Books Archives

A Preview

In reading this book, which I had intended to compare to Mr Rawls political ideas, the Pure Theory of Politics, I found another interesting idea for a short essay. This book at the outset tries to discuss some ideas of political theory which are less often discussed. Political theory, such as Rawls as well as Locke Hobbes and so on, typically discuss static ideas on politics. Rights or Justice and other such notions. Jouvenel instead wants to partially (or perhaps mostly) concentrate on the dynamic aspects of politics … the dynamics of getting and keeping political power and authority. To that end, he has an extended dialog, entitled “pseudo-Alcibiades” so named after the Alcibiades dialog by Plato featuring Socrates and Alcibiades. In the pseudo-Alcibiades, Jouvenel envisions a return dialog between Socrates and Alcibiades much later … in fact just before Alcibiades is to embark on his fateful trip to entreat the Athenian assembly to embark on their disastrous Syracuse adventure.

At any rate, I have not read the original dialog and only skimmed the latter. But … reading (and then discussing) both in detail is my intention to do so this week.

A Conversation with Peter Kreeft

834800: Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley
By Peter Kreeft / Inter-varsity Press

Back when I was in college, Peter Kreeft’s book Between Heaven and Hell was essential reading for anyone interested in apologetics. Now the book has been reissued in an expanded format. National Review’s John J. Miller has a fascinating conversation with the author on his book, how it was written, and why it’s just as revelevant today as when he first wrote it. Check it out.

Two Texts, A Book, and an all too brief review

Recently I’ve drifted through Jaroslav Pelikan’s odd little book, Interpreting the Bible and the Constitution (mostly reading this material while on airplanes in the last week). I say odd, because while Mr Pelikan makes a lot of interesting connections between the hermeneutical traditions behind the extraction of meaning by the Church from the Bible and the legal community from the Constitution it is hard to see what to do with the connections thus made.

One such striking observation made by Mr Pelikan are in some of the parallels between their traditions. One such interesting parallel is that today academic theology and academic legal thinking no longer actively orders its study to serve the practice of its attendant organs (as it once did). Specifically, academic legal writing and thought is not directed at aiding and influencing the practice of practical law and theology is not aimed at producing insights for pastoral application.

Another thought which struck me concerned the divisions in the modern church on the other hand … and the Civil War and other political organs of power which prevent similar divisions from occurring in the Union. Modern evangelicals and protestants deride and dismiss the hierarchical structure of the Eastern and Roman churches and particularly point to efforts to keep ecclesiastic and theological unity within those churches. However, those same people applaud the civil war and stand firmly against separatist movements within the nation.

Mr Pelikan does occasionally amuse himself (and the reader) by tweaking the reader’s expectations. Allusions to liturgical trappings … are found to allude not to Church at times but to the rite and rituals (and dress) of the law courts.

Karamazov and the Squinch

For the “throwaway book” I read on my recent business trip, for entertainment value I selected Walter Jon Williams Implied Spaces. This book is a relatively straightforward science fiction far future book in the modern vein. The name of the book, “implied spaces” is in away all about squinches. The residents of this far future world live in and construct for their entertainment pocket universes designed to order. However, in designing your perfect fjords and vistas … between them what appears is not to design … and those pockets end up being, like squinches or being “spaces who’s construction is implied” and not designed by intent. At the beginning, we find our somewhat implausible hero entertaining himself by personally exploring “implied spaces” finding mostly deserts and spiders.  (Note: spoilers ahead), but I’d like to comment on some of implied spaces in Mr Williams story arc itself. Read the rest of this entry

Waves and Swans: Black Marks (on Swans)

Mr Taleb in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable makes an essentially clean distinction between “Mediocristan” and “Extremistan” (I’ll attempt to summarize those in a bit). This distinction however is strained. He cites, for example, the extreme income disparities in Extremistan occupations, for example the high wages pulled in by celebrities. Now, there are fundamental differences in some high wage situations. It may be argued, perhaps successfully, that hundreds, if not thousands, could step into the shoes of say any given news broadcast anchor and pick up with not a big hitch. However, consider another big category of very visible salary discrepancies … sports. It might be interesting to say that Tom Warner(for example who is playing on MNF right now), any given baseball pitcher, or to pick on my favorite sport cycling do not deserve their wage. The problem is … people pay and are interested in that sport and their place is not replaceable. Their status and position is very much meritocratic. The reason that I, a once and future (ahem) amateur cyclist, am not a “highly compensated” star of the international peloton is not a factor of luck. Not luck but the meritocratic factors talent, abililty, and training tell more. Or consider for a moment your fate on a professional football field. Read the rest of this entry

Book Review: Forsaken

Denouce Christ or your daughter dies. That is the choice faced by televangelist Simon Mason in the brand new thriller Forsaken by James David Jordan. When terrorists kidnap his daughter, Mason turns to Taylor Pasbury, a beautiful ex-Secret Service agent for help. But Taylor is a troubled young woman and her relationship with Simon becomes a “quirky love story wrapped in an action thriller” according to the author.
“I wanted to write books that were great stories first and had a spiritual message second because I wanted to try to reach people who ordinarily wouldn’t pick up that kind of novel,” said Mr. Jordan in a recent interview.
It’s safe to say that Mr. Jordan accomplished his mission with Forsaken. I started the book and could not put it down. And I’m not prone to read much Christian fiction.
My problem with most Christian novels is the temptation to make the characters too perfect which is an issue Mr. Jordan has as well.
“I am totally opposed to writing Christian fiction that revolves around religious superheroes.,” said Mr. Jordan. “They (Simon and Taylor) make mistakes just like the rest of us.”
The fact that the two main characters are flawed is precisely what makes the book so compelling. Simon has made his share of mistakes and some of those, if they became known, would destroy his life and ministry.
Taylor, on the other hand, is a woman of nominal faith and has been wounded by a mother who abandoned her and a father who was brutally murdered. She also has a lousy track record when it comes to relationships. She hides behind her tough veneer but deep down is someone who cares deeply for others. It’s clear as her relationship develops with Simon she finds something attractive about him. But she is also intrigued by his faith and the struggles he works through as he wrestles with his decision whether to renounce his faith or save his daughter. It’s a struggle grounded in Matthew 10:37-38 and a question that any Christian would find difficult to answer.
Forsaken strikes the balance between a compelling plot and a fascinating character in Taylor Pasbury. Mr. Jordan already has a second novel completed that will be published next year and will pick up on the loose ends left at the end of this book including details of her backstory.
Hats off to Mr. Jordan for constructing a terrific story that is also rich with Christian themes that will cause the reader to think about the practical workings of faith in real-life situations. Having met Taylor Pasbury through Forsaken, I can’t wait to read the next chapter in her story. She’s a character I could get used to reading about for a long time. I suspect Mr. Jordan wouldn’t mind writing about her for years to come. If you haven’t read a good thriller in a while, go pick up Forsaken. You’ll be glad you did.

Book Review: The Kind of Man Every Man Should Be

Where have all the real men gone? Where are the men who will take a stand for something? Or will be responsible for their own actions? Protect their family? Be the hero?
If you’re like me, you know that such men are hard to find. That’s in large part because most men today are a shadow of the men that God designed them to be. Men have been emasculated for years by radical feminism. Our country is paying the price for real men not being around to step up and lead. Families are suffering because real men aren’t there to lead them. Churches are becoming weaker because real men haven’t stepped up to take charge.
Thankfully, there is hope for men. Author and talk show host Kevin McCullough not only has identified the problem but provides practical solutions in his new book The Kind of Man Every Man Should Be: Taking a Stand for True Masculinity.

Interview: Kevin McCullough, Author of The Kind of Man Every Man Should Be

920407: The Kind of Man Every Man Should Be: Taking a Stand for True Masculinity The Kind of Man Every Man Should Be: Taking a Stand for True MasculinityBy Kevin McCullough / Harvest House Publishers* From radio commentator, syndicated columnist, and MuscleHead Revolution author comes a bold message for 21st-century men! McCullough probes the undermining of manhood over recent decades and speculates why both sexes are reluctant to address the problem. Citing God’s blueprint in Scripture, he challenges Christian men to behave with dignity, act with clarity, and lead with conviction! 224 pages, softcover from Harvest.

This morning I had the opportunity to chat with Kevin McCullough. His book is a wake up call to men (and women) everywhere that it’s time for men to start living the way that God has designed them. It’s both a very personal and immensely practical book and one that I heartily recommend to everyone. I’ll have a more complete review here soon.

Click on this link to hear the interview.

UPDATE: Thanks to Kevin McCullough for the link!

As noted in the introduction to this series, I’m blogging on two short works on Poverty, the first is Ched Myers The Biblical View of Sabbath Economics and the second is the 14th oration by St. Gregory of Nazianzus entitled “On Love for the Poor” (note I misquoted the title in the prior essay as well as Mr Myers first name). In this short essay, I’m going to attempt to precis the basic thrust of the two works. The current plan is follow this short summary with some critical assessments of the two works. The introduction was here, and the overview essay here.

Reading Mr Myers pamphlet is a little disconcerting. For that which he argues, that concern for the poor, charity, and turnings one heart and aspirations to God instead of the material transient world are all well known and established virtues in Christian living. This where he concludes, where he is driving and this conclusion is not wrong. But it must be admitted, that it is very rare to use the validity of a conclusion to justify an argument … and alas Mr Myers reasons and arguments are very very bad. Mr Myers, as noted in the introduction, follows a unusual hermeneutic for extracting meaning from Scripture. That is he views Scripture via a lens of economics … with a caveat on that description that one must note that his views of economics themselves are also somewhat unusual. Read the rest of this entry

A person’s faith is a window into their soul. For a politician, how he or she speaks about his or her faith will tell you something about how they will govern. Stephen Mansfield, author of the new book The Faith of Barack Obama, says that in examining the Senator’s faith journey gave him insight not only into the Democratic presidential nominee but insight into larger cultural trends as well.
Barack Obama’s faith and his spiritual journey not only are shaping this election but also, as you tell the story and reflect on it, captures many of the trends that are most powerful and transforming in this age,” said Mr. Mansfield in a recent interview.

Read the rest of this entry

Book Review: Lessons From The Road

Ever wondered what it would be like to tour with a rock band? Wonder what challenges a Christian band has to face out on the road?

Nigel James, founder of Ignite, a UK based youth discipleship minstry, has traveled extensively for Third Day for the past eight years. He brings unique insights into the hearts and minds of the band members in a new book entitled Lessons From The Road.

Read the rest of this entry

On the love of reading

Having children that love to read is a joy for many a homeschool parent (although the phenomenon is certainly not limited to homeschooled children).

On a recent trip to California’s Central Coast we had a serendipitous, if not ultimately heartbreaking, homeschool moment with our youngest child. One of our favorite places to hang out, while touring the area, used to be Leon’s Used Bookstore, in San Luis Obispo. Imagine the look on our child’s face, however, as we walked up to the storefront, only to find the premises empty of its rows of bookshelves, with construction work being done inside. Alas, we soon found out that Leon’s Used Bookstore is no more, the victim of the costs of doing earthquake retrofitting for older, unreinforced masonry buildings.

Our youngest was on the verge of tears.

Imagine… a 21st century child, upset because her favorite used bookstore had to shut down? While it was a painful lesson in reality for her, my wife and I simply smiled at each other, content in the knowledge that our child has a sincere love of reading.

Learning from the Revolution

When we think about the American Revolution, we tend to think about the war itself. But as John Adams once wrote, “The American Revolution was a change in the hearts and minds of the people.” As Jane Hampton Cook shows in her excellent book Battlefields and Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War, the change of hearts and minds took place over a period of 25 years before the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord. There is also no doubt that the Revolution would not have occurred if people of faith hadn’t been leading the way.

Read the rest of this entry

A Book and A Quote

Amy-Jill Levine is an interesting scholar. An Orthodox Jew she is at the same time, a Professor of New Testament studies in the Vanderbilt University Divinity school. I’ve recently read her book, The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus. She makes to points in direct opposition to points made by blog neighbor David Schraub.  Mr Schraub has contended on a number of occasion that the notion of a Judeo-Christian tradition is a false one. Ms Levin’s entire thesis and work is built on that bridge. Additionally, he has in a number of occasions advocated that for various situations apology for wrongs generations ago should be made by the descendents. In opposition to this notion in the context of anti-Semitism, Ms Levine offers (on more than one occasion in this book):

 Park guilt and entitlement at the door before engaging in interfaith conversation. Some Christians come t the interfaith table so aware of their history of supersessionism, anti-Semitism, and violence against Jews that they avoid claiming that Jesus is the Messiah, for to do so would be telling Jews that Judaism is wrong. [….] Conversely, aware of the tragic histry of supersessionism, anti-Semitism, and violence against Jews, some Jews come the the table with a sense of entitlement: they seek apologies rather than engagement. Neither approach is useful. Christians today are not responsible for the sins of the past; Jews today are not in the position to grant forgiveness for those sins. Neither Judaism nor Christianity has a pristine history, and victimization is not something to be celebrated. [note: emphasis mine]

These highlight the twin problems which Mr Schraub and the “apology” advocates in Jewish or racial matters miss.

  1. Those in the present are not responsible for past sins and those descendents of those wronged are not in a position to grant absolution or forgiveness for those sins at any rate.
  2. Coming to the table with an expectation of entitlement or a consciousness of guilt is not conducive to engagement or rapprochement.

After writing essays and giving speeches on the reasons he disagrees with the “consensus” that human-induced global warming is a direct threat to our planet, Michael Crichton, evidently, decided to write the techno-thriller State of Fear (2004).

In State of Fear he essentially presents the same arguments he’s made in his speeches, albeit in the context of a fictional story. The book follows the exploits of a lawyer, government security agent, and company, as they criss-cross the globe on the trail of eco-terrorists intent on causing massive catastrophes, all to further their cause (that being the universal acknowledgment of human-induced global warming of the doomsday variety). Unlike some of his other thrillers, Crichton notes that all references to real people, institutions, charts, and data, are documented (through his use of footnotes). Besides including a bibliography (for a work of fiction), he also includes a section titled Author’s Message, as well as two appendices.

In the Author’s Message, he clarifies his position on the topic of global warming, basically stating that we know very little about the complex process of climate change, that there is a variety of data on the subject, and that we do not have the knowledge or the ability to effectively manage the environment. Some have criticized Crichton for writing, in State of Fear, nothing more than a long op-ed piece. Yet, it’s his book, so why shouldn’t he write about what he wants?

In the first appendix, Crichton provides prose on why he considers politicized science to be dangerous. He gives an interesting history lesson on how a previous scientific theory predicting impending crisis, and was accepted as valid by the authorities of the time. The theory? Eugenics.

I found State of Fear to be an exciting page-turner of an adventure. There were a few slow points, mid-way through the book, as well as a few personality caricatures I thought to be too extreme. Note: There was also a fair bit of unnecessary sex, and quite a bit of R-rated language.

Recommendation:  I’d recommend reading the book if, for no other reason, than to get a glimpse of the data that is typically not found in the general media. Save your money though, and look for it at a used bookstore or at your local library bookstore (I picked up the hardback for $1.00 at our library bookstore).

[tags]michael crichton, global warming, CO2, earth first, ELF, greenhouse gases[/tags]

 Page 3 of 4 « 1  2  3  4 »