Monday, October 17, 2005

Book Review - War and Grace by Don Stephens

War and Grace
Don Stephens
Evangelical Press

There are some mistakes you can do well without. Others are quite pleasant. Evangelical Press sent me a box of books, nine in total, by mistake. Normally they just send me a list of books they've just published.

Reviews of most will hopefully follow. But I want to start off with a book called "War and Grace" by Don Stephens. This is a collection of short biographies of men and women from World War II. It records what God did in them either as Christians or in bringing them to faith. What a wonderful book. Not only did it encourage me to read of God's amazing grace, but it stirred my heart again with compassion for the lost.

Stephens is a man who has had a passion for WWII, but he also has a passion for communicating the life-changing grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and this shows in his writing. He has been collecting this information over the last number of decades, and he assembles it here in a series of thrilling accounts.

Like most males, war has held a fascination for me, especially the two world wars. I grew up on a diet of Victor, Battle and Warlord comics, and the little 'Commando' comic story booklets. The tales of bravery and courage were inspiring. But I never really had heard much of what God was doing in those years. Here Stephens fills the void.

Not only does he show the courage and the stand Christians took, but he shows how God worked to bring hate-filled atheists to Christ and turned them into powerful missionaries.

I had heard of some of names before: William Dobbie, the defender of Malta; Mitsuo Fuchida, the lead pilot in the Pearl Harbour attack. I had read about some of them before: Charles Fraser-Smith, the real 'Q'; Donald Caskie, Scottish pastor in France who ran an escape route for airmen and soldiers. But often in newspaper reports and in books written about them their faith is left aside. Stephens redresses the balance and brings out overpowering influence of the gospel in their lives.

Perhaps for me the highlight was the story of Henry Gerecke, chaplain to the highest ranking Nazis at the Nuremberg trials. His account of taking the gospel to these men and the resultant effects is quite startling and shows the shocking nature of grace at its best.

It really is a triumph of grace.

One of the things that impressed me was that Stephens writes with discernment - unlike some Christians he doesn't claim every religious person was actually a Christian. Nor does he accept that every profession made, for example by the Nazi war criminals, was necessarily genuine. This isn't a rose-tinted view of God's work in the war. He also corrects errors that have been made in other biographies, or obituaries, or films and provides a helpful balance.

If, like me you grew up on a diet of Victor comics and war films, and your shelves are filled with novels by Leon Uris and Cornelius Ryan, then this is a book you will enjoy.

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