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The Art of Dying
The Art of Dying
by Rob Moll
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.12

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Death can be beautiful, 9 Oct. 2014
This review is from: The Art of Dying (Paperback)
Death may not be an exciting topic but it is certainly an important, if often overlooked subject. Which is why Rob Moll's recent book The Art of Dying is a welcome publication. The book has been written to address the question of the good way to die. Moll believes our culture does not know how to approach death because we have become so removed from experiencing it. This is a problem because we can't live well unless we are intimate with death and know how to die well. The Christian approach, Moll argues, is that death is both evil and mercy wrapped in one. Therefore there are significant benefits from knowing how to die well.

At the surface we should all be capable of dying well because people take longer to die than before which should offer plenty of preparation. The reality is exactly the opposite. For many Christians the allure of modern medicine has meant greater focus on self preservation and surviving at all costs than preparing well for death. Dying as a spiritual discipline has long been forgotten.

This is in stark contrast to christians in past centuries who practised the art of dying (ars moriendi). They had come to recognise that death not only marks entry into God's presence, it is also tremendous opportunity to witness to those around us and heal the wounds of the community. Through dying well the old saints prepared the spirit for the next life whilst impacting the present.

So what then is dying well? According to Moll a good death is a Christian death. That is to say a death or funeral that seeks to reenact or re-express the gospel. This means for the mourning community revering the body, celebrating the life, re-knitting the community and offering hope to the world. Dying well begins prior to death. This requires developing a culture of resurrection. A culture where the elderly and the dying continue their presence in the church. For the aged finding ways for them to serve is important. For the dying, it is about the rest of the congregation seeing life lived and ended with hope and faithfulness.

At the heart of dying well is a strong belief that though death is ugly, in the hands of God it is an art that he uses to sharpen us for himself. Many of us make every effort to avoid death or contemplate our own mortality. In the process we miss out on the benefits of living in light of death. Contemplating death rearranges our priorities and allows us to live lives that places God at the centre. We can avoid running away from death by building strong family relations, introducing he young to the old, and building strong support schemes. Those are the things that makes for dying well.
The book certainly makes compelling and thought provoking reading. Moll's observations of society's paradoxical attitudes to death are fascinating. He rightly notes that whilst western society is fighting hard to expand the so-called right doctors and hospitals are astounding in their ability and passionate desire to rescue cancer sufferers, accident victims or heart-attack patients.

Christians too are guilty of the same self contradiction. We believe in the victory over the grave, but then totally avoids talking about it. We fear death and are afraid to talk about it because death is an evil, the horrible rending of a person from her body, from loved ones, from the ability to be fully in God’s image. And yet, as Moll rightly observes, “Death is indeed evil. Yet death is also a mercy; it is the final affliction of life’s miseries. It is the entrance to life with God. Life’s passing can be a beautiful gift of God”.

Unfortunately, these lucid observations about the nature of death never really get a biblical treatment of death. Neither is it explained how death can be a defeated enemy and yet still remains a tool in God's hand. Readers are left to fill in the blacks depending on the level of their biblical knowledge. Other gaps emerge elsewhere. Prominently, Moll seems to give a silent nod to cremation but without never really explaining how such a practice, with no biblical record, is best defended. Just how do we reconcile the Christian view of the body with cremation? Especially in view of the strong emphasis Moll gives to the sacredness of the body, replete with classic quotes such as “it is to save the body that Jesus came”.

Perhaps the main weaknesses of Moll's Art of Dying lie in what the book doesn't say. Moll largely presents death as an outcome of ageing. This is helpful for many people but it turns the book to be largely about ageing rather than death per se. The reason perhaps is related to a related weakness. This is an American book written without any global reference.

The examples and all the applications do not seem to recognise a world in the Global Sourh or East where the large majority of Christians live. Indeed for many Christians in the Global South much of what is contained there probably already takes. Funerals certainly are not parties. They are serious business and opportunities for healing and restoring communities.

But even within the western audience there's confusion on who is meant to read it. The byline suggests it is for those contemplating their mortality. The detail suggests this is for church leaders. There are exhortations for dying to be regarded as a spiritual discipline by the average Christian, but its by no means reads as a book meant to deepen spirituality practically.

None of that means that the book should be thrown in the bin. It is worth a read particularly for Christian leaders of western congregations where ageing is a problem. Its reflections on how the young can learn from the old are certainly worth reading. But perhaps it's key contribution is it is an opening shot for others to write a more global and more encompassing work.

Science, Religion, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Science, Religion, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Price: £14.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thrilling read!, 7 Nov. 2013
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A good book is always hard book to summarise! But several things really stood out for me.

First, the importance of placing the life, death and resurrection of Christ at the heart of how we see the world. It really removes the clatter when we come difficult issues. And this book has given me a deeper appreciation of that!

Secondly, the degree to which someone likes this book will depend largely on how they are able to tolerate a different reading of Genesis 1 than the one they may hold. Wilkinson unfortunately too readily assumed that Christians have signed up to Darwin, so he leaves many of the difficult questions around that unexplained. Doing that helps him to focus on ET but it will leave many dissatisfied. So I fear the people who will get most out of this book are those who have read widely on theological nuances. It also means that one should not immediately recommend this book just to anyone!

Thirdly, the book perhaps is 70-30 on science and theology. It would have been good to see a 50-50 balance of material to allow theological issues to be fully fleshed out. Also perhaps more disappointing is that there isn't much quoting from very strong contemporary orthodox theologians. But I suspect that is because they have not dealt with the ET subject. But I note that even for questions around the "image of God", sin, salvation and so forth, there's no reference to well know strong theologians in this area. Of course Wilkinson comes across very strong, but I would liked to see other voices besides old masters!

Fourtly, the book really throws down a gauntlet to other orthodoxy theologians to come forward and weigh in on the issues! This is too important a topic to leave to Jesuit priests only!

Fifthly, there are some real gold mines in the book - like his treatment of "God as an alien?". Also his early chapters on the science of discovering where breathtaking!

Finally, Satan is not discussed and the "angels" and "demons" controversy is not given air time. Missler would not be happy! Lol!

I can go on and on! In general a great and challenging read! And one to be read slowly!

Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything
Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything
Price: £6.52

3.0 out of 5 stars An important topic!, 21 Sept. 2013
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We are living in a world obsessed with fame and so many Christians do not grasp just want inversion of the gospel the ME ME ME culture is. It is inescapable. I thought Anonymous does a fantastic job of demonstrating that God calls us to embrace himself and that means us becoming nothing so that his light may shine through more clearly. The coverage is fantastically broad. I found the discussion questions at the fund of each chapter most helpful.

The only downside to this book is that in some parts the "how" could have got more treatment. I also found Anonymous' writing style a "ordinary". Which of course in light of the book is rather a poor criticism. But I can't help it! Style is important for staying awake!

Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts with Bonus Content
Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts with Bonus Content

3.0 out of 5 stars Worth a look, but could have been more clear!, 2 Mar. 2013
Like most books, some parts of Jerry Bridges’ Trusting God are good. Other parts not so well articulated. But in general, the subject is certainly worth reflecting on. Despite its flaws, it certainly achieves to get us interested not only in the issue of trust, but to ask ourselves the vital question: how much do I truly trust God? For those two reasons alone it is worth a look!

My full review can be found here :

Christ's Prophetic Plans: A Futuristic Premillennial Primer
Christ's Prophetic Plans: A Futuristic Premillennial Primer
Price: £11.68

4.0 out of 5 stars A must read!, 16 April 2012
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I usually avoid "prophetic" books because they tend to be more speculation than substance. But I found the idea of reading a "primer" quite attractive because it would ideally seek to lay out the foundation than fill the reader with idle speculation. And so this book proved! Macarthur and Mayhue have assembled very important essays that seeks to spell out the big questions concerning "futuristic pre-millennialism", the theology that teaches a physical reign of Christ on earth, and crucially, holds to a real and viable future for Israel within God's unfolding end time plans.

Being a primer means that it is basically for everyone, but particular for those who have key questions regarding the essentials of pre-millennialism, and dispensational theology in general. The book particular does a good job explain the six points of dispensationalism as well as some of the myths. It also explains how Calvanism and futuristic premillennialism relate to one another. Particularly, the central point that the doctrines of grace are strengthen rather than weakened by a pre-millennial view.

The two main points that the reader will undoubtedly be left with is that - the futuristic school offers the most consistent hermeneutic than all the other schools, through its adherence to the historical-grammatical author intent method. Secondly, that dispensational theology, where much of the futuristic eschatology depends, does not speak to soteriology, and therefore is in no contention with Calvinistic or Arminian schools. It is a case of non-overlapping magisteria, for lack of a better phrase.

The insights drawn in the book are vital because there's a lot of misunderstanding that clouds this debate. The book helpfully disentangles the key issues and lays out a clear framework. Whether someone agrees with it or not, is not the important point here, what is important is that people after reading this book will have a clear idea of what they agree or disagree with. It is a book that clarifies. And how desperately we need more of such books!

In short, this is a must read! Especially for Calvanistic Christians leaning who may have felt "the tradition" forces them to be a-millennial or premillennial in their reading of scripture. They may find some freedom after reading Macarthur's essay on the same.

A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table (Re:Lit)
A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table (Re:Lit)

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasurable, yet challenging!, 13 April 2012
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It was a pleasure to pick up this book. This is my first Tim Chester book. I found his writing style quite refreshing and very engaging. He places us within the scenes of the gospel narratives and makes them come alive! Tim Chester clearly has studied the role that meals played in Jesus's life and he challenges us to see the same! It is powerfully engaging. I particularly found his reflections on the role meals play in mission and community very useful. His reflections on the Holy Communion was deeply insightful. Wish every church can read them!

Two quibbles - the treatment of the eschatology and heavenly elements was a little light! Though he helps us see clearly that food is more than just for the stomach, he could have explained more on just how it is that we will still be eating in heaven or in the new earth. I share his interpretations, just a little meat on them would have been good! The second quibble is more presentational - many quotes had names upfront, but a few didn't which meant I had to keep checking the references. Easy thing to do on the kindle, but down the line I may find it annoying as I use the Kindle quote reviewer, unless I had highlighted the passage.

In general I wholeheartedly commend it! Will certainly be re-reading it!

On the Incarnation - Enhanced Version
On the Incarnation - Enhanced Version
Price: £1.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compulsory reading!, 9 April 2012
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I enjoyed reading this short Christian classic by St Athanasius. He lays very important foundational truths. Highly readable and very clearly written. A 2012 translation of the English perhaps is needed to ensure it continues to command wider readship. My rating of 4/5 is merely that it does not quite belong in that category, yet, where I anticipate re-reading it. Not because it does not deserve 5/5, but because more fuller exposition of the issues now exist elsewhere, which undoubtedly have built on this.

Managing God's Money: A Biblical Guide
Managing God's Money: A Biblical Guide
Price: £2.84

3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been very good..., 8 April 2012
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This is the first book I have read by Randy Alcorn. In general an interesting read, with weaknesses in some areas.
He does a good job in explain what the Bible teaches about wealth / money across the two testaments, particular what Jesus taught.
Although he does not draw sharp distinctions between Christian and non-Christian attitudes. The book also does well in explaining not only how Christian attitudes differ from non-Christian attitudes in terms of dealing with money, but he also does well in explain how the cross should alter our attitudes beyond what was expected of Israel in the OT.

At the practical level, Randy explains well the key questions : how can I manage money in a way that honours God; how do I prioritise between different spending priorities; and what are some practical tips for being an effective manager of God's finances. I particularly enjoyed his discussion on debt and savings.

However, the book has some weak areas where he could have explained issues more clearly e.g. gambling and tithing. He appears to skid over key areas of debate. The book also gets side tracked by dedicating unnecessary chapter on heaven, and over focusing on "giving". Clearly a critical area, but it made for a quite unbalanced read.

Discerning Truth
Discerning Truth
Price: £6.78

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, 6 April 2012
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This review is from: Discerning Truth (Kindle Edition)
I was looking for a book that a answered some c,ear questions like : what is discernment and why is it important; how does Christian discernment differ from non-Christian discernment; and, how does the nature of the Gospel help me discern the truth? This book went no where near answering that! What it focuses on rather are the basic fallacies and then guarding yourself against them. It is therefore one domensional and not really about discenment. Most of the material is available on the Internet and given the price it is poor value for money.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 7, 2013 6:20 PM BST

The Transforming Power of the Gospel (Growing in Christ)
The Transforming Power of the Gospel (Growing in Christ)

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Its okay, 5 April 2012
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Admittedly this is the first book I have read by Jerry Bridges and should have read more. But I found the book had some useful pointers but in general was not saying anything substantially new. In some places it was also quite repetitive. In general it is a sort of book that is better to a group of newish Christians in a study group format.

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