Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Rhetorical Analysis of “Make America Great Again”

A Rhetorical Analysis of “Make America Great Again”
Rhetoric is an ancient art that has been utilized in many times and in many ways. Whether it is a speech in the public places of Athens or a tract run off of the Gutenberg press, the desire to convince and convert an audience has proven to be virtually ubiquitous. In chapter four of his book, Richard Toye explores the impact of rhetoric on a technologically advanced and globalized society and the impact of this sort of society on rhetoric itself. In commenting on the role of rhetoric in 20th century politics and the “rhetorical presidency” (“The ‘rhetorical presidency’ and the ‘anti-intellectual presidency’”), Toye’s work proves helpful in illuminating the slogans of the 2016 election cycle, specifically Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” (Trump) and its pathetic appeal to people lamenting the loss of cultural dominance.
            In chapter four, Toye addresses the complex issue of multiple audiences and the role that both electronic media and globalization have played in exasperating this problem. Although this issue has existed since words have been put to paper, Toye notes how the culture and events of the 20th century put this rhetorical nuance into the spotlight. He points out that the role of rhetoric is often underestimated in the history of war, and that World War II, whether in reference to Churchill, Stalin, or Hitler, was a “global media war … fought alongside the military campaigns” (“Case study: the rhetorical history of World War II”). The 20th century also saw a shift to “the rhetorical presidency” (“The ‘rhetorical presidency’ and the ‘anti-intellectual presidency’”) and changes in American politics and political institutions.
            Donald Trump’s rise to prominence in this year’s presidential campaign struck many people as odd and outlandish. However, some actually viewed this sort of political upheaval as inevitable. Whether you place the responsibility at the feet of the Republican Party (Pierce) or the American political process as a whole (Ignatius), the ascension of a character like Trump seemed destined. 21st century America is not 20th century America; it is not 19th century America either. To those supporting a Donald Trump bid for the Oval Office, the shift in American culture is reason to be alarmed. The difference between progress and regress is often in the eye of the beholder, and Donald Trump’s rise to political prominence makes explicit how many feel in regards to the trajectory of this “once great” nation. More telling than Trump’s popularity is the means by which he achieved the premier position in the Republican Party. Trump’s popularity is due to his use of rhetoric, and his use of rhetoric says as much about his audience as it does about him.
            “Make America Great Again” serves as a perfect microcosm of Trump’s rhetoric and reveals much about the assumptions inherent in many who have been wooed by the Republican nominee for president. In order to make something great again, there has to have been a time when it was great, a time that it became not great, and a way to restore this item to its previous state of greatness. So, to “Make America Great Again” assumes that, at some point, America has moved from a state of greatness to a state of non-greatness—that America has endured a significant regress. 
Not only does the slogan assume a national regress, it assumes that there is someone or something that can reverse the denigration and restore America to its condition of excellence. Grammatically, as an imperative with an understood you, the slogan implies that the hearer, the American, should be and will be the one making America a great nation once again. While this is grammatically the case, what is assumed by many and made explicit in longer pieces of Trumpian rhetoric is that Trump himself will be the one making America great again: “I’m going to make our country rich again. I am going to turn our bad trade agreements into great ones…I am going to bring our jobs back to Ohio and to America…I am your voice” (Trump).
            These assumptions reveal much about Trump’s audience. “Make America Great Again” assumes national regress, a country where the majority of people’s day-to-day lives are significantly less “great” than they once were. This is not the experience of many. In fact, the experience of those not in power on a national level is significantly better than it has been previously with the abolition of slaves, the right of women to vote, and the federal protection of the LBGT community serving as a few, significant examples. Great hardships still exist for minorities of all sorts, but most will agree that their voices are more respected and responded to than in generations past, and this is a sign of progress. However, when more people are allowed on the stage, there are inevitably less microphones to go around. Minorities are altering policies. Minorities are influencing elections. Minorities are affecting change and wrenching control of a nation out of the hands of the majority. For the minority, this is progress. For the majority, this is regress of the greatest sort. “Make America Great Again” is not far away from “Give me back my country” in what it is trying to convey.
For these reasons, it is perfectly appropriate that in his rhetoric Trump appeals primarily, if not exclusively, to pathos. In relation to his fitness to serve as the chief executive of a nation, Trump has no ethos upon which to stand. Trump’s experience has been limited to running corporations not nations, and the two are undeniably different. The ethical basis of why Donald Trump is the man to “Make America Great Again” is because he is not “them,” and that “they” are the ones who have made America not-great. Beyond that, his credibility is weak, and he is left to rely on the credulity of a large portion of his audience.
Trump also rarely, if ever, appeals to logos. When questioned about the viability of his grandiose plans or the manner in which he will accomplish them, his universal response is some variation of “Believe me…” (Viser). The “Make America Great Again” slogan itself is devoid of logos. It is a purely pathetic appeal. “Make America Great Again” plays on fear, pride, and prejudice. It is an appeal to the primitive, an appeal to the gut. This sort of rhetoric is as effective as it is disconcerting. While not the exclusive property of tyrants and despots, this sort of pathos-exclusive rhetoric is prime for abuse and leaves little room the discerning engagement of the mind.
The 2016 election cycle is as good an example as any of the role of rhetoric in U.S. presidential politics. “Make America Great Again” is a perfect campaign slogan. It is catchy. It is clear. It is concise. Distilled to its essence, it says this: America was pristine; some people broke it; and now it is time to fix it. Trump’s rhetorical effectiveness is a result of a series of assumptions in the minds of his audience. The rhetorical power of “Make America Great Again” is contained in its simultaneous appeal to pathos and disregard of ethos and logos. This rhetoric engages the audience from the neck down, and it is quite effective in doing so. It does not allow room for examination and contemplation, and instead it demands that the hearer simply react—react out of fear, prejudice, and pride. This sort of rhetoric is effective in winning support but powerless to make anything “great.”



Works Cited
Ignatius, David. “How America’s political decay has fueled Trump’s rise.” Washington Post.com.10 March 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-rise-of-trump-brought-to-you-by-the-decay-of-americas-institutions/2016/03/10/ca6438b4-e6f2-11e5-b0fd-073d5930a7b7_story.html. Accessed 10 Sept. 2016.
Pierce, Charles P. “Trump's Campaign-and His Victory-Were Inevitable.” Esquire, 11 Aug. 2016, http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a46833/trump-nomination-convention-inevitable. Accessed 9 Sept. 2016.
Toye, Richard. Rhetoric: a Very Short Introduction. Epub Ed., Oxford University Press, 2013.
Trump, Donald. “2016 RNC Acceptance Speech.” 2016 Republican National Convention, Republican Party, 21 June 2016, Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio. Keynote Address.
Viser, Matt. “Donald Trump relies on a simple phrase: ‘Believe me.’” Boston Globe.com. 24 May 2016, www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2016/05/24/donald-trump-relies-heavily-simple-phrase-believe/0pyVI36H70AOHgXzuP1P5H/story.html. Accessed 9 Sept. 2016.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Thesis Link

I uploaded my thesis to my Academia site. Here is the link for any who are interested.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

H.L. Mencken

Damning Words: The Life and Religious Times of H. L. MenckenDamning Words: The Life and Religious Times of H. L. Mencken by D.G. Hart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

D.G. Hart writes tremendous biographies and H.L. Mencken is a man worth knowing. I am tempted to end my review there, but I won't. However, if you decide that that statement is all you need to grab a copy of the book and enjoy, then have at it. For the rest of you, I'll try to offer some support of those initial points.

H.L. Mencken is not a man that you would expect to see in a series of religious biographies. Mencken did not consider himself "religious" and did much to counter the pernicious (as he saw it) influence of religion on American society. In writing on this purposefully secular man, Hart does not counter by seeking to spiritualize every aspect of the man's life. But he does expend much time and energy to dig beneath the surface of Mencken's claims into the heart and reasoning that lies below. In doing so, Hart presents a robust portrait of a man who would be far too easy and quite tempting to caricature.

Hart makes the bold assertion that the Christian culture and ideology "framed" Mencken and the time in which he lived and proceeds to support this assertion throughout his work. Simply said, there is no understanding Mencken the man without understanding the faith and culture by which he was surrounded and to which he directed such furious guile and vitriol. And, again, this man is a man of influence and import who should be known and studied by many more than he is. His writing was prolific and his influence on journalism, writing, and culture in general underrated.

What makes Hart's religious biography of Mencken stand out is that he does not turn Mencken into an object lesson. Hart presents the life of Mencken, good and bad, with an objectivity that has to be difficult to muster as a Christian reporting on a man who openly and derisively despised the Christian faith. But, in doing so, Hart is able to remind the reader that Mencken was a man, a brilliant man, and an image bearer of the one true God, whether Mencken chose to acknowledge this final fact or not.

D.G. Hart's biography of H.L. Mencken is insightful, entertaining, and heartbreaking...pretty much just like H.L. Mencken the man.

I received an ARC from the publisher.


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Thomas Cranmer

Emblem of Faith Untouched: A Short Life of Thomas CranmerEmblem of Faith Untouched: A Short Life of Thomas Cranmer by Leslie Winfield Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leslie Williams's short biography of Thomas Cranmer is a fascinating book about a fascinating character in church history and in English history. Since it is a brief biography (about 150 pages), the pace is rapid. While the pace guarantees that "tedious" could never be used to describe the work, details and minutia do not receive the fine-tooth treatment that many would desire.

Williams guides the reader from Cranmer's birth to his infamous death. Cranmer lived in a time of tumult, and he experience much of this himself. Williams's volume describes a flawed and fallen man with whom God was able to do much. Crooked sticks and straight lines immediately come to mind when thinking of Cranmer, and Williams does a superb job of neither vilifying or exalting this man of history as his story is explored.

I received an ARC from the publisher.


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Family Devotional

Big Beliefs!: Small Devotionals Introducing Your Family to Big TruthsBig Beliefs!: Small Devotionals Introducing Your Family to Big Truths by David R. Helm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful resource for families and ministries. Leading a family in regular devotions can be overwhelming for many, and good intentions often lead to discouragement and frustration when goals are set unrealistically and inevitable failure finally rears its head. Big Beliefs! is a book that will benefit many by offering sustainable and attainable goals when beginning family worship.

It is based on the Westminster Confession and offers 3 short lessons and Scripture readings over each chapter of the confession. 3 devotionals a week will still require discipline and determination, but it is doable. It also keeps you from setting the 8-nights-a-week goal that many of us make out of sincerity but break out of reality.

The lessons are short and simple. I cannot imagine an age that would be incapable of sitting through the lesson, and it is easily ramped up for older kids, especially a family with older and younger children.

I am glad this resource is available for my family and for the church at large.

I received and ARC from the publisher.


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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Introduction to the Old Testament

A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel PromisedA Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised by Miles V. Van Pelt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a substantial book on an important topic, and I am not qualified to offer much critical commentary with any sort of authority. What I can offer is a few thoughts on the book that might be helpful.

1. It is long. Seriously, you will have to dig in for this one and be willing to invest the energy and the time.

2. But it is not overwhelming. While this seems like it is going to be overtly academic and intellectually overwhelming, the contributors show their pastoral hearts without abandoning their theological heads. The product is a work that is meaty but digestible.

3. It is enjoyable. Some chapters are more enjoyable than others...but that may have more to do with me being more familiar and comfortable with some of the OT books than others.

I feel comfortable encouraging just about anyone to grab this volume. A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament is a work that serves just as well in the seminary classroom and the pastor's library, but it also is accessible enough that anyone who is willing to make the investment will reap great rewards.

I received a review copy from the publisher.


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Friday, June 24, 2016

Peterson on Union with Christ

Salvation Applied by the Spirit: Union with ChristSalvation Applied by the Spirit: Union with Christ by Robert A. Peterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Salvation Applied by the Spirit is the second volume of a projected three-volume work from Robert Peterson. The first volume focuses on the accomplishment of redemption in the work of Christ and the third volume will look at eternal election. This volume focuses on exactly what the title states: the application of salvation by the Spirit. Specifically, it is an extensive, clear, well-argued treatise on the extremely important doctrine of the believer’s union with Christ.

The doctrine of union is one over which much ink has been spilt recently(can I say “ink spilt” in 2016?...”many pixels manipulated” just doesn’t have the same ring to it). But, however you choose to say it, this is a doctrine that has received plenty of attention in the last 5-10 years. And rightly so because this is a doctrine of great importance. Peterson’s work is a great addition to the conversation.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part is a survey of the doctrine throughout Scripture. There is a chapter on OT, a chapter on Synoptics, a chapter on Acts, a chapter on John, etc. and 75 chapters on Paul…just kidding. But Paul rightfully gets a lot of attention. The second part is a more cumulative, theological look at the doctrine. Peterson draws heavily from Constantine Campbell’s recent work. Peterson describes the doctrine of union as it relates to eternity past, creation, the fall, the incarnation, Christ’s work, the new creation. He also spends time explaining who the Spirit is and outlining certain attributes and activities that describe him-including his role in uniting believers to Christ.

Here is a scattershot of some important tidbits that stood out to me (Caution: there is neither rhyme nor reason to why I chose the bits I did and why I am ordering them how I am…these are just some thoughts that stood out to me):
*Union is individual and corporate
*God’s identifying with a people in the OT via covenant foreshadows union
*Union in synoptics and Acts not presented explicitly but is implicitly present within a historical redemptive framework
*Not every occurrence of “in Christ” is dealing with the robust and nuanced doctrine of Union w/ Christ
*Christ is not pitying or empathizing with the church when he confronts Saul with a “Why are you persecuting me?” He is united to his people.
*Abide / Vine and Branches in John
* Doctrine of union is explicit and pervasive in Paul
* The doctrine of union is seen consistently in Paul’s greetings
* Believer’s participate in Christ’s narrative
* The “share in Christ” phrasing in Hebrews is a great, albeit debated, example of non-Pauline usage of the concept of union
* John speaks of the dead dying “in the Lord.”
* And more

This is a great book. The length is more overwhelming that the content, so I would encourage anyone interested to get a copy, acknowledge the fact that it is going to be an investment of time, and be assured that the material is presented clearly and accessibly. And then be blessed by a great discussion on this beautiful doctrine.


*I received a review copy from the publisher.


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Friday, June 10, 2016

Core Christianity

I always enjoy reading works by Michael Horton and Core Christianity did nothing but reaffirm that truth. Zondervan has done a service to the church by distilling Horton’s systematic theology into more approachable volumes (first with Pilgrim’s Theology and then with this volume…just like they did with Grudem’s systematic). There are way more people who would benefit from Horton’s big volume than there are people who feel willing or able to tackle it. Even Pilgrim Theology is larger than many people will feel comfortable attempting to read. This volume walks the fine line of distilling without diluting, and it will be a blessing to the church.

Core Christianity keeps the Drama, Doctrine, Doxology, Discipleship framework that Horton introduced in The Christian Faith and cover core doctrines in the following chapters:

1) Jesus is God, 
2) God is Three Persons, 
3) God is Great and Good, 
4) God Speaks, 
5) God Made the World but We’ve Made a Mess of It, 
6) God Made a Promise, 
7) Joy to the World [the incarnation],
 8) Jesus is Lord, 
9) What Are We Waiting For? [eschatology], and 
10) In the Meantime: Callings [vocation].
This is a tremendous introduction to the Christian faith. It will be a great benefit to new believers. It is also a clear and readable reminder of these great truths for all Christians. This is not an overwhelming work, but it is not a watered-down one either. Read and be blessed.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
----------------

Publisher Description
What Do All Christians Believe?
For many people, words like doctrine and theology cause their eyes to glaze over, or they find them difficult to understand and struggle to see how they are relevant to daily life. But theology is far from boring; it is the study of God and should lead to awe and wonder as we better understand who God is and what he has done for us.
In Core Christianity, author, pastor, and theologian Mike Horton tackles the essential and basic beliefs that all Christians share. What is core to the Christian faith? In addition to unpacking these beliefs in a way that is easy to understand, Horton shows why they matter to our lives today.
This introduction to the basic doctrines of Christianity is a helpful guide by a respected theologian and a popular author, and it includes discussion questions for individual or group use. Core Christianity is perfect for those who are new to the faith, as well as those who have an interest in deepening in their understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Horton is the author of over 20 books and host of the White Horse Inn, a nationally syndicated radio program.  He is professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California and the editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine.  A popular blogger and sought-after lecturer, he resides in Escondido, California with his wife and children.  

Friday, June 3, 2016

Thou lovely source of true delight


1. Thou lovely source of true delight
Whom I unseen adore
Unveil Thy beauties to my sight
That I might love Thee more,
Oh that I might love Thee more.

2. Thy glory o’er creation shines
But in Thy sacred Word
I read in fairer, brighter lines
My bleeding, dying Lord,
See my bleeding, dying Lord

3. ’Tis here, whene’er my comforts droop
And sin and sorrow rise
Thy love with cheering beams of hope
My fainting heart supplies,
My fainting heart’s supplied

4. But ah! Too soon the pleasing scene
Is clouded o’er with pain
My gloomy fears rise dark between
And I again complain,
Oh and I again complain

5. Jesus, my Lord, my life, my light
Oh come with blissful ray
Break radiant through the shades of night
And chase my fears away,
Won’t You chase my fears away

6. Then shall my soul with rapture trace
The wonders of Thy love
But the full glories of Thy face
Are only known above,

They are only known above

Monday, April 25, 2016

Diction, Syntax, and Community in the Writings of Wendell Berry

Diction, Syntax, and Community in the Writings of Wendell Berry
The manner in which people speak says much about them. Speech patterns can indicate everything from age to region of origin, level of education and socio-economic status to religious ideology, and much more. People’s choices of words are referred to as diction and how they order these words is known as syntax. Diction and syntax combine to give a person a unique voice. Authors utilize this fact to create literature that is incisive and lasting, and Wendell Berry is a perfect example. In his Port William writings, Berry utilizes the tools of diction and syntax in order to explore the inherent tensions in and vast opportunities of living in human community.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Unashamed

UnashamedUnashamed by Lecrae Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lecrae is an interesting person, and this is an interesting book. I have been ministered to greatly by the artists of Reach, including Lecrae. Contrary to the many who have seen his progression as a move away from faith, I have been encouraged by his evolution from youth group rapper to frontline missionary. I have also enjoyed listening to his music as it has progressed greatly from Rebel to CC3 (I wasn't around for Real Talk, I'm a band-wagoner).

In Unashamed, Lecrae tells his story. It is a story that many young, black men are living, but it is still a story to which all can relate. He tells of growing up fatherless, enduring physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. living in San Diego with gangs and north Dallas without many people who shared his color and culture. He tells about his struggles with drugs and alcohol, his pressuring a girl to have an abortion, and his desires to end his life. But through it all, he tells the story of a great God that had a plan and a purpose for Lecrae Moore.

And his struggles did not end when he became a believer. What I found most encouraging, probably because it was more relatable to me than being a fatherless black boy on the streets of San Diego, were his struggles after becoming a believer. His immature interactions with unbelievers, his legalistic and self-righteous deeds to improve his status with God, his difficulty in being a loving (see: gentle and respectful) husband, the persecution from within the visible church he endured when following the Lord in a manner that didn't match their expectations, etc., all are struggles to which I can relate to one degree or another. And seeing how he endured them, moved past them, and used them as means to love God more was a great encouragement.

Lecrae lays himself bare, and he does so to the glory of God. He doesn't glorify his sins or his struggles, as so many radical testimonies often do. He doesn't credit himself with his successes and salvation. He doesn't encourage people to follow him (seriously, there are more than enough Lecratians, already). Rather, he looks back and recognizes that he was chief of sinners and that sin cost the Lord his life; that he was saved and blessed by the glorious, unmerited, undeserved, immeasurable grace of God; and he points away from himself and towards the person of Christ and says, "Follow him! Honor him! Praise and glorify him!"

If you love hip-hop, pick this book up. If you love rags-to-riches success stories, pick this book up. If you love hearing someone extol the virtues of our great God from the first page to the last, definitely pick this book up. You'll be glad you did.

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.
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Monday, April 11, 2016

The Doctrine of the Trinity

The Doctrine of the Trinity

            There is a constant and persistent temptation in Christian circles to pine for the days gone by.  Whether this is an unhealthy yearning for the pure Christianity of the reign of the religious right, an overwhelming urge to sit in a pub with Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin while they wax poetic over proper and pure theology, or head back to the time of Augustine because those guys had everything down.  The most pervasive example of this is the longing to return to the time of Acts 2 church purity.  This misguided nostalgia misses the blemishes that have filled every age of church history and, in doing so, misses the consistent work of the Spirit of God in and on his people.  While this nostalgic position assumes that the early church enjoyed flawless and full theology, actual history highlights how difficult a road the brothers and sisters in the early church walked as they sought to properly understand the Scriptures and worship God.  The doctrine of the Trinity is a perfect example of this.  Rather than floating down from heaven engraved on stone shamrocks, this doctrine was formulated over many years and through much adversity. The doctrine of the Trinity has been under constant and consistent assault throughout the history of the church because of its status as proper representation of God and the blessing it is to believers.  

Friday, April 8, 2016

How I Changed my Mind About Evolution: Review

How I Changed My Mind about Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and ScienceHow I Changed My Mind about Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science by Kathryn Applegate
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How I Changed my Mind About Evolution is not an apologetic for evolutionary theory. It is a collection of essays recounting the contributors' personal struggles in reconciling Christian faith and the natural sciences. For what it is, this book is as good as it is needed, and I lack the repertoire of superlatives necessary to properly convey how strongly I feel about how needed this book is.

The essays in this book range from pretty good to first-rate. I thought Smith's essay to open and Mouw's to close were the two best. Crisp's and Wright's were also especially helpful. I had a mixed reaction to some of the essays. I shook my head at some of the theological statements. I shook my head at some of the scientific statements. I shook my head at some of the things that made me shake my head. (I can get ramped up over peripherals much too quickly/often.) This book has contributions from a wide range of denominations, so if your one of those types who too rarely round the corner of his own personal, ideological ghetto (Me! Me!), then you should prepare to be annoyed at times. But it is a good annoyance...and a needed one.

I am swimming against the stream of my personal circle in daring to advocate something connected with Biologos...or even something that has the audacity to be any more nuanced than Darwin=Devil. But too many have been driven away from the Christian faith by a novel litmus test of orthodoxy that doesn't find its basis explicitly in the Scriptures or in the creeds for me to not offer some sort of pushback. This is a conversation worth having and one that deserves more light and less heat than it has been given. This book will not change minds. But it does shed a lot of light on the issue from the evolutionary creation position and will be a benefit to many, even if it just to let people know that science and faith are not mortal enemies and this conversation is not as closed as many would be led to believe.

My encouragement: if your immediate, visceral response to the idea of evolution is disgust, then you may be encountering a bogeyman that owes its existence to fear mongering rather than a genuine foe. Consider listening to the story of brothers and sisters who love Jesus, affirm the Scriptures, and hold to some sort of evolutionary theory. It will only benefit the Body to know why certain parts believe what they do.


I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a review.


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Monday, April 4, 2016

Diversity in Puritanism

Diversity in Puritanism

It is hard to overvalue the impact of Puritanism on Christian theology and living, as well as on western culture in general. However, Puritanism is not a monolithic brand of Reformed Christianity. Puritan scholar Randall Pederson notes that the fact “(t)hat there was vibrant diversity among the Reformed theologians of the seventeenth century on various aspects of their doctrine seems without question.”[1] There is great diversity and debate found within the realm of Puritanism that labelling it as an “ism” or speaking of the Puritans can be tricky and misleading. Far from being a detriment, part of what has caused the Puritans to be so beneficial is how widely applicable they are due to this diversity in secondary matters coupled with unanimity on core doctrines and Christian living. Puritanism, as a movement, held within it many diverse understandings of the nuances and peripherals of Christian theology and its application to Christian living, but there remained an overarching catholicity that included, more but not less than, an overwhelming emphasis on a Christian life marked by experiential piety.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Wendell Berry's Use of Language in Jayber Crow

Often, forgetting Uncle Othy’s instructions and warning, I would venture as far into the thick of it as I could go, dodging here and there for a better look, for I wanted to see everything; I wanted to penetrate the wonder. I would be in the way and sometimes in danger. And then Uncle Othy would see me, and under the eyes of the experienced and worldly men of the boat, he would be embarrassed by me. He would speak to me then as he never did at other times: “Damn it to hell, boy, get out of the way! I told you! Damned boy ain’t no more than half weaned, and here he is in the way of working men.” He would be trying to get me thoroughly cussed before the captain could get a chance to do it (Berry Kindle Locations 324-329).

Monday, March 28, 2016

Calvin and Union

Calvin and the Development of the Doctrine of Union with Christ

The lack of a consensus on an issue does not mean that it is unimportant or that it should remain unexplored. The modern Christian tendency to sweep discussion and debate under the rug of unity is not the least bit healthy or helpful. While unanimity on crucial issues is desirable, it is rarely achieved. This is especially the case when a doctrine is derived from Scriptural truths rather than explicitly set forth. These important issues become the subject of intense debate and divergent positions even amongst people who are relatively in step with one another on most issues. The interpreter of Scripture desires to open the word of God to the people of God in a clear and lucid manner, but different interpreters interpret different issues in different ways. The doctrine of union with Christ is an example of one of these ever-important and ever-debated issues. Lane Tipton succinctly described the importance of this doctrine when he said that “there are no benefits of the gospel apart from union with Christ.”[1] And it would be far from anachronistic to put these words, or at least the sentiments behind them, into the mouth of John Calvin. Calvin placed a great importance upon the doctrine of union, as did many before and after him. Union with Christ was a pivotal doctrine for John Calvin and those that followed him up until this very day.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Heart of Darkness

Psychoanalysis and Deconstruction of The Heart of Darkness
Joseph Conrad’s novella, The Heart of Darkness, is an arresting tale of the horror that resides inside of individuals and the situations that allow this depravity to reveal itself.  The depth of Conrad’s work presents the opportunity to read it from many angles, but Freudian psychoanalysis and the deconstruction of Derrida seem like the most profitable approaches.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross by Carl Laferton

The Garden, the Curtain and the CrossThe Garden, the Curtain and the Cross by Carl Laferton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Because of your sin, you can't come in."

The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross tells the biblical story of what was lost in the garden, why the "keep out curtain" existed, and what the Cross accomplished. This book is a treasure. It tells a facet of the story that is not addressed in most kids books, most books in general, and does so in a compelling way. The illustrations are what you would expect from Catalina Echeverri: beautiful, unique, and pairing perfectly with the text and overall theme.



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I received a review copy from the publisher.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman: Evolution, Devolution, or Revelation

Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman: Evolution, Devolution, or Revelation
Some works should never have been. It could be argued that Go Set a Watchman is such a work. Controversy surrounded the 2015 release of this novel, and many different views on its quality have been passionately presented.  While the dubious circumstances of its release and the significant dip in quality in comparison to its predecessor have filled newsfeeds, what should not be overshadowed is the furor created over a new take on a beloved (idolized) character.  The theme of the coming of age of Jean Louise Finch that began in To Kill a Mockingbird is continued in Go Set a Watchman. Whereas To Kill a Mockingbird is told through the eyes of young Scout as she is exposed to the failures of the world around her, Go Set a Watchman bears the voice of Jean Louise and the struggle of knowing that the evil she opposes can even be found in the idol she has constructed. On display is the traumatic event of a child coming to grips with the fact that the parent she has adored and worshiped is merely a man: flawed, fallen, and far from perfect.  The reader is likewise deflated and infuriated by the revelation of a man where a god once resided.  As disconcerting as this crash to reality threatens to be, readers are also given an Atticus Finch that is a significantly more character and much less caricature and a story that is significantly more compelling as a whole than To Kill a Mockingbird on its own.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Total Truth

Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Study Guide Edition)Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity by Nancy Pearcey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nancey Pearcey’s book on worldview is a classic in recent Christian publishing and is a must read for all who seek to understand our culture and the place of the mind in the Christian religion.  There is plenty to “amen” in this work and will be plenty for most people to pause and think about, even if you do not come to same conclusions that Pearcey does.

Pearcey sets out to help the reader do much.  Pearcey wants to help the reader “identify the secular/sacred divide that keeps your faith locked into the private sphere of ‘religious truth.’”, begin to craft “a Christian worldview in your own life and work,” and to “teach you how to apply a worldview grid to cut through the bewildering maze of ideas and ideologies we encounter in a postmodern world.”

She does this by “weaving together insights from three strands”: creation, fall, and redemption.  The work has four sections. “Part 1 sheds light on the secular/sacred dichotomy that restricts Christianity to the realm of religious truth, creating double minds and fragmented lives.”  Part 2 focuses on creation and refuting the “reigning creation myth” of Darwinian evolution and making a positive case for Intelligent Design.  Part 3 “peers into the looking glass of history to ask why evangelicals do not have a strong worldview tradition…Here we step back from the present to take a tour of the history and heritage of evangelicalism in America.”  Pearcey then closes with a reminder that “the heart of worldview thinking lies in its practical and personal application.”

Pearcey does a great job of assaulting the “the divided concepts of truth characteristic of Western culture: secular/sacred, fact/value, public/private,” and her lament on the absence of a “Christian mind” is appropriate and urgent.  She addresses how this affects believers in “common” professions, though her use of Veggietales as a positive example of a believer shunning the sacred/secular divide to become a quality filmmaker might be a bit of a stretch.

Pearcey uses the creation, fall, redemption matrix to guide worldview formation and critique.  She does this with Marx, Rousseau, Sanger, New Age Pantheism, and then moves on to a long section on Darwinism.

The section on Darwinism is extensive and, at times, devolves (see what I did there) into a bit of Darwinism-causes-all-evils, You-can’t-be-a-Christian-and-hold-to-evolution, bogeyman talk.  Christians debating the intricacies of evolutionary theory from a theological perspective were just allowing the secularists to “conquer”.  Those who would hold to theistic evolution are just putting “theological gloss” on atheistic science.  The only right response is to outright reject evolutionary theory…you know, the same way the church engaged the heresy of heliocentrism.  For a work that looks at the creation mandate it seems to have a low view of common grace and general revelation in the area of science.  It is impossible not to agree that Christians are embracing a facts/value dichotomy, but why is ID the way to fix this?  Couldn’t the outright rejection of any type of evolutionary theory cause this fact/value dichotomy?  Terming theistic evolution as “methodological naturalism” is helpful if you desire to poison the well, but it is not helpful if you actually want to present the position fairly.  However, the argumentation against atheistic evolution (even though it is presented as an argument against any type of evolution) is intriguing and rather convincing from a scientific and philosophical perspectives.  It is definitely worth a read and a re-read.

Pearcey’s critique of pragmatism was strong and quite applicable.  The historical survey on sacred/secular divide from the time of Plato on was fascinating.  I am not sure on her encouragements on how to deal with unbelievers (“pre-evangelism” of seemingly engaging the rational mind before engaging with Scripture).  I would be interested in her take on the sensus divinitatus and presuppositional apologetics.

And I think there is an overemphasis on the ability of “apologetics”.  Using Peter’s admonition to be ready to give a reason of the hope as being able to offer credibility to the Gospel through argumentation is a common position, but the “reason for hope” in Peter IS the Gospel, not argumentation that supports the Gospel.  The survey of the history of evangelicalism was interesting and, at times, quite sad but certainly helps to “understand why so much of the Christian world finds itself trapped in a two-story view of truth today.”

This is a book worth reading.  There were times I “amen”d out loud and there were times I wanted to bang my head on something more solid than the sheetrock that surrounded me.  Whether my approval means anything or my consternation was due more to my limitations than those of the book, the jury is still out.  What is not up for debate is that this is a book that should be read by most everyone because it addresses a conversation that needs to be engaged by all.


I received a review copy from the publisher.


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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Wittenberg vs Geneva

Wittenberg vs. Geneva: A Biblical Bout in Seven Rounds on the Doctrines that DivideWittenberg vs. Geneva: A Biblical Bout in Seven Rounds on the Doctrines that Divide by Brian W. Thomas


I almost bailed on this book early on. I was excited to see this book appear. The topic is interesting and deserves more attention than has been given. I was encouraged by Rod Rosenbladt’s preface. After the introduction touting an ecumenical, charitable spirit, I was looking forward to an honest, careful, forthright debate. But the first chapter was rocky!

In the first page of the debate, Thomas accuses R.C. Sproul of erecting a straw man, but he does not explain how or why Sproul’s argumentation is flawed. He simply dismisses it without support. Almost immediately after, he accuses John Owen of “adding to the Word” of God because Owen retranslated a verse to add clarity to it (in a commentary). He quotes Owen’s “addition to the Word” but leaves out the context. Owen writes that, “So that the sense [of John 3:16 based on the entirety of John’s writing and the Scriptures as a whole] is, ‘God so loved his elect throughout the world, that he gave his Son with this intention, that by him believers might be saved ’”(Owen, Works Vol 10). Some people (most people, actually) would call this what it is—teaching. To claim that Owen is sinning (that is what an accusation of “adding to the word” is) is ridiculous and is used, to quote Thomas, “either to purposefully mislead unsuspecting readers to gain rhetorical advantage or through sheer incompetence. Either one (is) inexcusable in a book purporting to teach the truth.” Someone writing a commentary and attempting to help illuminate a verse by using different language is not unheard of or improper. To accuse that person of sin for doing so is both.

Thomas’s then argues that the Reformed position of exegesis is poor or inconsistent for qualifying the word “all” in texts but not doing so in Romans 3:23. This is ridiculous in its own right. Romans 1:1-3:22 make the context for the “all” of Romans 3:23 explicitly universal. Other passages, even from Paul, are clearly used in other ways. It reminded me of a Virginia pastor ranting that he was going to handstand on a tree stump and proclaim that “’all’ means ‘all’ and that’s all that it means,” ignoring the fact that this is not how language works….at all. Recognizing that people use words differently to convey different meanings is not “inconsistent;” it is proper. This is true of “all” and Johannine “world” as well.

Thomas argues that the doctrine of limited atonement precludes assurance makes it clear that he does not (and has not) ever understood the doctrine of definite atonement. “If you interpret the universal passages as the Reformed do, then you cannot ultimately believe your sins are forgiven on the basis of the objective promises revealed in texts like the ever-popular John 3:16.” What? Every Reformed author I have read has drawn great encouragement from the fact that Christ’s death accomplished exactly what it was meant to do.
For you, little child, Jesus Christ has come, he has fought, he has suffered. For you he entered the shadow of Gethsemane and the horror of Calvary. For you he uttered the cry, “It is finished!” For you he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and there he intercedes—for you, little child, even though you do not know it. But in this way the word of the Gospel becomes true. “We love him, because he first loved us.”—French Reformed Baptismal Liturgy
The Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep. What could be more assuring than knowing that?

But, like I said, I almost bailed on this book. And I am quite glad that I did not. Objections aside, this is a much-needed, well-argued (for the overwhelming majority of the time), and helpful book. The Lutheran position of objective and subjective justification is presented well and is much more convincing than a typical synergism argument. I remain unconvinced, but it will lead me to study the topic more. So will many more of Thomas’s arguments. There is a great interaction with Romans 9-11; I remain unconvinced in regards to his conclusion, but I am convinced that it warrants more study. The same is true with the sacramental word. His chapters on baptism and the Supper are quite good and well-worth consideration. I have always used “transubstantiation” as a description of the Lutheran position. Now I know that is misleading. “(The sacraments) simply do not factor into the Reformed ordo saludis”—True. “The difference in how Lutherans and Calvinists understand the relationship between word and sacrament has been one of the leading causes of controversy”—Agreed. And I am becoming convinced that this is the number one area where Lutheran theology can contribute greatly to the Reformed framework.

Thomas points out some significant misunderstandings that the Reformed hold about Lutheran theology. The book suffers a bit because he also demonstrates some significant misunderstandings that Lutherans have about Reformed teaching. All-in-all, this is a work where the beauty outshines the warts, even if the warts surface early on. I almost bailed on this book. I am glad I did not. I would encourage you to read it and read it to the end. You’ll be blessed and encouraged for doing so.

I received a review copy of this book.


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About The Book:
What are the differences between Lutherans and Calvinists, and do they really matter? InWittenberg vs. Geneva, Brian Thomas provides a biblical defense of the key doctrines that have divided the Lutheran and Reformed traditions for nearly five centuries. It is especially written to help those who may have an interest in the Lutheran church, but are concerned that her stance on doctrines like predestination or the sacraments may not have biblical support. To get to the heart of the matter, Pastor Thomas focuses solely upon those crucial scriptural texts that have led Lutheran and Reformed scholars down different paths to disparate conclusions as he spars with popular Calvinist theologians from the past and the present.
Brian W. ThomasAbout the Author:
Brian W. Thomas is a Lutheran pastor, writer, and speaker from the Pacific Northwest. He has had the privilege of serving churches in California and Washington, lecturing at the University of San Diego, and teaching the Bible all over the world. He is the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Kingston, Washington.
Connect with Brian:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

From the Pen of Pastor Paul

From the Pen of Pastor PaulFrom the Pen of Pastor Paul by Daniel R. Hyde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the Pen of Pastor Paul is a gift to the church. Daniel Hyde has given the church a resource that is simple, clear, and immensely practical. This commentary of 1-2 Thessalonians is not an academic exercise to impress other academics. It is not encumbered by footnotes and convoluted, ivory tower argumentation. It is simple and clear; confrontational and comforting. In a word, it is pastoral. Hyde uses the Word of God in this series of sermons to exhort and encourage the people of God to faithful living and to urge unbelievers to repent and believe.

Since this is a series of sermons, there are some sections that are repetitive. In fact, some sections appear repeated almost verbatim. This is an understandable aspect of sermons week-to-week, but it would have been beneficial to the book and helpful for the reader for it to have been edited more strictly. Also, the use of cliché in spoken dialogue is not as glaring as it is in writing – especially when they show up multiple times. It is not that “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care” is untrue, clichés become cliché because they speak to truths. But their use can distract from greater points because it can cause the reader to check out a bit. Again, this is not an issue in a sermon from week-to-week, but when you are sitting down with a book and it comes up every other chapter, it is noticeable.

However, that is not to say that repetition is not warranted or necessary. Most of the repetitive aspects of the book are incredibly helpful. Hyde has a particular cadence that makes reading his words feel like you are hear a sermon, and that is very enjoyable. It is important to recognize that we all need to hear the same, simple truths time and again, whether it is from the pulpit or from a pen.

One area that Hyde emphasizes is the necessity of a member praying for his pastor. With (very helpful) repetition, Hyde exhorts his hearer to give his pastor the gift of persistent, consistent prayer. He also addresses the need of the believer to prepare for worship. Also preaching as a means of grace, and the seriousness of the Sabbath, and understanding eschatology’s relationship with Christian living, and so many other issues are addressed forcefully, graciously, simply,…in a word, pastorally.

So I guess that would be my one word description of this book: pastoral. In that way, it will serve pastors in demonstrating how to handle a text in a pastoral manner and believers of all occupations in being faithfully shepherded though 1 and 2 Thessalonians. And, if you are able to get an unbeliever to spend time with a few of these sermons, they will hear the Gospel presented and an urgent, loving, forceful call to repentance and faith. This is a good book for any who would take up and read.

I received a review copy of this book.


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Friday, February 5, 2016

The Story of Indelible Grace

The Sands of Time are Sinking





1. The sands of time are sinking, 
The dawn of heaven breaks; 
The summer morn I’ve sighed for - 
The fair, sweet morn awakes: 
Dark, dark had been the midnight 
But dayspring is at hand, 
And glory, glory dwelleth 
In Emmanuel’s land.
2. The king there in His beauty, 
Without a veil is seen: 
It were a well-spent journey, 
Though seven deaths lay between: 
The Lamb with His fair army, 
Doth on Mount Zion stand, 
And glory, glory dwelleth 
In Emmanuel’s land
3. O Christ, He is the fountain, 
The deep, sweet well of love! 
The streams on earth I’ve tasted 
More deep I’ll drink above: 
There to an ocean fullness 
His mercy doth expand, 
And glory, glory dwelleth 
In Emmanuel’s land.
4. The bride eyes not her garment, 
But her dear Bridegroom’s face; 
I will not gaze at glory 
But on my King of grace. 
Not at the crown He giveth 
But on His pierced hand; 
The Lamb is all the glory 
Of Emmanuel’s land.
5. O I am my Beloved’s 
And my Beloved is mine! 
He brings a poor vile sinner 
Into His house of wine 
I stand upon His merit - 
I know no other stand, 
Not e’en where glory dwelleth 
In Emmanuel’s land.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Visual Latin Review


You may be asking yourself, “Why should I have my children (or myself) study Latin?”   It may seem like a daunting waste of time and resources to tackle a language that is deader than a shivved Caesar.  But while you may not be using classical Latin to find a restaurant on your next vacation, Latin is a key to a storehouse of wisdom and languages.  Latin is a foundation for learning in a wide variety of areas.  Simply put, it is an investment that yields great dividends. 
So that shifts the question from why to how.  And this is a significantly tougher question.  Selling a homeschooler on the benefits of Latin is not the most difficult of tasks, but helping them sort through all of the options and methodologies certainly is.  I am nowhere near skilled or educated enough to comment on what is the best of the best.  I am a 34-year-old, Latin novice.  The majority of my Latin experience is having debate opponents yell Latin phrases at me followed by “fallacy” and watching my teacher frown disapprovingly.  So, while I would risk an ad overestimatium of my skills if I were to speak with any authority on the wide spectrum of available products, I am confident in recommending Visual Latin with Dwane Thomas for a number of reasons.
The videos are engaging.  My three sons (7-11) laughed audibly throughout the videos.  After watching the first video, my youngest responded to the fact of future videos with a “Yippeee!”  It is a blessing when your kids are asking to do their lessons and actually look forward to them.  Dwane is silly enough to be engaging, but he is not primarily an entertainer.  These videos and supplemental materials are helping the kids (and me!) build a firm foundation of Latin.  To summarize, I would have to say these videos are entertaining, engaging, and edifying (and not just because we have been focusing on alliterations the last few weeks in our writing curriculum).
And then there is the subscription service!  If you are like me, you are not too keen on dropping significant money on anything (“significant” meaning anything where counting out nickels at the checkout line would be embarrassing…so anything north of $37).  That is why I was thrilled to see a subscription service for Visual Latin.  The trial subscription was a dollar.  Seriously, just 20 nickels.  After that it is $7 a month (I’ll let you calculate the nickels), or you can just order the DVD set.  But you have the opportunity to put them to the test -- have your kids (and yourself) try them, enjoy them, and learn from them -- for an entire month.  I think if you do, you will benefit from them as much as I have (and am) and as much as my kids are.  I would encourage you to consider blessing yourself and your kids with the study of Latin and to consider Visual Latin as a great resource in doing so.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

For a Continuing Church

 
What has happened in history never stays in the past. It echos and ripples and reverberates throughout time.  That sounds cliche for two, legitimate reasons. 1) I am an average writer who is being somewhat lazy  and, more importantly, 2) it is just plain true.  History repeats itself and we are doomed to repeat our past if we don't learn from it and etc, etc.



     Our history is important. And before you look at a work about the foundation of the PCA and think it has no edifying benefit outside of that denomination, do not forget how universally sinful we humans are and how hopelessly unoriginal we tend to be. The failures and flaws that led to the formation of the PCA (as well as the failures and flaws within the process of formation and the years since) can be found in many (if not all) Christian denominations, churches, individual lives.



     The evolution of the Protestant liberal, a regression to a virtually Scripture-less, authority-less, Gospel-less, authority-less, Christ-less, "do good and be good"ianity, is a danger to be guarded againstt by all Christians.  The emergence of the PCA is an example of a rejection of this regression.  In that sense, Lucas's history of the PCA offers a service to the church at-large.



     But the primary ministry of this book will be to Christians more closely associated with the PCA. As someone brand-new to the PCA (and presbyterianism in general), I benefitted greatly from this work. This is a detailed historical work that was not necessarily written for a PCA-novice like me.  But, purposely or providentially, Lucas writes in a way that has great depth but does not leave the uninitiated gasping in the wake.



     History texts, for me, are generally vegetables.  You consume them more out of necessity than for pleasure. They are not as pleasant to the pallette as a sweet dessert or as fun to chew on as a perfectly grilled steak.  And sometimes you get a turnip. :-(  But a good cook can present vegetables in a way that makes them the star of a meal.  "Yes, banana pudding sounds great, but is there anymore broccoli?"  Ok, so maybe that doesn't happen all that often at the supper table, but For a Continuing Church is a history book that provides nutrion and pleasure.  It deserves a spot in seminary, church, and personal libraries (and it deserves a printing in hardback!). I would have loved to see a full timeline included of the key events.



     If you are a history buff or PCA minister, grabbing a copy of this is a nobrainer.  But I would encourage all PCA members and people interested in the ebb and flow of Christian life at a macro level to give this a read as well.



Double Disclaimer

1. I received a review copy of this book - standard fair.

2. I went into this work with just north of 0% knowledge of the history of PCA. I am certain, as with any history text, that there are many who will criticize the content of this work.  I am not in a position to do that. As far as this volume goes, I commend it for a number if reason. First, the presentation.  It is immensely approachable. Second, Lucas's credentials as an historian and the preponderance of citations make me have a good bit of faith in the content. Third, Lucas,from all indications, is a man of character who loves the Lord and desires to serve the church. I have no reservations taking For a Continuing Church to be an accurate assessment of the formation of the PCA and feel comfortable encouraging others to do likewise

Monday, November 16, 2015

Frame's History of Western Thought

Woo-hoo! I finished (minus an appendix or 12).  Frame ' s work on the history of Western thought is immense, but I finished!  That is exciting to me, and it should be to you for multiple reasons:
1. I am not well read in philosophy,
2. I am not formally trained in theology, and
3. I was able to read, understand,  and enjoy this great book!

There are plenty of reviews and endorsements by people much better equipped to offer an opinion than I am. I can, however, give a layman's plan of action of how to get the most out of (and not get lost within) this massive work.

First, I suggest to make use of Frame ' s RTS lectures. They pair beautifully with the book and listening to the lecture(s) before or after the chapter is incredibly beneficial.

Second, a good prereading makes this work more approachable.  Look over the table of contents and go through the glossary to familiarize yourself with any new terms.  I would also read the timeline of important events before to have a bit of a map as you jump in.

One thing a preread will do is make this massive work seem much more appoachable.  Frame gives an extensive bibliography, index, glossary, and 1700(rough estimate) pages of appendices where Frame interacts with recent thought.  If you are anything like me, a 550 page book seems much less daunting than a 900 page book.

This book is heavily slanted to the last 300 years or so. Strength or weakness? I am not sure. I would have preferred a bit more on the earlier philosophers, but I enjoyed what he did cover so it's hard to complain.

I preordered the Logos version, so I look forward to going through this at least one more time (if not more!).  For someone like me, it will take either a very slow, intentional trip through this book (with visits to other suggested readings) or multiple trips through to get a firm grasp of all the content. For those familiar with major schools of philosophy,  this should be a relatively easy and enjoyable look at how Western thought has developed over the past 2500 years.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

J. I. Packer

J. I. Packer: An Evangelical LifeJ. I. Packer: An Evangelical Life by Leland Ryken
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

J. I. Packer is one of the most intriguing and influential figures in 20th-century Evangelicalism. I did not realize how intriguing or how influential he is until I spent some time with Leland Ryken's new biography of him. Ryken gives the reader a thematic look at Packer's life, touching on most everything you would expect or want. I love bios; I love Ryken's writing; I love Packer: his life, his influence, his legacy. Ryken writes as a sympathetic voice, but it seems to be a rather fair assessment of Packer's life, controversy, failures, and all.
Definitely a volume worth reading.

I received a review copy from Crossway.


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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Douglas Bond's Poem on Job

God's Servant Job: A Poem with a PromiseGod's Servant Job: A Poem with a Promise by Douglas Bond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Douglas Bond consistently writes books that are blessings to me and to my family. I have enjoyed his historical fiction and his non-fiction books, and now I get to say that I have had the opportunity to enjoy his poetry. God’s Servant Job is a beautiful poem that is a blessing to read. Now before any poetry purists protest, I realize that Douglas Bond is no William Wordsworth (and by that I mean that Bond’s poem is not a convoluted piece of nature worship that makes me want to swiftly and repeatedly pass my head through a plate-glass window….sorry, Romantic Lit class has me on edge!), but it is a simple, memorable poem meant to bless children and parents alike.

And that is what it does. God’s Servant Job is a nice, simple, memorable poem for kids and (bonus!) for parents and teachers as well. It is illustrated beautifully, but not in a way that removes the focus from the story itself. Bond shepherds the reader beyond the trope-ridden desert of “Job was a good guy who got a raw deal and then, because of his good-guyness, got extra blessings at the end” into a land flowing with grace, Gospel, and “My-ways-are-higher-than-your-ways”/”Who-are-you-oh-man” humility - the promised land of healthy, beneficial, God-honoring biblical interpretation where Christians are called to reside.

One criticism I have (I’ll let the reader decide if it is big or small, genuine or nit-picky…also if I am just a big baby) is about the drawings of Satan. I think, in the beginning for sure, that the Satan character is too attractive. He looks cool, really. I know that Satan masquerades as an angel of light and manifests himself in ways that are attractive in order to tempt and lure us feeble, sinful creatures into rebellion. But, God does not, nor do the angels, see him through any sort of veil. When he approaches the throne, we as readers should see him through the eyes of holy beings, and he should be as vile and disgusting as he truly is. And why the pipe?!? “We have to show that the devil is sinful….I know, give him some tobacco!” I guess that is easier than having him dance in carrying a glass of wine after seeing a movie. :-\ I don’t think that the medieval cliché of the pointy-tailed and horned evil one is the route to go, but I am not sure that a fundamentalist cliché of evil is the route to go either.

So, while I pack a bowl of Dunhill Elizabethan blend into my beautiful briar and finish this review, I will stop being unnecessarily thin-skinned long enough to point out that I have no hesitation recommending this book to anyone and that I look forward to sharing it time and again with my boys. It is a beautiful presentation of a story that, in all honesty, gives many of us trouble. I praise God again for a Douglas Bond book that will be a repeated source of encouragement, comfort, and edification in my home and beyond.

*Side note-I saw ISBNs in the book for epub, mobi, and paperback formats. I am interested to see how this transfers to a digital format. Also, I am a little disappointed that it doesn’t look like this is coming out with a hard cover. I think a board book of this would be a blessing and a really good Christmas gift this upcoming holiday season. This is a book to return to, so I hope that hardback is an option in the near future. Either way, it would make a great gift!

I received a review copy of this book in pdf format from the publisher.


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Friday, September 4, 2015

Writers to Read

Writers to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your BookshelfWriters to Read: Nine Names That Belong on Your Bookshelf by Douglas Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

P.G. Wodehouse and H. L. Mencken. If this were Jeopardy,  you would get some $$ for offering the answer in the form of "Who are two authors that Josh is now reading as a direct result of Doug Wilson's Writers to Read?"

Wilson covers nine influential authors in only the way that Doug Wilson can. My choices to adoringly invest time into Tolkien, Chesterton, Lewis, and Robinson were all reaffirmed. And I learned more about each of them as well.  My curiosity about the works of T.S. Eliot was fanned, and I was surprised at how convinced I was that N.D. Wilson might end up one day in serious conversations about the great authors of the 20th century.

The greatest impact of this work was in regards to the new names. Wodehouse, Mencken, and Capon were all foreign to me. I had read none and heard of none (at least to the point I could remember). Wilson quickly convinced me that time with Wodehouse and Mencken would yield an exceptional return.

As far as it concerns Capon, I remain unconvinced that I could (or would want to) make it through a volume of his. But I'll make a deal. As soon as I exhaust the works of Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton, Robinson,  Eliot, Wilson, Mencken, and Wodehouse,  then I will take the time and make the effort to dive into something by Capon!...maybe. :-)

This is a great book. I always love how Wilson writes, even if I don't agree with(or care about) what he is writing.  It is a special treat when the how and the what are both excellent and combine to give me such an edifying and enjoyable reading experience. Writers to Read provided me with just that experience.

I received a copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.


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