Monday, 28 April 2014

Practical Religion

So I have a thing for J. C. Ryle. I discovered him a few years back when I was preparing for my first sermon. My sermon was was on the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), and since Ryle's track, A Call to Prayer, started with Luke 18:1 I thought it would be a helpful resource. After reading that tract, I though there was nothing left for me to say on the matter, as Ryle had already covered it. In Practical Religion, that sermon which was turned into a track makes up the fourth chapter of this book.

While Ryle's other book, Holiness, was about the internal life of a believer, this book is more about the duties, or actions of a believer. It looks at the topics of prayer, bible reading, attending worship, our relation with the world, sickness, zeal, hope and freedom. In each chapter Ryle is able to name the issues in and out of the church, put forward a sound Biblical position and then some practical ways a believer can think, respond or act on a topic.

Now since this book is over 100 years old you may think it is not at all relevant today. After all we have iPhones now - go us. But that is just what C. S. Lewis called "chronologically snobbery". Ryle only occasionally makes reference to someone of his day and instead just focuses on the issue and the ideas involved. This gives him a bit of a timeless feel, as the heart and desires of people haven't really changed. Nor has the Bible. For example, if anyone is willing to dip in to Rob Bell's Love Wins, it perhaps would do them some good to read Francis Chan's book that responds to Bell, but it might do them even better to read the second last chapter of this book, titled The Great Separation, as in that Ryle addresses all the same issues and arguments the Bell had.

Ryle is clear, simple and direct, while also showing a concern for his reader. He is worth a read. You can even find this book online for free, pdf, epub.

Below are some hipster photos I took of selected passages I like in the book. I was going to put them on instagram, but then thought no one on there would really care. So they don't go to waste, here they are. They might give you a flavor on Ryle's style. Click to enlarge.

Chapter 3 - Authentic Christianity
Chapter 8 - Zeal
Chapter 9 - Freedom
Chapter 15 - Sickness


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