Monday, 11 July 2016

Book Review EPC

Title of the Book: By honour and dishonour
Author: Ernest C. Brown
Publisher: Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Publisher's address or where the book may be obtained: Evangelical Bookshop, Belfast BT1 6DD
Year of publication: 2016
Number of pages: 543
Hardback or paperback: Hardback
Price: £15.00 plus p/p
ISBN: 978-0-952266-22-8

This book far transcends the record of the denominational history of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland which prompted its production. The EPC is a conservative Protestant and Reformed denomination in a small country where there are no less than 5 different strands of Presbyterianism represented, or 6 if you include the Unitarian Non Subscribers.  The EPC came into existence as a result of the largest Presbyterian denomination (Presbyterian Church in Ireland) overwhelmingly endorsing the heresy and apostasy of Professor Davey in 1926. The charges against Davey were brought by men like Rev, James Hunter and the theological student, WJ Grier who became the founding fathers of the EPC. The book charts extensively the struggles, tensions and progress of this denomination over the last 50 years.

The book will appeal to a wider audience for a number of reasons. Its early chapters give a useful overview of Presbyterianism in Ireland from the Plantation times. This includes the earlier battle for the soul of Irish Presbyterianism when Henry Cooke saw off the Unitarians that had crept in unawares to the pulpits of the church. We then come into the period of revival round the ministry of WP Nicholson which coincided with the almost civil war that greeted the formation of the Northern Ireland state. At this time, WJ Grier was studying in Westminster Theological Seminary under Gresham Machen and much of the extensive correspondence between the two is quoted. On his return to Ulster, WJ Grier became alarmed at the attacks on God’s word being articulated, if somewhat obliquely at times, by Davey. Much detail from the resulting heresy trial is given in this book, both from transcripts of the trial (mostly in the extensive footnotes at the back) and also from a very good doctrinal analysis by modern EPC associates of the issues involved. The book is also of interest because it gives an insight into the common everyday piety of evangelical Christians in general in Northern Ireland in the period covered. These were days when prayer meeting attendance was considered part of the staple diet of professing believers and where letters to the press challenged the erosion of public morality and defilement of the Sabbath Day.

The book itself is well written, well produced in hardback and overall a very enjoyable read.

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