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Book review: Attending to the National Soul by Stuart Piggin and Robert D. Linder

Book review: Attending to the National Soul by Stuart Piggin and Robert D. Linder

Book review: Attending to the National Soul by Stuart Piggin and Robert D. Linder

25 May 2020

Attending to the National Soul can't be classified as leisure reading but will be invaluable to students and church leaders looking for a way forward.

By David Woodbury

This scholarly work by two esteemed authors – Stuart Piggin and Robert D. Linder – follows on from their first book, The Fountains of Prosperity, a historical account of evangelical Christianity prior to World War One.

This volume is an in-depth study looking at how the Christian faith interacted with the Australian community between 1914 and 2014. The reality is, given the lack of space, no review could really do justice to the publication. It comes at a time when the traditional churches are in significant decline and the authors are at pains to detail significant statistics and trends over this period.

Far from being all gloom and doom about the future of the evangelical churches, the authors contend that evangelicalism “has rather consistently adapted to each shift in economy and culture because its transcendent dimension has enabled it to be surprisingly flexible about the mundane dimension”.

Worthwhile noting is the impact both world wars had on the Church in Australia, a fact well understood by The Salvation Army. Among other chaplains and workers mentioned, William (‘Fighting Mac’) McKenzie and Rats of Tobruk legend Arthur McIlveen are singled out for special mention. Salvation Army ministry during the Great Depression is also given special mention.

One of the crucial segments is the discussion on the equality and ordination of women in the Christian Church, which the authors assert is an unresolved issue, with a lengthy section on the influence of General Eva Burrows in this area. The authors conclude the biography of Burrows with this telling, though unrelated quote: “Although so much of the Methodist church in Australia disappeared with the formation of the Uniting Church in 1977, its evangelical spirit of reaching out in Christ’s name, ministering to the disadvantaged and engaging in welfare services lives on in The Salvation Army, along with the pursuit of Scriptural holiness.”

Although the book would hardly be classed as leisure reading, its informative and well-researched material will be invaluable to students of church development and history, as well as modern church leaders looking for a way forward, in what is now a very complex Australian society.

Available at Koorong.

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