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Book Review of Threescore + Ten: Passing the Use-By Date

Monday, 21 March 2022  | Charles Ringma

Threescore + Ten: Passing the Use-By Date

By John Kidson

(C. and J. Spynetwork, 2021)


Much Christian writing is focussed on providing spiritual encouragement, better understanding of the scriptures, ethical guidance and how we are to be the witnesses and servants of Christ in our communities and our world. And of course, there are also books that deal with serious theological topics such as the trinity, the doctrine of the two kingdoms, a theology of the marketplace, among other topics.

Much more personal are Christian biographies and autobiographies where we may gain some sense of how a person has lived the Christian life with all its blessings, failures and challenges.  This genre of writing, however, is often ‘sanitised’ and we learn more about a person’s achievements than about their griefs and struggles.

John Kidson, long-term youth worker and university chaplain, in this brief book of some seventy-seven pages, has given us a very different style of writing and some challenging insights into aspects of life that are seldom aired in the public domain.

The writing style is whimsical, playful and humorous. And John is quite happy ‘to take the “micky” out on himself’. He talks about illnesses as if they are as common as bacon and eggs for breakfast and his possible imminent death as if it is simply the next anecdotal piece in some reflective piece of writing. We get glimpses of his family of origin, his youth, his own extended family and how proud he is about his grandchildren. But he also touches on ethical issues, including rape, IVF programs and aged care. And there is more that we can gain from John in the many ‘throw-away’ lines.

But the main focus in this autobiographical writing is what is seldom spoken about in church circles – our flawed physicality leading to various illnesses and the need for persistent medical intervention. And rather than this degenerating into a most unhappy tome, these matters are discussed with sensitivity and humour, with a ‘ring’ of normality. John seems to be saying to all of us: ‘let’s cut the bullshit – this is often the way life is’!

In these pages there is no sounding of the grand theme of healing through prayer or other spiritual practices. There is simply a witness to our humanity and to the profound limitations of physical wellness. One could say that this book is a small exemplar of a theology of the body and its limitations while at the same time pointing to the life to come in God’s final future.

I see this as a very ‘blokey’ book that men in small groups could use to talk about things other than their job, the fish they caught or their latest holiday. I also see it as book that talks about the ‘beauty’ of family and could therefore be used in church groups.

But above all, this book is a small window into some of the basic realities of life. And from it we can all learn to be less guarded and pious in our sharing and life together and become a little more realistic in living life - including the life of faith.

You can order a copy ($25.00 including postage and handling) from the author, John Kidson, at


Charles Ringma has taught in universities, seminaries and colleges in Asia, Australia and Canada. He is Emeritus Professor Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. His recent publications are Hear the Ancient WisdomSabbath Time, Chase Two Horses and A Fragile Hope.

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