Does the Bible Really Say That . . . ?
Church Times Bookshop £8.10
IN THIS short but profound exploration, Mark Woods revisits nine core assumptions that underlie faith for many Christians from all denominations and traditions, ideas that we took in at Sunday school or on an Alpha course and have not challenged or assessed since.
Besides being a Baptist minister and online journalist for Christian Today, Woods is also a talented apologist for the faith. His is a book of two parts. The first five chapters are the most approachable, and would be excellent for a discussion group. Each holds up to scrutiny a “bad” idea that many carry with them. Woods asks questions such as: Does God have a plan for my life? Why doesn’t God heal everyone all of the time? Do all non-Christians go to hell? Why is forgiveness so much harder than it sounds?
The later chapters feel a little less defined, but the fact that they do not come to a tidy conclusion leaves questions alive in the reader’s head: is my Church more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to being a disciple? And his solution to recent legal cases brought by, for example, Christians who have refused to bake a cake for a homosexual couple is wonderfully refreshing: whatever their belief, the better witness would be to make the best cake possible. It is not an answer guaranteed to endear this book to conservative Evangelicals — but it is at least a way of writing in the dust, a third way that Jesus would have loved.
Impressively, Woods does more than pull the “traditional” view apart: he replaces it with a scriptural world-view that is compassionate and credible. So, it is not that God heals some people and not others, or that he can’t heal everyone, but that the part that the Church has to play is to help people live with the things they must carry and still know that God is there and loves them.
It is a bracing and exciting read. Where you already agree with him, it is exhilarating to see Woods work: you wish you had his clarity of vision and phrase. Where you are unconvinced by what he is saying, you are still launched into an exploration of what he is reaching for. Above all, Woods points us to a God who is bigger, braver, bolder, and more wonderful than we often allow. That truth, and this book, are both gift.
The Revd Richard Lamey is Rector of St Paul’s, Wokingham, in Berkshire.