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Saints for Postmoderns: From the Past Who Speak to Our Future
by Chris R. Armstrong, Ph D.
Publisher IVP Books (InterVarsity Press), Downers Grove, Illinois, Fall 2009,
Chris Armstrong has taken the word “saint” and expanded it to cover a variety of people of the church. In essence, one can be a saint by doing good, remaining faithful to one’s religious following and by influencing others. In this context, Armstrong has selected ten people from Antony of Egypt (251-356 and yes, he lived to be 105 years old) to Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957). The ten people had individual, stylized personalities, but they had threads in common, that they believed in religion and formed their lives around it. The ten people are Antony, Gregory the Great, Dante Alighieri, Margery Kempe, John Amos Comenius, John Newton, Charles Simeon, Amanda Berry Smith, Charles M. Sheldon and Dorothy L. Sayers. You see, this is a list of the known and unknown.
Armstrong writes in a conversational style while presenting interesting facts about these people. For example, Margery Kempe was born in 1373 and lead such a pious life, a book was written about her (unusual for women of that time) and the book was lost for 600 years, only to be discovered in the 1930’s. Amanda Berry Smith was a black women, born in 1837, and a slave. Her father gathered enough money to buy the family’s freedom and Amanda became a woman preacher who traveled to England, India and Africa. Charles M. Sheldon’s father was a Congregational preacher and the family came from Maine to the Dakota Territory after the Civil War. Charles wrote the famous book, “In His Steps,” and had the same pastorate in Topeka, Kansas for over 50 years. Dorothy L. Sayers, started out as an teacher in England and ended up making her fortune with the fictional detective, Lord Peter Wimsey. This fictional character and her stories had integrity. Sayers also wrote radio plays, one of which, “The Man Born to Be King,” was popular in its day.
Armstrong’s conclusion is that the lives of these people should not surprise us, for they had moral responsibilities and did not avoid them. As the author states, “Will we take to heart their biographies and allow those narratives to begin to work in us and change us?"
Reviewed by Marie Asner