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New titles just published

28 October 2022

This week’s selection: an exploration of some of Jesus’s hard sayings, mission that offers a positive experience, and the faith of some former Prime Ministers

The Difficult Words of Jesus: Wrestling with the hard sayings and perplexing teaching by Amy-Jill Levine (Canterbury Press, £14.99 (£11.99); 978-1-78622-475-0).

“As well as telling parables and stories, giving teachings on how to discern questions of ethics and human nature, and offering beatitudes for comfort and encouragement, Jesus also spoke words and flung insults that followers then and now have found difficult, to say the least. Preachers often gloss over these or avoid them altogether as they are still so shocking. In The Difficult Words of Jesus, Amy-Jill Levine sheds vital light on understanding these by exploring how these sayings sounded to those who first heard them.”


Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land: Re-shaping the church for a changed world by John Marsh (Sacristy Press, £14.99 (£13.49); 978-1-78959-246-7).

“Mission, particularly the clear proclamation of the Gospel, is the core task of the church, our response to Jesus’ Great Commission to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19). We each have our part to play, learning how to sing the Lord’s song (the gospel) for our current context, which is not always entirely friendly. Every Christian community, every local church, needs to be able to sing the same song through the quality of their life together. When new people join us, we need to offer them a positive experience: comfortable facilities, meaningful worship, relevant teaching, and, above all, a genuine, warm welcome. If this isn’t part of the bed rock of our churches, any message we may proclaim will likely fall on deaf ears.”


God in Number 10: The personal faith of the Prime Ministers, from Balfour to Blair by Mark Vickers (SPCK, £25 (£22.50); 978-0-281-08728-0).

“Mark Vickers’ volume on the faith of the 20th-century Prime Ministers casts a new perspective on these holders of the highest political office in the realm. While there are biographies aplenty on the 18 men and 1 woman who took up residence behind the famous black door, it is notable that that many of these works fail to reflect an important — sometimes the most important — aspect of the life of their subject. God in Number 10 rectifies this omission, offering intriguing insights into Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Sermon on the Mound’, Tony Blair’s perception of Jesus as a moderniser, Arthur Balfour’s recourse to spiritualism, Stanley Baldwin’s mystical experiences, and Winston Churchill’s involvement with astrology. The book considers the role of religion generally in the political classes of the period, the reasons for the declining influence of faith in the public forum, and the relationship between Church and State.”

Selected by Frank Nugent, of the Church House Bookshop, which operates the Church Times Bookshop.

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