Books Archives

In arguing for the deity of Jesus Christ (i.e., that he is, in fact, God), many Christians will point to places in the Gospel accounts where Jesus is referred to as the Son of God. For example,

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

- Matthew 14:28-33 ESV

or, more specific to the point,

Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.”

- John 19:4-7 ESV

Yet, when presenting these apologetic arguments, many times Christians will face the response that Jesus never claimed to be God but merely ‘the son of God’.

This, I think, is an unfortunate consequence of our current culture’s thinking (and, perhaps, most of Western culture). The mindset we are facing, and most times have ourselves, tends to see individuals rather than groups. When we meet someone who is introduced as so-and-so’s son we think along the lines of, “Oh, your name is Frank, and you’re John’s son.” Is it any surprise, then, that we have instances of surnames such as “Johnson”?

We do this all the time. “Hello Mary. Yes, I know your mother Kate, and don’t you have a daughter named Rebecca?” In such a dialogue, despite understanding the familial relationship between the mother – daughter – granddaughter, we assign (inadvertently, perhaps) more importance to the individuality of each person. Hence, the argument that if Jesus is the Son of God, then he is God, carries little weight with us.

However, this does not seem to be the case with the culture with which Jesus interacted. Consider this excerpt from the book of John,

The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

- John 10:31-39 ESV

Here we see that the Jews were ready to stone Jesus because, as they stated, “you, being a man, make yourself God.” In his response Jesus actually takes their charge and clarifies it so as to make it clear that, yes, he is in fact making himself out to be God. Note his reference back to his saying, “I am the Son of God”.

So, how does this all tie in with CS Lewis, Narnia, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

At the beginning of chapter 2, just after the Faun (Mr. Tumnus) spots Lucy, we have the following,

“Good evening,” said Lucy. But the Faun was so busy picking up its parcels that at first it did not reply. When it had finished it made her a little bow.

“Good evening, good evening,” said the Faun. “Excuse me – I don’t want to be inquisitive – should I be right in thinking that you are a Daughter of Eve?”

“My name’s Lucy,” said she, not quite understanding him.

“But you are – forgive me – you are what they call a girl?” asked the Faun.

“Of course I’m a girl,” said Lucy.

“You are in fact Human?”

In these few short lines of text Lewis wonderfully parlays the aspects of cross-cultural issues in how we understand textual meaning. Notice how when the Faun asked “Are you a daughter of Eve?” he was asking if Lucy was “in fact Human”. Lucy, “not quite understanding him” (in true Western form), immediately looked to the individuality aspect of her status as the daughter of her mother – that they were two distinct, and therefore separate, persons. Luckily, the Faun understood this confusion on Lucy’s part and stepped her through the process, first by asking if she was “a girl”, and then asking his initial question in a point blank fashion: “You are in fact Human?”

The point here is that the title Daughter of Eve had nothing to do with the individuality of Lucy but everything to do with her being of the same species as Eve: Human. In like manner, when Jesus was referred to or claimed to be the Son of God it had everything to do with him being of the same “species” as his Father: God.

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    The Thrill of Ownership

    Apparently common construction practice is to build the sewage out piping from your house to extend 3-4 feet with heavy cast iron piping and to use two to three foot lengths of clay pipe after that. A consequence of this is local bushes and trees have roots seeking water sources find the joints in those clay pipes, insinuate themselves and eventually block the pipe. Which in turns either backs up in a basement drain or in a basement toilet, whichever is lower. Ours chose the drain … and a wonderful outflow of stuff was discovered late last night in our laundry room.

    Synchronicity abounds however in that we were this weekend (and still have not finished) watching In Darkness, a WWII film concerning a group of less than a dozen Jewish men, women, and children hiding in the sewers in the then Polish Lwow, now Ukrainian city of Lviv. These people owed their life to an anti-semitic sewer worker and the complex nature of Polish/Ukrainian <=> Jewish Polish/Ukraine is explored in the movie. The book on which this is based Girl in the Green Sweater, by my understanding was authored by one of the young girls who survived that which the movie portrays. The synchronicity of course points to the sewage flowing in our basement and in the film … on the same day.

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      Secular vs Religion and the Public Square

      On and off again I refer to the little book published that consists of the debate between Jurgen Habermas (eminent German philosopher) and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict). The title of this book is Dialectics of Secularization. Mr Habermas opens, sets the stage and gives a brief argument (streching 30 pages of a small format book) … and Cardinal Ratzinger replies in like length. This book is published by Ignatius Press (2006) and is quite inexpensive (and available on Amazon). It was, of course, originally published in German.

      The Question:

      Does the free, secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee? This question expresses a doubt about whetherthe democratic constitutional state can renew from its own resources the normative presuppositions of its existence; it also expresses the assumption that such a state is depenedent on the ethical traditions of a local nature.

      Mr Habermas takes the affirmative, and of course Mr Ratzinger the negative. Read the rest of this entry

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        Christians and Harry Potter

        Yeah, it seems a little late to be discussing this, but a new podcast that I’ve been listening to, "The Sci-Fi Christian", which covers all sorts of topics, decided to tackle this one this past episode. I highly recommend this to sci-fi fans, Christian or otherwise.

        My family didn’t do Harry Potter, at least in its heyday, and I explained why to Matt Anderson and Ben DeBono in an audio feedback I sent to them for this episode. It turned out that this feedback and their responses to it became a large part of the show. So I thought I’d toss it on the blog for your consideration as well.

        The show is long, about 92 minutes, and the first third of it is news from the sci-fi and comics worlds. If you play it on the site, you can skip to 31 in and the main topic starts up. I wrote up what I was going to say before I recorded it, so below is the text of my audio feedback.


         

        Read the rest of this entry

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          Independently Confirmed: Media Leans Left

          Tim Groseclose is a distinguished professor of political science. He is the Marvin Hoffenberg Professor of American Politics at UCLA. He holds joint appointments in the political science and economics departments. He has held previous faculty appointments at universities including Stanford and Harvard. In short, he is certainly not  a member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

          And yet he is coming out with a book,"Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind", that has been researched over eight years, using "state-of-the-art statistical and social-scientific methods", and which comes to the conclusion that, indeed, the media is so biased to the left that Fox News doesn’t get credit for it’s centrist stance. The PowerLine blog reprinted the preface on Sunday, will reprint the introduction today, and chapter 8 Tuesday through Friday.

          This purports to prove scientifically that there is liberal bias in journalism, and that it works; it shifts the general public to the left which, in turn, remakes the "center" in this country more liberal. Which then feeds on itself.

          This could be a very important  book in the coming years. Worth keeping an eye on.

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            I had already put Frederick Kempe’s Berlin 1961 on my list of books to read based on this review in the Wall Street Journal. But then I read this quote which makes me want to read it even more:

            “I want Americans to understand how the decisions of their presidents — then and now — shape world history in ways we don’t always understand at the time of a specific event. I want readers to know that Kennedy could have prevented the Berlin Wall, if he had wished, and that in acquiescing to the border closure he not only created a more dangerous situation — but also contributed to mortgaging the future for tens of millions of Central and Eastern Europeans. The relatively small decisions that U.S. presidents make have huge, often global, consequences.”

            Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds

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              Guilty Pleasures

              Well, this weekend the clever routines at Amazon suggested an interesting book, on which I bit and a problem of sorts arose. This book, in electronic form, was priced at that-which-must-be-obeyed level, that is to say $1. It was a “trilogy” of short books, fiction, in a genre I enjoy. Enjoy in the “guilty pleasure” sense of the title of this little essay. 

              So. Do you like space opera? If so, check out the series by Mr Randolph Lalond (here’s a start in paper First Light Chronicles Omnibus or eInk First Light Chronicles Omnibus.

              Thoroughly enjoyable. I’m into the continuation series … as time permits. The continuation books are a little more expensive in the eInk version … but only by a little. 

               

               

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                I’ve been handling publicity for a new book about church planting that I think should be of interest not only to those seeking to and thinking about planting a church, but also to anyone hoping to start something new to advance Christian mission.

                Church in the Making by Ben Arment doesn’t mince any words, and it has the tone of a soldier who has fought the good fight and won, but at a high personal cost, with the sense that the battles could have been easier with better intelligence, and mourning the soldier-friends who he has seen fall around him.

                I’ve never tried to start a church, but I knew even before reading this book that it is extremely difficult, with a high rate of failure. Arment demonstrates a passion for saving future church planters from heartache and failure; but in the process he writes some things that will undoubtedly rub church planting traditionalists the wrong way.

                For instance, Arment writes:

                “We have placed a dangerous label on church planting that puts tremendous pressure on planters to persevere through any and all difficulties. We call it faithfulness. But in many cases it should really be called stupidity.”

                If you have plans to plant a new church, open a new campus, or help someone who is, you need to get and read Church in the Making. It is well written and an easy read. It’s worth your time.

                But it is also valuable to people like me who are involved in starting and advancing Christian organizations, missions, and causes. I’ve seen a lot of the same mistakes that Ben describes in ministry start-ups of all kinds; and I’ve made a number of the mistakes myself. I wish I would have had Church in the Making to read several years ago.

                I’ve marked nine different principles in the book that I’ve seen ignored by too many ministry leaders (myself included).

                1. Plant in Fertile Soil

                Arment: “Every community has an established degree of spiritual receptivity. When you plant a church on fertile soil, it springs to life out of the community’s readiness. When you plant a church on infertile soil, it chokes and gasps to survive. In this case, you have to stop planting and start cultivating.” (page 3)

                2. Experience Produces Humility

                Arment: “You can always tell a new, inexperienced church planter because he’s the only one who thinks he knows what he’s doing. The veterans show a humility that can only come from experience. It takes a year or two to knock the self-reliance out of the new guys.” (page 10)

                3. A Dream and Hard Work are Not Enough
                Arment: “Church planters are notorious for thinking that a great dream plus hard work equals a thriving church. But church planters fail all the time with this formula and have not idea why.” (page 46)

                4. Build a Network First

                Arment: “I’m convinced that when God calls a planter to start a church, he calls him either to start a social network first (which can take years) or simply to leverage the one he’s been building around him.” (page 81)

                5. You Can’t Do It Alone

                Arment: “When God creates a church in the making, he doesn’t just call one person to start it. He calls a whole network of people who have been growing pregnant with vision.” (page 137)

                6. Properly Channeled Frustration is Good

                Arment: “God uses frustration to shape a vision. This is what he did to Nehemiah. And this is what he did to me. If God doesn’t build up a tremendous amount of frustration within us, we’ll never have the passion to pursue his calling.” (page 158)

                7. Don’t Let Cash be King

                Arment: “The only thing worse than not pursuing your God-given vision is compromising your God-given vision for the sake of cash flow. Don’t let money do this to you.” (page 162)

                8. Put a Good Staff to Work

                Arment: “Senior pastors are notorious for under-estimating the potential of their staff, mostly because they overestimate their own potential. Creating systems in your church is a far better way to leave a legacy than building up yourself.” (page 191)

                9. Many Tomorrows Do Not Include You

                Arment: “The fruit of the gospel comes from building a church that can exist without you and beyond you. (page 193)

                Grab this book. If you are in ministry work, whether or not you are a church planter, it’s likely there’s something in it that will shake your ministry world.

                [See these reviews of Church in the Making at ChurchMarketingSucks, In My Head, and from Neil Tullos.]

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                  10+ Books with Significan Influence (on me)

                  Career.

                  Religion

                  Politics

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                    Of Philosophers and Slaves

                    In the In the First Circle: The First Uncensored Edition, there is a striking scene that I’d like to highlight. Most of the characters in the book inhabit one of the Moscow Sharaskas in the early 50s. A Sharaska was a special prison camp, unlike the work camps, the conditions of these camps were not so lethal. The conditions, while far far better than in the work camps, was liveable. These camps were primarily for those individuals who had skills, glass-blowing, engineering, electronics, mathematics, and so on that the regime decided to put them to forced work conditions in their speciality in order to further the regime. One of the major projects ongoing in the book was developing a working scrambler/descrambler system for their analog phones.

                    In the sharaska, the hours were long each day … and the work has very closely supervised by non-prison workers because the prisoners could not be trusted. Yet, apparently the guards and watchers could not be compelled to work the long hours every day and Sunday evening at 6pm until early in the morning Monday the prisoners were locked in and left to their own devices.

                    For the prisoners a day off meant that the heavy iron doors were locked from the outside, after which no one came in to summon a prisoner or haul him out. For those few short hours not a sound, not a word, not an image could filter through from the outside world to trouble a man’s mind. That was what their day of rest meant — the whole world outside, the universe with all its stars, the planet with its continents, capital cities with their blazing lights, the whole state with some at their banquets and others working voluntary extra shifts, sank into oblivion, turned into an ocean of darkness barely discernible through the barred windows by the dead yellow half-light from the lights on the prison grounds.
                    [...]
                    Those who sailed on in the ark were weightless and had only weightless thoughts. They were neither hungry nor full. They knew no happiness and so felt no anxiety about losing it. Their heads were not busy with trivial professional concerns, intrigues, the struggle for promotion; their shoulders were not burdened with worries about places to live, fuel, bread, and clothing for their children. Love, which has brought man delight and torment from the beginning of time, could neither thrill nor distress them. Their sentences were so long that not one of them as yet gave any thought to the years after his release. Men of remarkable intelligence, education, and experience of life, they had nonetheless been too devoted to their families to leave much of themselves for their friends, but here they belonged only to their friends.
                    [...]
                    During those Sunday evening hours, matter and body could be forgotten. The spirit of masculine friendship and philosophy hovvered beneath the canvas vault of the ceiling.
                    Perhaps this was the bliss all the philosophers of antiquity had striven in vain to identify.

                    It seems that the prison experience of Solzhenitsyn (not accidentally) reinforces that learned from early Christian experience that ascetic suffering has its own particular rewards.

                    One final thought to add, from another section. “You have but one life to live” spurred some of the characters (not in the prisons) to seek pleasures, riches, and to enjoy life to the fullest.

                    We are people who behave naturally,” Dotnara used to say. “We don’t pretend; we wear no disguise. Whatever we want we go all out for!” As they saw it, “We are given only one life” — and so must take from life all that it has to offer.

                    This is countered …

                    The great truth for Innokenty used to be that we are given only one life.
                    Now, with the new feeling that had ripened in him, he became aware of another law; that we are given only one conscience too.

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                      Taylor Pasbury has had a tough life. Her mother ran out on her when she was just nine years old. Her father was murdered when she was seventeen while trying to protect her from a brutal rape. She had a successful career as a Secret Service agent before being dismissed for extracurricular activities. To top it off, her last client, Simon Mason, a noted televangelist, was murdered.

                      But things are about to get even more complicated. First, Mason’s assistant turns up dead in an apparent suicide as allegations of embezzlement swirl around her. Then her mother suddenly decides to reappear in her life. As she begins to sort through the clues someone starts shooting at her. And a simple case of suicide quickly becomes a complicated case of murder.

                      This is the premise behind James David Jordan’s new thriller Double Cross, the sequel to his best-selling suspense novel Forsaken. Once again Mr. Jordan, a corporate attorney by day, shows his ability to weave an intriguing story of suspense.

                      Jordan has already shown an ability to tell a good story without preaching at the same time. There are themes within each of his books that will give the reader plenty to think about. Taylor is a flawed woman who is struggling to figure out not only what she wants out of life but also what God wants and expects from her. The reappearance of her mother also is a source of tension for Taylor because she was abandoned at an early age but also because her role is integral to the overall story and causes her to think long and hard about who she can trust.

                      Once again, Mr. Jordan has spun a terrific yarn. In Taylor Pasbury, he has an intriguing heroine: a woman with a very tough exterior who at the same time is extremely vunerable and lonely. She’s also deeply flawed which makes her incredibly fascinating.

                      Double Cross is another fine novel from Mr. Jordan. As I said when I reviewed Forsaken, I could enjoy reading about Taylor Pasbury for quite some time. Here’s hoping that there she’s got more adventures ahead of her.

                      447545: Double Cross Double Cross
                      By James David Jordan / B & H Publishing Group
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                        Flotsam and Jetsam

                        And by jetsam, I really mean it. Well, I read bits and pieces of a few books tonight while riding on eastward on a plane from Chicago to Philly … and then drove to Cranbury (NJ), at which in a hotel now I am typing. Anyhow, here is a little bit about the books I’m reading because from that future posts will derive.

                        The first book was Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy, by Nathan Sharansky. Now Mr Sharansky has been a political figure of sorts from the 70s onward, but my personal history has been such that I am pretty much unaware prior to reading this book of any of his prior history. I came about this book, mainly from an Amazon recommendation when I purchased a different book, Chantal Delsol’s book Unjust Justice: Against the Tyranny of International Law, which I have not really started as yet. Anyhow, I haven’t really got yet to the meat of Mr Sharansky’s book, so far he’s been picking away at the edges of it. Describing, from his personal experience, how his personal identification as a Zionist bolstered his personal struggle to retain his identity and sense of purpose the gulag system (and how a fellow prisoner, a Christian also used his own personal identity for the same purpose).

                        Paul Collier, author of the The Bottom Billion, which last year was my pick of “most influential” book that I had read that year, has another (well more than one, but I only had one with me). This book, Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, makes  a very very interesting observation. There is a notion, shared almost universally which is wrong. This is a political tenent held in common by Mr Bush and Mr Soros. But both are wrong. Democracy is not universally helpful. There is a statistical correlation, and the causes for which Mr Collier thinks he has uncovered, that demonstrates quite robustly that there is a crossing point in the measure of relative harm vs good democracy can do for a country as a function of wealth. This crossing point is located by Mr Collier specifically at $2.7k/year ($7/day) average income. If a country’s average income is below this … democracy becomes more and more harmful. If a country makes more than that, autocracy is harmful. Now, paging through, Mr Collier will not ultimately abandon democracy as a recommendation for poor countries, and I think this is in a large part because one would hope that those poor countries do not remain poor forever and there’s going to be an ugly transition point if democracy is abandoned. I might describe his recommendation that democracy needs “tempering” or external maintenance when countries are poor.

                        Finally, another French (conservative) social/political observer, Philippe Beneton has a book Equality by Default: An Essay on Modernity As Confinement translated for the English reader. Modern liberals, especially recently, denounce the modern conservative movement as having lost it’s intellectual way. Well, liberalism/progressivism shouldn’t throw stones while living in glass houses. For while, something rotten may be affoot in Denmark, modern liberalism/progressivism has been treading into shallow intellectual waters itself and Mr Beneton points to the causes and the roots of their error(s). One of the symptoms of this matter can be seen in the proliferation of “rights” that can be found coming from the left.

                        Anyhow, more on all these … later.

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                          On Reading the Bible

                          There’s a five books (scholars) meme going around, and I’ve been tagged (I noticed it here too). This is to list five scholars/books which influenced your Bible hermeneutic, i.e., how your read and interpret the Bible.

                          1. N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, which outlines the best of historical way of reading the Bible that I’ve seen.
                          2. Leon Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom, in which a philosophical method of reading Scripture is outlined. In brief, reading Genesis (and to extend beyond) as you would read Plato.
                          3. The Orthodox liturgical canon (of the morning Matins or all-night Vigil) which is drenched with the typological method of reading Scripture.
                          4. Origen and his introduction of the allegorical reading of Scripture. I’m peeking ahead here, I’m not up-to-speed on this yet … but will get a shock introduction shortly in a class I’m taking.
                          5. Robert Alter and his Introduction to his translation of Genesis (there are more now The Five Books of Moses, The David Story, and The Book of Psalms)… and the subsequent translation in which the sparse economic poetry of the Genesis writers is highlighted.

                          I’ll tag Matt Anderson (who is blogging somewhere but I’ve lost track of where), Brandon, and Kevin, and Doug one of my co-bloggers at SCO.

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                            Summer Reading

                            So, summer reading lists? I’ve got the Delsol (The Unlearned Lessons Of the Twentieth Century) and Beneton (Equality by Default)to pick through and I thought I’d work on finding some post-fall Eastern European literature that evaluates “what happened” and “what did it mean” questions. I’m also listening to “Snoop” as recommended by one of the blogs on my RSS list. Theology? John Behr’s three books on the early church, The Way to Nicaea and The Nicene Faith 2 Volume Set.  And … for pure escape, Steven Erikson (Toll the Hounds) and of course Dan Simmons (Drood: A Novel).

                            Any more suggestions (although it looks like my July is “booked”)? Any suggestions for the post-fall dissidents list?

                            How about y’all? What are you reading this summer?

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                              America has had a difficult history when it comes to racial issues and often the government has done more harm than good according to an excellent new book by Judge Andrew Napolitano entitled Dred Scott’s Revenge. Click here to read my review of the book.

                              552655: Dred Scott&amp;quot;s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America Dred Scott’s Revenge: A Legal History of Race and Freedom in America
                              By Andrew Napolitano / Thomas Nelson
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