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Author(s): Michael Counsell
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"Commonsense and humour are two of Michael Counsell's strongest characteristics. In his latest book, the commonsense in well to the ofre, but then one hardly expects much humour in a dictionary. There is a broad-minded tolerance about this book which i value. Facts aplenty and no waffle". News Views, Sept/Oct 2007
'This short book is full of good things. The entries are comprehensive, accessible and in language easy to understand. I recommend this book'. Peter Byrne, The Lance, March 2008
MICHAEL COUNSELL is the author of a number of Canterbury Press titles including A Basic Bible Dictionary and 2000 Years of Prayer. He recently became editor of the annual Canterbury Preachers' Companion. Now retired from parish ministry, he lives in Birmingham.
Local Priest Publishes Christian Dictionary15th March 2007 Author Michael Counsell writes: My new book, A Basic Christian Dictionary, which is published this month, was written before Professor Dawkins published the God Delusion. So it would be wrong to call it an answer to fundamentalist atheism. But I think my pocket-sized summary of Christian beliefs shows that Christian thinking is more reasonable than many doubters realise. Christians are called to share with their neighbours, as simply as possible, the good news that God loves them. But in explaining how we know this, and how we should respond, we are bound to use words in new ways. To explain the ‘technical terms’ of Christianity you need a dictionary. It is a good thing that people should argue about religion, because religion is concerned with our present happiness and our eternal future. And because those matters are so important, it is our right that people should feel passionate about them. Where argument becomes non-productive, however, is when people are arguing from ignorance. Many people think they are attacking Christianity, when what they actually oppose is a caricature of the faith, which no thinking Christian could believe in either. Yet Christians sometimes try to defend what they think are Christian doctrines, but which are in fact not the official beliefs of their own or any other denomination. Disputes often arise between members of different denominations because they are ignorant of what their opponents believe. It was in the hope of resolving these misunderstandings that I compiled my dictionary. Having trained as a scientist before I became a clergyman, I am aware of the delicate balance between reason, faith and tradition. These have been described as the three legged stool: knock any one of them away, and you will fall down! So although reason will only take us so far, before faith is required, I am not prepared to accept anything which appears to me to be unreasonable. Yet I believe a great many of the central teaching of Christianity can be defended on reasonable grounds, and I have tried to show how this can be done. For instance, anyone looking under Proofs of the existence of God will find nothing. But if you turn to Arguments, you will find many matters of daily concern which are hard to explain if there is no God. We are free to take the less likely explanation in any of these arguments; but to take the least probable alternative in every case would be unscientific. But there are other beliefs which I address, which are held by some Christians and not by others. It is a pity that the word ‘abortion’ comes so near the beginning of the alphabet, because this meant I had to launch myself, at the very start of the book, into a debate in which different Christians feel equally on both sides. Here I have tried to present both sides of the argument fairly, and left the readers to make up their own minds. No doubt my own beliefs become obvious, but I should be alarmed if anyone agreed with me at all points. It has been a difficult, but satisfying, task to complete this dictionary. I hope that anyone who intends to write or speak for or against Christianity, or discuss it with their friends, will have a copy of my book in their pocket or handbag and consult it to check that they are accurate in what they say. There are entries on most of the subjects concerning Christian belief, together with an A to Z section on great Christian teachers, and another on Christian churches and movements, with a summary of membership statistics. There is an appeal for understanding and tolerance between people of different faiths, but there was no room to discuss what other religions believe. If this book helps people understand why Christians believe what they do I shall be pleased.