Another good read from John Polkinghorne. This isn't a typical book but rather a collection of brief articles explaining Polkinghorne's thought on 51Another good read from John Polkinghorne. This isn't a typical book but rather a collection of brief articles explaining Polkinghorne's thought on 51 different topics relating to faith and science. As such, the book is a bit tough to rate. Some of the answers are right on; others, not so much.
Polkinghorne is a scientist and theologian but it's obvious his primary training is as a scientist. There are a few key points where I completely disagree with his theology (He's an adamant open theist and describes himself as a near universalist). To me the biggest criticism of his positions on these issues is how little he relies on and interacts with Scripture when coming to them. For as much as I find those conclusions problematic, the way he goes about reaching them is even more troubling.
Fortunately, those issues don't make up the majority of the book. The real value here, as in all of Polkinghorne's work, is seeing the collision of faith and science through the eyes of a highly trained and qualified physicist. As long as you go into this book understanding that Polkinghorne is a scientist with some great insights in theology (and not the other way around), there's a ton of value here. It's not for everyone but I found Questions of Truth to be a great read. 3.5 stars...more
Evangelical Is Not Enough is the most powerful, challenging and thought provoking read I've come across in a very long time. The premise is fairly strEvangelical Is Not Enough is the most powerful, challenging and thought provoking read I've come across in a very long time. The premise is fairly straightforward: for all of evangelicalism's many wonderful qualities, it's approach to things such as worship, prayer, sacrament and church structure is shallow and incomplete when compared to what's found in a liturgical tradition.
Howard points out that evangelicals have an inherit mistrust of anything too ritualistic or liturgical in worship. In the 25 years since the book was written that trend has only increased. In recent years, religion has become a dirty word among many evangelicals. It's becoming increasingly common (perhaps to the point of being cliche) to hear evangelicals pit religious practices against relationship with God, as though the two were at odds with each other. One popular slogan reads "it's against my relationship to have a religion." Clever but also, Howard would argue, tragic and naive.
The book touches on several topics. I'll cover just a couple to give you an idea of Howard's argument. Discussing prayer he points out (accurately, I believe) that evangelicals are suspicious of almost any prewritten prayer. The only prayer that is acceptable to evangelicals is spontaneous prayer where every thought and idea is conceived on the spot.
That approach, Howard argues, hurts us in a couple of key ways. First, it forces us to constantly do the hard work of inventing new prayers. If we want God to hear us, we better make up some good stuff immediately. If we're unable to, we're more or less out of luck. Second, it divides us from the Church as it stands throughout time and space. It makes our faith hugely individualistic, rather than allowing us to stand alongside those who have come before us, coming to God with their words so that our prayers and petitions are made as a single body.
That doesn't mean spontaneous prayers are wrong. The argument Howard makes is not that we need to help God by having prewritten prayers, God of course can discern even our most pathetic mumblings, but that we need to help ourselves and each other.
One of the other big areas he touches on is worship. Evangelicals stress personal experience BIG TIME in worship. We want people to experience God and feel his presence. Howard argues that while those are certainly good things, they aren't the point of worship. He writes, "The phrase worship experience missed the point. Worship, in the ancient tradition, was not thought of as an experience at all; it was an act."
He goes on to describe how a worship service out to feel tangible and participatory. Things such as kneeling and set responses from the congregation help accomplish that. He also argues that, because worship is an act, the Eucharist should be at the center of every worship service. Not as an add on and not just once a month, but on a weekly basis, where we are constantly being brought face to face with Christ's death and Resurrection.
His argument on worship goes on and is more complex than can be summarized here, but you can see the distinction he's drawing between a liturgical worship service and what's found in a typical evangelical church on a Sunday morning.
The book touches on several other points as well. He talks about the value of tradition and how we shouldn't let our belief in Scripture as the ultimate authority cause us to disregard the tradition found in the countless Believers who have come before us. He argues for the value of symbolism and for greater respect for the Saints, especially Mary.
I found myself challenged and stretched by almost every page, in part because I found his arguments pretty convincing. I've been an evangelical my entire life, but I could see his points on everything in the book and found myself agreeing with him more often than not. I'm not sure what that means for me, but I know it deserves more thought and prayer.
Whether you find yourself agreeing with Howard, as I did, or coming down completely against him, this is a book that evangelicals need to read. At the very least, it will challenge us and force us to ask questions that need to be asked.
But in my opinion it needs to go further than that. I believe evangelicalism is in need of some correction. I mentioned the way that many evangelicals regard religion, and I find that tragic. Ditto on our complete disregard for the 2,000 years of faith that's preceded us. I believe that areas like this are representative of an unhealthy trend in evangelicalism. One that, if left uncorrected, will bring us down. We need to be reminded that religion is not a dirty word nor something that prevents us from finding true life in Christ. Rather it is a structure to help us in our journey. We need to get over our rabid individualism that causes us to believe our faith is independent of everyone else's and stand together with the Church as it exists throughout space and time.
I don't know what the answer should be or if Howard's right that we should be moving in a more liturgical direction. I suspect that he very well might be, but I'm not ready to fully commit to that yet. What I am convinced of is that Howard's basic is correct. Being evangelical is not enough. Something more is needed. Now it's up to us to pray hard and seek God's will so we can figure out what that is. ...more
Jack of Fables is back for one last volume. I was disappointed with the previous two, especially the Fulminate Blade, which is easily the worst storyJack of Fables is back for one last volume. I was disappointed with the previous two, especially the Fulminate Blade, which is easily the worst story within the Fablesverse. This final volume more than makes up for the recent problems with the series. The last issue especially was phenomenal.
(view spoiler)[Even though I think the series has run its course and I'm glad to see it end, I hope Willingham comes back to Jack at some point in the future. As Jack himself says on the last page, just because we're done reading about his adventures, doesn't mean he's done having them. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>...more
**spoiler alert** Volume 8 ends with what is by far the most shocking and horrifying twist yet in the series. Kirkman continues to find new forms of h**spoiler alert** Volume 8 ends with what is by far the most shocking and horrifying twist yet in the series. Kirkman continues to find new forms of hell to put his characters through and Walking Dead continues to be unputdownable...more
Yet another decent but far from great volume in Y: The Last Man. Nothing all that amazing happens in this volume. I just finished it yesterday and alrYet another decent but far from great volume in Y: The Last Man. Nothing all that amazing happens in this volume. I just finished it yesterday and already I'm struggling to remember the plot details. There are a couple of cool developments, but overall nothing feels that weighty or memorable. Kind of a bit like the series as a whole...more
This volume was really dark, even by zombie standards. That's not to say it isn't good. On the contrary, I like that Kirkman is making us wrestle withThis volume was really dark, even by zombie standards. That's not to say it isn't good. On the contrary, I like that Kirkman is making us wrestle with the morality of the choices some of the characters make in this one.
6 volumes in and I'm absolutely loving this series. I can't get over how cool it is that there's an epic, character driven, zombie series that does such a phenomenal job exploring deep issues in each and every volume. I can't wait to see what happens next! ...more
I'm a huge fan of pretty much everything Dan Simmons has published and Flashback is no exception. The book is part hard boiled detective novel, part dI'm a huge fan of pretty much everything Dan Simmons has published and Flashback is no exception. The book is part hard boiled detective novel, part dystopian nightmare, part Cristopher Nolan-esque sci-fi and manages to blend all those genres perfectly.
Flashback is set about 20 years in the future in which the US has undergone a major economic collapse. To add to the nation's troubles, the vast majority of its citizens are hooked on a drug called Flashback, which enables them to relive, in perfect detail, any past memory they choose. At the center of the novel is a mystery involving former Denver Police Detective Nick Bottom, himself a flashback addict, being hired to investigate the murder of a high ranking Japanese official's son.
While I wouldn't rank Flashback quite as high as my favorite Simmons' novels (Hyperion, Ilium and The Terror), it's definitely up there. The mystery elements are compelling, the payoffs are very satisfying and the future Simmons envisions is a bit too believable.
As in most of Simmons' work, there's also a lot in here that's very thought provoking. He explores the way we, in an effort to avoid pain, deny reality and in doing so forgo our responsibilities and destroy our future. It's powerful stuff and very relevant both to us individuals and to society at large.
If I have one complaint about the book it's that there are far too many scenes where characters withhold information from Nick Bottom for no other reason than that the plot isn't ready for him (or us) to know it yet. It's an obnoxious technique that far too much fiction, especially serialized tv shows (I'm looking at you LOST), is guilty of employing. It's a minor complaint that's more than made up for by the great reveals we do eventually get toward the end of the book.
One final note: Flashback currently has a 2.5 star average rating on Amazon. Reading through the negative reviews it becomes obvious that they all of have one complaint in common: the novel's politics. While I wouldn't say the novel is overly political, there are times, especially when Simmons is exploring the origins of America's collapse, where it becomes so. Simmons' slant in those sections is pretty right wing, which I guess is too much for some people to handle.
The irony of that complaint is that Flashback is based on a novella Simmons wrote about 20 years ago in his Lovedeath anthology. That novella also imagines a dystopian future resulting from economic collapse but its politics are decidedly LEFT wing, going so far as to have the main character place sole blame for the world on the shoulders of Ronald Reagan.
I understand that some people find any mention of politics distracting, but it seems to me that many of those 1 star reviews are more upset the political side Simmons comes down in the novel, rather than the mere presence of politics. I imagine that many of those reviewers would give a much higher score to the novella, even though the novel is much better written and tells a more complete and satisfying story.
All that to say don't let the negative reviews scare you away. They have nothing to say about the book itself. For anyone who is a fan of Simmons, good sci-fi or provocative fiction, Flashback is a must read. ...more
This is probably my favorite volume in the series so far. It's a bit lighter on the zombie action, but I'm not sure that's a downside. The Walking DeaThis is probably my favorite volume in the series so far. It's a bit lighter on the zombie action, but I'm not sure that's a downside. The Walking Dead is about the characters and their relationships with each other. This volume really draws that out.
The best moment by far was Rick vs. Tyrese. Hands down the best scene in the series so far...more
Volume 5 is the best in the series so far. It still has some flaws (including a thankfully brief revisit to the sociopathic "counseling" session of thVolume 5 is the best in the series so far. It still has some flaws (including a thankfully brief revisit to the sociopathic "counseling" session of the previous volume) but it's a huge step in the right direction. I like how Vaughn is developing the characters and where he's taking the story.
At the halfway point of the series I've pretty much accepted I'm never going to love Y: The Last Man, but if the second half builds on the success of volume 5, it should end as a memorably, well-written series. ...more
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fell pretty flat for me. I didn't like or dislike it. There's nothing especially wrong with the book, but, while it'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fell pretty flat for me. I didn't like or dislike it. There's nothing especially wrong with the book, but, while it's certainly better than the horrible movie, I don't see what's that great about it either. The characters and plot were underdeveloped an uninteresting. There are interesting moments in the book, and the writing was good, but the story feels completely forgettable.
I rated V for Vendetta, also by Alan Moore, 3 stars as well, but the two books couldn't be more dissimilar. I disagreed with, even despised, a lot of what V had to say, but at least that book made me think. I didn't care for its conclusions but it was definitely thought provoking. It made me wrestle with important issues and viewpoints. Despite getting an equal star rating from me, LXG isn't at all like V. It's a great big nothing.
I don't see what the hype is about with this one. LXG is a huge disappointment. ...more
Yet another volume in this series that's good but not great. I keep hoping Y: The Last Man will turn into the the amazing series that I think it has tYet another volume in this series that's good but not great. I keep hoping Y: The Last Man will turn into the the amazing series that I think it has the potential to be (and that many people claim that it is) but so far, while definitely worth reading, it's just ok.
The six issues in this volume make up two separate three issue stories. The second of these is pretty good and gives me hope for volume 5. The first story, however, is much more problematic. It's goal is to deal with Yorick's psychological issues. While I get why this matters, both for the character and the plot, the way that it's gone about is more than a little sadistic and twisted. Given that this process is presented as both good and necessary, I also found the first three issues fairly offensive. My issue wasn't with the graphic content in and of itself, but with sadistic graphic content being presented in a positive light. Hopefully, the series is done with that junk and can get back to telling its story in the next volume. ...more
As someone relatively new to (and very much interested in) the New Perspective on Paul, it was great to finally start to dig into E.P. Sanders' work.As someone relatively new to (and very much interested in) the New Perspective on Paul, it was great to finally start to dig into E.P. Sanders' work.
I wasn't disappointed. Paul: A Very Short Introduction is deep, accessible and very challenging. One of the major arguments he makes throughout the book is that Paul was not a systematic theologian. He wasn't approaching theology from a philosophic and organized perspective where everything he said needed to line up perfectly. Rather, he was an ad hoc theologian, developing his theology in response to specific situations. His contributions to the New Testament were letters written in response to specific problems within his churches. Because of that, we shouldn't be surprised when what he says in one letter seems to contradict what he says in another.
It's a challenging idea, and one that many evangelicals are likely to reject off hand. While I do think Sanders takes it too far in places (some of his supposed contradictions seem to be resolvable without too much effort), I don't think we ought to reject the point entirely. Those of us who hold that the Bible is God's Word need to remember that it was written by humans within the context of human life. That it was also written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit does not give us an excuse to ignore the circumstances in which Paul wrote.
I also believe it's important to remember that Paul's purpose was not to construct a systematic theology. Modern Christianity has a very difficult time thinking outside the systematic box. Sanders would seem to suggest that until you do, you won't understand Paul. For as much as I believe systematic theology is helpful and has an important place, I'm inclined to agree with him.
For as important a point as Sanders is making, the book isn't without its problems. As I mentioned above, I do think Sanders carries his point too far in places. I also found the book open to criticism when looking at it in light of later developments in the New Perspective. For as much as Sanders works to put Paul in his Jewish context and rehabilitate how we view the Law, I don't think he goes far enough in his understanding of the covenant and the role of the covenant family in Pauline thought. Here, I find N.T. Wright's work to much better developed and argued. A proper understanding of the covenant in Pauline thought, such as what Wright proposes, not only fits better with seeing Paul in his Jewish context, it also goes a long way toward resolving many of the "conflicts" Sanders sees in Paul's theology.
Overall, this is a great book and well worth reading. I'd definitely recommend Wright's work before this, but if, like me, you're trying to really dig into the New Perspective this is a must read. ...more