Living A Mighty Faith: A Simple Heart And A Powerful Faith, by Angus Buchan
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publisher in exchange for an honest review.]
While in some ways this book is a fairly ordinary devotional , organized around a one-page devotional for each day of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with the date, a title for the devotional, a single verse of the Bible, and a commentary that goes on for about 300 words or so that discusses history, personal experience, or some kind of fairly commonplace and superficial biblical commentary, and a short prayer for the reader, in other ways this book is full of surprises. The author is a farmer with a passion for mentoring young leaders, and happens to be of Scottish descent but one of the European farmers of Southern and Central Africa who has likely found their status beleaguered in the post-independence world of black Africa. Although I had never heard of his previous writing before, he apparently wrote a memoir called Faith Like Potatoes that was turned into a film of the same name and that has given him a certain status of minor celebrity within certain Christian circles. As is common among writers, the author shows himself to have a set of consistent concerns he returns to over and over again—the need for forgiveness in believers, the combination of the reality of unearned grace and unmerited pardon for believers who repent but the need for Christians to live in holiness and obedience to God, the need to overcome worry and anxiety, a devotion to love and encouragement in dealing with family, a concern for the missionary and evangelistic work belonging to all believers, and a stark preference for practical Christianity than theoretical and intellectual faith.
What is particularly surprising about this book, though, is that it is more than merely a fairly standard evangelical devotional, but it offers something that is striking if more than a little complex in nature. Part of the complexity of the author’s belief in practice can be understood by nothing that the author is the founder of Shalom Ministries and the Beth-Hatlaim home for orphaned children. The recognition of the Hebraic content of these names for his ministry is furthered by the author’s discussion of the Sabbath and his statement that he had attended the Feast of Tabernacles in Israel (61) and had a somewhat mystical experience when hearing the Torah read for the first time at a synagogue. Yet at the same time the author speaks of going to heaven when one does, celebrates Christmas happily, and speaks also about the tendency of believers to compartmentalize their faith by limiting it to Sunday churchgoing. As a result, despite the author’s claims to be hostile to doctrinal compromise, he appears to have one foot in the world of traditional antinomian evangelical Christianity and one foot in the world of Messianic Judaism, without conscious awareness of the fundamental division and incompatibility between those two houses.
The result is a book that is worthy of some admiration, and also some criticism. The author’s appeal to black and white matters and a simplicity of approach is likely to be more appealing than writing that is cerebral and intellectual, but the result is a set of sometimes repetitive and often disorganized reflections that do not take the time to show any kind of depth. The fact that the book is nearly 400 pages as it is suggests a desire on the part of the author not to make his book any longer, and that is certainly easy enough to understand, but stringing together related concerns into a sustained discussion would have made this a far deeper work. Although the author’s straightforward preaching may appeal to some, and may make this book a bestseller, especially as a gift to others who might read it leisurely over the course of a year, many would-be readers would also take a read of this book and long for something more than strident altar calls and frequently self-referential writing that appears often a bit too much like bragging and false modesty, but would wish for something approaching self-criticism and heartfelt personal reflection. Perhaps that is expecting too much, though, of a book like this.
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