Category Archives: books

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Paradox Radio

Looking forward to talking on BBC local radio stations tomorrow morning about the Judas Paradox – one of the chapters from my new book Paradoxology: why christianity was never meant to be simple.

Here’s the running order:

If you are up early tune in. Some of the BBC local radio sunday programmes encourage people to phone in and engage in the discussion – so feel free to give your station a call.

0700 GUERNSEY
0708 MERSEYSIDE
0715 SOLENT
0722 BERKSHIRE
0738 CAMBRIDGE
0745 DERBY
0752 LIECESTER
0808 NORFOLK
0815 JERSEY
0822 HEREFORD & WORCESTER
0830 CORNWALL
0852 ULSTER

I’m zooming over from the Word Alive event in Prestatyn Pontins to the be in the Liverpool studios of Radio Merseyside. Please pray for safe travel but also this will be a genuine opportunity to talk meaningfully about the good news of Christianity on the radio.

I will be talking about the paradox of Judas; here’s a little snippet from Paradoxology that introduces the themes:

I have been wrestling with the question of Judas since the very first time I read the story for myself. His name has become a byword for betrayal. Was he intrinsically evil, or did the devil make him do it? Even more controversially, did God plan for Judas to betray Jesus? Was Judas born for damnation? Was his future already mapped out when he was an embryo? While he was a toddler learning to walk and talk, was his fate already decided – was it predetermined that he would betray the Son of God? Is Judas a tragic hero of the providence of God, a man to be pitied more than any other, or is he the master villain of the gospel story? Had God pre-programmed him as the robot assassin of the Son of God? If he had no choices, was Judas truly human?

In short: was Judas pushed – or did he jump?

 

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Christianity was never meant to be simple

Really excited to show you this little video ( some may even say  its a mini-movie).  We made it to help people realise that asking big questions about your faith is a good thing.

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You can pre-order Paradoxology: Why Christianity was never meant to be simple right now or if you are at Spring Harvest or World Alive you can buy it right away from the bookshop.

We had great fun making it so special thanks to:
Lucas  who plays young old me.
Zach  who plays the friend.
Ruth who plays my Sunday School Teacher.
Joel who is plays a medic.
Special thanks to visionary film maker John Bowen.

What people are saying about Paradoxology:
“a thought-provoking, compassionate, and courageous book”
Dr Lucy Peppiatt,
Principal Westminster Theological Centre

“A must-read for the countless folk, both inside and outside Christian churches today, whose faith,or search for faith, is shot through with unresolved questions”
Bruce Milne
Author of Know the Truth

“In his characteristically engaging way, Krish shows us how the paradoxes of faith are not to be feared or reasoned away but believed and actively treasured.”
Adrian Reynolds
Director of Ministry, The Proclamation Trust

“Paradoxology is neither overly dense nor simplistic and yet it is both intellectually and emotionally satisfying. If you are looking for a book to help you wrestle with some of the most difficult questions of our faith, you have found it.”
Andy Croft
Associate Director of Soul Survivor

“After reading Paradoxology you may think that some of the doubts and contradictions you were so certain disproved Christianity were a result of seeing the world in two dimensions, rather than the robust 3D nature of the Gospel.”
David Kinnaman,
Author unChristian and You Lost Me,
President Barna Group

Krish questions simplistic answers and offers thoughtful answers to
sincere questions. This celebratory approach elevates our view of God beyond religious monotone, and will help many people – whether or not they call themselves Christian – who want to understand the great characters and themes of scripture without kissing their brains goodbye.
Pete Grieg
Founder 24/7

This book has been a labour of love for the past 18 months and has been in parallel with my work on Confidence in the Gospel at the Evangelical Alliance.

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Teaching Paradox

I am a big fan of the creative sermon series. By taking a fresh angle we can help the congregation encounter God in scripture in ways that will equip them for the life of faith. 

My latest book Paradoxology comes out on the 10th of April and as some of my other books have been helpful to churches as a interesting teaching series I thought I would give you a heads up on how a church could get the best out of the book.

Paradoxology aims to help Christians to life-proof their faith by pressing into the deeper and more difficult parts of the Bible. Parts that are usually skirted round or ignored all together – the parts that cause us to face some of the paradoxes in our theology. By deliberately pursuing these difficult parts we can open up the scriptures to people by dealing with some of their biggest fears or challenges.

The book could easily form the basis of a teaching series – perhaps broken into two: chapter 1-8 are Old Testament while 9-13 are New Testament.  I have preached all of the chapters over the years – and they do work well as a series.  I am a big fan of positive reinforcement of the preaching so having people read through a chapter before meeting for small group will help people grapple more fully with some of the big ideas they are encountering.

I am toying with making some small group questions available. If you are interested let me know.

Continue reading

Old Globe

Global Evangelicals

First published in Anvil March 2014

The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism, Brian Stanley, IVP

“Dwell on the past and you will lose an eye; forget the past and you will lose both eyes.”

Often evangelicals have a nostalgic view of the past, whether it is those of us who believe the Reformation was the high water mark of Christianity or those of us who discovered the worship revival of the 1970s, evangelicals often enjoy reminiscing of better days. But a Cyclops still has an advantage over the blind so it would seem a wise investment to explore the history of a movement that has grown to global status so rapidly over the past half century.

Brian Stanley is the most qualified person I can think of to write the fifth volume in IVP’s “A History of Evangelicalism” series. Previous volumes have included such luminary historians as David Bebbington and Mark Knoll but Stanley’s role as an evangelical historian serving as Professor of World Christianity at Edinburgh University is ideal for the task of writing a history of the globalisation of evangelicalism in the English-speaking world.  Stanley has written a fascinating and engaging volume that rewards careful reading.

Rather than attempting a narrative history of the 1940s to 1990s of evangelicalism, Professor Stanley writes an introduction and then eight thematic essays exploring a broad range of trends.

1. Evangelicals and Fundamentalism

The first essay explores the evolving relationship between evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Noting that in the United States the defining feature of evangelicalism was differentiation from fundamentalism while in the United Kingdom the identity of evangelicals was formed in distinction from liberalism. This is a powerful and helpful distinction and may be the root of much miscommunication between American and European evangelicals.

2. Evangelicals and Globalised Networks

The second essay explores how evangelical networks globalised. Stanley focuses on the ministry of Billy Graham, the formation of the World Evangelical Fellowship (now known as the World Evangelical Alliance), the indigenisation process at work in Scripture Union and the worldwide effects of the East African Revival. Stanley notes how the decision in 1947 of Scripture Union director John Laird to deconstruct the movement’s “imperial” structure led to remarkable growth in Africa and a whole slew of indigenous leaders developing. This is a strategy that still needs further global application for many organisations 65 years on.

 3. Evangelical Scholarship Matters

The third essay highlights the growth of evangelical scholarship once thought an oxymoron due to confusion between evangelicals and fundamentalists. The development of Tyndale House in Cambridge is shown to have played a vital role. In a fascinating piece of theological archaeology Stanley also shows how the subsequent editions and revisions of the New Bible Commentary can act as a window of the increasing conservatism on issues such as biblical inspiration, infallibility and openness to biblical criticism. Stanley also notes the way that at the turn of the century systematic expositional preaching was not a norm in the diet of evangelical churches and it is through the preaching of G. Campbell Morgan and of course Dr Martin Lloyd Jones and John Stott that it became a staple.

4. Evangelicals and Apologetics 

In his fourth essay Professor Stanley tracks the development of evangelical apologetics and highlights the work of Cornelius Van Till, Edward Carnell, Carl F. Henry, Francis Schaeffer and Alvin Plantinga who in different ways helped evangelicals to defend the faith in the academies. Yet Stanley demonstrates that  non-evangelicals such as Lesslie Newbigin and more significantly C.S. Lewis offered “an intellectual armoury of a very different kind from that offered by the sterling efforts of conservative theologians”.

5. Evangelicals and Lausanne 

The captivating story of the Lausanne Congress on world evangelisation is told in the fifth essay. The Congress, the brainchild of Billy Graham, and after some coercion joined by John Stott brought together leaders from across the world in 1974. Stanley tells how the American-dominated programme was challenged by Latin American theologians: Rene Padilla (the need to rethink the cultural accommodation of Christianity in the West), Samuel Escobar (the need to engage with social justice in mission) and Orlando Costas (the need for contextualisation). Tribute is paid to John Stott’s mediatory skills in helping to include these insights into the final Lausanne statement. It is interesting to note that the UK reception to Lausanne was lukewarm – a term which applies to my experience of UK delegations at more recent global gatherings.

 6. Evangelicals and the Global Charismatic and Pentecostals Movements

The sixth essay tracks the development of global charismatic and Pentecostal movements. Tracing the rise in healing ministries, John Wimber, the adaptation of worship music, the Toronto Blessing, the impact of Bretherenism on Newfrontiers and the birth of Alpha. Stanley is on the whole positive about the impact, stating: “The global evangelical family gained much-needed spiritual vitality as a result.”

7. Evangelical Hermeneutics 

The seventh essay tackles hermeneutics, gender and sexual ethics. I think it was somewhat unfortunate to lump these issues together. There are very few women mentioned in the entire volume – the history of the global proliferation of evangelicalism is mainly told through white male leaders. When Stanley does get round to engage with women it is in the context of a debate around the role of hermeneutics that ends with an exploration of evangelical responses to homosexuality. Stanley tackles the controversy around women’s ministry by citing the debate between Melvin Tinker, a prominent member of Reform, who argued for a “slippery slope” that a change of view on women’s ministry would lead to the approval of homosexual relationships. Tinker’s debate with Dick France, then principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford who argued clearly and robustly that it does not. He then goes on to cite Stanley Grenz and Paul King Jewetts’ argument that there is no intrinsic link between a changed view on women’s ministry and homosexuality. It was a shame that the role of women in the proliferation of evangelicalism is only cast in the middle of this debate.

 8. Global Evangelical Trends

The last essay was a sobering one to read. Professor Stanley attempts to summarise the trends he sees at work in the evangelical world today. Stanley revisits the post-evangelical debate of Dave Tomlinson and comments that many conservatives (Professor Don Carson included) refuse to see a difference between post-evangelicals and post-conservatives such as Stanley Grenz and NT Wright. I have experienced this kind of tarring with the same brush such that if you take a different view on the role of women to the likes of Don Carson, John Piper and Wayne Grudem you are effectively labeled a non-evangelical. Stanley seeks to mediate the divide between Postconservative/ Open Evangelicals and Conservative Evangelicals. After citing Carson’s withering critique of Stanley Grenz’s “Renewing the centre” where Carson concludes that Grenz’s work was ‘truly outside of the evangelical camp’ Brian Stanley states that: “Grenz, however remained until his death a faithful member of First Baptist Church, Vancouver, under the conservative expository ministry of Bruce Milne… Assessments of the state of evangelicalism can be misleading if they focus exclusively on academic theological arguments and neglect the evidence of spirituality and church life.”

 Evaluation

In many ways this book, though skillfully written, is a depressing read. Stanley recognises this in his summation when he states: “It is part of the vocation of the church historian to remind Christians who may be depressed about the current condition of the church that states of division and uncertainty are the norm rather than the exception in Christian history” (p.237).

There is a note of encouragement in the midst of the gloom. When we look back to the halcyon days of evangelical unity that saw the renewed confidence and growth of evangelicalism – there was as much disunity and the term evangelical was as contested then as it is now and that evangelicalism seems to be perennially needing to rediscover its identity. For me if the apostle Paul can call the church to continually hold firm to the gospel and continually re-examine those that claim to present the gospel in light of the apostolic witness – it seems evangelicalism’s need to continually re-examine itself in light of scripture is a healthy one.

Sadly, I think Brian Stanley is optimistic in his closing sentiment that “the battle for the integrity of the gospel in the opening years of the 21st century is being fought not primarily in the lecture rooms of North American seminaries but in the shanty towns, urban slims and villages of Africa, Asia and Latin America”. We praise God for the proliferation of the gospel that is bearing so much fruit among the poor. We rejoice that the centre of gravity of the church has moved to the global south. But in my limited experience of working with the poor – the gospel that is being spoken about there looks a lot like the Western individualistic virtually-gnostic version that we have exported. The battle for the integrity of the gospel is being fought on social media and in the budget meetings of western publishers and conference organisers where global celebrities are made out of certain preachers who export their cultural assumptions to the rest of the world. We need to allow the spirit of the first Lausanne congress to continue on and allow the global church to be reshaping our understanding of mission and the gospel in the light of scripture. We need to continually fight the imperialism of Western domination in global evangelicalism.

 

Stanley’s well written and researched book will help evangelicals to avoid the blindness of ahistoricity; perhaps we need a companion volume to help us know what we can learn from Evangelicals in the non English speaking world?

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The Power of Paradox

I used to fear paradoxes – those difficult parts of our faith that cause us to double take when we read them in the Bible or set off questions in our mind when we reflect on them.

For example:

  • Why does an all-sufficient God ask so much of his followers?
  • Why does the God of all love apparently command genocide on the Canaanites?
  • Why does the ever-present God often feel so far away?To name but three.

I used to avoid paradoxes hoping they would go away. But having spent the last 18 months staring paradoxes in the face I have come to the conclusion that the paradoxes of our faith are a gift to us because they surprise us.

Connecting with the surprising God is incredibly good for us. Idols don’t surprise us because they are human made constructs who act like ventriloquist dummies for our own hopes and dreams.

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If your god fits neatly into a philosophical or theological system the chances are he is one that you made up.  Think about it this way – most people I know don’t like being put into a box – I don’t like it when people look at me with my brown skin and think they know where I am from or what I am like. If finite human beings don’t fit into neat categorical boxes then how much less does the infinite and immortal God? Many of us have tried to put God into a box –the sides of which are made of the boundaries of our understanding.  We seem happiest when God fits into our boxes as it means he is predictable and we are safe to navigate around him.

Paradoxes occur at the conceptual limits of our thinking – when we can’t seem to make rational sense of what we understand about God. Paradoxes are suprising and uncomfortable as they occur when God doesn’t fit into the boxes we have made for him.

I would like to suggest that by being willing to look at the boundaries, the cutting edge, the outer limits of our understanding is an excellent place to learn. When we are at the frontiers of our understanding of God we are at one of the most exciting places to be in our thinking about God. Just like a research scientist goes looking for the most difficult problems to solve – so Christians hungry to know the true and living God can find great food for thought in the paradoxes of scripture.

The God that fits neatly into our church services, our songs is not the god we really want or need. He is a god we have attempted to cut down to size. Its time we allowed the reality and complexity of God to challenge and provoke us to love him as he really is rather than the safe projection of a god we often settle for.

I invite you to join me in meeting the surprising God.

Pre order your copy of  Paradoxology: Why Christianity was never meant to be simple.

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5 things to learn from Bear and Fry

Just came across this lovely little conversation between Stephen Fry and Bear Grylls.  Its a nice little cameo of an atheist and a Christian conversation. Hats off to both of these men for conducting themselves so well.  I wish all Christian / Atheist Conversation could take place with this kind of spirit and tone.

 

5 Things you can learn from this exchange

 

1. Tone Matters

Very little constructive conversation ever takes place when we start off with aggression. These men obviously respect eachother and so are able to talk with calmness and respect which makes for a more interesting and productive conversation.

Stephen Fry says “I am ashamed of my fellow atheists who are mocking of people who have faith…” well said Mr Fry mockery is not a helpful place to begin a conversation for Christians or for Atheists.

2. Shoulder to Shoulder

I think a lot of dialogue goes better when we can talk shoulder to shoulder rather than face to face. In this clip both men are looking at nature and trying to explain their reaction to it rather than simply confronting each others beliefs. I have found working with atheists (and people of other faiths) to try and solve problems like poverty and injustice can be a great place for a meaningful conversation. Working shoulder to shoulder is a great posture for an adult conversation.

3. Nature is a great apologetic

As Stephen Fry says when confronted by the beauty of the panoramic view in  front of him “a vast landscape like this does make you think all the imponderable questions come tumbling into your mind.” Perhaps if we spent more time in nature with our atheist friends there’s more chance of these transcendent experiences prompting deeper conversation.

4. Honesty

Stephen Fry is a very bright man and Bear Grylls is a really tough guy. Bear doesn’t try and use some academic sounding argument to show the flaws of atheism and Fry doesn’t belittle Grylls faith. A man of letters and a man of the wilds talk openly and unashamedly of their beliefs – that means there’s no reason why we can’t all do the same.

5. Listen 

To me it doesn’t feel that either person is trying to score points over the other. Its an honest exchange. Of course there are challenges to be made in both mens’ arguments but there’s an important time in any conversation where you express what you believe honestly and listen well to what the other person has to say. Too often Christians and Atheists try to out manoeuvre each other – to trap and trick each other in conversation rather than genuinely engage. Here’s a great conversation in action.

Love to hear your thoughts about how we can encourage a better kind of conversation between Christians and Atheists. Drop me a comment below.

Thanks for visiting the site.

 

PS Here are some books that I think attempt to do the conversation differently:

By an Atheist:
Reason, Faith and Revolution: reflections on the God Debate, Terry Eagleton.  

By a Christian:
The Reasons for God, Belief in an Age of Scepticism, Tim Keller

 

 

 

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TEDx Oxford speakers

Looking forward to the TEDx event in Oxford. Thought I would do a bit of research on the speakers. My son is coming along with me and is really looking forward to the chance to interact with some big ideas. Here is some info on all of the speakers that I know abou. I have also included a tongue in cheek attempt to guess the talk titles they will speak to.

Laura Bates

Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, a collection of over 10,000 women’s daily experiences of gender inequality. If you have spent any time on Twitter in the last year you could not have missed this really helpful campaign that has exposed the subtle (and not so subtle) ways gender inequality is experienced in normal life.

You may want to visit Everday Sexism’s website to get a taste of this important work.

Paul Collier

Pau is a world renowned developmental economist with a particular interest in poverty. He is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, and Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at The University of Oxford and Fellow of St Antony’s College

I really enjoyed reading The Bottom Billion which explored the reasons why the poorest countries in the world are remaining poor. His latest book “Exodus” and I am guessing the topic of his lecture, is pretty controversial as the reviewer Kenan Malik  in the Independent argued.

But despite its wealth of statistical evidence, there is often a chasm between that evidence and Collier’s more contentious arguments. Many of its solutions are morally questionable.

Best bet for a talk title:

“How UKIP can appeal to the leftist elites”

Susan Greenfield

Susan Adele Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield, CBE, HonFRCP is a British scientist, writer, broadcaster, and member of the House of Lords.
John Tate. One of her areas of interest and the one I am hoping she is speaking on is the impact of technology on the brain. Susan’s work has sparked controversy in the past but she should be a very engaging speaker. On her website she asks:

What impact are technologies such as computer games, the Internet and social media having on the brain? Is Mind Change the new Climate Change?

She has authored numerous books including “Tomorrows People” :how 21st century Technology is changing the way we think and feel. 

My bet for a talk title:

“Is Candy Crush making us stupid? Is Facebook losing us friends?”

Anders Sandberg

Anders Sandberg’s research at the Future of Humanity Institute centres on societal and ethical issues surrounding human enhancement and new technology, as well as estimating the capabilities and underlying science of future technologies.

This topic seems to be in the sweet spot of the Wired and TED audience – can’t find anything he has written on it though…

Best Bet for talk title:

“The Future’s So Bright I had to wear Google Shades”

Peter Millican

Peter seems to be a real polymath – not only is he  Gilbert Ryle Fellow and Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College, Oxford University. He has also written numerous computer packages including the Turtle graphics programming System. My guess is that Peter’s research into “The Philosophical Significance of the Turing Machine and the Turing Test” might be TED friendly topic that he could speak on. It would tie in well with Sandberg and Greenfield’s specialities.

My bet for a Talk Title:

“Are you smarter than your smart phone?”

Augusta Thompson

Really excited to discover that Augusta is  Director of Corporate Outreach and Distribution for the Girl Rising film project. Check out the  amazing trailer here:

My bet for talk title:

“Changing the world one girl at a time: with help from Selena Gomez and Salma Hayek”

Richard Layard

Peter Richard Grenville Layard, Baron Layard FBA is a British labour economist, currently working as programme director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. I have had his book on my shelf for a while “Happiness: lessons from a new science” and have been meaning to read it – will hopefully manage a quick skim before Ted Ex.

My best bet for a talk title:

“Shiny Happy People: poverty, development and economics”  

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5 Questions to prepare yourself for 2014

I always find New Year an excellent time for a bit of an audit of my life. It’s is a double milestone for me, as I have a birthday on 31st December (birthdays are always another great time for life audits). Rather than set New Year’s resolutions I find asking good questions and then trying to reorientate my life works for me. Here are 5 questions I am asking myself to prepare for 2014 I thought they might be worth sharing.
Take a look and see if there are any more I should add?Let me know if they help you.

2014

5. Are God’s priorities driving my life?

- Is there anything God wants to change about what I am doing?
- Has my personal growth, career, ambition or reputation dislodged God from the rightful centre of my life?

4. How can I demonstrate God’s character this year?

- How can I be more godly in my family, workplace, neighbourhood, social media usage?
- What areas of my life is the Holy Spirit prompting me to shine more brightly for Christ?

3. What new habits might help me to be more attentive to God?

- Prayer – how can I listen more effectively to God?
- Bible study – how can I allow God’s word to set the direction of my life?
- Communion – how can I deepen my relationship with God’s people?
Whom could I help to grow in their faith? Who could help me grow in maturity?
- Rest – how can i make sure my work does not become an idol?
- Reading – how can I keep my faith fresh and engaged through reading helpful literature?

2. To whom can I show the hospitality of God?

- I have used the word hospitality rather than generosity because one way we sometimes try to alleviate a guilty conscience about poverty is to give money away rather than give ourselves away.
- Is there anything I can do to offer hospitality to the vulnerable in my community?
- Are there more children we can consider fostering or adopting?  How can I better support those that foster and adopt?

1.How can I effectively share the good news of Jesus in my life and words this year?

- The thing I am most grateful for in my life is the gospel. The good news that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection have opened a way for me to be adopted into God’s family. I don’t want anyone to miss out on this incredible privilege and so I want to look closely at my life to see how I can better share the goodnews graciously, winsomely and clearly.

The West will not and has not saved the Rest

World Christian Movement Volume II: Modern Christanity from 1454 to 1800
Dale T. Irvin & Scott W. Sunquist

I had a strange feeling as I read a book about missionary heroes to my children each bedtime. Each hero was a white man who had travelled from the West to save the poor natives.

I had another strange feeling as I read a recent book about the Spiritual danger of doing good written by a CEO of a Christian microfinance development charity where we learnt a lot about the author and some famous american friends he had but all we heard about the rest of the world was how grateful they were for american help and how corrupt people were in Africa.

So it was with great relief that this volume arrived for me to review.

history-world-christian-movement-vol-iiThis book tells a lot of the untold story of global Christianity over the 350 year period between 1454 (just after the fall of Constantinople) to 1800 . Its a tough read but told with a lot of verve and rigor. You will be introduced to new names and new perspectives in the global church that will help western Christians see that we have lots to be ashamed in our history and that we might need a rethink as we uncritically step in as the missionary saviors of the world.

I was encouraged to see so many women named among the heroes and influencers of the church and especially pleased to read about indigenous leaders from around the world taking the lead in the spread of the gospel.

It is sobering reading as sadly the church’s collusion with empire, colonialism and slavery are very clearly outlined. It is also encouraging reading as statements such as “An observer in the 17the century could hardly be faulted for not expecting Christianity to have much of a future in the continent of Africa” when today so much of Africa is full of faithful believers.

This volume combines some fascinating story telling with historical analysis. The individual stories of global Christians humanize the grand and global narrative and provide inspiring cameos of Christian living.

For example: I loved the fact that the beginnings of the African church in West Africa is attributed to evangelical former slaves that came back from Nova Scotia in 1792 or that the key players in the change in attitudes to slavery in Europe were people like Olaudah Equiano and Ottobah Cugoano.

But the global analysis is fascinating too: for example the way that just as Christianity was spreading as a tool of colonial power and control was just the time that Christianity was facing its most radical challenge at its then European base (ie the reformation). Another example was the impact of the Lisbon earthquake had on religious and theological reflection in Europe.

I hope that this volume will be widely read as the story of the World Christian movement is not just the story of white missionaries (grateful though we all are for their grace and sacrifice) but by thousands of our brothers and sisters around the world who inspired by the Spirit and the word of God spread the good news of Jesus in word and deed wherever they were.