Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Book Review - Corner Conversations by Randy Newman

Corner Conversations: Engaging Dialogues about God and Life
Randy Newman
Kregel Publications

Randy Newman’s first book ‘Questioning Evangelism’ is one of the best books on evangelism around. If you haven’t read it – buy it, read it and put it into practice. ‘Corner Conversations’ is his follow-up, although you won’t need to have read ‘Questioning Evangelism’ to understand ‘Corner Conversations’.

‘Questioning Evangelism’ was marked by conversations where Newman showed how his principles would work out in practice. ‘Corner Conversations’ is all conversation and no theory – or to put it another way, all the theory is imbedded in the conversations. It makes for a great way to learn. It reminded me of one of my other favourite books on apologetics – ‘Persuasions’ by Doug Wilson which also uses the conversational method. In “Corner Conversations” Newman creates fictional conversations which cover 7 topics, including science, suffering, is Jesus the only way, and homosexuality.

The conversations are all evangelistic and Newman has sought to make them as real as possible by running the book past friends who aren’t yet Christians, as well as those who are.

It is a useful approach, and is based on many conversations he has had in his work as an evangelist on university campuses. It is useful also because it allows us to see that evangelism is long term and relational. None of the conversations end in conversion, but each is a step in the journey to understanding more about Christianity. Too often we expect too much from one conversation, or we think we have to get the whole message across in one conversation. If we are doing our evangelism where we should – primarily among those we see regularly – we won’t need to unload everything at once. One of its strengths is that it lets you see how ordinary conversations can come around to deal with some aspect of Christianity, and flit in and out of the subject.

Newman has been clever in many ways, but one that I enjoyed was that the style of the conversations is different – some are very friendly, some employ the cut and thrust of friendly but pointed argument. Yet each conversation is marked by openness and compassion. So there is something here for each of us, and something here for our different types of friendships, each conversation having several points that you feel that you could use yourself. And the chapters finish by pointing you to further resources.

It isn’t a book to read in one sitting though – you can get over-conversationed!

The one area I felt Newman was weak on was the chapter on science. His character, and hence Newman suggests that we don’t need to hold to a literal 6-day creation, and that those who hold to literal 6-day creation aren’t good scientists. His implication is that they (or we) are naïve and don’t really understand what is happening in Genesis. I would venture to suggest that the naivety lies elsewhere in allowing the ever-changing views of science to influence our interpretation of the Genesis.

That said, there are enough strengths to the book, and enough help to be gained for it to be worth reading.

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