"No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books."
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Be the People by Carol M. Swain, PhD

I began reading this book fully expecting it to really speak to me and inspire me since I myself am rather conservative politically and religiously and I figured that my sensibilities would align well with Prof. Swain's. And they did, to a large degree, with the exception that I tend to be more egalitarian in my view of the Biblical role of women and men and she tends to be more complementarian in her views.  I strongly agree with the basic premise of this book, that America is indeed heading in the wrong direction both politically and socially in many ways.  I found her chapter on abortion to be powerful and factually accurate.  I thought her interpretation of the intent of the Founding Fathers to be insightful.   But, unfortunately I found many other areas to be limited in scope and incomplete.  For example, she talks about the problem of divorce in this country (agreed) but she blames it almost entirely on the feminist movement.  I don't count myself among the Steinem Stepford feminists either but divorce in this country is a multi-faceted issue and I think that Prof. Swain's analysis fails to acknowledge that fact. Feminism may have removed some of the social stigma of divorce but it didn't really drive people to divorce.  Rabid feminists don't cause people to leave their spouses, unhappy marriages do and marriages can be unhappy for many reasons.  So even without feminism, even if divorce was still a stigma, all you would likely end up with would be men and women drudging through miserable marriages.  Another issue that Prof. Swain brings up is the idea that 9/11 was a punishment for the actions of the US and she listed a couple of reasons given by the terrorists for their attack to support this idea which basically boiled down to the exploitation of the poor and our sexual immorality.  Unfortunately, again, she didn't expand on this idea much and only presented a very limited view of the causes of the Sept. 11th attacks.  One of the major reasons that the terrorists attacked the US was due to our support of Israel, which she correctly states in several other areas of the book as being a moral benefit to the US.
It was mainly the little things like those that I listed that really prevented me from giving this book a five or even four star review.  I felt that overall, in concept and in theory, and even in much of of the detail it was spot on but in other areas it really failed to give a full and in some cases, an intellectually honest depiction. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions by Max Lucado

Max Lucado has been a tremendous inspiration to me since Christianity found me again and held onto my soul for dear life only a few years ago. When I had finally decided to set foot in a church for the first time in over a decade they handed me a "gift package".  It had chocolates, a welcome note from the church, and a small pamphlet.  I went home, gave the chocolate to my kids, read over the welcome note from the church before putting it in the trash and stuffed the pamphlet into my nightstand drawer without even bothering to open it. The next night while searching for something to read to slow my racing thoughts so I could sleep I reached into my nightstand drawer and found the pamphlet.  That pamphlet sent me down a path that changed my life forever.  It described Christianity in a way that I could relate to at the time despite my deep rooted skepticism and cynicism. I looked on the back of the pamphlet and found that the other was Max Lucado, a man I had never heard of in my entire life but I liked his style.

Since then I've read several of his books including this one and Outlive Your Life. While this book didn't quite inspire me the way that Outlive Your Life had done it is still a worthwhile read. In this book, Pastor Lucado answers some of the many questions he has received throughout his ministry in various different categories that include topics like God, suffering, sex and marriage, heaven and hell, finances and the purpose of church.  Some of the answers made a great deal of sense to me, some left me with still more questions, and there were even a small number that I didn't completely agree with but all of them were insightful, well thought out and handled in a compassionate and understanding manner. This will most likely be a book I keep returning to time and time again for a guidance and insight.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dragons of the Valley by Danita K Paul

Dragon's of the Valley is the first truly Christian fantasy fiction novel that I've read and I can honestly say I enjoyed it. It's central theme based around the usual "good guy vs. bad guy" model with the peaceful and enlightened town of Chiril suffering an unprovoked attack by the brutish, violent, and somewhat dimwitted kingdom to the South. 

The character The Grawl provides an interesting side plot portraying a skilled hunter/assassin with a tragic history that makes you feel a little sorry for him despite the fact that he is a cold-blooded killer.  His apathy and arrogance really add depth to his character and in the end he personifies the idea that sometimes evil isn't always black and white.

Along with the drama of love and death, fear and excitment there is also plenty of comic relief provided by the perpetually confused but always affable Lady Peg. Her barely coherent ramblings never failed to provide a smile and sometimes even a chuckle or two.

Adult readers, however, may prefer something with a bit more depth and the Wulder references seemed to me to be a bit forced at times doing slight damage to the overall flow of the story but all in all I think it is a great book for older kids and teenagers.  It's clean, engaging enough, not too violent, no real objectionable material and therefore I think it is definately a book most parents could feel comfortable giving to their children.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Eat Your Peas Daughter by Cheryl and Mom Karpen

This is such a cute little book.  I read it with my 7 year old daugther and she absolutely loved it. It's easy enough for a 7 year old to understand and deep enough for a teen or adult to appreciate. It is a wonderful gift that any daughter can treasure for a lifetime.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Jesus Inquest: The Case for and Against the Resurrection of the Christ

The Jesus Inquest: The Case for and Against the Resurrection of the Christ attempts to provide an even-handed examination of the arguments on both sides of the Resurrection debate.  Charles Foster, a barrister (criminal-lawyer) and writer uses his legal experience to present the arguments both against the Resurrection (as portrayed by witness X) and for it (as portrayed by witness Y) ultimately leading the reader to form their own opinions based on the evidence, although it is not too difficult to see which direction Foster himself is leaning.

The information is well researched, well thought out and eloquently argued.  Foster exhausts every avenue from eyewitness accounts, post mortem theft, the Jesus family tomb and pretty much everything in between in this comprehensive compilation. It will likely challenge the faith and convictions of some believers and reaffirm the belief and conviction of other believers. Non-believers would also find it to be a useful resource.

The only real problem I had with the book was in regards to the layout.   I found that presenting several different arguments from X on a given category and then responding with several different rebuttals from Y all grouped together was a bit too choppy for my tastes. I would have preferred to read an argument from X and then read it's specific rebuttal from Y right after.  To give credit, however, the cross references placed throughout the book helped to ease this problem somewhat as it provided a quick reference to which argument went with which rebuttal.  Part of me, also, would have liked to see a more clear and open stance in the epilogue regarding exactly what opinions Foster had developed during the course of his research since he did make the start of a story with it in the prologue. Not knowing whether his faith had been strengthened, lessened, or changed left me feeling like I had read an intriguing mystery novel that was missing the final chapter. I understand about wanting people to form their own opinions, but perhaps it would've been better then if he had left out the more personal aspects altogether.