Several Short Book Reviews

Well, I’ve been doing a lot better at keeping up with the 2017 Reading Challenge than I have been keeping up with the blog. I’ve done a lot of writing in the last month, but much of it has been offline (though my biggest recent writing project will make an appearance here very soon). My original intention had been to review all or most of the books I’m reading this year, so in order to catch up here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

lesmis“Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo

Book 10: A book more than 100 years old

I’m a bit ashamed I hadn’t read this book before! I’ve seen several different movie and stage adaptations, and read an abridged version many years ago, but this was my first time tackling the “real deal.” It’s so, so good! Not that I expected anything else. It’s one of the greatest stories ever told, and hopefully one I’ll have the opportunity to re-read several times in the future.

51-2b3wjprhl-_sx331_bo1204203200_“Dug Down Deep” by Joshua Harris

Book 11: A book about theology

Speaking of re-reading books… this is a book I read when it first came out in 2010, and it quickly became one of my top recommendations for young readers first starting their study of theology. I’ve bought and distributed many copies over the year, but decided to re-read it in its entirety this year when I assigned it to my three worship interns, so I could participate in our book discussions having seen it with fresh eyes. Still as good as I remember! You can read my full book review here.

c10832“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and “Prince Caspian” by C.S. Lewis

Book 12: A book of your choice
Book 13: A book written by an author with initials in his name

These are books I’ve read many times, but I’m more excited than ever to be reading them now with my 7-year-old son. His eagerness to devour these books (he’s asked to start going to bed earlier so he can wake up earlier and read with me before his sisters wake up) makes my heart so glad! I love seeing my children learn to love the things I love, and having the opportunity to introduce such beloved characters and stories to him—seeing them for the “first time” again through his eyes—is a great blessing.

By the way, though the edition we’re reading together (we LOVE this complete collection illustrated by Pauline Baynes) has the stories in chronological order (with The Magician’s Nephew first), we’re reading them in the order of publication, which I still stubbornly insist is the proper way to read them.

book-stateoffear“State of Fear” by Michael Crichton

Book 14: A novel by an author you have never read before

Having seen and enjoyed several movies based on Crichton’s books, I thought I might as well try out one of his novels. This one sounded intriguing, particularly the author’s statement that it’s the book he least wanted to write, and one which he felt could actually put his life in danger.

While I’m not sure about that last part, I can definitely see how he could face a lot of opposition because of the content of this novel. The characters (and Crichton himself, in an appendix that is well worth reading by itself) in this thriller challenge the status quo of “settled science” in the debate on global climate change. He writes a compelling and plausible story in which scientists and educators who dare to push back against the notion that man-caused global warming is a grave threat requiring massive government regulation & investment are ostracized and persecuted by peers, press, politicians, and celebrities.

While I wouldn’t call it a great work of literature, the audiobook was an enjoyable distraction over a few weeks’ worth of driving.

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I’ll try to get back to writing more detailed book reviews going forward! I’m reading several more books right now that are really terrific. Here’s a preview of what’s on the horizon:

  • The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk — Definitely a long-term reading project… I’m slowly but surely making my way through this massive survey of conservative thought. It’ll probably take me a few more months at my current pace.
  • Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard & Sheldon Bowles — I’ve actually already finished this one and written a review that will be published Monday. Excellent read on customer service, with broad application in ministry as well.
  • Culture Care by Makoto Fujimura — Probably my favorite book of 2017 so far, it focuses on how Christians can steward and cultivate creative gifts, harnessing the great power of beauty to reform and renew our culture.
  • The Whistler by John Grisham — Just started reading the latest in a long line of Grisham’s NYT bestsellers.

The Ordo Salutis

Over the last several weeks, the term Ordo Salutis — or, the Order of Salvation — has come up a couple times. I thought then that I would post a few of my favorite resources for studying one of the most pivotal areas of theology: How does God save people?

Besides going through an entire systematic theology (such as this one by Wayne Grudem), one of the most helpful books I can recommend is Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, by John Murray (my review). There is also a very helpful summary and outline of Murray’s thought progression available free here. Murray lists the steps in the order of salvation this way:

  1. Effectual Calling
  2. Regeneration
  3. Faith & Repentence
  4. Justification
  5. Adoption
  6. Sanctification
  7. Perseverance
  8. Union With Christ *
  9. Glorification

* Note: Murray does not actually treat this as a sequential “step” in this order, but addresses the believer’s union with Christ at this point in the book. Believers are “in Christ” through the entire process.

Those who learn better graphically may benefit from this infographic produced by Tim Challies (click to enlarge):

You can purchase a print of this graphic or download a much higher resolution PDF here.

Recently I became aware (HT: Bob Wilson) of a much, much older “infographic”, designed by John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress. You can read a little about this one here, or go directly to Bunyan’s “Map Shewing the Order & Causes of Salvation & Damnation” here. I need to get myself a poster-size print of this one!

What helpful study tools have you found to aid you in your understanding of salvation?

Combing the Net – 7/3/2012

How Many LEGOs Would It Take to Build the White House? — No, not the scaled down version in the actual LEGO set… we’re talking about the REAL one! This website quickly calculates the number of LEGO bricks it would take to construct full-scale models of any building (exterior only). It’s 158,783,167 for the President’s house… how about yours? (HT: Robert Wardwho is now on Twitter!)

Chesterton on Patriotism, with an Application to U.S. Elections — G.K. Chesterton is one of my favorite thinkers, and even though he was British and writing 100 years ago, his words always seem to be relevant to what’s going on today! Thabiti Anyabwile’s application to current American politics is also excellent.

5 Questions to Ask of a Book — Tim Challies is one of my favorite book reviewers, and has also helped me a great deal in learning how to approach reading. This is a great post for anyone who reads! Of course, to put this formula to the test, you’ll need a good book! Here are a few suggestions:

Cheap eBook Alert! — One of Amazon’s many deals of the month for July is Voddie Baucham’s The Ever-Loving Truth: Can Faith Thrive in a Post-Christian Culture? For the next few weeks, the Kindle version is only $2.99! If you’ve never read Baucham, you’re in for a treat.

Free Audiobook of the Month — The ChristianAudio free book of the month is The Sword, a novel by Brian Litfin. While I can’t vouch for the audio recording, I did enjoy this fantasy tale in its print version (my review). If you like it, you can check out the other two books in the trilogy: The Gift and The Kingdom, which is due to release at the end of this month.

The Slavery of Student Loan Debt — Denny Burk’s brief commentary on the following video:

Combing the Net – 6/19/2012

The Libraries, Studies, and Writing Rooms of 15 Famous Men — Trying to reign in my covetousness…

What the Bible Says About the Heaven Books — Tim Challies’ follow-up post to the one he wrote about the new genre of “I went to Heaven” books, which I linked to yesterday.

So what did Don Piper and these other authors experience? And what about the many people who can attest that they experienced something while they were clinically dead or otherwise near death? I don’t know. Some are liars, some are sincere, I am sure. Some have had a Near Death Experience, whatever a Near Death Experience is. We need to be very cautious because the fact is that Satan is capable of manufacturing experiences; I’m sure it is well within his power to convince people of an experience, to give them a kind of assurance that what they have experienced is real. The more variance there is between a person’s experience and God’s Word, the more we are obligated to doubt that experience.

What Is Wrong with Performance-Enhancing Drugs? A Thought Experiment with Robots and Baseball — A thoughtful article by Justin Barnard, who spoke recently in Cookeville at the Humanitas Forum.

God Desires All to Be Saved, and Grants Repentance to Some — John Piper writes an excellent short study on reconciling two difficult texts, which can go a long way to helping us understand the current debate going on within the Southern Baptist Convention about “God’s Plan of Salvation”.

How to create a culture of reading in your church — This is excellent stuff from Mark Dever! (HT: Matthias Media)

Combing the Net – 6/18/2012

Southern Baptists Set for a Notable First — The biggest news from this year’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is the election of the denomination’s first black president.

Guide to the SBC — Baptist 21’s guide to the annual meeting, which will show you everything going on in NOLA this week. If anything catches your eye, you can watch the entire thing through live video stream here.

Heaven Tourism — Tim Challies takes on the recent glut of books (e.g., 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven Is For Real) which supposedly tell the story of people who have been to Heaven and back… which is total hogwash.

A Closer Look at Teen Online Video Consumption — How much video do teens watch online? An interesting infographic.

The Free Will Song — I’m so thankful my wife managed to escape from Pensacola Christian College, where the legalism and bad theology are perhaps worse than the music (HT: John Samson)

Messing With “Come Thou Fount”

An interesting blog discussion happened this week about a line in the lyrics of the 18th century hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson. Mark Altrogge, a pastor and hymnwriter, questions the lyric “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love“. Are Christians really prone to wander, and to leave God?

Read his article here.

Tim Challies wrote a very good response, seconding a commenter from Altrogge’s original post defending the original lyric, while expounding on some very valid points that Altrogge made.

Read the Challies article here.

I commend both articles to you. While I agree with Challies on this one, I am grateful to Altrogge for asking the question in the first place. I love when Christians take hymn lyrics seriously enough to insist on their truthfulness!

Combing the Net – 5/4/2012

Mozart and Vince Gill — Douglas Wilson on if, how, and when we should condemn certain types of music, and our freedom in Christ to enjoy a wide variety of cultural artifacts.

If we reject a form of music out of hand because it is not the form of music we prefer, then we are trying to kick against the variegated world that the triune God created. And if we are doing this in a spirit of musical snobbery, we are demonstrating that, however adept we are in the form we prefer, when it comes to music at large, we don’t really know what its for.

McDonald’s, Jonathan Edwards, and Holy Affections — Eric Geiger uses a simple story to which we can all probably relate to illustrate a great truth from the teaching of America’s greatest preacher. (HT: Trevin Wax)

How Classical Education Shapes Us as God Intended — This is a great concise summary of the many benefits of a classical education, written by the author of The Gospel and the Mind (my review), which is now less than $3 on Kindle. I also highly recommend a book Green references in this article called Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning (my review).

Fiction & Literature: An Interview With Russell Moore — I loved this interview by Tim Challies of one of my favorite authors and thinkers, about the value of reading fiction and literature (including where the line between those two may be). I respect and trust Russell Moore’s book recommendations very highly (and Challies’ too, for that matter). Last fall I read Hannah Coulter (my review) based solely on Moore’s recommendation.

Last night, Ben Swann posted yet another excellent installment of his news program “Reality Check”. He is doing more than just about any other journalist right now to keep up with the actual rules of the Republican Party’s delegate selection process, and this is one of his best reports yet. If you don’t already, I highly suggest you follow him on Facebook to stay informed on what’s really going on!