*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Book review: Romans: A letter that makes sense of life by Andrew Ollerton

by
23 June 2023

Breezing through an epistle may give some readers pause, says Mike Starkey

ST AUGUSTINE browsing in fourth-century Algeria; Luther studying in 16th-century Germany; Wesley listening in 18th-century London — many transformative moments in church history have been sparked by an encounter with St Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

Andrew Ollerton is author of the Bible Society’s Bible Course. Now comes his popular-level exposition of Romans, a companion book to the new online Romans Course from the same stable.

Ollerton expounds Romans in the manner of most commentaries: an opening chapter discusses the audience, cultural backgrounds, and themes. He then leads the reader on a breezy and accessible walk through the epistle. Stormzy, the Webb Space Telescope, and Nando’s put in appearances.

Broadly, the approach taken is Reformed and Evangelical, with no attempt to downplay Paul’s emphasis on the universality and gravity of sin. Ollerton here misses a trick. A big trend in current “smart” thinking is fierce optimism about the human condition. Popular writers such as Rutger Bregman and Steven Pinker chart global improvements in life expectancy, poverty, medicines, and literacy. Ollerton’s audience is bound to include people aware of these thinkers; it would have felt Zeitgeisty to acknowledge them and explore how belief in human sinfulness fits, or doesn’t fit, with today’s progress narrative.

On Paul’s apparent citing of homosexual sex as emblematic of sin in Romans 1, Ollerton says that the issues are beyond the scope of his book. But he adds that the historic teaching of the Church is that gay sex contradicts the divine pattern, and his footnotes point to resources along this line. It is hard not to imagine young adults in a Romans study group dropping their digestives in their tea and exclaiming, “Whoa! Hang on a minute. . .”

Ollerton offers a lively and engaging exploration of Romans, through a lens of traditional Reformed theology. Group leaders hosting the Romans Course might want to brace themselves for the tricky questions of contemporary application which Ollerton sidesteps.
 

The Revd Mike Starkey is a freelance writer, and former Head of Church Growth for Manchester diocese.

 

Romans: A letter that makes sense of life
Andrew Ollerton
Hodder & Stoughton £16.99
(978-1-3998-0642-8)
Church Times Bookshop £15.29

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

 

Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available

 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available

 

Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available

 

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)