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CHRISTIANITY IN A CHANGING WORLD

CHRISTIANITY IN A CHANGING WORLD: biblical insight on contemporary issues
By Michael Schluter and the Cambridge Papers Group
Marshall Pickering. 348 pages. 9.99
ISBN 0 551 03241 3

Should Britain join the single European currency? If you had 3000 to invest what would you do with it? Should blasphemy be a criminal offence in a secular state? Isn't it time that the Church of England was disestablished? How do we explain the rise and fall of nations? What are we trying to achieve with our prison system?

You can hear these and similar questions being discussed by the panellists on Question Time and by guests on the Today programme. From time to time you can even hear them being argued about in the Student Union. But it is fairly unlikely that they will receive more than a passing mention in the teaching ministry of your church. Why? Are they unimportant? Does the Bible have nothing to say about them?

Christianity in a Changing World is a collection of 25 of the 'Cambridge Papers' by a group of Christians who have in common a connection with Cambridge and a resolve to seek biblical insight on exactly these sorts of issues. Produced over the last ten years these papers have been brought together to form what is an informative, provocative and very usable book which can be highly recommended.

A lightning tour will give a sense of the range and nature of the topics covered. Some of the papers give an overview of an issue: Christopher Townsend on Homosexuality, on the Morality of Punishment and on Hell; Paul Mills on Time; Mark Dever on Providence; Denis Alexander on Science: Friend or Foe? on Genetic Engineering and on Scientific Naturalism; Mike Ovey on Deconstructionism.

Other papers drill down more satisfyingly: Julian Rivers' papers on Disestablishment, on Blasphemy in the Secular State and on the Morality of Rights were all most stimulating; Peter Walker's paper on Jerusalem was outstanding for its combination of thorough biblical argumentation and serious contemporary applications; Michael Schluter's Relationism was introduced in the paper by that name and then applied helpfully in The Rise and Fall of Nations.

A third category of papers introduces a single insight and challenges the reader to take the matter further: Mike Ovey on Human Identity and on Women, Men and the Nature of God; Ranald Macaulay on The Great Commissions; Michael Schluter on Roots.

Naturally, where papers move from the statement of relevant principles to more specific recommendations for public policy and private practice then readers will perhaps feel their agreement or disagreement with the authors more strongly. This reviewer was almost wholly with Michael Schluter on Should Christians Support the Euro? and almost wholly against Paul Mills on the Biblical Ban on Interest, for example.

The papers are structured most clearly and this makes for easy analysis of the authors' argument. It is easy to imagine this book being used as a discussion starter for Christian Union groups, for ministers' fraternals or for serious-minded home-groups, for example. Christian schools could use it as a textbook for critical thinking classes.

It is frustrating that the Biblical basis of the discussions and recommendations tends to be very much under the surface and that the authors are far from sharing a single view as to how the Bible is to be applied to these sorts of issues. Nevertheless it is itself heartening that there should be a Cambridge Papers Group whose members 'share the conviction that the Bible provides a coherent worldview relevant to every aspect of human life'. The Group has produced a book which will greatly aid the development of a Christian mind on matters of contemporary interest and concern and it is to be hoped not only that the book will achieve a wide and thoughtful readership but also that it will inspire others to address these sorts of issues with similar clarity of mind, commitment to relevance and confidence in the sufficiency and authority of Scripture.