The cover of my copy of The Book of Mormon proclaims it to be "Another Testament of Jesus Christ". As I read the book, I had in mind the other testameThe cover of my copy of The Book of Mormon proclaims it to be "Another Testament of Jesus Christ". As I read the book, I had in mind the other testaments, namely the Bible. I was especially mindful as to how well the three testaments fit together. The problem was, The Book of Mormon never quite fit. It tells the tale of Lehi, an Israelite from one of the tribes of Joseph. He is a righteous man, living in Jerusalem around 600 BC, soon before the Babylonians will come and destroy the city and take the people into captivity. God calls Lehi to take his family and leave Jerusalem, which they do, and head towards a new promised land across the waters. They settle in this new country, but troubles arise even as they leave Jerusalem. Sons Laman and Lemuel go along but are not totally on board with Dad and his spirituality. The younger Nephi, however, is a faithful son and heir to his father's faith. The reader is then treated to about a thousand years worth of rebellions and revivals among the children of Lehi, punctuated by prophecies and then a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ.
So that kind of sounds like the history of the children of Israel, right? Well, compare my pedestrian prose above to the rich text of the Old Testament, and you can start to understand my big beef with The Book of Mormon. Except where it quotes the Bible, the text of The Book of Mormon is very bland. Instead of the thought provoking imagery of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel detailing the transgressions of Israel, you get a regular refrain of "Repent ye, repent ye!" over a generic set of sins. Instead of complex characters like David, Ahab or Nebuchadnezzar, you get guys like Nephi or Ammoron who come across as complex as 1950s television characters.
Of course, beyond that, there's the theology. I'm a Lutheran Christian, so I was raised hearing that we're saved by faith in Jesus, not by our own good works. In The Book of Mormon, it's all about the good pious people versus the nasty rebels. Jesus will forgive you, sure, but only after you turn yourself around and start behaving. It goes against what I've been taught. And since The Book of Mormon doesn't read like it's in the same class as the Bible, I'm not inclined to question my current beliefs....more
I serve on the church council for our congregation, so I had to read this book. I don't particularly consider myself a leader, mind you. So perhaps thI serve on the church council for our congregation, so I had to read this book. I don't particularly consider myself a leader, mind you. So perhaps that's why I wasn't impressed. The book did offer some good advice, I guess. It just seemed, well, obvious: Don't panic. Think things through. Stick to your principles. Really listen to people. ... Of course, I suppose that during a crisis--in church or elsewhere--one does need to be reminded of the obvious....more
Another year, another Concordia Commentary read. Man, these things take a long time to read! Of course, it should be no surprise that this particularAnother year, another Concordia Commentary read. Man, these things take a long time to read! Of course, it should be no surprise that this particular volume was a challenge because the book of Proverbs itself challenges the attention span. Dr. Steinmann did a great job of delving into the text and explaining its nuances, and all sorts of scholarly things. And, as should be the case with a Concordia Commentary, he made sure to point out Christ in every chapter. I'm glad to have it on my shelf. Taken in small chunks, it was a delight to read. My few attempts to push through it, alas, resulted in drowsiness. ...more
This one's a combo coming of age tale and compilation of Christian war stories. Mr. Ripken tells how he became a missionary and served the people devaThis one's a combo coming of age tale and compilation of Christian war stories. Mr. Ripken tells how he became a missionary and served the people devastated by war in Somalia in the early 1990s. He was overwhelmed by the suffering of the people there and was at a loss as to how to minister to persecuted Christians. This sent him on a quest to research the experiences of Christians in other parts of the world who had gone through persecution. The stories he brought back were powerful. His own story, not so much. His experiences in Somalia are compelling in their own right, as important as the tales he shares second hand. But once he starts telling those stories, I found his account of his own reactions somewhat annoying. I was quite capable of feeling amazed, humbled and thankful by myself, thank you very much. Despite that, it is a book worth checking out...more
I was a bit slow in picking up this tome. Pastor Bolz-Weber has been frequently--and favorably--mentioned over at the Mockingbird blog for a while nI was a bit slow in picking up this tome. Pastor Bolz-Weber has been frequently--and favorably--mentioned over at the Mockingbird blog for a while now. She sounded intriguing the first few times I heard about her, but I, I was not going to jump on the bandwagon. No siree. Let the fads have their day and pass, I say. I'll just carry on with my own business. But Mockingbird didn't let up on their praise of her and sometimes I just have to succumb to curiosity. Even though I figured I would have issues with her theology, I decided to check out her book.
The first thing I discovered is that I like Pastor Bolz-Weber. I liked her from the very first word.* She's snarky, down to earth, and has an incredible understanding of grace--from our own brokenness and unworthiness to the immense love of God that reaches down to the muck and calls our name. Other than that, the book is very much like any other missionary biography--a collection of anecdotes recounting how God has been at work in and through her life. So while I do have quibbles with Pastor Bolz-Weber's theology, I'm very glad I let my curiosity guide me to her book. __________ *It's a word I would probably never use in church, but end up uttering all the time during frustrating moments at work and in my car....more
This one's a biography of Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed on the job in Equador back in 1956. Whereas the Woodrow Wilson biography I read precThis one's a biography of Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed on the job in Equador back in 1956. Whereas the Woodrow Wilson biography I read preceding this one was a well crafted story, Shadow is more a collection of diary and correspondence excerpts, weaved together by a bit of narrative. I'm not quite sure how much I like the book. Overall, Jim Elliot came across as a sanctimonious young lad, quick to speak the word of Law to his peers and himself. Of course, I'm not quite sure how much of that negative perspective flows from his youthful attitudes or how much flows from guilt over my own shortcomings. Jim Elliot was more faithful in his lifetime than I've been, even though I've had almost twice as much time to get it right. Lord, have mercy! Anyway, the life of Jim Elliot is a tale that should be told. I just not sure that Shadow of the Almighty is the best way to tell it....more
My wife was going to get rid of this book, one of the remnants of her college career. The book is pushing 50 and, in her opinion, a lot of the contentMy wife was going to get rid of this book, one of the remnants of her college career. The book is pushing 50 and, in her opinion, a lot of the contents are dated. Unfortunately for her and our ever crowding book shelf, I took the chance to reread the book and declared a stay of execution. Back in 1968, Dr, Schaeffer addressed the social and intellectual climate of the Western World. Many were saying, "God is dead," and were proposing a variety of solutions to the despair that followed. This book follows the development of that modern thought, from the philosophers down to the general culture. Having established the dilemma, Dr. Schaeffer then looks at the spiritual and philosophical landscape and shows how the various schools of thought fall short compared to classic Christianity that starts with the premise that God exists and interacts with the world. My wife was right--the book is dated. But its also about timeless ideas. Reading how our parents and grandparents dealt with both timeless and contemporary issues helps one gain insight on the world's current challenges....more
Back in the day, on a visit to Harvest Logos bookstore, Michael directed my attention to a collection of books by Peter Kreeft, a philosphy professorBack in the day, on a visit to Harvest Logos bookstore, Michael directed my attention to a collection of books by Peter Kreeft, a philosphy professor who had just been in town for a lecture. I politely looked at the collection and noticed his book Three Philosophies of Life, which is an overview of the Biblical books of Ecclesiastes, Job and Song of Songs. I was gearing up to lead a Bible study at church on Job, and on last minute impulse I grabbed the book. I was not disappointed. Three Philosophies of Life is not a commentary, where the Bible is dissected and analyzed, but rather a contemplation of the three books, a look at the whole refracted through the lens of our modern culture and the human heart. Professor Kreeft sees the three biblical books as an expression of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, respectively. Ecclesiastes is "Life as Vanity", or life without God -- an empty existence under the sun. Job is "Life as Suffering", a life that also is missing the presence of our Heavenly Father but one that actively seeks, and hopes, for Him. Song of Songs is "Life as Love", the romance fulfilled and celebrated. As Kreeft studies these three outlooks on life, his own love for God pours through and entices the reader to come along and discover the our own love affair with God. This book is on my shelf, without a doubt. ...more
It's always a joy to finish a textbook. No matter how interesting the topic, reading a textbook is an effort and I'm very glad to see the last page. It's always a joy to finish a textbook. No matter how interesting the topic, reading a textbook is an effort and I'm very glad to see the last page. Perspectives is a course on cross cultural mission work that friends have been recommending for years. As interesting as it sounds, I've never taken it--a 15 week course is a time commitment I don't think I can afford at this stage in life. A couple of years ago, however, I happened to see an earlier edition of the textbook at a used book sale. After a few months of letting sit on my shelf, I finally cracked it open and have spent quite some time slowly making my way through the biblical, historical, cultural and strategic perspectives of Christianity. It's been a fascinating and thought provoking ride. I feel vindicated in not trying to squeeze the course into my daily life. But it also pushes me to question my priorities and wonder how I might be a better servant of Jesus here in my own corner of the world. Read this book at your own risk....more
Among the history books on my shelf are works covering general church history (with a strong European focus), Christianity in Asia, Africa, the UnitedAmong the history books on my shelf are works covering general church history (with a strong European focus), Christianity in Asia, Africa, the United States and Canada. Having read all of these, it was inevitable that I should try to read up on what happened in the church in South America.* The uncle and niece team of Justo and Ondina González have put together a wonderful little book which does a good job of covering the past 500+ years of Christianity in Latin America. After presenting the theological and social state of the church in the Iberian peninsula in the late 1400s, the doctors González show how the religion was planted and grew amongst the natives of and immigrants to those areas of the Americas conquered by Spain and Portugal. They also show how the church in turn was affected by the Christians of Latin America. At 310 pages, it's not an exhaustive study. But it does give an excellent overview that's written with a view and respect for believers amongst the rulers and oppressed alike. It's a book that I'll definitely try to add to my collection. __ * Of course, it took my wife to actually obtain such a volume in a timely manner, but we won't go there....more
I didn't intend to read about Christian hippies, but my daughter brought this book home to read and then got my wife interested in reading it and thenI didn't intend to read about Christian hippies, but my daughter brought this book home to read and then got my wife interested in reading it and then my wife read it and then talked me into reading it. And so it goes. Anyway, this is a look at the Jesus People movement of the late 1960s-early 1970s. Most people tend to look upon it as a fad, but Mr. Eskridge contends that it was influential in transforming the nature of evangelical Christianity in the United States. He doesn't dwell too much on that thesis, but rather tells the tale of the "Jesus people". Amidst the cultural and social unrest of the late 60s, some young men and women discovered Christianity and came to believe in Jesus. Rather than cutting their hair, donning suits and ties or dresses and conforming to the culture of their local church, however, they sought to express the truth and faith they found with their own music and language. It was a learning experience for them and for the churches they encountered. By the late 70s, the fad was over, but the Jesus people remained--moving on with churches and ministries that were more mainstream, but now leavened with their beliefs and experiences. The book was quite interesting to read. I really never experienced the movement while it was happening, but I did certainly feel its effects in the 80s and beyond....more
An excellent primer on the major worldviews of the Western world. Some folks may be put off by the fact that it's written from the theistic ChristianAn excellent primer on the major worldviews of the Western world. Some folks may be put off by the fact that it's written from the theistic Christian worldview. But then, any book is going to have to be written from one perspective or another....more
This one's a mystery for archaeology geeks. What if the old joke, "Cancel Easter. They found the body." came true? Dr. Jonathan Weber discovers the boThis one's a mystery for archaeology geeks. What if the old joke, "Cancel Easter. They found the body." came true? Dr. Jonathan Weber discovers the body of Jesus of Nazareth buried in Ramallah. Or does he? He and his companions endeavor to verify the authenticity of their find. In the meanwhile, news of the discover leaks out and the world has to deal with the consequences of a Christ who has not risen. It's an intriguing concept and I did get caught up in the mystery. However, the book did come across as biblical scholar fan fiction. I love Dr. Maier's non-fiction and his lectures, but as a novelist--especially when writing scenes of romance--he has much to learn....more
What's the difference between a sound bite and a proverb? I think I would define a sound bite as a morsel of information that one can ingest and willWhat's the difference between a sound bite and a proverb? I think I would define a sound bite as a morsel of information that one can ingest and will probably soon forget. A proverb, on the other hand, is an idea that you can ingest and then contemplate, embrace, or even follow. It's a reminder of deeper things. Blaise Pascal's Pensées definitely fall into the "proverb" category. They are a series of notes written down for a book that he never lived to write. This book is Professor Peter Kreeft's collection, translation and commentary on Pascal's Pensées. He adds the organization and humor to make these profound thoughts into a delightful read....more
There's been a couple of times that I've wondered why, if there is creation science out there, have I never seen any creation science fiction? Well, RThere's been a couple of times that I've wondered why, if there is creation science out there, have I never seen any creation science fiction? Well, Robert Sawyer has addressed that issue... sort of. Calculating God is a tale of first contact, of aliens coming to visit Earth. The aliens are strange to human eyes, as one might expect. (Though their personalities were refreshingly pedestrian.) But what was most odd to the protagonist, Dr. Thomas Jericho, was the fact that these advanced aliens believed in God. As the story progresses, Dr. Jericho and the alien Hollus discuss the latter's beliefs and Jericho wrestles with his own atheism. Mr. Sawyer does a good job of presenting some of the evidence that I've heard creation scientists cite, and his alien theists come across as credible representatives of real world believers. The weakest part of the book is the subplot with the fundamentalist Christian terrorists. And the story itself is far from Mr. Sawyer's better works. Still, I'd recommend checking it out. ...more
For my latest history fix, I decided to go way back to the first 300 years after Christ. (Of course, having received this book for Christmas influenceFor my latest history fix, I decided to go way back to the first 300 years after Christ. (Of course, having received this book for Christmas influenced this decision somewhat.) It was interesting and amusing to read about the first centuries of the Christian Church, reading of controversies and heresies that have been revived almost 20 centuries later. Once, Eusebius gets to the years of his life, however, and speaks of the persecutions that some faced, I was reminded that American Christians, at least, live in a very different world....more
I've picked up a number of books over the years that make the case for why you should believe that the Bible and Jesus are true: Evidence That DemandsI've picked up a number of books over the years that make the case for why you should believe that the Bible and Jesus are true: Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Mere Christianity, What They Need to Hear. Each have their own way of approaching the truth, each have their own reasons for why Christianity is rational, if not compelling. But Unapologetic brings one thing to the table that the others lack: the F-word. No, I'm not talking about faith. I'm talking about #^@$! (Gotta watch my language. My mom might read this.) Mr. Spufford does not approach the truth with pleasant gentility. He speaks plainly and honestly, with a bit of snark. He describes a world from which vulgarity arises and presents a situation, our sinfulness, which certainly warrants such language. (In his opinion, at least.)(And mine.)
But then, in his own words, Mr. Spufford also tells the story of Jesus, in all its wonder and wackiness. No vulgarity there, though he paints a picture of an earthy, utterly human messiah. Not in the Jehovah's Witness sense, but in the "true man, born of the Virgin Mary" sense. He then takes on arguments/objections that have been raised against Christian beliefs, as well as those against Christians. I love the wit and honesty that he brings to bear on the subject.
All in all, I'm hoping to add Unapologetic to my bookshelves. It's not a perfect book--it's lacking a clear declaration of the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, etc. But then, that was never Mr. Spufford's intention. His hope was to present the reasonableness Christian faith to those who had never experienced it. Not being in that category, I can't judge how well he's succeeded. But I can say that he's presented my own faith in a voice that rings true and is well worth hearing. ...more
In the third part of the Divine Comedy, the character of Dante Alighieri ascends through the seven spheres of the Heaven to the presence of God HimselIn the third part of the Divine Comedy, the character of Dante Alighieri ascends through the seven spheres of the Heaven to the presence of God Himself. Despite my quibbles with his theology and outright rejection of his cosmology, I loved how Dante (the author) was able to make the heavenly journey crescendo to its ultimate conclusion. It's a beautiful work of literature. ...more
This is the second volume of Dante's Divine Comedy. (Technically, I don't know if the Comedy is really a three-volume work or if that's just how PenguThis is the second volume of Dante's Divine Comedy. (Technically, I don't know if the Comedy is really a three-volume work or if that's just how Penguin Books published it. But I digress...) I found this the least interesting part--I don't know if it was that the imagery was less dramatic than in the Inferno or it was because I don't believe in Purgatory. Still, it's worth the read for the gems of Dante's craft that do shine forth....more
Back in the ancient 80s, two of the comic book series that I was following featured stories based on Dante's Inferno. I forget now if I went and soughBack in the ancient 80s, two of the comic book series that I was following featured stories based on Dante's Inferno. I forget now if I went and sought out the book after reading those issues, or if I just happened to notice it at the bookstore. Either way, those comics led me to purchase this, the first third of Dante's Divine Comedy. I read through it and, as was typical in those days, didn't get it. I found it somewhat interesting, however, and, because it was classic literature, kept it on my shelf over the years. I had a murky thought that I should also read the other two parts of the Comedy, but never got around to it.
Fast forward about thirty years to this Fall. Whilst browsing at the Friends of the Library sale, I came across all three volumes of the Divine Comedy, the same paperback edition that I bought all those years ago. I snatched up the two that I was missing and later sat down to read Dante's work in its entirety.
What can I say? Guided by Mr. Ciardi's copious notes, I dug down into The Inferno. I liked Dante's imaginative description of Hell--all the images that inspired the derivative comic book adventures. But this time around I much more enjoyed the spirituality and historical context that infuses the text. A part of me marveled at how much those comic book writers left behind when they mined The Inferno for their tales. I am so glad that I hung onto this book, and hope that it won't sit unread for another thirty years....more
A couple months ago there was a meme running on the social networking site Twitter. People were posting the hashtag #FourWordBible, along with a fourA couple months ago there was a meme running on the social networking site Twitter. People were posting the hashtag #FourWordBible, along with a four word statement. Some people took the instructions metaphorically, using their four words to declare a general philosophy: "Be real with me", "Do not trust easily", "Spread love, practice peace." Others treated the meme as a joke, posting things like: "Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica", "Chatty snake ruins everything", or "Thou shall not hashtag." Unfortunately, the majority of people took the opportunity to slam Christianity: "Price list for SLAVES", "Most Sold Fiction Novel", "Crowd Control R Us."
sigh... There's a lot of misinformed people out there. Not that there aren't legitimate complaints against us Christians. But I have to wonder if some of those critics have even heard the story of Jesus before. Of course, that just makes me wonder if I'm doing my job in telling the story to those around me. Which, in turn, makes me think of my shortcomings in doing that job. How can I do better?
What They Need to Hear struck me as being a useful tool for that. This book is not a how-to manual for evangelism, but rather a case study in witnessing. In 2006, Pastor Preus thought his father-in-law was on his death bed. A conversation with Lloyd revealed that he had serious doubts and misconceptions about his salvation. Pastor Preus started to answer Lloyd's questions, address his errors, and offer him the comfort and power of the Gospel. Because Lloyd's imminent death took 18 months, Rev. Preus was able to gather a book's worth of letters to share with others.
I found the book to be beneficial on two levels. One is the simple content that Rev. Preus shared with Lloyd, a combination of apologetics and catechesis. The other is the chance to watch the interaction between Rev. Preus and his father-in-law. The thread of witness didn't follow a pre-planned pattern, but rather reacted to Lloyd's questions and events in his life. I think it's a good book to read and tuck away in the back of my brain, to await the day when I encounter a "Lloyd" in my own life....more
In one sense, this book is a standard missionary tale, the story of John & Bonnie Nystrom, who came to the Arop people in Papua New Guinea to tranIn one sense, this book is a standard missionary tale, the story of John & Bonnie Nystrom, who came to the Arop people in Papua New Guinea to translate the Bible into the Arop's heart language. In another sense, the Nystrom's are supporting characters in the story of the Arop translators, who translated the Bible into their own heart language. regardless of who gets top billing, the central moment of the tale is the tsunami of 1998. The tsunami devastated the Arop village, along with other communities on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. Before that disaster, the Arop translation project followed the then standard procedures of concentrating on a single language, being carefully checked, revised and rechecked by official translation consultants. Afterwards, the challenges that arose as the Arops tried to rebuild their community and the translators tried to restore their project opened the door for the team to try new techniques and technologies, relying more on the skill and direction of local translators than foreigners. This change led not only to an Arop translation of the book of Luke, but also versions for the Malol, Serra, and Sissano speakers as well. It's a heartening tale of suffering, healing and everyday miracles....more
This one's a twofer--two classic commentaries by two different authors in one book. Rev. Thomas' outline of 2nd Peter was terse, to the point and kindThis one's a twofer--two classic commentaries by two different authors in one book. Rev. Thomas' outline of 2nd Peter was terse, to the point and kind of meh. Perhaps my reception of his work suffered because he had to follow Rev. Leighton. Archbishop Leighton did a phenomenal job of studying 1st Peter. He pulls apart the text phrase by phrase, connecting them to other scripture passages and the Christian's daily walk with Christ. I can see why they bothered to republish it over 300 years after it was written....more
First and Second Samuel are two of my favorite books in the Bible. I've lamented aloud once or twice about how long I have to wait before The ConcordiFirst and Second Samuel are two of my favorite books in the Bible. I've lamented aloud once or twice about how long I have to wait before The Concordia Commentary Series gets around to publishing there commentary on the books. My wife took that as a hint and got me this book, also published by CPH in 1968. While not as in depth as one of the big blue books, Rev. Gehrke's tome does just what a commentary should do--take the reader through the biblical text, offering historical information and showing how it all fits in with the larger story of Scripture. It was easy and enjoyable to read....more
This book is a look at the Christian church amongst the Celts in the 5th through 7th centuries. Professor Hunter describes the "Celtic Way" of livingThis book is a look at the Christian church amongst the Celts in the 5th through 7th centuries. Professor Hunter describes the "Celtic Way" of living as the church and argues that we need to follow their example in the 21st Century. The book's been around for a while, so while I've only now just read it, I've heard its ideas bandied about here and there in the past decade. As such, I was inclined to agree with Professor Hunter, though there were a couple of times when he seems to reach conclusions by conjecture rather than through solid evidence....more
Y'know, back in the 19th Century, American politics was different than it is today. Presidential candidates didn't go about campaigning. They would stY'know, back in the 19th Century, American politics was different than it is today. Presidential candidates didn't go about campaigning. They would stay home and write about the issues of the day, relying on others to hit the campaign trail and spread the word. This book has nothing to do with that. It's a look at mercy--the act of giving help to those who need it--as expressed in the Church and in the life of her members. Writing to Christians, Rev. Harrison weaves stories of mercy with the teachings of the church, showing how the former is built upon the latter. But in the process, he got me thinking about politics. You see, when he wrote it, his name was being bandied about as a potential candidate for the presidency of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. He manages to touch on many issues that were of concern in that election. Made me wonder. Of course, whether he was campaigning or not doesn't affect the worth of the book. It's full of good information and encouragement to those who want to share the mercy of Christ with others. Check it out!...more