Five English Reformers by J.C . Ryle
One of the great mistakes that we can fall into in our current culture is what C.S. Lewis
called “chronological snobbery”: the idea that our contemporary ways of thinking and
living are automatically superior to everything that has gone before. One of the ways that this problem manifests in the Christian world is that way in which we often think that the generations that preceded us didn't know much about what it means to follow Jesus and that we can't learn much from them.
Reading this book (and it's companion volume the inventively titled “Five Christian
Leaders of the 18th Century”) is a splendid antidote to this false perspective. Bishop Ryle
sets out the story of five of the pioneers of the English Reformation: John Hooper;
Rowland Taylor; Hugh Latimer; John Bradford and Nicholas Ridley, with great clarity and
power. These were men who some 500 years ago rediscovered the gospel of Jesus Christ,
preached it, lived it and went on to pay the ultimate price for it. I've wept on numerous
occasions reading about these guys and their stand for Jesus. As well as the inspiring
example of these individuals what you also get from reading this book (and perhaps more so the C18th one as well) is a sense of how God was transforming our nation at this time in history.
In telling the lives of our forebears in the faith what J.C. Ryle did for me was to teach me to value the gospel, encourage me to be faithful to Jesus no matter what the cost and to seek God for a move of his Spirit in our day. What might he do for you?
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by Lesslie Newbigin
In the society that we live in there are all sorts of strange assumptions made about the truth and relevance of the gospel and the Christian world view. Unfortunately many Christians don't really help in this regard and the sad stereotypes of believers as ignorant folk living in a fantasy realm with nothing useful to offer the rest of the world often persist.
I came across Newbigin's book when I was in the upper sixth and what he showed me was how orthodox Christian thought not only has plenty of intellectual coherence but actually challenges the presuppositions of humanist, pluralist and secular ways of seeing the world.
That he was speaking from the perspective of having served as a missionary in
India for nigh on forty years and is clearly passionate about the local church
communicating and living out the gospel is no bad thing!
Reading this book (and various other by the likes of Francis Schaeffer and Alistair
McGrath) was a great preparation for studying as a Christian in an academic environment profoundly shaped by post-modernism.
What Lesslie Newbigin did for me was to give a confidence in the gospel in a potentially hostile climate and to stoke my love of the local church as the agent of God's kingdom and mission in the world . What might he do for you?
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
I bought this book as a spotty 17 year old on a family holiday in Rural Suffolk. No doubt fleeing from some torrential downpour in the middle of nowhere, we found ourselves in old chapel that was now a second-hand bookshop. The eccentric chap who was running the place was wearing his dressing-gown and listening to an Oscar Peterson jazz piano record.
The pound I spent that day on dear old Tozer is one of the shrewdest investments
I've ever made. That said I've spent a few quid on the various copies I've bought and given away to friends over the years!
Tozer was a prophetic voice in the middle of the last century. He was not prepared to be content with a mere doctrinal correctness in the evangelical church. He longed for his readers to experience God for themselves. This book isn't a shallow, misleading “how to” guide to the spiritual life, it's a mouthwatering (soul-watering?) read that leaves you either hungry for God or already enjoying his presence. Tozer's style is accessible, clear, pithy and eminently quotable, yet he deals with the deep things of God not with trifles.
On the cover of my copy is a recommendation from that great hero of preachers Dr Lloyd- Jones. He stated that reading this book “leads to the heights of true spiritual worship in an incomparable manner”. What Tozer did for me was to make me long for God, decide to follow hard after Him, resolve to gaze upon Him and live in the light of eternity. What might he do for you?