Subscribe now

Signposts from the Past

By Reg Burrows
May 2015 | Review by Matthew Cox
  • Publisher:
  • ISBN: 5-800105-20444-1
  • Pages: 228
  • Price: 8.99
Buy this book »

Book Review

In the early 1990s, Reg Burrows’ Anglican congregation in Newcastle was wrestling with deep questions about its relationship with the Church of England. This followed the denomination’s consecration of female vicars and its general marginalisation of evangelicals. Signposts from the past consists largely of addresses that Burrows delivered to his church during that period.

As the subtitle indicates, many Christians have pondered, debated and even fought over similar questions throughout the centuries. Burrows looks back to church history to help discern the way forward.

He does a great job. After a fairly pedestrian summary of the Reformation in Europe, five masterly chapters examine contrasting approaches to association with non-evangelicals. These include the magisterial Reformers vs the orthodox Anabaptists; Richard Hooker vs Walter Travers; the conformers vs the ejected ministers of the Great Ejection; Ryle vs Spurgeon; and, finally, Stott vs Lloyd-Jones.

The reader is led gently but compellingly toward the conclusion that both the author and his church reached prior to departure from the CofE.

The next five chapters address the dangers of contemporary Anglican liberalism and Anglo-Catholicism. Criticism of fellow Anglican evangelicals is also found: ‘We have been negotiators rather than reformers’ (p.174), too ready to concede the biblical faith as merely one particular ‘emphasis’ rather than the exclusive, life-giving gospel.

The closing chapter is a thoughtful piece, arguing for a closer relationship between baptism and church membership. John Bunyan’s ambiguous policy on this issue is used as a case study.

Signposts from the past would be valuable to church leaders and to Christians re-thinking their denominational allegiance. In a day when we are encouraged to foster more organisational ties with evangelicals in mixed denominations, Burrows urges us to be clear and consistent in our ecclesiology. It is stirring to read the words of a man who really did draw a line in the sand.

The book does contain some typos and errors. Also, despite its recent publication, it suffers from already being 20 years out of date!
It would be interesting to read the author’s reflections on more recent developments in his old denomination. But, with some updating and tighter editing, Signposts from the past would be worthy of a much wider mainstream publication.

Matthew Cox
Chorlton, Manchester

Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Why Should I Trust the Bible?

We should trust the Bible, says Timothy Paul Jones, because it is ‘grounded in the words of a man who died and rose again’ (p.111). Jones’s basic presupposition is this: ‘If we live in a world where it is possible…

See all book reviews
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Who Am I? Human Identity and the Gospel in a Confusing World
Thomas Fretwell

In today’s secular society, religion is often regarded as without rational or scientific basis, and therefore irrelevant to life in the modern world and all areas of public engagement. If that is our social context, then it is no wonder…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
The Pastor’s Life: Practical Wisdom from the Puritans
Matthew D Haste & Shane W Parker

This book highlights ‘some of the many lessons that today’s pastors can learn from the Puritans’ (p.151). As such it is aimed at pastors, but the lessons are really for anyone who is a Christian leader. The opening chapter provides…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
5 Minutes in Church History: An Introduction to the Stories of God’s Faithfulness in the History of the Church
Stephen J Nichols

What a breath of fresh air this book is! Stephen Nichols has given us 40 vignettes from church history that are brief enough to be digested over a bowl of cereal. The book doesn’t aim to be a beginner’s guide…