Captain’s Blog

Reading for 2010

Here is the list of stuff I read in 2010:

  1. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  by Robert Louis Stevenson. I had never read this before. Since references to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are all over the place, I thought I’d better read it. It’s a short, easy, and entertaining read, even if the story is a little odd.
  2. The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun  by J. R. R. Tolkien. This is Tolkien’s retelling of a handful of Norse legends, but in an attempt to make them into a coherent story. In addition to harmonizing the legends, Tolkien set the story in what would be the equivalent of Norse poetry, only in English. This means that the word order is unfamiliar, and the major poetic form is a complicated form of alliteration. The result is a remarkable story that is nevertheless quite difficult to read. Not for the faint of heart.
  3. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism  by Tim Keller. The best example I have seen of the presuppositional apologetic method in action. Easy to read, and seems to scratch where our culture is itching.
  4. The Book of Three  by Lloyd Alexander. This and the next five are The Chronicles of Prydain, a series of children’s fantasy. Although they contain a little too much moralizing for my taste, they are still all fun and imaginative stories that adults can enjoy as well as children.
  5. The Black Cauldron  by Lloyd Alexander.
  6. The Castle of Llyr  by Lloyd Alexander.
  7. Taran Wanderer  by Lloyd Alexander.
  8. The High King  by Lloyd Alexander.
  9. The Foundling: And Other Tales of Prydain  by Lloyd Alexander.
  10. Heroes And Heretics: Pivotal Moments in 20 Centuries of the Church  by Iain D. Campbell. With a name like that, I was expecting this book to rail against supposed heretics from every generation in church history, even when there were no ecumenical councils to pronounce heresy. Instead, Campbell covers the highlights of 2000 years of church history in a gracious and readable style. My only complaint is that in the last several chapters, he focuses disproportionately on the Scottish church, but that’s a minor quibble.
  11. Pride and Prejudice  by Jane Austen. I think every guy should give this book a read, even though there were parts that I thought went a little slow. It is amazing to me how much character development Austen can accomplish solely with dialog.
  12. The Tales of Beedle the Bard  by J. K. Rowling. Fun short stories from the world of Harry Potter.
  13. Guatemala: Never Again!  by Archdiocese of Guatemala. United Nations report on the human rights violations during the Guatemalan civil war (1960-1996). This is not an easy read at all, but was required as part of the class I took at SETECA.
  14. Guatemalan Journey  by Stephen Connely Benz. Another book about Guatemala from the perspective of a mostly sheltered foreigner working in the country during the last decade of the civil war. For him, the war was mostly just “the violence” that was occurring away from Guatemala City, where he lived with his family. His basic premise: Guatemala is a land of contradictions. This book was much easier reading than the last one.
  15. They Call Me Coach  by John Wooden. Coaching advice and memoirs from a basketball legend.
  16. Patrick: Son of Ireland  by Stephen R. Lawhead. A historical novel about the life of Saint Patrick. Lawhead does a superb job of fitting a novel in and around the few historical facts we have about Patrick in a very enjoyable style.

I also read a lot from a number of blogs:

January 1st, 2011 Posted by | reading | no comments

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

Reading for 2008

Here is the list of stuff I read in 2008:

  1. The Heart of Evangelism  by Jerram Barrs. I had to read these first three books for a seminary class on Evangelism and Discipleship. This one was a very good book, drawing heavily from Acts. From the back cover: "You can learn to witness comfortably in your own circumstances so that sharing Christ doesn’t feel like a chore."
  2. Beginning Well: Christian Conversion & Authentic Transformation  by Gordon T. Smith. Mediocre.
  3. Following the Master: A Biblical Theology of Discipleship  by Michael J. Wilkins. This one was decent. It looks at examples from the four gospels and examines Jesus’ brand of making disciples.
  4. 101 Cupboards  by Nathan D. Wilson. A delightful kids’ story along the lines of C. S. Lewis’ Narnia books. I already pre-ordered the sequel.
  5. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency  by Douglas Adams. Not quite as good as The Hitchhiker’s Guide, but still a fun read. Think about holistic medicine (e.g. if the apple gets heavy when you hold it up in your outstretched arm, and a qualified "professional" is watching, then the apple is obviously bad for you, etc.) . Then pretend the problem of induction (David Hume, etc.) doesn’t exist because the future won’t be like the past, and try to do some detective work.
  6. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul  by Douglas Adams. More of the same, and still good.
  7. Family-Based Youth Ministry  by Mark DeVries. These next six books were for a seminary class entitled "Foundations of Youth and Family Ministry." This book was excellent. Many of the principles found in this book are already being implemented in my church, but not necessarily intentionally. It basically puts the ownership for raising youth back on the parents and asks what the church can do to support them.
  8. Rasing the Bar  by Alvin Reid. A decent book. The evangelical church has tried many programs to teach youth, but the standard needs to be raised, since the results so far have been weak.
  9. Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry  by Doug Fields. This book could be helpful for anyone starting out in pastoral ministry, not just youth pastors; but it does contain some specific advice for those working with youth. My main objection is that it assumes an environment where the parents are helping the youth program rather than the other way around.
  10. Deep Justice in a Broken World: Helping Your Kids Serve Others and Right the Wrongs around Them  by Chap Clark and Kara E. Powell. Terrible. Full of socialist, feel-good, social gospel stuff that won’t really work and just puts a guilt trip on anybody not sending their ice-cream money overseas to support an orphan. The authors need to learn what the word justice really means, and then they should follow the church’s historical terminology (and actions) of mercy-ministry.
  11. Back to the Heart of Youth Work  by Dewey M. Bertolini. Description.
  12. Spiritual Junk Food  by Cathy Mickels. Bemoans some of the phychology junk the evangelical world is currently feeding it’s youth. However, it’s a little one-sided, assuming that studies in psychology cannot possibly produce anything that is true.
  13. Critique of Modern Youth Ministry  by Christopher Schlect. A short book trying to throw out the whole idea of youth ministry and go back to a more Biblical family structure.
  14. God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?  by John Lennox. Excellent summary of the arguments coming out of the intelligent design movement. Although ID tries to be agnostic about who the designer might be, this book points strongly toward the God of the Bible.
  15. The Enemy Within: Straight Talk about the Power and Defeat of Sin  by Kris Lundgaard. The first five chapters rest heavily on the traditional reading of Romans 7:14-25 that Paul was speaking as a Christian. I think that Paul was actually speaking as a non-converted Pharisee who loved the law but couldn’t keep it. He uses the "present tense" as a rhetorical device (Greek isn’t based on past, present, future tenses like English is). So even though all Christians do struggle with sin, this book seemed pretty weak at the beginning. However, the remaining chapters were excellent.

I also read a lot from a number of blogs:

January 26th, 2009 Posted by | reading | no comments

Reading for 2007

Here is the list of stuff I read in 2007:

  1. Who We Are Is How We Pray by Dr. Charles J. Keating. This one might be more interesting to someone who is into the Myers-Brigg personality type stuff.
  2. Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating. Not that great.
  3. A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin. This is from Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. I shouldn’t have started reading the series until they were all done, because at the rate he’s going, he will probably die before he finishes them all (this was fourth in a series that is supposed to be seven). These books should be rated R, but Martin does tell a great story so far, and his characters seem very real.
  4. History of the Arab Israeli Conflict (and main article links) – Wikipedia. This isn’t a book, but I included it because I spent almost a month reading it.
  5. Research Strategies: Finding Your Way Through the Information Fog by William B. Badke. Useful for someone trying to do research in an electronic age. I felt like I pretty much knew all this stuff already, though.
  6. The Craft of Research, by Wayne Booth, et. al. Very good step-by-step instructions for writing a research paper.
  7. Praying Home by Robert Llewelyn, et. al. This one is probably not worth reading. Another book about contemplative prayer (from the mystic Eastern Orthodox tradition).
  8. Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton. Ditto.
  9. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C. S. Lewis. Excellent book. C. S. Lewis always has something good to say, and this one is no exception.
  10. The Last Disciple by Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer. This is the first in a series of historical novels placed in the first century A.D. The series is somewhat a response to the popularity of the Left Behind series, in that it has a distinctly partial-preterist take on eschatology. Very enjoyable.
  11. The Last Sacrifice by Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer. Even better than the first one. I don’t know how many are planned, but I can’t wait for the next one.
  12. Lilith by George MacDonald. Somewhat like a fantasy, but before the genre really existed. Some people find it just plain weird, but if you pay attention to the brief biography of MacDonald in the front of the book, you can tell approximately what he’s saying, only in the form of a myth. Also, there is a great forward by C. S. Lewis, who considered MacDonald to be his mentor. Lewis remarks that MacDonald is not the best with words, but that his skill at myth-making was incredible, and I thoroughly agree.
  13. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. One of the Curdie books that Lewis recommends. A delightful story.
  14. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. A possible look at what it would be like to colonize Mars. Very enjoyable for an engineering guy like me. Robinson is fairly realistic about the kinds of technology we might have in the near future, and so this book combines that with a great deal of knowledge about sociology and religion. Some people will probably find it too much like techno-babble, but I think it should be required reading, given the U.S.’s plan for a manned mission to Mars by 2020. Warning: this series should be rated at least “PG-13,” maybe “R” for sexual content.
  15. Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. The next stage – terraforming Mars to support plant life. This book is the best of the series. Robinson is really good at understanding people. It does get a little weird, in places.
  16. Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. The final stage – changing the atmosphere to support humans. This book seemed to drag on a bit. Robinson’s altruism-with-no-basis is the serious flaw in the whole series, making the ending utopia seem quite unrealistic.
  17. Hearing God’s Call: Ways of Discernment for Laity and Clergy by Ben Campbell Johnson. Good, practical advice (with exercises) for seeking one’s vocation.
  18. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling. The best book of the series. Rowling wraps things up nicely, and brings together lots of stuff from the previous books. There is no long, tedious section of living with the Dursleys in this book, like there was in a couple of the previous books.

I also read a lot from a number of blogs:

  • Blog and Mablog (Doug Wilson) – I read the Auburn Avenue stuff, the book reviews, and other things that look interesting.
  • Once More With Feeling (Mark Horne). He posts too much, so I read less than half of it.
  • Michael Yon Online Magazine. News, mainly about Iraq, from an embedded reporter who was formerly in the Special Forces.
  • Belly Dancer’s Nightcap (Duncans). Friends from CO, now living in Germany.
  • By Living Waters (Bywaters). Friends from CO, now living in UK.
  • Colorado Chronicles (Mortons). Friends in CO.
  • The Weight of Days (Boonzaiijers). Friends in CO.
  • De Regno Christi (Bill Chellis). I read all the posts, along with the comments, in the discussion regarding the Federal Vision (17 Sep – 5 Oct). There were representatives from the FV, RPCNA, ARP, and maybe others. It was a decent discussion, although I felt like they never really got around to arguing from the Scriptures.

HT: Laundry List – I saw Eric’s list from 2006 a year ago, and thought it might be good to keep track of what I read during the year.

January 6th, 2008 Posted by | reading | no comments