For a number of years it has been my privilege to know Pete Anderson, Cambridge University graduate, Christian Heritage officebody, and willing partner in Portugal Place prayer-times. And it must have been a couple of years ago that he first mentioned to me his creative ambition to squeeze the entire Biblical narrative into a slim self-penned paperback. ‘That sounds amazing!’ I said–and didn’t think much more about it. That is, until a month ago when a Facebook message from Pete informed me that the aforementioned ambition had been fulfilled, the book was published, and would I like a copy of my own for a mere £8? Always a sucker for the printed word, I immediately placed my order and within days was pleased to find a book-sized package awaiting me in my pigeon-hole.
On opening the book and reading the first few pages, my first reaction was that this wasn’t quite what I had expected. What had I expected? Well, maybe something more like The Book of God by Walter Wangerin, who (apparently, I’ve only skimmed the copy that my wife read last year and haven’t actually read it myself) retells the story of the Bible in chronological novelistic fashion.
The Rescue Mission is less conventional than this, constantly dipping into the thick of the Biblical story, and then immediately zooming out to give a vivid Trinitarian glimpse of the heart of God, whom we are able to behold because of the third mode of narrative: we (the reader) have stumbled into God’s office, a “dilapidated building” with “dull, discoloured concrete and smashed” which we have just decided “to enter with an open mind”.
Faithful to the point of awkwardness
This is bravely original, especially in a Christian world where a creative misstep can lead not just to someone deciding not to finish your book and maybe posting a bad review on Amazon, but to charges of heresy and incipient idolatry (cf. Mark Driscoll vs. the Shack).
As an aside, it’s probably true that in a world where you are no longer likely to be put to death for heresy, some authors may well be more concerned about their Amazon ratings than their theological orthodoxy.
Be that is may, Pete Atkinson is not among them. If anything, the Rescue Mission is faithful to the point of awkwardness, explicitly italicizing and referencing its frequent Scriptural quotations. This allows the reader to easily cross-reference the Biblical text and distinguish the infallible jots and tittles of Scripture from the vividly hypothesized imaginings of the author — but it does certainly take a little getting used to.
Masterful grasp of the full story of Scripture
Once you have adapted to the unique style of the book, you are in for a treat. The Rescue Mission sweeps the reader through the story of Scripture with speed and skill (there aren’t many who could manage a satisfactory survey of the entire Bible in less than 200 pages), consistently managing to cut quickly and concisely to the heart of the narrative, while also managing to bring surprising and unexpected historical and theological insight to the Bible’s scenes.
Read it for yourself
But don’t take my word for it — get a copy for yourself!
And if you already have, then tell me: what did *you* think of the Rescue Mission?