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No wonderful life

04 December 2015

Mike Starkey doubts a tract’s effectiveness


A Very Different Christmas: What are you hoping for this year?
Rico Tice and Nate Morgan Locke
The Good Book Company £2.99
Church Times Bookshop £2.70


IF YOU can judge a book by its cover, this must be a very good book indeed: its thick card and embossed lettering look for all the world as if they have been hand-crafted by Scandinavian elves.

The content is aimed at the intelligent agnostic. A budget-priced gift book, it invites the reader to imagine he or she is in the living-room of heaven on Christmas morning. The gifts being unwrapped are gifts from the Persons of the Trinity to humanity.

So, is this a book you might give to an unbelieving friend this Christmas? That will rather depend on your response to the authors’ decision to use a theological motif of atonement rather than incarnation. In heaven’s living-room, you might expect the Spirit’s Christmas gift to be Comfort (he is, after all, the Comforter, and comfort and joy are suitably Christmassy). Sadly, no. Here his gift is Reality — about our sinfulness and consequent judgement. Similarly, when we offer God the Father the gift of our own decency, we watch as he "recoils".

Whatever your theology, the authors’ would-be evangelistic scenario unwittingly ends up sounding like the most dysfunctional family Christmas ever. Dad throws your gift back at you while another family member gently reminds you what a mess your life is? Seriously? This is an object lesson in why authors need to choose their metaphors with care.


The Revd Mike Starkey is a tutor for the Church Army, and a freelance writer.

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