#TheBookshelf - Barry Forde
Rev Barry Forde is Minister of the Church of the Resurrection in Belfast and staff leader of the HUB, the Methodist and Church of Ireland chaplaincy at QUB.
Five Books - only five! What about the Torah - foundational for head, heart, body and spirit.
But if you push me, here are my five recommendations.
The Screwtape Letters is a classic, penned by CS Lewis as an expose of the human condition. A series of letters by a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood, on how to secure the damnation of ‘the patient’ (i.e. any one of us) a reminder of the power of the subtle half-truth, of misdirection, and of the need of the sick for the one true Healer.
The Mission of God & The Provocative Church
If I may blur the lines between ‘Theological Foundations’ and ‘Church and Mission’ then I have been richly blessed by Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God, and a much shorter little book by Graham Tomlin, The Provocative Church. The former is a masterpiece, ‘unlocking’ a theological and biblical hermeneutic for mission that weaves together our understanding of who God is, how to read the whole of scripture, and how we might live in the world. It offers up a big vision of the God of creation, Israel, and the church, with the living God made known through Jesus at the heart of it all. A shorter follow-up, The Mission of God’s People is excellent at translating Wright’s conclusions into how people might live out God’s work in the world… but it will only whet the appetite to go deeper with The Mission of God.
The Provocative Church was written by Graham Tomlin when he taught at Wycliffe College, Oxford. Graham has been instrumental in reshaping theological education within the Church of England, principally to help churches live out the mission of God in their surrounding contexts. Now a Bishop, Graham’s short treatise is punchy and very accessible. He challenges churches to live as communities of faith that provoke those on the outside to ask us more questions than we might ask them. About who we are and why do we live the way we do. I read it through theological college, and it has helped to shape both thinking and action ever since.
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
Pursuing this theme, and addressing it to how Christians engage with culture, it is very difficult to look beyond Leslie Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Recent decades have seen enormous changes in the diversity of cultures, races, belief systems and values on our Western shores. This is nothing new. The entire biblical narrative sets the people of God in the context of surrounding, and indwelling, alternate values, belief systems and cultures. Newbigin spent much of his life in India, where it can hardly be said that Christendom reigned supreme. Addressing the uniqueness of Christ, the impact of relativism, secularisation, and living in a multi-faith world, Newbigin calls for a confidence in the gospel of Jesus.
The Contemplative Pastor
Last up, The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson. Yes, it is written for those in, or heading towards, pastoral leadership of a local church. However, if that is you, or you care for those in such a role, or simply want to spend time journeying with the wisdom of Peterson, this book is wonderful. Yet dangerous. It might just force, if you let it, a reappraisal of everything you think the role to be, or indeed to have become.