Book Review – Clouds of Witnesses

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Perhaps forty or seventy or a hundred years from now, someone will pen a valuable book about Christians who are living in places such as Iran or Syria or Tunisia today.

Like the seventeen men and women profiled in Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom’s Clouds of Witnesses, many of the subjects of this future work will be individuals who will have held fast to the faith despite being at odds with their national culture; a culture that seems inhospitable to Christianity and where one might assume the church will never thrive.

Shi Meiyu was raised by parents who were early Chinese Christian converts. She studied medicine at the University of Michigan, one of the first women to enter a coeducational medical program. She returned to China and was instrumental in developing a hospital and training nurses—nurses who had far more responsibility than their counterparts in the United States.

Shi Meiyu required that her nursing students be trained as Christian evangelists as well as medical professionals.

This is a not uncommon theme in the book—many of the individuals profiled expected that Bible teaching and training of Christian workers would be paired with their efforts in social areas—and vice versa.

The account of Pandita Ramabai (1858–1922) is virtually un-put-downable. The journey of this woman of India to faith in Christ did not happen easily, nor all at once. But her conversion and commitment were solid.

Ramabai had a life of incredible experiences and achievements, among which was the publication of The High-Caste Hindu Woman. This work helped educate Americans about the plight of Hindu women, many of whom faced a bleak life. Using proceeds from her book, she aimed to reenter their world in order to bring them hope. She began a school in Bombay, using some ingenious and bold methods to act within a Hindu social system to read aloud and introduce Christian Scriptures to students.

These few words can’t do her story justice, nor can they tell of the culture of the Hindu world she had been born into and knew so well. When you pick up Clouds of Witnesses, turn to her story first!

In addition, you won’t want to miss:

• Byang Kato, who noted that Christianity is deeply rooted in African history, and who outlined four workable, long-term goals for the church on this continent

• Sun Chu Kil, whose conversion and life during times of great national change in Korea greatly influenced the church there today

• Yao-Tsung Wu, who was so impressed with the Sermon on the Mount that it became the basis of the view of social justice he developed for China so all could have enough.

Readers may find some of these richly detailed narratives, with their abundance of unfamiliar proper names, places, and events a bit difficult to follow. But nevertheless, they’re interesting and worth pursuing.

Countless Christians are laboring within their own cultures today—some in hostile climates where we wonder how the church can ever grow—bringing hope, reform, the Word. Their stories, too, should be told one day this side of heaven.

Reviewed by Pam Pugh, General Project Editor, Moody Publishers

* Thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a review copy.

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Scholarly Essays at the Biologos Foundation

The logo for the BioLogos Foundation
Image via Wikipedia

A nice collection of papers here on the relationship between Christianity and evolution.  A few reflect a theistic evolutionary point of view, while others defend skepticism towards a Darwinian approach.  The titles that look especially interesting are

  • “Evangelicals, Creation, and Scripture: An Overview” by Mark Noll

In this paper, Mark Noll — University of Notre Dame historian and author of The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind — looks at 15 of the attitudes, assumptions and convictions considered the most influential in inciting anti-intellectual sentiment among evangelical Christians. He also traces the historical background of when these ideas became prominent and suggests how they still affect contested issues of science and religion.

  • “Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation by Means of an Evolutionary Process: I. Concerns of the Typical Evangelical Theologian” by Bruce Waltke

In this white paper from the November BioLogos workshop, evangelical and renowned Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke looks at eleven barriers that prevent evangelical theologians from accepting evolution as a possible means for creation and what we these barriers tells us about the tensions between science and religion perceived by many evangelicals. Waltke’s work is based on a survey forwarded to presidents of the Fellowship of Evangelical Seminary Presidents and their faculty, asking them to identify the reasons that they do not personally accept evolutionary theory.

  • “Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation by Means of an Evolutionary Process: II. Concerns of the Typical Parishoner” or “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople” by Tim Keller

In this paper, considers three main clusters of questions lay people raise when they learn of anyone teaching that biological evolution and biblical orthodoxy can be compatible. Keller offers some ideas on how to provide responses that take these concerns seriously.

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Top Five Books on Early Evangelicalism

Bruce Hindmarsh shares his list at ChristianHistory.net.  He writes,

The past generation has seen tremendous breadth and depth of scholarship on the 18th-century North Atlantic evangelical awakening, from deep in central Europe to the American frontier. There have been many debates about the origin, character, and significance of evangelical religion during this period. Here are some of the books that best introduce the general reader to early evangelicalism. All of these books are a pleasure to read, and all of the authors are experts in their fields.

The first couple include

The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys
Mark A. Noll

A masterful survey of the whole transatlantic movement. Mark Noll has (as usual) taken the best of the secondary literature and summed it up in a readable narrative with a wide perspective.

The Inextinguishable Blaze: Spiritual Renewal and Advance in the Eighteenth Century
A. Skevington Wood

A classic account of the evangelical awakenings of the period that covers the ground in a brilliantly written and lucid narrative.

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