Saturday, August 31, 2013

August Top 5 Statistics

The Month of August

It was a fine month with several raging discussions and expressions of several viewpoints. I strive to create an atmosphere where anyone can express their thoughts and know they are being heard. I also expect a high level of intellection, so if you're going to comment, make sure you're ready to back up your arguments!

August also saw a break in my academic schedule, which means a lot of pleasure reading, which means a lot of Christian Book reviews! I was given a few books to read and review by Thomas Nelson Publishers. They asked me to post my reviews at the end of the month, so that's what I did!

Go ahead and check out what was popular this month!

August Posts

Feb 13, 2013
Aug 8, 2013, 23 comments

All-Time Posts

Friday, August 30, 2013

Death By Living: Book Review

From my Library Thing collection

The Book

Death By Living: Life is meant to be spent
N. D. Wilson

I received this book as part of a blog tour promotional for N. D. Wilson's latest book, Death By Living. I was expecting DBL in the package, I was pleasantly surprised by Tilt-A-Whirl (TAW). But if you read my blog regularly, you know this already.

Last week my family went on a week-long cruise that was complete with two (2) days at sea. I took the opportunity to supplement my nightly chapters with several helpings of TAW and DBL while lounging on deck and consuming mountains of food. Hey, it was heavenly!

Technical Merit

I dealt with the problem of N. D. Wilson and the Stream of Consciousness Writing Style in my review of TAW (published a couple of days ago). I stand by my remarks that this intentional maelstrom of description is deliberate and beautiful. He did not just barf up vocabulary words on a page, he sculpted a beautiful piece of literature.

I also give this piece 4 out of 5 stars of technical merit. I did notice that Wilson was able to sculpt this more closely around a topic: live like you know you will die, because that is certain. It is a sort of Christian carpe diem. Seize the day. Redeem the time for the days are evil. I suppose that is what was meant by the subtitle: Life is meant to be spent.

The Review

By the end of the book, I realized that this was more than just a Christian self-help book, it was a memoir. A family memoir. It reads as a tribute to all four of N. D. Wilson's grandparents, who serve as the muses which get Wilson to think of the brevity of life and what types of things should occupy his own remaining moments.

As Wilson strives to grasp what things should occupy his time, he remembers the small things. In fact, he looks to God as an example of remembering to take interest in the small things:
Your world is tiny, yes. But God gets tinier...You have the Creator God's full attention, as much attention as He ever gave Napoleon Or Churchill. Or even Moses. Or billions of others who lived and died unknown. (Pgs. 5, 7)
God takes a special interest in your life. Yours! What you do with the time He has given you is extremely important to Him. As Wilson states, the concept of life as a story is not new, but it is ever true. God has begun a good work in you, and He intends to see it through. In another portion, Wilson insists that:
We cannot see every moment of our own stories, let alone any other mortal story. None of us even have first-hand knowledge of our own early years of existence—what we thing we know is all taken on faith.

But God has been there every second. He has crafted every step and gesture and breath of every mortal you have ever passed, of ever driver on every road that has ever flicked by you at night, of every kicking child in every mall. And He will be there when we end...We are mortals, we should know our role. (Pg. 163, 164)
Life does not last forever. Life is fleeting. Not only that, but the moments we have to create life are even more fleeting. We only shape the present, the past is locked away and the future will never arrive. We only work with the instant reactions we call the present:
We are the present. We are now. We are the razor's edge of history. The future flies at us and from that dark blur we shape the past. (Pg. 164)
N. D. Wilson proves that Solomon was right when he said that it is good to be in the house of mourning. Through the lives of influential people in his life, he found inspiration to write DBL. Through the loss of these men and women of faith, he was urged to reflect on the meaning of life and write this excellent book.

Again, like TAW, I recommend this book with caution. If you are not easily offended by some irreverent humor or afraid to look at the world as it is, then I heartily recommend this book. If you are, I would suggest reading something a bit milder.

Side Note

I have mentioned that I received this book free of charge. I was asked to write this review and post it on August 30. As you can see, I have done so. However, I would have done it anyways because I like to review the books I read. I'm not being payed for these services though I would love to be. Call this a disclaimer if you will, but that is the truth.

Have you read this book? What did you think about it?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Book Review

Image from my Library Thing Collection

The Book

Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-eyed wonder in God's spoken world
N. D. Wilson

I received this book as part of a blog tour promotional for N. D. Wilson's latest book, Death By Living. I was expecting DBL in the package, I was pleasantly surprised by Tilt-A-Whirl (henceforth referred to as TAW). But if you read my blog regularly, you know this already.

Last week my family went on a week-long cruise that was complete with two (2) days at sea. I took the opportunity to supplement my nightly chapters with several helpings of TAW and DBL while lounging on deck and consuming mountains of food. Hey, it was heavenly!

Technical Merit

I know N. D. Wilson refutes the idea that he writes with a stream of consciousness style. I don't know if that's because people use it in a derogatory manner—I certainly do not use it that way. When I refer to stream of consciousness as a style I truly mean that, it is a style, it is intentional. It is supposed to make you think twice (2x) about what you just read, just to make sure you made the connections the way the author has. I find it beautiful and powerful and, as a result, effective. I do not mean to say that N. D. Wilson writes haphazardly or recklessly, I have always maintained that this is a beautiful style.

That being said, I give the book 4 out of 5 stars for technical merit. It was very beautifully written and flowed nicely. While the book was loosely based on the marvel of God's creation, it felt more like a collection of essays than a full work that dealt with one topic. This is not a negative critique, it is an observation of the organization and layout of the book. N. D. Wilson poetically describes the strangeness of the universe we find ourselves in and creates a strong case for design based on these observations.

The Review

N. D. Wilson in TAW challenges us to continue listening to the Word which set the galaxies into motion. He argues that the Word that spoke continues to speak. Yes, He created the worlds with the power of his Word, but he continues to intervene in his creation. Wilson casts Creator God as a master storyteller who has shaped everyone's life-story and wants to make it incredible. He says:
Step outside your fron door and look at today's stage. Speak. God will reply. He will speak to you. He gave you senses. Use them... He will give you a scene, a setting for the day... But do not expect Him to speak in English. And do not expect Him to stay on whatever topic you might choose. His attention is everywhere and no story should be easy, as every reader knows. (Pg. 31)
When we're honest, we acknowledge that we ask God to dwell on the things that are important to us in the immediacy of life. God tends to look at the big picture and deliver to us what we need. That is part of the Tilt-A-Whirl concept that Wilson uses as his model. We think things should be one way, God knows how things are and will give us real life. The world is wild and God's plans are bigger than our own. Wilson puts it this way:
The world is rated R and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. (Pg. 157)
This is the age-old concept of in the world, but not of it. We should be aware of the way the world works. Doubtless, Wilson had C. S. Lewis' Aslan in mind when writing these pages. Aslan, the lion who is good but not safe. Aslan, a picture of the God who created this Tilt-A-Whirl, whacky universe (N. D. Wilson gets into specifics on just how crazy this universe was designed) is also insanely interested in directing your life's story.

I certainly would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys having their brains stretched a bit. I also recommend it to people who like their prose with a side of poetry, as N. D. Wilson certainly provides that with pleasure. If neither of these appeal to you (not to mention the stream of consciousness style), look elsewhere.

Side Note

I have mentioned that I received this book free of charge. I was not asked to write this review but I did it anyways because I like to review books. I'm not being payed for these services though I would love to be. Call this a disclaimer if you will, but that is the truth.

Have you read this book? What did you think about it?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Passionate Preaching by Corey

Pouring out your soul

I come from a subdued, quiet assembly where the speaker generally takes a simple, didactic approach to scripture. My friend, Corey B. comes from a different tradition. I have visited his church in the past and coordinated with him on a few sermons. Posted below is some video of him preaching at a Youth Revival last Thursday night. Notice how he was not just telling us what is in the Word or what the Word meant to his personal life, he was showing us how the Word of God has affected his life.

Perhaps a little passion is needed in the church. Corey wasn't just teaching people, he was demonstrating God's work in his life. As a result, he lead his congregation into worship. Look and listen to the reaction of the congregation. The atmosphere was electric. Clearly, we do not have enough of the message to critique it—but given what I know about Corey and his Church, I am certain it is biblically sound and appropriate for the ages and topics at hand (youth revival).


Do you think there's room for more passion in preaching?

Monday, August 19, 2013

To Focus on Theology is to be Anti-Intellectual?

How to fix our problems

What does it mean when we say that God is sovereign? It means that God is ultimately in control. Nothing happens without His permission. While it is true that God is sovereign, it is also true that God allows us to exercise our free will. God actually respects the free will of mankind. Some people think that mankind will solve all its problems. They are foolish enough to believe that a politician can fix things . . . or technology . . . or psychology . . . or a focus on ecology. But it isn't politics or psychology or technology or ecology that will fix it. It is only theology, the study of God. We need to turn to God.
Received by text message
Ron Paul @ Gold Garage
Ron Paul @ Gold Garage (Photo credit: CMJimenez)

Our Faculties

While I agree with the premise of this devotional—that the ultimate solution for man's problems is to focus on God—I am concerned with the type of mentality that this profession MAY ultimately lead to. Namely, it leads to a type of anti-intellectualism that scorns the scholar while praising the puerile. That is nonsense.

Biblically, it is true that some (4, or a third) of the twelve disciples (soon to become apostles) were unlearned fishermen. But not all. Some were engaged in other occupations that required some level of intelligence, like tax collecting. There are other disciples who were not humble fishermen, but we are not told what they did. Here is the breakdown:

  • Peter, Andrew, James & John: Fishermen, though John was an author (Matthew 4:18-22)
  • Philip & Nathaniel: Well informed of the Law and Prophets (John 1:43-51)
  • Matthew: Tax Collector / Author (Matthew 9:9-13)
  • Thomas, James the Less, Simon the Zealot, Thaddaeus, Judas Iscariot: No information regarding occupation (Matthew 10:2-4)

 We know Paul, when he was Saul of Tarsus, was a high-browed intellectual. Luke, author of a gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, was a historian and is widely considered an early modern historian. While on the subject of early, foundational believers one would be remiss to exclude Nicodemus, Jairus and Joseph of Arimathea—all extremely well educated men.

English: Acts of the Apostles 28:30-31
English: Acts of the Apostles 28:30-31 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Further, we know that our faculties are gifts from God. He created us to be creative (in His own image), therefore, the ability to reason and philosophize about life is one of God's methods of directing mankind. This is also known as General Revelation and is discussed in Romans 1 (written by Paul, fancy that!). This is the kind of revelation that a friend of mine had in mind when he wrote this statement to me in an email:
Truth is truth. Secular science, while limited, is nonetheless a source of truth. Only by turning faith into science (e.g., "Creation Science") and/or science into faith (e.g., "scientific materialism") do we get into trouble. With all due respect to Tertullian, Athens has much to teach Jerusalem, as Jerusalem has much to teach Athens. Faith and reason, reason and faith. These are complementary not contradictory. St. Paul was as much an apologist as an evangelist. He knew you couldn't really evangelize if people think your beliefs are absurd. So, he rightfully appealed to pagan sources to make his case for him (e.g., Acts 17:28). Thus, anyone who proof-texts Col. 2: 8 as an anti-philosophical argument is playing fast and lose with Paul. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has some excellent writings faith and reason in the life of the Christian. Evangelical historian Mark Noll and evangelical philosopher Ben Witherington have also examined this issue. N. T. Wright is a champion of Christians really knowing what they believe and why.

Notice that secular truth is still truth. Why? Because so long as secular truth seeks to observe and analyze creation, it is objectively meditating on God's creation. Notice that it is limited. Why? Because creation without the creator is less valuable. Consider an anonymous painting. It could be beautiful and quite valuable on it's own. Now slap Picasso's John Hancock on there and watch the price tag soar. That is the proper perspective to have with regard to education and devotion. They are two halves of the same coin, completing one another.

Our discussion has focused on Theology as the completion of other types of learning. However, I do not mean to insinuate that Theology is somehow a higher discipline that should exist to the exclusion of others. On the contrary, I argue that Theology (the study of God) is the flip side to all disciplines that study how things work in this world. Theology tells us that God is highly invested in this world and moves through it (though is separate from it), therefore, we can say that the study of this natural earth completes the Theological paradigm.


I know the person who sent me this text quite well. I believe he would agree with my reasoning here. Note that I am not saying that anything in this text message is wrong per se, what I am saying is that this kind of statement may imply an anti-intellectual paradigm that is dangerous to Christendom and betrays the entire history of Christianity.

I would qualify the statement with something like, "our politics needs to be sound and informed by sound Theology, our philosophy needs to be sound and informed by sound Theology, our ecology needs to be sound and informed by sound Theology. Then we would have good Politicians, Philosophers and Ecologists who are Christians and know how to be true to both at the same time." But, of course, that probably doesn't send well via text message which is also why a long-winded, boring blog post is a better medium for these kinds of thoughts.
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Friday, August 16, 2013

Blog Tour For N. D. Wilson

Blog Tour

I have been invited to receive a free copy of N. D. Wilson's book: Death By Living and to participate in the Blog Tour for the piece. The Blog Tour, which is a week when bloggers will post their reviews of the book, will take place from August 26-30. My review is scheduled for August 30, so stay tuned for that. (But I give you permission to browse to other sites until then. No sense letting all the interwebs go to waste.) I just got my copy of the book yesterday.

Not only did I get a free copy of Death by Living, I received an additional surprise. Included in my package from Thomas Nelson Publishers was a copy of N. D. Wilson's first book, Notes From the Tilt A Whirl! I got two books for one review, score! The thought did cross my mind that since DBL is the follow-up to NFTTAW that I'd be lost, but I never complain about free books. In fact, I'm grateful for them.

I googled Notes From the Tilt A Whirl to see what to expect and ended up with a few YouTube videos. I've embedded them here for your enjoyment. The interview is pretty good. I like the way N. D. Wilson thinks.

Notes From the Tilt A Whirl Trailer

Interview: Why Tilt A Whirl?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Problem of Pain: Book Review

Image from Amazon

The Book

The Problem of Pain
C.S. Lewis

I am continuing my quest to read everything penned by Clive Staples Lewis. This is the birthday gift that keeps on giving! (I used a Barnes & Noble gift card from one of my birthdays to buy a boxed set of Lewis' classics. Even though it included Mere Christianity and Screwtape Letters, titles I already owned. I'm SO glad I didn't let that minor setback ruin the pleasures of owning Lewis' complete set of classic works.)

Technical Merit

Again, I give C. S. Lewis the highest marks for technical merit. The material he dealt with in this book was much more dense than any of his other classic pieces that I have had the pleasure to read. As a result, I give him 4.5 out of 5 stars for clarity and creativity in prose.

My edition was 161 pages long. Like A Grief Observed, the pages had wide margins that are great for note taking.

The Review

The Problem of Pain is the flip-side of A Grief Observed. Namely, Problem of Pain tries to take a cold, analytical approach to the question that Grief Observed tries to engage with on a more emotional level. Over and again, Lewis reminds the reader of his approach, so as to avoid offense at his seemingly cold-hearted statements. However, he must be cold and unattached in order to answer the question properly. The main question dealt with in this book is, How can a loving God allow his creation to live in a world of pain? This topic is one of the greatest objections to Christianity, and he certainly takes it very seriously.

While speaking of the goodness of God, Lewis makes sure to emphasize the fact that God is completely distinct from his creation, though fully invested in it.
He makes, we are made: He is original, we derivative. But at the same time, and for the same reason, the intimacy between God and even the meanest creature is closer than any that creatures can attain with one another. (Pg. 33)
With this statement, Lewis lays the foundation for the goodness of God apart from creation. In order for God to be God, he must be apart from his creation. Therefore, since he is apart from creation, it is possible for a good creation to go corrupt, which is exactly what happened, according to Traditional Orthodox Christianity.

Further, C. S. Lewis defines love as apart from kindness. Kindness is concerned with escape from suffering without regard to the actual benefit of the object. Love may need to utilize pain to bring about ultimate good. In his exact words, love:
Of all powers forgives the most, but he condones the least: he is pleased with little, but demands all. (Pg. 39)
True love seeks the best for their object of love. And God created us to be the objects of his love. He will do whatever it takes to get us to receive that love, even cause us to endure pain.

Lewis also expresses that he opposes the doctrine of Total Depravity (at least an extreme manifestation of it) for two main reasons:
partly on the logical ground that if our depravity were total we should not know ourselves to be depraved, and partly because experience shows us much goodness in human nature. (Pg. 61)

In the chapter referring to the fall of man, Lewis posits an interesting theory for what the Origins and Fall stories mean. He certainly endorses a Mythopoetic reading of the passage where man's consciousness eventually develops into the state of reason, which is when God breathes life into him. At that point, man uses his newfound consciousness to inflate his hubris and sever his relationship with the creator.

Finally, Lewis includes speculative chapters on Heaven, Hell and Animal Pain. Each are quite interesting. The most important point when considering these chapters is the fact that little is explicitly told to us in scripture on these subjects. Therefore, we do not need to be consumed by these topics. If they were critical, we would have been given more information. Regarding animals, we have no information in scripture at all. The absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence, however. Hence, we can make no conclusive statements about the nature of animal experience. Scripture was written to humans for humans, we are not given any more details about nature.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Top July Posts

So yeah, I slacked off yesterday and didn't post my normal roundup. As a result, these stats are slightly skewed though probably not enough (clearly, my #1 post ran away with it). I actually had 2,063 hits this month. I pray that it was a blessing.

July Posts

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