What I read in November 2019 (Part 3)

This post includes reviews of two nonfiction books.

The next book I read was When I pray what does God do? by David Wilkinson. I bought this book in a sale at the local Christian bookshop. David Wilkinson writes as a scientist (astrophysicist) and theologian with a background in Methodism. The book is aimed at theology students and people who are not deterred by science. As a longstanding member of a prayer group I read this book with interest. It is well written and logical as well as providing anecdotal evidence for some of the arguments presented.

I decided that the other ladies in the prayer group were unlikely to read the whole book. As it was my turn to provide some thoughts at the beginning of a meeting, I explained that the book used the scientific developments of the 20th century (quantum mechanics and chaos theory) to update views based only on Newton’s ideas.

I read selected passages from the final two chapters, which summarised much of the book and provided conclusions.

The explanations allow for a largely predictable universe in which choice is possible and some outcomes are uncertain. There are illustrations from the Bible including the apostle Paul’s wonderful prayer in Philippians chapter 1.

The final sentence is:

 “When I pray what does God do?” is not an easy question, but it is one that I have found in my own life leads me deeper into knowing God and an excitement with the experience of prayer.

I found this book encouraging and helpful.

The second book was an autobiography lent to me by a friend. Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner is easy to read yet thought-provoking. I learned a great deal about the lives of aristocrats and royalty. As this is a book by an elderly lady it begins before my time. However there was much that reminded me of events that had been reported in the national news. Issues I had been aware of, but perhaps not given much thought to recently, such as the effect of Britain’s entry into the European Common Market on Commonwealth countries, were touched on. I particularly enjoyed the insider’s view of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. My own visit to the coronation exhibition in Buckingham Palace enabled me to visualise the costumes.

Having just read the book I reviewed above, I was interested to read about Lady Anne Glenconner’s Christianity. Although she went to church every Sunday, she admitted that she hadn’t really prayed until a particular crisis. Perhaps the Church fails to inspire people to pray! Hers is a fascinating book, with insights to the characters of many people, written in a sympathetic manner, but perhaps with an excess of commas – like this sentence!

A group of books as background to a film

I am not a great fan of films; however I have watched some very good ones (and avoided a lot of poorer ones!). Recently the Ladies’ Bible study group followed a course, which involved a DVD – The Theory of Everything. The book which accompanied the course is called The Mystery of Everything. It is described as a Lent course, but we followed it in the autumn instead of the spring. The author is Hilary Brand.

The film describes the life and work of the well-known theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, who suffers from motor-neurone disease and speaks using a computer. The Theory of Everything is based on a book written by Jane Hawking, which I have yet to read. (Background reading is not essential for the course, but I am a bookworm and the whole subject has caught my imagination.)

Since beginning the course I have read two of Stephen Hawking’s books – A Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell. I am impressed by the clarity of Hawking’s language in trying to express the mathematical ideas of leading edge theoretical physics to non-scientists. The second book is full of explanatory diagrams and not a little humour. While I have been reading these books, other people caused a website to crash by all trying to access his PhD thesis simultaneously. It had just been published on-line.

The Lent course consists of material for 5 sessions. An initial session is needed to watch the film. There is scope for discussion of the differences between science and religion, of morals, of the question of suffering. There are also Bible passages to read as a Christian discipline – although they would be suitable for non-believers wishing to learn more about Christianity. Each session ends with a set ‘meditation’ with Bible readings and prayer. Is it possible to know the mind of God or to develop a scientific theory which explains everything? This is a question, which the course allows people to debate, preferably in a fairly small group. Of course it is possible to study it alone, but other people have ideas, which are worth hearing.

I am looking forward to reading Jane Hawking’s book in order to learn more about the real-life background to the film.

4

That’s impossible!

Impossible

I’ve believed as many as six impossible the White Queen, Alice in Wonderland.

What are the six impossible things you believe in?  (If you can only manage one or two, that’s also okay.)

Some of the ‘impossible’ things I believe are scientific facts.  Others are religious beliefs.

I am persuaded that they are true, having weighed up the evidence.

You may react with, “I don’t believe that!” or “Of course!”

That is why I am classing them as impossible.

  1. The chair I am sitting on contains more empty space than solid matter.  (At the atomic level.)
  2. Machines which are heavier than air can fly – so can bumblebees, birds and other creatures
  3. Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God
  4. God is three persons and one God
  5. Jesus rose from the dead (and is alive for evermore)
  6. God loves sinners, but desires to make us more like Him.

I do not find that science and religion are opposed to one another.  They are different ways of looking at the world around us.  Many scientists believe and trust in God.

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