I'm really torn on how to review this book. On the one hand, I found it an enjoyable read,2017 Reading Challenge — Book 19: A self-improvement book
I'm really torn on how to review this book. On the one hand, I found it an enjoyable read, full of fascinating anecdotes and interesting observations. On the other hand, I had hoped—based on its subtitle—the book would provide insight into how to increase in my ability to "think without thinking." Perhaps it's my fault for expecting something the author never really claims the book offers, or perhaps it's because I listened to an audiobook version of the book (which doesn't allow me to interact with the book in the margins), but I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed at the end.
That said, I do find the concept of "thin-slicing" to be quite intriguing. Quickly drawing accurate conclusions based on limited data is a skill I try to cultivate. And so it was with great interest that I listened to many stories about times when people have been able to do just that. Of particular relevance to me was Gladwell's exploration of the work of John Gottman, a renowned psychologist and therapist who specializes in relationship counseling. Gottman used thin-slicing to build a model with which he predict the long-term stability of a marriage after only a few minutes of observing a newly married couple. Skills like that have obvious applicability in the ministry, as in most walks of life.
But there are also inherent dangers in making snap judgments, something to which Gladwell devotes half the book. More often than not, decisions made quickly are decisions made rashly, and can lead to disastrous consequences. This point is made most poignantly in the recounting of the death of a man named Amadou Diallo, who was shot 41 times by police officers who believed him to be armed, dangerous, and pulling a gun on them. In reality, he was unarmed and terrified.
Most decisions we make are not literally life & death choices, but the point remains that "go with your gut" is rarely wise counsel. Gladwell offers many insights into the reasons that our gut instincts can be deceived, though again, this is accomplished through story-telling, without necessarily arriving at much of a "take away" for those seeking personal improvement.
Of course, that storytelling is quite engaging, and in this regard the audiobook (read by the author) particularly shines. If you approach this book from a standpoint of learning from a gifted researcher and storyteller, rather than as a "self-improvement" book, you're likely to be quite satisfied with Blink. Grab your copy here....more
Have you ever been described as "ambitious"? If so, was it intended as a compliment or a criticism? Is ambition a trait that Christians ought to desirHave you ever been described as "ambitious"? If so, was it intended as a compliment or a criticism? Is ambition a trait that Christians ought to desire?
Ambition is certainly a topic not often addressed by Christian authors and pastors (Dave Harvey is both). As the book reminds us, this is a word that frequently has a negative connotation for Christians... but should it be that way? The author thinks not.
The problem, Harvey says, is that we have failed to separate "ambition" from "selfish ambition". Ambition, like many other things that drive us (money, sex, etc), is not inherently bad, but it is very prone to being twisted toward selfish, sinful uses. Ambition, simply defined, is merely "a quest for glory". As this book contends, then, we were created for ambition, because we were created to be glory-seekers! The problem is not that we seek glory, but that we so often seek our own glory, rather than seeking God's glory.
The goal of Rescuing Ambition is to do just that: to rescue this God-given drive to pursue His glory from our own vain attempts to glorify ourselves. The world certainly does not make this easy, as our entire culture is geared toward glorifying — being ambitious for — things other than God. Unfortunately, Christians tend to react in one of two ways: We either conform to this worldy culture of selfish ambition, or we seek to crush ambition itself. This results in either pride or passivity.
So Harvey takes readers on a journey through Scripture, and through the personal experiences of many ambitious and godly Christians, to give a holistic concept of godly ambition that is attainable (and in fact commanded) for every Christian. The book moves from the conceptual to the specific, showing us exactly why God created ambition, how it was corrupted, and what we must do to rescue it — both for ourselves and for others.
The path toward ambition's rescue is not an easy one. It requires the courage to take risks, and will inevitably result in some spectacular failures. When we are ambitious for God's glory, our ambition will lead us out of our comfort zones and into the muck and mire of a broken world, building relationships with broken people. However, this ambition, rightly understood, brings with it the promise of several rewards, both earthly and eternal. In fact, "Godly ambition has reward in mind at all times."
The secret to rescuing ambition lies in it's paradoxical path. To become great, we must become small. To live, we must die. To be first, we must be last. This is the opposite of what the world thinks ambition should look like, but it is what the Bible tells us is the key to our eternal joy. When we surrender our pursuit of our own desires, and instead devote ourselves to exalting Christ, we place our futures safely in the hands of the One whose desire is not only perfect, but is for our own well-being!
The result of this kind of ambition is a supernatural contentment in every circumstance. Sometimes we will receive earthly blessings, other times we will face earthly hardships. Take a look, for instance, at this passage from Hebrews 11, the "Hall of Faith":
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. ~ Hebrews 11:32-38
The passage goes on to say that NONE of these — neither the ones who "became mighty" nor the ones who were "destitute and afflicted" — received their promised reward in this life, but ALL received the inheritance of "something better", which God made available through Jesus Christ. Like these faithful saints of old, and like the apostle Paul, we must learn contentment in every situation. Whether God brings us low, or brings us abundance, we must rely on God's strength to keep our contentment (and our ambition) rooted in the eternal promises of God, rather than on the things this world offers us (Philippians 4:11-13).
Lastly, Harvey's book shows us that our ambition must be directed toward and expressed through the Church. We are not only to seek God's glory on our own, but to work together with Christ's body to magnify the Lord corporately and cooperatively. God has ordained that we are to pursue Him as part of a community of believers. We must be as committed to Christians as we are to Christ himself, serving and worshiping together within a local church body. We must also perpetuate this godly ambition in the Church by "paying it forward". Our ambition for God's glory must extend beyond our own lives as we grab hold of the Church's mandate to disciple and train leaders, raising up future generations to follow and pursue God.
Rescuing Ambition is a much-needed book for Christians today, and for myself specifically. It has been one of the most personally helpful and edifying books I've read in a long time, and I commend it to you wholeheartedly!
"And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel" ~ Paul, in Romans 15:20...more
A friend of mine who runs a very successful Chik-Fil-A franchise has recommended this book fo2017 Reading Challenge — Book 15: A book about business
A friend of mine who runs a very successful Chik-Fil-A franchise has recommended this book for years as a way to revolutionize customer service. I'm glad I finally took the time to read it! I love Blanchard's notion that "satisfied customers" aren't enough (because, as C.S. Lewis agrees, we are far too easily satisfied). Raving fans—those who not only offer repeat business, but "rave" about a service or product to others—are what we ought to pursue.
The relatively short book is divided into three sections, clearly outlining a philosophy and process for establishing a culture of customer service which produces such fans. The book is widely applicable in business (examples in the book itself range from grocery markets to taxi drivers to giant corporations), but is also broadly relevant in my own "business" of church ministry.
While pastors and church leaders aren't marketing a product or service to consumers, we are working with people all the time, and so strategies for better serving, communicating with, and casting vision for customers often are also successful ministry strategies. I've been reading & researching a lot lately about guest relations/experience at churches, and found this book to be as helpful as anything I've read that is explicitly "ministry"-oriented. Grab your copy here....more
2017 Reading Challenge - Book 12: A book of your choice
The Chronicles of Narnia are books I’ve read many times, but I’m more excited than ever to be r2017 Reading Challenge - Book 12: A book of your choice
The Chronicles of Narnia are books I’ve read many times, but I’m more excited than ever to be reading them now with my 7-year-old son. His eagerness to devour these books (he’s asked to start going to bed earlier so he can wake up earlier and read with me before his sisters wake up) makes my heart so glad! I love seeing my children learn to love the things I love, and having the opportunity to introduce such beloved characters and stories to him—seeing them for the “first time” again through his eyes—is a great blessing.
By the way, though the edition we're reading together (we LOVE this complete collection illustrated by Pauline Baynes) has the stories in chronological order (with The Magician's Nephew first), we're reading them in the order of publication, which I still stubbornly insist is the proper way to read them....more
2017 Reading Challenge -- Book 14: A novel by an author you have never read before
Having seen and enjoyed several movies based on Crichton's books, I2017 Reading Challenge -- Book 14: A novel by an author you have never read before
Having seen and enjoyed several movies based on Crichton's books, I thought I might as well try out one of his novels. This one sounded intriguing, particularly the author's statement that it's the book he least wanted to write, and one which he felt could actually put his life in danger.
While I'm not sure about that last part, I can definitely see how he could face a lot of opposition because of the content of this novel. The characters (and Crichton himself, in an appendix that is well worth reading by itself) in this thriller challenge the status quo of "settled science" in the debate on global climate change. He writes a compelling and plausible story in which scientists and educators who dare to push back against the notion that man-caused global warming is a grave threat requiring massive government regulation & investment are ostracized and persecuted by peers, press, politicians, and celebrities.
While I wouldn't call it a great work of literature, the audiobook was an enjoyable distraction over a few weeks' worth of driving....more
"We're all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true."
So begins the first book from Joshua Harris to hit the shelves in almo"We're all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true."
So begins the first book from Joshua Harris to hit the shelves in almost five years. Those familiar with his previous books and magazines will recognize his winsome and engaging writing style, but the content is very new for him. "Dug Down Deep" tackles some weighty theological issues in a simple, accessible way... something not easily accomplished!
Rather than approach theology from an academic perspective, Harris draws the reader into his own story of learning to dig deep into the Scriptures, the same way the man in Luke 6:48 dug deep to lay the foundation of his home on solid rock. This is a very conversational, pastoral approach to theology, and one which works very well. As we are drawn into his personal story, we encounter theological terms like "propitiation" and "penal substitution" in a way that doesn't simply define the terms, but shows us — through parables, analogies, and personal reflections — what they mean in a real and practical way.
See, the premise of this book is that theology is for everyone, not just scholars. Furthermore, everyone has a theology of some sort; we all have knowledge and ideas about God (even that He may not exist). What matters more than anything is that what we know about God is actually true. So Harris brings these lofty terms down to ground level so those who've never been introduced to them can get to know them, and those who have studied them at length can encounter these Truths in a fresh new way.
Harris does all of this without compromising on sound, orthodox theology. While there may be minor points of doctrine where some would disagree with him (for instance, with regard to spiritual gifts), he does a masterful job of navigating some controversial topics in a way that promotes unity among the Body of Christ where we so often have division. In particular, I appreciated his care in explaining God's sovereignty in our salvation and sanctification, and also the chapter on the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
The reason Harris is able to make these tricky subjects so accessible is that he truly exemplifies what he calls "Humble Orthodoxy", which is the title and subject of the final chapter. Though it is the shortest chapter, it is easily the best, and worth the price of the book all by itself. Harris addresses the way orthodoxy should make us humble, but often seems to make us (read: me) arrogant and contentious. Let me share just a few great quotes from this chapter that, while not new, are things I desperately need to hear over and over again in my life:
* "Love for God and love for neighbor require opposing falsehood. There is nothing more unloving than to be silent in the face of lies that will ruin another person." * "Many Christians, especially young ones, are running from orthodoxy, not so much because of doctrine, but because of the arrogance and divisiveness they associate with those who promote it." * "The solution to arrogant orthodoxy is not less orthodoxy; it's more. If we truly know and embrace orthodoxy, it should humble us." * "Do you want to keep your orthodoxy humble? Try to live it. Don't spend all your time theorizing about it, debating about it, or blogging about it. Spend more energy living the truth you know than worrying about what the next guy does or doesn't know. Don't measure yourself by what you know. Measure yourself by your practice of what you know." * "The message of Christian orthodoxy isn't that I'm right and someone else is wrong. It's that I am wrong and yet God is filled with grace."
Amen and amen! May we all undertake a lifelong pursuit of humble orthodoxy... starting with me.
This book may not be destined to be read multiple times by any one person, but it has just been bumped to the top of my list of books to recommend or loan to those who are just beginning their study of theology.
P.S. - Here is a really cool promotional video for this book that will help give you a sense of Joshua Harris' heart for teaching theology.
Okay, so using this as a "commentary" might be cheating a bit, as it's not exposit2017 Reading Challenge — Book 9: A Commentary on a Book of the Bible
Okay, so using this as a "commentary" might be cheating a bit, as it's not expositional like pretty much every other commentary I've ever read. But considering Psalms is a unique genre in Scripture, I thought a different genre of commentary might be appropriate. When factoring in that I wanted a commentary on Psalms (our pastor is preaching from that Book right now), and that this is one of the few books by C.S. Lewis I hadn't yet read, this seemed an ideal choice!
The book itself was both wonderful and bewildering. As always in Lewis' writings, I found myself challenged and edified by his words. I particularly enjoyed his insistence on reading the psalms as poetry, rather than attempting to interpret them in the same way one might read other genres.
I also appreciated—for the most part—his "amateurish" commentary. The fact that he was approaching the psalms with genuine questions and an insatiable desire to learn was quite refreshing. Too often I find myself reading the Bible academically, and so Lewis' book has aided me in approaching the psalms with a renewed sense of wonder. For that alone, the book was worth every penny!
That said, there were quite a few head-scratching moments as well. For all the admiration I have of him as a scholar, and author, and a thinker, there are some major areas in which we simply disagree. A big one is on the approach to Scripture itself. I believe that all Scripture—including the psalms—is "a perfect treasure of divine instruction... totally true and trustworthy", a conviction held so firmly by Southern Baptists that we place it as the very first point of our convention's summary of our faith.
Lewis did not share this conviction, though his views on Scripture are far more nuanced than I will get into here; for a charitable reading of Lewis' hermeneutical approach to the psalms which stresses (unlike theological liberals) his belief the authority of Scripture, check out this essay. I had a difficult time wrestling with Lewis' description of some of the imprecatory psalms, which contain curses against the enemies of God and His people, as "devilish" or "contemptible." Yes, they are difficult to read. Yes, they can poignantly reveal our own temptations to anger and hatred (as Lewis points out). But devilish? That's several steps too far for me.
There are other instances in which Lewis' view of the psalms as words of men which contain truth rather than the Word of God which is Truth led to questionable interpretations of their meaning. Still, I greatly benefited from his reflections, as I believe most discerning readers will. Pick up a copy here....more
Why, you might ask, would you read a book nearly 100 years old to satisfy the requirement2017 Reading Challenge — Book 8: A Book About a Current Issue
Why, you might ask, would you read a book nearly 100 years old to satisfy the requirement of a book about a "current issue"? The answer, in this as well as many other cases, is that to truly understand an issue, we often need to distance ourselves from the myopic view of the current news cycle, and look instead at the historical sources where ideas and philosophies were first developed and critiqued.
But the news cycle certainly did help me to determine a topic for study. I chose a "current issue" which lies at the intersection of the topics which most interest me: theology, politics, education, history, and philosophy. Understanding the eugenics movement of the early 20th century provides context for current discussions about abortion, Socialism vs. Capitalism, creation vs. evolution, and even presidential politics.
Eugenics, though not a word often encountered, has been in the news once again in recent days. During the election season, one of the Left's frequent accusations against Donald Trump was that he is an advocate of eugenics (see this piece from The Huffington Post as an example), and I've seen that same video making the rounds on social media again just in the last week. I've written before of the connection between eugenics and Planned Parenthood (whose founder, Margaret Sanger, was a member of the American Eugenics Society). The evolutionary connection is even clearer, as the very word "eugenics" and the first ideas about its implementation were proposed by Francis Galton, who wrote in 1863 that "if talented people only married other talented people, the result would be measurably better offspring," his proposal based largely upon the theories his cousin Charles Darwin had published in his book The Descent of Man.
G.K. Chesterton, perhaps alone among the scholars and authors around the turn of the last century, stood firmly against the onrushing tide of the eugenics movement. While the movement had its origins and strongest support in Prussia/Germany (where Nietzsche had proposed the idea of creating a race of supermen), by the first decade of the 20th century it was quickly gaining popularity throughout the West, particularly in Academia. It's prominent proponents in Britain and America ranged from popular writers such as H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, to influential businessmen like Alexander Graham Bell and John D. Rockefeller, to political leaders including Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt. In 1924, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld (in an 8-1 ruling with Oliver Wendell Holmes penning the majority opinion) a law allowing states to implement forced sterilization for eugenic purposes.
This background is important because—though it is generally looked upon with revulsion today, across the political spectrum—during Chesterton's day eugenics seemed almost inevitable. It took great courage to speak out when he did.
He began his research for this book in 1910, but then, as he states in the book's introduction, "the hour came when I felt, not without relief, that I might well fling all my notes into the fire." Why? Because Prussia, that great paragon of "the scientifically organised State" upon which England and America had gazed with such admiration, was at war with the rest of the West. And as the State which had most fully adopted eugenic ideals began to collapse upon itself and implemented more and more barbaric methods of warfare, Chesterton took solace in the comfort that "no Englishmen would ever again go nosing round the stinks of that low laboratory. So I thought all I had written irrelevant, and put it out of my mind."
Alas, it was not to be. "I am greatly grieved to say that it is not irrelevant. It has gradually grown apparent, to my astounded gaze, that the ruling classes in England are still proceeding on the assumption that Prussia is a pattern for the whole world." And so this book came to be published in 1922.
It would finally take the work of another German acolyte of Nietzsche and Darwin—whose eugenic experiments and ethnic cleansing awakened the world to the horror of this philosophy put into practice—to finally take eugenics out of the realm of mainstream thought. And though Chesterton did not live to see the start of the second World War, he was one of the few outspoken critics of Adolf Hitler in the early 1930's, again announcing prophetic warnings about the Nazi leader's dangerous eugenic fervor. If only the world had listened to him then!
But I do hope we're listening now, and so I'll allow Chesterton's words to speak for themselves for the remainder of this review. Here are a few excerpts that stuck out to me as I read:
He knew his was a needed prophetic voice
The wisest thing in the world is to cry out before you are hurt. It is no good to cry out after you are hurt; especially after you are mortally hurt. People talk about the impatience of the populace; but sound historians know that most tyrannies have been possible because men moved too late. It is often essential to resist a tyranny before it exists. It is no answer to say, with a distant optimism, that the scheme is only in the air. A blow from a hatchet can only be parried while it is in the air.
He pointed out the folly of academic double-speak which tends to hide terrible ideas behind technical language
Most Eugenists are Euphemists. I mean merely that short words startle them, while long words soothe them. And they are utterly incapable of translating the one into the other, however obviously they mean the same thing. Say to them "The persuasive and even coercive powers of the citizen should enable him to make sure that the burden of longevity in the previous generation does not become disproportionate and intolerable, especially to the females"; say this to them and they will sway slightly to and fro like babies sent to sleep in cradles. Say to them "Murder your mother," and they sit up quite suddenly. Yet the two sentences, in cold logic, are exactly the same. Say to them "It is not improbable that a period may arrive when the narrow if once useful distinction between the anthropoid homo and the other animals, which has been modified on so many moral points, may be modified also even in regard to the important question of the extension of human diet"; say this to them, and beauty born of murmuring sound will pass into their face. But say to them, in a simple, manly, hearty way "Let's eat a man!" and their surprise is quite surprising. Yet the sentences say just the same thing.
As today, churches were seen by the scientific and academic communities as standing in the way of "progress" through the use of political power
All I assert here is that the Churches are not now leaning heavily on their political establishment; they are not using heavily the secular arm... They are not specially using that special tyranny which consists in using the government.
The thing that really is trying to tyrannise through government is Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science. And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that really is proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen—that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics. Materialism is really our established Church; for the Government will really help it to persecute its heretics. Vaccination, in its hundred years of experiment, has been disputed almost as much as baptism in its approximate two thousand. But it seems quite natural to our politicians to enforce vaccination; and it would seem to them madness to enforce baptism.
In an era when corrupt Capitalists used the power of the State to prey on the poor and weak, he lamented the growing inequality and loss of freedom
Industrialism and Capitalism and the rage for physical science were English experiments in the sense that the English lent themselves to their encouragement; but there was something else behind them and within them that was not they—its name was liberty, and it was our life. It may be that this delicate and tenacious spirit has at last evaporated. If so, it matters little what becomes of the external experiments of our nation in later time. That at which we look will be a dead thing alive with its own parasites. The English will have destroyed England.
Yet he knew that Socialism was not the solution to inequality; Left and Right both lead to tyranny when ideas are spread through coercion rather than persuasion
It may be said of Socialism, therefore, very briefly, that its friends recommended it as increasing equality, while its foes resisted it as decreasing liberty. On the one hand it was said that the State could provide homes and meals for all; on the other it was answered that this could only be done by State officials who would inspect houses and regulate meals. The compromise eventually made was one of the most interesting and even curious cases in history. It was decided to do everything that had ever been denounced in Socialism, and nothing that had ever been desired in it. Since it was supposed to gain equality at the sacrifice of liberty, we proceeded to prove that it was possible to sacrifice liberty without gaining equality. Indeed, there was not the faintest attempt to gain equality, least of all economic equality. But there was a very spirited and vigorous effort to eliminate liberty, by means of an entirely new crop of crude regulations and interferences. But it was not the Socialist State regulating those whom it fed, like children or even like convicts. It was the Capitalist State raiding those whom it had trampled and deserted in every sort of den, like outlaws or broken men.
In short, people decided that it was impossible to achieve any of the good of Socialism, but they comforted themselves by achieving all the bad. All that official discipline, about which the Socialists themselves were in doubt or at least on the defensive, was taken over bodily by the Capitalists. They have now added all the bureaucratic tyrannies of a Socialist state to the old plutocratic tyrannies of a Capitalist State. For the vital point is that it did not in the smallest degree diminish the inequalities of a Capitalist State. It simply destroyed such individual liberties as remained among its victims.
In Chesterton's day, the idea of eugenics took off so quickly because it appealed to those on both the political Left and Right. Those on the Right, whom Chesterton often referred to as "plutocrats" (rule of the wealthy), were drawn to eugenics because its implementation favored the powerful at the expense of the weak. Those on the Left were allured by its necessity of central planning.
Since Hitler's defeat, the eugenics movement has evolved significantly. While abortion is mentioned only once in Chesterton's book, the author is clearly concerned about what eugenic philosophy could mean for the unborn ("they seek his life to take it away"). Prior to the 1940's, eugenics was focused more on selective breeding and forced sterilization rather than abortion; in the years that followed, dedicated eugenicists like Margaret Sanger turned their attention to different methods.
Eugenic philosophy is alive and well today, though it masquerades by many other names. I strongly encourage you to study more on this issue, and Chesterton's book is a great place to start. You can check out the audiobook for free, as I did, from Librivox, read it via pdf at Project Gutenberg, or pick up a print edition here.
For further reading:
1. Read more about the connection/progression from Darwin to Nietszche to Hitler to Planned Parenthood here. 2. Answering the claims that Chesterton was a fascist and/or anti-Semite (allegations which often prevent modern readers from taking his writing seriously), by a G.K. Chesterton fellow at Oxford: here. 3. Transcript of a lecture from the American Chesterton Society on the significance of this book, and on the link between eugenics and abortion: here....more
For those of us who love liberty, and want to preserve the principles of liberty for futu2017 Reading Challenge — Book 6: A Book for Children or Teens
For those of us who love liberty, and want to preserve the principles of liberty for future generations, there are very few resources to help teach these concepts to young children. This series of five books by Connor Boyack, president of The Libertas Institute, seeks to meet that need.
I read through all five of these the other night, and am very much looking forward to reading them with my children! The books say they are intended for readers aged 5-11, though I don't know that my 5-year-old is quite ready for them yet... though she often surprises me with her comprehension of concepts, so we'll see!
The illustrations are nice and colorful, and very detailed. I particularly enjoyed a scene from inside the library of Ethan & Emily Tuttle's wise older neighbor... he's got some great titles on his shelves! And Boyack has done an admirable job getting some weighty concepts into an engaging story which kids can easily digest.
His first book, The Tuttle Twins Learn About the Law, is based on Frederic Bastiat's excellent little book, The Law, which is itself a highly recommended read (it only takes about 90 minutes or so to read it, so definitely check it out if you haven't already). While Bastiat touches on many subjects, his primary thesis is the idea of "legal plunder"... the concept that if something is wrong for individuals to do, it is wrong for governments to do. Boyack covers this concept very well.
The Tuttle Twins and the Food Truck Fiasco was probably my favorite of the bunch, mostly because I love taking my kids to order food from the food trucks downtown! This book focuses on the dangers which crony capitalism and government regulations impose on small businesses. Last but not least, The Tuttle Twins and the Road to Surfdom is based on F.A. Hayek's masterpiece, The Road to Serfdom, which has been one of the most formative books in my own understanding of politics and economics. Boyack's version focuses on unintended consequences, and the proper role of government.
The entire set is available at a discounted package price from the author's website here. Go grab a set for your kids! Not convinced? Here are Boyack's own children hoping to persuade you...
In a crowded market of books targeted at Christian men, a particular book really needs2017 Reading Challenge — Book 5: A Book Targeted at Your Gender
In a crowded market of books targeted at Christian men, a particular book really needs to stand out in some way to be worthy of the time it takes to read it. So what is it that makes this book—written by Dr. Stuart Scott, associate professor of biblical counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and former pastor of family ministries and counseling at Grace Community Church (John MacArthur's church)—deserving of a spot on your bookshelf? There are several good reasons:
Sound Biblical Counsel
This should go without saying, but sadly, it doesn't. So many books in the "men's ministry" section of most Christian bookstores seem loosely connected to vague spiritual principles, but otherwise are mostly filled with the advice and wisdom of men. Some of those books can be very helpful—I've benefited from quite a few myself—but it is refreshing, and far more useful, to read books saturated with Scripture. Scott grounds every aspect of his manual for biblical husbanding firmly in God's Word.
It's a Book That Knows Its Audience
There are books on marriage that I've enjoyed more. There are books that have dug much deeper into particular aspects of marriage. At 365 pages, there are certainly books that are quicker reads. But if I were looking to lead the men of a church through an accessible, comprehensive book on how to be a better husband, this would be high on my list. The reality is that there are a great many struggling marriages in our churches today, and I appreciate that Scott assumes nothing about his readers. He correctly asserts that "if a husband does not have a biblical understanding of God, man, relationships, marriage and his role, it will not benefit him much to work at his marriage." (p. 13)
How many marriages could be saved if the men in our churches could only grow in their biblical knowledge and spiritual maturity? And so the first quarter of the book is essentially an overview of systematic theology, with application drawn at each point of doctrine to the role of a husband. Scott is very careful throughout to communicate with clearly defined terms and repetition of key principles. To experienced readers of books on doctrine and marriage, this may seem tedious at times, but most men don't fit in this category. We need books like this for our churches, which in the span of a single book study can both raise both the theological acumen and marital fidelity of our men. The available study guide may help with this endeavor.
To be honest, for me the appendices may have been the best part of the book. That's not to take anything away from the text; but I'm much more likely to pull this book back off my shelf in the future to reference the sections in the back. Of particular interest are some worksheets designed to help facilitate "leadership" meetings (recommended to take place monthly or bi-weekly) in which a husband leads his wife through a discussion assessing the strength and health of their marriage. I'm always on the lookout for tools that I think will help me to better lead my wife, and this looks like one that will fit the bill (we intend to go through it on an upcoming date night).
To be "exemplary" is to be a model for others to follow. Scripture asserts over and over again that marriages exist to point people to Christ, and that Christian men are expected to lead by example. We do this by following the perfect example set by Jesus Christ. If you're looking for a book to help you and the men of your church to become more like Christ, resulting in stronger marriages that demonstrate the love of God to the world, grab a copy of The Exemplary Husband.
"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." ~ 1 Corinthians 11:1
I've spent the last decade+ wondering how I managed never to have read this book. It ranks high on jus2017 Reading Challenge — Book 4: A Classic Novel
I've spent the last decade+ wondering how I managed never to have read this book. It ranks high on just about every list of the "best English novels" (including this one, this one, and this one) I come across, and has been claimed as one of the most influential books by thinkers as varied as Bill Gates andGeorge H. W. Bush. So it seemed as though I had been missing something.
Considering it is apparently one of the most widely-read and reviewed novels in America, it's difficult to find anything to say that hasn't already been said. I will, however, say that I didn't enjoy it... not, at least, in the sense that I enjoy most good novels. But this isn't like most novels.
I feel that I lack the proper context to truly appreciate Salinger's work. It's been called a "quintessential work of teenage angst," and yet I never really experienced the type of angst which Holden Caulfield narrates—though I have certainly seen it others. I can also recognize how revolutionary and counter-cultural this book must have been when published in 1951. Yet sadly, the caustic language no longer shocks us, while weak & conflicted characters, meandering stories, and meaningless details became far more common in popular culture with the rise of postmodernism, perhaps itself indicative of the influence of this book.
So no, I didn't particularly "like" The Catcher in the Rye. It was, however, an interesting look into the mind of a character with whom a great deal of readers identify. By trying to understand Holden Caulfield, I feel like I may also better understand the mind of those who long for meaning but have no idea where to find it. And really, that's most people.
I believe there is within each person a deep, unquenchable desire for a "catcher"—for a protector and a return to innocence. And, like Holden, most of us at one point in our lives have, at some point, desired to view ourselves in that role—the role of a hero—only to realize that it is we ourselves who must be caught. But unlike Holden, I know that there is a hero who offers strength and protection, able to hold me up (Isaiah 41:10) and never let me go (John 10:28-29).
This is why I have a general distaste for postmodern art and literature (J.D. Salinger has been called "the pre-postmodernist"). There is no hope! I crave stories of redemption and deliverance, not out of a sappy desire for a "happy ending," but because these are the stories which are true! As "realistic" as Salinger's portrayal may be of the mind of so many who search for something with no real hope of ever finding it, I'd much rather read stories which promise rewards for perseverance, integrity, and virtue, and which give hope of the ultimate triumph of good over evil (or over meaninglessness, if you prefer). They may be "fantastic," but they portray things which are true about the real world in which we live.
It's difficult to recommend The Catcher in the Rye, though I'm not sorry I read it. I believe there is value in reading books which are influential, even if I don't think their influence has necessarily been such a good thing. Because that influence is also a real part of the world in which we live. It's a world full of broken people who can relate to Holden Caulfield in a way that I can't. May the Lord use this book to help me better relate to those around me, and to offer them hope of a better way....more
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the2017 Reading Challenge - Book 2: A Book Your Pastor Recommends
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. ~ Ephesians 5:15-16
Last month, our pastor recommended this book to the rest of the church staff as a resource for using our time well, tuning out the distractions and producing excellent work. The timing was good: I had felt as if my own personal productivity had taken a dip, to the point where the demands on my time were beginning to hurt my family. I was eager to make some changes, and this was definitely the right book at the right time.
Cal Newport is certainly no slave to convention. In an era dominated by social media and constant connectivity, he calls for readers to intentionally disconnect more often, pursuing what he calls "deep work" free from distraction. But rather than being a "curmudgeonly pining for the days of unhurried concentration," his book pursues "a pragmatic recognition that the ability to concentrate is a skill that gets valuable things done." (p 258, italics his).
Newport describes deep work as: "Professsional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate." (p 3)
This is contrasted with shallow work: "Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate." (p 6)
In my review of 2016, I found that most of my time was being spent on the latter at the expense of the former. Judging by the very well-researched findings of Dr. Newport, I'm far from alone, as the data shows that "deep work" is increasingly rare in today's economy. But I've never been satisfied with normal. As a believer, I am called to be a good steward of the time, talents, and intellect God gave me. By losing my ability to concentrate deeply and produce excellent work, I was drifting more and more into the sin of laziness, without even noticing.
Thankfully Newport provides detailed and practical alternatives for making better choices with my time. The book is split into two sections. The first builds the case for the importance of deep work (it is valuable, rare, and meaningful). The second lists and expounds upon four rules for going deep. The most controversial--for most readers, anyway--is the chapter entitled "Quit Social Media" Nowadays we are constantly bombarded with the ubiquity of social media; it is accepted as a given that you must be active on social media (and on other tools of digital connectivity such as e-mail and instant messaging) in order to be a productive member of a digital economy.
Newport doesn't mince words in pleading with readers to invest their time in activities which produce value, happiness, and contentment rather than allowing the allure of the Internet to distract us from work and family. And while I may not be totally signing off from all digital media (he acknowledges that this is not feasible or necessary for most people), I have already begun implementing many of his suggestions for planning my time (including planning when I will be accessible through e-mail and social media) more wisely, and have been both more productive and more available to my family in the last two weeks than I have been in some time.
If you're like me, and like most other people in the world, you could benefit from learning how to concentrate better, longer, and with greater purpose. This book offers great practical tools which will aid you in your pursuit that goal. While it's not a "quick fix"--it requires discipline, consistency, and a lot of hard work--it is something which, as I've already seen, can be implemented in relatively short order with almost immediate returns.
Grab a copy of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Living in a Distracted Worldhere....more
One of my favorite descriptions of an ideal approach to the technical aspects of Wors2017 Reading Challenge — Book 17: A book with 100 pages or less
One of my favorite descriptions of an ideal approach to the technical aspects of Worship Ministry comes from a supplement to a message series preached by John Piper about two decades ago. Here is his explanation of his great term "undistracting excellence":
We will try to sing and play and pray and preach in such a way that people's attention will not be diverted from the substance by shoddy ministry nor by excessive finesse, elegance, or refinement. Natural, undistracting excellence will let the truth and beauty of God shine through. We will invest in equipment good enough to be undistracting in transmitting heartfelt truth.
I love this concept, and the heart behind it. As a worship pastor, I want to guide our church to avoid the opposite errors of overemphasis on technical excellence—many churches put on such an elaborate production that the gospel can get lost in all the "show"—and lack of emphasis that produces what Piper calls "shoddy ministry"... which, sadly, describes far more churches than those guilty of "excessive finesse."
But how to accomplish this? How do we get the idea of undistracting excellence from philosophy to practice? There are plenty of technical manuals which focus on the "how to" of technical production, and most books on worship philosophy include some token reference to the importance of media ministries, but there aren't a lot of resources out there which "connect the dots" between technical excellence and heartfelt worship in a way that is useful and appealing both to technically-minded media workers and to artistically-minded worship musicians.
This small book has proved to be a great resource for me, as I seek to give leadership in an area of worship ministry in which my skills and experience lag far behind my musical expertise. Taipale's writing style and obvious heart for worship make it easy for a guy like me to absorb the necessary technical jargon that will help be better communicate my vision for our church's worship ministry with those who work in the audio, video, and lighting areas. And his decades of expertise working with churches of all sizes and levels of media production give him a unique perspective to communicate a pastoral vision of media ministry to those workers in a way that no technical manual can.
The best parts of the book are his chapters on the relationship between the Worship Leader and the Sound Guy. I'm grateful to have Ray Stephens, our church's Director of Media Ministries, as my "wingman," and am glad we were both able to read this book recently. I pray this book will help us strengthen our relationship, and, in turn, to strengthen the overall media ministry at FBC Powell in a way that leads us toward undistracting excellence week in and week out.
If you're a pastor, worship leader, or church media technician, I highly recommend grabbing a copy of this book. Print copies are apparently rare, but the Kindle version is under $4 here....more
What's better than reading a biography of one of my favorite 19th-century saints? How about reading three2017 Reading Challenge — Book 3: A Biography
What's better than reading a biography of one of my favorite 19th-century saints? How about reading three of them!
I've been a fan of John Piper's "The Swans Are Not Silent" series for some time. In each of these books, he unites three short biographies around a common theme. In this instance, all three men were contemporaries, who knew one another and supported one another's ministries (though this is not the case in each book in the series).
A Camaraderie of Confidence explores how God worked through difficult circumstances and remarkable ministry strategies (particularly in the realm of funding their missions) to glorify himself. Each of these men was incredibly gifted, and would likely have been successful in any venture he might have undertaken. But each led a life consumed with proclaiming the glory of God, which was displayed in their respective focuses of church (Spurgeon), orphan care (Müller), and world missions (Taylor).
I have read longer biographies of each of these three men, but still gained much from reading this book. Piper's narrow focus on certain similarities in their strategies and in their sufferings is quite effective at highlighting those areas in the reader's attention. For me, it was particularly encouraging seeing how each of these men set goals, cast vision, and worked tirelessly in pursuit of the work to which God had called them. Reading of the struggles these men faced both personally and professionally is fuel for endurance in trials I know that I'll face as well. Piper includes a great many quotes from the writing of each of these men, while also interspersing his own helpful commentary. A favorite example is Piper's counsel to young pastors about taking care of our bodies through proper diet and good sleep habits, "for the sake of your proper assessment of God and his promises" (p. 53).
If you're not into the habit of reading biographies, I highly recommend beginning with one of Piper's "swans" books. They are easily digestible, highly applicable, and can generally be read in a few short sittings. You can grab a copy of A Camaraderie of Confidencehere, and any (or all!) of the other six books in the series here.
As a bonus, here's a video of Piper explaining why he loves writing "The Swans Are Not Silent" books, and speaking to the value of biographies in general:
I've read several multi-author books before, but this was something new: 22 authors in under 240 pageThis review first appeared at Honey and Locusts
I've read several multi-author books before, but this was something new: 22 authors in under 240 pages! It was a whirlwind of topics and voices, but was edited together with surprising cohesion and clarity.
There's an awful lot to like about Don't Call It a Comeback. I loved the concept of the project, which had the aim of introducing "young Christians, new Christians, and underdiscipled Christians to the most important articles of our faith and what it looks like to live out this faith in real life". This book delivers on that promise, and is an excellent introduction to a wide variety of topics — ranging from church history to systematic theology to contemporary issues such as social justice, gender confusion, and abortion — for those who have not read widely or deeply (which describes many, if not most, of the professing believers in my generation).
The book also has a secondary benefit in that it introduces readers to a lot of pastor/blogger/authors (all of whom were under 40 at the time of publishing) who represent an up-and-coming wave of leaders for the Church. Each chapter ends with a short selection of books suggested for further study on the topic. In short, if a young, new, or underdiscipled Christian were to want to delve into a serious study of theology and cultural issues, he would do well to start with the books, authors, and blogs mentioned in this book.
Though the writers have a variety of styles and approaches, each chapter is very accessible for inexperienced readers. The authors do not assume that readers have prior knowledge of the terminology and historical figures typically mentioned in books of a theological nature, yet the tone is never condescending. Neither does it come across as elementary; experienced and knowledgeable readers have much to learn here as well!
While it is a given that in any book by multiple authors some chapters are going to be better than others, there were no chapters that felt sub-par. Even the "weakest" link (and I couldn't tell you who that might be) is pretty darn strong! But there were a few chapters that stood out to me as favorites. Kevin DeYoung's chapter "The Secret to Reaching the Next Generation" is worth the price of the book all by itself, and Russell Moore's chapter on the Kingdom ("Heaven after Earth, Heaven on Earth, or Something Else Entirely?") is predictably excellent given his work on the equally excellent book The Kingdom of Christ.
Overall (as you can probably tell), I loved the book, but it wasn't perfect by any stretch. Sometimes one of the most difficult things to do in a book review is to judge the book that was written, rather than the book I wish had been written. I've tried to do that, but there are a few things I really wish had been a little different.
The nature of this book required brevity on each topic, leading to a necessary lack of depth. As I said, it's meant to be an introduction. Still, in many instances I felt adding just one clarifying word, phrase, or sentence would have made a big difference without adding to the length or readability of the book. For example, Tullian Tchvidjian's chapter "Worship: It's a Big Deal" (which appeared previously as an article by the same title at worship.com) is a truly great introduction to the value of corporate worship. However, it says nothing about expressions of worship as a way of life outside the context of the Body of Christ gathered on the Lord's Day. Granted, Ted Kluck's chapter largely dealt with this side of worship earlier in the book, but given this book's intended audience, I would like to have seen something to the effect of telling readers that "worship" is a concept not limited to Sunday services. Honestly, simply adding the word "Corporate" to the front of the chapter's title probably would have been sufficient to make this distinction.
I also came to the end of the book expecting and hoping for some sort of charge. The foreward by D.A. Carson is wonderful, and I thought it deserved an opposite bookend after the final chapter. Something to tell the young, new, underdiscipled Christians where to go next to continue their studies, and to encourage them to find someone to help with their discipleship. Those things were mentioned in the foreward and introduction, but I would have liked to see them reiterated once more.
These few minor reservations aside, this is a great book. It's one I will gladly place on the short list of books I'd recommend to a young, new, or underdiscipled Christian. Buy it here....more
I bought this book as a potential text for teaching a class at our church on church history. As the cover states, it is quite “basic”, but it is idealI bought this book as a potential text for teaching a class at our church on church history. As the cover states, it is quite “basic”, but it is ideal for use as a beginner-level overview of the history of Christianity: exactly what I’d hoped it would be.
The twelve chapters — each of which covers the main events, names, and terms of a time period — read incredibly quickly, as each page contains colorful pictures, block quotes, and other graphics which present information in a variety of ways. The scope of the book is grand, covering the time of the apostles up through postmodernism and the Emergent Church, and everything in between. Obviously, nothing is covered in depth, but Jones provides readers with a “big picture” view of history, enough detail to have at least a basic familiarity with the most important aspects of church history, and resources for further study.
I was personally most appreciative of the author’s emphasis on the work of God in building the Church throughout history. He is honest about the many failings of the Church and its leaders, but highlights the ideas and contributions made during each era which ultimately led to the spread of the Gospel. This is most evident in Chapter 6 (“God Never Stops Working”), which covers the difficult period from 673-1295. Jones applies the words of Jesus in John 5:17 (“My father is always at his work“) to show how God worked through the monastics, the Scholastics, and the mystics to preserve the Bible and a remnant of believers even through the Dark Ages. Taking that view of history helps us to remain optimistic at times when it is difficult to see how God is working.
His final chapters are also helpful in introducing the various streams of Christian thinking in the world today. The book documents the rise of Dispensationalism, Christian liberalism, Pentecostalism, Fundamentalism, and the “Emergent” church. Jones sticks to the “facts” for the most part, describing what happened rather than making value statements about doctrinal differences within evangelicalism, but he does take time to point out the errors of liberalism and it’s later postmodern iteration (Readers should expect no less from a professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary!). I should also note that from the Reformation onward, the focal point is on the history of the Protestant church, with very little discussion given to events taking place within Roman Catholicism — the Second Vatican Council being a notable exception.
This edition contains a 12-week detailed study guide so that using the book as a teaching tool or discussion starter is also “made easy”. While group leaders may not choose to follow the guide exactly — each session calls for 60-90 minutes of guided discussion, worship through song, and a “learning activity” which often requires some preparation and supplies from the leader — everything needed to use in nearly any group format is included. Leaders can simply adapt the provided materials to suit their needs.
If you’re looking for a good introduction to church history that doesn’t require a long commitment to deep study, this one will serve you well....more
As C.S. Lewis once said, "Sometimes fairy stories say best what's to be said."
Great stories have the capacity to shape us in a way that few other things can. They give us characters who exhibit virtues worthy of emulation. They show us how to persevere in the face of conflict, against villains, nature, and our own fears and failures. They inspire us to dream big, and to pursue our dreams against all odds.
In Watership Down, Richard Adams has given us a fairy story of the highest order, and one that would certainly have pleased Lewis and his friends. Indeed, it now occupies a space on my bookshelf alongside The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and The Man Who Was Thursday. Like those books, it is sure to be pulled off the shelf many, many times!
Would you believe me if I told you that this epic adventure full of heroism and suspense was a story about rabbits?
Whereas most fairy tales immerse us in a place outside our own world, this one actually re-introduces us to a world we already know well (Watership Down is a real place in rural England), but in a totally different way. Told from the perspective of a colony of bunnies, this typical countryside is transformed into a vast and alien place! The several brief glances into the bizarre world of men add to the realism of the story, while often providing a chuckle as well (how would you describe things like cars, cigarettes, and boats if you had never seen them before... and you were a rabbit?).
Besides the completely believable setting, Watership Down contains another vital element to a great fairy tale: well-rounded characters to whom readers can relate. Hazel, the main protagonist, lacks remarkable wit, intelligence, or strength, but possesses key leadership qualities, such as kindness and the ability to delegate authority and trust his friends. Bigwig is the impetuous sidekick who is good in a fight and loyal to a fault, but whose rash decisions often backfire. Blackberry sees the world differently; he can figure out how stuff works, and can devise a plan for just about any scenario. Bluebell is the jokester; Dandelion the storyteller. General Woundwort is a wonderfully detestable villain, but even he occasionally draws the sympathy of the reader.
To round out the tale and draw readers fully into it, Adams has provided the rabbits with their own language (the book includes a Lapine glossary) and history. One of my favorite elements of the book were the stories-within-the-story, often told by Dandelion. Rarely do these stories actually advance the plot, but they reinforce the power of storytelling itself. They also reveal what passes for the rabbits' "religion", including a creation myth (complete with a "Fall" after El-ahrairah, the first rabbit, angers Frith, their "God") and an afterlife for rabbits who have "stopped running".
A reader could enjoy this novel on many levels. As a simple story (which is all Adams ever claimed it to be), it is a pure pleasure to read. Yet, as with any truly great story, there is much to ponder here. As they seek to make a new home for themselves, the nomadic heroes encounter two vastly different rabbit civilizations, each portraying a society that has in some way sacrificed liberty for security, health, and wealth. The moral dilemmas our heroes face are familiar ones; how might we react in similar circumstances?
Whether for intellectual fulfillment or "mere" reading pleasure, I commend this book to you highly. Tolkien's mark of a "true" fairy story was a sense of joy imparted upon readers. Watership Down certainly meets that criteria!
"Far more powerful and poignant is the effect [of joy] in a serious tale of Faerie. In such stories, when the sudden turn comes, we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart's desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through." ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories...more
If you're looking for a book that will re-affirm what you already believe about politics, this book will be a dOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
If you're looking for a book that will re-affirm what you already believe about politics, this book will be a disappointment. Carl Trueman knows that, and he doesn't care. "I am simply delighted that I will disappoint so many different groups of people in such a comprehensive manner," he writes in the introduction.
And he's right. Nearly every group of people will find some complaint with Trueman's arguments. The Liberal Left hates his stance on hot button issues like abortion and gay marriage. The Religious Right frowns on his refusal to walk the Republican party line. Libertarians reject his insistence that nationalized health care and welfare programs are not incompatible with liberty and the free market.
Perhaps those most off-put by this book will be the politically apathetic, who cry "can't we all just get along?" while steering clear of argument and conviction. If there is one thing Trueman makes crystal clear, it is that if we care about the world and the people around us — and as Christians, this is non-negotiable — we must care about politics.
Few, if any, will find wholesale agreement with Trueman's political views. He is prone to overstate his case (which he himself admits in the book), and is intentionally provocative. He sets up strawmen and rips them apart. Surprisingly, all of these factors work together to hammer home the central theses of the book, "that conservative Christianity does not require conservative politics or conservative cultural agendas" and that Christians need a much more nuanced understanding of politics and political issues than is typical in today's America, when aesthetics (the character and rhetoric of politicians and pundits) have replaced discourse and debate is framed as aManichean struggle of good versus evil in which candidates and parties must be either totally right or totally wrong.
The intensely logical Carl Trueman knows exactly what he's doing when he resorts to the use of logical fallacies. He wants readers to disagree with him. He wants to roil American Christians out of our comfort with the system of "politics-as-usual" that we've grown up with (Trueman immigrated to the United States from England about ten years ago). This is a good thing. We need to be roiled, and his status as an outsider (not to mention his lack of hesitancy to engage in confrontation) gives Trueman a unique position to do it.
Besides a general encouragement to pick up this book and read it (which will only take an hour or two, as the entire thing is only 110 pages), I have just a few comments on the actual content of the book. While Trueman's trenchant critique of American politics begins with the Left — and he is brutal in his condemnation of the modern Liberal agenda — much of the book is aimed directly at the political heart of conservative Christians who identify themselves with the Republican party. This is not necessarily because he aligns himself more with today's Democrats, but because his intended audience is conservative Christians, and the reality is that most of these also consider themselves politically conservative. Thus, he spends the bulk of his time addressing the particular weaknesses of this audience.
What most interested me was his description of the plight of the "Old Liberal", which is how he describes himself. Old liberals used to be those who concerned themselves most with improving the condition of the poor, something that was close to his own heart as a Christian. Over time, however, with the utter failure of Marxism as an all-encompassing political system based on the welfare of the economically oppressed, Liberals began to mesh their ideas about poverty and oppression with Freud's psychoanalysis, leading to a redefinition of oppression. Now, instead of being primarily concerned with aiding the poor, the "New Left" exists to promote the agenda of those who define their own victimhood (women who believe abortion is a right, homosexuals who want to marry, etc). Democrats still promote themselves as the party of the working class, but these social issues are of little concern to those who struggle to provide for their families, and often clash with the values of the average poor person.
While I personally believe that conservative fiscal policies and free markets can be most beneficial to the poor, Dr. Trueman's question is a valid one for discussion. Who is now the advocate for the economically oppressed? Where do those whose primary political concern is the condition of the poor turn?
On the negative side, Trueman is at his overstated best (or worst) in devoting an entire chapter to Fox News. While you'd be hard pressed to find a conservative who thinks less of Fox News and pundits likeGlenn Beck than I do, even I think this assault on Fox is a bit over-the-top. Yes, conservative Christians tend to have a very unhealthy attachment to Hannity, O'Reilly, and company. Yes, the belief that Fox is in any way "the unbiased news channel" is absolutely ridiculous (and deserves to be ridiculed). Yes, Rupert Murdoch is a sleazy and unscrupulous businessman who knows pandering to the Religious Right makes him a lot of easy dollars. But Trueman could easily have made these points in much less than the twenty pages he devotes to them. He accuses the Left of having "lost all sense of proportion with regard to what is and is not of most pressing importance," but surely the same can be said of an author who devotes 2o% of his book to the faults of a single news organization.
It can be maddening to read at times, but this book will make you think. It is not likely to cause anyone to totally change his mind about any important issues, or to radically change her political philosophy. But hopefully it will help to start a discussion we've needed for a long time. As he writes, "politics is an art, not a science". Like any art, politics deserves careful consideration, interaction, and debate. And, just as people will have different preferences and appreciations for art, there is no reason to believe that all Christians must hold exactly the same position on every political issue. It is okay for Christians to disagree about the best way to further God's Kingdom (just askPaul and Barnabas) and to live as citizens in a fallen world. In the end, God will be glorified. In the meantime, healthy debate and civil discourse make us all better.
Read this book. You'll be glad you did. Buy ithere....more
In a statistical sample, data points that deviate greatly from the norm are called “outliers”. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, he looks at people who areIn a statistical sample, data points that deviate greatly from the norm are called “outliers”. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, he looks at people who are statistical outliers; those who do things that are out of the ordinary. What is it about some people that makes them truly stand out? Why are some extremely successful when others are not?
First and foremost, Gladwell is a story teller. Few people could make so much statistical analysis into a page-turner, but he has succeeded! The individual stories told in the book are fascinating, but the way he weaves them all together into one larger “story of success” is truly amazing.
In the end, readers discover that real success is the result of much more (but definitely not less) than intelligence and ambition. Our cultural legacy (extending back several generations) also plays a large role, as do many seemingly random occurrences that are out of our control, such as one’s place and time of birth.
The entire book was good, but of particular interest to me were “The 10,000 Hour Rule” and the section speaking about the parenting method known as “concerted cultivation”. Both of these are especially relevant to my field of music education, as they are among the more controllable factors mentioned in the book that can lead to excellence in music (among many other things).
I highly recommend this book for all readers. It’s one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long time, and gave me a lot to think about. If you’re looking for a book that will tell you exactly how to become a wildly successful statistical outlier, this is not it, but it will help you see yourself and the world around you differently....more
This short (under 200 pages) but heavy book has been on my reading list for quite a while. It's been described by many a pastor as one of the greatestThis short (under 200 pages) but heavy book has been on my reading list for quite a while. It's been described by many a pastor as one of the greatest books ever written on the doctrine of atonement, which is absolutely central to the Christian faith. Having finally worked my way through it, I can see why it comes so highly recommended!
The first half of the book builds a foundation for our understanding of atonement. Murray describes the necessity of redemption, and how Christ was the only One who could possibly accomplish it. The work He accomplished was perfect and complete. There is nothing that man can do to add to what Christ has done, nor to take away from it.
This section ends with a very clear and biblical look at the doctrine of "limited atonement", which is the teaching that Christ died not for the sins of everyone in the world, but only for those of the elect. The "L" in "TULIP", this is probably the most controversial of the five points of Calvinism, but Murray handles it with aplomb. Essentially, he tells us that atonement is limited not by the efficacy of Christ's blood, but by it's application. In other words, if one believes that anyone will spend eternity in Hell, one believes in limited atonement, because atonement has not been applied to that person. What remains, then, is to see how and to whom this redemption which Christ has accomplished is applied. This is the subject of Part II, which accounts for most of the book.
In Part II, Murray gives a very thorough and systematic exposition of the many components of the atonement, as well as their order of application. Though many of these components happen nearly simultaneously, Murray presents them in the following order: effectual calling, regeneration, faith & repentance, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, union with Christ, and glorification. With the exception of union with Christ — which is not a step in the application of redemption, but something which underlies every step — this is also the chronological order in which Murray places these phases. Some, of course, are one-time events, while others are ongoing processes.
It is this second half of the book which is so valuable. It has greatly enhanced my understanding of the doctrine of atonement, and of the distinctions between the various steps in its application. This understanding doesn't come easily, though, as it's a very difficult book to read. Part of the difficulty lies in the language; Murray was a mid-20th century academician (and a Scotsman to boot), and so uses many words that may be unfamiliar to contemporary readers. I consider myself to have a better-than-average vocabulary, but definitely found myself reading this book with a dictionary within reach!
Some of the difficulty also lies in Murray's writing style. At times his sentence structure seems unnecessarily complex, making it hard to figure out which words modify which. Because of this, I found myself frequently re-reading passages to make sure I really understood the point he was making. He was also fond of using multiple forms of the same word in a sentence, leading to some real humdingers like this:
"To glory in the cross is to glory in Christ as the propitiatory sacrifice once offered, as the abiding propitiatory, and as the one who embodies in himself for ever all the propitiatory efficacy of the propitiation once for all accomplished."
What a mouthful! Besides these nit-picky things, though, this is a truly great book. The Scripture index and the Subject index at the end of the book will make this a frequent reference tool during future studies.
Anyone looking to undertake a serious study of the doctrine of atonement — and I would hope this would include every Christian! — must read this book. It's not easy, but totally worth the effort....more
This book should come with a warning label. Though I believe it to be a book every Christian parent ought to read, it is also a book which cannot be rThis book should come with a warning label. Though I believe it to be a book every Christian parent ought to read, it is also a book which cannot be read without forcing readers to seriously challenge their previously held and sometimes deeply rooted assumptions about the nature of education. It's one of the things I love so much about Doug Wilson's writing: This book may not change any of the decisions you have made about your child's education, but it will, at the very least, make your decision a more informed one, and cause you to ask yourself some questions you may have never considered.
Many people will read the subtitle of this book and expect a simple "yes" or "no" answer, but of course, it's never that simple, is it? For those simply skimming the review, however, I'll give you the short answer, and then share how Wilson arrives there. Yes, Wilson believes Christian kids should leave public schools, but this is never presented as an absolute moral imperative (i.e. — sending a child to public school is not a sin). There is a difference between "should" and "must". Wilson does grant that there are some rare exceptions when parents may legitimately decide that public schools are the best option for their children. Of course, when 85% of Christian families in America currently believe they are the "rare" exception, there is going to be some disagreement from this author.
The book's opening chapter presents its purpose statement:
[This book:] aims to persuade Christian parents to act wisely in their children's education by giving them the kind of education the Bible requires: a distinctively Christian education, which their children cannot receive at government schools.
Wilson begins building his case by framing his arguments as proactive, rather than reactive. Most of the time, he says, Christians react and respond to problems in government schools (drugs, Outcome-Based Education, teaching of evolution as fact, removal of prayer, etc) rather then beginning at "the true starting point": the biblical mandate for Christian parents to educate their children according to God's Word (Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Ephesians 6:4). If we start building our educational philosophy with what God has commanded in no uncertain terms, we'll have a much sturdier foundation than if we simply try to "fix" what is broken in the secular schools.
If we accept the premise that God is the Creator and Author of ALL truth, then it ought to be clear that all knowledge and education should point to God. All forms and subjects of knowledge are interconnected, because it all springs from the same root. Math "works" because God is a God of order, and has created an ordered universe. We study language because God has chosen to reveal Himself to us using words. History is important because it shows us how God has been sovereign and active throughout eternity.
Government schools are completely antithetical to this concept. Teachers attempt to communicate knowledge removed from its source, which is ultimately impossible. Apart from God, there can be no objective standard of truth, beauty, or goodness. Schools built on the assumption that men can decide their own "truth" must resort to relativism and constantly changing standards, which is exactly what we see in public education.
The entire argument hinges on whether or not such a thing as "values-neutral" education exists. If, as the government schools would have us believe, this is possible, then school can be simply a place for children to learn facts, while the interpretation of these facts is left to parents and students. However, Jesus said, "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters" (Matthew 12:30). This leaves no room for neutrality. Parents must choose between an educational system that is with Jesus, or one which is against him.
Making the right choice does not come without sacrifice. Wilson devotes an entire chapter to answering objections (many of them valid) against the pursuit of a Christian education, not least of which is financial. Also addressed are typically low standards in many Christian schools (hardly better and sometimes worse than public schools), and the fact that many parents are simply not equipped to homeschool.
The solution is that Christian parents and churches need to once again devote themselves to providing excellent, distinctively Christian education for our children, no matter the cost. If Christian education is indeed a moral obligation, as Wilson convincingly argues, then we must follow in obedience and trust the Lord to provide. If the Christian community-at-large can agree together that this is something which must be done, and if Christian families and teachers devote themselves to leaving the public schools in order to create something better and Biblical, then it is absolutely possible to make this type of education available for anyone who desires it. This is evidenced by Wilson's own church congregation, in which only 5% of the children are enrolled in public schools. Most of the rest are enrolled in Logos School, which was founded by Wilson in the early 1980's and remains an excellent standard for other schools to emulate.
In short, it is not a sin to enroll your children in the public schools. However, it is a sin to abdicate your responsibility to provide your children with a Christian education, something nearly (though not entirely) impossible through public schooling. Children who attend public schools from Kindergarten through high school graduation will receive approximately 14,000 hours of training in the rival religion of secular humanism. Parents must ask themselves which is easier: Helping their children to "unlearn" what humanism has taught them and replacing it with a Christian worldview, or building their children's education on the Solid Rock from the beginning.
This book may be slim, but it is a gold mine of wisdom for parents....more