful.
The book is in stark contrast to the Nouthetic (Biblical) Counselling of Jay Adams.
Thomas lays out the Biblical teaching that we are all made in the image of God and designed for relationships yet fallen. Because we are designed for relationships the church can play an important part in the recovery (for some) and support of those in our churches that suffer from prolonged or continual mental illness. It’s often the carers that need the support. And these aren’t forgotten – especially in the last chapter.
There are several unidentifiable but genuine cases referenced throughout the book with some personal (anonymous) testimonies towards the end. These help to make it all the more relevant. This isn’t fantasy. The more serious cases, such as of schizophrenia, aren’t going to be cured by repentance. There’s a very interesting chapter (ch 6) on Personal Responsibility and Mental Illness.
The last chapter is probably the longest, and most challenging to our churches. I’m left wondering how equipped we are to help and support the mentally ill in our fellowships. How equipped am I?! I feel incredibly inadequate to the task because we will all have suffering Christians in our midst. One of the testimonies laments how when she had a heart attack there was prayer and support. But when she previously had a schizophrenic episode she was expected to ‘pull herself together’. She did say people were privately praying for her and their prayers were answered and that The Lord heard their prayers. Even so, the challenge is there. Physical illness and mental illness can be viewed very differently and yet both are consequences of our fall in Adam.
I don’t want to give much detail because I want you to read the book and be taken along as he builds up his case. He recommends you read it from the start and not turn to the testimonies at the end first. I would agree with this. You need the previous chapters! I’m not a professional or a church leader but I hope the book has at least made me more aware (of treatments) and sensitive to sufferers (and their families) in our fellowships. I have enjoyed reading it. It’s been an informative, challenging and helpful read. From my limited perspective, I heartily recommend it. Church Ministers and Leaders should read it.
Christians aren’t immune to any illness – including Mental Illness – that can overtake us in a fallen world. What of the Non-Christian that might read the book? They will have all the vicissitudes and pain of this life that will pale into insignificance compared with the awful pain of judgment to come unless they embrace The Saviour. It will be the opposite for the Christian; the suffering for the Christian will end and they will ultimately be ushered into the fullness of the Kingdom of Christ that He purchased at such cost – even with His own Blood.
Dr Nick Needham will be coming to Aberystwyth Saturday 23rd June to give two lectures on The Synod of Dort.
If you are in Aberystwyth do come along. The lectures will take place at Alfred Place Baptist Church. Coffee at 10:30.
Lecture 1 (11:00). What on Earth was The Synod of Dort?
Lecture 2 (14:30). Why Should I Care?
Dr Needham is the author of ‘2000 Years of Christ’s Power‘ currently in Four Volumes.
Volume 1. The Age of the Early Church Fathers
Volume 2. The Middle Ages
Volume 3. Renaissance and Reformation
Volume 4. The Age of Religious Conflict
(Nick has an overview of the Synod of Dort in Volume 4 of ‘2000 Years of Christ’s Power’ Chapter 2, Section 2, p 127 – 142.)
Here’s another one from ‘Voices From The Past Vol 1‘ edited by Richard Rushing (BoT). This is from 14th May and taken from the works of John Flavel (Works, 1:176 – 187). If I’m reading it right he’s distilled eleven pages down to one. The result is a beautiful summary of The Gospel that plainly states the terrible situation of the one outside of Christ but the wonderful security to the one in Christ.
‘The curse of the law is the most dreadful thing imaginable…. Nothing can free the soul but Christ’.
And yet the dead sinner cannot see his predicament. Such is the blindness of man in sin. If you brush it of as mere religious dogma and are completely unaffected, please consider your situation. Call upon The Lord that He May have mercy on you.