Review of “Time to Live” by Ann Clifford

Death and Taxes as the saying goes, yet it is only one of these subjects that we actually talk about. I can remember the deafening silence I experienced when the “D” topic was mentioned in an office I used to work at. Religion and Politics may have your dinner guests bickering, Death silences even the most troublesome. Although Christians boast in he defeat of Death on the cross of our saviour, yet we have as much problem as everyone else discussing the topic. This wrong is what the author, Ann Clifford seeks to right in a new book on how to deal with the demise of loved ones in christian manner.

The main positives in this book is simply the bravery in discussing the subject in a very easy to read manner. The author has clearly researched the topic and has bags of personal stories and anecdotes to hand. Each page is full of scriptural/theoretical discussion of various aspects of dying and dealing with death buttressed with stories and poems which make this a very movingly human read.

My only major problem with this is the manner in which the material has been organised.

The book is divided into 2 parts with part one titled, “the journey” and has 5 chapters. Although these chapters were meant to read like a coherent story from the problems of “being human” to communicating our goodbye to loved ones, the narrative however does not quite hold together. We instead get a discussion of a topic, followed by a quote, followed by a story/poem. The writing style is akin to listening an older relative and requires a lot of patience and goodwill in piecing together what is being said. A thematic arrangement would have helped better organise the material.

For example, the issue of the “Health and Wealth” gospel is discussed in chapter one and helpfully warns against the problems associated with obsessively waiting on healing rather than accepting that sometimes to depart and be with Christ is far better. The issue is again picked up again in chapter 5 in a case of a young man and his church praying for his healing:

“Convinced of God’s healing, he would brook no discussion on the possibility of death. His church bolstered him in his ‘faith’. A lost opportunity for his loved ones to say goodbye. In their view it was heartbreaking”

Several of these issues can be found discussed all over the place and the book would have been better if they were placed in close proximity to each other.

Part 2 is meant to be the practical half of the book, yet has only one chapter with the other being titled as the “the finale”. These are then followed by 2 Appendices dealing with very useful practical advice. Appendix 1 contains a “to-do-list when someone dies”, 2 discusses “choosing a care/nursing home” and 3 is a list of 30 things to do when visiting.

Overall this is a good book on the subject though I suspect it will not be the go to resource. This does not take away from the readability of Clifford’s book with its shear volume of excellent stories. This is a helpful resource and a very good start on an ongoing discussion.


The publisher of “Time to Live”, Instant Apostle provided a review copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All quotes are from this copy.


Engaging BHI; Reading Paul in the shadow of Luther

Old debates and “New Perspectives”

Martin Luther rememberedAs far as old debates go there is none older1 than Justification either; by faith or “faith + works” since the “Sola” part of “Sola fide” is the issue of contention. This was dug up (not that it was ever buried) once more quite publicly in the theological skirmish now historically known as “NT Wright vs. John Piper“. As usual many lined up on one side or the other and many blog posts were written that mischaracterised the position of either of the theologians. What wasn’t known by outsiders looking in was just how much the two parties agreed on, relying on rhetoric alone, a lot was lost in what Piper or Wright each uniquely offered in their positions. Continue reading “Engaging BHI; Reading Paul in the shadow of Luther”

Vomitorium in the Sanctuary

As a follow-up from yesterday’s post, below is one I wrote on Becky Nightingale’s blog. 

dinner for eight

As annoying as Stephen Fry is to me as an average religious person, not as a person in terms of personality, though his know-it-all demeanour when presenting QI sure could grate on anyone in real life. I speak instead of his disdain for God albeit a non-existent god. However, this post isn’t about Fry but one of Fry’s many corrections on commonly held historical facts, you know, the type that Alan Davies mentions and Fry’s buzzer goes off to tell Davies he’s wrong (again).

It is commonly (wrongfully) held that the Vomitorium can be found in the average Roman Banquet Hall. After guests have sufficiently gorged themselves and could no more, they had the opportunity to purge their stomach contents, in order to create space for more. This is in fact pure fiction ! The Vomitorium was actually an exit to a Stadium or Amphitheatre.

The myth continues because most are aware of Roman decadence. The idea that they gathered at a particular time and place to feast to their heart’s content, eating so much that they need to purge in order to return to their binging is not hard at all to imagine. Removing the image of excess from this picture, I’d like to argue that our Sunday mornings should feel like a Banquet, a feast for the senses.

Read the rest on her blog here.

A review of Martin Scorsese’s “Silence”

This is a guest post by Becky Nightingale. She is a CoE Ordinand training at St Hild and St Bede, Durham. She blogs @

Silence ScorseseThe new film, Silence, by Martin Scorcese focuses on the story of a group of Jesuit priests who go into Japan against the wishes of their elders to find their former mentor who has effectively been ex-communicated for ‘renouncing his faith’ and to continue his mission to spread the Christian message. It’s based on a novel, by Endō and is set in the 1630s, by which time there was already a ban on all foreign missionaries from entering Japan and on all Japanese from leaving. This continued until the 1860’s. Continue reading “A review of Martin Scorsese’s “Silence””

Book Report: Kierkegaard, a single Life

KierkegaardJust as Kierkegaard sought to reintroduce Christ to Christendom; Backhouse has done a great job of introducing Kierkegaard to a popular audience. Soren Kierkegaard as an author has always enjoyed interest from a specialist audience, the average person only speaks of him in unattributed quotes – “leap of faith” or being authentic.

In around 200 pages, the reader will get a good sense of who our subject is but not in a dry academic tone but as an imaginative biography with its very own fascinating love story. In another 115 pages, Backhouse provides a summary of every literary work by the Dane.

A major point of dispute about the book is the ‘fictional’ tone adopted by Backhouse which is sure to annoy Kierkegaard nerds. The popular reader as well might get a feeling that most of the story is being made up by the author though part of the fault is Kierkegaard’s for living such an unbelievable life. I get the feeling that though Backhouse would accept this criticism, he will not take back his decision to write as he did.

On the whole, this is a very enjoyable and needed biography of the danish Philosopher. With such an effort, a biopic is not far off and wider readership is sure to follow. Be warned though, Kierkegaard himself is not easy to read.