Three years ago, I wrote that "Humble Orthodoxy," the final chapter ofJoshua Harris' bookDug Down Deep,was worth the price of the book all by itselfThree years ago, I wrote that "Humble Orthodoxy," the final chapter ofJoshua Harris' book Dug Down Deep,was worth the price of the book all by itself. Evidently, I wasn't alone in thinking so!
By popular demand, Harris has finally expanded and expounded the contents of that great chapter into its own book, and I'm so glad he did! Humility is sadly lacking in modern discourse, particularly in the realm of theological convictions. While the abundance of attention being given by evangelical authors to getting our doctrine right is a good thing, far less attention has been given to how we ought to contend for the faith.
Does God care about the attitude with which we stand for truth? Of course he does! Yet, as Harris points out, "orthodoxy has gotten a bad reputation." We Christians are not exactly known for our compassion and humility when it comes to defending our beliefs.
Something has to give. As Harris argues, that something is our pride. We need to stop seeking the approval of men, and start living for the only approval that matters—God's. When we understand that our deeds merit nothing but damnation, and that God's approval is based solely on the obedience of Christ, we cannot be arrogant. This is the heart of true orthodoxy, and it can only be realized in true humility.
We don't have to choose between humility and orthodoxy. We need both, and, in fact, each leads to the other. Humble orthodoxy changes the way we relate to others. Instead of puffing ourselves up through comparisons with those we see as more sinful, we should see God's grace as something to be extended to others. Harris writes, "Instead of looking down on the unorthodox, how can we not want to humbly lead them toward the same life-giving truth that has changed our lives?"
This book is tiny—its 61 pages weighing in at under five ounces—but exhibits an incredible economy of words. Nearly every sentence is worthy of highlighting... no filler material here! Throughout its four chapters, Harris gives examples from Scripture of men who exhibited humble orthodoxy, and shows readers how to develop this godly character in our own lives.
There is quite a bit of overlap with the last chapter of Dug Down Deep, but there is easily enough new material to make this book stand on its own merits, even if you have read the "Humble Orthodoxy" chapter that led to it. Its small size and easy readability means this book lends itself to many repeat readings, something I'll be certain to take advantage of whenever I need a good dose of conviction about my pride (which is often!).
This is also a perfect little book to give away to young Christians and new theologians, whose "newfound zeal for truth often makes them dangerous," as Harris points out. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open down the road for deals on bulk purchases of this book to go in the giveaway box in my office. It's important to note, though, that as this book is primarily concerned with exhorting readers toward humility rather than establishing orthodoxy, this book alone would not be sufficient to help a new believer achieve humble orthodoxy. To get a good grasp on what orthodoxy is, they will need to consult other resources. For this purpose, Harris' earlier book remains one of my top recommendations.
This is a review I've put off writing for a long time, but since I received the book as part of the Waterbrook MultnomahBlogging for Books program aThis is a review I've put off writing for a long time, but since I received the book as part of the Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books program and obligated myself to provide a review, I'd better go ahead. The main reason I didn't want to review it is that I haven't finished the book. I couldn't. There are simply too many good books to waste time with bad ones. However, I did give it a real effort, and would like to share the reasons why I didn't find the book worthy of continuing.
First, though, I should tell you the reasons I requested this book in the first place. I have always been skeptical of Pentecostal teachings about charismatic gifts and the "baptism of the Holy Spirit", but hoped that this book might at least help me understand why they believe what they do about those things. I've also been curious to learn more about the senior pastor of Gateway Church, which is a very large and influential church. Our church sings a lot of music written and produced by the folks at Gateway Worship, but I knew next to nothing about what those folks believed.
My first reason for disliking this book is purely subjective: I just don't like his writing style. Every chapter begins with an anecdote, usually a story from Morris' own life. While I have no problem with an author writing from his own experience, I often failed to see the connection between the anecdote and the point he was trying to make in the chapter. Still, I understand that a lot of people do like personal stories in books, so I was willing to let this go as a simple matter of preference.
The bigger problem with the book is doctrinal. I knew I was in trouble when early in the book (p. 21) Morris makes reference to "the great nineteenth-century evangelist Charles Finney". While Finney's influence was indeed "great", there is nothing else great about him. While many consider him to be a hero, he is largely responsible for the pervasiveness of Pelagianism in the American church (see here, here, and here). A man who denied the Fall, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and justification by faith alone is not someone I'd turn to as an example of someone empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Morris also frequently leaves out essential qualifications to statements he makes. For instance, on p. 28-29, Morris teaches that every Christian has the ability to "know God's voice and hear Him just as clearly as the most famous evangelist." This voice, he says, is not audible; "It comes as a thought" (italics his). He continues: "With time and familiarity, you can learn to clearly distinguish between thoughts that are your own and those that come from the Spirit."
To an extent, this is all correct. However, Morris references zero Scripture to support his assertions, nor does he offer any help in teaching readers how to distinguish between thoughts that are their own and those that come from the Spirit. Without biblical exhortations (such as 1 John 4:1 and Acts 17:11) to "test" teachings and our own thoughts by "examining the Scriptures daily", the idea that the Holy Spirit primarily speaks to us is through our thoughts is dangerous!
The last straw for me, and the point at which I gave up, came in Morris' chapter called "Three Baptisms, Three Witnesses". Besides being an utterly uncompelling argument for a Pentecostal understanding of a "third" baptism into the power of the Holy Spirit, this chapter closes with this disturbing statement:
Some biographers say the Holy Spirit empowered [D.L.] Moody so greatly that he would just walk through factories and workers would fall on their faces and be saved.
While he never acknowledges who those biographers are (part of a disappointing lack of citation throughout the book), it really doesn't matter. Teaching that people can be saved simply by being in close proximity to someone "empowered" by the Holy Spirit is outright blasphemy! The Bible is crystal clear that salvation cannot come apart from hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Claiming that sinners can be saved in any other way is inexcusable, and was the final straw that broke my determination to make it through to the end of the book.
I do find it ironic, though, that someone enamored with the likes of Charles Finney — whose greatest "contribution" to evangelicalism was his attack upon the heresy of Hyper-Calvinism — would relate a story such as that. The error of Hyper-Calvinism is that it teaches that God saves the elect apart from the preaching of the Word. How is what Morris describes — the Holy Spirit bringing about salvation while circumventing both evangelism and human will — any different?
I can't find a single reason to recommend that anyone read this book. Even if you are a Pentecostal/Charismatic believer, surely you can find a better representation of your views....more
It's a popular question, but if you're looking for a book that will place God on one side of the political aisle, tIs God a Democrat, or a Republican?
It's a popular question, but if you're looking for a book that will place God on one side of the political aisle, this isn't it. As the book rightly states, Jesus didn't come to earth to take sides in our political squabbles (though I think John MacArthur's recent thoughts on the Democratic Party platform are absolutely correct), but to inaugurate the Kingdom of God.
Instead, Dr. Evans provides principles which should guide the voting of Christians. The book's title is a very different question from "for whom should Christians vote?" You'll find no endorsement of any candidate or political party here, but rather an endorsement of the Bible as the all-sufficient source of wisdom for the Christian's involvement in the affairs of this world.
Christianity is an others-focused religion, which means that Christianity is inherently political. Our vote is one of the primary ways in which we participate in the community, and so we must take care to exercise it properly. But we must also remember when we do so that, like Paul, we are dual citizens, belonging to both an earthly and a heavenly city (Acts 22:27; Philippians 3:20).
While Evans packs many helpful principles for voting into a very small book (the print version is fewer than 100 pages), the section I found most personally beneficial was his description of the role and purpose of government. While we tend to think of "government" taking place only on the level of the "State", there are actually many types of government, including self-government, family government, and church government. The Bible delegates authority to each of these governing agencies in different ways which complement, but do not interfere with, one another.
Dr. Evans writes that the government which governs best is that which allows each of the other forms of government to operate freely within the role of properly delegated authority which has been given to it. Though he doesn't use the term, what he is describing is basically Abraham Kuyper's concept of "Sphere Sovereignty", something which I wholeheartedly affirm....more
It's been a while since I read a book with a military theme, but my curiosity was piqued by the following blurb on the book's jacket cover:
It's been a while since I read a book with a military theme, but my curiosity was piqued by the following blurb on the book's jacket cover:
The Dirty Dozen meets Band of Brothers in this true story of how a rusty old New Orleans banana boat and an unlikely crew of international merchant seamen, a gang of inmates from a local jail, and a French harbor pilot spirited out of Morocco in the trunk of a Chevy by OSS agents were drafted into service in WWII — and heroically succeeded in setting the stage for Patton's epic invasion of North Africa.
After spending a relaxing weekend enjoying this story, I came away feeling that my review should be a "tale of two books": the one that Tim Brady wrote, and the one the Crown Publishing marketing department sold. Both are good books, but they aren't the same.
First of all, the book that is written is excellent. Brady is a great story-teller, and weaves a fascinating tale of America's first World War II battle in the European theater centered on some of the more obscure characters and events involved. At times he may go into more detail than some readers will prefer, but I appreciated the immersion into the world of 1940's Morocco, as I shared in the anxiety of ordinary soldiers and civilians on the brink of imminent war.
While the SS Contessa does figure prominently in the story, the scope of Brady's book is much larger. He takes readers through the politics and preparations behind Operation Torch (the Allied assault on Northern Africa) as well as the logistical nightmares and insufficient training that made the attack such a risky proposition. We learn why it was necessary for the U.S. Armed Forces to draft a "banana boat" from the Standard Fruit Company into military service, and fill it with crewmen from the Norfolk County Jail — there simply weren't enough resources and personnel available (with the United States already heavily engaged in the Pacific Theater) for the largest naval mission ever launched to that point in history.
To me, though, the ending seemed anti-climactic. The Contessa's journey of "twelve desperate miles" up the Sebou River ended up lasting only a few pages at the end of the book, and I guess I'd expected more. That said, I don't think Brady needed to change anything he wrote. The space designated for the Contessa's role in the invasion is probably roughly proportional to her importance in the scope of Operation Torch, which is to say, not much.
But, like I've said, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The "problem" with the ending has nothing to do with the way it was written, and everything to do with my expectations leading into this book... which brings up the "second book" — the one advertised by the marketing department.
When I read of comparisons to The Dirty Dozen and Band of Brothers, I expected the book's focus to be relatively narrow, something of a human interest story. Inmates from a local jail chosen to serve in a special mission? Great! What were they like? How did they go about their work? What happened to them afterward?
We never really learn the answers to these questions because the "gang of ex-cons" mentioned on the front cover simply don't figure prominently into the story. The crew members taken from the jail weren't hardened criminals, but sailors serving time for partying a little too hard on shore leave, and by all accounts, they performed their duties admirably and without incident. So while the fact that they were needed at all is an interesting historical tidbit, they aren't the story here.
With all due respect to Hollywood, real life often provides better drama than fiction. This book didn't need to tell the story of these men to be a page-turner. And while credit goes to the marketing department for getting the book in my hands (after all, I might not have bought it in the first place without the intriguing subtitle and jacket blurbs), the story works better as the book Brady wrote than the one I thought I was buying.
If you're into military history, I think you'll appreciate this one. If you're looking for something that really is a real-life version of The Dirty Dozen, you'll probably be disappointed. Buy it here....more
When I saw that John Grisham had written a baseball story, I knew it would be good! I wasn’t disappointed with this fun little read.
The mixing of fictWhen I saw that John Grisham had written a baseball story, I knew it would be good! I wasn’t disappointed with this fun little read.
The mixing of fictional and historical characters and events takes some getting used to (if you’re familiar with baseball history), but all that was required for this baseball fan to get into the story was just a little bit of “cognitive estrangement”. I forgot what I knew and let Grisham’s portrayal of the summer of 1973 become my temporary reality.
Non baseball fans will surely enjoy the story just as much, as it isn’t really about baseball at all. It’s more of a human interest story about fathers, sons, boyhood dreams, and the sometimes harsh reality of life that interferes with those dreams.
Though this book seems bound (like so many other Grisham novels) to be adapted into a movie — one I’ll be happy to see — much of the value of the book is in knowing what is going on inside Paul Tracey’s head: something that might not transition well to the big screen. It’s also difficult to imagine a movie version lasting much longer than the time it took to breeze through this novel, which is certainly the shortest Grisham story I’ve read. I completed it in a single sitting.
If you want a fun, easy, summertime read, you can’t go wrong with Calico Joe!...more
46% of self-identifying Christians believe God will make them rich if they have enough faith.
This sobering statistic makes me sad, and sometimes angry46% of self-identifying Christians believe God will make them rich if they have enough faith.
This sobering statistic makes me sad, and sometimes angry, but rarely does it make me compassionate. After reading this book, I'm hopeful that this will become my default reaction to what is commonly known as the prosperity gospel.
As the authors state in the book's conclusion, "The prosperity gospel is not a harmless movement that is slightly off; rather it is a dangerous movement that has eternal consequences." Millions of people — including many within Southern Baptist churches — have been deceived by this pervasive system of false teaching, but I have never felt equipped (nor inclined) to do anything more than criticize. While critique is indeed necessary, what is needed more is for Christians to lovingly instruct those influenced (often unknowingly) by prosperity teachings and to bring them into an understanding of the true gospel. That is the purpose of this much needed book.
Jones and Woodbridge — both professors at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary — have compiled a significant amount of scholarly research, combined it with wise pastoral counsel, and packaged it all into a very short little book that manages to be thorough without being overwhelming. They begin by investigating the history of prosperity theology, then address specific errors in the teaching of some of its most prominent proponents, and end by providing a sound, Biblical theology of suffering and giving.
Having never actually looked very deeply into the teachings of the prosperity gospel before — I tried to read Your Best Life Now once to try to understand the appeal, but I couldn't bear to continue after a few agonizing chapters — I was interested to read about its origins in an intellectual movement called "New Thought", which had its beginnings in the early 18th century. It was no great shock to see that the foundational doctrines of the "Word-Faith Movement" are simply a recycled godless philosophy with a quasi-Christian veneer slapped on.
What surprised me, though, was how the authors managed to help me see these heretical doctrines through the eyes of those who are deceived by them. Where perhaps I expected to find ammunition for future theological debates, I found something totally unexpected: sympathy. "Think about how devastating this philosophy can be to someone who has cancer," readers are exhorted. If all that is required to experience healing is enough faith (and maybe a little "seed money" sent to your favorite televangelist), "You are the reason you have cancer. You are at fault." How tragic!
As I read on through the section that broke down the specific teachings of prosperity preachers from E.W. Kenyon and Kenneth Hagin to Creflo Dollar and Kenneth Copeland, I began to see how hurting people might be drawn to their "ministries". This is particularly true when it comes to "prosperity lite" teachers such as T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, and Joel Osteen (to whom is devoted an entire lengthy section). Their sermons and writings are often saturated with Scripture, which lends the appearance of wisdom, but they habitually rip verses from their biblical context. When combined with a genuinely likable personality and great marketing, this is a recipe for a large following.
The question that began nagging me about halfway through the book was, "How can I help people who have been caught up in this teaching see that it is a counterfeit gospel?" The answer, of course, is the same way the Secret Service identifies counterfeit currency. If you want to know how to recognize a fake, you've got to become intimately familiar with the real thing.
For this reason, the final third ofthe book is devoted to presenting sound theological principles in place of the distortions of the prosperity gospel. In particular, the authors focus on the Bible's teachings about suffering, wealth & poverty, and giving. The chapter on suffering is worth the price of the book all by itself!
Of course, there are also practical suggestions for lovingly ministering to those who embrace prosperity theology. These include everything from questions to ask as part of a spiritual self-diagnosis, to ways to start a dialogue about prosperity teachings, to exhortations to pray and preach the gospel. All served as reminders that millions of people are in bondage to false teaching, but Jesus came to set captives free!
Whether or not you know anyone who has been taken in by the "prosperity" message, it is important to be aware of it and able to clearly articulate the genuine the Truth in love. This book will help you do that. Buy it here....more
I have a confession to make: I really don't like leadership books.
Don't get me wrong. I read books on leadership frequently, and I understand the valuI have a confession to make: I really don't like leadership books.
Don't get me wrong. I read books on leadership frequently, and I understand the value that good books on leadership add to my own ability to lead. In many ways, leadership is a very pragmatic subject, and I've greatly benefited from many of the ones I've read. I've just never actually enjoyed one before.
Mohler makes no effort to hide the fact that The Conviction to Lead is categorically different from the plethora of other leadership books that have flooded Christian and secular bookstores over the last few decades. His first sentence lays it all on the line: "Let me warn you right up front—my goal is to change the way you think about leadership. I do not aim merely to add one voice to the conversation; I want to fundamentally change the way leadership is understood and practiced."
This book approaches a problem which Mohler sees in today's evangelical culture. The church, he says, seems to be increasingly divided between two groups: "Leaders" and "Believers." That is to say, today's churches and seminaries are filled with those who are gifted and driven to lead well, and with those who care deeply and passionately about theology, but there is not necessarily a lot of overlap between the two. Mohler thinks there should be. This book is his effort to bridge that gap, "to redefine Christian leadership so that it is inseparable from passionately held beliefs, and to motivate those who are deeply committed to truth to be ready for leadership."
Leadership books speak often of different types of intelligence, building on Howard Gardner's (no relation!) theory of multiple intelligences. Often there will be some sort of personality profile test (or "spiritual gifts inventory" in the churchy lingo) to help leaders best use their natural abilities to discover their own leadership style. This can be very useful, and Mohler adds his own twist here. He suggests another type of intelligence which strong leaders require: "Convictional Intelligence."
"Convictional intelligence emerges when the leader increases in knowledge and in strength of belief. It deepens over time, with the seasoning and maturing of knowledge that grows out of faithful learning, Christian thinking, and biblical reasoning." As leaders become committed to studying what they believe, the convictions that develop from these beliefs inform the direction in which they are leading. In turn, these convictions drive the passionate student to lead others down the same path. It's a powerful cycle.
Mohler's arguments are quite compelling, and very attractive. This book resonated with me, largely because it gives voice to much of my own experience. The times at which I feel I have developed most as a leader have been the times at which I was most diligently studying, learning, and forming strong convictions about everything from theology to philosophy to history and every other form of knowledge. Usually, these have been times when I myself have been led by a man of very strong conviction. So what Mohler is saying here sounded quite familiar, though I had never made the connection before.
That said, I have MUCH yet to learn about leading well, both in terms of leadership philosophy and practical concerns. This book deals with both. Mohler instructs those who read his book to seek to grow by following 25 principles, with a healthy mix of the abstract and the pragmatic. These principles also cover the entire length of a leader's life, from how to develop the conviction and skills necessary to lead in the first place, to how to leave a legacy for future generations to continue following once the leader is gone.
Some chapters cover areas in which I am already strong (e.g., "Leaders Are Readers"), while others cover areas of personal weakness. You might say these chapters were particularly convicting, which is, of course, something to be expected in a book seeking to develop "the conviction to lead." For me, the chapter I need to read over and over again in my current stage of leadership development is "Leaders Are Communicators." For you it may be another area of weakness which must become a strength, but I believe every leader (or potential leader, i.e., all Christians) will benefit greatly from this book.
I don't often recommend leadership books, but I hope you'll read this one. 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
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
On the evening of May 7, 1747, two of the greatest living geniuses of the time met for the first and only time. When Johann Sebastian Bach, the BaroquOn the evening of May 7, 1747, two of the greatest living geniuses of the time met for the first and only time. When Johann Sebastian Bach, the Baroque master of contrapuntal music, visited the court of Frederick "the Great", the dynamic King of Prussia, the immediate result was an unforgettable live performance on the pianoforte, followed two weeks later by a grand composition dedicated to the King. Bach's Musicalisches Opfer is a true masterpiece on a number of levels, for which Gaines' helpful instruction leads to a much greater appreciation, but the larger story is the clash of worldviews which led to this historic encounter in the first place.
Evening in the Palace of Reason begins with the events of that fateful night, but then backs up to show the broader context. This dual biography details the birth, childhood, education, and adult lives of the two protagonists, with chapters alternating between the two. Their lives couldn't have been much more different! Bach, the staunch Lutheran from a working class family, had little in common (besides strong-willed obstinacy and a love of music) with the enlightened noble, a bisexual and an atheist who admired the great philosophers of his day.
As Gaines weaves the life stories of these two fascinating men together (another reviewer called the book a "contrapuntal biography", which I think is a fantastic description), we begin to see the inevitable confrontation between mutually exclusive philosophical viewpoints on the world. Indeed, the author presents this evening as an epitome of the clash between two eras: the "Age of Faith" and the "Age of Reason".
As the book reaches a climax in the final — and longest — chapter, we find ourselves back in Frederick's palace as he attempts to humiliate Bach by asking him to improvise a fugue (a type of music the King despised) based on a melody specifically constructed to be resistant to contrapuntal imitation. But this time, unlike in the beginning of the book, we realize that there is much more at stake than the pride of two very proud men. This is a battle of wits between men of opposite convictions, each absolutely convinced that the other is terribly wrong, and determined to expose the errors of his opponent's judgment to the gathered crowd.
Though this book is not nearly as in-depth as many other biographies available for both protagonists, it is easy to imagine what it must have been like to be in that room that night. It is easily the most riveting biography I've ever read — and not just because I am already a huge admirer of J.S. Bach! These two men are both fascinating, and Gaines tells the story of their evening together very well.
One suggestion that will greatly enhance your enjoyment of this book: Be sure that you have access to good recordings of Bach's music. In a pinch, YouTube will suffice. Gaines discusses a great many of Bach's compositions, and I found that listening to a piece after reading about it — and then re-reading the section after listening — made the entire experience much more rewarding.
My final comment has little to do with the book itself, and is rather a minor editing issue with the edition I purchased (the 2006 paperback published by Harper Collins). The very first thing I noticed when I picked up the book was the blurb on the back cover, which states that their meeting occurred in the year 1757, which is seven years after Bach's death! The one thing that Jim Lotz made absolutely certain that every student in his music history class at Tennessee Tech University would remember — even if we remembered nothing else — were the dates of the musical periods! Twelve years later, the fact that the Baroque period ended in 1750 with the death of Johann Sebastian Bach is still cemented in my brain... which just goes to underscore the point Gaines was making about Bach being the last of his era. Again, this doesn't reflect at all on the content of the book or on its author, but it would have been nice to see the editing match the effort that went into the material between the covers.
So fancy, in fact, that he isn't reallya vegetable at all! Like his partnerOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
Bob the Tomato is a fancy vegetable.
So fancy, in fact, that he isn't really a vegetable at all! Like his partner Larry the Cucumber, Bob is technically a fruit, but who cares?
Phil Vischer is a creative guy who knows how to tell a story, and in this book, he tells the story of his creation of VeggieTales. As stories go, it's a pretty interesting one, documenting the meteoric rise and catastrophic collapse of the VeggieTales franchise, and its parent company, Big Idea Productions.
The story begins with events in Phil's life that shaped him and the quirky personality type that devises a wildly successful video series based on talking vegetables. From a pedigree that includes a great-grandfather who was a pioneering radio preacher, to the divorce that rocked his Christian family, to his expulsion from Bible college, there were many factors that influenced his dream to find a way to get a positive message into homes around the world, in a way that wouldn't feel "cheap" or "cheesy" like so many lame Christian productions.
(Having recently read Malcolm Gladwell'sOutliers, I took special note of the seemingly unrelated things that ultimately led to Vischer spending most of his childhood tinkering with movie-making equipment and computer graphics programs, ending up with him uniquely positioned to take advantage of new technology at just the right time to make it big in the CGI video industry.)
No doubt about it: Phil Vischer is a talented guy, with a knack for generating great ideas and figuring out how to make them work. The success of VeggieTales was no accident! I was fascinated to see the behind-the-scenes stuff that went into making the videos, even though I'm not a huge fan of the series.
It was also fascinating, though, to read about how such a seemingly successful business/ministry was destined to fail almost from the beginning. For all his creative gifts, Vischer was seriously lacking in leadership ability. Without the know-how to set up a successful business model or the conviction to stick to his guns about the vision and direction of the company, Big Idea's success ended about as quickly as it began.
By the time he realized his mistakes, Vischer found himself surrounded by artists and businessmen who did not share his vision for the ministry impact of the company. Many on his staff, including the president he brought in to run the company once it began growing, were not even Christians. This quickly resulted in vision drift, and accounts for the feel-good, moralistic "theology" of many of the later videos (one of the main reasons I'm not a big fan).
In the end, Vischer totally lost control of his company, and was forced out altogether. He accepts the responsibility for this collapse, and ends the book with some good reflections to help other Christian business/ministry ventures avoid his mistakes. Most notable was the Walt-Roy dynamic modeled after the Disney corporation, where Walt was the creative genius, but could not have survived without his business-minded brother Roy. Vischer encourages Christians with creative gifts to seek out Christians with administrative gifts (and vice versa) to form partnerships that can be truly world-changing. This is something I've found invaluable in my own experience. I know I've got a lot of good ideas, but the church-basedSchool of Performing Arts that I administrate would never survive without my reliance on the counsel of the members of our Advisory Board, who bring lots of business, accounting, marketing, and pastoral experience to the table.
This isn't a book that's going to change anyone's life, but it's a light, easy read that will benefit folks trying to walk the business/ministry line, and will hold the interest fans of VeggieTales. The writing gets a little clunky at times (especially as he describes the development of CGI technology and his role in pioneering elements of it), but on the whole, reading this book is a few hours well spent. Buy ithere.
For more on Phil Vischer and what he's doing now, visit hiswebsite....more
When I was in middle school, I had a button with a picture of a potato... with a toenail in it. It was the straOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
When I was in middle school, I had a button with a picture of a potato... with a toenail in it. It was the strange sort of thing only an 8th grade boy could like! The button was my "souvenir" from the Dan Quayle Center and Museum (now known as theDan Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center), located in my hometown of Huntington, Indiana. It was supposed to be mocking Quayle'spotato/potatoe controversy, but for some reason I just thought it was cool.
Growing up in perhaps the most vice presidential town in America (the "highway of vice presidents" rolls right through town) helped spark my interest in politics through two large political rallies I was able to attend. The first, referred to in Lott's book as the "famous Battle of Huntington", was considered a turning point in the Bush-Quayle 1988 presidential campaign (you can read about ithere). The second was the kickoff to Quayle's doomed presidential campaign, which took place at my high school a few months before my graduation. Our band provided the music (as evidencedhere); I was fascinated by the entire political process, as I looked forward to voting in my first presidential election.
So when I saw this book about the vice presidency — which, judging by its cover, wouldn't take itself too seriously — my interest was piqued. When I opened it and saw that the entire first chapter was about the V.P. museum in my hometown, I knew I needed to buy it!
I'm glad I did. Far from a dry history of an office few people care about (including those who have held it), the book is exactly what it says it is. It's a story, and Lott tells it well.
The evolution of the vice presidency from a despised and essentially worthless position to the high-powered and influential office it is today is traced through a series of anecdotes about the often colorful men who have served as our nation's #2 man. There is no shortage of funny, bizarre, and interesting facts here, as Lott traces the history of the United States through the eyes of these men who, prior to 1972, often languished in total obscurity.
The author's personality certainly comes through frequently, but he does an admirable job of remaining neutral and objective for the most part — his noticeable disdain for certain recent occupants of the office notwithstanding. His sense of humor keeps the reader engaged and amused with what could very easily be an intensely boring topic. All in all, this is a light and enjoyable read for anyone who likes history and/or politics, and it's almost guaranteed to teach you things you never knew! Buy ithere....more
So begins one of the greatest resources I've come across for pOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
"Musical children are not born — they are raised."
So begins one of the greatest resources I've come across for parents (and teachers!) who want to give children the best chance to maximize their musical potential, and I couldn't agree more with the sentiment. As a music teacher, my experience has been that — while some students have more natural aptitude for music, and not all students given the same opportunities will reach the same level of proficiency — the biggest factor contributing to success in music is the commitment of parents to the musical education of their children, and their involvement in that process.
Dr. Robert Cutietta, who is currently the dean of the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, is uniquely qualified to write this book. He describes himself as wearing "four hats", each of which give him a different perspective on music education. These hats are: (1) professional musician — he knows the music industry through decades of experience as a performer in many styles and settings; (2) music teacher — he has taught music in private settings, in public schools, and at the university level; (3) researcher — he spent more than two decades doing academic research in the field of music education before writing this book; and (4) parent —he has raised three musical children of his own!
The book's scope ranges from the practical ("Do different instruments require different investments of time and money?") to the philosophical ("What can music education do for my child?") to the informative ("What should my child be learning in his music classes at school?"). Each chapter is written clearly and instructively, with the understanding that the book's audience is primarily made up of parents with little or no musical training themselves. You don't have to be a musician to be a great musical parent!
Of great benefit to me were chapters addressing the three questions I hear most often in my position as the administrator of a private music school:
* "At what age should my child begin music lessons?" (Chapter 3) * "What instrument should my child play?" (Chapter 7) * "How can I get my kid to practice?" (Chapter 8)
Each of these chapters is immensely helpful! The answers to these questions are much more complex than most people imagine, but the author takes great care in explaining all the different factors that go into making those important decisions.
There are a few chapters in this edition (published in 2001) of the book that are slightly outdated, most notably the chapters dealing with music technology. As you might imagine, technology has changed quite a bit in the last ten years! Having recently corresponded with the author, I learned that a new edition is in the works, and I'm sure this will be addressed. In the meantime, this should not deter anyone from buying this book. Most of what is contained in it is timeless information, which will be relevant for many, many years.
Raising Musical Kids has jumped to the top of my list of books to recommend to parents who are considering or currently pursuing a musical education for their children... and not just because I think the chapter titled "Finding a Good Private Teacher" will lead them to my school! This book will be an invaluable resource which parents and teachers will pull down to reference many times over the course of a child's journey toward musicianship. Buy ithere....more
Though I've read many of C.S. Lewis' books multiple times, I just finished this one for the first time. How didOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
Though I've read many of C.S. Lewis' books multiple times, I just finished this one for the first time. How did I never read it sooner?
The Great Divorce takes readers on a bus ride through an "imaginative supposal" (as Lewis put it) of the afterlife. The narrator travels from the grey city — described later as either Purgatory or Hell, depending on where one ends up — to the foothills of Heaven. Along the way, citizens of Heaven plead with those from Grey Town to turn away from the petty things that they cling to, and embrace the better, more Real life offered in the high country.
The title of the book is an allusion to William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell". Lewis intends to show that one can only obtain eternal life and enter Heaven by completely divorcing oneself from all the attachments to things that we love more than God. Sometimes the things we hold on to are obviously sinful: lust, gambling, pride, etc. But sometimes — perhaps even most of the time — the things which keep people from coming to Christ are those things which seem like good things: love of one's children or country, for instance. It is as Tim Keller wrote in his recent bookCounterfeit Gods: "Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God."
Many have criticized Lewis for his use of the term "Purgatory" to describe the state of those who are not in Heaven, but are being offered the chance to get there. Is this proof that he affirmed the Roman Catholic dogma of Purgatory?
I don't think so. First of all, what is described in this book is certainly not a description of "Purgatory" that would please a Catholic. Whatever Lewis means by the word "Purgatory", it is certainly not the traditional Catholic understanding.
Instead, I believe Lewis was using "Purgatory" as a literary device, meant to depict that our time here on Earth is the period during which we have the opportunity to purge the sin from our lives, divorcing ourselves from Hell and betrothing ourselves to Christ. For those who are being sanctified and made more like Christ, this world will become more and more like Heaven. For those who reject Christ's offer of salvation, life becomes Hell on Earth. In this way, what we make of our lives we will carry with us into eternity.
In any event, this is a great novel, and worthy of your consideration. Buy ithere....more
If you're wondering what in the heck a "dun cow" is, you're not alone. As it turns out,dun is a color ("gray-gold or tan", in fact), which in this case describes a cow. Don't you love learning new things?
Here's something else you may not know: This is a TERRIFIC book!
The Book of the Dun Cow is a novel which in many ways defies classification. Though the New York Times endorsement quoted on the back cover refers to the book as an "allegorical fantasy", that is not quite accurate (as the author himself points out in the afterward attached to the 25th Anniversary Edition). There are certainly elements from thebeast fable genre — all of the characters are animals — but without the moralization of Aesop and others like him. The story is an epic battle between good and evil, but lacks the epic length of other similar novels such as The Lord of the Rings.
As with all great stories, the Story itself is of far greater value than any moral or allegorical lesson. The struggle of Lord Chauntecleer the Rooster and the animals of his domain against the evil Wyrm and his minion, Cockatrice, is one of the most engaging tales I have ever read. Wangerin is a masterful storyteller (see my review of his novelPaul) and quickly makes readers care deeply about hens, mice, and foxes. Their struggles become our own as we identify with them in their laughter, tragedy, and romance. The Dun Cow herself rarely appears (and even more rarely speaks) in the book, but the role she plays — which I'll leave you to discover for yourself — points us to the greatest reality of all.
I frequently found myself reading portions of this book to my wife, just for the sheer fun of hearing the story out loud! I can't wait until my children are old enough to enjoy hearing it read to them as well. Especially I enjoyed reading (or, rather, howling) lines from my favorite character, Mundo Cani Dog, which are in equal parts hilarious and thought-provoking.
You would do well to read this book. I'm so glad I did! Along with another "beast epic",Watership Down (see myreview), this book has firmly planted itself on my list of novels to read and re-read many times. Enjoy it!
Truett Cathy is one of my favorite entrepreneurs. The founder of Chick-Fil-A has certainly proven that he knowsOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
Truett Cathy is one of my favorite entrepreneurs. The founder of Chick-Fil-A has certainly proven that he knows how to make a business work while holding firm to his convictions. His ventures in philanthropy and community service have been likewise successful, and he has established a name for himself as a leader of leaders. When Truett Cathy speaks, people listen!
His latest book is a collection of short stories — you can think of it as Cathy's version of the Book of Proverbs — is focused around the title's question. When so many of the ultra-rich have broken lives, is the pursuit of wealth ultimately worth it? As someone who has achieved real wealth without sacrificing his faith or his family, Cathy seems as qualified as anyone to provide some answers. In the book's introduction, Dave Ramsey calls this "the most important thing he's ever written."
I'm not so sure I agree. While I absolutely affirm Cathy's conclusions, and his advice is both practically and theologically sound, I don't think this is his best or most important work. While it's a shorter and easier read than some of his other books, there isn't a whole lot of new information in this book for those familiar with some of his others. There is a lot of overlap here with, for instance,Eat Mor Chikin, and I thought the earlier book told Cathy's story better.
That said, if you're in the mood for a quick book of practical financial wisdom, this one will fit the bill. And for those wondering what Cathy's answer to the big question is, here is a summary:
Wealth is worth it if:
1. You earn it honestly 2. You spend wisely 3. You save reasonably 4. You give generously
Wealth is not worth it if:
1. You have not worked for it 2. You spend it frivolously 3. You don't bother to save for the future 4. You are unwilling to share your wealth
Wendell Berry is one of the few authors who is worth reading simply for the pure joy of hearing the words. SomeOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
Wendell Berry is one of the few authors who is worth reading simply for the pure joy of hearing the words. Something about his writing style makes the words seem to wash right over me. Whether poetry or prose (a distinction not always easily made in Berry's writing), fiction or non, the effect is the same.
Hannah Coulter is certainly not my typical pleasure-reading material. There is not much of a plot, and no real "action" scenes. There is no prototypical villain, though life in the fictional town of Port William seems always to be warring against the twin enemies of Time and Death. Instead, this is a poignant account of the simple heroism of a life well-lived.
The novel is told from the perspective of a 70's-something woman in the twilight of her life, as she reflects on her past, present, and future. Through Hannah's eyes, we catch a glimpse of rural life as experienced by "the greatest generation". We benefit from the prudence and wisdom gained over a lifetime that had experienced so much joy and pain, as she loved and lost two husbands (one of whom went missing in the European theater of the second World War), and became an integral part of a tight-knit community.
Most of all, this is a story of love; a true romance novel. The love of which Hannah Coulter speaks is not the "romance" that is so typical of the stories of our day, but a real, true, and lasting love in the fullest sense of the word. It is a lifetime of love, shared most intimately with a spouse, but encompassing the shared experiences of a multitude of people, and pouring over into every aspect of life. It is a love for which I believe all people long, but few truly find in this life.
The tempo of the book is that of the life it portrays: slow, but with a purpose and a definite direction. I was riveted from beginning to end.
This novel was of particular interest to me because Hannah was born within a few years of both of my grandmothers, and in the same part of the state of Kentucky. Her story could easily have been their story, or the story of so many others from their generation. It is a reminder of the importance of learning and passing on the stories of those who have come before us. In this way, they (and the wisdom they possess) are always with us, just as the people in Port William remain with Hannah Coulter. I was struck by this thought even more deeply this week at my grandmother's funeral. I am so thankful to have had the chance to get to know her, and to have many of her stories to pass on to my children and grandchildren. I read this book before she died, but she (and my other grandmother) were both on my mind the entire time. Hearing Hannah's story somehow made their stories seem more real. For perhaps the first time, I was able to imagine them as young women, as the world in which they lived came alive through Berry's beautiful writing.
I sincerely hope that many others will read this book, along withJayber Crow and others from Berry's stories of life in Port William. We could all use a break from the breakneck pace of modern life, and there are few ways better to do so than this book. Buy ithere....more
Where have all the role models gone? Who should kids— and particularly Christian kids— look up to these days? MOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
Where have all the role models gone? Who should kids — and particularly Christian kids — look up to these days? Maybe it's only because the "bad" stories get more press, but it often seems like all of the celebrity "heroes" (singers, actors, athletes, etc) are greedy, vain, or downright criminal! Thankfully, that's not the case, and there are still some truly worthy heroes to be found.
Mike Fisher is one of them.
This book tells the story of one of the NHL's grittiest players, currently a Center for the Nashville Predators. It chronicles his life as a child growing up in Peterborough, Ontario, and his rise through the professional hockey ranks to the highest levels of national and international competition. More importantly, it reveals how his life and his career have been impacted by his faith in Jesus Christ.
Defender of Faith stays pretty surface-level as far as the specifics of the Christian faith, choosing to focus on portraying major events in Fisher's life rather than dwelling on doctrines or denominational issues. This is to be expected, as the book's target audience is children ages 9-12, as part of theZonderKidz Biography Series. For a kids' book, it is excellent; an easy and enjoyable read.
The book's greatest strength is the way it shows Fisher living out his faith in a winsome manner despite his role in the high-pressure world of professional sports. A naturally quiet and reserved man, Fisher realized the platform that he had to impact lives, and has stepped into the public spotlight (particularly since his marriage last year to country music superstar Carrie Underwood) as an outspoken advocate of Christianity and community involvement.
I was particularly interested in hearing how he reconciled his faith in the gospel with his tough-nosed play, including his willingness to engage in fights on the ice. Fighting in the NHL is often criticized as being an act of aggression, but Fisher sees it (as do I) as a way to protect one's teammates. The role of protector and defender is very compatible with a Christian view of masculinity, and I was glad to see Fisher debunk the all-too-common idea that Christians must be passive pushovers!
It was also touching to read about Fisher's relationship with a young boy named Elgin-Alexander Fraser. I was well aware of Fisher's active role in community service and philanthropy — including running theMike Fisher Hockey Camp, serving as honorary board president of an organization for terminally ill children calledRoger's House, and his involvement withHockey Ministries International and theMake-a-Wish Foundation — but did not know that he had cared so much about the children he worked with that he visited this very sick 3-year-old multiple times between games during the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs. When the boy died just as the Ottawa Senators advanced to the Finals (a lifelong dream for every hockey player), Fisher served as a pallbearer for the funeral.
One thing I would like to have read that the book lacked was an account of some of Fisher's struggles with his faith. In interviews, he has mentioned that there were times in his career when hockey became almost an "idol" to him, and that he had to refocus and get his priorities straight. These are the types of struggles that are common to every Christian, and it would be very beneficial for young people to have the opportunity to see that their role models are also real people with real trials, and to observe how they persevere through these times of difficulty. This is sadly missing from his biography.
Still, this is a great biography for kids, and particularly for those who are hockey fans. As a Christian and a Nashville Predators fan, I am immensely proud to have Mike Fisher on my team, and I look forward to many years of cheering for him both on and off the ice!
Buy the bookhere, with the knowledge that 100% of all proceeds from the sale of Defender of Faith will go toWorld Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice....more
Love Harry Potter? Love studying the Bible? Welcome to the club!
I'll admit, however, to being skeptical of atteOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
Love Harry Potter? Love studying the Bible? Welcome to the club!
I'll admit, however, to being skeptical of attempts to combine these two particular loves. Perhaps that is due to the disappointment of leafing through too many "Finding God in __________" titles that seem to be efforts to cash in on someone else's popularity by second-rate authors and spiritual advisers. Thankfully, this particular book is far more substantial than many other similarly titled works I've put back on the shelf.
Before I get into my review of the content, let me open up with a description of how this book works. It is not what I would call a typical Bible study, though it is absolutely saturated with Scripture. Rather, it is a guide for interacting with an immensely popular movie series from a distinctly Christian worldview. As such, it is a model for how we ought to approach ALL media.
The book contains six chapters. The first two are introductory, and are intended to be read prior to watching the movies. The final four chapters are each devoted to one of the final four films from the Harry Potter series, and are to be read after watching each movie.
Through series of questions and answers, Moore leads readers to think very intentionally about what we are viewing. His pastoral approach reveals exactly the sort of questions which careful consumers of media ought to be asking at all times, without coming across as "preachy". He uses specific events and conversations from the films (complete with time stamps to help parents and teachers locate the scene in question should they wish to show it as part of the discussion) to spur conversation intended to help us better enjoy God through our experience even of secular media.
Theologically, Moore is excellent. The gospel is implicit at all times, focusing especially on the themes of Creation, Fall, and Redemption, which underly all great stories, including THE great story of God's gracious salvation if sinful man. He also manages to weave in discussion of many of today's "hot topics", ranging from racism to sex to the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports.
The Harry Potter Bible Study is written in such a way as to be usable for families with younger children, but is probably best suited for high school and college students. It is challenging without being overwhelming. Each chapter also contains a "Digging Deeper" section for those who wish to delve into areas of philosophy and doctrine beyond what may be of interest to the average participant in a large group discussion.
In summary, this is a book that will benefit the Harry Potter fan in your family, but is also a worthwhile purchase even for those who don't like the books or movies. While Moore's insights on the films are valuable in themselves, this is of even greater worth as a prime example of how Christians can engage pop culture in a way that leads to both our enjoyment and God's glory. I think of it as a practical model of the type of cultural interaction described and encouraged by great authors such as Francis Schaeffer,Andy Crouch, andNancy Pearcey. (For those who don't know me or those authors, that's very high praise!)
One of the most fascinating topics I studied during my time in college wassynesthesia. Translated literally, tOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
One of the most fascinating topics I studied during my time in college wassynesthesia. Translated literally, this means "joined perception", and basically refers to a condition in which someone simultaneously perceives one sensory input with multiple senses. For instance, someone might hear the smell of fabric softener, or know exactly what the color blue tastes like.
The first time I ever thought I might have some idea what this could be like was at a Blue Man Group show in Las Vegas. My senses were on overload to the point when I could barely tell where the boundaries were between sight, hearing, and touch. (This was by design of course; BMG aims — and often succeeds — atconfusing the senses. They even have a song called "Synaestetic".) I loved it.
Reading this book was sort of like that. As I read, it seemed that every one of my senses was firing at once. It looked, smelled, sounded, felt, and tasted good.
It did take me a little while to get into this book, however, but that's because I was trying to read it, rather than to experience it. Upon first reading, I felt like I was living inside the mind of someone who is WAY smarter than me. I took the writing style to be a stream-of-consciousness type prose, and I wasn't sure where Wilson was going.
By about the end of the second chapter, though, I realized that the mistake was in my approach to the book. Trying to read it line-by-line was a bit like trying to enjoy a Rembrandt painting by staring at individual brush strokes. So I went back to the beginning, and began approaching Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl as a piece of art.
Wow, what a difference!
It wasn't long before I began to truly appreciate what Wilson had accomplished with this book. Theologians often talk about two types of God's revelation: the specific (his Word) and the general (his World). Scores of great books have been written investigating God's Word. This makes sense. Written words can help make sense of God's written Word.
But what about His World? Can words ever suffice to explore the depths of what God has revealed in Creation? Romans 1:19-20 tells us that God's "invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made." Men have wasted many words trying to parse out exactly what that means. Valiant apologetic efforts have been aimed at persuading those who "suppress the truth", but all too often they result in simply accusing the unbelievers of being fools. It may be true, but strangely, calling someone "fool" rarely wins the lost (much less an argument)!
What N.D. Wilson has done, then, is simply brilliant. Rather than try to tell readers how God's attributes are made plain in nature, he shows us. As the subtitle says, he writes with "wide-eyed wonder" at the world around him. By pointing out how truly amazing many every day occurrences really are, he reminds us how rarely we take the opportunity to witness God's glory in the things that are made.
Along the way, he winsomely interacts with the many philosophers who offer alternative explanations for life and the universe around us. Kant, Neitszche, Darwin, Hume, Rand... all leave the careful observer of the divine Artist's handiwork wanting, for none have offered anything so compelling as the Bible's own description of the origin and nature of things. Better than anything else I've ever read, this book truly makes this plain. The truth was there all along; I just needed help to see it.
Wilson describes us as characters in a play, lines in a poem. We live do, after all, live in the greatest story ever told; one which the Poet himself entered as a fellow actor upon this very stage! I am grateful for this book, which has helped me to look with a renewed sense of wonder at God's self-revelation in the things that surround me all the time. May I never lose this wonder!...more
I've read this one before, butmentioning it on my blog a few weeks ago reminded me that I wanted to read it again. The first time I read it, I'd checI've read this one before, butmentioning it on my blog a few weeks ago reminded me that I wanted to read it again. The first time I read it, I'd checked out the original (written in 1946) from the library. This time, I purchased the revised (in 1978) edition, which includes MUCH more.
As the auspicious title indicates, Hazlett — a philosopher, economist, and journalist — has broken economics down into one simple lesson. In fact, he further breaks it down into one sentence: "The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups."
The "lesson" portion of the book is only four pages long, but is followed up by nearly 200 pages of application of this lesson to a number of circumstances. For those who think that economics is boring, I hope you'll take me at my word: this book is not boring! Not only does Hazlitt succeed in speaking clearly for the layman; he also makes a sometimes difficult subject truly fascinating. Given the current state of our economy, books like this are needed now more than ever! Buy ithere.
If your interest is piqued, and you believe you are more of a visual learner, theMises Institute has made a series of 12 videos teaching this book, which you can findhere. ...more
I have read a lot of books on parenting, and particularly on parenting boys, and this is far and away the bestOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
I have read a lot of books on parenting, and particularly on parenting boys, and this is far and away the best I’ve yet encountered. Wilson’s counsel is both pastoral and practical, and always tinged with his typical witty prose.
His approach is very different from many other parenting books, mainly because he starts from a different perspective. Rather than beginning with the various challenges associated with bringing up boys, he challenges parents (and especially fathers) to give consideration to the type of men we want our boys to become. In every circumstance, he encourages us to think about how best to prepare our boys for mature manhood. This often results in a very different approach from what society typically advocates, in everything from discipline to roughhousing to education.
If you have (or may ever have) a son or grandson, this is a very worthwhile book to have available as a reference (I expect to revisit it frequently as my son grows older and enters new stages of life). It would also be a great read for school teachers, as there is much that pertains to nurturing masculinity in the classroom....more
I read this book and Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just back-to-back, even though they were writteOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
I read this book and Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just back-to-back, even though they were written 14 years apart. Keller has been remarkably consistent over the course of his ministry; his concern for addressing social justice issues from a conservative, evangelical view (particularly in urban settings) has been one of the central themes of his teaching for decades. Though his more recent books have garnered much more attention, this -- his first -- is just as good.
Where Generous Justice focuses more on the theological and philosophical aspects of justice, Ministries of Mercy devotes more time to practical concerns. Keller particularly calls out those in the Reformed evangelical tradition, who are not typically known for their concern for the poor (to our shame). He sets up his church (Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan) as a model for others to emulate: a theologically conservative Reformed church with a racially and economically diverse congregation that is actively engaging their community in an urban environment long thought to be "lost" to secularization. The fruit of this church's ministries in the time since this book was written are proof of the validity of Keller's arguments....more
Few topics stir up as much passion as that of justice. It’s hard enough to find agreement on what justice is, mOriginally posted atHoney and Locusts.
Few topics stir up as much passion as that of justice. It’s hard enough to find agreement on what justice is, much less how to achieve it. For that reason, this is a book bound to make nearly anyone uncomfortable.
Keller looks to reclaim the biblical mandate to seek justice for the poor and marginalized from those who sacrifice sound doctrine in favor of a vague, highly politicized sense of “social justice”. Evangelicals are right to hold the line on gospel clarity, but this does not absolve us from our responsibility to care for the poor. However, this care, properly and biblically understood, is not what liberal theologians and social activists have long espoused. It is, rather, a type of self-sacrificing generosity that flows from a right understanding of the gospel of grace.
No matter where you stand, I guarantee this book will challenge your convictions, and force you to think through the issue of justice in a way you’ve never done before. This is something we all need: myself especially....more
TheVeritas Forum began back in 1992 as a way for Christian students at Harvard University to explore questions related to the search for truth through a series of lectures and Q&A sessions. Two decades later, this project has expanded dramatically, with events at more than 100 universities around the world. This book is a collection of transcripts of some of the best talks in the series.
Authors/speakers include Christians from across the Liberal-Conservative spectrum (such as Tim Keller, N.T. Wright, and Francis Collins), as well as many atheists (such as Peter Singer and David Helfand). The lectures cover a broad range of topics, from theology to philosophy to music. As with any collaborative effort, there were strong and weak chapters, but each served as excellent discussion-starters for my Tuesday morning reading group!
Video and audio clips of each chapter/lecture can also be found free online. My personal favorites were the chapter by Jeremy Begbie ("The Sense of an Ending"), which "uses music and theology to explore the fundamental truths of how we understand our place in the world", and the debate between Rodney Brooks and Rosalind Picard ("Can Robots Become Human?"), who dialogue about what it means to be human, and whether we will one day be able to create life from non-life in a godlike manner.
This is not a book that will appeal to everyone, but if you are interested in exploring these sort of hard questions (and getting a very wide range of influences that will force you to think for yourself), this is something you'll enjoy. Buy ithere....more