Some books should be able to have a higher plane for ratings than ordinary books. For example, the Bible should get "infinity" stars. It's not even on...moreSome books should be able to have a higher plane for ratings than ordinary books. For example, the Bible should get "infinity" stars. It's not even on a continuum with other literature. And this book, while not in the same realm as the Bible, is so firmly grounded in Truth as to be more powerful than any other devotional work I have encountered. I will never stop reading it as a part of my own devotional times--it is immensely rich with an intermingling of solid, deep doctrine and heartfelt emotion which so clearly reflects the faith of the Apostles and church fathers. This collection is a blessing. (less)
"The man who cannot believe his senses, and the man who cannot believe anything else, are both insane, but their insanity is proved not by any error i...more"The man who cannot believe his senses, and the man who cannot believe anything else, are both insane, but their insanity is proved not by any error in their argument, but by the manifest mistake of their whole lives. They have both locked themselves up in two boxes, painted inside with the sun and stars; they are both unable to get out, the one into the health and happiness of heaven, the other even into the health and happiness of the earth. Their position is quite reasonable; nay, in a sense it is infinitely reasonable, just as a threepenny bit is infinitely circular. But there is such a thing as a mean infinity, a base and slavish eternity."
G.K. Chesterton's writing is terribly likeable--no wonder even those who reject Christian ideology enjoy reading him. He is a master of argument, as the above quote shows, and this little book is full of such forcefully clever nuggets. The five star rating is not for the whole book, however, but for the section entitled "The Ethics of Elfland," which I loved so ecstatically that I cannot quote you my favorite part without quoting the greater part of it. In a pitiful attempt to summarize it, the rules governing fairy tales, which enable us to accept magic beans and the like, are far more reasonable than rules which limit one's worldview to what can be measured empirically. I'm not even going to try to do more, so you have to read that part. You'll want to go read some fairy tales afterward.
So, one fantastically great section, other parts with good and clever bits, other parts I found a little sluggish, and some just-plain-wrong stuff too (I laughed when I read another author who had scribbled in his copy of Orthodoxy, "Don't listen to what Chesterton says about Calvin. He's nuts!"--because that's just what I thought). It's a true cheese platter book. But the good cheese is so good. (less)
I love to read (sometimes). I love books (too much?). I love lists of books (way too much). When maturity reigns, I love wisdom, truth, and beauty fro...moreI love to read (sometimes). I love books (too much?). I love lists of books (way too much). When maturity reigns, I love wisdom, truth, and beauty from books. Tony Reinke's Lit! is a thoughtful, helpful, challenging book about why, how, and how much a Christian should read. It is thoughtful because, before delving into the "how-to" of being a good reader, he addresses the theology of reading for Christians. I felt these first six chapters actually could have used a bit more editing for conciseness, but nevertheless his points are crucial if our reading is to be communion with God and not simply an intellectual or aesthetic exercise. Be patient, and don't skip this part. It fleshes out the supremacy of Scripture, the need for Gospel lenses in reading, why words trump images in communication, what makes a biblical worldview and how to interpret other worldviews, the value of, and standards for choosing non-Christian literature, and the necessity of imaginative literature for the Christian. Part two is called "Some Practical Advice on Book Reading." I was challenged to make concrete priorities to guide the books I choose (so simple, but I hadn't formally done it), and to ask questions before reading that I expected to be answered. I was granted permission to stop reading a book that didn't answer the questions (shocking!) or to read isolated sections of non-fiction books that are pertinent without feeling pressured to finish the whole thing (what?). When to read fast, when to read slow, the value of fiction, why and how to scribble in the margins without getting bogged down, how to guard my reading time and make sure deep contemplation is not destroyed by internet habits (ouch!), and how to come away with the nuggets I'll go back to again and again. I also came away with a whole list of other books to read (one of my favorite things). The dust is still settling from my reading of this book, and I'm challenging myself as a seeker of wisdom not to bounce on to the next thing (more Reinke advice), but I am ready to take away a couple more nuggets now: as I have mulled over this book in Kindle format, attempting to read it as I would prefer to do, marking and writing, flipping back and forth, going over notes and highlighted sections, I wanted to throw the Kindle across the room. The codex prevails for deep reading! (Then again, I think I got this book free on Kindle.) But perhaps my take-away is that, if a book is good enough to motivate me to do that, it's good enough to buy a hard copy. Also, and most importantly, I was reminded that Christian reading, just like Christian everything-else, is for God's glory and should be purposeful. I'm thankful for all of these challenges and genuinely feel better equipped to read "Christianly." (less)
As many reviewers have said, this book is a lovely blend of Dr. Moore's theological exposition of the Christian doctrine of adoption, a transparent ac...moreAs many reviewers have said, this book is a lovely blend of Dr. Moore's theological exposition of the Christian doctrine of adoption, a transparent accounting of his own experiences being an adoptive father, and a pastorly advice-book about some of the practical choices adoptive parents, family members, and churches must make. And, before I venture to say anything more specific than that, I really like Russell Moore. He manages, for me at least, to do something very difficult, and that is to let his personality and his struggles and his pursuit of the Lord through them come off the page in such a way that feels quite personal. He gets offended by "rude questions about adoption," he calls himself an idiot, he talks repeatedly to his readers in ways that he knows are confrontational, because he wishes someone had confronted him that way. So, that said, I appreciated a lot about this book. Adoption has resonated with me for a while, particularly in view of its reflection of who we are in Christ, and it was comforting and beautiful to see how the doctrine is worked out in both Old and New Testaments. At the same time, I squirmed when Moore wrote about the choice to adopt "special needs" children as if it weren't a calling for a special group of super-spiritual, extra-patient people who don't mind living their sunset years with their child still at home. I squirmed, and then I went back and read it again. I have thought eagerly about adopting some kind of "special needs" child--transracial adoption doesn't bother us if the need is greater there, developmental delays, behavioral struggles, these seem to be part of the adoption package. But a child who will never really grow up? When Jesus said to do good to those who can never repay it, and I kind of thought of it as an "every now and then" type deal, was my theology, and my love, warped? Obviously. So Dr. Moore helped me see that, and challenged me to repent. I also had to wrap my head around Moore's obvious belief that adoption is the business of every Christian and every church, in some way or another. Because of what God has done for us in Christ, and because of the fact that God has a passion for orphans, and our culture does not, adoption is not "something nice" some Christians might do, or "plan B" if the fertility treatments don't work out. Either by praying for or financially enabling adoptions, or by being an adoptive parent, or by counseling pregnant mothers in crisis situations, Moore says this is for the whole body of Christ. The magnitude of that claim means this is a book, and a doctrine, particularly, to revisit until I get saturated with where the Bible would have me stand. I had a couple of "meh" moments reading this book, but they really do seem unimportant compared to the really good and valuable things I gained from it. I highly recommend this to all Christians--it has more to do with us than we realize.(less)
For the past six weeks, I (along with my husband and a group of precious moms from church) have been living with this book. There is something extra w...moreFor the past six weeks, I (along with my husband and a group of precious moms from church) have been living with this book. There is something extra wonderful about digesting a book slowly, morsel by morsel, taking time to talk to God and others about it, and seeing how it looks when it becomes a part of "real life." The benefits of discussing a book like this are numerous, but some of the best are, one, that parts that seemed to speak to only one or two people in the group can come to life for the rest as the application is further explored through those people's experiences, two, that parts that may have been misunderstood if they were read by only one person who got sleepy while reading are less likely to be misunderstood by the group as a whole, and three, especially for a book as practical as this one, the accountability of the group makes the individuals in it strive truly to apply what has been read and discussed. This is a perfect book for a group, but, at the very least, to read with one's spouse or a close friend. I feel I do poorly with synopses, or maybe I just don't like writing them, but, anyway, the blurb above gives a good feel for what the book is about. I'd call this book "practical theology." Elyse and Jessica aren't trying to present something new or shocking, and you won't read anything within these pages that you couldn't see by reading your Bible faithfully and prayerfully. But that's the point--so many parents are bouncing around like pinballs much of the time, and, unfortunately, either on autopilot or being reactionary, or, even if there is a plan we're working out, that plan has too much to do with getting our kids to be "good" and protecting them from the world, rather than pointing them consistently toward the Gospel of grace. And, honestly, we do that because the Gospel isn't completely saturating our own thoughts. So here come some godly women who have really thought, studied, and prayed this through, to give us a boost. Some people have called this book repetitive. It is! I think it has to be, because we repeatedly (although usually unconsciously) compartmentalize the application of the Gospel in our lives. We apply it here, we ignore it there. So the authors of this book keep reminding us, as we ought to be reminding ourselves, in this situation, live the Gospel. And in that one, the other one, and don't forget the one over there, live the Gospel. For this reason, it is so much more than a parenting book. Parenting is an extension of the spiritual condition of the parents. If Jesus is beautiful to us, we'll make every effort, every chance we get, to display Him for our kids. It would take too long to enumerate every lesson I found poignant in this book, and the statements I disagreed with are too minor and too few to enumerate at all here (but good to discuss with your reading partners). I will say that this parenting book that isn't really a parenting book has made it to the very top of my list of "books that become old friends." I think that's primarily because it points me to, and helps me love even better, the oldest Friend of all.(less)
(Note--this book really hangs somewhere on the under-side of three stars for me. Also, this review is written from an orthodox Christian standpoint--I...more(Note--this book really hangs somewhere on the under-side of three stars for me. Also, this review is written from an orthodox Christian standpoint--I'm not qualified to offer any other.) "If God is good, why does he cause or allow us to experience painful circumstances? Perhaps he is not good. Or, perhaps he just isn't powerful enough to protect his creatures from pain." These are the difficult questions, natural to many of us, that C.S. Lewis attempts to address in this book. It is one of his earliest works as a Christian, predating Mere Christianity by three years. Because of this, and because he takes a mostly-apologetic stance rather than simply addressing what the Bible has to say about pain, a significant number of his ideas reflect his secular academic background imposing itself upon the supernatural. But I will start with the positives first: The chapter entitled "Divine Goodness" is truly excellent. It addresses the idea that God's goodness and the fact that He perfects his children through trials go hand-in-hand. It brings into perspective our cultural tendency to assume that God must be a "senile grandfather-type" who just wants everyone to have a good time. His arguments are intellectually and scripturally sound, and I believe this chapter can stand alone for many believers struggling with trials of various sorts. Secondly, I appreciated the times when Lewis qualified his views as "simply opinion," "a layman's ignorant perspective," "subject to correction by real theologians," etc. This is a message he sent often in Mere Christianity as well, and it shows a measure of humility that (from what I learned in Surprised by Joy) did not come naturally to him. On the other hand, in this early book, the places where Lewis so qualifies his opinions are rather few, and he presents some things as fact which most Christian theologians and a respectable number of scientists deny. Most prevalently, his belief in the Theory of Evolution permeates two chapters of this book--"The Fall of Man," and "Animal Pain." In the first, Lewis treats the Biblical account of Adam and Eve as a doctrine rather than a narrative, and posits that somewhere in the evolution of the species, mankind (in whatever number) were given souls and became "Paradisal Man." At some point, by some means, Paradisal Men fell. The tragic result of Lewis' false assumption is that he consequently has no understanding of the Scriptural concept of a federal head--"as 'in' Adam all died, so 'in' Christ we can be made alive together with Him." If Adam is just the mythical name for "Paradisal Man," that "in" really doesn't make any sense, and the word "in" is admittedly mysterious to Lewis. The second chapter (on "Animal Pain") argues that the animal species cannot have experienced its first pangs at the fall of man, since the evolutionary record shows us that carnivorous behavior in animals predates humanity. He posits that perhaps Satan, who seems to have fallen before the creation of mankind, might have corrupted creation first, and mankind second. Again, this completely ignores the narrative of biblical creation, which bears no trademarks of a parable or myth as far as Scripture goes. I realize it was not Lewis' intention to be cavalier about Scripture, and indeed many of us in modern Christendom have at one time or another been deceived by compromising doctrines that claim to be intellectually superior to orthodox Christianity. However, Lewis' belief in Evolution was not the only area this type of deception occurred. He also posited that, because Christ lived in a human body, with a human brain of an average size, He may well have spoken historical or scientific error without impugning his Deity. In this context, Lewis mentions that we might take as truth Jesus' teachings about the Devil because they don't contradict any verified scientific findings, only our cultural beliefs. Truly, it is a great mystery that Jesus "grew in wisdom" as well as in stature, and we know He was not always or perhaps ever omniscient in the body before being glorified at His resurrection, but we also know that He possessed knowledge well outside the reaches of the human intellect (many places in Scripture tell us that he knew people's thoughts), and I cannot easily count the number of references to the Christ as "perfect." Add to that the fact that Scripture declares itself to be perfect (2 Timothy 3:16), and it becomes clear that the idea of Jesus' having spoken error at all, and that error then being recorded forever to misdirect us in the infallible Word of God, is quite contrary to the precepts of our Faith. These compromises with the secular climate in which Lewis lived were disheartening, and at times as I read I actually felt sick to my stomach. The chapters that were neither excellent nor nauseating seemed at times beneficial and at times self-indulgent. I don't believe I would have felt so strongly if I didn't so respect the man God made Lewis as he continued his Christian life. I'm so thankful that his reliance on Scripture certainly grew as he matured in his walk, and his likeness to the world around him lessened. I reassert the value of the chapter entitled "Divine Goodness," but urge extreme caution and a discerning eye when reading the rest.
My initial purpose for reading this book was to get a better perspective of the man who wrote Mere Christianity. What had been the factors in his life...moreMy initial purpose for reading this book was to get a better perspective of the man who wrote Mere Christianity. What had been the factors in his life that had made him the man he was, and who indeed was he? I had no idea from the simple language and many metaphors of Mere Christianity that the man Lewis was so cerebral and INTIMIDATINGLY well-read. In fact, if I were to write my own subtitle for this book, for humorous purposes only, it would be "You Can Never Read as Much as C.S. Lewis." But that would be only part of the point. ;) I say "part of the point" because Lewis' reading really did play a key role in the intellectual and spiritual journey that brought him to Christ. What gave him the feeling of longing he described as Joy? Reading. What helped to convince him that atheism was unreasonable (in addition to key friendhips)? Reading. And on, and on, through his journey, the reflections of God's truth that he recognized as Joy came to him through the written word (in addition to rhetorical banter with a few good friends), and also through nature. The lessons he learned through his reading and also through his experiences with nature were to "close his mouth, open his eyes and ears, and take in what there is." This lesson was much harder for him to learn in his philosophy of life, but the book shows how God's faithful hand guided him to that final point of submission, when he finally realized the futility and shame of resisting the call of Christ. I'm not going to lie--this book is quite heady. There were pages I had to read three times before I even thought I'd assimilated it. But the book reflected Lewis at each stage of his journey, and in the end his philosophical musings took a back seat to the truth that Joy is simply a guidepost--a reflected glory of the One behind it--and the business of journeying heavenward must be his new occupation. P.S. I also got a few more books for my "to-read" list out of the deal, which had been of great influence in Lewis' life. :)(less)
There is just something about Lewis that makes you love him--probably several somethings: his genius for metaphor, his humility, his passion for Chris...moreThere is just something about Lewis that makes you love him--probably several somethings: his genius for metaphor, his humility, his passion for Christ, his creativity, and the list may go on. It would be very difficult to hit all the points that were meaningful to me in this book, and it would be equally difficult to hit all the points of doctrine where he and I disagree (or at least, disagree at this early point in his Christian life). I had the absolute blessing and benefit of sitting in a discussion group of this book with a literature professor who had done her master's thesis on Lewis' space trilogy, and was a wealth of knowledge on his life and works. She (and my learned mother, who was also there) helped me to understand the context of this book in a way that I had not had the time or opportunity to understand yet, and context is everything when understanding Mere Christianity. First, no matter how philosophical and academic Lewis seems to me, the academians of his time hated everything he stood for. They, the "realists," spent much of their time saying how people are "mere" groupings of atoms, how oceans are "mere" gatherings of water droplets, and the like. Mere Christianity is a rebuttal to this idea, and when you read the book you see that there is nothing "mere" about it. Secondly, I, as someone who has grown up in a Christian environment and am still largely surrounded by believers, have had very little experience talking to athiests, and can benefit from the apologetic viewpoint. On the one hand, apologetics are not the Gospel. On the other hand, they can help someone who sees Christianity as ridiculous to recognize that it is reasonable, and maybe even consider picking up a Bible. The audience Lewis spoke to was an unbelieving one, in terror of WWII and in utter rejection of biblical Christianity--most of them products of their postmodern society. His argument is meant to help these people see a glimpse or glimmer of what may await them in Christ. As for the message of the book itself, it is incredibly orderly and covers everything from the Moral Argument for the existence of God to the way a Christian believer may realize his full potential. Lewis uses his gift for metaphor to animate many difficult ideas in beautiful ways. He makes many strong and amazing statments based firmly in biblical truth. There are, as I mentioned, a couple of tendencies toward error in the subjects of free will and evolution that chafed a bit, but I noticed in Surprised by Joy (which was written later) that Lewis pays due honor to God's sovereignty in salvation, and I am assured by my professor friend that his views on evolution changed also. And, in the end, none of us understands God perfectly until we meet him face to face. In the mean time, this book was very beneficial and a real blessing. I look forward to reading about his later life in Letters to an American Lady, and getting to know the everyday C.S. Lewis better. (less)
John MacArthur is truly an annointed preacher and commentator. I have been studying 1 Corinthians for the past couple of months during my devotional t...moreJohn MacArthur is truly an annointed preacher and commentator. I have been studying 1 Corinthians for the past couple of months during my devotional times, and I was using this and one other very respected commentary to help me understand context issues. This one really surpassed the other because of MacArthur's amazing attention to historical context as well as Scriptural context. After reading many of his comments, I see that this important book of the Bible really must be understood with lots of attention to historical and cultural details, or it will likely be misunderstood. The amount of study that obviously went into this commentary is astounding, and I highly recommend it. I am excited about looking into others of this series too. (less)