Stephen Hawking Brief Answers to the Big Questions

‘Newton gave us answers. Hawking gave us questions. And Hawking’s questions themselves keep on giving, generating breakthroughs decades later. When ultimately we master the quantum gravity laws, and comprehend fully the birth of our universe, it may largely be by standing on the shoulders of Hawking.’ So said Professor Kip Thorne in 2018 at the interment of Stephen Hawking’s ashes between Newton and Darwin in Westminster Abbey under a stone engraved with Hawking’s equation linking for calculating the temperature of a black hole.
The final work of cosmologist and disability campaigner Stephen Hawking, more penetrable than his earlier popular work ‘Brief History of Time’, addresses these questions: Is there a God? How did it all begin? Can we predict the future? What is inside a black hole? Is time travel possible? How do we shape the future? Will we survive on Earth? Is there other intelligent life in the universe? Should we colonise space? Will artificial intelligence outsmart us? The …

Bill Mitchell’s Yorkshire David Mitchell

‘The city man queried which creature had made such a blood-curdling sound. The dalesman said, ‘It was an owl’. ‘I know that,’ was the reply, ‘but what was ’owling?’’ Yorkshire folk may drop their ‘aitches’ but get a good laugh about life in Bill Mitchell’s insightful perspective. His ‘Yorkshire’ compiled by his son celebrates their home county with special focus on the Yorkshire Dales. Bill joined the staff of ‘The Dalesman’ in 1949 and his journalism ‘putting people before things’ has wide-range and warmth captured in this selection from his two hundred books and booklets about Yorkshire life.
Alan Bennett writes ‘Bill can draw on forty years of experience in travelling the valleys and trumping across the hills, talking to all and sundry’. As former Settle residents my family enjoyed such talk with Bill up to his death in 2015 as well as with his late wife Freda. They met on the trademark Settle bus, the orange-sided Pennine variety. ‘In the ten minutes twixt Gargrave and Skipton I ha…

Ed Husain The House of Islam

‘In essence, Muslims are expected to be people of shukr, or gratitude. The Quranic opposite to shukr is kufr or disbelief. As a community of gratitude, it is among the greatest acts of ingratitude to burn the bridges of pluralism and secularism that allow for Muslims to observe their faith in the West’. That bridge burning is addressed head on in this topical book by a former Muslim extremist now passionate for the recovery of Islam’s mainstream. ‘The House of Islam is on fire – and the arsonist still lives there. Neighbours can bring water to put out the fire, but Muslims must also expel the fire bombers in their midst’.

Londoner Ed Husain helped found Quilliam, the world’s first counter-extremism think tank, in Britain. His latest book is a highly readable history of Islam giving insight into how things have come to be as they are and inviting strategies like the founding of a Middle East Union to improve a dangerous scenario. That scenario is traced back to the attempt by Saudi Ar…

Paula Gooder Phoebe - A Story

I remember how 101 Best Bible Stories first got me reading Scripture. Where someone honours the biblical accounts by rewriting them imaginatively yet faithfully they engage a wider readership. In Phoebe Paula Gooder opens up the world of the first Christians using her New Testament scholarship to bring scripture alive through writing a life of Paul’s coworker Phoebe.
You can engage in the book in two ways. Two thirds of it is a well written 32 Chapter story centred on Phoebe. The last third reflects back on the story providing notes on the chapters. Besides explaining or justifying the plot, the notes further open up the world of the first century and the emergence of Christianity within it. Rome, Corinth and Jerusalem are principal places of interest. Gooder builds from the verses that mention Phoebe in Romans Chapter 16: I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whate…

Jordan Peterson 12 Rules for Life - An Antidote to Chaos

How had thinking so simple, clear, direct, deep and traditional found a voice on BBC and gone viral on YouTube? This lay behind my ordering Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson’s new book on how to live your life that I imagined would be in a different league from other self-help books. I wasn’t disappointed so that the book set me to inner dialogue with the social activist, indulgent parent and softee churchman that’s me. This showed I was following two of the author’s twelve rules: ‘treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping… assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t’.
I struggled with the individualist focus until I grasped it would be the natural approach of a psychologist i.e. set your own house in order before you criticise the world (another of Peterson’s rules) and the book’s being marketed as self-help. As the author opened up how social activism can be fuelled by grievance more than generosity I recalled spiritual counsel on…

Holy Living Rowan Williams

On a visit to the local monastery for spiritual direction I was struck by the number of monks reading this book and raised humorously the question ‘how are you getting on with Holy Living’? My own reading had preceded theirs and this review provides my answer! That so many involved in religious life and spiritual direction look to Rowan Williams as an authority is a tribute to the breadth and depth of his engagement with the Christian tradition even if the density of his thought can be overpowering.

Though dense he is challenging, full of spiritual wisdom and can make one sentence summaries of immense realms. I liked these sentences on church controversy, globalisation, Sunday trading and sex: ‘We have little incentive to be open with each other if we live in an ecclesial environment where political conflict and various kinds of grievance are the dominant currency… Structures and landscapes that proclaim the powerlessness of individuals and of small-scale societies to exercise any cre…

Shandong - The Revival Province Paul Hattaway

There are indisputably 100 million Christians among China’s 1,400 million population. The growth of so many believers has come with much hardship and many miracles and most dramatically in the eastern coastal province of Shandong. This first of this series of China Chronicles covering church growth in Shandong comes from The Heavenly Man author, Paul Hattaway with a preface by Brother Yun. The series is aimed at the Church in China and overseas, evidencing the spiritual legacy of the last 160 years, building from Hattaway’s 30 year missionary service in China.

China Chronicles starts publication of God’s mighty acts there coincident with new persecution of the house church movement distances itself from state authorisation. Today such leaders are being imprisoned and their church buildings pulled down. For all of this the Evangelical movement can look back through centuries of persecution and hardship to ongoing resurrection of the body of Christ from occasions of despoliation. This p…