Monday, March 23, 2009

Book review: The Life and Thought of David Craig

Review of The Life and Thought of David Craig (1937-2001): Canadian Presbyterian Missionary by Dr. Jason Zuidema, Professor of Church History at Farel Reformed Theological Seminary (Montreal) and pastor in l'Église réformée St-Paul in Repentigny.

Dr. Zuidema has written a very worthwhile book. As the title suggests, the book has two parts. The first is biographical. It tells the story of David Craig's life. Though raised in the Brethren tradition, David embraced the Reformed faith as a young man. Having received theological training at the Presbyterian College in Montreal, he was ordained as a minister (St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Sherbrooke, Quebec) in 1966. Together with his wife, Nancy, he went to serve as a missionary in Nigeria. There he taught at a Bible School and was responsible, as pastor, for fifteen congregations!

While in Africa, David and Nancy were caught in the upheaval and war caused by the secession of some Nigerian provinces seeking to form the Republic of Biafra. Life became very dangerous and so it was thought best for Nancy to return to Canada; however, David stayed behind to minister to his flock. He was arrested, abused and faced barrels of loaded guns three times, but the Lord came to his rescue every time. He was presumed dead, but the Lord wanted him to live and continue to work in his kingdom. The story includes the touching account of his unexpected appearance at home where Nancy, returning from work, found him asleep in her bed.

David and Nancy worked for awhile in Vancouver before returning to Nigeria for a short while. The desire to work as a missionary in a French-speaking context was strong, and so the decision was to pursue further studies in Switzerland. Then began a ministry in Quebec. David served several French-speaking congregations belonging to the Presbyterian Church of Canada (PCC) as missionary/pastor.

The conviction grew among a number of Reformed believers to form one united Reformed church in French Quebec. The three "mother" churches would be the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA), the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), and the PCC. The resulting church would be the l'Église réformée du Quebec (ERQ). The CRCNA and the PCA were of a mind to work in this direction, but the PCC demurred. One of the sticking issues for the PCC was that the ERQ would restrict the ordained offices in the church to men. This resulted in a very painful breaking of David's relationship with the PCC. The ERQ was born in 1988.

David continued to work as a missionary/pastor in several ERQ congregations and was instrumental in the establishment of Institut Farel (now Farel Reformed Theological Seminary) in Montreal. The Lord called David home 24 October 2001 by way of a massive coronary episode.

The second part of the book gives examples of David's thought. It includes some theological, missiological, pastoral, and historical essays. It ends with a sermon about joy as the first mark of the church and the Christian, a sermon which is a gem.

Dr. Jason Zuidema is to be congratulated with this fine book. It is an important addition to the too-small bibliography of works recounting Canada's church history.