A Dash of Reeves & A Dot of Wilson
Mike Reeves’ previous book The Good God (Delighting in the Trinity in the US edition) was one of my top books of 2012. Andrew went even further, claiming it to be the best Christian book he had ever read. After reviews like that it must be hard for an author to know where to go next! But with Christ Our Life Reeves has once more struck gold.
Christ Our Life is a small book, but I didn’t rush through it. What is most wonderful about the way Reeves writes is that he is truly devotional: this is a book to chew on and savour. Like The Good God, Christ Our Life features interesting historical and exegetical sidebars that open fascinating windows on the subject under discussion. The text is also peppered with examples of religious art through the centuries – something I appreciated, but realise might not be to everyone’s taste. Soaked in the spiritual theology of the Fathers, Reformers and Puritans (indeed Reeves opens the book by contrasting the Puritan literary focus on the delights of Christ with the more ‘how to’ approach typical of contemporary Christian authors) Reeves’ writing is rich and sonorous.
I heard Mike preach some of this material in the summer, and loved both the content and the delivery. I would guess that most readers of this blog would respond the same way, but it is meat and wine, rather than burger and coke, so might not be to the taste of all. Still, I would encourage everyone to read this book, and shall be recommending it to my congregation on Sunday, because of the way it draws the reader to Jesus. It is the kind of book that is ideal to read a page or two of each day, and be carried into worship.
Reeves is brilliant at drawing biblical threads together and creating a rich tapestry, and there are a number of nuggets here that I had previously missed. For instance, in referencing Jesus’ rather abrupt ‘Woman’ to Mary on the cross, Reeves proposes, “Perhaps it was another deliberate attempt to make it clear that, in first showing his glory at Cana and in finally dying on the cross, he was the promised seed of woman. For on the cross he was the long-expected offspring of the woman, finally crushing the serpent’s head.” Small observations like that warrant long reflection!
Reeves’ small asides can pack a punch, rhetorical as well as devotional. Take as an example this one, aimed (I assume) at an infamous statement by NT Wright:
It isn’t that Christians imagine silly spiritual shenanigans going on, Jesus wafting his righteousness to us through the ether while we sling him a package called ‘sin’. We are clothed in his righteousness because we are in him, the firstfruit. As Calvin put it: ‘We do not, therefore, contemplate [Christ] outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body – in short, because he deigns to make us one with him.’
Wow, all that debate and spilled ink settled with two original sentences and one brief quote from Calvin!
The heart and soul of Christ Our Life is probably best summed up in this quote:
The greatest benefit of union with Christ is Christ. This marriage is made so that we may know and enjoy him. Union with him is the foundation, the beginning: communion with him is the goal.
Union with Christ is so extraordinary, so mind blowing, that I fear many Christians never really grapple with what it means. Christ Our Life is a fantastic introduction to understanding this union, to knowing and enjoying him.
Reeves says that, “Ignorance of Scriptures [is] ignorance of Christ,” and for those who are ignorant, Andrew Wilson’s Unbreakable is a good place to turn. Indeed, Christ Our Life and Unbreakable are umbilically linked: Andrew provides a puff on Mike’s book, and Mike is series editor for Andrew’s book – indeed, that is one reason why it makes sense to review them side by side.
Where Christ Our Life is short, Unbreakable is tiny. I think our Puritan forebears would have described it as a pamphlet rather than a book, and it is probably shorter than a puritan sermon! I haven’t done a word count, but would guess each chapter is briefer than Andrew’s Think posts typically are.
This brevity makes Unbreakable ideal reading material for the non-reader: I would not hesitate to give this book to an enquirer, new believer or teenager, and the fact that this is a very cheap book is another point in its favour as a book to buy in order to give away.
As well as price and length, you’ll be relieved to know that Unbreakable is recommended on the strength of its content. Of course, Andrew is a friend of mine, and my copy was a freebie, but it is not simply because of that bias that I am recommending his book. Readers of this blog will be familiar with Andrew’s breezy writing style and ability to synthesise complex theological concepts in punchy prose, but he really has excelled himself here. The introduction, summarizing the biblical narrative, is spectacular and Andrew then whizzes through the following important subjects:
• The authority of scripture
• The inspiration of scripture
• The unbreakability of scripture
• The coherence of scripture
• The centre of scripture
• The canon of scripture
• The fulfilment of scripture
• The clarity of scripture
• The challenges of scripture
• The sufficiency of scripture
• The danger of scripture
• The interpretation of scripture
As well as working on and puffing one another’s books, Mike and Andrew share a similar passion for the glory of Christ. This intersection is perhaps best demonstrated with this quote from Unbreakable:
If you read the Bible as if it’s mainly about Israel, or mainly about you, it’s like reading it with a cold heart and your eyes shut. When you discover it’s mainly about Jesus, and God’s purpose for the nations through him, your heart catches fire and your eyes are opened.
Yes and Amen! I’m grateful that at this time Jesus is gracing his church with writers who know ‘how to’ but are more concerned with ‘why to’ – writers with open eyes and fiery hearts. Unbreakable and Christ Our Life are books you should own and give away. They are the kind of books that draw us to the main thing, the unbreakable truth that Christ is our life.