I like this review by Bruce DeSilva of Christopher Hitchens’ latest book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. DeSilva writes, “Christopher Hitchens is an essayist and pundit who loves a good fight and is never afraid to pick on someone his own size; but this time he’s outdone himself. He’s picked on God. . . . Hitchens has nothing new to say, although it must be acknowledged that he says it exceptionally well.”
[first posted July 29, 2003] Shaw Books, an imprint of Waterbrook Press which is a division of Random House, has quietly announced the upcoming release God of the Fairy Tale from Jim Ware, coauthor of Finding God in the Lord of the Rings. Ware is a writer, folklorist, and Celtic musician, which are just credentials I wish I had. The book reports to be an examination of twenty fairy tales, retelling them and highlighting their themes. It’s the type of thing I would hope any reader could do with their children, but Ware will undoubtedly bring significant insight into the literary analysis. This work probably echoes Tolkien’s opinion that myth is not an untrue story, but a story which delivers essential, though maybe not factual, truth. The Gospel can be considered a myth, a beautiful story, but one that is true in almost every way it’s told. (Should you wonder why I say “almost,” I think that Philippians 2 describes the emptying of Jesus which the best of us cannot fully understand and may even interpret incorrectly.)
In related news, Tolkien’s The Children of Hurin is now available and is currently #2 on Amazon.com.
Mindy Withrow reviews The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. “He does not presume to have all the answers,” she says, “but suggests that the ‘best way to fight industrial eating is by simply recalling people to the infinitely superior pleasures of traditional foods enjoyed communally.'”
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.
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?
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).
Here’s a book for those who think they understand Jesus’ intent behind his command to avoid judging others lest we fall under condemnation. Making Judgments Without Being Judgmental: Nurturing a Clear Mind and a Generous Heart, by Terry D. Cooper.
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.”
God’s Upside Down Kingdom points out a new book on the history of Lutherans in Nazi Germany. “Readers … will discover the stories of courageous church leaders who prevented the Nazis from absorbing Lutheran Churches into the Reich Church.”
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.”
“These biographies of theater luminaries outshine the rest,” writes critic Terry Teachout of his Five Best column in today’s WSJournal. He recommends
- Park Honan, Shakespeare: A Life
- Michael Holroyd, Bernard Shaw (the one-volume abridgment)
- Simon Callow, Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu
- Moss Hart, Act One
- 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.”
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.
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?
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.”
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.
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]