William S. Barker
Christian Focus (Mentor)
320 pages; £11.99
These collected writings seek to show the relevance of the Word of God to a variety of social, ethical and church historical issues. The author examines some complex topics, and presents them generally in a straightforward and interesting manner.
While the essays handling biblical passages are sound, the historical and ‘Church and state’ essays are more rewarding and offer useful insights. These include the social views of Charles Hodge (topical for its treatment of slavery), a response to Greg Bahnsen on theonomy, and an analysis of the Rogers and McKim proposal about biblical inerrancy. Essays that are mildly polemical are, nevertheless, well written, warm in tone and pastoral in intent. Profiles on some of the Westminster Assembly, as well as on other Puritans, are highly informative.
The essays vary considerably in length and some are repetitious. Taken together, the essays and the title of the book seem a little ‘forced’ and the reader may become frustrated by a lack of clear logical development. Some of the essays are more suitable for the lecture room than the pew; some are specialised; some leave readers to deduce and make their own applications; and some lack practical relevance.
To be sure, the writer demonstrates the value of historical study in aspects of today’s political and church climates, both in the UK and especially America. This respected church historian writes with ruminative skill and readers with the time can ‘chew the cud’ to their satisfaction – although the book remains a bit of a ‘mixed bag’.