It’s always slightly worrying when a friend asks you to review a book they’ve written. What happens if you don’t like it?
Thankfully, that isn’t a problem with WILDERNESS OF MIRRORS by Mark Meynell – I loved it. In summary; the book is 200 pages long, with a few more pages of notes and acknowledgements and, in the words of the subtitle, provides the case for trusting again in a cynical world.
In essence, this book is a classic apology for the Christian faith; that is a reasoned defence of Christianity in the light of current culture. It is well thought through, well argued but also sensitive to the pain and alienation that are part of post-modern life. For those with long memories, it reminded me of some of Michael Green’s early books (it’s that good).
The first section, “Fracturing Trust: the Legacy for our Age” describes the way in which we have lost trust in the institutions (government, the press and the church) which are supposed to care for us and provide safety in the world. This is followed by “Mourning Trust: Life after Losing It”, which is fairly self explanatory, but also painfully personal.
The third section is the key to book: “Rebuilding Trust: Hope for Our Age”. Here Mark demonstrates that the current dilemma about trust is not a new one; the writers of the Bible wrestled with the same questions which are, in fact, intrinsic to human life. The solution to this problem is three fold. There is a person we can trust, one who wields power and authority with a self-sacrificial care, a community in which we can work through the issues that we face and a story that ties everything together and makes sense of the world we live in.
So who should read this book? It is important to note that it isn’t the easiest read in the world, it deals with complex issues, clearly, thoughtfully and sensitively, but you need to concentrate. With that in mind, I’d suggest two audiences. Firstly, Christians who have become cynical about 21st century life will, I believe, find this very helpful. It provides a good framework for understanding the society we live in. Secondly, I’d have no hesitation in recommending this to anyone who was thoughtfully considering the claims of Christianity or who was looking for a solution to the questions of life, the universe and everything.
I also suspect, that this would be a very helpful book in student contexts in the developing world. There is much here that would resonate with people living in cities such as Lagos, Nairobi or Bangkok.
If I have a slight quibble (and it is only slight) it is that the number of quotes by other authors can be overwhelming at times. This is less of a problem when the author is examining the issue of a loss of trust in our society – he does a great job of illustrating the problem. However, when presenting the Christian position, there are a huge number of quotes from authors that a non-Christian reader would not be aware of. My own preference would to have been for Mark to have skipped some of the quotes and to have summarised the issues in his own voice.
In summary; if you are looking for a well thought through presentation of the Christian message against the background of contemporary culture, you won’t do much better than this.
In the interests of transparency, I should note that I was provided with a free copy of this book by the author. However, this has not influenced my review; if I thought it was rotten, I would have said so.