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J Whitgift "J Whitgift" (London)

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Ash
Ash
Price: 0.99

12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars One of the worst novels of the year, 17 Sep 2012
This review is from: Ash (Kindle Edition)
- I make no apologies for any plot spoilers in this review, they help give a flavour of why the novel should be avoided.

This is truly one of the worst, if not the worst novel of the year, so bad in fact it's difficult to know what to make of it. It's not horror, though it contains elements of horror in it. It's not conspiracy theory fiction, though again it contains elements of this genre. Rather it's a mish mash of misbegotten threads, bundled together under a cover.

One has to wonder what Herbert was thinking when he sent this novel for publication. Or the publishers (though its' sadly clear that some publishers will publish anyting these days, apropos 'Fifty Shades'). At almost 700 pages you almost have to be a contortionist to hold it comfortably, a shame as it could have done with some judicious editing.

The trouble is that for a horror writer, there is little in this novel that is truly horrible, or even remotely frightening. (There are some elements of the paranormal, though these are so few and far between as to make no odds.) What paranormal elements there are are quickly dealt with and remain almost entirely unexplained, and worse, unexplored. What we are treated to is a series of conspiracy theories incl. the location of 'Lucky' Lord Lucan, the plost against Harold Wilson, secret cabals who control the world etc. etc. All that is missing is the location of Shergar to make this worthy of the front page of a well known tabloid (published mainly on Sundays).

What then makes this novel descend into high farce is the inclusion of Hitler's/ Unity Mitford misbegotten love-child (the cause of all the problems we are told, though it is never explained as to why this should be so), a third Wales child and the shade of Diana Spencer. [ETA. One also has to wonder at the inclusion of the Scottish Wild Cats as a force for evil/ attracted by the evil of the castle - there is no explanation offered and their presence seems to be more of a useful plot device than actually having any value. Does Herbert have a deep seated fear of wild cats? Or believe them to be evil? Their inclusion only adds to the ridiculousness of the book.] What is sad is that in another pair of hands this could have been a very different (and much more horrifying novel).

[ETA. A number of reviewers, away from Amazon, have commented on the sheer bad taste of some of the elements in the novel, not least the inclusion of the living and recently deceased inc. Robert Maxwell and Colonel Gaddafi. Or a charecter who is, we are told, the man who bungled the assasination of Dr David Kelly, along with a detailed description of how he was killed. There are levels to which novels, even horror novels, should not stoop. Unfortunately no one seems to have taken this into consideration.]

Herbert has written some good novels in the past. This isn't one of them and when set alongside 'Crickley Hollow' it's clear that his best is sadly behind him. If you really want to do Herbert justice then revisit some of his earlier works, e.g. the Rats trilogy which links both horror and social commentary under one cover.


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: Paperback
Price: 6.29

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Williams for the Defence, 23 Aug 2012
In Rowan Williams we have perhaps one of the most erudite, spiritual and theologically literate Archbishops since Michael Ramsey, his departure to Cambridge to be Master of Magdalene College will therefore be a loss not just to the Church, but more widely to society. In this second to last book to be published before his departure Rowan seeks to explore the Narnia series and defend it and its legacy (along with C S Lewis) against its atheist and post-atheist detractors such as A N Wilson and Philip Pullman.

Whilst I am a practising Anglican, I am no fan of Lewis, his fiction or his theological method and (unlike Rowan) find myself much more persuaded by the likes of Wilson and Pullman over the flaws within the Narnia books than I do by those who defend them - in many ways the books are deeply flawed when taken at their most literal level. Like all authors, Lewis places his own concern and foibles at the centre of his books (thus the polemic against Eustace's parents' in `Dawn Treader' reflects Lewis' own dislikes, this places Eustace on the back foot from which he is eventually redeemed - talk of being set up for a fall). Of course the redemption of Eustace is important (and spiritual), but he has been cast so low by Lewis (as have his parents) that his redemption must be both spiritual and cultural.

However, Williams sees Lewis' theological and authorial method as being not merely bad allegory, but a subtle rejuvenation and retelling of the Christian story for those who have heard it (or more likely, believe that they have heard it) - Lewis described it as being like "mouthwash" in that it washes away the staleness and bad taste, leaving one feeling refreshed. Whilst I have no problem with this understanding of Narnia, as such, Lewis' writing is ham-fisted, even if it is retelling and refreshing the Christian narrative and no amount of theological or literary wishing away can change this fact. One would also have to ask as to how many people who had approached the Narnia novels as non-Christians came away as Christians, or found this refreshing helpful. (Indeed, there is at least one published author who has felt betrayal at Lewis' use of Narnia as a retelling of the Christian story!)

It has to be said that Lewis was a good (popularist) communicator, his books for me lack depth, coherence (in particular his `mad, bad or God' argument over the divinity of Jesus) and are very dated. (JK Rowling does a far better job of communicating the Christian faith in her Harry Potter books than Lewis does in Narnia - the ending of the `Philosopher's Stone' is a good development of Marian theology! Furthermore, the theme of salvation is a constant one within the text, the character trajectories of Snape, Draco Malfoy and Dudley are all fine examples, yet the books do not in themselves descend into allegory.) I am in agreement with Tolkien in that Narnia is a mix (perhaps more a mess) of different influences and is inconsistent even within its own text. I also (like Tolkien) dislike allegory something that Lewis appears to use in Narnia, which although Lewis and Rowan try to distance Narnia from this literary form, though what else can Narnia be reasonably read as other than as allegory?!

This is perhaps one of Rowan's most accessible books (alongside his two books of meditation on Ikons). Unlike Professor N T (aka. Tom) Wright, there are not two sides to Rowan's writing, an accessible side (Tom Wright) and the academic theologian (N T Wright) - in this Wright is a theological Iain (M) Banks - rather Rowan writes with the same care and depth of learning whether he is writing dense academic theological prose aimed at fellow theologians (e.g. his book on Arius or `Wrestling with Angels') or writing for a more general audience. Yet in doing so he does not patronise or dumb down what he is saying to fit the expectations of his audience, rather he is able to speak at all levels. (One of the main problems the media have had with Rowan is that he does not speak in sound bites, but requires his listeners to think and respond - he is therefore not easily quoted.) I do not, however, agree with his arguments in defence of Lewis and of Narnia, for me it is too defensive, too willing to forgive the flaws in the story. However, one has to recognise the enduring legacy of Narnia and that it continues to attract new readers.

Despite my not sharing Rowan's love of Narnia I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Narnia or C S Lewis - one does not have to agree with Rowan (with Lewis or love Narnia) to appreciate what he (Rowan) saying (and to enjoy the way in which it is said). He is by far the best Archbishop and theological author we have had in the past-40 years. Ultimately this is a humane book, which exploring the legacy of Lewis and Narnia and is, as such an enjoyable, challenging (if too short a) read.


Wards of Faerie: Book 1 of The Dark Legacy of Shannara
Wards of Faerie: Book 1 of The Dark Legacy of Shannara
by Terry Brooks
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A welcome return to the Four Lands, 21 Aug 2012
This is a good novel and it is good to see Brooks back on track in the Four Lands after his hiatus from the Shannara, in which he tried to link together the `Word/Void- Shannara' series in the Children of the Hawk/ Bearer of the Black Staff books (five truly awful books which should never have seen print!)

However, the Shannara series has lost its way (and much of its punch) since the initial trilogy (Sword/ Elfstones/ Wishsong) and the further four Scions series. With the advent of airships/ science in the Four Lands and the loss of the conflicted Walker Boh and the manipulative Allanon much has been lost. The Druids have lost their mystique, have gained personalities and are now merely pawns players in the Great Games, rather than being the ones controlling the pieces. The strength of Allanon was that he was such an anti-hero, the person everyone loves to hate (and yet who eventually saves the day) and that Walker was so against Paranor/ the Druids yet became its defender. Yet it still deserves 5 stars, this is a Shannara novel after all!

** Potential Plot Spoilers **

Whilst this pure speculation on my part, my suspicion is that this new trilogy will be a much expanded and rewritten version of `Elfstones'. There is too much there to indicate this to be so: magic being found on the borders of the Forbidding; the Ellcrys choosing two female Chosen and talking with one of them; and most of all Alesia's relationship with the Darkling Child in the Age of Faerie, an age ended with the Ellcrys and the locking of the Demons/ Fae creatures other than the Elves behind the Forbidding. My suspicion is that Alesia became the first Ellcrys just as another will be chosen at the end of this trilogy. (The title of the next novel in the series `The Bloodfire Quest', makes this apparent in my eyes, the seeds of the Ellcrys needing to be bathed in the fires of the Bloodfire before they could be returned and planted in Arborlon.)

Continuing my suspicions, someone who may or may not be an incarnation of Cogline makes an appearance towards the end of the book - one has to wonder at the over-extended life/ afterlife of that troubled and troubling old man.


Great Western Railway: A History
Great Western Railway: A History
by Andrew Roden
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Lazy history that ignores the vast majority of the GWR's history, 20 Aug 2012
I have to disagree with the reviewers who have given this book 4 or 5 stars - for me it is a lazy history of the `Great Way Round' and one which spends far too much time focusing on the first 80 years and virtually ignoring the post-grouping and post-nationalisation GWR. This is irritating in itself as we are given an almost blow-by-blow account of the GWR up until the First World War, after which the author seems to become bored with what he is writing and which then skims over the next 90 years of the GWR's life.

Why is unclear, though as the only pre-grouping company to retain its marque post-grouping, it seems a little odd that this fact is so little explored. The writer also seems to assume that the life of the GWR somehow stops after 1948, despite it living on in the BR's Western Region before becoming once again a privatised entity. It's a bit like writing a biography of your centenarian grandfather by concentrating on his life until the age of 25 and then virtually ignoring the rest of his life.

What also grates are the manifold inaccuracies and mistakes in the text. At one point he talks about the gall BR must have felt at seeing steam trains, formerly operated by them `passing through' London Paddington under the auspices of LRT in the early 1970s. As a terminus station one does not `pass through' Paddington by train! (Unless of course one is travelling on LRT metals (on the Hammersmith and City Line.) This fact is not made clear in the text giving the reader the somewhat weird sense of what was actually happening.

Another problem is his treatment of the closure of the BR engineering words at Swindon which he treats as a travesty, yet does little to explore the reasons behind the closure leaving one with a jaundiced idea of `what' happened but no understanding of `why'. However, if one reads the results of a simple Google search one will find that the Works closed in 1986 due to a decline in orders, both from within BR and externally. This is no surprise, given the economic situation of the time, or indeed recent railway history - many other BR works have gone the same way in recent years with new traction being brought in from the US and elsewhere (this had been ongoing since the early-1970s when BR contracted the work on the first batch of the Class 56s to Romania).
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 11, 2014 10:39 PM BST


Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America
Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America
Price: 8.24

4.0 out of 5 stars The Scope and Limitations of Conian and post-Conian Black Theology Examined, 28 July 2012
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This is an interesting book, taking a critical look at the limitations of Black Theology, specifically that of James H Cone and those who have followed and taken forward his arguments. It is important to note that however, that the author not so much picks apart what he sees as being the logical, philosophical and theological inconsistencies within Black Theology, as tears into them with unashamed academic glee. (I should note from the outset that I am someone with an interest Black and African Pentecost theologies, and ethnically a white English male and as such, therefore someone who Cone and other Black Theologians would argue, should not be reviewing books on Black Theology.)

The main thesis of this book is that in its current form Black Theology is heterodox (in that it denies the primary place of the Bible in Christian theology and that the only way that theology can be valid is when its read through the prism of non-white suffering/ white oppression); that it is short-sighted and thus heading for a dead end in that it holds a view (which he calls `victimology') in which the non-white person is always the victim of white oppression and that white people can only be considered Christian if they throw off their oppression of non-white people; sin is defined only in terms of white oppression of non-white people (removing it from its more normal status as turning away from God) thus the implication becomes that non-white people are placed beyond criticism and white people beyond redemption unless they throw off their oppressive tendencies. What it fails to do is to deal with economic inequalities which transcend race and gender which have developed in post-civil rights America/ post-Apartheid South Africa. (That is how does one deal with the oppression of the white poor?) In this sense, Black Theology could almost at times be described as anti-white (I won't use the term `racist' here as the term suggests power, which Cone and others would argue non-white people do not possesses, because of white oppression).

Black Theology (as envisaged by Cone) is a Christian response to the American Civil Rights movement and the failure by the Churches (and theology) to respond to the changes brought about by the movement). It was also a response to what some writers of Black Theology see as a "white theology's" lack of response to non-white oppression and suffering, there is however the danger, outlines above, that places natural limits on Black Theology - the task of this book, therefore is to free up those natural limitations and reposition Black Theology so that it is better able to respond and develop.

One of the problems is that in its current form (as described above) Black Theology can be read in a similar way as the Pan-African Congress, the pro-Marxist, anti-Afrikaans alternative to the ANC, outwardly radical it ends up becoming self-defeating and self-limiting. Black Theology (as envisaged by Cone and others) should be unashamedly Marxist (in a way which many other theologies of liberation aren't) and is thus limited by its attempt to adhere to Marxist principles. However, the author argues that this conjoing is deceptive - if anything, he argues that Black Theology is deeply un-Marxist as much of it runs contrary to Marxist dogma one example would be Black Theology's belief that one part of emancipation is for non-white people to have control of the means of production. However, in Marxist theory ownership of the means of production is but one step along the path to emancipation of the masses.

Not only does it work as a critique of Black Theology, but is also serves as a useful introduction to Black Theology more generally, which I found to be very helpful - I have been doing some research into Black African/ Nigerian Pentecostal Theology, as found in the UK and this makes an interesting juxtaposition. The former being a response to white/ western theology whereas the latter is a more theology developed by practitioners seeking to develop an African response to theology and ecclesiology. The two are obviously very different theologies, having no common strands, as they come out of entirely different contexts - the danger of course being that theology has for the past-thousand years been dominated by the North-Western Hemisphere, black theologies are not therefore an amorphous mass, but distinct and individual theologies and ones which theologians in the North-Western Hemisphere need to begin to engage with.

The authors main conclusion therefore is that Black Theology needs to be liberated from itself, and to be placed on a sustainable theological and philosophical basis if it is to be both forward looking and sustainable, and most importantly of all, if it is to have an internal coherence as theological method. He then goes on to describe how this might be done.

This is thus an important book for anyone interested in Black Theology, but who isn't afraid of identifying its inconsistencies and looking for a way forward. This books is not a herald of the demise of Black Theology, but a call to ensure that its theological method isn't lost within its own failures.

Having read the other (US authored reviews of this book) I am concerned by those US reviewers who found the book too academic - this is an unashamedly academic tome, seeking to deal with developments in theology, it therefore uses theological terms (as well as Marxist terminology and concepts, as Black Theology also draws from Marxist and Liberation theologies). I would also add that I found this book to be far more readable and comprehensible than works by writer such as Kung, Barth of Moltmann!


Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea, AD 30-325
Christian Beginnings: From Nazareth to Nicaea, AD 30-325
by Geza Vermes
Edition: Hardcover

41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but like much of Vermes' work lacks an analytical element, 10 July 2012
This is an interesting take on the history of the Early Church - most histories have been written by Christians and Christian theologians, which gives them a particular bias in their understanding of the development of the Church. Vermes of course has a completely different bias, as an atheist-Jew, formerly a Roman Catholic Priest-Scholar who readopted the Jewish mantel of his ancestors, being from a family of assimilated Jews who were killed during the Holocaust, he has a very different view of Christianity and its origins. These have been expressed in a number of works, most notably in `The Changing Face of Jesus', in the post-script of which we has Jesus disassociate himself from Christianity. This book, therefore, follows in that vein.

Vermes begins by discussing the origins of Christianity (and more importantly the perception and concept of Jesus) within Judaism and in particular ecstatic and prophetic Judaism, placing Jesus within this context as a typical first century Jewish holy man and wonderworker - that is, that there is nothing that is unique about Jesus, his sayings, actions and miracles are typical of a holy man of his time and do not clash with contemporary Jewish theology. He then goes on to chart how the Churches understanding of Christ has changed, from the early beginnings, through Paul (who sees Jesus not as Messiah or as `of one substance with the God [the Father]' but as being subordinate to the Father). His argument being that those parts of the Pauline epistles that argue that Jesus is of one substance with God are not part of the original letter. He then goes on to explore Johannine Christianity (which he argues is more Greek than Levantine) and then onto the Didache and the Early Church Father, culminating at Nicaea.

I find it interesting that he leaves out the Epistle to the Hebrews in his analysis as he does the more anti-judaiser parts of the Epistle to the Galatians, the latter of which is attributed to Paul, which shows a clear drawing away of early Christianity from the influence of judaisers (those Jewish Christians who believed that gentile Christians should follow the Mosaic law) towards a gentile Church, independent of few or no Jewish ritual links. It is interesting that he does not explore this more fully as it shows Christianity moving away from its Jewish roots and becoming an independent faith.

I find Vermes' work both deeply informative and at times deeply unhelpful in that he consistently describes how and why Jesus should be viewed as being no more or less than Jewish holy man and wonderworker (that is, that Jesus would not have understood himself as Christians today understand him) yet he does not show `why' this should have developed. It's almost as if they take place in a vacuum and are done `to' the Church rather than `by' it. There must be reasons why the Church's understanding of Jesus was so radically transformed between the death of Jesus in 33CE, the end of the Apostolic Age and the meeting of the Council of the Nicaea which came to describe and define in the Trinitarian Doctrine Jesus as being: `homousios' (that is of one substance) with God (the Father).

I also wonder at what Vermes' intention is in writing this book - does he intend to show that the early Church would not understand its later form - this is undoubtedly true, our understanding of theology and doctrine has changed significantly over the past two millennia. However, is Vermes claiming that Christianity is based on a misunderstanding? If it is then he does not explain how such a situation/ transformation occurred, or why a Jewish sect came to conquer and transform an empire. In some ways, describing the development of the Church without the action of the Spirit becomes like trying to read the `Odyssey' without reference to actions of the Greek Pantheon. That is to say that the Church is a pneumatically formed community, rather than a society of friends, without the action of the Spirit the Church loses its internal coherence and meaning.

However, I also find Vermes work deeply informative as it helps build an understanding of Jesus as a Jewish holy man and who spoke and acted as one. It helps me to understand what Jesus is saying and how/ why this fits into the culture in which he lived and ministered. This is important we often fail to recognise Jesus as being someone who lived within a context, rather than being contextless. However, to try and limit Jesus to his context misses the point that Jesus has become than a 1st Century holy man, just as Judaism by the 1st Century had become more than just another middle eastern, agrarian fertility religion, to being a monotheistic faith found throughout the Roman Empire.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 1, 2013 10:26 PM GMT


Are You My Mother?
Are You My Mother?
by Alison Bechdel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.89

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not one for me, but still an excellent read by an exceptional artist, 6 July 2012
This review is from: Are You My Mother? (Hardcover)
Alison Bechdel is a author and autobiographer of two halves. On the one hand her `Dykes' cartoons give an insight into her life, and those of her friends, in a humane and humorous way. They show life from her own perspective in a way that it both humerous and also deeply reflective. It is this Bechdel that I enjoy reading.

The other Bechdel is the writer of (auto)biographical reflections on her father (`Fun Home') and now on her relationship with her mother. Her writing in these is far darker, far more psychological and far more reflective than that found in `Dykes' (in particular `The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For' which served as my introduction to her work); this latest one is particularly psychological as it delves into her time in therapy, as well as heavily referencing the life of Donald Winnicott (a psychologist who has dealt heavily with child psychology) amongst others. This makes for difficult reading at times, both in terms of outlining Winnicott's theory but also how it relates to Bechdel's own life, both in and out of therapy. This makes for difficult (and not always comfortable) reading as one really needs a good understanding of developmental psychology, psychoanalysis and the life and works of Virginia Woolf, amongst other things. In essence this isn't the book for me.

However, it still deserves 5 stars - Bechdel is a brilliant artist whose drawing captures the people she is referencing and her reflections are candid, painful and also strangely humerous at times. It would therefore be unfair of me to blame Bechdel for my own ignorance regarding Winnicott, psychoanalysis and indeed the life and works of Virginia Woolf! (I do have some developmental psychology under my belt!) Rather this is something I should perhaps go back and explore for myself.


Saint John Fisher
Saint John Fisher
by Vincent Nichols
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Meidocre history: More hagiopgraphy than histriography, 5 July 2012
This review is from: Saint John Fisher (Hardcover)
Published on the eve of the Feast of Ss. Thomas More and John Fisher.

Archbishop Nichols sets out to present an academic overview of Fisher's life (he notes that there are far too many biographies for there to be the need for another one). However, far from being an academic overview Nichols' books ends up being an exercise in thinly veiled academic hagiography, based on an unquestioning use of revisionist writings on the English Reformation to produce a view of the pre-Reformation Church at its very best, rather than being a via media between Eamon Duffy and Dickens/ Chadwick. As a fan if Duffy's writings (and more widely of revisionist historiography of the reformation, I cannot help but feel that this unquestioning reliance on his work and those of his contemporaries allows Nichols work to descend at times into half-baked theological and historiological wishful thinking and from thence into unquestioning hagiography. Given the history of the way in which the Reformation has been presented in the English language it is important that any modern book worth its historiological salt, writing about figures such as Fisher, should chart a clear path between Rome and Geneva. I have no doubt, however, that Fisher is a saintly figure - one who should be revered by those looking to both Rome and Geneva (as well as Canterbury) - his life attests to that fact!

This book does, however, move away from that most disturbing trait of bad hagiography, that is the saccharin sense given by the writer that the subject is looking down from heaven, giving their approval and that the life of the Saint is lived backward, that is their pre-canonised life can only be viewed in light of their canonisation, rather than vice versa. (The life of the person and afterlife of the subject becomes the cause for their canonisation, their pre-canonised life is not lived in the light of the canonisation.)

This is, however, a reasonably interesting and readable overview of Fisher's life and times, charting the progress of his life from birth, through Cambridge to that of Bishop of Rochester and his clash with Henry VIII. Of particular importance is that Nichols locates Fisher's "Parish ministry" at Lythe in North Yorkshire, rather than at Northallerton, though it is doubtful that Fisher would have visited either of these Parishes as he would have held the title (and received the Parish income) in absentia, appointing and paying for a Curate to undertake his duties as Priest, a not uncommon feature of English Parish life of that period.

ON AVAILABILITY: Whilst this book is not available through Amazon, it is easily available from both Westminster Cathedral's gift shop and the publisher's website and I have no doubt that the Roman Catholic Cathedrals of England will have this books in their gift shops given Archbishop Nichols' current position as Archbishop of Westminster, the primus inter pares of English Catholicism.


Leading God's People: Wisdom from the Early Church for Today
Leading God's People: Wisdom from the Early Church for Today
by Christopher Beeley
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.66

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introducing the Church Fathers and Mothers to a new generation of Priests and Deacons, 26 Jun 2012
As someone who is in the process of training to be a Priest, I can attest that there is a plethora of books on `how to be a Priest' on the market today - some are transient and do not pass their first print run, others have become spiritual classics. Some of them focus on secular management techniques, giving them a spiritual glamour, others are semi-autobiographical and draw on the writer's experience, there are those that focus on the theology of Priesthood, others, like Michael Ramsey's `The Christian Priest' are a mixture of theology, spirituality and personal experience and have become classics in their own right.

Beeley's book is a different one altogether - rather than focusing on secular models of leadership, or on his own personal experience, he draws on the writings of the Church Fathers and Mothers (S. Augustine, S. Gregory Nazianzus, Abba Moses et al.) showing, in a new way, what they wrote about Church leadership and how this highest of callings demands the all of those who are called. This is therefore no easy or comfortable read - it is not for the complacent or those who want quick wins, rather there is `naught for your comfort' in this book, rather the challenge and call to live a Christlike life. This is because the Church Fathers did not peddle easy grace or try and offer 7 easy ways to be a Priest. They knew the cost of being a Christlike Priest and that it was a lifetimes work, not something that could be covered in an afternoon seminar.

It is fascinating as well to rediscover the writings of the Church Fathers and Mothers - we are a generation of Priests and theologians who has abandoned the reading their works, just as we have stopped reading the works of the Anglican divines, e.g. Richard Hooker, Lancelot Andrewes or George Herbert et al. Works that our forebears in the faith read and which lead them down paths of holiness, and taught them how to lead God's people. Even if, having read this book, we do not return to the writings of pre and post-Nicene Fathers and of theologians such as Augustine, we have at least been exposed in some small way to their writings.

This is a book for those who know that leadership is costly and yet who want to live a life that fulfils God's call, a life that demands daily `taking up your cross' rather than your i-pad, the latest Dan Brown novel and an espresso! It is not a book for faint-hearted - you will not go away unchallenged or unchanged. I can't recommend this book highly enough.


Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations
Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations
by Eamon Duffy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.00

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best work, 22 Jun 2012
This is far from being Duffy's best book, rather it offers a short explanation (and justification) of his views on historical revisionism (and why he and others have started to swim against the tide of reformation historiography), an essay which proves to be informative and helpful. Otherwise some of the essays read as précis of or essays from his main (best and most famous) works `The Stripping of the Altars' or `Voices of Morebath'. Not least because the essays focus on particular areas of Church and national life, e.g. Rood Screens and the reformation experience of one local parish Church, something he has done already very well elsewhere - it seem would seem, therefore that there is not much that is new in this volume. That said, his argument that Protestant England begins at the end of Elizabeth's reign (rather than her reign serving as the apogee of English Protestantism) is a new and compelling one.

The sad thing is that Duffy doesn't really develop the arguments put forward in `Stripping of the Altars': that far from being moribund, the pre-reformation Church was vibrant and culturally engaged and that the reformation itself was a period of crisis for the Church, ripped from the comfort of the past and forced to radically alter its doctrines and liturgy. That said, Duffy is a very readable historian and he presents his arguments very well. He does, however, show how anti-Catholic historiography can still be found in English academia and in filmography (e.g. in Shekhar Kapur's `Elizabeth' - a film that, he argues not unreasonably, presents Catholicism as repressive and the final days of the rule of Mary, quasi-demonic). This is important to note, as it shows how much England remains a Protestant nation (albeit and increasingly Secular-Protestant one)) and the historiography of the reformation, still a Protestant one, led by historians such as MacCulloch (a secular-Anglican and former Deacon in the Church of England).

On a personal level, what I find particularly interesting in this volume, is his linking of the closure of the Chantries with the need of the King for cash, though he does not develop this argument further to explore the inflation the stripping and selling of ecclesiastical paraphernalia would have created. This is an argument, however, already explored in his other works and touched on, only briefly in this book.

If I were to be asked to recommend a good book on the reformation I would automatically point them to `The Stripping of the Altars', it is by far the best and most readable book in its field, if polemical and counter-cultural in its argument. This on the other-hand, isn't - it's for the diehard Duffy fan (there are no new arguments here). I would only recommend this book to those who have read and enjoyed Duffy's other books and are looking for more of the same.


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