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Reaching the bottom of the pile

10 October 2014

We've listed the best, but what about the worst? Four of our judges nominate their 'turkeys'


IT IS a pity that a tree had to die to make The Laws of Prosperity by Kenneth Copeland. Copeland is one of those tele-evangelists who hate the sin, and the sinner. It is quite something to be able to quote the Bible so much and end up with a vision that is the exact opposite of the gospel.

Here, he argues that wealth is a sign of spiritual maturity. God blesses his people with money and good health. If we do not have them, then the problem lies with us. If you are sad or depressed, it is because you are not believing properly.

His materialist take on Christian discipleship would be laughable, if it were not for the fact that so many are drawn to it - either to self-justify, or because it gives hope that more prayer means more bucks.

It is a horrid, dangerous book that reminds us that to call yourself a "true" Christian, and fire biblical bullets at the "false" or vulnerable, can often lead us into places a long way from Nazareth.

Mark Oakley 

NICKY CRUZ, a one-time New York street fighter and now fundamentalist preacher, takes on Satan in The Devil Has No Mother. Whereas C. S. Lewis, in the Screwtape Letters, tackled him with the rapier of wit, Cruz's chosen weapon is a bludgeon. The Devil actually gets off fairly lightly. Most of the blows fall on weak-kneed Christians who won't join the battle.

Cruz's greatest concern is the satanic infiltration of our daily lives: he sees demons every-where. "The devil is worse than you think," he warns, while giving him (or it) plenty of free publicity. "Pornography, drug use, child abuse, adultery, murder, rape" are evidence of satanic influence. So is the widespread failure by church leaders to "denounce gay practices".

If you like being hectored for 244 pages, are fascinated by other people's sins, own a demon-possessed dog, or need to know what to do when you meet someone whose eyes glow orange, this book is for you. Otherwise, it's probably not.

David Winter

MY "TURKEY" came wrapped in plausible plaudits. I opened Hans Küng's On Being a Christian (number 80 in the list) with high hopes. Here, after all, was the daring theologian, allegedly persecuted by his Church, ready to show how one could be fully engaged with modernity while still being a Christian - something well worth demonstrating.

But it was the tone that put me off. High-handed, arrogant, dismissive of tradition, implying, on every page, that anyone who had not radically re-evaluated his or her faith from the standpoint of a post-Kantian Zeitgeist was not a proper Christian.

When I finally got to a place where he said that "Christianity is more than the shrunken gesture of an old woman crossing herself at a church door," I finally lost patience. I thought, "There may be more to Christianity than that, but there is more Christianity in what that faithful gesture means, in all that has sustained that poor woman through the bloodiest years of history, more of the redeeming cross in her gesture, than in any page of yours." I closed the book, and haven't opened it since.

Malcolm Guite 

THE central idea of Situation Ethics, by Joseph Fletcher,sounds great, until you try to put it into practice. Fletcher wanted to argue that morality is a matter of applying loving concern to individual cases rather than starting with preconceived ideas of right and wrong. What might be morally wrong in one case could be justified in another.

While Fletcher was clear that "love" is not the same as liking, or what gives pleasure, he was vaguer about what it actually is, and how we can tell if that is what is motivating us.

There is a superb confidence in basic human rationality which was optimistic, even in the 1960s. The faintest glimmer of self-knowledge must assure us that we somehow always manage to find excuses for what we want to do. The book drove me back to Augustine on Original Sin when I first read it, and it still does.

Jane Williams


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