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Reviews | Deuteronomy for Disciples

Deuteronomy for Disciples

Alfred Nicholls

Paperback or e-book (ePub)

224 pages

Deuteronomy for Disciples

The Testimony review (from August 2009)

A book for today

THE ECCLESIA has always faced challenges from the philosophies and values of the world around it. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy that ideas and attitudes from the world would threaten to corrupt the purity of the gospel (1 Tim 4:1; 6:3-5; 2 Tim 4:3,4). His words to Timothy made it clear that these threats would manifest themselves whenever brethren started to lose their grip on sound teaching, and would in fact be a perpetual problem for the ecclesia in all ages, especially at the end of an age.

Meeting the challenge

In the early days of the Christadelphian movement the Brotherhood met the challenge of evolution with works such as The Trial, and of socialism with the book England’s Ruin, both by Brother Robert Roberts. In the early years of the twentieth century Brother Islip Collyer, in a series of short books, tackled head-on the threats posed to the ecclesia by modernism (The Bible and Modern Thought), scepticism (The Bible and Modern Scepticism) and evolution (The Vegetable in the Witness Box).

We are grateful for these and contributions from other writers, but there is always a need to address the challenges that manifest themselves in each generation. In many respects the issues and attitudes that threaten the Brotherhood, although adopting different garb and expressed in different language in each generation, arise from the same root: that which Paul identified in his advice to the young man Timothy. Though it might be true that the root causes are similar, it is useful that brethren in each era address the particular manifestations of these challenges in their times as a means of warning faithful brethren about the often subtle nature of the threat posed to the spiritual wellbeing of the Brotherhood generally, and of young people in particular. [1]

In 2006 the Christadelphian Office published Brother Alfred Nicholls’ book Deuteronomy for Disciples. It is an excellent addition to this long tradition, and is very much a book for today. Brother Nicholls captures the drama and power of much of Deuteronomy as he seeks to draw out its lessons for disciples struggling to cope with the pressures experienced in the post-modern era in which we live.

As you would expect in a book by Brother Nicholls, there are many expositional gems, such as some very interesting comments on the use and significance of pronouns in Deuteronomy. There is also a useful comparison of the old and new covenants, which will repay thoughtful consideration. The exegetical material includes some observations on the Lord Jesus Christ’s temptations in the wilderness (during which our Lord drew upon Deuteronomy). Finally, in this regard, many readers will find much to ponder in the remarks made about the Al Taschith Psalms.

Valuable though these expository elements are, the book does not pretend to be a commentary on the text of Deuteronomy. Indeed, any who read the book with such an expectation will be disappointed; many fascinating sections of the text are glossed over rather superficially, especially from Deuteronomy 19 onwards. It would have been interesting to read his thoughts on these passages, but Brother Nicholls’ objective in writing this book was not exposition but rather exhortation.

Practical exhortations

Brother Nicholls makes the point early in his book that Deuteronomy focuses on the importance of our relationship with God. It is appropriate, therefore, that many of his comments about the relevance of Deuteronomy for believers today also focus on this theme. For instance, he makes some very pertinent observations about the limited value of religious experience in underpinning a lively faith in God. His comments on the oneness of God, drawn from the well-known ‘Shema’ passage in Deuteronomy 6, are also very powerful.

The needs of young people in the ecclesia are very important, and addressing them is an issue given close attention by all ecclesias around the world. Many readers will find Brother Nicholls’ comments on this subject of particular interest. He focuses on the importance of meeting the needs (as opposed to wants) of the young, and the absolute necessity, for their sake and that of the ecclesia, of the youth being fully integrated into ecclesial life in a positive and mutually supportive manner. While being fully cognizant of the special challenges faced by young people, especially in this post-modern world, Brother Nicholls stresses the need to avoid ‘dumbing-down’ the gospel and compromising our worship in a misguided attempt to pander to imagined needs of the young. His comments on the threat posed by popular culture, whilst far from exclusively applicable to young people, also have relevance in this context.

Throughout the book attention is drawn to other works that complement the material presented; in particular, works from the pen of Brother Nicholls. These include his book The Evangelical Revival—A Modern Challenge to Biblical Truth, which, like the work under review, addresses very directly many of the problems that beset ecclesias today. There are also several references to Brother Nicholls’ comprehensive commentary on the Pastoral epistles, Letters to Timothy and Titus. All three works are recommended heartily to all those struggling to resist the inroads into the ecclesias of post-modernism.

Deuteronomy for Disciples is a highly readable book, and will be enjoyed by a wide variety of readers. It will enhance your appreciation of Deuteronomy while also challenging you to reassess your relationship with God. What could be more important as we see the day of the Lord so near at hand?

Geoff Henstock

[1] A more recent book of this nature is Humanism—The Subtle Delusion, a compendium of articles by various brethren and sisters originally published in the Bible Student magazine in 1982–3, and now available from the Christadelphian Office, or from Bible Student Press, 26 Tiercel Avenue, Norwich, NR7 8JN, UK.—E.D.M.

(Originally published in the August 2009 edition of The Testimony Magazine (pages 222-224), and is reproduced by kind permission.

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