Book Notes: The Screwtape Letters / Bonhoeffer On the Christian Life / Memoirs of John R. Sampey

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stllewisTHE SCREWTAPE LETTERS by C. S. Lewis

How is it that reading a C. S. Lewis book a third time is like reading a new book? I first encountered Screwtape when I was a teenager and picked it up again in my twenties. I was amazed at Lewis’ ability to get into the mind of a demon committed to rendering a Christian man ineffective.

Ten years later, I’m reading the Screwtape Letters yet again, and the experience is still fresh. The parts I remembered from my previous reading weren’t the parts that stood out to me this time around. Maybe it’s because I’m the one who has changed over time, not ScrewtapeReturning to this book years later is like returning as a different person, with different tastes and different temptations, so that the spiritual insights here, delivered through devishly clever fiction, strike me in different places. Here is a passage that stood out: The Safest Road to Hell.

dbBONHOEFFER ON THE CHRISTIAN LIFE: From the Cross, For the World by Stephen Nichols

I read something by or about Dietrich Bonhoeffer every year. Nichols’ book, part of Crossway’s Theologians on the Christian Life series, serves as a great introduction to Bonhoeffer’s practical theology. If you’ve read a biography of Bonhoeffer (perhaps Metaxas’ or Marsh’s) and you wonder what to read next, I recommend this book. You’ll get an overview of how Bonhoeffer’s Lutheran theology played out in his vision for the Christian life.

Nichols locates Bonhoeffer firmly within the conservative evangelical world, primarily because of his high view of Scripture. But scholars are divided on just how conservative Bonhoeffer was or where his trajectory would have taken him had he lived past World War II. So if you pick up this book as an introduction to Bonhoeffer’s thought, I recommend you follow up by reading Bonhoeffer himself. Start with Discipleship.

39994055_131713790302MEMOIRS John R. Sampey

This is a print-on-demand copy of John R. Sampey’s memoirs, written in the twilight of his long life after having served as a professor of Old Testament for nearly 60 years, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary during the worst of the Great Depression (1929-42) and president of the SBC from 1936-38.

Sampey’s autobiography is full of activity that displays his passion for evangelism, scholarship and missionary work, particularly in Brazil. But what struck me about his memoirs is how often he mentioned the church’s ongoing discipleship ministry. This quote from John Sampey, a seminary president who was deeply involved in weekly lessons for smaller groups, stood out to me:

“When the advocates insisted that the lessons be pupil-centered, I countered by insisting that the lessons should be Christ-centered. I sought to make Jesus Christ the center of each cycle… For 46 years I sought to exalt the redemptive element of the Bible. And how many noble men of the Lesson Committee joined meputting Christ Jesus and His salvation in the center of our lesson system!”

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