Category Archives: Non-fiction

Resources for Changing Lives

April 1–We call it April Fool’s Day because for a long time it was celebrated as New Year’s Day, and after the changing calendar, some clung to the old ways, I suppose despite a lack of evidence. Wikipedia notes the Nun’s Priest’s Tale as being a tale of two fools occurring on April 1, so whatever the reason, fools have come out of the closet on that day for a long time. I’ve always thought of it as an alternate New Year’s Day, which is why in Camelot they sing, “The lusty month of May, that darling month when everyone throws self-control away.” Now that I type it, it makes no sense whatsoever, but . . . onward.

If you’ve come to this week in April thinking your New Year’s resolutions are shot or that you really haven’t given yourself a chance to work them out, let my heartily recommend some fantastic booklets. P&R Publishing offers “Resources for Changing Lives,” a series of short books on hot-button issues and the harder stuff of New Year’s resolutions, such as anger, loneliness, depression, handling conflict, grief, marriage, cutting, and stress. Weight-loss is not among them nor is one on improving your sex life, but appetite and love are there.

What Difference Does Jesus Make?

When your thirty-one year-old wife and the mother of your two young children dies of brain cancer after countless prayers from hundreds of believing friends, what difference does it make to ask Jesus into the despair? When your one year-old has to undergo physical therapy, and the treatment you inflict on your baby makes him scream in pain every day for months, what difference does it make to invite Jesus into that pain? When your dark tunnel of depression has become darker, narrow, with no end in sight and the in-breaking shafts of light mostly memory, what good does it do to invite Jesus into your desperation? If he is our God and could change really, really tough circumstances but will not, what good does it do to do life with him?

Part of Glenn Lucke’s interview with author Leigh McLeroy on her recent book, The Beautiful Ache. (by way of Mr. Bertrand)

William Wilberforce in Book and Film

There’s certainly not the build up to Amazing Grace, the movie on William Wilberforce, as there was to The Passion, but I note one similarity. Author John Piper wrote a companion book to both films. You can read Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce in PDF at desiringgod.org.

If you know about Wilberforce, you know he still speaks for our day.

The fatal habit of considering Christian morals as distinct from Christian doctrines insensibly gained strength. Thus the peculiar doctrines of Christianity went more and more out of sight, and as might naturally have been expected, the moral system itself also began to wither and decay, being robbed of that which should have supplied it with life and nutriment.

If you don’t know about Wilberforce (1759-1833), he is remembered for having “the grand object of [his] parliamentary existence” as the abolition of the slave trade. “If it please God to know me so far may I be the instrument of stopping such a course of wickedness and cruelty as never before disgraced a Christian country” (quoted from the preface of Piper’s book).

P.J. O’Rourke Doesn’t Make the Cut

Mr. Holtsberry reviews P. J. O’Rourke’s On The Wealth of Nations, which is O’Rourke’s take on Adam Smith’s classic (Does anyone read The Wealth of Nations anymore? Does anyone read any of the classics?). In short, he doesn’t think much of it. “I am not sure O’Rourke really captures anything quintessential or insightful about Adam Smith’s famous work or helps the reader understand it better. It is an interesting journey but you end up with little to hold onto in the end.”

Reviewing ‘Normal’

As she promised, Mindy Withrow has reviewed Andrée Seu’s Normal Kingdom Business, a collection of essays. I jumped to buy her first collection and am taking my time (putting off with no good reason) buying the second. I need to buy it for myself and maybe a few friends.

Mindy praises this new collection and pull out some quotes: “Story is how we learn theology…Reminding yourself of the real story is good for what ails you. If you’ve gotten too high and mighty, it reminds you that you are ‘dust.’ If you’re feeling like dust, it reminds you of your glorious destiny.”

Teachout on Five Best Playwright Bios

These biographies of theater luminaries outshine the rest,” writes critic Terry Teachout of his Five Best column in today’s WSJournal. He recommends

  1. Park Honan, Shakespeare: A Life
  2. Michael Holroyd, Bernard Shaw (the one-volume abridgment)
  3. Simon Callow, Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu
  4. Moss Hart, Act One
  5. John Lahr, Prick Up Your Ears: The Biography of Joe Orton

In related news, can you guess which movie version of a Broadway production my wife and I saw last night. Here’s a line from it: “_________, that should have been my name, cause you can see right through me, walk right by me, and never know I’m there.”

Best Contemporary Theology Book Meme

Ok, you Lutherans, here’s a theological book meme from a couple sources:

Name three (or more) theological works from the last 25 years (1981-2006) that you consider important and worthy to be included on a list of the most important works of theology of that last 25 years (in no particular order).

There’s the added caveat that the books should not be works of biblical exegesis, historical studies, etc., unless these are of special theological interest.

The above comes from sacra doctrina who recommends Lesslie Newbigin’s The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission, Richard B. Hays’ Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theo-Dramatik, Oliver O’Donovan’s Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics.

Joel H. also throws out some titles.

I don’t know squat about any of these books. What do you, intelligent readers that you are, think about these titles and ones you would recommend?

I Want to Look Fabulous; Then I May Love My Neighbor

On Blogwatch, I noticed this link to what girls write in their diaries:

The author [of The Body Project] examined young girls’ diaries from the 1800’s to the 1900’s and found that “In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, girls’ diaries focused on ‘good works’ and perfecting the character. In the 1900’s, the diaries are fixated on ‘good looks,’ on perfecting the body.”

Living in an MLK Neighborhood

From an article in my hometown internet news site by Michael Locke:

In WE CALL IT HOME: LIVING THE DREAM IN THE M.L. KING NEIGHBORHOOD, Greenfield recounts taking Sunday morning drives through these M.L. King neighborhoods and being fascinated by the desolation that had once been respectable:

“I wanted to photograph the old buildings where once a thriving black middle-class had lived, worked, prayed and been educated. The wrecking ball of time was nearby and I did not think even the powerful hand of God could forestall the inevitable collapse. I was wrong.”

We Call It Home by Stephen Greenfield, photographer, and Barry Parker, author, is a coffee table book for sale in downtown Chattanooga.

Big Bang of Popular Science Books

Are science books back in demand? Bryan Appleyard talks about them and some of their problems. A loathing of religion and dismissal of philosophy . . .

Such crude certainties are, of course, absurd, since good science is predicated on uncertainty, but it was essential to the marketing of these books. Uncertainty, it was thought, doesn’t sell. What sold were big final statements. These books — especially those by Dennett, Hawking and Dawkins — were preaching to the converted, to people who broadly accepted the terms of this impregnable certainty. They sold well because they became the texts of the dominant faith of our time: secular scientism. They were exclusive works: you were either in or out. It’s not stretching a point too far to say that their hard certainties and exclusivity played some part in the decline of interest in science among the young. They lacked the essential ingredient that turns children into scientists — wonder.

I’ll give that a hearty amen!

One of the books Appleyard doesn’t mention is the latest by astrophysicist Hugh Ross, called Creation As Science. Ross attempts to give four viewpoints a fair shake: evolution, theistic evolution, old age creation, and young age creation. This description may tease your interest a bit. Ross’ concludes his book with predictions from each viewpoint on matters he believes will be revealed at least in part within a few years. He argues that good scientific theory should be able to predict what will happen under certain circumstances, and he hopes one of the four viewpoints will have demonstrably more supporting evidence after a few years of research announcements. I hope to see a big bang out of that.

[via Kenyon Review’s blog]

Don’t Want the Must-Read List

Have you read Blue Like Jazz? What did you think about it? Jared gives it high marks for narcissism and thought message was “Look how cool me and my friends are.” He also cannot recommend A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity, whose authors apparently want to remake God to appeal to the modern world.

I know I’ve always thought the most culturally appealing things about Christianity were genuine godly character and authentic Christian living, which I suppose is another way to say loving our Lord wholeheartedly and loving each other properly. But that’s the most repelling thing about Christianity too. We can count on being slandered for our good deeds. I wonder if the emergent crowd understands that or if they are working to be appealing only.

Renewing the Mind

Nate Shurden of Reformation21 on James E. White’s A Mind for God:

In a day where more and more Christians prefer humble ignorance to a cultivated mind and where the newest bestseller receives more attention than Christian classics, White’s introduction to Christian thinking is not a moment too soon. In a little over a hundred pages, we’re exposed to the world of the mind and principles by which our minds can be enlisted in the work of God for the glory of God. White understands our time to be filled with great promise and opportunity, like no other time in human history. But, equally so, ours is a time of great peril. We cannot continue to shirk our God-given responsibility to think and live in a consistently Christian manner. At heart, it’s a question of worship. Will we be conformed to this world or transformed by the renewing of our minds? Time will be our biographer; let us choose today what story will be told of us.

I submit that most of us in the modern church do not know what “conforming to the world” means. We may be able to define it adequately, but we can’t apply it to our lives and we don’t know what it looks like. “Taking every thought captive”–what does that mean? Do I have to give up Desperate Housewives?