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2015: The Year’s Best Books, My Reading, Blogs, and More!

Another year has passed more quickly than I could have ever imagined. I’d like to share with you my reading for the year, as well as my awards for books, movies, and blogs. Please let me know about your own reading, movie-watching, and the like this year. I’d love to read about what you were up to last year and what books moved you or taught you much.

Books

The books of the year are based off my reading this year; not on whether they were actually released this year. The categories for InterVarsity Press (IVP) and Crossway, however, are from this year.

Theology book of the year

Flame of Yahweh by Richard Davidson- This book is a massive wealth of information about sexuality in the Old Testament. Davidson analyzes an enormous number of texts to draw out the teaching on sexuality found therein. Davidson approaches the texts from what I would call a moderate egalitarian viewpoint, but he justifies this view directly from the text, with a particular emphasis on the creation account. Moreover, Davidson’s exposition of Song of Songs in particular is just phenomenal. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Philosophy book of the year

The Shape of the Past by John Warwick Montgomery- this book is a historiography book–it is a study of how we write and study history, and it is phenomenal. John Warwick Montgomery is one of those rare people who can touch on seemingly endless topics from a clearly informed perspective, and draw them together with breathless beauty. The first half of the book offers a major look at various historiographic perspectives of the past. The second half is a collection of essays, each of which as informative and wonderful as the next. The book was published originally in 1975, but it remains as brilliant as it ever was. John Warwick Montgomery is just phenomenal, and this book was heavy, but breathtaking. Here’s a quote from the book.

IVP Book of the Year

Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys by Richard Twiss- A convicting read, Richard Twiss argues that we have failed Native Americans when it comes to spreading the Gospel. The book is full of moving stories and deep insights. It is beautiful and haunting. If you want to know more, read my review.

Crossway Book of the Year

Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke- John Newton is probably best known as the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” but Reinke highlights so much more about this amazing pastor in this interesting work. Read my review for more.

Fiction book of the Year

The Once and Future King by T.H. White – I’m embarassed to say this, but I actually owned this book once and got rid of it because I figured I wouldn’t actually enjoy it. Was I ever wrong. I picked it up at the library and was absolutely blown away. This classic novel about King Arthur was everything I expected it to be and so much more. I was particularly impressed by the amount of genuinely hilarious humor found throughout. I did not expect the depth it had, either. It was fantastic. Okay, I did read Ben Hur by means of audiobook this year, but I read that book annually because it is probably my favorite work of fiction ever, so it’s not really fair to put it in competition.

Best non-fiction, non-theology/philosophy

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander- think racism is no longer a problem in America? Think again. This book has an enormous amount of research showing how our allegedly colorblind criminal justice system has perpetuated a system of injustice.

Young Adult Novel of the Year

Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper- A haunting novel about the colonial period in the United States. It is rare that I am as emotionally moved by a novel as I was in this one.

Most Anticipated Book of Next Year

Brandon Sanderson seems to me a well that I will not stop returning to. Ever. I’ve not worked through his whole body of work yet, but everything I’ve read from him is amazing. He consistently nails stunning plot twists in believable ways. Thus, Calamity, the third book of “The Reckoners” is my most anticipated book for next year. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and find out what happens next.

Movie

Best worldview movie of the year

Star Wars: The Force Awakens- No, I’m not just saying this because it is Star Wars (though part of me is saying precisely that). I selected this one because it has so much in it to discuss. I’m not going to spoil anything here, so be sure to head on over to my post on the movie to read more.

Blog

Blog of the Year

Christians for Biblical Equality– CBE continues to put out excellent articles week in and week out. Every new post is worth the time to read, and they have covered an enormous amount of ground with articles on neuroscience to articles on exegesis. This is a fantastic blog and well worth your time to read and subscribe to.

Reading List for 2015

The list starts at where I left off in 2014, when I first started keeping track.

  1. Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn – Finished 1/2/15
  2. 4 Views on Divine Providence edited by Dennis Jowers and Gundry – Finished 1/4/15
  3. Wind and Shadow by Kathy Tyers – Finished 1/6/15
  4. Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative – Finished 1/8/15
  5. Allegiant by Veronica Roth – Finished 1/10/15
  6. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis by Mark Noll – Finished 1/12/15
  7. Salvation Applied by the Spirit by Robert Peterson – Finished 1/13/15
  8. Star Wars: Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn – Finished 1/13/15
  9. God’s Battalions by Rodney Stark – Finished 1/13/15
  10. Gender, Religion, and Diversity edited by Ursula King and Tina Beattie – Finished 1/15/15
  11. Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber – Finished 1/19/15
  12. Beyond the Control of God? Edited by Paul Gould – Finished 1/22/15
  13. By Schism Rent Asunder by David Weber – Finished 1/24/15
  14. Religions of Mesoamerica by David Carrasco – Finished 1/25/15
  15. By Heresies Distressed by David Weber – Finished 1/28/15
  16. Eternity Falls by Kirk Outerbridge – Finished 2/1/15
  17. Evolutionary Creation by Denis Lamoureux – Finished 2/1/15
  18. A Mighty Fortress by David Weber – Finished 2/6/15
  19. The New Evangelical Subordinationism edited Jowers and House – Finished 2/7/15
  20. Red Rising by Pierce Brown – Finished 2/9/15
  21. Creative Church Handbook by J. Scott McElroy – Finished 2/10/15
  22. Never to Live by Just B. Johnson – Finished 2/14/15
  23. Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice edited Kelly Kapic- Finished 2/16/15
  24. Star Wars: The Last Command by Timothy Zahn – Finished 2/17/15
  25. The Dominant Culture by Martin Murphy – Finished 2/17/15
  26. Daystar by Kathy Tyers – Finished 2/23/15
  27. Give Them Grace by Jessica Thompson and Elyse Fitzpatrick – Finished 2/23/15
  28. Reinventing Jesus by Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace – Finished 2/25/15
  29. How Firm a Foundation by David Weber – Finished 3/2/15
  30. Tamar’s Tears edited by Andrew Sloane – Finished 3/2/15
  31. Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert – Finished 3/4/15
  32. For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger – Finished 3/6/15
  33. Star Trek: New Frontier- The Quiet Place by Peter David – Finished 3/6/15
  34. The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs – Finished 3/7/15
  35. Three Views on the NT Use of the OT edited Berding and Lunde – Finished 3/10/15
  36. Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert – Finished 3/11/15
  37. A Matter of Days by Hugh Ross – Finished 3/12/15
  38. Midst Toil and Tribulation by David Weber – Finished 3/16/15
  39. The Lost World of Adam and Eve by John Walton – Finished 3/17/15
  40. Hunters of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson – Finished 3/19/15
  41. Martin Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Trueman – Finished 3/21/15
  42. Golden Sun by Pierce Brown – Finished 3/22/15
  43. 4 Views on Church Government edited Cowan and Engle – Finished 3/23/15
  44. Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson – Finished 3/25/15
  45. Faith, Freedom, and the Spirit by Paul D. Molnar – Finished 3/29/15
  46. Weaveworld by Clive Barker – Finished 4/1/5
  47. Presence and Thought by Hans Urs von Balthasar – Finished 4/1/5
  48. The Soul Hypothesis edited Mark Baker and Stewart Goetz – Finished 4/1/15
  49. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander – Finished 4/3/15
  50. Science and Christianity: Four Views edited by Richard Carlson – Finished 4/7/15
  51. Like a Mighty Army by David Weber – Finished 4/9/15
  52. No Other Name by John Sanders – Finished 4/10/15
  53. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien – Finished 4/11/15
  54. Dune: House Atreides by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson – Finished 4/14/15
  55. The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander – Finished 4/14/15
  56. Two Views of Hell by Edward Fudge and Robert Peterson – Finished 4/15/15
  57. Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis – Finished 4/17/15
  58. Oxygen by John Olson and Randy Ingermanson – Finished 4/18/15
  59. Bulls, Bears, and Golden Calves by John Stapleford – Finished 4/19/15
  60. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz – Finished 4/20/15
  61. Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom by William Lane Craig – Finished 4/21/15
  62. Dune: House Harkonnen by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson – Finished 4/23/15
  63. Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer – Finished 4/26/15
  64. Mapping Apologetics by Brian Morley – Finished 4/28/15
  65. The Legend of Drizzt: Homeland by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 4/28/15
  66. The Legend of Drizzt: Exile by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 4/30/15
  67. The Legend of Drizzt: Sojourn by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 5/2/15
  68. Interpreting the Prophets by Aaron Chalmers – Finished 5/2/15
  69. Titan by Ben Bova – Finished 5/5/15
  70. Forever Odd by Dean Koontz – Finished 5/6/15
  71. God and Design edited by Neil Manson – Finished 5/11/15
  72. Dune: House Corrin by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson – Finished 5/12/15
  73. Bound for the Promised Land by Oren Martin – Finished 5/13/15
  74. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – Finished 5/15/15
  75. Humans by Robert J. Sawyer – Finished 5/19/15
  76. Hybrids by Robert J. Sawyer – Finished 5/21/15
  77. Brother Odd by Dean Koontz – Finished 5/28/15
  78. Venus by Ben Bova – Finished 5/30/15
  79. The Bible Story Handbook by John Walton and Kim Walton – Finished 5/31/15
  80. Cauldron of Ghosts by David Weber and Eric Flint – Finished 6/2/15
  81. Bismarck by Michael Tamelander and Niklas Zetterling – Finished 6/3/15
  82. Dune: The Butlerian Jihad by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson – Finished 6/5/15
  83. Star Wars: The Paradise Snare by A.C. Crispin – Finished 6/6/15
  84. The Legend of Drizzt: The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/11/15
  85. Renewing Moral Theology by Daniel Westberg – Finished 6/12/15
  86. The Legend of Drizzt: Streams of Silver by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/14/15
  87. The Legend of Drizzt: The Halfling’s Gem by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/17/15
  88. The Legend of Drizzt: The Legacy by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/21/15
  89. Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness – Finished 6/21/15
  90. The Legend of Drizzt: Starless Night by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/25/15
  91. The Legend of Drizzt: Siege of Darkness by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/25/15
  92. The Legend of Drizzt: Passage to Dawn by R.A. Salvatore – Finished 6/28/15
  93. Understanding Gender Dysphoria by Mark Yarhouse – Finished 7/9/15
  94. War God’s Oath by David Weber – Finished 7/9/15
  95. No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman – Finished 7/11/15
  96. Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither edited Halton and Gundry – Finished 7/13/15
  97. Double Eagle by Dan Abnett – Finished 7/14/15
  98. [John] Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke – Finished 7/18/15
  99. 4 Views on the Nature of the Atonement edited Beilby and Eddy – Finished 7/21/15
  100. We the Underpeople by Cordwainer Smith – Finished 7/22/15
  101. Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith – Finished 7/22/15
  102. Odd Hours by Dean Koontz – Finished 7/24/15
  103. Theology as Retrieval by W. David Buschart and Kent D. Eilers – Finished 7/25/15
  104. The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket – Finished 7/25/15
  105. The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket – Finished 7/27/15
  106. The Just City by Jo Walton – Finished 8/4/15
  107. The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket – Finished 8/5/15
  108. Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys by Richard Twiss – Finished 8/6/15
  109. Packer on the Christian Life by Sam Storms – Finished 8/9/15
  110. The War God’s Own by David Weber – Finished 8/10/15
  111. Talking Doctrine: [LDS] & Evngls in Conversation ed. Mouw & Millet- Finished 8/10/15
  112. Star Trek: New Frontier- Dark Allies by Peter David – Finished 8/11/15
  113. God’s Crime Scene by J. Warner Wallace – Finished 8/11/15
  114. Joy in the Journey by Steve & Sharol Hayner – Finished 8/14/15
  115. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett – Finished 8/17/15
  116. The Hostile Hotel by Lemony Snicket – Finished 8/18/15
  117. Hell Under Fire edited Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson – Finished 8/19/15
  118. How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test by David Marshall – Finished 8/20/15
  119. Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz – Finished 8/21/15
  120. Kris Longknife: Mutineer by Mike Shepherd – Finished 8/27/15
  121. Kris Longknife: Deserter by Mike Shepherd – Finished 8/25/15
  122. The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket – Finished 8/27/15
  123. Star Wars: The Hutt Gambit by A.C. Crispin – Finished 8/28/15
  124. Winter of the World by Ken Follett- Finshed 9/4/15
  125. The Malestrom by Carolyn Custis Davis – Finished 9/4/15
  126. The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket – Finished 9/5/15
  127. Rediscovering Jesus by Capes, Reeves, and Richards – Finished 9/7/15
  128. Wind Rider’s Oath by David Weber – Finished 9/9/15
  129. The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton – Finished 9/11/15
  130. Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz – Finished 9/13/15
  131. Bavinck on the Christian Life by John Bolt – Finished 9/14/15
  132. The Martian by Andy Weir – Finished 9/15/15
  133. The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket – Finished 9/16/15
  134. Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb – Finished 9/20/15
  135. The Love of God by John C. Peckham – Finished 9/22/15
  136. Saint Odd by Dean Koontz – Finished 9/26/15
  137. Owen on the Christian Life by Matthew Barrett and Michael Haykin – finished 10/2/15
  138. Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett – Finished 10/6/15
  139. Debating Darwin’s Doubt edited by David Klinghoffer – Finished 10/8/15
  140. Star Wars: Rebel Dawn by A.C. Crispin – Finished 10/9/15
  141. Aborting Aristotle by Dave Sterrett – Finished 10/9/15
  142. Who Was Adam? By Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross – Finished 10/12/15
  143. The Godfather by Mario Puzo – Finished 10/13/15
  144. Reformation Christianity edited by Peter Matheson – Finished 10/15/15
  145. War Maid’s Choice by David Weber – Finished 10/19/15
  146. Scripture and Cosmology by Kyle Greenwood – Finished 10/20/15
  147. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Finished 10/21/15
  148. Innocence by Dean Koontz – Finished 10/24/15
  149. Onward by Russell Moore – Finished 10/25/15
  150. Reformation Readings of Paul edited Allen and Linebaugh – Finished 10/26/15
  151. The God Abduction by Ron Londen – Finished 10/26/15
  152. Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber – Finished 11/1/15
  153. The Paradoxical Rationality of Soren Kierkegaard by McComb – Finished 11/1/15
  154. Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig – Finished 11/2/15
  155. Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper – Finished 11/4/15
  156. Ben Hur by Lew Wallace (audiobook) – Finished 11/4/15
  157. The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket – Finished 11/5/15
  158. Augustine on the Christian Life by Gerald Bray – Finished 11/6/15
  159. The End by Lemony Snicket – Finished 11/7/15
  160. The Analogy of Faith by Archie J. Spencer – Finished 11/8/15
  161. Eve by William Paul Young – Finished 11/9/15
  162. The Spirit of Hinduism by David Burnett – Finished 11/9/15
  163. Flame of Yahweh by Richard M. Davidson – Finished 11/11/15
  164. Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Finished 11/12/15
  165. The Once and Future King by T.H. White – Finished 11/13/15
  166. WH40K: Nightbringer by Graham McNeil – Finished 11/14/15
  167. American Exceptionalism and Civil Religion by John Wilsey – Finished 11/16/15
  168. A Beautiful Friendship by David Weber – Finished 11/17/15
  169. History, Law, and Christianity by John Warwick Montgomery – Finished 11/18/15
  170. The Battle of the Tanks by Lloyd Clark – Finished 11/18/15
  171. The Husband by Dean Koontz – Finished 11/19/15
  172. The Myth of Religious Neutrality by Roy Clouser – Finished 11/22/15
  173. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld- Finished 11/22/14
  174. The Olmecs: America’s First Civilization by Richard Diehl – Finished 11/23/15
  175. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – Finished 11/23/15
  176. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld – Finished 11/26/15
  177. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander – Finished 11/28/15
  178. Goliath by Scott Westerfeld – Finished 11/30/15
  179. Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – Finished 12/3/15
  180. The Incas by Terence D’Altroy – Finished 12/4/15
  181. Partners in Christ by John G. Stackhouse, Jr. – Finished 12/4/15
  182. The Aztecs by Richard F. Townsend – Finished 12/6/15
  183. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson – Finished 12/7/15
  184. The Great Christ Comet by Colin Nicholl – Finished 12/8/15
  185. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein – Finished 12/9/15
  186. Foxcraft: The Taken by Inbali Iserles – Finished 12/9/15
  187. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Finished 12/12/15
  188. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear – Finished 12/14/15
  189. Expository Apologetics by Voddie Baucham, Jr. – Finished 12/14/15
  190. Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide by Edward Feser – Finished 12/15/15
  191. Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans – Finished 12/17/15
  192. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke – Finished 12/19/15
  193. The Shape of the Past by John Warwick Montgomery – Finished 12/22/15
  194. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – Finished 12/22/15
  195. 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution by Keathley and Rooker – Finished 12/22/15
  196. How Much Does God Foreknow? by Steven C. Roy – Finished 12/23/15
  197. The Art of War by Sun Tzu – Finished 12/25/15
  198. The First World War by Martin Gilbert – Finished 12/27/15
  199. Knowledge and Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga – Finished 12/28/15
  200. Death Wave by Ben Bova – Finished 12/28/15

“Faithful Elephants”- How a children’s story taught me war is terrible

faithful-elephantsI vividly remember the day I first had read to me Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War by Yukio Tsuchiya. [There are SPOILERS for this short children’s book in this post.] I was around 5 years old. My family was looking at a garage sale and I saw the book, which looked interesting to me. We brought it home and my mom read it to me. I remember we were both crying by the end. I was inconsolable for a while. “Why did the elephants have to die?” I remember asking.

The story of Faithful Elephants is a story about three elephants at a zoo in Japan during World War II. It was the late part of the war and Japan was being bombed. The army was worried the zoo would be hit and animals would escape and harm people. Thus, they poisoned the tigers, bears, and other dangerous animals. The elephants were considered in this category because they might stomp down houses and the like. But the elephants were too smart to poison through food; they just set the poisoned food aside and ate the good food. They couldn’t find a syringe strong enough to penetrate the elephants’ skin to inject the poison, so the elephants were to be starved.

They continued to starve, but the zookeepers had to keep passing by, knowing their beloved elephants needed them. Eventually, one elephant handler gave in and gave the elephants food, but the war kept going on and although no one found out, they couldn’t get food to the elephants again. The elephants died one day, their trunks sticking out of their cage because they were doing the trick that would always get them treats and food. The elephant handler and others hugged and cried over the bodies and the handler shook his fists at the sky while bombs fell, crying out against war.

There remains a monument for the elephants at the zoo to this day, and the story is read over the radio annually. I’ll admit it, I’m positive I couldn’t read this book aloud without crying, and I can’t get through it on my own without crying either. It’s an extremely sad story.

But my memory of the day involves more than just wondering why the elephants couldn’t have been spared. I also remember it as the first time I genuinely thought war is terrible. You see, before, war had always been something kind of cool. War was the realm of John Wayne movies: glory, some humor, and the good guys always win. But the Japanese in World War II were supposed to be the “bad guys”; suddenly I felt empathy for them. I realized that war had horrific side effects which were often unpredictable. It involved the innocent; not just animals but also people. I remember crying the whole day, pretty much without end. I just kept thinking: if that happened to elephants, what about the children? It’s not that I assumed the children starved to death, but I had realized that if something as bad as starving elephants had to happen, there were also probably way worse things. War wasn’t always a John Wayne flick.

The book taught me that war is terrible. I think that it is a lesson worth learning. It is easy to get caught up in the on screen glory of the good triumphing over bad. It is not easy to confront the actual horrors of war. From a Christian perspective, it seems quite clear we should work against these horrors wherever they might be found. We should work to keep peace; we should help those in need; where war is found, we should work towards a peaceful resolution. I’m not saying Christians must be pacifists. What I am saying is that we need to defend the defenseless and work towards peace.

The book is recommended for grades 3-8. I think that is probably a good age category, but parents should be aware it will be an extremely emotional work. I’d recommend reading it before sharing with children.

Recently, I found the book again while going through the attic at my parents’ house. Reading it still made me cry.

Appendix: An Alternate Reality?

There is some dispute over the historicity of the story. A little searching turned up this critical investigation into the story. Interestingly, it appears to be true that the elephants were starved, but the author of this historical report argues that the elephants could have been shot or poisoned and the starvation was cruel. He thus sees the story of the starving of the elephants (and a few other animals) as “Until it is understood that the story of Ueno Zoo’s slaughtered animals illuminates less the nature of war, but rather some human beings’ moral failure, this will remain an instance of not coming to terms with the past.” However, Tsuchiya provided a reason for starvation to be the preferred method: the possibility that the war would end and the animals could be saved. It seems to me this is not implausible.

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

Yukio Tsuchiya, Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War illustrated by Ted Lewin, translated by Tomoko Tsuchiya Dykes (Trumpet, no date).

SDG.

——

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Support Biblical Gender Equality TODAY!

Used with permission.

Used with permission.

Today, November 12th, is “Give to the Max Day” for “GiveMN,” which means a number of organizations are eligible for matching grants to help support their growth and outreach. I want to bring your attention to one organization which is near and dear to my heart, Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE). CBE’s mission statement reads:

CBE exists to promote biblical justice and community by educating Christians that the Bible calls women and men to share authority equally in service and leadership in the home, church, and world.

Such a cause is of immense importance and value in our world. I have personal experience with CBE as a volunteer, writer, and supporter. I love this cause and have a heart for it. You can donate to help support this cause here.

Please consider donating today to help spread the good news that God is not a God of limiting through gender. Thank you.

My 2014 Reading- A list and some reflections

Hello, new year! Hello, readers! I thought I’d share you with my list of books read in 2014 and offer some comments on a few select works. The list will be at the end because it’s long!

Best “Counterpoints” Type book

These are books that offer different views on a specific topic. Some examples I read this year include 5 Views of Biblical InerrancyFour Views on the Historical Adam, and Four Views on the Book of Revelation. I really enjoy this type of book because it allows you to get your feet wet on a number of different topics without reading a whole treatise on each.

The best book in this category I read last year was Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views edited by Beilby and Eddy. I wrote a microview of the book here and can’t recommend it enough if you’re at all interested in the topic.

Best Fiction

I read a truly awesome assortment of fiction this year and so much of it was absolutely amazing. I particularly enjoyed the “Wheel of Time” books and everything by David Weber, my favorite author. Seriously, if you don’t read Weber, you should rectify that ASAP. However, the single best fiction book I read this year is glaringly obvious because I’m half convinced its the best piece of fiction I’ve ever read: Dune by Frank Herbert.

I think I definitely enjoyed other works as much or even more than I enjoyed Dune, but the unmistakable epic quality and the way the latter sticks with you makes it deserving of the praise put on its front cover: “Science Fiction’s Supreme Masterpiece.”

Best Overall Non-Fiction

There are plenty of contenders here, but I’d have to pick John Walton’s Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament. It was simply fascinating and provided tons of insight and background information for the Old Testament and how it relates to the ancient world. It was just amazing.

Fun Categories

Most Worth Staying Up All Night to Finish

I did it: I finished “The Wheel of Time,” all 14 books each about 800+ pages on average. Thus, as I drew near the end, the last book–A Memory of Light–did actually keep me up all night finishing it. When I did finish, I clutched it to my chest and just sat in bliss for a while.

Changed My View

I guess it depends how “changed my view” is taken, but John Owen’s trilogy on the Mortification of Sin really made me think about sin in my life and helped introduce new paradigms of thought into how to fight it. I reviewed and discussed Owen’s work here.

Most Uneven Book

The Poverty of Nations by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus was a very uneven book, in my opinion. The economics behind it seems solid to me–if based upon a perfect world–but the theological justification for various aspects of the economic theory was suspect. I reviewed the book here.

Favorite New Author Found

Brandon Sanderson. He finished up the Wheel of Time series and I had to read more of him. I then read the Mistborn Trilogy and was blown away. I’m so excited I discovered this author.

List of Books Read in 2014

  1. 5 Views of Biblical Inerrancy
  2. Robert Jordan, Fires of Heaven
  3. Stephen Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt –finished 1/30/14
  4. D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies – finished 1/5/14
  5. Edward Feser The Last Superstition –finished 2/8/14
  6. David Weber, Mission of Honor – finished 2/9/14
  7. Winfried Corduan, In the Beginning God – Finished 1/15/14
  8. Scott Murray, Law, Life, and the Living God– finished 1/5/14
  9. Luther and Erasmus on Free Will
  10. Divergent by Veronica Roth- Finished 2/11/14
  11. Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation – Finished 2/15/14
  12. Genesis Unbound by John Sailhamer – Finished 2/16/14
  13. On Divine Foreknowledge- by Luis de Molina/Alfred Freddoso finished 1/17/14
  14. What’s Your Worldview by James N. Anderson – finished 2/20/14
  15. Nature Red in Tooth and Claw by Michael J. Muray – Finished 2/23/14
  16. A Visual Defense – Velarde- Finished 2/19/14
  17. Faith Beyond Reason – C. Stephen Evans- Finished 1/1/14
  18. Imaginative Apologetics edited by Andrew Davison- finished 3/7/14
  19. Paradigms in Pilgrimage – by Stephen Godfrey and Christopher Smith- finished 3/9/14
  20. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- finished 3/11/14
  21. The Politics of Secularism in International Relations by Elizabeth Hurd – finished 3/11/14
  22. Farside by Ben Bova 3/13/14
  23. New Earth by Ben Bova 3/14/14
  24. The Capture by Kathryn Lasky finished 3/20/14
  25. Junia, A Woman, An Apostle by David Williams- Finished 3/13/14
  26. The Ethics of Abortion by Christopher Kaczor- Finished 3/22/14
  27. The Myth of Religious Violence by William Cavanaugh- Finished 3/23/14
  28. Hollywood Worldviews by Brian Goadawa – Finished 3/25/14
  29. The Open Secret: A New Vision for Natural Theology by Alister McGrath – Finished 3/28/14
  30. Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism ed. James Stamoolis- Finished 4/3/14
  31. The Bible, Rocks, and Time by Davis A. Young and Ralph F. Stearley- Finished 4/6/14
  32. Theology and Contemporary Critical Theory by Graham Ward – finished 4/9/14
  33. Samson the Nazirite – comic by Luis Serrano et al. – Finished 4/9/14
  34. How God Became Jesus –edited by Michael Bird – Finished 4/11/14
  35. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan – Finished 4/13/14
  36. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin – Finished 4/14/14
  37. 1984 by George Orwell – Finished 4/16/14
  38. Genealogy and History in the Biblical World by Robert Wilson – Finished 4/20/14
  39. The Lord’s Supper by John Stephenson – Finished 4/23/14
  40. A Rising Thunder by David Weber – Finished 4/24/14
  41. Leviathans of Jupiter by Ben Bova – Finished 4/28/14
  42. Four Views on The Historical Adam– edited Barrett and Caneday – Finished 4/29/14
  43. Genesis 1 Through the Ages – by Stanley Jaki – Finished 5/9/14
  44. 3 Views on Creation and Evolution – edited Moreland and Reynolds – Finished 5/12/14
  45. A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan – Finished 5/13/14
  46. The New Atheist Novel by Arthur Bradley and Andrew Tate – Finished 5/15/2014
  47. Man and Woman, One in Christ by Philip B. Payne – Finished 5/20/14
  48. Crown of Slaves by Eric Flint and David Weber – Finished 5/23/14
  49. Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth by Alister McGrath – Finished 5/26/2014
  50. Evermore: Edgar Allan Poe + Mystery of the Universe by Harry Lee Poe- Finished 5/28/14
  51. Chance and the Sovereignty of God by Vern Poythress – Finished 5/30/14
  52. Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan – Finished 6/3/14
  53. Junia: A Woman, an Apostle by David Williams – Finished 6/4/14
  54. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins- Finished 6/6/14
  55. To the Ends of the Earth by Haykin and Robinson– Finished 6/10/14
  56. Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan – Finished 6/12/14
  57. Mass Effect: Revelation by Drew Karpyshyn – Finished 6/13/14
  58. Scientific Mythologies by James Herrick – Finished 6/14/14
  59. Pascal’s Wager by Jeff Jordan – Finished 6/16/14
  60. The Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan – Finished 6/26/14
  61. All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka – Finished 6/29/14
  62. A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture by Keith Mathison – Finished 6/30/14
  63. The Poverty of Nations by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus – Finished 7/1/14
  64. Holy War in the Bible edited Thomas, Evans, and Copan – Finished 7/3/14
  65. Death Before the Fall by Ronald Osborn – Finished 7/6/14
  66. Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan – Finished 7/12/14
  67. The Evidential Force of Religious Experience by Caroline Franks Davis – Finished 7/14/14
  68. The Gathering Storm by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan – Finished 7/19/14
  69. Migrations of the Holy by William Cavanaugh – Finished 7/21/14
  70. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an by James White – Finished 7/22/14
  71. Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith ed. Hoffmeier and Magary – Finished 7/24/14
  72. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Finished 7/27/14
  73. The Towers of Midnight by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan – Finished 7/29/14
  74. Apologetics in the Roman Empire edited Edwards, Goodman, and Price – Finished 8/6/14
  75. A Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan – Finished 8/6/14
  76. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher – Finished 8/7/14
  77. The Story of Christianity Volume 1 by Justo Gonzalez – Finished 8/9/14
  78. Yukikaze by Chohei Kambayashi – Finished 8/11/14
  79. Liberating Black Theology by Anthony Bradley – Finished 8/12/14
  80. Ordained Women in the Early Church by Kevin Madigan + Carolyn Osiek–Finished 8/14/14
  81. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey – Finished 8/15/14
  82. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey – Finished 8/16/14
  83. The Genesis of Science by James Hannam – Finished 8/19/14
  84. Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey – Finished 8/21/14
  85. The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey – Finished 8/25/14
  86. In Search of Moral Knowledge by R. Scott Smith – Finished 8/25/14
  87. Questioning the Bible by Jonathan Morrow – Finished 8/26/14
  88. Star Wars: Crucible by Troy Denning – Finished 8/26/14
  89. The Philosophical Challenge of Religious Diversity edited Quinn/Meeker – Finished 8/30/14
  90. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien – Finished 8/31/14
  91. Dune by Frank Herbert – Finished 9/1/14
  92. Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert – Finished 9/3/14
  93. A Case for Amillennialism by Kim Riddlebarger – Finished 9/6/14
  94. Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller – Finished 9/7/14
  95. The Resurrection of God Incarnate by Richard Swinburne – Finished 9/7/14
  96. Matilda by Roald Dahl – Finished 9/8/14
  97. Star Trek: New Frontier- House of Cards by Peter David– Finished 9/9/14
  98. Star Trek: New Frontier- Into the Void by Peter David – Finished 9/10/14
  99. Star Trek: New Frontier- The Two-Front War by Peter David – Finished 9/11/14
  100. Star Trek: New Frontier- End Game by Peter David – Finished 9/12/14
  101. Torch of Freedom by David Weber and Eric Flint – Finished 9/19/14
  102. The Stories We Tell by Mike Cosper – Finished 9/20/14
  103. Dinotopia by James Gurney – Finished 9/20/14
  104. Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs – Finished 9/22/14
  105. The Creationists by Ronald Numbers – Finished 9/27/14
  106. Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament by John Walton – Finished 9/27/14
  107. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson – Finished 9/28/14
  108. Discovering Biblical Equality edited Pierce and Groothuis – Finished 9/28/14
  109. Christ Among the Dragons by James Emery White – Finished 9/28/14
  110. Ancient Conquest Accounts by K. Lawson Younger, Jr. – Finished 10/5/14
  111. Shadow of Saganami by David Weber – Finished 10/7/14
  112. Encountering Religious Pluralism by Harold Netland – Finished 10/11/14
  113. Children of Dune by Frank Herbert – Finished 10/12/14
  114. Mere Creation edited by William Dembski – Finished 10/14/14
  115. Foundations of Dialogue in Science and Religion by Alister McGrath–Finished 10/14/14
  116. Reformation Thought: An Introduction by Alister McGrath – Finished 10/18/14
  117. Experience of God and the Rationality of Theistic Belief by Jerome Gellman –10/19/14
  118. Dinotopia: The World Beneath by James Gurney – Finished 10/19/14
  119. The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson – Finished 10/20/14
  120. The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation by AlisterMcGrath Finished 10/21/14
  121. Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno – Finished 10/24/14
  122. Dragonsong by Anne McAffrey – Finished 10/25/14
  123. Companion to Reformation Theology edited David Whitford – Finished 10/28/14
  124. Martin Luther’s Understanding of God’s Two Kingdoms William Wright Finished 10/31/14
  125. Perspectives on an Evolving Creation edited Keith Miller – Finished 11/1/14
  126. Storm from the Shadows by David Weber – Finished 11/2/14
  127. Dragonsinger by Anne McAffrey – Finished 11/3/14
  128. Star Trek: New Frontier- Martyr by Peter David – Finished 11/6/14
  129. The Bible and Homosexual Behavior by Robert Gagnon – Finished 11/7/14
  130. The New Mormon Challenge eds. Beckwith, Owen, and Mosser – Finished 11/8/14
  131. 4 Views on the Book of Revelation eds. Pate and Gundry – Finished 11/11/14
  132. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson – Finished 11/11/14
  133. Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton – Finished 11/14/14
  134. Dragondrums by Anne McAffrey – Finished 11/15/14
  135. The Defense of the Faith by Cornelius Van Til – Finished 11/16/14
  136. Christian Apologetics by Cornelius Van Til- Finished 11/18/14
  137. Shadow of Freedom by David Weber – Finished 11/18/14
  138. Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara by James Gurney – Finished 11/18/14
  139. Naturalism Defeated? Edited by James Beilby – Finished 11/19/14
  140. Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views edited Beilby and Eddy – Finished 11/22/14
  141. Eisenhorn: Xenos by Dan Abnett – Finished 11/23/14
  142. Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen – Finished 11/24/14
  143. Of Temptation by John Owen – Finished 11/24/14
  144. Indwelling Sin by John Owen – Finished 11/24/14
  145. Eisenhorn: Malleus by Dan Abnett – Finished 11/28/14
  146. Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma by Kevin Diller – Finished 11/29/14
  147. Eisenhorn: Hereticus by Dan Abnett – Finished 11/30/14
  148. Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin eds. Madueme and Reeves – Finished 12/2/14
  149. God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert – Finished 12/4/14
  150. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views edited Beilby and Eddy – Finished 12/5/14
  151. Star Trek: New Frontier – Fire on High by Peter David – Finished 12/6/14
  152. Roman Catholic Theology and Practice by Gregg R. Allison – Finished 12/9/14
  153. Divine Providence: The Molinist Account by Thomas Flint – Finished 12/9/14
  154. 4 Views on Hell edited by Gundry and Crockett – Finished 12/9/14
  155. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien – Finished 12/11/14
  156. The Only Wise God by William Lane Craig – Finished 12/11/14
  157. From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz – Finished 12/12/14
  158. On the Cessation of the Charismata by Jon Mark Ruthven – Finished 12/12/14
  159. Peril in Paradise by Mark Whorton – Finished 12/13/14
  160. Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction by Edward Feser- Finished 12/15/14
  161. Firebird by Kathy Tyers – Finished 12/15/14
  162. Handel’s Messiah: Comfort for God’s People by Calvin Stapert – Finished 12/16/14
  163. Fusion Fire by Kathy Tyers – Finished 12/18/14
  164. Crown of Fire by Kathy Tyers – Finished 12/21/14
  165. The Fathers of the Church by Hubertus Drobner – Finished 12/22/14
  166. Mere Existentialism: A Primer by Max Mailikow – Finished 12/23/14
  167. Molinism: The Contemporary Debate edited Ken Perszyk – Finished 12/23/14
  168. Insurgent by Veronica Roth – Finished 12/25/14
  169. As You Wish by Cary Ewers and Joe Layden – Finished 12/27/14
  170. Matilda by Roald Dahl – Finished 12/28/14
  171. Searching for an Adequate God edited Pinnock and Cobb – Finished 12/31/14

Some Thankfulness

I will not be posting a “Really Recommended Posts” this week but instead listing a few things I’m thankful for.

First, I am very thankful for my family–and the addition of my firstborn, a son, Luke!

I am thankful for a God who does not abandon us.

I am thankful for all my friends.

I am thankful for those who work towards justice and speak peace.

I am thankful for those everyday things we forget to mention–like food, shelter, and clothes.

I am thankful for those who take time to read what I write, and who tell me there thoughts–whether they agree or disagree.

I am thankful for those writers on my blogroll and many others.

I could be thankful forever, may my thoughts always turn towards thanking God for the abundant blessings!

Thank you, O Lord!

Thomas Kinkade and Christianity- What do we learn from “The Painter of Light”?

thomas-kinkade-10

A favorite of Kinkade’s works.

Thomas Kinkade is a polarizing figure. His art is beloved and hated. Some see the art as picturesque and hearkening back to a simpler time. Others see his art as gaudy and outlandish with terrible lighting effect. Whatever your own view, it must be admitted that an artist with paintings in thousands upon thousands of homes is vastly more influential than most. Here, we will examine Thomas Kinkade’s art from a few different angles.

The image featured in this post, “Sunday Evening Sleigh Ride,” exhibits a number of features of Kinkade’s art. Light is featured prominently. It is used in a kind of spiritual fashion–its warmth beckons from the church to the cold, snow-covered land around it. The viewer’s attention is not upon the sleigh itself, because the light is centered upon the place of worship: the church. Note also the fish symbol displayed above Kinkade’s signature. The image is one of familiarity–particularly for those who are most assuredly Kinkade’s audience: broadly mainstream protestants.

There is something to be had in the image for different parts of the country. The mountains could place it in the winter of Colorado, but the feel of chill found in the image reminds me, at least, of the Midwest. The Northeast may reflect upon their love for sleigh rides. The uniting theme, of course, is found in the call to the church as found in the image.

Others who are better equipped for critique of art have noticed these themes in Kinkade’s work as well. I have been reading through Thomas Kinkade: The Artist in the Mall. The book analyzes Kinkade’s work from a number of angles. Some of the contributors enjoyed his work–or at least appreciated it as art. Others dismissed it as clearly obscene or hideous. One undercurrent in many of the essays was the notion of Kinkade’s professed religious values and how those may come out in his art.

One of the essays actually seemed to accuse Kinkade of specifically exploiting foolish middle-class Protestants through the use of pseudo-religion to cause them to open their wallets and spend money on his works. Another explored the way in which Kinkade consciously displayed light and other features in his artwork to convey a message he clearly conceived of as evangelical, while also appealing to a kind of picturesque, idealistic view of Christian culture (45ff, cited below). The artist viewed nature as imbued with God’s beauty revealed, and felt he should paint it as such (46).  In my opinion, the least flattering image portrayed of Kinkade was the essay entitled “The Painter of the Right.” In this essay, Micki McElya basically paints Kinkade’s project as one of glorifying a kind of civil religion of American Christianity (see especially p.73, 76 cited below).

There is clearly a broad spectrum of views as to the project Kinkade pursued through his life. The fact that he plastered his art over coffee mugs, blankets, ornaments, and anything else an image could be placed upon might strike the more cynical as truly an exploitation of the foolish religious masses with money to spend. However, one must wonder whether the sincerity of one’s professed religious beliefs must be reevaluated in light of consumer success. Of course, one might also suggest that Kinkade’s public failings regarding his marriage and alcohol may be grounds for doubting his religious affectation. But again, this would be to act in a fairly Pharisaic manner–to condemn another saint who remains yet a sinner while one is the same. Regardless, it seems there is much to perhaps learn about and from Kinkade, as ridiculous as that may sound to some.

Returning to the art itself, there is little doubt that Kinkade masterfully pursued his project of attempting to subtly evangelize through his art. The image I selected is more obvious than most, but the themes of light and other religious imagery may be found throughout his body of work. Perhaps one may see these as the marks of a man’s dedication to trying to use his skills most fully in the best way he knew how to adhere to his faith. Perhaps not. I tend to favor the former rather than the latter.

Although I realize some of the criticisms of his art may be on-point, I cannot help but be drawn in by his art. I don’t enjoy all of it, but “Sunday Evening Sleigh Ride” is one I particularly do enjoy. I realize it is constructed in such a way as to tug at my heart–I am most certainly part of Kinkade’s target audience–but that does not, in itself, belittle the art’s value. Nor does Kinkade’s own life, which stirred some controversy towards the end, destroy the possibility for his true belief. I’m keen to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I think that Kinkade’s did little to mar his own image as the “Painter of Light.” It is possible to be a sinner-saint, as are all the redeemed in this life. Kinkade’s art may not be your cup of tea, but it should be of interest to see how someone may integrate their faith into their life.

Links

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Source

Alexis L. Boylan, Editor, Thomas Kinkade: The Artist in the Mall (Duke University Press, 2011).

The image is copyright Thomas Kinkade and I do not claim any credit for it. I am using it under fair use as a critical examination of the artwork. Be sure to check out Thomas Kinkade’s website if you would like to browse his art and purchase it in various forms.

SDG.

——

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.

Visiting Churches: Non-Denominational? Or not?

Copyright Thomas Kinkade; this image just made me think of going to church this past Sunday--cold and snowy.

Copyright Thomas Kinkade; this image just made me think of going to church this past Sunday–cold and snowy.

Over the course of this year, my wife and I, along with some friends, have been visiting a number of different churches in our area (there are many). The reasons for this are manifold, but primarily because we want to use it as a learning experience to see how other church families function, what works, what doesn’t, etc. I have lots of pastor friends/studying to be pastor friends so this is the kind of thing we do for fun! I’ve decided to offer up little reviews of the experience. I’ll not be naming the churches unless it would be made obvious by a comment (we’re planning, for example, to visit the St. Paul Cathedral).

On November 16th, my wife and I ventured out on our own for the experience and visited a local non-denominal (maybe–more on that bit later) congregation that I’d been interested in for some time. Their site also hosts a Japanese service and I thought it would be interesting to see what the church was all about. The web site made it seem possibly Reformed/Calvinist as it used the word “sovereign” for God a lot. I love that word for God (as a Lutheran), but I know that Reformed/Calvinist traditions tend to focus on it as a primary descriptor for God (not saying this is bad, just an observation).

Welcome

Anyway, the members were extremely welcoming. More than any other church I think I’ve been to for the first time. We were greeted at the door, as we hung our coats a member came to introduce herself and ask about our family and whether it was our first time there and to tell us about the church, another family introduced themselves and seemed quite genuinely pleased to have us there, and throughout the time after the service many others came to say hello and greet us. That was a major positive takeaway: we are not greeting well enough! I think it is vitally important to have the assembly be a place in which newcomers are immediately made welcome into Christ’s body.

Worship Format

The service consisted of several songs at the beginning interlaced with very brief prayers. The music was contemporary and lyrically fairly robust. Then there was an offering following a video on the current giving program and the children were dismissed for “Children’s Church” and the sermon/message began. This message was about 1/2 hour long and was on Ephesians 1:1-6. It was followed by two songs and a dismissal.

Commentary

The offering song seemed a bit manipulative, to be honest, as the lyrics–written from the perspective of Christ–were basically “I came down from heaven; what did you do for me?/I bled and died for you; what have you done for me?” etc. Ouch!

The sermon shattered my notion that the church might be Reformed/Calvinist as it was about how Ephesians 1:1-6 teaches that God doesn’t choose those who are condemned but that we choose to be chosen. A quote from D.L. Moody was proffered: “The elect are the whosoever wills; the non-elect, the whosoever won’t.” Yep, not Calvinist. I appreciated, however, the clear attempt to adhere to Scriptural teaching and to make it the norm for faith and life, despite my disagreeing with the interpretation happening (largely decision/choice theology).

They had “Children’s Church” in which all the children under 12 or so years old went to a different room to have some kind of Sunday School (I only observed in passing on way to nursery with Luke, my son). What are thoughts on children leaving for something like this? I admit I’m not a huge fan because it felt like we’re saying children aren’t a part of the body of Christ until a certain age or that if they’re noisy or something they’re distracting. I think that having children as part of the Divine Service is a blessing for both us and them. But I don’t want to over this without other voices. Do you have experience or thoughts related to a practice like this? I’d love to read them.

Overall it was an interesting experience. I haven’t really experienced much non-liturgical styled worship and this made it feel as if I had missed something. The welcoming was wonderful and really set the pace for the rest of the experience.

Also, the church never clearly made it seem like they were part of a denomination, but apparently they are part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, a denomination founded in 1887 (according to Wiki). I know effectively nothing about this denomination, but there it is.

Have you visited churches recently? What was your experience? Do you have thoughts on “Children’s Church”? What are they?

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!

——

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.

On Acquiring Books- How to get scholarly books to read

question-week2A recent comment on my blog about how to get one’s hands on a pricey philosophy of religion book without having to fork over the near-100$ price tag got me thinking. I figured I would write this post to give some pointers for how to acquire books (not necessarily own, but get them in-hand) to further one’s study. I will be sharing specific insights for Christian scholarship, but overall this should be useful for anyone looking to read scholarly (or any!) books.

I will explore a number of ways, some of which may be familiar to you, to get these books in order to consume more awesome reading. Be aware: some of these which may seem obvious at first (library) will, I hope, have more insight beyond the obvious.

Please leave comments if you think of something that I’m missing here. As I live in the U.S., this list will have some things which may only be relevant for that. International readers, feel free to share some of your own insights in the comments.

Library

We’ll start with the obvious: use your local library. You’d be surprised what they might have access to. Inter-Library Loan is a great way to get books not immediately available. Often, your local library will have partnerships with university libraries across the nation and they’ll be able to get you that book to read. If you aren’t taking advantage of this, do so. Best of all this will be free! Well, apart from the taxes you pay. So you may as well use the library because you pay for it anyway!

Another thing to look out for is any local seminary libraries. Often, they’ll let you come in and at least sit down and read, and you may even be allowed a guest pass to check books out. It’s worth exploring and the seminary will have a robust collection of philosophy of religion and theology books. I very much recommend this route if at all possible.

E-Books

Look, I know your thoughts because they were mine: “I like the smell of books”; “I like to hold the book in my hand and page through it”; “I don’t want some newfangled device!”

I hear you.

But now, be silent, because I’m going to explain why you should go for e-books and probably spring some cash for an e-reader (or at least get a Kindle app on your smart phone or something!).

1) Shelf space- a constant struggle for we book-a-holics is shelf space. E-books provide a library at your fingertips without needing anything more than a single device.

2) Old books are freely available- Literally hundreds of thousands of books are now public domain, and many are available online for free through places like Open Library. You can access things like historical apologetics books by the “armful” and they’re all free. Beat that.

3) New books are often free- Many publishers cycle through books being free for a day on Amazon. It’s worth your time to check there frequently to see if a book you may want is free. Go off of your wish list and check on Kindle to see if a book might be free, and be aware that these do change fairly frequently. It may be worth signing up for some Facebook groups or e-mail lists about free books so that you don’t miss as many (and find some you didn’t even know about).

4) Major savings on books- Have you been eyeing that 200$ treatise on a topic of interest? Oh look, it’s 50$ on Kindle. Why not save the shelf space and 150$ and just get the Kindle version? This example is extreme, but you can usually save at least a few bucks by getting the e-book version.

5) Reading e-books isn’t as bad as it sounds- Again, I hear you, I resisted for a while. Now that I have my Kindle, though, we’re inseparable. I do miss the smell of books, but the screen looks like the page of a book, and I can highlight and even take notes and bookmark pages. Moreover, it’s lightweight and small so it is easy to carry. Also, imagine that vacation: instead of trying to lug a backpack full of 25 books, you could bring your e-reader and have access to an entire library (I have well over 200 books on mine).

Buy Books

Another obvious instruction, but there is an art to this. That is, pretty much everyone has a limited budget for buying books (if any–I know how that goes!), along with limited shelf space. So it’s not as simple as just saying: “Yeah, go spend that 150$ on that latest book from Brill” (very pricey publisher). Here are some things I’ve done to both discipline myself and acquire books in a more meaningful fashion.

1) Set a clear budget- obviously, without this you either have no way to buy books, or you will buy too many and not eat. Whether it’s 1$ a week and you save up for 50 weeks before you buy that one book or it’s 50$ a week and you’re drowning in books, set a budget.

2) Be aware of space requirements- once more this seems obvious, but try to keep in mind the space books take. If you have limited shelf space (and we probably all do), keep in mind that a 500 pager is going to take up a lot more space than a 150 page book. For that 500 page monstrosity, it might be better to look at E-Books above.

3) Make AND MAINTAIN a wish list- We all have wish lists, but have you thought of this as a way to limit or direct your buying? While browsing through Amazon and throwing things on your wish list, why not also try to think along the lines of expense and need? A good rule is this: leave a book on your wish list for at least 2 weeks before buying. If those two weeks are up and you still really want the book and have budged for it, then it’s more likely it wouldn’t just be an impulse purchase. Another thing to keep in mind is to prioritize your buying: some books we have an idle interest in reading; others are necessary for our research. The one’s in the latter category should almost always trump the former.

Look Into Review Programs

Many publishers are willing to give you free books in exchange for reviews. For example, Crossway has a blog program in which they make available some e-books to bloggers and you can review 2 a month or up to 12 a year. That’s 12 books you both don’t have to buy and also which don’t take up shelf space. Other publishers are often willing to send you books if you contact them. If there’s a new book out that you want to read, try contacting the publisher and offering to review it on your blog if they send you a copy. It’s a mutually beneficial system.

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!

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.

Raise Up a Child: My father-to-be Father’s Day Reflection

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:3, NIV)

I am going to be a father in September, provided baby isn’t born a week earlier in August. The anticipation of this joyous day has been building for some time as we await our firstborn child. We aren’t finding out if the child is a boy or girl, which increases the anticipation as we look forward to seeing our son or daughter’s face! I have been able to feel baby kicking several times now, and the wonder of the child growing is incredible.

As an avid reader, of course, I have turned to some books to say what it is like to be a father, but more importantly, I have looked to the Scriptures to see what it has to say about raising children. The verse above is one which I hope to emulate in my own life as a father. Of course, the natural question to follow, then, is “What is the way they should go?” There are a number of answers throughout the Bible provided for this, but at their core is this: follow God, bring forth justice. I hope I am able to instill a desire for these things in my child(ren).

There are so many voices providing insight into raising children. Do this, don’t do that, don’t worry about it, ignore all advice [except this!], etc…. The dissonant voices are helpful, but they bring with them much concern: there is so much to know, and I know that I will blunder at times. At those times, I will seek forgiveness, hoping that they will become moments where my child will see the way he or she should go.

We’ve also been looking at names, going through name books to see which we like the sound of, what kind of references they may make, how they may shape the person we will be caring for for many years. It’s an exciting adventure, but I also realize it is only one of many moments of excitement to which I look forward.

But then, I think of something else: a child is not born into a single family. The child is born into a community. They will be born again through baptism into a community of believers. So you, fellow believers, I ask for your prayers. Help me to raise up a child. Pray, praise, and give thanks with me!

Raise up a child…

What does it mean now? In this day and age, how do we “start [our] children” on the right path? We will seek to teach them God’s word, to teach them the ways to walk in. But we also have other concerns: we don’t want to limit them to one way of thinking, or one way of being. How do we allow the freedom for these things, while correcting where needed?

So as Father’s Day approaches, I look forward to my firstborn child. My wife and I are considering questions like these, and many more. But there’s one thing I do know: God will guide us.

What can you do to learn more? Some Tips for Scholarship

Bibbia_con_rosaA new year has come and it is time to get motivated to make some good habits. I have often run into people who ask me how I read so much or how to explore these topics more deeply.  Let me be clear: I don’t think I’m really anything special. There are plenty of others out there who are doing more things better than I. But, hey, I have an MA degree in Apologetics. I can consider myself qualified to give tips for scholarship, right? I’ve credited them to others if I picked them up from others (and noted that I forgot where I forgot).

Reading

Set a realistic reading goal for yourself, but make it realistic and shoot for the lowest end of what you think is possible. My philosophy professor from my undergraduate studies and good friend, Stephen Parrish, told me about his goal: 2 pages a night from several different books before bed. Does that sound doable to you? I should hope so. Think about it this way (I’m not trying to be crude here): do you spend any time in the restroom? Are you just sitting there? I bet you could read two pages instead of twiddling your thumbs.

The best part about setting a realistic reading goal at the low end of what you think is possible is that you will often do way more than your goal. If you say “I have time to read two pages right now” to yourself, you’ll often get away with 5 pages or even a chapter. Find those 5-10 minute portions in the day (at breakfast over a bowl of cereal is another possibility) and fill them with reading.

Also, be aware of your own enjoyment and interests related to what you’re reading. Don’t just continue reading a book because you started it. If you’re halfway through and feeling as though it’s a huge bore for you and you’re not getting anything out of it–then stop reading the book. Be sure to engage in the highly valuable process of skimming–simply reading one or two sentences per paragraph/page to get to the main points. In particular, this is helpful for those books you really want to get through but are having the problem of boredom. Don’t feel obligated to read everything from every book. If it’s not valuable to you, then stop. I admit I’m a huge offender for this: I do often force myself through books I’m not enjoying. Remind me to stop! You and I don’t have time for that!

Note-Taking for Reading

Let me emphasize the extreme value and importance of taking notes on your reading. Yes, it will slow you down. However, these notes will become invaluable going forward. Tim McGrew was one who really stressed to me the importance of reading notes. He suggested keeping a running file which had all your notes in it on your computer. That way, it is searchable and you can easily find where that quote was you were interested in as you’re doing your own writing. I would suggest keeping a separate file for each book you read, and then one running document with all the book notes together (just copy and paste each book’s entire notes into this document when you finish).

The way I take notes is simply by typing the page number and my very brief summary of what was written. I really need to emphasize this: these notes are absolutely invaluable. Although it will take you longer to read books, if you take notes you will remember the books a lot better and you also will have all your own thoughts on what was most important from the book at your fingertips. Do this. If anyone is interested, leave a comment and I’ll copy and paste a selection sample of my own notes into the comments below.

Listening

Listen to things related to your area of interest. There are almost certainly podcasts on the topics in which you are interested. Look them up. Listen to them while you’re washing dishes, brushing your teeth, or doing the laundry. You’ll be surprised by how interesting these can be, and you’ll also learn and retain quite a bit. Plus, you can listen to them multiple times to get the core ideas down.

Don’t limit your listening to podcasts. Audiobooks are a great way to supplement your reading if you’re afraid you really don’t have a lot of time. Text-to-voice is a great feature on Kindle (and probably other e-readers, though I am not familiar with them) that will read you books out loud in an electronic voice. It’s not the most exciting way to listen to books, but it will help you dive in and you’ll learn a bunch. Another avenue to explore is listening to debates. Look up debates on topics your interested in, or find your favorite scholar and see if they have done any debates. It’s a great way to learn how to engage. Finally, look for lectures available for free. Very often, you’ll be able to find lectures on topics your interested in just by using Google to search for them. Again, this will supplement the materials you’re reading and expand your knowledge of the areas in which you are interested.

I can’t emphasize how important I have found the practice of listening to lectures/debates/audiobooks/podcasts. I listen to them while I’m brushing my teeth, working out, doing dishes/laundry, etc. The amount of material you can consume in those times you might normally not be listening to anything is astounding. Use that time!

Engagement

If you’re going to engage in apologetics (or, really, any other field), you should try to get a feel for the trends and interest of those who are working in the same area. Try reading a blog article or two each week related to your interests. Don’t make this take away from your reading goal for books above. Think about it this way: do you spend a lot of time reading pointless junk from Facebook? (I’ll confess right now: I really do.) Why not use that time to read a couple blog posts you’re interested instead.

While we’re on the topic of blogs, don’t forget to comment on others’ blogs. Not only will this draw them to reciprocate, but it will also help you practice writing in a way which engages you with the topics in which you’re interested.

Try writing a blog yourself. It will bring along people who agree and disagree and give you a feel for how to handle such discussions.

Utilize Facebook and other social media to engage with scholars in the field. Find groups which discuss your areas of interest and join them. You’ll be surprised by how much you can learn if you just look for a little bit.

Avoid Wasting Time

Look, I already admitted I’m a big offender from wasting time on Facebook, but let’s just promise each other we’re going to try to stop that. I’m not saying you need to ignore friends and family. But if you do what I do, you spend a lot of time just scrolling through your feed looking at things that really don’t interest you because it’s mindless and vaguely entertaining. Sound familiar? Why not use that time to read a blog post, listen to a lecture, or send a message to someone else whose opinion you value about a topic you’re interested in? I bet you and I can get a lot more done if we do that.

Whatever your time-waster is, try to cut down on it. There is nothing wrong with taking a break. Let me be clear on that. I find my best way to take a break is to play some video games or read some science fiction and just zone out for a bit. Don’t give up on the things you love for the sake of scholarship. But if you find you’re really just wasting time for the sake of wasting time; cut it out! You have better things to do, and so do I!

Do What You Enjoy!

Be sure to remember you don’t need to have your nose to the grindstone 100% of the time. Make time for the things you enjoy, whether that is reading science fiction novels or watching your favorite TV show. Keep some “you time” for enjoying things outside of scholarship so that you don’t burn yourself out.

Stay Focused on the Goal

What are you working towards? Keep that in mind as you structure your reading, listening, and other studying. It’s fine to read outside that area, but you should always try to remain focused primarily upon your goal.

It is also incredibly important not to become entirely engrossed in studying. As Christians, we need to keep our “eye on the prize” and pursue our worship of and relationship with our Lord and Savior. Make time to read Scripture. Have it be a daily routine: a time to worship through commitment to Christ.

How about you?

What are some of your tips? Do you do any of the things mentioned above? Drop a comment and let me know what you do to increase your knowledge.

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!

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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