Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Shot of Faith to the Head

While reading "A Shot of Faith to the Head," by Mitch Stokes, I can't help but smile. While seemingly intent on bringing up the most difficult questions that atheists can whip up, is Stokes just a glutton for punishment? Hardly. He coolly judos the arguments, and presents the Christian response in an encouraging and matter-of-fact way.

Stokes begins each chapter with a slew of questions (sometimes by the pageful), and evenhandedly builds the case for atheism, or mostly the popular case for it. I particularly enjoyed the first half of the book, which focused on epistemology (which is just a three-dollar word for the study of how we know what we know). He presents both arguments and assumptions of atheism, many of which involve being angry at a God who isn't there, or being angry at Christians whom they see as refusing to let go of outdated philosophies.

The irony that Stokes presents so well is that atheism cannot account for its own belief system. What has evolution to do with beliefs, let alone account for them? Why have we any more reason to respect the convictions of the human brain than we do the convictions of, say, a monkey's brain?

Also, the evidence that most atheists demand of Christians for the beliefs they hold is in many ways an irrational demand. Evidence is in no way a precursor to most beliefs that we hold. How do I know that I live in the United States, or that I was born in the city of my birth, or that man has landed on the moon? I must accept these facts, along with an infinite amount of others, based on the testimony of others. In fact, I must even rely on the testimony of my own senses.

All this and more is found in this exciting and engaging book by Mitch Stokes. I highly recommend it.

My thanks to Booksneeze for providing me with this complimentary review copy of "A Shot of Faith to the Head."

Friday, June 28, 2013

Back to Blogging and Book Reviews

After a brief hiatus, I plan to make a re-entry into the wonderful world of book reviews. Expect to see a book review per month or so, among other thoughts that may pop into my head and require an exit point.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review of "Why Men Hate Going to Church"

“Why Men Hate Going to Church,” by David Murrow, is a shocking scientific and statistically rich examination of the state of the modern church; that is, it’s dearth of men. Murrow presents an organized and convincing case for why men avoid church, albeit focusing more on mainstream and larger, liberal churches.

He begins by asking the reader to think of what characteristics are typically emphasized when thinking about Jesus – meek, mild, humble, caring and tender. Far less likely is Christ thought of as daring, powerful, aggressive, and rough. He then provides scathing statistics of church attendance, women nearly always far outweighing men (not so however in the Orthodox churches, interestingly enough). Most churches today cater to women in their emphases, structure, and leadership. One particularly cutting quote: “Why do so many effeminate and gay men attend church? Maybe because the church is one of the few institutions in society where there’s no pressure to act like a man” (32).

Most of all, this book is a wake-up call to men and women - a wake-up call with bucket of cold water and a punch in the gut. My thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing me with this complimentary review copy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Fyodor Dostoevsky," by Peter Leithart

Peter Leithart, in his latest installment in the Christian Encounters Series, “Fyodor Dostoevsky,” brings us another compelling and fascinating biographical sketch of an important Christian writer. The first praise that I have for this small volume is its presentation: Leithart on Dostoevsky on Dostoevsky. The book presents the biographee as his own biographer, an intriguing and entertaining approach to telling a life story. The setting is Dostoevsky’s study, Fyodor himself is an aged man, and is recounting his life to an old friend.

Dostoevsky’s life was one of literary and political battles. Almost perishing on multiple occasions due to his flirting with anarchism earlier in life, he later came to the position of what might be called Russian Purism. Leithart doesn’t get too in-depth here, but he emphasizes Dostoevsky’s holistic approach to culture: anti-Western, very Russian and very Christian. A true and honest Russian identity is what Dostoevsky was after, one that did not need the help of European nations to find its own unique offerings to the world.

Although he spent his early life chasing youthful lusts and squandering his money gambling, Dostoevsky matured into a man dedicated to his wife Anna and loyal to his family, despite their constant money-grabbing. I recommend this biography, and my thanks to Thomas Nelson for the complimentary review copy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fascinating Biography of George Carver

God gives his children all sorts of miraculous gifts and talents, some more unusual than others. In George Washington Carver's case, God gave him the gift of botanical insight. John Perry brings us "George Washington Carver," a small but well-written biography publicised under the recent Christian Encounters series.

Carver began his life as a slave and eventually, through his patience, desire to learn and love of nature, found himself in Iowa State University as one of the favorite students of his professors. Later joining Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Carver further developed his unique skill of cultivating different uses for various vegetation and plant life. Relatively unknown outside of Alabama till later in his life, Carver eventually found over 250 uses the peanut, and hundreds of uses for other vegetables including the sweet potato and pecan.

John Perry does well to elucidate the life of Carver, showing us his struggles, his failures, and his victories. Throughout his life, Carver struggled with a desire to be accepted and praised by others, but all the while overcome with a greater desire to please the Lord with his gifts and excite others to see what God had made.

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson for this complimentary review copy of this excellent biography.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Marvelous little Knox Bio

“The Life of John Knox,” written by an unknown author (I couldn’t find his name anywhere in the publication) is a fantastic little volume. In this work there are several scenes in Knox’s life that are unavailable in other biographies, most notably his encounters with Mary, Queen of Scots.

Myself being on a bit of a Knox bent lately, when I heard about Attic Books’ republication of a long forgotten work, I was interested right away. Of course the book can be somewhat difficult to read at times, but not nearly enough to have no idea what the author is trying to convey. At times, the specificity is quite helpful, and the thoughtfulness of his writings is much appreciated.

The book does hammer away at the Roman Catholicism of Knox’s day (and for good reason), so do not be shocked at some of the author’s bold statements in this regard; intertwined with this are the leaders of that day, political and otherwise, who were generally evil people in search of power and affluence. This power and affluence could in many ways be granted by the corrupt Roman church, which in many ways helped to give rise to the Reformation.

Knox’s encounters with Mary, Queen of Scots are marvelously portrayed in the book. Also, her character is unveiled as a duplicitous and unworthy Queen, oftentimes herself lying and going back on her word to the detriment of the people under her leadership. If you are interested in a small Knox biography, this perhaps may not be the first to read (for that I would recommend Wilson’s “For Kirk and Covenant”), but it is great for looking into those points of Knox’s life that you are left hanging in the other biographies. Highly recommended.

I would like to thank New Leaf Publishers and Attic Books for the complimentary review copy of this wonderful book.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards," by Dr. Steven Lawson

"The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards," a biography by Dr. Steven Lawson, is an interesting yet somewhat frustrating read. On the one hand, Lawson lists many of Edwards' resolutions and explains their beauty and discipline, citing much of Edwards' own diary for how he wrestled with them throughout his life. On the other hand, the biography comes off as hagiographic, painting Edwards in a slightly less-than-believable light. The humanity of Edwards, for the most part, seems to shine through the quotes present, and not much at all through Lawson's commentary on them.

The book, for the most part, is organized around Edwards’ famous resolutions, those pithy charges of self-accountability. Brilliant insights and penetrating declarations line the resolutions, and you cannot help but feel the gravity of Edwards’ desire for personal holiness. The resolutions, coupled with Edwards’ diary entries speak much of his personal life, struggles, and victories.

Perhaps this book is better categorized as a commentary than a biography. But it is a decent commentary, with its share of insights. Yet, desiring to meet with Edwards himself as I read, I felt more like I was at his funeral, where only nice things are said, and we don't get the full, sympathetic picture.

I'd like to thank Reformation Trust Publishing for this complimentary review copy of "The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards," and look forward to forthcoming volumes in the series.