Fresh Footprints by John Houghton
Compelling retelling of the grand biblical narrative, with much to stimulate the keen enquirer as well as the believer
By John Houghton
Malcolm Down publishing
Reviewer: Martin Poole
John Houghton is convinced he has discovered the shape of God – a helix – and proceeding from this he introduces us to helical theology that runs like an arterial road through his deliberations.
A helix is not a static shape but one that spirals upwards and is in harmony with the pulsating rhythms that are present in our universe and our own life experience. These are seen in the basic cycle of life, death and resurrection which correspond to John’s three main headings as he presents his thoughts.
He unpacks his theology by observing the helical pattern in nature in the life death resurrection of flora and fauna etc. He then suggests that much of our own lives replicate the cycle as, for example, we are happily employed (life) made redundant (death) find new and better position (resurrection). Practically all of life’s challenges can be seen in this light. Of course, the gospel exemplifies this paradigm.
Within the Life section John argues from first principles about the existence and nature of God, seeking to confront the “god delusion” as well as declaring the atheist position untenable. In discussing the trinity he makes a subtle change in declaring not three persons but three “realities” which I found very helpful. The Death portion is essentially concerned with the age old issue of suffering and he slips in the delightful comment – “When we hit rock bottom we find He is the rock at the bottom”.
The Resurrection sees John seemingly bent on upholding the doctrine of universalism, only to veer off at the last moment by quoting C S Lewis – “there are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says in the end, “Thy will be done”, the latter having chosen their own path away from God.
Undoubtedly John writes a positive book and is mindful of those who have shut the door to the Christian message due to encountering a “priggish self-righteous Pharisaism” in the church. There is very little danger of that impression being conveyed by John’s style of writing. If anything, some might object to his occasional laddish, even raunchy phrasing. John seems to be focused on reaching those who want to sit around a pint and tease out answers to the meaning of life in a less formal way than, say, an Alpha course, although in some of the deeper explanations that seek to describe God, his listeners could melt away to the pool table or dart board.
For the keen enquirer as well as the believer however, there is much to both stimulate thought and engender profitable debate.
The Revd Martin Poole (retired Baptist minister having served churches in Penarth, Godalming and Eastleigh)