This was a fantastic book. It tells the story of Brother Yun, a Chinese Christian who played a significant role in the house church movement of China.This was a fantastic book. It tells the story of Brother Yun, a Chinese Christian who played a significant role in the house church movement of China. His autobiography tells the story of his inspiring devotion to Christ, his multiple imprisonments (and experiences of abuse and torture), and the amazing miraculous ways he has seen God work in his life. It took me a few chapters to get into the book, but then I was hooked. Some parts are especially gripping, including the account of Yun’s miraculous escape from a high security prison. This book was full of wisdom and very encouraging. It has challenged how I see the Christian walk and what I want my life to look like. This is now one of my favorite biographies, which puts it in some great company!...more
I put off writing this review for a couple days because I wanted to give it some thought first. What I didn't have to think about was how much I enjoyI put off writing this review for a couple days because I wanted to give it some thought first. What I didn't have to think about was how much I enjoyed the book. Despite some distractingly clunky writing (the book was self-published and often reveals the need of an editor) it was truly invigorating, stimulating, and mind-expanding. I loved reading it. Young's story of a man's encounter with God, and his interaction with him over the terrible pain and suffering he has experienced, is packed with theological insight into God's character. The look at God is fresh and appealing; I've never read a book that so clearly shows how God's nature as a Trinity demonstrates his love and compassion. Young makes a powerful presentation of God's goodness that is sadly way beyond most Christians' impression of him. Even much good theology misses the boat on God's character, saying he is good and loving but failing to spell it out it in the way Young does here.
It's the theology that made me think a bit about how to review the book. There is a lot of negative reaction to The Shack out there by people who say it is heretical, or at least theologically suspicious. For example, people have criticized his portrayal of the Trinity as being theologically incorrect. But honestly, no one is going to be able to perfectly portray God accurately in a way that humans can understand. Young's attempt is SO much better than most of what is out there, and a great corrective to how almost all of us tend to think about God either as three individuals, or as essentially just one being, neither of which is correct. Kudos to Young for introducing a whole generation to the concept and relevance of the Triune God! (It's weird that people would nitpick a pretty good presentation of the Trinity when most books, sermons, etc. miss the boat entirely. Maybe we're just happier with the bad theology we're used to.) Others have criticized Young's tendency towards universal reconciliation--the idea that all people will be saved by God eventually, even out of hell. All I can say is that this belief is never directly stated in the book. But Young does seem to veer in that direction, and his discussion of judgment leaves you asking a lot of questions. A person may read this book and see how loving and good God is, but then be puzzled when they read the Bible and see that God judges evil, nations, etc. Young doesn't really explain that very well, and gives an oversimplified view of God's good character. That's actually my biggest concern about recommending the book. It's too bad, because I think God can be shown to be this loving, with judgment still in the picture. One last criticism people have voiced is that Young is anti-church. That may be true. Some of his statements could be read that way. But they could also be read as just being suspicious of church politics, people emphasizing the institution over the relationships, etc. I never felt like the church was being bashed, or people being told not to go.
All in all, I think this is a great, provocative book and I highly recommend it for those who have some depth in scripture which they can use to really think it through. It is probably also really good for people who have been angry with God or are trying to process pain and suffering in their own lives. However, it's tricky enough that I wouldn't hand it out as general reading unless I could be in dialogue about it with the people I gave it to.
Oh and finally, a word to all those people who are so worked up about the book's theological "inaccuracies": every book has them, unless it is the Bible. This is a human work wrestling to understand the Biblical God. Some have objected to Eugene Peterson's comparing this book to Pilgrim's Progress. For goodness sake, Pilgrim's Progress contains a moment where Moses runs up to the main character and knocks him to the ground--apparently in an attempt to describe the affect the law on a person before Christ comes. Not exactly an accurate picture of the godly character of Moses, or of the goodness of the law as described in the New Testament. Anyway, the point is that the theology of The Shack is not perfect, but neither is anyone else's. Personally, I found it to be a great stimulus to thought and to my relationship with God....more
The first book in this series, The Maze Runner, had a really interesting premise. As the story unfolded, the mystery grew. It made me want to read theThe first book in this series, The Maze Runner, had a really interesting premise. As the story unfolded, the mystery grew. It made me want to read the sequel: The Scorch Trials.
Unfortunately, in the Scorch Trials the plot becomes much less interesting, and Dashner's poor writing begins to stand out. About a third of the way in I began to struggle internally as to whether to keep reading. But then I still wanted answers so, like a sucker, I kept going.
Here are few things that make this book so flawed:
- Terrible character development: even though there are theoretically a large number of boys who've been together for a whole book before this one, most are just ignored. They don't even have names, and the main character doesn't even seem to know who they are. Even those with names are utterly one-dimensional: Frypan likes to cook? Got it. One major character, Newt, is distinguishable only because he says the word "bloody" in every sentence. Or once in a while "buggin'".
- Terrible dialogue: see above example of an accent. A whole, two-word accent. Oh, and for some reason the characters are always angry when they talk to each other.
- Female characterization: yet another awful example of female characters in bad science fiction. In The Maze Runner, every character was male except for one girl, who of course was the love interest to... [spoiler alert, not really] the main character. Now, in the second book, a whole group of female characters are introduced, but they're nameless and play no role in the story, except for [spoiler alert] another love interest for the main character.
- More terrible dialogue: "klunk", "shuck", "shuck face", etc. Tip: using made up swear words is lame and distracting. Either use real ones or don't use them at all. It's fracking dumb.
- Weird repetition. Example: as another reviewer pointed out here, it feels like almost every chapter ends with the main character collapsing into sleep. They said they counted 29 times. This guy must be narcoleptic.
- Lighting. I suspect that Dashner has no idea how lightning works. Hint: it's electricity. It doesn't slam into the earth like a missile, making explosions, throwing rocks into the air, and leaving craters.
- The nonsensical "solution" to the first book's mystery. The big let down. Suffice it to say that there is no reason in the world that "scientists" would do what they do here for the reason Dashner gives. It's inane. I suspect that, as with the lightning, he just doesn't understand the basics about disease, medicine, or neuroscience, and he assumes his readers won't either.
Despite all these terrible flaws, this book was still somewhat readable, and I survived to the end....more
This was my 3rd or 4th time reading The Great Divorce, which continues to be one of my favorite books of all time. Lewis presents a vision of heaven,This was my 3rd or 4th time reading The Great Divorce, which continues to be one of my favorite books of all time. Lewis presents a vision of heaven, hell, divine judgment, and human response to God which is incredibly profound and yet easily digested. I highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read it yet. It's a short read--about 3 hours perhaps. This audiobook version was excellent and made several hours of yard work quite enjoyable.
The Abolition of Man sits on just about the opposite side of the spectrum from The Great Divorce, as far as Lewis's works are concerned. Where The Great Divorce is a work of fiction that reads easily, The Abolition of Man is an intellectual essay, requiring a bit more concentration to follow the thought. But no matter which form, Lewis's writing remains packed with insight. Here he addresses some fundamental problems with modern thought--how the result of the naturalistic, materialistic worldview which predominates in Western culture is ultimately dehumanization. His logic is excellent, and worthy reading for anyone interested in science, philosophy, or theology. It is also very accessible whether one comes from a Christian background or not--Lewis does not assume his reader is a Christian theist. I wish many more people, from all religious and non-religious perspectives read this book; it remains a very relevant and needed corrective to the intellectual errors of our society. Again, this audiobook was well-read and enjoyable, though I occasionally wished I were reading text so that I could more easily re-read certain sections or take notes....more
I borrowed this audiobook when I was in a particularly October-ish mood and it paid off well. I've mostly avoided ghost stories in my movies and booksI borrowed this audiobook when I was in a particularly October-ish mood and it paid off well. I've mostly avoided ghost stories in my movies and books for a while now, but thought I'd give this a try. It paid off as a classic haunted house story. Sorry, no zombies, monsters, or gore here. Just a really creepy house and an interesting main character....more
This book is probably not for everyone. For the first third of the book I was a bit bored, as N. T. Wright took on a variety of issues regarding the AThis book is probably not for everyone. For the first third of the book I was a bit bored, as N. T. Wright took on a variety of issues regarding the Apostle Paul which are probably only of significant interest to Pauline scholars. But then he made some really striking points that got my attention, specifically challenging some common Protestant understandings of Paul's writings and bringing a stronger cultural and interpretive understanding. For example, he points out that, to Paul, the term "gospel" did not mean a system of beliefs telling a person how to be saved, nor did it include the modern protestant concept of "justification". Rather, to Paul the gospel was simply the proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord. Justification served a completely different purpose in his thinking than how we often understand and apply it today. He points out similar misunderstanding regarding the term "righteousness" and the "law court" analogy. I found Wright's reasoning exceptional and enlightening--he really does offer a compelling interpretation of complex books like Romans, that seems much more faithful to Paul's context, and more logically coherent as a whole. As usual, Wright's writing style is very accessible, even while his concepts are challenging. If you're looking for an intro to Wright's work, this is probably not the best book to start with. But for people working through their own thinking of the doctrine of salvation, and Pauline theology, this book probably ought to be required reading....more
I enjoyed "reading" (listening to, really) this famously controversial book. The basic idea, economic analysis applied to understanding various life/sI enjoyed "reading" (listening to, really) this famously controversial book. The basic idea, economic analysis applied to understanding various life/societal issues, is well sold by the excellent, humorous, thought-provoking prose. This book will really get you wondering. That said, there were quite a few times when I felt that the authors were making gigantic jumps in logic to draw big, questionable conclusions. As I read the book I very much enjoyed it, and found myself repeating things I was reading to my patient wife. But in retrospect I have many questions, and I find that there is a lot of criticism out there about how conclusions were drawn.
Oh, and just for the record, the audiobook recording is excellent....more
Another great read from Susan Howatch. I needed a book that would keep me coming back and this one was a real page-turner. It's a little less surprisiAnother great read from Susan Howatch. I needed a book that would keep me coming back and this one was a real page-turner. It's a little less surprising than the first novel but gets you into the drama much quicker. As with Glittering Images, Howatch focuses on the emotional issues of her characters, how those issues drive their life choices, how they lead to self-destruction, and how healing ultimately comes about. That sounds like it should be boring, but somehow she creates a great deal of tension and interest throughout the book. Of course, she also includes psychic powers and exorcism, which adds a little something. I also found it very interesting to be inside the head of a former monk returning to normal life. Looking forward to reading novel #3!...more
Another great book in the series! Man, I'm burning through these right now, mostly on audiobook. I came into this one wondering how closely its plot wAnother great book in the series! Man, I'm burning through these right now, mostly on audiobook. I came into this one wondering how closely its plot would match that of the movie. I figured the movie would have deviated quite a bit from the book, but I had no idea it would be by so much. Essentially the movie has almost nothing in common with the book plot-wise, except for a couple of scenes and part of the general premise. Almost everything that actually happens is different. So if you watched the movie, don't worry, you didn't spoil the reading.
Incidentally, the movie does an exceptional job of capturing the feel of the whole series of books, even if it doesn't follow the plot of the particular book it's named after. I'm guessing that's what they were trying for. ...more
I knew next to nothing about Oswald Chambers before listening to this reading of his biography. All I knew was that a) he was the author of the excellI knew next to nothing about Oswald Chambers before listening to this reading of his biography. All I knew was that a) he was the author of the excellent book, My Utmost for His Highest, and b) he was a Scottish theologian with a similar approach to other Scottish theologians that I am coming to admire: John MacLeod Campbell, the Torrances, and George MacDonald. So I had no idea about his academic brilliance in theology and philosophy, or about his personal zeal for life and God that infected everyone around him, or about the fact that he volunteered to be an army chaplain of sorts, working with UK troops through the YMCA in Egypt during WWI. This book was a well-written window into the life of a brilliant communicator who loved God. As for the audio recording, Simon Vance again does an excellent job, even switching from a British accent into a Scottish one when reading direct quotes from Chambers. I don't recommend this book for everyone, but if you like Christian biographies and know something of Chambers's work, you might enjoy reading this as I did....more
This book presents four views on Christ's work of atonement, each written in a separate chapter by a different author. The views are: Christus Victor,This book presents four views on Christ's work of atonement, each written in a separate chapter by a different author. The views are: Christus Victor, Penal Substitution, Healing, and Kaleidoscopic. After the author presents their view, the other three critique it. This was an interesting introduction to views on the atonement, and it was well-written and usually easy to follow. While I found the book generally helpful, there were numerous times it seemed that the authors could have made much more compelling cases for their perspectives. Often the criticisms seemed more insightful than the presentations themselves, leaving you with a sense of uncertainty about any of them. The biggest flaw is that every perspective neglects to discuss some of the most critical ways the Bible discusses atonement, including themes like participation in Christ (which according to the early church theologians and writers of the Nicene Creed was CENTRAL to how the atonement worked), adoption and family metaphors, etc. Sill, it's handy to see these views laid out next to each other and discussed....more
The classic first biography of the Beatles. I read the updated, updated (again) version. The original book ended with the band still together. That'sThe classic first biography of the Beatles. I read the updated, updated (again) version. The original book ended with the band still together. That's where this version ends too, but it contains an afterward with reflections on how quickly the band went from tight friendship to nasty bickering, but not many other details. Davies points out that this period of the band's life has been well-documented other places. It would have been great, though, if Davies had originally followed the band through to the bitter end. Since he was on the inside with the band, recording the events as they happened, this book is like getting a window right into their world. I can see why it's been so popular for so long. Personally, I really enjoyed reading it. It was fascinating seeing the context in which the Beatles became a band, how they went from a group of kids playing music to great performers, and of course the rise of Beatlemania and its effects on the band, their families, and the rest of the world.
This was truly a fun read and sent me off on a bit of a Beatles kick. Next steps if I get the time (not likely): - Listen to their albums in chronological order. Just have to get my hands on them, they're definitely not on Spotify. - Watch the various Beatles movies--well, maybe not all of them. - Check out 1 or 2 of the best documentaries.
And yes, I am posting this review 4 months after I read the book. Better late than never....more
This is a book I'd always been curious to read, having been a sci-fi fantasy fan (more so when I was younger) and hearing it lauded by its many fans.This is a book I'd always been curious to read, having been a sci-fi fantasy fan (more so when I was younger) and hearing it lauded by its many fans. King apparently considers this series to be his "magnum opus".
I wasn't especially impressed by this first book, but it gets a pass because A) it was written so early in King's career, B) it's obviously just an introduction, and C) the praise for these books usually seems to be for the series as a whole.
This novel is truly is just an introduction. It's is surprisingly short for a King novel, mostly serving to introduce the main character and the strange setting. Of course, like most fantasy this work is a bit derivative: think a heavy does of Nine Princes of Amber, plus cowboy novel, plus Mad Max. It's the combination that makes the novel unique.
The book is a bit flawed, not least with many King-isms in their most youthful and unfiltered form. For example, King applies no restraint here to his usual sex-obsession. Every female character is described physically, and every male-female interaction involves some kind of sexual encounter with each party lusting after the other. Also, the book is ponderous in its over-description, and is VERY flashback-heavy, to the point of distraction.
Still the setting and character are compelling enough that I'll hang with it for one more novel to see what all the excitement is about. Perhaps the series grows up with its author?...more
This is a short (7 chapters, 133 pages) book written for a non-Christian audience. I read it as part of my recent quest to find books that a person inThis is a short (7 chapters, 133 pages) book written for a non-Christian audience. I read it as part of my recent quest to find books that a person interested in Christianity might find helpful. The last book I had read, Jesus without Religion by Rick James, did an admirable job in telling the story of the gospels in a fresh and appealing way. Stott takes a more philosophical approach, interacting with statements by thinkers such as Bertrand Russell and Nietzsche as he explains the principles of his belief in Christianity. The book is intellectual, but easy to read, and Stott presents his thoughts very well. It is not likely to change the mind of the hardened skeptic, but that is probably not its purpose. Instead, this may be just the right book for someone seeking spiritual truth....more
I'm finding Barth more enjoyable to read these days now that I understand his theology better. This book is more penetrable than most of his work. ItI'm finding Barth more enjoyable to read these days now that I understand his theology better. This book is more penetrable than most of his work. It consists of three essays. In the first he examines the errors of the liberal theology of the 19th century and how, in its effort to stay relevant to contemporary thought, it abandoned its Christian foundation. In the second he discusses the errors he and his contemporaries made in reacting to this liberal humanist theology by promoting an idea of God's transcendent glory which ultimately portrayed him as distant and disinterested. He corrects this error with his assertion of God's humanity, by which he means God's orientation towards humanity as exemplified in Christ. In the final essay Barth discusses the freedom of God (a favorite theme of his), how it leads to man's freedom, and what that freedom means for ethics. ...more