Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Passion That Shapes Nations: Review

'A Passion That Shapes Nations' was written by Charlie Cleverly, who is Rector of St Aldgates in Oxford. It's on the Reading Family Church leadership school reading list, but despite it starting in September, i've only just got round to reading it. Poor effort. It was, however, totally worth the wait.

'A Passion' tells short stories about well known and less well known martyrs through the ages. it starts off with Peter and Paul and ends in the modern day with tales of persecution in China and the Islamic world. The author says on the back that 'business as usual Christianity is no longer enough' and if he wrote this to stir people's hearts and pray life (and i think he did), it's definitely worked on me!

There was a lot i liked about this book. The chapters are short which means that they can be read slowly and easily, with plenty of time for reflection afterwards. And that's important because it would be easy to read about, say, Ridley burning at the stake think 'that must have been nasty' turn on the PS3 and forget about it. The was Charlie writes lends itself to thought, and i liked that. I loved reading about people i knew little about as well, like Tyndale and Crysotom, both of whom modern day evangelicals owe a lot to, but who seems to be mostly forgotten. Which is sad.

The British Reformers are among some of my heroes, without a shadow of a doubt. I was struck dumb by the Oxford Memorial in the summer, and it still rises in my spirit when i think about it now. It is, to me, incredible to think that just down the road, in this country, four hundred years ago people were being burned alive for believing what i believe. It just makes my eyes pop open in wonder. It's a kick up the backside to someone who thinks they do well sitting in a comfy church office four days a week. Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer are some of my heroes, as i've said but it was the story of Thomas Cranmer that stood out the most for me this time. To have been in the church when he 'recanted his recantation' and turned again to the Reformed faith. Despite the errors that Cranmer committed to get to this point, i wonder if there has ever been a prouder moment for Protestantism in England.

But the view 'Catholics: bad, Protestants: good' isn't supported by history, and Charlie doesn't let it stand here. It's easy, when reading of the Oxford three to view seventeenth century Catholicism as Christian burning evil. But then we come to the story of Edmund Campion (who i might be very very distantly related to). He was a Catholic, and was burned for his beliefs. Elizabeth was just as bad as Mary, which is humbling and must be remembered. I was glad to read that chapter, and glad it was in the book.

I can think of no reason not to read this book. Be taught, be stirred, be encouraged and rebuked. And wonder to yourself where the next Cambridge seven are, the next Jim Elliot, the next Tyndale or Wycliffe, the next Brother Yun. And buy it here.

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