Captain’s Blog

Reading for 2009

Here is the list of stuff I read in 2009:

  1. The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun  by Brother Yun. I had to read these first eight books for a seminary class on Christian Ethics and Modern Culture. This one was an interesting read. I don’t really know what to make of it, though. It sounds like a modern day book of Acts, with all the miracles happening to the same guy. Could he really have fasted for 74 days? And been transported the way Phillip was to see the Ethiopian Eunuch? On the other hand, he seems to always point us back to Jesus. I believe miracles still happen, but I really don’t know about this book.
  2. Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism  by Douglas R. Groothuis. Dr. Groothuis was also the class’ professor. He always has something good to teach, and this book is no exception.
  3. Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics  by Scott Rae. A decent introduction. My biggest complaint is his rejection of what he calls “ethical voluntarism” – that things are good because God commands them. He doesn’t really raise an argument against it, he just says it’s “counterintuitive,” since God could have commanded that we torture babies. But it would only be counterintuitive if God created the human conscience contrary to what he has defined as good, which he hasn’t. So what’s the problem?
  4. Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice  by Francis J. Beckwith. An excellent defense of the pro-life arguments against abortion. I wish he had spent more time with the biblical texts that speak of “the breath of life” or that state that “the life is in the blood,” but that is a minor quibble, and the book covers all the other bases very thoroughly.
  5. Art and the Bible  by Francis A. Schaeffer. I don’t think Schaeffer is the best wordsmith, but he always has something helpful to say. This book was another good one.
  6. A Christian Manifesto  by Francis A. Schaeffer. Yet another good one.
  7. Culture Clash: Islam’s War on the West  by Mark A. Gabriel. Gabriel is a former Muslim who is now a Christian. This book was excellent at describing the Islamic faith and culture and explaining the causes of violence coming from it. Where if failed miserably was at attempting a solution. The proposed solution was basically to hope that Islamic culture will reinterpret the Koran to mean something other than the authorial intent. I think the real solution is for the gospel of Jesus Christ to conquer the Islamic world by the peaceful preaching of the word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Anything short of that is no real solution.
  8. Idols for Destruction: The Conflict of Christian Faith and American Culture  by Herbert Schlossberg. This was an excellent critique of American culture. Although published in 1990, the themes he addresses from twenty years ago have only intensified. I only wish he would not have used so many big words, or I would recommend it to everyone. If you think you have a large vocabulary or you aren’t afraid to keep a dictionary close by, this one is a must read. Particularly important is the discussion of what he calls ressentiment. “Ressentiment begins with perceived injury that may have a basis in fact, but more often is occasioned by envy for the possessions or the qualities possessed by another person. If the perception is not either sublimated or assuaged by the doing of some injury to the object of the feeling, the result is a persistent mental condition, stemming from the repression of emotions that are not acceptable when openly expressed.” This mental condition, he says, leads to all sorts of social problems including the recent push towards statism. I wrote a review of this book that I might post if I get the time. (Please leave a comment if you’re interested.)
  9. Leepike Ridge  by N. D. Wilson. Another one of Nathan’s fun children’s stories with a strong father figure. I really like the way Wilson plays with words.
  10. Dandelion Fire  by N. D. Wilson. Wow! This is the second book in the 100 Cupboards series. I thought the first book was excellent, but this one was considerably better.
  11. Nine Lives  by Bob Hemphill. A story about sixth grade football. Bob is a friend of mine, and I really am glad that he has written these books for young boys, particularly because of their unambiguously Christian themes. However, I just couldn’t get into them much. I thought that too many words that shouldn’t need any explanation even to young boys were laboriously defined, while other words that I was expecting an explanation of were not. Also, it was hard for me to get excited about the “big game” when there was so little character development otherwise. Admittedly, I am not in his target audience, so maybe they are just better left for the boys.
  12. Six and Zero  by Bob Hemphill. Similar, only about basketball.
  13. Meet Windmill Pete  by Bob Hemphill. Similar, only about baseball. This was the best of the three.
  14. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (all five)  by Douglas Adams. I’ve read them before, and I’ll probably read them again. I think they’re hilarious. But you have to “get it” – they’re not for everyone. I especially like how he pulls in stuff from science, philosophy, sociology, and almost anything you can think of, and jumbles it up until it’s funny.
  15. True Spirituality  by Francis Schaeffer. These next five books were for a seminary class called "The Dynamics of Faith and Doubt." It was a really good class, and this was a really good book to start it off with. I don’t always agree with Schaeffer, but he’s always worth reading. And this one was full of rich truths describing a Christian worldview.
  16. A Grief Observed  by C. S. Lewis. Lewis is the wordsmith that Schaeffer is not. In this book there is plenty of food for thought, including some things to strongly disagree with – like his acceptance of something like purgatory. However, I always find that Lewis challenges me to grow spiritually like few other authors do.
  17. The Call to Joy and Pain: Embracing Suffering in Your Ministry  by Ajith Fernando. A great book exploring the theology of suffering – one of the western Church’s great blind spots. We have "a lot of reflection on how to avoid suffering and on what to do when we hurt. … Christians are not taught … why suffering is so important for healthy growth as Christians." Lots of good stuff to consider.
  18. The Screwtape Letters  by C. S. Lewis. Always a good reminder to keep putting on the armor of God.
  19. God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt  by Os Guinness. An excellent look at how doubt arises in a Christian’s life and what are some constructive ways to use the doubt for spiritual growth.
  20. Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World  by N. D. Wilson. A sort of invitation directed particularly to post-moderns to try stepping into a Christian worldview. Not at all a linear argument, but more of a painting. He still manages to interact with many different philosophies, but in a way postmodernists might appreciate. If you’ve studied postmodernism a little, this would be an interesting read. If you’ve picked up some postmodernism along the way (most of us have), it still might be an interesting read. If you’re not sure postmodernism exists, you might not appreciate this book. But I thought it was well done. I’ll probably read it again next year.
  21. Is Christianity Good for the World?  by Christopher Hitchens, Douglas Wilson, and Jonah Goldberg. A debate between a little-known reformed pastor using a presuppositional apologetic and one of the big three "new atheists" who likes to use words like "evil" and "immoral." I like Tim Keller’s approach a little better, but this is still a good book, and it has the added twist of being listed with Hitchens as the author, so hopefully people will read it and see the hollowness of the new atheism.
  22. The Institutes of the Christian Religion (Volume 1)  by John Calvin. Translated by Ford Lewis Battles. I was trying to keep up with the Calvin-in-a-year schedule (to celebrate Calvin’s 500th birthday), but failed miserably and only made it barely into the second volume. So I’ll keep plugging away at it this year. The content is generally quite good, but I do have a few disagreements.
  23. The World English Bible (audio book)  by Yahweh. I don’t have a specific reading schedule for the Bible, but I figure when I listen to or read the whole thing in a single year, I will post that here along with the other books. It’s the best book ever!

I also read a lot from a number of blogs:

January 13th, 2010 Posted by | reading | no comments

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