Books I have read: Puritan Portraits

Puritan Portraits

J. I. Packer, a well known theologian, named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals alive, and one of the leading authorities on the Puritans has written a new book Puritan Portraits.

The first part of the book discusses the historical context from which the Puritans ministered.  Much of the book was initially published as introductions to the Christian Heritage series of paperbacks published by Christian Focus, looking at John Flavel, Thomas Boston, John Bunyan, Matthew Henry, Henry Scougal, John Owen and Stephen Charnock and two closer portraits of William Perkins and Richard Baxter.

Instead of writing a detailed biography about each man, Packer instead focuses on a specific essay or book that each had written:

  • Henry Scougal: The Life of God in the Soul of Man
  • Stephen Charnock: Christ Crucified
  • John Bunyan: The Heavenly Footman
  • Matthew Henry: The Pleasantness of a Religious Life
  • John Owen: The Mortification of Sin
  • John Flavel: Keeping the Heart
  • Thomas Boston: The Art of Man Fishing
  • Thomas Boston: The crook in the Lot
  • Thomas Boston: Repentance.

At times it felt weird that the book that was so heavily written about wasn’t then included in the book, but equally I found this book great at whetting my appetite to read more of the Puritans.  The book then concludes with a chapter that looks at the ideals of the Puritan theology.

This isn’t a light read or an easy read but it certainly encourages you to dig deeper into their writings, to understand more fully what they were writing about.

Advertisements

The Main Reason People Leave Your Church

All Saints

Thom Rainer has recently blogged on the main reason people leave your church:

Numbers of gifted persons and organizations have studied the phenomenon of the church “back door,” the metaphorical way we describe people leaving the church. And there will always be the anticipated themes of relocation or personal crises. We should recognize those issues, though we can respond to the latter more than the former.

But all the research studies of which I am aware, including my own, return to one major theme to explain the exodus of church members: a sense of some need not being filled. In other words, these members have ideas of what a local congregation should provide for them, and they leave because those provisions have not been met.

Certainly we recognize there are many legitimate claims by church members of unfulfilled expectations. It can undoubtedly be the fault of the local congregation and its leaders.

But many times, probably more than we would like to believe, a church member leaves a local body because he or she has a sense of entitlement. I would therefore suggest that the main reason people leave a church is because they have an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality.

Read the rest here.

UK’s first Atheist Church opens

Atheist Church

Stand-up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans will bring together a godless congregation in The Nave in St Paul’s Road, Canonbury for services – with wedding ceremonies and funerals for non-believers even on the cards.

News of the church, which will meet on the first Sunday of every month starting with a service on the Feast of Epiphany on January 6, comes after the census results revealed last week that nearly one in three residents are atheists.

Mr Jones and Ms Evans, a musical improv comedian who had a BBC Radio 4 show called Showstopper, came up with the idea for The Sunday Assembly after agreeing they liked many aspects of religion but didn’t believe in a god.

Sanderson Jones, recently became the first person to sell out the Sydney Opera House by personally selling all tickets by hand, told The Islington Gazette:

“We thought it would be a shame not to enjoy the good stuff about religion, like the sense of community, just because of a theological disagreement.  It’s part atheist church and part foot-stomping show. There will be a speaker on a theme each month but there will also be an awesome house band, which Pippa will lead. We’ll be helping people try and stick to their new year’s resolutions in the first service.”

The comics will invite speakers to talk on a theme every month, starting with children’s author Andy Stanton, who writes the Mr Gum series, on the topic of beginnings. Future guest speakers include fellow comedians Josie Long, Lucy Porter and Arthur Smith.

Mr Jones added:

“We all should be ludicrously excited every single moment to be alive in one of the best countries in the world. If the church becomes a useful place for others, that would be a good thing. We just want people to feel encouraged and excited when they leave.”

But the Rev Saviour Grech, Catholic parish priest of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church in Amwell Street, Finsbury, said:

“How can you be an atheist and worship in a church? Surely it’s a contradiction of terms. Who will they be singing to?  It is important to debate and engage with atheists but for them to establish a church like any other religious denomination is going too far. I’m cautious about it.”

It does leave me slightly confused as to why you would imitate a Christian service, but try and do it in the theological perspective of atheism, and deeply ironic to do it in an ex church.  What does anyone else think?