Book Reviews

This category contains 124 posts

Book Review: “Understanding Gender Dysphoria” by Mark Yarhouse

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Gender Dysphoria is “The experience of distress associated with the incongruence wherein one’s psychological and emotional gender identity does not match one’s biological sex” (20, cited below). Mark Yarhouse’s latest book, Understanding Gender Dysphoria, seeks to explore this complex topic from a Christian perspective.

Yarhouse does a phenomenal job of introducing readers to just how complex the issue is, while also providing key terms and basic level knowledge for coming to understand gender dysphoria more than they may have before. The book starts with a look at defining terms and looking at ways to offer reasoned response to gender dysphoria. He writes, “Unfortunately, one way people respond to transgender issues is to devalue the person who is gender variant and simultaneously turn to rigid stereotypes of gender” (24). The focus throughout on remembering our calling to spread the Kingdom of God and remain aware of the needs, hopes, and fears of people experiencing gender dysphoria is something of which all readers should take note.

Another very helpful aspect of the book is Yarhouse’s evaluation of responses to various issues through three primary frameworks of understanding. These are the integrity framework, which focuses on staying true to one’s biological gender; the disability framework, which sees transgender issues as a nonmoral reality that is the result of a fallen world; and the diversity framework, which focuses on celebrating and honoring persons with gender dysphoria. Through these three lenses, Yarhouse evaluates various topics like hormone therapy, sex-change operations, and the like. In doing so, he emphasizes the need to balance these three frameworks such that no one is emphasized over the others.

There is quite a bit of data packed into this relatively short book. Many studies are cited, and Yarhouse helps readers navigate through the dizzying array of results in order to try to draw some conclusions, while continuing to note the complexities involved in the topic.

Perhaps the main critique one might offer the book is that Yarhouse does leave much of the “what’s next?” up to readers. That is, although he does offer several insights into how Christians might more effectively respond to gender dysphoria, he largely provides the tools to tackle the tough problems rather than offering the solutions themselves. This is both a weakness and a strength. It’s a weakness in that I’m sure some readers will wish they had an easy solution to some of the difficult problems they may face. It’s always simpler to just use a response someone has given to us rather than coming up with our own responses. It’s a strength in that Yarhouse does provide so many tools to readers that they can go into their faith communities and communicate on the issue in an informed fashion.

Understanding Gender Dysphoria is a valuable work for those wishing to engage with transgender issues. It doesn’t answer every question that might come up, but it does give readers the tools to come up with their own answers while doing so in a loving and Christian way.

The Good

+Solid information and insights into the nature of gender dysphoria
+Excellent tone and focus on message
+Plenty of practical insights and examples
+Focus on facts
+Focus on worldview-level questions

The Bad

-Only a bare sketch of what to do next

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book from the publisher. I was not asked to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Mark Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Debating Darwin’s Doubt” – A Response to the Doubters?

ddd-klinghofferA new book is coming out from the Discovery Institute, a think-tank that explores issues of Intelligent Design. It is entitled Debating Darwin’s Doubt and basically offers a set of essays on Stephen Meyer’s work, Darwin’s Doubt, itself a pretty massive treatise arguing for the viability of Intelligent Design.

The book has 44 essays in it, some of which are only 3-4 pages long. Others are lengthier, the longest being 18 pages (based on my quick glance at the table of contents).

Concerns

I’m concerned that so many of the essays are so short. I know from experience that packing a bunch of detailed argument into that small a space can be extremely challenging, and it would be a shame if we don’t get substantive responses to the criticisms offered by so many varied sources to Meyer’s argument.

I’m concerned that there are already reviews on Amazon from people who haven’t even read the book complaining about the selection of authors or calling it pseudo-science. Regardless of one’s view on this debate, should not a “review” be a legitimate interaction with the text rather than just offering an opinion on the topic?

Hopes

I hope that the book spurs discussion rather than shutting it down. Too often, debates over intelligent design turn into name-calling fests on both sides. I sincerely doubt that’s at all what this book will do. Instead, I’m hoping that the book’s publication will lead to more fruitful discussions about the possibility (or not) of biological intelligent design.

I hope that the book will garner wide readership and so provide means for intelligent discussions on the topic to continue, and new research opportunities to be explored.

What’s Next

Well, I’m hoping to read the book when it comes out! I’ll certainly post on it when I get to it. I would love, in the meantime, to read your own thoughts as it comes out, or on what your own hopes and concerns are.

SDG.

Book Review: “John Newton on the Christian Life” by Tony Reinke

newton-reinkeNewton on the Christian Life presents the theology of John Newton (more on that later) in light of Christian living. Central to Newton’s theology is the notion that “to live is Christ.” We as Christians are to continually rely upon Christ in all things.

The book has only parts of Newton’s biographical information found throughout the various chapters, but there is enough there to get a picture of the mighty fall the man had and the depths from which God plucked him. Here is the man who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace” and who was friend of such prominent persons as William Wilberforce, yet who had worked on a slave ship and taken place in the vulgarities thereof. It is truly a story of grace, but Reinke emphasizes throughout the book Newton’s own commitment to “to live is Christ.”

The concept of living as Christ or “being Christ” is central to the book, which highlights again and again. Newton’s belief in, description of, and application of this concept are each drawn out in detail. Admittedly, this emphasis became a little overmuch by the end of the book as it seemed some themes were touched on over and over. However, there are many other insightful points throughout the book which are intertwined with Newton’s emphasis.

For example, the chapter on “Christian blemishes” utilizes examples of how we might live our life as Christians in ways which are largely commendable, but which lend themselves to certain sins. Another chapter highlights the effects of indwelling sin from Newton’s perspective (himself a Calvinist) and applies this to the Christian life. The chapters on spiritual weariness and battling insecurity are extremely pastoral and applicable in their content and tone and, I think highly valuable. Yet another deeply insightful section was chapter 9, which speaks about how trials in our lives can be used as spiritual discipline. Finally, the section on “Victory Over Mr. Self” that spoke of theological controversies had profound insights into how we should treat others with whom we disagree. I should note that I’m a Lutheran and at no point felt that I was not getting value for my time out of this book, despite Newton’s own strong Calvinism. I would say that anyone could benefit hugely from these chapters.

There is a wealth of firsthand quotations from Newton himself in the book, which makes it well worth engaging for that purpose alone. The pastoral tone and care that Newton had shines through in these quotations and Reinke himself does an excellent job summarizing points in a way that lends itself to the same tone as the man about whom he is writing.

One critique may be my own obtuseness coming through, but I think it’s worth mentioning. When I first got the book I saw some guy with a wig on the cover and thought–reasonably enough, I think–that “Newton” probably referred to Isaac Newton. It wasn’t long into the book before I was disillusioned, but I think that although it might make sense to leave books in the series consistent, given that not everyone may immediately think of John Newton instead of Isaac Newton, it might have been a better choice to include first names across the board. I asked a few friends who they thought the book was about based on the cover or title and every single one said Isaac Newton. It’s not a substantial critique, but I think it was worth a mention.

Another criticism I have is that there is virtually no use of women as examples in the discussions. Much of this is because Newton himself did not use women as examples in his letters and Reinke worked closely with Newton’s own writings. However, it would have been nice to have some counter-balancing examples to show that women struggle with the same problems. Here and there this is brought out in a letter, but it is very rare and noticeably so.

Newton on the Christian Life is an excellent read worthy of a thorough study. The examples he used can be applied in all kinds of pastoral contexts, and the emphasis on life in Christ is commendable. Moreover, the last several chapters are completely full of deeply impactful and applicable insights into the Christian life. The book comes highly recommended.

The Good

+Great insight into the pastoral theology of John Newton
+Extensive quotes from the letters of Newton
+Filled with insights

The Bad

-Sometimes repetitive
-Title could stand to be clearer
-Almost every single generic person used as an example is masculine

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book from the publisher. I was not asked to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Trueman– I review another book in this series, this one focusing on Martin Luther.

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life (Downers Grove, IL: Crossway, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Fool’s Talk” by Os Guinness

ftalk-guinnessOs Guinness’ Fool’s Talk is an argument for the need to change the forms of Christian persuasion used in apologetics specifically but also more generally in evangelism.

Guinness critiques the way that many go about their witnessing in categories that really only make sense within contexts that are foreign to a biblical understanding and worldview. He also shines the light on how often we allow our modern concepts to distort our witness–often for the worse. There are also a number of incisive arguments against the ways that people use excuses or sinfulness to avoid the truth in witness.

There are also many helpful comments on how we need to change our communication to confront the assumptions of our cultures and resonate even with those who are predisposed to disagree with us or not want to listen to the message of Christ. These include the need to confront sin, but do so in a winsome manner; to surprise listeners with a story told in a different way, and more.

The book is also supremely quotable, with many excellent one-line examples that people might use to illustrate points about communication, culture, and other important topics.

My main complaint with the book is that Guinness uses few practical examples to go with his critique or discerning of the styles of witnessing and engagement. The main examples used are biblical examples–surely a good way to find some effective communication!–but often these feel highly occasional rather than applicable to everyday situations. Guinness does an admirable job explaining these examples and highlighting how they were effective means of communication, but it would have been nice to have several practical applications in order to see exactly how Guinness thinks we are to change in these areas.

In several sections does offer some examples of how we might better communicate, but often it seems he is more concerned with informing the readers about how communication needs to change rather than following that with exactly how change might look.

Another complaint is that one of the hooks used by Guinness to start a chapter was to talk about a misogynist who successfully redirected the ire towards his position into making people think about what they were saying. It was an example that caught my attention, but using such a negative example to try to make a positive point was jarring.

Fool’s Talk provides many insights into how apologetically- and evangelically-minded people can explore new avenues for witnessing. However, it does not provide many practical examples for how people might go about exploring these avenues. It’s a good starting point, but readers will need to go farther.

The Good

+Clever wording often puts new perspective on old issues
+Some helpful hints at directions apologetics may pursue effectively
+Insightful commentary on ways engagement needs to change to be successful

The Bad

-Doesn’t offer many practical applications

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book from the publisher. I was not asked to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Bound for the Promised Land” by Oren Martin

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Oren Martin’s Bound for the Promised Land is a canonical-perspective look at the land promise throughout the Bible. His central thesis is that “the land promised to Abraham advances the place of the kingdom that was lost in Eden and serves as a type throughout Israel’s history that anticipates the even greater land… that will… find… fulfillment in the new heaven and new earth won by Christ” (17).

The book advances a broad argument for this thesis by surveying what the Bible has to say about the land promise and its fulfillment. Martin does not offer a comprehensive look at every verse in the Bible that deals with the land promise, but rather puts forward a canonical view in which he surveys what various books of the Bible say about the promise and puts them in perspective alongside each other. He thus develops the promise from Eden in Genesis through Abraham, into Canaan, exile, through prophetic hope of return, the ushering in through Christ, and the ultimate consummation in the New Creation.

The book isn’t going to blow readers away with stunning insights. Frankly, that can be a good thing when it comes to theology texts. Martin’s exegesis is sound, based on firm principles and clearly drawn from the texts themselves. By connecting these verses to wider canonical strands, he demonstrates that his position is capable of dealing with the whole teaching of the Bible on the land promise rather than isolating it and trying to trump these threads with individual out-of-context verses.

Though not stunning or necessarily new, the insights Martin puts forward provide a great resource for those interested in eschatology and the issues raised by dispensationalists regarding the land promise. Martin does not support the dispensational view and argues cogently that it cannot be supported by the texts that teach on the land promise. The notion that we must take the land promise “literally” does not do full justice to the texts themselves and cannot account for the broadness of teaching on the topic.

Bound for the Promised Land is an insightful work that will lead to much flipping back and forth in readers’ Bibles as they go through it. I enjoyed making some new notes and re-highlighting some key points. Martin’s exegesis is solid, and the work is great for those interested in eschatology and biblical prophecy. By putting together a book focused exclusively on the land promise from a perspective that takes seriously the whole of biblical teaching on the topic, Martin has done a service for those interested in eschatology. I recommend it as a worthy read.

The Good

+Clearly outlines presuppositions the author maintains throughout the study
+Solid exegesis
+Canonical view gives picture of whole teaching of Bible on topic
+Applicable insights put forward

The Bad

-Skims over arguments very briefly at points

Disclaimer: InterVarsity Press provided me with a copy of the book for review. I was not obligated to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever, nor did they request changes or edit this review in any way. 

Source

Oren Martin, Bound for the Promised Land (Downers Grove, IL: Apollos/InterVarsity Press, 2015).

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Interpreting the Prophets” by Aaron Chalmers

ip-chalmersAaron Chalmers’ Interpreting the Prophets is an introduction to, well, interpreting the prophetic literature of the Old Testament. He notes that readers are often turned off of the prophets for a number of reasons, whether it is the difficulty of these writings or their seeming irrelevancy for our time. Against these reasons, he argues for and puts forward a relevant and practical guide to reading the Old Testament prophets and coming to a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

The book is laid across 6 chapters, each with a focus on a central aspect of interpreting and applying biblical prophecy. These are: (1) What is a prophet and what is a prophetic book?; (2) The historical world of the prophets; (3) The theological world of the prophets; (4) The rhetorical world of the prophets; (5) From prophecy to apocalyptic; and (6) Guidelines for preaching from the prophets.

There are many insights which will be valuable for both those wishing to engage with the prophets as laity and those interested in drawing out deep exegetical insights from the text. Chalmers’ work serves as a guide for reading without telling readers exactly what various passages are supposed to mean. It is the kind of text that encourages readers to move to the Word and explore it for themselves, laying a solid foundation for interpretation beforehand.

One example of the insights Chalmers provides is his critique of those who would see the prophetic literature as speaking primarily to our time. He notes that this approach of trying to match up biblical prophecies one-to-one with newspaper headlines is mistaken for a number of reasons, including making the texts largely irrelevant to its contemporary hearers. Throughout the book, there are a number of insets that highlight various additional details, like the Ancient Near Eastern background of the text or specific views about things like the dating of a book.

Interpreting the Prophets would best serve as an introductory text for those interested in learning more about and reading the prophetic literature of the Old Testament. It comes recommended.

The Good

+Excellent insets provide background information into the world of the Bible
+Incisive critique of some popular approaches to reading the prophets
+Practical advice for readers of the Scripture, pastors, and professionals alike

The Bad

-Very brief on several important points

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book by InterVarsity Press. I was not required to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever, nor was the publisher involved in this review in any way.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Aaron Chalmers, Interpreting the Prophets (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “The Bible Story Handbook” by John Walton and Kim Walton

bsh-walton

John Walton and Kim Walton’s The Bible Story Handbook is a resource for teaching 175 Bible stories and their meanings. I want to say at the outset that this wide range and its being written towards a general audience (with teaching to children as a special focus) in no way means this is an easy or unchallenging book.

The book has a great introduction that argues that we need to be teaching the actual point of the Bible stories we use in lessons in Sunday School, sermons, and the like rather than abstracting the stories and chopping them apart to draw out specific illustrations we’d like to have. This is a very challenging introduction, not because it is technical, but because we so often do see this done in teaching the Bible and we so often do it ourselves. For example, we might see the story of Jonathan and David as about friendship rather than about what God was doing through the people acting in the story. A more extreme example is from the authors: one of their children came home and had been taught the story of Cain and Abel in Sunday School. But the point of the story–which was told sans violence because of the age of the children–they were told was that Cain and Abel had bodies. That’s it.

It is this level of abstraction that John Walton and Kim Walton work against in the book, consistently arguing story-by-story that the point of the Bible is to teach us about God and God’s action in human history. The stories are each outlined in the same fashion. There is a subheading listing the passage that has what the Bible story is (i.e. Samson and Delilah) followed by the verses that will be discussed (i.e. Judges 16). Then, there is a “Lesson Focus” that outlines key parts of the lesson in a sentence or two, then has main focal points of the lesson in bullet points. After that there is a Lesson Application which hones the Lesson Focus in to what we might take from the lesson. Then, the biblical context of the lesson is highlighted (this section often begins the same if there are multiple lessons in the same book). After that, Interpretational Issues are addressed (such as Samson’s hair and his strength). Background information related to the text is given (such as looms and their usage at the time of the story). Finally, “Mistakes to Avoid” puts forward the key meaning of the text and highlights some errors related to interpretation that people often make related to the specific text.

These sections each have vital information and are certainly of great value for those who want to preach, teach, or explore God’s Word.

There are a few downsides to the book. At times, it seems the “Mistakes to Avoid” might not fully explain why certain interpretations are “mistakes” or why the preferred interpretation ought to be put forward. The book has very broad application but does focus on teaching the Bible stories to children. It would perhaps have been nice to have similar notes about how to direct the lesson towards adults. These are both largely just nitpicks about what is an otherwise phenomenal book.

The Good

+Extremely challenging to many presupposed ideas about how to tell and teach Bible stories
+Great selection of Bible stories
+A constant stream of firm exegesis yielding sometimes surprising insights
+Applicable immediately to teaching settings

The Bad

-Would have been nice to have more focus on teaching Bible stories to adults as well
-Some of the “mistakes to avoid” do not seem like mistakes after all

Conclusion

John Walton and Kim Walton have done a great service with The Bible Story Handbook. I would recommend it for the shelf of the pastor, teacher, and laity. Anyone can benefit from reading the book, whether they are just learning the Bible or coming back to stories that have grown familiar with time. Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: Crossway provided me with a copy of the book for review. I was not obligated to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever, nor did they request changes or edit this review in any way. 

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

John Walton and Kim Walton, The Bible Story Handbook (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Creative Church Handbook” by J. Scott McElroy

cchurch-mcelroyHow do we integrate the arts into our lives in the church?

As someone who is interested in the way we can more completely integrate our faith into our lives, this is a question that has interested me for some time. When Creative Church Handbook by J. Scott McElroy showed up as a book available for review, I immediately requested it, thinking it might be a good read. What an understatement! The Creative Church Handbook is a phenomenal guide for those interested in how to make arts ministries and integrate a love for the arts into their church.

The book is, well, a handbook for starting up, organizing, and thriving in arts ministries in your church. It is organized in a logical fashion, with an introduction providing reasons for supporting arts ministries and ways to get leadership on board, followed by numerous chapters on building said ministry, ideas for specific types of arts ministries, and moving the ministry beyond the church walls.

The chapters on setting up an arts ministry are wonderful because they provide a number of different concepts of what that ministry might look like, along with how to overcome potential challenges which may come up and advice on how to avoid burning people out or scaring them off. McElroy does a good job of envisioning the issues which may come up like funding, integration into worship, and the like.

The chapters on what an arts ministry may look like are where the rubber really hits the road as generalized suggestions about things like creating live artworks in worship are intertwined with concrete examples from successful arts ministries.

One downside to the book is that there is little if any mention of several art forms like music and technical arts. McElroy acknowledges this in the Preface and notes that, in part, it is because music has been integrated fairly well into worship and the technical arts are, well, technical and would require a different type of book. However, it seems to me that much of McElroy’s advice in this book could be modified slightly to apply to these other forms of the arts. The copy I received was a pre-release and so I was unable to evaluate the index as this was not included.

Overall, I would highly recommend Creative Church Handbook for the libraries of leaders in churches and also for laity interested in starting arts ministries. It is an extremely insightful guide with many ideas to help foster growth. You will almost certainly have your mind filled with all kinds of excellent ideas for developing the arts in your faith community. It comes highly recommended. I know I’ll be trying to start a ministry like this up when my wife gets a call after graduation.

I received a review copy of the book from InterVarsity Press. I was not obligated by the publisher to give any specific type of feedback whatsoever. 

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Source

J. Scott McElroy Creative Church Handbook (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Book Review: “Mapping Apologetics” by Brian Morley

ma-morleyAlthough there is widespread agreement over the need to have a defense of the faith (a biblical charge–1 Peter 3:15-16), there is much disagreement over exactly how that defense should proceed. Brian Morley’s Mapping Apologetics is a way forward in helping interested readers discern how they may defend the faith.

There are few books that deal exclusively with apologetic methodology by outlining various approaches. Perhaps the most comprehensive is Faith Has Its Reasons by Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman, Jr. Mapping Apologetics is distinguished from this other excellent work by having a narrower focus that provides more in-depth comments on the individual proponents of the various systems. Whereas Faith… attempts a synthesis of the varied methods, Mapping… is geared more towards giving readers understanding of each method.

After a couple introductory chapters on apologetics in the Bible and history, the following chapters each highlight individuals who are major contemporary proponents of different apologetics methods. Included are such people as Cornelius Van Til, Alvin Plantinga, E.J. Carnell, Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, and John Warwick Montgomery, just to name a few.

Each of these chapters presents an extended overview of the apologist’s method of defending the faith along with several quotes and often detailed analysis of their primary arguments with examples. Thus, readers are given the resources to compare and contrast the various approaches on the level of the actual arguments and counter-arguments presented.

The people chosen are each major contributors to their specific variety of apologetics, so both those who are well-versed in apologetics and those who are just beginning will get insights from top defenders of the faith. I personally have an MA in Christian Apologetics, and I was familiar with each author, but the way that each was presented gave me a good refresher on their method and primary arguments–and sent me scampering to re-read some of my favorites!

The book includes some great follow-up questions after each chapter to help readers review the material in the chapter, along with useful further reading sections for those interested in learning more about specific defenders. Each chapter also includes criticisms of the specific type of apologetic the individual puts forward. These are often only about 1 1/2 to 2 pages, though, and it would have been nice to have a bit more space dedicated to the critiques and rebuttals to each approach. Morley also very quickly dismisses the fideistic approach as being “unbiblical” with only a brief argument. Although I am not at all a fideist, I do think that the approach has at least some merit and the aforementioned work by Boa and Bowman has some great insights into how it might also offer some insights into apologetics.

Mapping Apologetics is an excellent read for those interested in apologetic methodology, with sympathetic interpretations of many of the primary contemporary defenders of each approach. I recommend it highly for those interested in apologetics and how we are to defend the faith.

The Good

+Great summaries of top apologists from multiple methodological approaches
+Invaluable insight into different apologetics methodologies
+Helpful review questions and resource lists

The Bad

-Dismisses fideism too quickly
-Could stand to have more reflection on criticisms of each position

Disclaimer: InterVarsity Press provided me with a copy of the book for review. I was not obligated to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever, nor did they request changes or edit this review in any way. 

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Brian Morley, Mapping Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Dune” by Frank Herbert- Prophecy, Religion, and the Messiah

Dune-HerbertBless the Maker and His water. Bless the coming and the going of Him. May His passage cleanse the world. May He keep the world for his people.

Dune has been called “Science Fiction’s Supreme Masterpiece.” I say that this tagline is accurate. The depth of the saga is breathtaking, and its majesty is at times overpowering. Here, I’ll take a look at some key themes in the book from a Christian perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

Prophecy

Prophecy is found throughout the various factions in Dune. The Bene Gesserit is a school composed of women who are working to bring about a prophesied man–but to use him for their own ends. The Fremen, inhabitants of the desert, also have prophecies of one who would bring their world–Arrakis–to fertility and unite the Fremen against their enemies.

Prophecy has a function, which will be fulfilled one way or another. Often, this involves the conscious working of persons towards the fulfillment. This is unlike prophecy in the Bible, which is sometimes fulfilled in quite unexpected ways or even has double applications (such as the virgin birth).

Religion

Religion is a theme throughout the book, as there are many different philosophies of life on offer, but few which seem genuine. Herbert’s vision of religion is that it is essentially a function of humanity and one which is constructed through the interplay of power and belief. For example, in one biographical entry about Paul Atreides, the protagonist, the Princess Irulan writes:

You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion. The power struggle permeates the training, educating and disciplining of the orthodox community… the leaders of such a community… must face that ultimate internal question: to succumb to complete opportunism as the price of maintaining their rule, or risk sacrificing themselves for the sake of the orthodox ethic. (401)

Hebert also channels much wariness about any engagement of politics and religion throughout the book. Representative is a saying allegedly from the Muad’Dib–the name given to Paul Atreides after he is seen as the fulfillment of various prophecies: “When law and duty are one, united by religion, you never become fully conscious, fully aware of yourself. You are always a little less than an individual” (408).

Yet this is not to say there is no genuine belief in the world of Dune. Debates over determinism and divinely decreed futures are placed throughout the book, and Paul Atreides himself struggles with his own role as an apparent Messiah.

The religious mixture of Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity found in the various factions provides much food for discussion and engagement for those who want to dialogue on these topics. How should we interact with those of other faiths? What lines of correlation may we see in other religions and how might we use these to engage believers in other faith traditions? These are questions which arise in Dune, and Herbert also offers challenges to believers to see what harm might be in their beliefs and to search out those aspects of their faith which lead astray from the truth.

Truth

There are many more philosophical, theological, and political questions which could be asked after reading a masterwork like Dune. A fundamental issue is that of truth. The issues of religion and prophecy listed above make one read the world of the work with a rather ambiguous eye: there seems to be some deception, but some truth, in various aspects of the different factions’ belief systems and what they present to the world as the truth.

From a Christian perspective, there is but one truth and that is found in Jesus Christ. Similarly, even on the world of Arrakis, we find that there is an objective standard of truth, it just isn’t always cut-and-dried as to how we might discern it. It is a reflection of the fallenness of the real world in which often the truth is intermingled with lies. We should work ever towards seeking the truth and working to bring it forward.

Conclusion

Weeks after reading Dune, I can still feel the hot sand under my feet, and still smell the Spice in the air. It is a simply incredible read which demands hours of reflection afterwards. I recommend it highly to you, dear readers. It will get your mind going, and it will also perhaps force some thought into one’s own faith and life–are we living a genuine life of faith, or have we turned it into a perversion?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

A Solar System and Cosmos Filled with Life?- A reflection on Ben Bova’s “Farside” and “New Earth”– I explore the notion that life should be expected all over the place in a post that looks at some of Bova’s most recent works.

“Fitzpatrick’s War”- Religion, truth, and forgiveness in Theodore Judson’s epic steampunk tale– I take a look at the book Fitzpatrick’s War, a novel of alternative history with steampunk. What could be better? Check out some of the worldview issues brought up in the book.

I have discussed the use of science fiction in showing how religious persons act. Check out Religious Dialogue: A case study in science fiction with Bova and Weber.

Source

Frank Herbert, Dune (New York: Ace, 1990). Originally printed 1965.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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