Book Reviews: October

Who are you? Who is our Saviour? What do you believe? Our books this month point you to the answers to these fundamental questions.
Oct 22 Book Review

Who are you? Who is our Saviour? What do you believe? Our books this month point you to the answers to these fundamental questions. 

BOOK OF THE MONTH: ‘Are you 100% Sure You want to be an Agnostic?’, Andrew Sach & Jon Gemmell (2022: 10Publishing) 

While it is a little odd to be reading a book written specifically for agnostics as a Christian, there are distinct advantages. For one thing, it reminds us that to be a Christian is the only truth that exists in this world. The stark illustration on the front cover says everything that the book goes onto explain. Being an agnostic means sitting on the fence with a consequent binary coloured world. Sach and Gemmell give a convincing biblical argument that would leave no one sitting on the fence. They do this with a deep knowledge of the Word of God, but also with that kindness, humour, graciousness, and love which the Apostle Paul tells us to season our conversation when telling the Good News of Jesus Christ. The feisty dialogue, which the two authors engage in, ensure the participation of the reader because you cannot help becoming a third-party conversationalist, agreeing or otherwise. However, the short story at the close of the book reminds us that it is only when someone has confronted death that the reality of life becomes stark naked.  

This is a necessary addition to anyone’s library who is serious about engaging with others who are seeking a place which is more comfortable than squatting on a pointed wooden fence. 

This book is available from

Ruth Aird, Bruntsfield Evangelical Church, Edinburgh 

‘Rich Wounds’, David Mathis (2022: The Good Book Company) 

David Mathis has set out to give us a devotional book to help us admire and delight in the Lord Jesus, and that mission is most certainly accomplished. In 30 short chapters, we are led to consider the glory of Christ in his redemptive plan for his people in his life, death and resurrection. Each chapter is clear, concise and thoroughly Christ-exalting, with wonderful truth in every page to make your heart sing.  

This is a book that will help you to appreciate the saving significance of Holy Week with accessible, theologically-rich meditations, followed by a reflective prayer and further Scripture reading for each day. This pattern for each chapter is one of the many strengths of the book as it allows and encourages time for meditation and reflection.  

Whilst in many ways an ideal devotional for Easter, this book would be of benefit at any time of the year. In slowing us down to consider the amazing nature of God’s love displayed at the cross and the full significance of God’s power on display at the resurrection, our sense of worship and wonder at the gospel is increased. In walking us through the days of Holy Week from his Triumphal Entry to the Empty Tomb we are led to see Jesus as a king unlike any other.  

Inspired in part by the great hymn “Crown him with many crowns” (the title ‘rich wounds’ is drawn from it), this book will inspire you to give glory and worship to the Lamb upon the throne, the one “who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.” 

This book is available from The Good Book Company

James Ross, Buccleuch Free Church, Edinburgh 

‘Iron Sharpens Iron’, Michael A.G. Haykin (2022: Union Publishing) 

Professor Haykin is a prolific author and contributor and a well-known name in the Reformed community. His recent book, ‘Iron Sharpens Iron’, is a fascinating study on the important but often neglected topic of Christian friendship. It is written from a historical perspective, detailing how Christians cultivated friendships in a pre-internet age, where face to face meetings and letter writing were their main means of communication.   

The book’s focus is on the friendship of Andrew Fuller and John Ryland Jr, from its beginnings as young men, struggling in the theological debates of the period (e.g., Hypercalvinism) through nearly 40 years of letter writing, meetings to pray and talk and ending with Fuller’s death in 1815. What cemented their friendship was a shared ‘concern for the causes of Christ at home and abroad.’ Even the differences that both men shared, with respect to communion (Fuller and Ryland held to closed and open communion, respectively) was not enough to permanently damage their friendship.   

The book also describes their friendships with other prominent figures including the hymn writer and former slave trader, John Newton. Haykin uses their stories to detail different aspects of friendship and does not shy away from describing friendships that faced challenges due to political and religious differences.   

Overall, a very fascinating and useful book. While it does not provide guidance on how to build up Christian friendships, it does teach us 3 important lessons: 1) Christians do not live as little islands by themselves. We need Christian friends to sharpen us; 2) Constant communication is key to any relationship, especially friendship, and; 3) We must have a high regard for our Christian friends despite our differences.  

On the death of Ryland Jr, his friend and fellow minister Robert Hall summed up Christian friendship this way, ‘It is a treasure possessed, when it is not employed; a reserve of strength, ready to be called into action when most needed; a fountain of sweets, to which we may continually repair, whose waters are inexhaustible.’ 

This book is available from

Jenson Lim, Dunblane Free Church 

‘This World is Not My Home’ Mark G. Johnston (2022: Banner of Truth) 

With their genesis as monthly articles on an online resource of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, the thirty stand-alone chapters of this book offer substantial chunks of meat to chew on. Grouped thematically, the first section ‘From Eden to the New Jerusalem’ briefly surveys redemption history, the last section ‘Rejoicing in Hope and Heading for Home’ centres round the fullness of joy that awaits, while further sections relating to Christology, the Church and Christian Life are presented in between. Johnston’s stated aim is to help the Christian reader ‘perhaps struggling with … often unexpected twists and turns of the life of faith.’ Notably, he then gives most space to the section on Christ’s church, acknowledging that ‘many have lost sight of the fact that to be a Christian means being part of God’s redeemed community.’ Although this collection, subtitled ‘Reflections for Pilgrims on the Way’, is primarily written to Christians, it may benefit any reader seeking an accessible theological engagement with the Christian story. 

This book is available to purchase from Banner of Truth

Gayle Maynard, Reformed Christian Fellowship, Barbados (previously ETS student)