I wonder whether you, like me, have had problems finding a book that you can give away with confidence to a friend or colleague who is enquiring about the Christian faith. So many tracts are too simplistic and in their desire to put the gospel in a pithy form lose out in content. Other pamphlets and books rely on subjective experience to convince the reader and don't even touch on the wealth of evidence that supports the truth claim of the Christian faith. Others still are so full of careful reasoning that you seriously doubt that your enquiring friend would ever get to the end.
Where is the book that includes a clear explanation of the gospel, personal experience, and evidence in a readable form? Bernard Palmer's book Cure for Life fills this gap very well.
The book starts with one of Bernard's anecdotes from his hospital practice and then gets straight to the heart of the matter, who is Jesus', clearly setting out the challenge of CS Lewis's mad, bad or God trichotomy. It then moves on to look at prophecies relating to Jesus from the Old Testament, partly as an exploration of who Jesus is, but also to present the compelling evidence of passages such as Isaiah 53.
The next two chapters focus in on the evidence for Christianity. The proof for the resurrection is clearly set out and alternative explanations dealt with. Then the evidence for Jesus from history is covered including extra-biblical sources, evidence for the reliability of the New Testament being reliable history and archaeological history. If your apologetic skills are a little rusty then these two chapters will sharpen them!
Having clearly argued for the deity of Christ the author then moves on to the central question why did Jesus come?' Here the book is strong on its emphasis of salvation by grace through faith, not works, a point that is covered again in the next chapter entitled who is a Christian'. This is a vitally important subject in the nominally Christian culture of late 20th century Britain. So that none are left in any doubt the doctrines of repentance, obedience and the Lordship of Christ are clearly expounded. The chapter closes with a challenge to make a choice and contains a prayer of commitment for those who want to choose Christ as their Lord and God. There is no sitting on the fence.
The next section of the book covers the implications of a choice to live for Christ. Issues such Bible study, church fellowship, prayer and sharing our faith with others are all adequately dealt with and again there is a strong emphasis on obedience, the mark of a true disciple.
Obviously not every subject can be dealt with in depth in such a short book and some issues such as the consequences of rejecting Christ, and the authority of Scripture could do with more explanation. However, Cure for life' gets a lot of information and doctrine into a small space without belittling the truth or the reader. With ten chapters, each taking about twenty minutes to read any interested enquirer or new Christian could read the book without much effort in a few days, a definite advantage in today's fast moving and impatient culture. My only reservation is how the book will translate to readers from non-medical or non-British backgrounds as many of its illustrations are drawn from these two spheres of life.
I would have confidence in giving this book away to a colleague or friend who was interested in the Christianity, knowing that they would be receiving a careful and true explanation of the Christian faith, good reasons to believe and would be likely actually to read and finish it! I have already bought a few copies to give away and intend to do so as soon as the opportunity arises. I would encourage every CMF member who is serious about sharing his or her faith to get a copy and read it. It is tremendously encouraging to be reminded once again of God's great mercy to us in Christ and confidence-building to be reminded of the evidence. If you agree with me about its suitability to give away to interested enquirers then why not get a few more copies and start praying for people to whom to give them. God has a habit of answering such prayers.
PS There are plans afoot to produce a study guide for use with Cure for life' that could form the basis for a five week Discovering Christianity course. Watch this space.
Review by Jim Paul, CMF Student Staffworker