Pocket Guide To Humanity

The ‘A Christian’s Pocket Guide To…‘ is a good little series. This short series is designed to give you an introduction to a whole host of issues, ranging from theological and biblical studies to pastoral and practical theology. Normally I’m a bit fan, but not so much with this one…

David McKay begins his book A Christian’s Pocket Guide To Humanity, in his introduction, by stating why this book, or books like this one, are relevant. I think he’s right. He says that there are a whole host of issues today that Christians need to know how to approach; War, poverty, euthanasia, cloning and transgenderism, just to name a few. McKay stats that Christians can sometimes be perplexed by these difficult ethical issues. Let him explain one reason why…

“One of the main reasons for the confusion we encounter is the lack of biblical understanding of what a human being is, or within the Church a loss of the understanding Christians once had. If we do not know what a human being is, how can we decide how to treat him or her?”

In my view, this is spot on. Too often a Christian’s view of humanity is shaped by the world and not the Word. In order for Christians to know how to engage in discussion about difficult ethical issues, we must know what we believe and why.

McKay takes the reader on a journey right from Genesis to Revelation and discussing a variety of topics from the identity on mankind as image-bearers of God, the fall, election, grace, hell, atonement, the resurrection and the New Creation.

I think that these types of books are helpful, and necessary for Christians to read, but here are two reasons why this wouldn’t be my ‘go to’…

  1. McKay leaves no room for disagreement.
    Every book has a purpose, every author has convictions and every reader has their own ideas. Naturally an authors opinion will come across in their writing and that is a good thing. However, authors also need to allow space for those who may hold to different opinions graciously.

    For example; on page 9 McKay states “If we rejective historicity of Genesis 1-3 we also demolish the foundation of human uniqueness and create all kinds of problems, theological and ethical.” This quote comes under the warning sign (one of four signs throughout the book warning, don’t forget, stop and think and point of interest). This statement is not unpacked, or argues at length anywhere else in the book, but simply stated. I know plenty of godly people who deny the historicity of Genesis 1-3, and I’m sure McKay does too.

    Another example is his discussion on whether human nature consists of a dichotomy (body and soul) or a trichotomy (body, soul and spirit). Again, McKay is quite flippant with those who disagree with his stance (dichotomy) and he leaves almost no room for disagreement on this.

    I understand an author will have their own convictions, that’s a good thing, but they must allow space for disagreement or at least create the space to back up their arguments instead of simply stating their opinion and passing judgment on others views.

  2. It isn’t that engaging
    This is subjectivity central! Personally, I didn’t find the book that engaging. It felt more like a theological stance paper, or the beginnings of an academic paper, rather than an introductory guide for the ‘average Joe’ in the pew. Again, this is quite subjective as the four endorsement writers disagree with me on that. If you’ve read it I’d like to hear how you got on with it.

You can grab your own copy of the book here and see if you think I’m right. At a little over £5 it’s not going to break the bank and it does have some helpful things to say.


David McKay is Professor of Systematic Theology, Ethics and Apologetics at the Reformed Theological College, Belfast, and Minister of Shaftesbury Square Reformed Presbyterian Church in Belfast. He is the author of ‘An Ecclesiastical Republic’ (1997) and ‘The Bond of Love’ (2001) and has contributed to a number of theological journals and books. He is married to Valerie.

*** I received this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. This does not change the way I rate the book, my views are my own. ***

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