By Demonstration: God
Wade Bradshaw, Piquant, 2005, 192 pp, £6.99, ISBN 1 903689 33 3
Wade Bradshaw, a worker at L’Abri, relates the aims and accomplishments of the English branch in a very personal way by recalling conversations and anecdotes from his time there. His writing style reflects the ethos of the place: there is passionate commitment to biblical Christianity here, combined with a ‘soft hands’ approach that takes into account the complexities of the world and of the individuals that come to visit.
The book is a series of reflections based around the various activities of the community: mealtimes, study, practical work, individual tutorials, public lectures and engagement with culture. Thus, one can easily glean some essential elements of L’Abri’s legacy in relation to its doctrine, methods and how it sees itself both as an observer and a servant of the church and of the world.
It is a too personal account for readers who would like a clear, blow-by-blow account of what to expect from a week at L’Abri. However, those who would appreciate a perceptive and pithy view on how one segment of the western Christian community has been interacting with its culture will love this refreshing and, at times, witty analysis.
The constant theme throughout is the integration of Christian truth and daily experience. Hence, Bradshaw writes of some students who visit: ‘They listen to lectures or read a book on a subject, and perhaps they begin to think they understand the idea; but then in the community, or during their work time, they are faced with a practical challenge to live it out’.
At times the book is a frank appraisal of the difficulties faced in ‘showing forth the existence of God’ (Francis Schaeffer), even within a Christian community. Bradshaw is aware of some of the criticisms that have been levelled at L’Abri over the years; for instance, he admits ‘Each branch is a difficult place to live for those who love order and efficiency’. While structured study is one aim, the tough part of L’Abri’s work seems to be effecting real spiritual change in peoples’ lives and, like life in general, this can be a messy and apparently unproductive process. Therefore, Bradshaw writes, ‘Our work requires the power of God at work in our minds and hearts and circumstances’.
It would have been helpful to have the perspective from other branches of L’Abri, although this book gets as close as a book can get to capturing the essence of English L’Abri and its work.
Reviewed by John Barker, freelance musician and music director at Gracechurch, Hackney, East London, a church plant from St Helen's Bishopsgate. John is the grandson of John HJ Barker, founder chairman of the Methodist revival fellowship.
Headline Winter 2005/6 p.27