by Goh Eck Kheng
SKS is a Christian bookstore in a flatted factory on Outram Road. Its no-frills set-up is just shelves and shelves of books that give off the scent of paper and ink so comforting to book lovers. Of course, it’s not open during this phase of the gradual opening, but its online store at sksbooks.com is. Browse with me and see what titles I’ve found.
Before we start, let me say that these are not reviews since I have not read the books (except one) but just their blurbs. They are just titles that caught my eye while scrolling through the website. I have occasionally supplemented the material in the SKS website with material from other online bookstores.
I was attracted to Seeing Jesus from the East because of the title. Christianity, at its root, is more a Middle-Eastern religion than a Western one. However, the songs we sing in worship, the liturgy we practice weekly and even the catch-phrases we use, traditional or contemporary, mainly come from Western countries. That is why a book that puts Jesus in an Eastern perspective drew me to it. I was surprised to find that one of its co-authors is Ravi Zacharias, the well-known Christian apologist who went home to the Lord recently. The blurb says Abdul Murray and Ravi Zacharias offer “a refreshing picture of Jesus, one that appeals to Eastern readers and can penetrate the hearts and imaginations of postmodern Westerners.… Incorporating story, vivid imagery, and the concepts of honor and shame, sacrifice, and rewards, Seeing Jesus from the East calls believers and skeptics, both Eastern and Western, to a fresh encounter with the living and boundless Jesus.”
I took a closer look at Walking from East to West also because it reference the East, and again I was surprised that the book is by Ravi Zacharias! This is his autobiography starting from his turbulent childhood in India with a harsh father and the lure of friends and sports. He writes about his search for truth, wrestling with eastern thought and Christianity, his attempted suicide and the dramatic turning point that led him to Christ. The telling continues to his new life in the Western world, and the eventual birth and growth of a worldwide ministry. This story about belief – how it begins, how it grows, and the struggles associated with it – is told simply, with candor and humility.
Sinners & Saints has a title that sells, but it was the subtitle, The Real Story of Early Christianity, that made me pick it up. It’s the first of four books that seeks to humanise the history of Christianity by looking honestly at the actions, doctrines, decisions, groups, movements and practices of past believers. It does not shy away from the negative aspects of the Church’s past. At the same time, it tries to make these reflections and revelations relevant to contemporary culture.
With Church history and my general knowledge of American popular culture in mind, I noticed Evangelicals: Who They Have Been, are Now, and Could Be. The first sentence of the book blurb puts it succinctly: “The past, present, and future of a movement in crisis.” Its authors, Mark A Noll, David W Bebbington and George M Marsden are prominent scholars who have studied “evangelicalism” for the last forty years. In this book, “they combine key earlier material concerning the history of evangelicalism with their own new contributions about present controversies and also with fresh insights from other scholars.”
Why would anyone want to buy a book entitled Does God Care How We Worship? when the answer is categorically and undeniably, yes? Still, there are many churches that do not understand what the Old and New Testaments have to say about appropriate worship. The author, Ligon Duncan, sets out the “regulative principle in worship”, giving biblical support and historical context. His answer to the objection: Is this “right worship” essentially European? is worth reading.
J Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) was a Scottish Baptist and Holiness Movement evangelist, best known for the classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest. In his book Enjoying Intimacy with God, he helps readers see that God always desires intimacy with us but how deep that goes is determined by us. With reference to the Bible, he draws the different circles of intimacy and explains how we can live in the inner circle. These few examples of chapter titles gives a good idea of the thrust of the book: Intimacy Is Nourished by Worship, Intimacy Is Preceded by Cleansing, Intimacy Is Maintained by Abiding, Intimacy Is Fostered by the Holy Spirit and Intimacy Is Deepened by Discipline.
Christian book covers tend to have a certain look and style, mostly with soft-focus photographs akin to inspirational posters. So Uncommon Ground, with its bright, cookbook-like illustration, caught my eye (as did the other uncommon book covers in this selection). Edited by Tim Keller and John Inazu, the volume is a compilation of essays written by a range of artists, thinkers and leaders (none whose name I recognise), giving an array or perspectives about how Christians can live faithfully in a way that shows respect to those whose beliefs are radically different from ours in today’s pluralistic and fractured world.
Christian picture books for children also have a typical style of illustration that leans towards cartoons. So, I have the habit of looking out for more artistic and better-illustrated titles. So, it surprised me that Psalms for Young Children, with its distinctive illustration style, is by Arno, a French cartoonist! The writer, Marie-Helene Deival paraphrased parts of the Psalms to help young children through a range of emotions – joy, wonder, sadness, to regret – through simple and powerful imagery.
It was not the cover art of The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross that caught my attention. What a striking title! Written by Carl Laferton with illustrations by Cataline Echeverri, it joins Bible stories from Genesis to the Gospels, to illuminate for children why Jesus died and rose again.
I was delighted to find one a Christian children’s book that I like very much. This is The Tale of Three Trees, an American folktale retold by Angela Elwell Hunt with atmospheric paintings by Tim Jonke. The story is about trees that were made into the manger, the fishing boat that Jesus used and the cross He was nailed to. SKS’s description of the book includes this quote, presumably by the author: “I never dreamed God would use Trees in this way ... All across the world, the Spirit of God is still touching the hearts of men, women, and children with this simple book. I am grateful, but to Him be the glory and honor and praise.” Enjoy this video of the story with your children at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjlOViJlM3U