Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book Review: The Christian Lover by Michael A.G. Haykin

Michael A.G. Haykin with his daughter, Victoria J. Haykin, approach Christian history from a unique angle in The Christian Lover. Starting with Martin and Katharina Luther during the foundation years of the Protestant Reformation and moving through the centuries to Helmuth and Freya von Moltke near the end of World War II, Haykin has pulled together an anthology of love letters that spans time, relationships, and life events. Each chapter of the book follows a different theme, yet all overflow with the love of God and the love of one another. It is the combination of these two that makes the book so powerful.

The chapter on Martin Luther and his wife serves as a wonderful introduction to The Christian Lover. It contains the most humorous letters of the collection and gives a different perspective on the great Reformer who not only championed the five solas, but also reintroduced the beauty and majesty of Christian marriage to the church. It is well worth reading and, fortunately, is available to view and download online. Yet the book hardly spends too much time on one couple, and before you know it, you are at the end of the chapter and ready to plunge into the next. One chapter shares the correspondence between Benjamin Beddone and Anne Steele we encounter the sad story of love rejected. Another chapter contains the bold and heart-rending letter from a man asking a woman's father for permission to marry and explains the kind of life he could expect for her on the mission field: short, plagued with hardship, yet glorifying to God. Some letters discuss mourning, and other times of joy. In all we see a devotion to God and the advancement of His purposes.

My wife and I used the book as a kind of devotional in the evening, reading a chapter each night. It was a great opportunity to reflect on the lives and letters of Christians who've been in our shoes before. After having read it in this fashion, I recommend taking each chapter on its own and spending time in reflection on it before advancing to the next, though the draw of the book and the stories written between the lines of each page urge the reader to continue.

If I could offer one regret it is that some chapters were not longer. There is a story between the dates of the letters. There is a story interwoven and unspoken between the lines of each letter written, and those stories are now attractive and enticing. I want to know. But telling the stories of each couple in detail would be too great a project for this book. Perhaps sensing this new desire to spring forth from the reader, Haykin includes many books for further reading. I will certainly be checking into them very soon.

To buy the book, visit Ligonier.org (direct link).

If you're interested, but not sure, download a copy of the first chapter here.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Reformation Trust Publishers as part of their book review program.

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