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J. Kellard (Dorset, England)

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Discover Xiamen: Guide to Xiamen and South Fujian 《厦门和闽南指南》 (Fujian China Guides Book 2)
Discover Xiamen: Guide to Xiamen and South Fujian 《厦门和闽南指南》 (Fujian China Guides Book 2)
Price: £1.94

5.0 out of 5 stars The essential guide to Xiamen... not to be missed., 19 July 2014
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Bill Brown has lived in Xiamen for 26 years, and became the region's first foreigner to be honoured with permanent residency. He has written many books on Fujian Province (including "Discover Gulangyu", "The Fujian Adventure", "Old Xiamen", and this, his classic guide to all things Xiamenese. For those who have never heard of Xiamen, this will be a valuable introduction to a significant and beautiful city on China's Eastern Seaboard. For those of us who live there, it may become a daily reference guide and constant companion!

It's been my joy and privilege to know Bill and Sue for a number of years - their passion and commitment to China are infectious. Both Bill's knowledge of the local area and the joy and generosity with which he communicates it are extensive and deep.

Discover Xiamen is a detailed and precious resource - and to cap it all, available at a very good price. Don't miss it!

Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don't Think and What to Do about It
Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don't Think and What to Do about It
by Os Guinness
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading on the Evangelical Mind, 31 Aug 2013
Os Guinness is well known in the evangelical world for his perceptive social commentary, sharp historical awareness, and a no-nonsense approach to dealing with issues afoot in the Church and contemporary society. In his book "Fit Bodies, Fat Minds", Guinness argues that to all intents and purposes, the evangelical mind is at an all-time low. Following the lead of thinkers like Harry Blamires (The Christian Mind) and more recently Mark Noll (The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind), Guinness contends that "Failing to think Christianly, evangelicals have been forced into the role of cultural imitators and adapters rather than originators". This, he contends, should concern those of us who care about the success of the Church and the triumph of the Gospel in the post-Christian West. "Evangelical anti-intellectualism," he writes, "bears directly on many of the problems of evangelicalism - superficial or bad theology, the lack of a serious apology for the faith, the lack of a constructive public philosophy, and the continued defections of thinking evangelicals in the direction of Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. Catholics, by contrast, can boast of strengths that are alluring precisely because they coincide with evangelical weaknesses - for example, in regard to authority, tradition, liturgical worship, aesthetics and a constructive public philosophy."

But what is to be done about evangelical anti-intellectualism? In some circles it seems so deeply entrenched and justified by so much pseudo-spiritual drivel as to be nigh unassailable. The first step, Guinness points out, is to understand how we arrived here in the first place. To this end, he highlights two historical epochs marked by trends (both theological and social) that had a detrimental effect on the cultivation of a Christian mind. The first phase, spanning "roughly from the Restoration in 1660 to about 1860", sees a long, slow retreat from the tradition of vital Christian thinking done by the Reformers and Puritans, to the creation of what Guinness refers to as a "ghost mind". The second period, stretching from the late 1800s to the present day, is the story of the rise of the mass mind and the "creation of an `idiot culture'". Both of these phases, with their respective trends and pressures, have had a largely negative effect upon the development of the Christian mind.

The trends which contributed to the formation of an evangelical "ghost mind" are presented as 8 "Ps";

- Polarisation (pitting the mind against the heart, with the mind coming off decidedly worse)
- Pietism (an exclusive focus on devotion and experiencing the presence of God to the detriment of doctrine and thinking)
- Primitivism (the glorification of an earlier primitive "golden age" of the Church and an urge to return to it)
- Populism (the tendency of evangelicals to distrust authority, especially educated authority, and to operate as a mass movement)
- Pluralism (the belief that all perspectives are equally valid, and thus none ultimately true. As Guinness says, "Truth is commonly regarded as divisive, clarity of distinctions is not prized, and serious thinking is reckoned unnecessary" (55).
- Pragmatism (a bias in favour of the practical, and a willingness to reduce Christian life to merely practical concerns)
- Philistinism (the demonization of education and a glorying in ignorance)
- [Dispensational] Premillenialism (an emphasis on the `not yet' to the detriment of the `here and now')

Guinness clearly and convincingly demonstrates that all of these trends have damaged the development of the Christian mind and continue to plague the Church. A number of these trends have enormous benefits (pietism, for example, rightly emphasises the need for a vital experience of God in the Church), but have also historically brought with them unhelpful tendencies toward anti-intellectualism. By identifying these trends, Guinness prepares us to deal with the obstacles to thinking we have erected ourselves. This is a point on which Guinness is most uncompromising. We have no one but ourselves to blame, he says, for our cultural impotence;

"In the climate of contemporary `culture wars' the rhetoric of blaming and victim-playing is widespread. Everything is posed in terms of `we' and `they'. The reason for our cultural impotence, for example, is described as the story of the marginalisation of the Christian tradition. But the story of evangelicalism prior to 1860 does not fit such an analysis. Evangelicals, of course, had foes and rivals. Such great thinkers and writers as George Eliot and Tom Paine were hardly champions of any orthodox Christian faith. But the real damage to evangelicals was self-inflicted."

After this energetic exposition of the "8 Ps" of anti-intellectualism, the book moves on to an equally energetic, but perhaps less profound discussion of the cultural challenges which post-1860 Western culture has presented to the life of the mind. Guinness looks at the amusement culture, advertising, the all-pervasive nature of images, the decline of the written word, the emergence of virtual reality and the advent of postmodernism and examines how each of these cultural trends have contributed to the marginalisation of hard thinking. While these challenges have affected the mass mind as a whole, Guinness is at pains to highlight the particular dangers (and at times opportunities) these technologies present to the Church.

Finally, Guinness considers why it is important for evangelicals to learn to think again, and how this transformation might occur. His suggestions are practical and helpful, and go some way towards showing how his analysis might be applied. All in all, the book is a hard-hitting treatment of the "problem of the evangelical mind" with some good solutions to pray into and work towards. Where Guinness' account is perhaps lacking is in a treatment of the way in which erosion of Biblical authority in the Church (through liberal theology and its contemporary emergent exponents) has led to a decreased emphasis on doctrine. In my view this has perhaps contributed to the anti-intellectualism in the Church more than all the "8 Ps" combined. For if Christianity is not a doctrinal concern, and if the faith contains no unique content which must be treasured, explored and defended, there is little motivation for Christians to use their mental faculties at all. Whilst the book is by no means an exhaustive account of the manifold reasons for the weakness of the evangelical mind, the 21st Church would do incredibly well to heed Guinness' call to seriously address the negative influences he so clearly highlights. This was an important and timely book when it first came out, and it continues to be relevant to us today.

The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief
The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief
by George M. Marsden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, Well-Documented and Sorely Needed, 12 Jun 2012
Many of the most well-known and prestigious universities in the USA were founded by self-consciously pious protestant Christians with a burden to educate the newly-arrived population of their fledgling nation. Today however, these same institutions are almost invariably centres of secularism and godlessness. What kinds of factors, asks veteran historian George Marsden (formerly of the University of Notre Dame, Illinois), brought about this extreme transformation? He approaches his subject in a thorough and sophisticated way, noting general trends and helpfully demonstrating these trends with smaller accounts of individual universities and key figures. In this way he earths his account in the real lives of those who were movers and shakers in the movements he documents.

Marsden demonstrates convincingly that the secularisation of leading universities was in some sense inevitable in view of the dual-citizenship they bore. They were created to serve the double-purpose of service to God and service to the Public. Whereas many were founded to train clergy and pass on the 'faith once for all delivered to the saints', the universities eventually underwent an identity crisis which led to them being conceived of as servants of both the Church and the State. Whilst these lofty ideals at first seemed perfectly compatible in a country permeated with Christian influence, it soon became apparent that compromises would have to be made if the universities were to serve the State and the public in the way they were expected to. Calls for 'non-sectarian' centres of higher learning, as well as the advancement of religious naturalism meant more and more pressure for the leading universities to drop their explicitly Christian ethos, and devote themselves to the advancement of a new age of scientism and atheistic piety. Just as surely as one cannot serve both God and mammon, it appears that the universities couldn't be expected to fully and faithfully serve both God and the increasingly agnostic state.

The bottom line is that truly Christian centres of learning will have a hard time retaining their distinctive doctrines and values if they attempt to cater for a public which often is indifferent to the claims of Christianity, especially if they are publicly funded and externally accredited.

In the last part of the book, Marsden argues forcefully that in reality, it is not the case that science has superseded religion and established itself as the King of the academic castle, but rather that another religion, the religion of naturalism and strict materialism, has usurped the place of traditional religion and morality by masquerading as a scientific paradigm. The book's 'Concluding Unscientific Postscript' challenges those who would seek to keep religious perspectives out of university life to recognise that earnest intellectual work by thinkers committed to theism and other points of view has a proper place in the university, and indeed that academia will miss out on far more than is often realised if their right to speak continues to be denied. The question is not whether religion will under-gird academia, but rather, "can the academy be a place where thinkers from all philosophical and religious backgrounds can come together to discuss ideas in a spirit of mutual respect and commitment to the ongoing quest for truth?' Those of us in the next generation are the only ones who can answer this question.

Whilst Marden's book is a thorough and detailed treatment of happenings 'across the pond', the volume will also be extremely useful to those elsewhere who are interested in understanding the factors which have contributed to the secularisation of universities and colleges. British readers are also referred to the work of Nigel Paterson, of the University of Winchester, who has done similar documentation concerning the identity of Church-related institutions of higher learning in the United Kingdom.

by John Piper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.18

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserves to be Widely Read, 9 Sep 2011
This review is from: Think (Paperback)
Piper has done it again - a remarkably thorough yet also concise treatment of a very important subject. He shows that in order to be faithful to the call of God on our lives, we must seek to honour and love Him with all of our minds, as well as our hearts, souls and strength.

Although I found the book a little wordy at times, one cannot fail to understand and see Piper's heart that we, as the Church, recover rigorous intellectual life that honours Christ in every way.

Buy it, read it and give it away to friends for the glory of Christ.

Vintage Jesus (Relit Theology) (Re:Lit: Vintage Jesus)
Vintage Jesus (Relit Theology) (Re:Lit: Vintage Jesus)
by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for a New Generation, 9 Sep 2011
This book is essential reading for those who want to understand the Jesus of the Bible on His own terms. In a world where Jesus is so often remade and reinterpreted according to the tastes of individuals and groups with vested interests, it is essential to go back to God's Word, our only reliable source of testimony about the man who claimed to be God.

I read this for the first time aged 17, and it spoke into my life in fresh and invigorating ways. I would recommend this book, coming as it does from two very trustworthy and scholarly men, to everyone in my generation and beyond who is tired of trying to see through the bubble-wrap and who really wants to understand the historical Jesus, the God-man.

Business for the Glory of God
Business for the Glory of God
by Wayne Grudem
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Introduction to God-Centred Business, 9 Sep 2011
I have just finished reading Wayne Grudem's little volume 'Business for the Glory of God'. Despite its brevity (it's only 96 pages long), Grudem paints an extremely exciting picture of the role business can (and should) play in the unfolding of God's purposes for mankind. Far from being 'secular' or even 'morally neutral', Grudem argues persuasively that business is in itself morally good and pleasing to God.

The book examines a range of key components of business and shows how the Bible commends them and lays out a blueprint for how they should be practised. There are chapters on the following areas;

- Ownership

- Productivity

- Employment

- Commercial Transactions

- Profit

- Money

- Inequality of Possessions

- Competition

- Borrowing and Lending

- Attitudes of Heart

- Effect on World Poverty

All of these chapters explain clearly and crisply the way these activities are morally good and part of God's intention for mankind, but Grudem isn't naïve about the way they can be and often are abused in the real world.
Far more that simply providing a biblical basis for doing business, the book opened my eyes afresh to see the overwhelming need for the Church, as the people of God, to play an active role in restoring confidence in business. As Grudem himself says;
'I believe the only long-term solution to world poverty is business. That is because businesses produce goods, and businesses produce jobs. And businesses continue producing goods year after year, and continue providing jobs and paying wages year after year. Therefore if we are ever going to see long-term solutions to world poverty, I believe it will come through starting and maintaining productive, profitable businesses.' (pp. 81).
He adds later on,

'If the devil himself wanted to keep people created by God in the wretched bondage of lifelong poverty, it is hard to think of a better way he could do it than to make people think that business is fundamentally evil, so they would avoid entering into it or would oppose it at every turn.' (pp. 82).

Sadly, we often play into the devil's hands and harbour unbiblical attitudes towards business. Grudem urges us to consider what God's Word has to say about this crucial subject and to engage fully in 'business for the glory of God'.

I wholeheartedly recommend the book as a great starting place for those interested in understanding the basic shape of what the Bible has to say about economics and business activity.

Grudem, a respected theologian and currently research professor of Bible and Theology at Phoenix Seminary in Arizona, wrote the book back in 2003 as the first-fruits of a larger research project on the Bible and business practice. To date, he has yet to publish the comprehensive fruits of his study (and I am not sure whether he still has plans to do so, as he has published a major work on politics ["Politics According to the Bible"] since that time.

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