20 January 2014

Some Great Kiwi Theological Reads

by Dr Mark Keown

One of the delights of January is being able to read those books that you have been longing to read. So, over summer I have been doing this. Included in these books I have read are three which have strong connections to Laidlaw College. They are all excellent and I heartily recommend them.

First, I read Destiny by Peter Lineham (Massey University Lecturer with a strong connection to Laidlaw) in which he explores the story of Bishop Brian Tamaki and Destiny Church. I thought it was a great and fair book in which he rightly gives credit to the movement and BT for helping many out of lives of suffering and sin. I agree with Peter that this is not a cult, but a church with sectarian features. However, Peter’s insightful analysis raises serious questions about leadership styles, finance, and its long-term viability. I say read the book and let God be the judge of us all. (See further http://drmarkk.blogspot.co.nz/2014/01/destiny-book-some-thoughts.html).

Then I read The Rising Tide: Evangelical Christianity in New Zealand 1930–65, Stuart Lange’s excellent historical analysis of the evangelical movement in NZ particularly in Anglicanism, Presbyterianism and the Universities of NZ. It too is very well written and reflects the rigour of Stuart’s highly commended doctoral thesis. Like Stuart, I am very close to this movement being part of the continuing work among Presbyterian Evangelicals in subsequent years. As such, I was deeply interested in those who have gone before me. I feel I have a much greater understanding of the story of evangelicalism in NZ. It was great to see familiar names including some from Laidlaw’s past and present like Roxburgh, Meadowcroft, and Don Elley. I liked the ongoing emphasis that the evangelicalism he researched reflected the best of British, rather than some of the belligerent versions of the movement found elsewhere. As I read of those who have gone before I was inspired to be more devoted to the Scriptures, to prayer, to the church, and being faithful to the gospel. I would love to read an extension of this work into the Baptist and Brethren movements and the various colleges (including Laidlaw), and the stories of the subsequent generations to the present. Perhaps some budding PhD students out there may be keen to take that on under Stuart’s tutelage. (See further http://drmarkk.blogspot.co.nz/2014/01/a-rising-tide-by-stuart-langesome.html).

The next book on my January reading journey is my good friend and colleague Nicola Hoggard Creegan’s Animal Suffering & the Problem of Evil. This was a much more challenging read as it was full of heady science and theological ideas. Yet, it was a remarkably lucid and easy to read book even for a scientific novice like myself. It really got me thinking about the nature of God, the origins of evil, theistic evolution, the nature of the “Fall,” the idea of an earlier “Fall that corrupted the universe, the nature of evolution (positive and negative), in what sense humans are animals, the wheat and tares parable, and whether I should be a vegetarian or not. Not being one with a strong understanding of biological science, I am left with more questions than answers. Most supremely, “what the heck am I caught up in in this world?” That said, whatever our views on origins and evil, I would recommend this book heartily to anyone who has an open mind and wants to explore the theological possibilities. (see further http://drmarkk.blogspot.co.nz/2014/01/animal-suffering-problem-of-evil-nicola.html).

The thing that really struck me as I read these books – also remembering the books I read by Alistair Donaldson (The Last Days of Dispensationalism) and Tim Meadowcroft (The Message of the Word of God) last year – is how wonderful the Laidlaw faculty is. What creative minds. What devoted researchers and writers. Kiwis certainly can fly! I recommend their work highly. I am honoured to be a part of them. I know there are others too that have been written and more to come. I encourage you to have a read.

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