Profile for Mr. Michael Lumsden > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Mr. Michael Lu...
Top Reviewer Ranking: 13,011
Helpful Votes: 246

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Mr. Michael Lumsden (Cambridge, UK)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
pixel
Faith and Wisdom in Science
Faith and Wisdom in Science
by Tom McLeish
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Loving Science, 20 Sep 2014
The first positive point about the book is that Prof Mcleish writes from an unusual position. He is first and foremost a very eminent practicing scientist – and his love of science comes through every page. This means that while he clearly has a deep Faith he is writing as a friend of science and is therefore able to understand and indeed agree with some of the ideas of Atheists who are also scientists. There are few writers that are better placed to bridge the gap that seems to have opened up between Scientists and the general populace; indeed it seems to me that the book is as much a defense of science as of any religious tradition.

When I started the book I had some concern that the theological side would be lightweight. My own expertise is limited here, but my impression is that this is not the case. I think that the writer had taken good advice and had been guided to explore issues and themes that had proved to be inspiring and fascinating to him.

McLeish seeks to explore some of the problems associated with science. Having a scientific training I was somewhat shocked to consider or recognise the failure of science to get a positive message across. He contends that outside of the “scientific fraternity” science is generally misunderstood or feared. Science is often seen as a dull mechanical routine which is carried out in laboratories by people wearing white coats. Many able students reject a scientific career as they see it as stifling any creativity – it is the orbit of geeks. Worse, the expert scientist is seen as the holder of power that might be unleashed on the rest of society who are kept in ignorance. Science is seen as lacking in soul – a discipline that produces useful results but is devoid of colour. I was left feeling that science itself needs to be rescued, and indeed Mcleish appears grieved that so few appear to understand and share his joy in science.

McLeish is particularly interested in the relationship between theology and science – and sees theology as a friend of science. This is a refreshing approach! But he believes that the view that there is an interface is flawed; he agrees with Dennett that there should not be any area that is beyond the reach of scientific enquiry. But he also affirms that theology has no boundaries either, and calls for a development of a theology of science.

He argues passionately that until relatively recently there was no gulf between the disciplines and gives several detailed historical examples of scientific work and thinking being practiced by individuals who would mainly be thought of in connection with theological work. Indeed the word “science” (linked to knowledge) is a relatively modern term – before about 1830 workers in the field dealt with Natural Philosophy (loving wisdom in natural things). He refutes the contention of some “New Atheists” that science is new – and only flourished when we were able to break away from old religious dogma.

Noting that both disciplines have a long history he also points out that they share a questioning approach. This may be a surprise to some unfamiliar with science (schools tend to teach a body of knowledge) or religion (surely religion is about dogmatic beliefs?). I found this part very refreshing – with both approaches sharing (to some extent) a contingent view of truth which means that both should develop and evolve. In science it is clear that there is no end to the road of discovery – and the same must be true of any Faith journey – be it of an individual or the community.

McLeish looks for reconciliation between the disciplines and hopes that each will be able to help and support the other. This seems a long way away! I was disappointed that there were not clearer ideas as to what McLeish would like the Church (and other religious traditions) to contribute here.

There is a delightful study of the nature themes in the bible and especially in the book of Job. I am grateful to the author for this section which certainly expanded my thinking – I was especially pleased with the focus on God as creator of all things, and Man not the most important!

The book is a serious study of important issues which are sometimes not a particularly easy. Readers will need to be prepared to work hard and grapple with some of the content - but I believe that such efforts will be richly rewarded.


All in the End is Harvest: An Anthology for Those Who Grieve
All in the End is Harvest: An Anthology for Those Who Grieve
by Sue MacGregor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something for everyone, 8 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There is little point in repeating all the good things that have been said about the book
I will simply say that a year on form my mother's death it was very helpful.
An anthology is particularly helpful because of the variety and the fact that it does not all click - we are different and I would think that there is something in it for everyone


Celebration
Celebration
by Margaret Spufford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.29

5.0 out of 5 stars No trite, simple answers........, 3 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Celebration (Paperback)
Margaret Spufford has been remarkably candid in sharing her struggles with her own illness and that of her daughter. The story is inspirational without being triumphalistic.
This book is in the same class as "Why do Bad things happen to Good People" - this is because it is born out of what might have been bitter experience; but the truth is that Margaret's approach to the difficulties she faced has been anything but bitter.
She is honest in setting out her difficulties in reconciling a loving God with the suffering of Innocent children. She does not solve "The problem of Pain" but sees pointers in the presence of a God who does not stand aloof but suffers along with us.
Margaret refuses to pretend that pain and suffering (especially in infants) is anything other than evil - but her experience is that in the end God is greater and deeper.........
The title appears paradoxical; how can Suffering and Joy be linked? Margaret somehow managed to do this. Looking back on her life she records that she could no wish her life to have been different.
I gather Margaret died this year; I cannot thank her for the effort it took her to write the book. what I can do is honour her by urging you to read the book!


There Are No Strong People
There Are No Strong People
by Jeff Lucas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fails to address key issues, 18 Jun 2014
I am a huge Lucas fan. As usual the writing was witty and engaging - I finished the book in 2 days flat.
In the book Lucas explains some of the difficulties that Samson faced in his life, such as other people committing him to a vow he had not chosen and a lack of parental guidance. He goes on to list out many of Sampson's failings (and warns us to be alert to the wiles of the devil). He seems to hate that brave Philistine called Delilah who finally discovered his "Achilles heel" (I was mystified as to why he seemed to think her a traitor.....)
His main point seems to be that God used Samson in spite of his obvious failings - so God can (and does) use weak and sinful people (that is all he has to work with!).
My concerns about the book were
Firstly literalism. Lucas seems to assume that the stories happened exactly as set out in scripture. Surely not.... Just think of having to catch one fox. Even if you are a good fox hunter could you catch one a minute? So to catch 300 takes 5 hours (at the crazy rate of 1 a minute). then tie them together in pairs - 150 pairs at 1 every 2 minutes - another 5 hours. Tie flaming torches to them - another 5 hours...... Sorry it does not work for me!
But more seriously is the idea of his murderous strength coming from the "Spirit of God". Lucas reminds us that we cannot judge Samson by New Testament standards - and clearly this is a fair point. However, are we also to conclude that the Holy Spirit has not read the New Testament and considers it a holy act to give a lout great strength to kill those he has fallen out with? I was very saddened that Lucas did not seem to notice that this would be an issue.
If we assume that this is the Holy Spirit acting in this way perhaps Christians (and Jews) can justify genocide on the grounds that the Holy Spirit was a party to a similar act in the past.
For my part I believe this is quite wrong - but Lucas treads on dangerous ground by not addressing this issue.


This Risen Existence: The Spirit of Easter
This Risen Existence: The Spirit of Easter
by Paula Gooder
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Celebrate Eastertide with Paula, 19 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
That's my recommendation......
Others have pointed out the focus of the Church on Lent and the neglect of the 50 days of Eastertide; the elevation of the Cross with the resultant minimisation of the importance of the Resurrection, Ascension and Giving of the Spirit.
Having previously used "traditional" books through Lent I used Lent this year to look more closely at the meaning of Easter and was not disappointed to have Paula Gooder as a guide.
If Christianity is true it is about so much more than how we get to heaven - this book focuses the mind on to being changed and living life in all it's fullness; I suspect most of us, most of the time fall well short of that - Paula Gooder helps the reader have a larger vision of what is possible for ordinary people in the light of the extraordinary events of the first Easter.
The book is so good that I will be going back to page one and re-reading it over the next 50 days.


Sisters of the East End
Sisters of the East End
by Helen Batten
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intersting background - a fresh angle, 19 Jan 2014
My mother was a midwife who worked with the sisters of the Community of St John the Divine in the late 1940s - so I had a particular interest in finding out more
The book was very instructive in terms of the development of the Community over a long period of time and indeed the development of professional nursing and midwifery as a profession in the UK and the significant role played by the religious orders in that development.
It was also fascinating to gain some insight into the experience of a nun who has lived her life in Holy Orders and how the Community has not been rigid over that time but has evolved. To read of the dedication and commitment shown by the Sisters was humbling; but the individuals are never portrayed as "saints" (with halos) - but rather real people with real struggles, doubts and difficulties. I was pleased that I had read a book based on nuns who had remained in orders/community - and this was a balance to Karen Armstrong's books (such as "The Spiral Staircase") which I would also recommend.
I was brought up short by meeting with a life based on a different mindset and values; for example, when training alongside "lay-people" they were due to receive their first monthly pay. There was much discussion in the group about how the money would be used (party, clothes etc). For the nun the money was paid direct to the community, because she did not own anything...... Some of her colleague expressed the opinion that they would not do the work for no pay - but for the nun it was a privilege to be serving and pay was irrelevant..... that certainly made me think!
My one disappointment with the book was that there was little revealed about the consolations to be drawn from the religious life - mention was made of spending "nights in prayer" but this is something rather alien to me, and so some attempt at sharing the experience or explaining how this can work would have been very welcome. The nuns had done amazing works of service - but the source of their dedication inspiration and strength was not explored in any great depth.


Wonders of the Solar System
Wonders of the Solar System
by Professor Brian Cox
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.60

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, 21 Dec 2013
The large number of very high star reviews shows that there are some very good points about the book. I am therefore clearly in a minority of having been badly put off by some weaknesses which some have either overlooked or think trivial.
Just to stress the good points first - the subject is great and many of the pictures are fascinating.
My gripe is the lack of precision and accuracy. Brian Cox makes great play of the superiority of the scientific method in finding truth. To me one of the great virtues of the scientific approach is clear and accurate communication - what I found were diagrams that were misleading and language that was vague and fuzzy. Reading the text seemed more like a teenage novel than a professor attempting to explain the wonders of the solar system.
Some quick examples:
Firstly I do understand how the orbit of the earth and the tilt of the axis result in the seasons. But the diagram in the book shows four positions of the earth relative to the sum - one position implies the sun is above the arctic circle and one that it is above the antarctic circle.
Secondly I was fascinated in the death of the sun. Leaving aside the language referring to nuclear reactions as "burning" I was reading on - because I wanted to understand why the Helium produced from the Hydrogen would not then act as fuel for further reactions (as happens in other stars). Referring to the exhaustion of the supply of hydrogen the text says "it literally runs out of steam".
Come on Brian. If you want to use metaphor in a supposed scientific book that's OK - but "Literally"?? Seeing the word I stopped; do you mean there is water produced? and that now all the gaseous water has been dissipated? At this point my blood boiled (no, not literally!).
Finally some of the diagrams are good - but in many the scales are wrong - and there is no clear note to that effect. I found myself having to spend time studying small print to establish whether the representation in the diagram was genuine or not. I often found that there was no clear explanation and so there was no warning against taking the diagram at face value - when it was an area I was familiar with I found that the diagram was wrong - I therefore lost confidence in those with which I was unfamiliar.
So I finished up frustrated - continuing to read but wondering if what I thought I was learning was accurate or not.
In my view the Wonders of the Solar System deserved better


The Pilgrim of Hate (Cadfael Chronicles)
The Pilgrim of Hate (Cadfael Chronicles)
by Ellis Peters
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading more than once, 16 Jun 2013
I always hesitate to give a book 5 stars, but could not find any reason to award fewer!. I rank this alongside "Morbid Taste for Bones" and "One Corpse too many", both of which are 5 star reads.
As usual with the Cadfael series one enjoys the historical context and the life of the abbey with its many colourful characters; the relationship between Hugh and Cadfael is delightful The plot is multi-stranded and believable and leads to an elegant and satisfying conclusion.
But the book is so much more than the solving of a complex puzzle. Deep themes are addressed, including: faith; healing; justice; revenge; penitence; mercy and redemption.
I first read the book some 10 years ago and am writing following my second reading; I shall put the book by and look forward to revisiting it in another 10 years!


Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold
by C. S. Lewis
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 9 May 2013
Other reviewers have provided sufficient detail of the content of the book and many of the reasons that the book is worth 5 stars. I would add the following couple of points:
Firstly it is a real eye-opener with regard to a general lack of self awareness. In the first part of the story the heroine writes wholly from her own point of view; she sees herself as the unlucky one or victim and sees her own actions as motivated by love. In the second section she hears from others and has her eyes opened to the reality that her motivation was often selfish and that she had been blind to the suffering of other people. I was reminded of the Johari Window and the need to have friends who know you well and are able to speak the truth to you. "How can we meet the Gods face to face until we have Faces?" and are prepared to drop the mask.
Secondly I found the story method struck home to me very personally. When I read it the second time I could not bear to read again the part when Psyche is forced to disobey (which leads to her downfall). And the recognition by the Queen that "I am Ungit" is just profound. The format is in my view much more powerful than any moralising or apologetics.


The Lion's World: A Journey Into the Heart of Narnia
The Lion's World: A Journey Into the Heart of Narnia
by Rowan Williams
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.46

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good - but expected more, 16 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Cards on the table, I am a big fan of Narnia. I guess I read the stories on an annual basis and recommend them to everyone I can.
So to me the fact that former Archbishop Rowan has written this book is great as it adds weight to my recommendations and validity to my love for the stories.
There was one huge plus points for me. Rowan focuses on Aslan. The title did not alert me to this but the focus is well placed. While there is a section on meeting the criticisms that have been raised Rowan comes back consistently to how Aslan behaves and what he actually does. I have gone back to the stories to re-read all the dialogue involving Aslan - and it is very instructive.
I only give the book 3 stars because I was hoping for much more; I have great respect for the author,and expected him to be able to point out depths that I had not appreciated. However, some reviewers have praised the book for being concise - you cannot have both brevity and great depth.
I would recommend the book on the grounds that reading it will open up a new understanding or affirm an understanding that has already been gained.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5