"It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books."

- C.S. Lewis, "On Reading Old Books"
More on What Tyndale House Knew About Malarkey Book

The publisher of the book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven is saying it knew nothing of Beth and Alex Malarkey's complaints about the book until recently when Alex finally got through to the world that the book didn't tell his story.

Tyndale says they tried to meet with the family and the agent who largely wrote the book, but Beth would not agree. Phil Johnson interprets the situation as being less than supportive.

“The thread that runs through all their correspondence with Beth is that they wanted to corner her before they would be willing to investigate her concerns,” [Johnson] wrote to the Guardian. “They kept pressing her to agree to a meeting where she and Alex would have to face Kevin and a phalanx of editors who were determined to press ahead with the project, no matter what objections Alex and she might have.”

We saw the same thing in Beth's account from her blog. Company men had their own ideas, like journalists with a template, and kept pressing Alex to give them the details they wanted.

Warren Throckmorton notes Tyndale doubled down on this book last year when they released a pocket edition. These are not the marks of a Christian ministry. These are the marks of a purely market-driven organization.

How Martin Luther King's faith drove his activism

As [Dr. J. Kameron] Carter explains it, white churches that sprang up throughout American history did so in the pattern of the great European cathedrals and denominations from which they were transplanted. Black church, while it is related to those European frameworks, "is in excess of them," says Carter, meaning they "were already doing work beyond what those traditional denominations were doing."

"In the face of a modern condition that told Blacks they were only worthy of their labor power, black churches came along and affirmed that there was a mode of life far beyond the woundings that came along with black existence in America."

This is the tradition that produced King. And it's the same tradition that produced other civil rights leaders, like Rosa Parks and Ella Baker.
Brandon Ambrosino has written a lengthy interview with three scholars on Dr. King and the black experience in America.

Puritan Theology and the Race Problem



Dr. Anthony Bradley describes a problem Christians of any tradition should grapple with, that even great theologians and Christian leaders don't apply their theology uniformly well. They have blind spots, sometimes embarrassing ones.

This video is on Westminster Theological's post for Martin Luther King Day, which has a few books and stories from seminary alumni. Rev. C. Herbert Oliver graduated in 1953 has an interesting story to tell. You can read it on their site. Here, I'll quote his answer to the question on what changes he has seen in our country over 60 years:

Theologically, I would say that I’ve seen what I would call the disturbing trend in the PCUSA, moving in the direction of ordaining open gay and lesbian ministers. I’ve been a member of the New York City presbytery for 45 years, and I saw how that change took place. I opposed it at the beginning, but they had a way of shunning you to the side and not hearing you. So I decided I would become an observer and watch this and see how it has worked out. It has worked out to me unfavorably, and against the Bible, so they now have an openly gay executive presbyter of the presbytery.

I’ve also not seen any basic racial changes for the better in the church. I’m sorry to say that, but I ran into the same racism in the PCUSA church as I found in the OPC. When I graduated from seminary, there was no place for me to serve. There were plenty of churches that were vacant, but none of them would call me. It was understood by the higher-ups in the church that there was no future for me being called to a white church. That’s when the call came to me to serve in Maine, and I accepted that and went there and served. But the racial divide in America is still as strong as it was in the 40’s and 50’s. Just more polite, but it is no less real, no less firm, and no less impregnable.

Boy Denies He Returned from Heaven

The subject of the book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven has released a letter denying his claims in the book, something his mother has been doing for a few years.

"I did not die," Alex says. "I did not go to Heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention."

Publisher Tyndale has responded by pulling the book and related materials.

If you read the accounts from Alex's mother, Beth, you may ask how a publisher of Christian books for the body of Christ could railroad her and her son (apparently with the father's permission) to publish a book with such terrible theology. In a post from September 2013 which offers a timeline of details following the accident, Beth tells us some of her interaction with people wanting to turn her family's story into books and a movie.

I neither verbally nor in writing gave approval for any quotes. In fact I instead verbally gave my desire to not have any quotes by me put in any book. There was a time that I was sitting in PICU and told over the phone that some words from a webpage that no longer exists (prayforalex.com) that were written by me were going to be placed in the book. I was sitting in PICU with Alex! I told the person that they could not do that, to which they said they could and that that site was public. GRRR....the best I could do was to tell the person that they had better get every word correct. I have documentation of what is written in the book and that post from the webpage. The two do not match up :( It saddened me more to learn that that interaction that was twisted is part of a Bible study...what? I certainly have witnessed some shocking things!
Money, she says, was the driving factor for these people, and they promised money to her for Alex, but she has not seen any of it.

A Glimpse Into the Mind of a Sceptic

Bart Ehrman, author of How Jesus Became God and Misquoting Jesus, talks with World's Warren Cole Smith about his new book arguing Jesus did not claim to be God. He says, "It has long been recognized by scholars that if Jesus actually had called himself God, and it was known that he called Himself God, that it’s virtually beyond belief that the early Gospel writers didn’t mention this."

The publisher of Ehrman's book thought it would sell books to publish a companion book arguing that Jesus is God, so they approached five authors to write it. Ehrman says in the interview that he doesn't believe those authors believe Jesus taught the doctrine of the Trinity during his lifetime. "Scholars," he says, believe John's Gospel put words in Jesus' mouth, so he did not actually say, "I and the Father are one," or other claims to divinity. I suppose any evidence to support this belief is in his book.

Apparently the demonstrations of divine authority in Matthew 8-9 do not argue for Jesus' deity, but merely his agency of divine power. He was a prophet, nothing more:

  • "When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, 'Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.'"
  • "And the men marveled, saying, 'What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?'"
  • "'But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins'—he then said to the paralytic—'Rise, pick up your bed and go home.'"
  • "And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, 'Never was anything like this seen in Israel.'"
Apparenly Jesus claiming the title "Son of Man" for himself is no clue that he is the one in Daniel 7 who "all peoples, nations, and languages" would serve forever:
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

Ehrman gets hung up on the doctrine of the Trinity in the interview, pressing Smith on whether the five evangelical authors actually believe Jesus taught the Trinity.Read the rest of this entry . . .

Thornbury's Period of Doubt and New Faith

Greg Thornbury writes about his upbringing and how his Christian liberal arts education almost took his faith away.

For me, this dose of higher criticism was nearly lethal. Any sense that the Bible was divinely inspired and trustworthy, or that the creeds had metaphysical gravitas, started to seem implausible. The best I could muster was that, somehow mystically, perhaps Jesus was the Christ, existentially speaking. I was approaching something close to New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman’s own story of losing faith.
By God's profound grace, the writings of one man turned him around.

"Hark, the Herald Angels Sing"

A blessed Christmas to you all. Here's Sissel with what I think is my favorite Christmas hymn. We sang it in church tonight, complete with the old lyrics: "Pleased as man with man to dwell," "Born to raise the sons of earth," and all that. I felt like I'd gotten a Christmas present. I punch those lyrics when I sing them.

Controversial Exhibit of Artwork on Mary Rebuffs Art Snobs

So a straw man walks into a bar. Except he doesn't.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts is running what appears to be a fabulous exhibit, Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea on view December 5, 2014–April 12, 2015. Terry Mattingly has a video on it and writes about a review in The Baltimore Sun that reports on how some art critics are irritated that this exhibit doesn't shove back the faces of Christians who actually like Mary, the mother of Jesus. "In other words, this exhibit has – among a elite art critics – become controversial because it is not causing controversy among (wait for it) religious believers who are, by definition, opposed to modern art."

Apparently controversy is what exhibit planners want to avoid on a regular basis, but not all controversy is created equal. The only way to avoid the right kind of controversy is to show that your museum is too sophisticated to show respect for anything that isn't the latest in trendy, Ivy League expressions.

"The [Baltimore Sun] story makes it clear, for example, that this astonishingly deep exhibit could not have taken place if its planners had decided to include modern art about Mary that would have offended the very churches and museums that controlled some of these priceless masterpieces." But the straw men these critics hate so much are anywhere to be seen.

He Can't Make a Christian

In her regular Thursday column, Bethany Jenkins gives us Martin Luther on the nonexistence of a sacred/secular divide . Here's part of it.

The pope or bishop anoints, shaves heads, ordains, consecrates, and prescribes garb different from that of the laity, but he can never make a man into a Christian or into a spiritual man by so doing. He might well make a man into a hypocrite or a humbug and blockhead, but never a Christian or a spiritual man. As far as that goes, we are all consecrated priests through baptism, as St. Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9, “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly realm.” The Apocalypse says, “Thou hast made us to be priests and kings by thy blood” (Rev. 5:9-10).

Today: Through the Eyes of Spurgeon

Watch a new documentary on C. H. Spurgeon today for free. It's called Through the Eyes of Spurgeon. Get the details here.

"You'll have to find somewhere else to sleep"



Chicken coop, Coupeville, Island County, WA. Photo by Anne E. Kidd. Library of Congress

Today I was reminded of a man I wrote about here some years back. He’s gone now, and one of his relatives came to the library today to donate several cartons of books from his personal collection.

I think it’s all right to give his full name now. It was Marvin Rodvik, and he lived in Franklin, Minnesota. I met him a couple times in my life. The last time he gave us another gift of books. He also told me a story, which I passed along in this blog. I’ll tell it again now, because it is, in my opinion, one of the best stories I ever heard for the Christmas season.

Marvin was a pastor’s kid. The story happened when he was a teenager, probably (by my calculations) around the time of World War II.

An entertainment event of some kind (he didn’t say what) was planned in their small town. Marvin announced at supper that he was going.

“You’re not going,” said his father. They belonged to a strict church, a congregation of the forerunner to my own church body.

“Yes I am,” said Marvin. “You can’t stop me.”

His father paused a moment. Then he said, “You’re right. I can’t stop you. But know this. If you go to that event, you’ll be locked out of this house when you come home tonight. You’ll have to find somewhere else to sleep.”

Read the rest of this entry . . .

N.D. Wilson on Adapting 'The Hound of Heaven' for Film

Author N.D. Wilson has directed a short film of the Francis Thompson poem, "The Hound of Heaven." Shadowlocked.com has part of an interview with Wilson on how everything came together.

So what's it like adapting somebody else's work as opposed to your own?

Well, honestly I'm far more comfortable adapting other people's stuff than my own. And actually, in some ways, because I can be a stickler. I can be a stickler to try to stay true as I possibly can to their vision, when I'm adapting their stuff. But when I'm adapting my stuff, I don't feel any loyalty at all to it. I feel complete and total authority to change whatever I want, whenever I want.

And so when I'm adapting C.S. Lewis or even trying to serve Francis Thompson, I felt like I could write an intro, like I could write an opening monologue for Propaganda, but I couldn't bring myself to edit the poem. No matter how many people told me, “Well, surely you're not going to do the whole poem”, it was like, “No, I'm gonna do the whole poem. I'm doing all of it.” Because I really wanted it to come through.

If I'm doing my own things, like I'm doing 100 Cupboards, I'm thinking, like, “Oh, wow, I can throw this part away, and do this other thing that I was going to have in the novel, and I needed to cut it for space, but now I can put it in. I can take things that ended up on the cutting room floor of my novel, and put them into the film.” And I feel completely at liberty to do that. And that's dangerous.
Read more about the movie here.

"I fled him . . . in the mist of tears . . .
‘All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.’"

Do Some Protestants Believe in Purgatory?

Gene Edward Veith points out a news story about Professor Jerry L. Walls, who teaches the idea of purgatory and has written about it in Purgatory: The Logic of Total Transformation. Walls apparently buys into the Catholic understanding of the purification of believers. As this article explains, followers of Christ must be purified even if they are forgiven of all their sins. Their sanctification is not fully accomplished by Christ's work on the cross, but by some spiritual process between death and paradise. David Gibson of RNS states, "In recent years, the emphasis [for purgatory's purpose] has swung from 'satisfying' the justice of God through painful reparations to one of sanctification, or becoming holy.

“'To suggest instead that Christians will enjoy a kind of express executive elevator at the time of death is to suggest that those who work hard on holiness in this life are wasting their efforts,' John G. Stackhouse, Jr., a popular evangelical author at Canada’s Regent College wrote in an essay on Walls’ ideas in The Christian Century."

This Catholic writer explains, "Catholic theology takes seriously the notion that 'nothing unclean shall enter heaven.' From this it is inferred that a less than cleansed soul, even if 'covered,' remains a dirty soul and isn’t fit for heaven." But I guess Christ's atonement does not accomplish this, so though we are fully saved by his grace, we must be fully purified by purgatory's refining fire, which has been a big problem historically (not to mention the fact that the Protestant Bible doesn't allow for even prayers on behalf of the dead).

New Book on George Whitefield

Thomas Kidd has a new biography on one of America's great evangelists, George Whitefield.

Although I deeply respect and appreciate him, my Whitefield is not a perfect man. As Whitefield readily admitted, he struggled with the temptations of fame, and I also show his besetting difficulties in relating to other evangelical leaders such as the Wesleys. Most disappointing (as Dallimore noted too) was Whitefield’s advocacy for slavery, and his personal owning of slaves.
I thought I had read that he opposed slavery and got into trouble with some Georgian businessmen for saying so.

Your Reformation Day Treat: A treasury of insults

"Your words are so foolishly and ignorantly composed that I cannot believe you understand them."

The Luther Insult Generator may be found here. Hours of innocent fun for you and your family.

Why Read Calvin's Institutes?

Justin Taylor quotes J.I. Packer on how great and necessary reading Calvin's Institutes is for modern believers.

Packer explains that Calvin’s magnum opus is one of the great wonders of the world:

Calvin’s Institutes (5th edition, 1559) is one of the wonders of the literary world—the world, that is, of writers and writing, of digesting and arranging heaps of diverse materials, of skillful proportioning and gripping presentation; the world . . . of the Idea, the Word, and the Power. . . .

The Institutio is also one of the wonders of the spiritual world—the world of doxology and devotion, of discipleship and discipline, of Word-through-Spirit illumination and transformation of individuals, of the Christ-centered mind and the Christ-honoring heart. . . .

Calvin’s Institutio is one of the wonders of the theological world, too—that is, the world of truth, faithfulness, and coherence in the mind regarding God; of combat, regrettable but inescapable, with intellectual insufficiency and error in believers and unbelievers alike; and of vision, valuation, and vindication of God as he presents himself through his Word to our fallen and disordered minds. . . .

Legacies of the Reformation

Two pastors are celebrating the legacy they see in the Reformation. Tony Carter notes that one principle of the Reformers was universal literacy.

"The will of God is first and foremost a written revelation and if we are going to faithfully seek and understand his will we are going to have to be readers of God’s word. Luther’s translation of the Bible into the language of the people was key in making sure the Reformation would continue past his generation."

So for people who are reluctant to read well and have been denied education in the past, the Reformers are their champions. They say, "You are the chosen people of the book. Take up God's Holy Word and read it yourself, because in the Word is abundant life no matter your circumstances."

Louis Love talks about the church of his youth buying new hymnals that came with responsive reading, creeds, and a confession. His pastor began incorporating new, doctrine-based elements into their worship, and Love was surprised to learn this new material was from the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1833. They were learning from old ministers who had been discipled in Reformation theology.

"Be not ashamed of your faith," he quotes another pastor. "Remember it is the ancient gospel of the martyrs, confessors, reformers, and saints. Above all, it is the truth of God, against which all the gates of Hell cannot prevail."

Philip Duncanson shares a personal story of his discovery of Reformation history as a high-school boy who had yet to surrender to Christ, despite growing up in a Christian home. "It wasn’t the courage of Martin Luther to stand up against the powerful Catholic Church that fascinated me, although that was good drama. It was the fact that for the first time I realized that the Christian experience that I thought I had known all my life was actually tied to human history. Imagine that, at 15, Christianity was a concept that I had only tied to my generation, and at best, my parent’s generation."

Luther Keeps It Simple

Carl Trueman writes, "If Augustine freed the church from the back-breaking self-martyring piety of Pelagius, Luther freed her from centuries of obfuscating complication. . . Luther saw clearly that the Christian life is actually distinguished not by elaborate complexity but by its beautiful, simple, accessible Christ."

The State of Theology in America

Wittenberg

The wonderfully Reformed Ligonier Ministries issued a survey through LifeWay Research to identify what points of doctrine Americans believe. As you would imagine, Americans are all over the theological map, but what statements do they believe reflect reality? Will there be people in heaven who have never heard of Jesus Christ? Forty-one percent believe so. Is even the smallest sin worthy of damnation? Only fifty-one percent of self-professed evangelical protestants believe that's true and only ten percent of all respondents agree strongly. Is God unconcerned with my day-to-day decisions? Twenty percent say he is unconcerned. And pertinent to the central question of the Reformation, must someone contribute his own effort to his personal salvation? Seventy-one percent of surveyed Americans agree, fifty-four percent being evangelical protestants.

Dr. R. C. Sproul believes our country is sliding into a new dark ages of spiritual life, and this survey doesn't change his mind. Get all the details on their website, including a great infographic.

Notice the section on worshipping alone. That's one of those points of application that reveal our theological assumptions. Do we need worship the Lord together? Is our salvation essentially individualistic? Does a local church have any spiritual authority over us? Americans appear to have lost an understanding of the purpose of a local church.

"What Is Thy Only Comfort In Life and Death?"

Mur des Réformateurs - Reformation Wall 2

Churches with what we call high liturgy have suffered bad press from many believers who find it easier to point their faithlessness in their congregations than in their own, low liturgy churches. They accept the bad idea that creeds are lifeless and only spontaneity is of the Holy Spirit. In doing so, they have missed their own rich Christian history, which can be rediscovered in the catechisms and confessions of the holy catholic (universal) church. To those who are unfamiliar with these writings, let me give you the first two questions from the Heidelberg Catechism, one of the written teachings to emerge from the Reformation.

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.

Question 2. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?

Answer: Three; the first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.

The second question sets up the rest of the catechism, and the first question--isn't it glorious?

Marilynne Robinson and American Fiction

Casey Cep wrote, "Marilynne Robinson is one of the great religious novelists, not only of our age, but any age. Reading her new novel Lila, one wonders how critics could worry that American fiction has lost its faith, though such worries make one think there might well have been wedding guests at Cana who complained about the shortage of water after witnessing the miracle with wine." (via Alan Jacobs)

Would That They Were Actually Pagan?

C. S. Lewis wrote, "When grave persons express their fear that England is relapsing into Paganism, I am tempted to reply, `Would that she were.’" Because pagans have been shown to be convertible to Christianity, but post-Christians have shown more resistance. Pagans appeal to gods who cannot hear them and suffer for it. Post-Christians still benefit from the God they rejected and believe they have earned all they receive. Lewis wished we could find our spiritual poverty again so that we would see the riches to be found in Christ Jesus.

Today Englishman Bob Davey has taken up saving an abandoned church in Norfolk from local pagans. After cleaning up the church, he worked over the graveyard. "But even after he had driven the Devil from the door, still his acolytes returned. On every Witches’ Sabbath – special dates in the Pagan calendar – Mr Davey spent the night camped out in the church, on guard duty." It can get ugly.

Meanwhile, "The Church of England is trying to recruit pagans and spiritual believers as part of a drive to retain congregation numbers."

Announcing a New Spurgeon Center

This just in. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has begun to build a center to house it's a extensive collection of documents from the great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon and offer space for lectures and study. They're calling it the Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching.

What Exactly Does the Bible Tell Us?

According to Michael J. Kruger's review of Professor Peter Enns' new book, The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It, the Bible doesn't tell us anywhere near what we might think it does. Kruger says he always notes the cover endorsements on a new book, and some gave him pause.

But perhaps most illuminating was the inside flap, where the publisher describes the book’s purpose: “In The Bible Tells Me So, Enns wants to do for the Bible what Rob Bell did for hell in Love Wins.”

Not until after I read the book in its entirety did I realize how accurate this comparison actually is. Of course, Bell’s book (also published by HarperOne) challenged a core historical tenet of the Christian faith, namely the belief that hell is real and people actually will go there. Christianity has just been wrong, Bell argues, and we finally need to be set free from the fear and oppression such a belief causes. Bell positions himself as the liberator of countless Christians who have suffered far too long under such a barbaric belief system.

Likewise, Enns is pushing back against another core historical tenet of the Christian faith: our belief about Scripture—what it is and what it does. The Bible isn’t doing what we think it’s doing, he argues. It doesn’t provide basically reliable historical accounts (instead, it’s often filled with myth and rewritten stories). It doesn’t provide consistent theological instruction (about, say, the character of God). And it doesn’t provide clear teaching about how to live (ethics, morality, Christian living). Although Christians have generally always believed these things about Scripture, Enns contends that scholars now know they simply aren’t true. And when Christians try to hold onto such beliefs, it only leads to fear, stress, anxiety, and infighting. Like Bell, Enns is positioned as a liberator able to set believers free from a Bible that just doesn’t work the way they want it to.
In the end, Kruger says Enns' book wants it both ways. Discover God in the pages of Scripture while understanding most of what's written there is imaginary and contradictory. Repent and believe in Christ on the cross, but the Bible's morality is untenable and inapplicable to you.

A Presbyterian Walks Into a Baptist Chuch

Mark Jones writes about the differences between open and closed communion, meaning whether people in your church are allowed to take the Lord's Supper with you regardless of the mode or theology of baptism.

During a conference last year at SBTS, I was treated to an excellent paper by a young Canadian scholar (Ian Clary) on Andrew Fuller's communion practice. In the Q. and A. I asked (ipsissima vox):

"If you aren't baptized by immersion, then you can't be a called a Christian (in any meaningful ecclesiastical sense). And if you can't be called a Christian, then you can't take the Lord's Supper. Is that the implication of the closed communion view of Fuller?"

The room was silent: here a Presbyterian was asking a Baptist (in a room full of Baptists) to admit they can't call me a Christian.

My friend admitted that he believed/felt I was a Christian. But I countered: "Fuller's theology of communion and baptism doesn't allow you to call me a Christian in any official (ecclesiastical) sense. It is merely a private judgment." My friend, had to (uncomfortably) concede my point.
This, friends, is one of the ways good doctrine matters. Are Presbyterians actual followers of Christ? Is closed communion a good way to govern your local church?

Ask a Southerner to Pray for You

Because God answers more prayer in the southern United States than in other states, according to a new Lifeway Research survey. Wealthy people are far more likely to pray that bad things will happen to bad people than are those who have low income. Nearly half of respondents said they pray for those who mistreat them or their enemies.

So What If School Library Dumps Christian Books?

Burning BooksRiver Springs Charter Schools in California is reportedly removing all Christian books from its library shelves.

The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a legal defense organization, has been circulating the accusation that this network of California charter schools is culling its stock of Christian material, notably The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.

The school says it receives state funds and so cannot allow "sectarian materials on our state-authorized lending shelves." On their Facebook page, the school states, "No, we are not banning Christian novels at all. We are not allowed to provide sectarian textbooks however, so this is where the confusion comes in. So it's yes to novels, no to textbooks as a public school."

But attorneys with PJI say the Supreme Court has a "long-established precedent that strongly disapproves of school libraries removing books based on opposition to their content or message."

Now I fully understand that "sectarian" could be defined in wild and nonsensical ways. I mean, this is California. But I have a hard time understanding how a library is supposed to operate if it can't remove books over content issues. How did the books get in the library to begin with? If they had a volume of a decade of Playboy issues, would librarians be able to remove it based on the content?

I'm told Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico is in play here. Read the rest of this entry . . .

It's Not About Winning, But Win Anyway.



Jeffrey Overstreet talks about sports-and-faith movies in relation to the recent film When the Game Stands Tall. He says movies of this type usually reinforce bad ideas and behaviors.

"It’s a simple formula," he says. "Show that winning and losing is fraught with trouble if the game is played for the wrong reasons (for glory, for money, for self-gratification). Then show the athletes learning some Sunday school lessons about humility and teamwork. And once they’ve learned those lessons, then give the audience the satisfaction of seeing those who are In The Right achieve personal victories (reconciling the family, winning the virtuous but skeptical girl, overcoming the bullies)… and, usually, scoreboard victories as well."

The story easily preaches that good guys or the faithful will win, and God will win it for you, supporting the common belief that a good life with earn good rewards. There's truth there, but when life gets hard or unjust, then we will crumble if our faith is in this formula, not the living God. I think the church in America needs the backbone that would come from knowing God is faithful even when we don't win.

Jeff offers a good list of ideas he would like to see challenged in a movie about sports:

  • "how the commercialization of sports ends up encouraging lifestyles that are the antithesis of teamwork, health, and wholeness;
  • how money corrupts the whole enterprise, from outrageous salaries to the excesses of the circuses that tend to surround professional sports events;
  • how sports culture glorifies youth, and finds little of value in the experience of aging, so that athletes vanish from the national stage once they are too old to dominate the stage (unless they have enough charisma to become part of the youth-worshipping media machine);
  • how “fan spirit” usually devolves into tribalism."


That's only half of his list. Have you seen this movie? What did you think of it? If you like, share your thoughts on other sports-themed movies.

Authors Donating to Iraqi Christians

A Facebook community of authors are donating September's royalties to Iraqi Christians through Voice of the Martyrs. They call themselves Authors in Solidarity. We've reviewed a few of books featured in this community. Lars is donating his royalties from Hailstone Mountain (The Erling Skjalgsson Saga Book 4). There's New Found Dream: Book Two of "A Healer's Tale", The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen, Bid the Gods Arise (The Wells of the Worlds) (Volume 1), and many more. Let us know if you join this effort to help Christians in Iraq.

Following Your Heart Will Lead to Death

"Dante shows us that you can just as easily go to Hell by loving good things in the wrong way as you can by loving the wrong things," Rod Dreher explains. He has been reading The Divine Comedy for the first time and is working on a book about it.

All the damned dwell in eternal punishment because they let their passions overrule their reason and were unrepentant. For Dante, all sin results from disordered desire: either loving the wrong things or loving the right things in the wrong way.

This is countercultural, for we live in an individualistic, libertine, sensual culture in which satisfying desire is generally thought to be a primary good. For contemporary readers, especially young adults, Dante’s encounter with Francesca da Rimini, one of the first personages he meets in Hell, is deeply confounding. Francesca is doomed to spend eternity in the circle of the Lustful, inextricably bound in a tempest with her lover, Paolo, whose brother—Francesca’s husband—found them out and murdered them both.
She says romantic poetry taught her of Love's power and held her entralled to her heart's passion. "Can love be selective?" she might ask. Can anyone control their passions?

"We know, however, that it is really lust," Dreher says, "and that her grandiose language in praise of romantic passion is all a gaudy rationalization." Dante is overcome at the end of his encounter with Francesca, but not perhaps by her fate at a seemingly small thing. He may be overcome by the idea that his own poetry encouraged her to follow her heart into death.

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