Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Holding Together: Gospel, Church and Spirit by Christopher Cocksworth

Holding Together: Gospel,Church and Spirit-the essentials of Christian indentity: Gospel, Church and Spirit - The Essentials of Christian Identity Holding Together: Gospel,Church and Spirit-the essentials of Christian indentity: Gospel, Church and Spirit - The Essentials of Christian Identity by Christopher J. Cocksworth

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book has an admirable intention. It tries to show that the Scripture, the Church and the Spirit are essential elements of being Christian which all churches must hold together if they are to be true to the core of Christianity. It is aimed especially at the evangelical wing of the church, but it also has challenging things to say to the Catholic wing especially about the place of Scripture.

There are very compelling arguments made , based on biblical and early church evidence. The works of the Protestant Reformers, such as Luther and Calvin are quoted too; and the principal source of evidence for an evangelical appreciation of the Eucharist is the work of John and Charles Wesley.

There is a very good chapter on the role of Mary in Christian spirituality. Whilst it may not persuade convinced believers in the Bodily Assumption or the Immaculate Conception to moderate their adherence to these dogmas; it may persuade evangelicals that they need to give fresh attention to Mary.

The large gap in the book is its failure to bridge the bigger yawning gulf in the Church, which is between the liberals or progressives and the conservatives, be they catholic , evangelical or charismatic. Liberal Christians will definitely be disappointed in this book if they had looked for fresh thinking on how to hold together with conservatives. Barack Obama might have more to offer them on this topic than this book.

Evangelicals and Catholics who are both in their own ways traditional in orientation have lived together in the same house in the Church of England like an old married couple whose love for each other has declined, but have decided its too expensive to get divorced. There are occasional , and sometimes fierce spats over territory, but on the whole they rub along without talking to each other more than they need to. Cocksworth's commendable hope is that they might learn to love one another again, and bring the house back to life.

The fierce arguments however are in the wider Anglican Communion, and especially within the United States, over how binding on the future church are traditional conceptions of Christian identity, personal and communal. So there are conflicts over homosexuality and gender issues.

I don't recall a single reference to homosexuality or women bishops in this book.

Finally the biggest difficulty with the book is its style. It is a very tough read. It can no more be digested in one sitting than a whole Christmas pudding!There is little to lighten the dense concentration of facts and arguments. It might be said that there are ten books in one here. Too much of the prose exposes its origins in theological college lecture or sermon. There is little likelihood that the book will be persevered with by those who might need to hear its message. It could be a useful source for Anglican ordinands in training; though the lack of a subject index limits this.

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