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.

Note

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.

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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.

Book Report: Counted Righteous in Christ

counted-righteous-in-christThe bulk of the argument is in the 3rd chapter where Piper presents exegetical arguments for imputed righteousness, particularly in Romans (and other related pauline texts). Although, the rest of the book – especially the first 3 chapters – could appear to be padding in order to convert an essay into a book (which it is); it does also provide the pastoral and practical background to the arguments presented against Gundry. This sets Piper apart from his opponents in the same way Augustine differed from Pelagius – one was coming from the hard slug of pastoral concerns, the other mostly academic.

Chapter 3 could either be a hard slug or the meat of the matter depending on who is reading. Expect references to the Greek text. The general advice to read just the Introduction and Conclusion (chapter 1,2 and 4) to get the gist of the matter applies here also. Wade into chapter 3 at your own peril.

Excerpts from the Underground

Lonely TrainI was introduced literally to Fyodor Dostoyevsky through Kierkegaard and cinematically through Richard Ayoade’s film based on Dostoyevsky’s novel, the double  (Ayoade once said in an interview, “there is Darth Vader in all of us, I think about that everyday in the shower“. This quote was just to get a Star Wars reference in. Sorry) . Subsequently I greedily bought a few of Dostoyevsky’s works only to not have time to read them, which is pretty much the problem every bibliophile faces – so many books, so little time (Ecclesiastes 12:12).

Eventually I thought it good to start small with “the meek one” and was not at all disappointed. Taste and see they say, so back for more I am with “the underground” and luckily the copy I have also has “the double” included, double for my buck.

Continue reading “Excerpts from the Underground”