An A-Z of the Christian Life
Some books, no matter how you try, you cannot ignore. This is one of them: Plass at his best, doing what he does best, which is spotting the church's idiosyncrasies and showing them up for the sheer folly that they are — but never with malice, always aware that the people he gently (or not so gently, in some cases) pokes fun at are his brothers and sisters and that the ideas and practices he mocks are... well OK: in many cases, just plain stupid.
It is, as the subtitle says, 'An A-Z of the Christian Life': from A for
Adam: first example of someone who ruined his life by taking banned substances that had been growing in his garden. It was his bird's idea, and she got nicked as well.
Interesting, isn't it, how the woman always ends up carrying the can? Moving on: through I for
In these times: silly, pompous, Christian speaker's way of saying 'nowadays.'
and M for
Miracle: (1) extraordinary event attributed to some supernatural agency. Jesus performed and performs many miracles (2) frequent airline users who have had problems with the non-arrival of baggage will not be surprised to hear that 'miracle' is an anagram of 'reclaim'
to finish up at Z for Zephaniah, followed by Ziklag. You'll have to read the book for yourself to find out what he says about those, though: the section on Zephaniah is far too long to include here anyway, running to 12 pages... and that's just Plass' reflections on one part of one verse (based on a doubtful translation too, as it happens)... left me wondering what we'd end up with if ever his publishers decide to commission The Complete Adrian Plass Guide to the Bible??
Plass' humour won't appeal to everyone, of course: puns, knock-knock jokes and general wordplay are the order of the day; if that's not your cup of tea, keep well away. Nor will you appreciate it if you tend to be precious about your particular point of view: you're almost certain to find yourself the butt of one of his jokes at some point — if you're worried about that, don't buy the book; or if you do, don't say you weren't warned. But if you didn't leave your sense of humour in your mother's birth canal, you're in for a real treat. My only disappointment is that he doesn't give us a definition of eschatology; but I'm hoping that'll appear in volume 2 to give me something entertaining to read when I'm left behind.
It's not all humour, by the way: in between the provocation and the laughter lines you'll find plenty of food for thought and reflection. Trouble is, you'll be so busy chuckling you'll have to put the book down for a few minutes to sober up before you can read them sensibly. Be warned: this isn't a book to leave by the loo for visitors if you want to be in with a chance of using it yourself at some point. But it is one to buy an extra copy of for your fundamentalist neighbour: go on, I dare you. Wrap it up in plain brown paper first, of course.
Students at LST often ask me to recommend a dictionary of theological terms to help them through their studies. I'll probably offer them this from now on. It may not get them very far in their essays and exams, but it should teach them not to take themselves or their theology too seriously and should certainly help keep their feet on the ground...
Phil Groom, April 2008
Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.Authentic | Comments? Feedback? | Order from www.christianbookshops.org