One of the key aims of the Southern Cross magazine is to encourage Sydney Anglicans to read Christian books. We are, by and large, good readers. Most of our ministry leaders challenge themselves, and each other, with Christian writing of all types. 

Perhaps most encouraging of all, many Sydney Anglicans have taken up the pen (or keyboard) to write on a wide variety of topics – from commentaries to testimonies and books on living the Christian life. We regularly review books from Youthworks, Matthias Media and their various imprints, as well as great works by Moore College authors. 

This is not confined to the experts. As I said in an earlier review (“Faith Revisited”, SC, Nov-Dec 2022), we can be encouraged by the number of laypeople who have written helpful books. This brings me to Professor John Clark, a former lecturer, university researcher and university president who has chosen to produce a Christian book in his retirement. 

Drawn from occasional Bible talks he has given, Professor Clark says he has "tried to use the light of Scripture to examine some of the basic challenges of our Christian walk, which I think we should try to understand and integrate into our daily lives. This book is therefore simply intended as a general – and, I trust Biblically faithful – encouragement for my fellow everyday adult Christian believers, or… genuine inquirers. 

“I wanted it to be something folk could dip into as time and circumstance allowed, but not feel they would lose its thread if there were weeks, months, or even years between reads." 

With that aim in mind, I feel he has been largely successful. 

We have been so Christianised in our understanding that we take sin, biblical inspiration and even basic history for granted. 

I am still looking for a book that a total and complete novice could pick up and start to understand the Christian faith. For the majority of people, there is now so much distance between them and any basic knowledge of God, Jesus and the Bible that I think we start too far ahead of them. We have been so Christianised in our understanding that we take sin, biblical inspiration and even basic history for granted. 

That being said, the readers of His Workmanship will presumably have more background, as is reflected in the fact that the chapters started out as talks to a “churched” audience. 

Professor Clark acknowledges that he is no theologian but his understanding as a product of God’s workmanship and refining for more than 50 years shines through each page. The style is engaging and the layout of chapters is helpful. Headings like Grace, Faith, Trust and Assurance ensure that each topic is focused and, like he said above, can be dipped in and out of with great profit. 

I particularly liked the chapter on assurance as I learned of two scientists, who I didn't realise were also Christian, and the chapter on doubt that starts with an arresting anecdote to draw the reader in. 

Professor Clark has a talent for illustration, no doubt born of the years he spent drawing in university students and the occasional church audience. Given his background in electronics, science also gets a lot of space in the book. This is helpful in these days, when people are confused about the place of science in Christian faith and often see it as an alternative (and potentially regard the two as mutually contradictory).

His Workmanship would likely most benefit the person who has some experience of church but doesn't understand God's big picture. Bible quotes are copious and well-linked to the argument of each chapter, but you need to at least have some idea of the Bible as authoritative for it to make an impact. 

The book would also benefit new Christians as a way of giving them some apologetics and a coherent approach to each of the issues Christians face. I enjoyed reading His Workmanship and pray God will use Professor Clark's work in the way he intended.