Longer and in some ways deeper than "The Giver," but it didn't grip me quite as much, although I liked Kira as a protagonist. And I was surprised by h...moreLonger and in some ways deeper than "The Giver," but it didn't grip me quite as much, although I liked Kira as a protagonist. And I was surprised by her ultimate choice at the book's end. Looking forward to moving on to the next one in the "quartet."(less)
Tyson is a great communicator with an important message: America has fallen behind in the exploration and beneficial exploitation of space and space s...moreTyson is a great communicator with an important message: America has fallen behind in the exploration and beneficial exploitation of space and space science simply by doing not much to nothing since the close of the Apollo program. While we have made wonderful advances in robotic technology, NASA -- with a budget of less than one half-cent of every American's tax dollar (less than one half-cent!) -- has not been given the support it needs to fuel the public's innate sense of wonder and passion for science as it once did. Tyson cites the public outcry when funding for the Hubble Space Telescope was threatened, an outcry that ultimately secured a decade's longer life for the instrument, to show that kindling public interest and support for exploring space beyond low Earth orbit is not a futile exercise. Since defense has driven most of the great technological innovations of the past, Tyson argues we need a broader understanding of defense and security, not only for our country but for human civilization. In a non-partisan way, Tyson combines his scientific expertise with clear and enjoyable prose (sprinkled with good humor and plenty of pop culture references) to argue that we can reclaim America's leadership role in exploring space and, in the process, bettering life here on Earth; the two are not mutually exclusive goals.(less)
You can check out my full review at The Sci-Fi Christian (http://thescifichristian.com/2013/06/...), but, bottom line, this is an outstanding book. An...moreYou can check out my full review at The Sci-Fi Christian (http://thescifichristian.com/2013/06/...), but, bottom line, this is an outstanding book. An excellent example of how to write biography, with a real novelistic flair, backed up by exhaustive research and mastery of the material. Fantastic reading not only for Superman fans but also for students of 20th century popular culture. Highly recommended.(less)
Connell's comprehensive history of the liturgical year is just the kind of book I've long been wanting. He not only explains how and why the shape of...moreConnell's comprehensive history of the liturgical year is just the kind of book I've long been wanting. He not only explains how and why the shape of the Christian calendar came to be as it is (he is Roman Catholic, but the trajectory of the year will be familiar to any liturgical Christian church), but also offers lovely expositions of what it all means and why it all matters.
I've been "reading along" since Advent, and have been very impressed. For example, his examination of how Christians have allowed Christmas to be basically domesticated as only a festival of the family, losing much of the social reversal character it once had, he lends a lot of support to those who've argued that we should keep Christ, not in, but out of "Christmas" as our culture knows it.
There are also brief passages that you could spend days contemplating -- for example, this brief word about third-century patristic reflection on why Jesus was baptized: "The fathers of the church will explain the enigma they faced in explaining why the Savior underwent baptism [i.e., of repentance, for forgiveness], and they did so by offering the event as a chance for the Savior to sanctify the waters of the world: not that he needed anything from the rite performed at the hand of [John] the Baptist, but that the world itself needed the sanctification occasioned as his body touched the waters of the Jordan River." (p. 154)
As mentioned, Connell writes as a Catholic; but he is ready to draw from other Christian traditions when he finds things of value. I was especially pleased to see the Advent wreath liturgy from the current PC(USA) Book of Common Worship commended to the reader. He also lifts up the Salvation Army as perhaps the one branch of the Christian family that still "gets" the social face of a really Christian Christmas.
Connell's two volume work is meant as a seminary text, but it isn't dry or inaccessible. He illustrates his points throughout with lively illustrations from literature and even cinema; and his history would help many Christians, including many Protestants, appreciate the church year, not as an end in itself -- which it must never be, lest it become an idol -- but as a means by which we may more fully enter into the life of Christ, year by year, day by day, season by season, until he comes again. Very recommended. (less)
If you think "beautiful Batman story" might be an oxymoron, Bermejo's "Noel" will change your mind! Christmas offers the Dark Knight a chance at redem...moreIf you think "beautiful Batman story" might be an oxymoron, Bermejo's "Noel" will change your mind! Christmas offers the Dark Knight a chance at redemption and renewal, with the help of some very surprising "ghosts" of Yuletides past, present and future! Please see my full review at http://thescifichristian.com/2011/12/...; but this is definitely one of the strongest Batman stories I've ever read - and re-read; and it just gets better with each time -- and I think will be on fans' favorite lists for many years to come.(less)
Another Advent-Christmas-Epiphany devotional I "cheated" on and finished early... Polkinghorne is not only an Anglican priest but also a former theore...moreAnother Advent-Christmas-Epiphany devotional I "cheated" on and finished early... Polkinghorne is not only an Anglican priest but also a former theoretical physicist, so he brings some fascinating insights to bear on the Scriptures and liturgical themes of these seasons. I was especially struck by the way he incorporates the reality of entropy into his spirituality, as well as his belief that, in faith as in science, we believe in "things unseen" because they simply make life and the world make more sense. He also eloquently defends evolution as an expression of God's loving gift of freedom to the created order, while maintaining, "The ultimate divine purpose is that the evolving world of the old creation shall be transformed [by God's direct future intervention] into the everlasting world of the new creation." He repeats himself some (but that might not be as distracting had I read it over four weeks instead of two days), and doesn't always avoid resorting to platitudes as the back cover copy says he will (a few too many quotations of preachers' cliches), but overall this is a lively and engaging, easily accessible entry point into thinking about faith from a scientifically informed viewpoint. I suspect his other books are more rigorous than this one, but, as an introduction to him and getting to know his "voice," I liked it and would recommend it. Might make a good basis for adult Christian education settings.(less)
A very powerful and accessible collection, culled from Bonhoeffer's books, sermons, and letters. I am embarassed to admit I haven't read much of Bonho...moreA very powerful and accessible collection, culled from Bonhoeffer's books, sermons, and letters. I am embarassed to admit I haven't read much of Bonhoeffer (only "Life Together"), but this devotional compilation will definitely motivate me to do so in the new year. Bonhoeffer viewed his imprisonment as an extended, lived-out "Advent season," so he has a lot of first-hand wisdom to share about what it really means to "wait upon the Lord." He also pulls no punches about what the Incarnation ought to mean for Christians, and what it clearly meant to him. The volume also includes some thematically related excerpts from authors other than Bonhoeffer, but the martyred priest's is, as it should be, the main voice, and it is a compelling one. Recommended, and not just for the Advent and Christmas seasons.(less)
I never took a class with Dr. Juel while at Princeton. Now, I know I really missed out.
I don't know how to recommend this book as it deserves without...moreI never took a class with Dr. Juel while at Princeton. Now, I know I really missed out.
I don't know how to recommend this book as it deserves without stealing the late Dr. Juel's thunder, so I will just say: If you believe to any degree that God speaks through the Bible; if you think, to any extent, that Bible study is an important endeavor; if you care at all, and I mean one iota, about how Scripture is studied and read in congregational worship and education; if you are ever, at any point, called upon to present and interpret the Bible publically, as a Sunday school teacher, a preacher, a youth leader, curriculum writer (ahem!) .... If any of these statements apply to you, you really owe it to yourself to read this book. Juel's accessible essays and engaging sermons convicted me that, even now, I haven't really begun to appreciate what it means to say that the living Word still speaks through these ancient words.
Juel's basic argument (woefully paraphrased) is that, while the historical-critical methods of studying the Bible are important and can't be discarded, they do not get at the question of "What is God doing through this text?," because they're not designed to do so. To have an encounter with God through the Bible, we have to read it (1) from the standpoint of faith (which the Bible practically compels, because it confronts us with, as Matt Skinner's introduction says, God's promises that are only given, not necessariy explained); and (2) by "performing" it within a community, an audience. Bible study that stops at reading the text silently to oneself is, for Juel, insufficient. The text must be heard, and it must be heard in the company of others. Interpretation can't be solitary.
This all sounds pretty obvious and banal as I lay it out here, but when you see Juel bring these insights to bear on the question of where Mark's gospel originally ends (a dominant concern in these pages, as Juel was an expert in Mark); or his powerful Good Friday sermon, maybe the most faithfully preaching on that occasion I've ever seen ("Your theologizing will just make it worse, until you are prepared to join the leaders in doing away with a God who would act in such a fashion... The only one who can touch you and make you whole is dead, shut up in a tomb. We can only hope that God won't leave him there"); or his preaching on Psalm 139 ("The one from whom there is no escape and who knows you better than you know yourself is intent not on your destruction, but on your liberation and your salvation. In fact, God has been busy with nothing else") -- these aren't dry precepts he's laying down, these are witnesses to what God does with Scripture.
Page after page, Juel gives the lie to the old myth (that I heard many times from well meaning church members as I got ready to go to seminary) that scholarship necessarily erodes faith, that you "can't let those professors shake up what you believe." Juel believed, and believed passionately, in a God who is all about shaking us up. To again quote Skinner's introduction, one of Juel's recurring themes is, "Be careful of what gets handed down to us as authoritative... we will probably use it to make Bible reading more comfortable than it should be."
No longer being in pastoral ministry, I don't read as many "church books" as I used to; but this is a book that almost every adult in a church (probably written at too high a level for younger than college) -- the pastors, the officers, the members -- could read profitably. It certainly makes me eager to grow as a more "imaginative" reader of the Bible: not in the sense of "making things up" and being clever, but in the sense of attending more closely to the Scripture itself, even and especially in all its complications and questions, in order to more fully hear and claim its certain, uncomplicated promises in the end, as Juel himself clearly did.
"Leftover" Halloween reading... a really interesting and entertaining survey of why and how Mary Shelley's monster still has such a grip on our imagin...more"Leftover" Halloween reading... a really interesting and entertaining survey of why and how Mary Shelley's monster still has such a grip on our imagination. One of the most interesting things I learned was that the novel didn't gain acceptance as a "classic" worthy of serious study until the early 1970s... and I was reading it as required reading in tenth grade English just over a decade later! It's also inspired me to finally get around to watching the rest of the Universal Frankenstein films (as well as Kenneth Branagh's version, although the author doesn't seem to think too much of it). Very quick reading, but also very well done. (less)
A first-rate historical mystery, repelet with rare books, political intrigue, unrequited love and religious controversy. I don't read many mysteries,...moreA first-rate historical mystery, repelet with rare books, political intrigue, unrequited love and religious controversy. I don't read many mysteries, but I'm glad I picked this one up. I have the sequel in my "to read" pile, but I definitely recommedn Parris as both an engaging and artistically accomplished author. There is enough depth to the book, especially in the main character, to warrant at least one re-reading even when you know "whodunit." (less)