The Global Public Square by Os Guinness (IVP)
Traditional Baptists committed to religious liberty will find much to applaud in the latest book by prolific author and social critic Os Guinness. Essentially, The Global Public Square offers an exposition of the Global Charter of Conscience, published in Brussels at the European Parliament in June 2012. Guinness was a drafter of the global charter, as well as the earlier Williamsburg Charter, issued to commemorate the bicentennial of Virginia’s call for a Bill of Rights.
Guinness issues a stirring defense of soul freedom for all—the inviolable freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. He rightly recognizes it as “the foundational freedom to be human.” He calls for cultivating civility and building a global public square that maximizes soul freedom for people of all faiths and none.
However, Guinness demonstrates an odd willingness to concede what many Baptists would consider fundamental principles while taking a hard line on what would seem to be less clear-cut applications of principles. For instance he insists, “Each country has the right to its own heritage,” and therefore off-handedly dismisses the idea of the disestablishment of the Church of England as “an act of culpable folly.” Ironically, this appears just a few pages after Guinness issues a blistering attack on the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, calling it a “violation of conscience.” He insists the accommodation the Obama administration offered religious organizations amounted to no more than “a shell game.” New Testament references to gnats and camels, choking and swallowing come to mind.
Readers likely will not agree with every conclusion Guinness reaches in this thought-provoking book. That’s good. Freedom of thought involves wrestling with new and challenging ideas. Enjoy the wrestling match.
Ken Camp, managing editor
I Believe in Heaven by Cecil Murphey & Twila Belk (Regal Books)
I Believe in Heaven: Real Stories from the Bible, History and Today follows the same two-part format as its companion volume, I Believe in Healing, published earlier in 2013. Both books were compiled and written by veteran author Cecil Murphey and his writing assistant, Twila Belk.
Part One includes more than 65 stories about personal glimpses of heaven from history and today. None of the accounts conflict with what Christians believe and Scripture teaches.
Part Two contains a 124-page question-and-answer section, including Bible stories of heaven and many scriptural references that help answer questions: What is paradise? Is it different from heaven? Murphey, a theologically trained former pastor and missionary, provides solid responses to commonly asked questions about heaven, presenting various positions when needed.
The authors vetted the personal stories selected for the book. Some include specific place names and even particular hospitals, so they are subject to verification. Many of the accounts offer similar testimonies of experiences and sights. Their combined impact is powerful, making a reader feel as if heaven is mere inches away, just the other side of a thick curtain.
I Believe in Heaven can build up the faith of believers and strengthen the faith of those with doubts.
Tempted, Tested, True: A Proven Path to Overcoming Soul-Robbing Choices by Arnie Cole & Michael Cole (Bethany House)
Arnie Cole, chief executive officer of Back to the Bible, and Michael Ross, author of What Your Son Isn’t Telling You, penned this highly interactive book about dealing with temptation. Actually, it is two books in one: (1) a faith-building guide filled with practical solutions and (2) a personal and small-group workbook.
Tempted, Tested, True talks freely about our sin nature and how we misuse God’s grace. It further gives real-life testimonies from several individuals and 10 “nudges” to fight against temptation.
The sins people practice—some unique to men, others distinctive to women and many universal to all of us—are covered in the book. The authors pose probing questions and provide space for readers to write their own responses.
The final two chapters, “Unmasking the Real Me” and “Ending Point” encourage the reader to accept grace in everyday life through these concrete steps—read, pray, reflect, converse and watch. Informative appendices and notes are included at the end of the book.
This is a good book for the Christian working through the sins in his or her life.
Skip Holman, minister of discipleship
Northeast Baptist Church