Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

Once upon a time I read a book, kept hoping it would make sense at the end, and when the end was not the resolution for which I had hoped, declared the book to be a bad one, and not worthy of recommendation.  That book was much shorter than The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

I have never before read a Russian novel.  My literary experience has generally skirted the classics.  Against Tolstoy I am prejudiced, for his enormous works sat on the same shelf as Tolkien’s at the library, except Tolstoy’s were always waiting to be checked out while Tolkien’s occasionally visited their home nearby the famed Russian.  The literature of Russia has a reputation, but I am not entirely sure what that reputation is.  I think it has a reputation for being unpleasant.

For The Brothers Karamazov does not end like a romance or a tragedy.  The entire novel is like applied philosophy, the kind that is so like real life that it weaves a story.  There are many ideas brought forward by Dostoyevsky’s portrait of the Karamazov family, ideas which are loosely connected and often contradictory.  At the center of the tale is the trial of Dmitri Karamazov, the oldest son of the murdered Fyodor Karamazov.  Willing to betray a woman, willing to lie, unwilling to steal but stealing anyway, willing to beat a man – but not willing to murder?  Does integrity come by degrees?  What if the same man is willing to take pity, willing to show gratitude, willing to be generous, willing to love?  Can such extremes exist sincerely in one person?

Perhaps rather than claiming the book to be a study of evil’s causes and cures, it could be described as a description of the approach Russians have taken to evil.

Is evil innate?  Is it taught?  Is it a response to neglect and abuse?  Does evil behavior spring from insanity?  Is it the inevitable cause of rejecting God’s world – even if you still embrace God?

What about cure?  Will science cure evil?  Liberation?  If a culture embraces the creed that “all is lawful,” will evil cease to exist?  Can piety cure evil?  Goodness?  Vengeance?  Mercy?  Gratitude?  What prevents evil?  Honesty?  Faith?  Does the threat of law discourage evil?  Does the church’s social influence deter evil?

Has the church been corrupted?  Can conflict exist in the midst of the church or society, without at least one side representing evil?  Has God been corrupted?  Has God been lied about?  Has the Devil?  What is the Devil’s goal?  For that matter, what is God’s?

What would a man take in exchange for his soul?  If he could save someone he loved from damnation, what would he sacrifice?  If he could save someone he hated?  Would a proud enemy accept help?

What is the difference between remorse and despair?  Forgiveness and disdain?  Why do people seek after a sign?  Must we walk by reason and experience, or is it possible to walk by honor and faith?  Can a person love another and hate them at the same time?  Can God?

I once read a book and kept hoping that the end would bring resolution, but I will not declare this book to be a bad book.  I will humbly admit that I do not understand The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  It has a lot to say about the psyche of Russia, their history and culture.  If I re-read the book, now knowing the story, I might be able to follow its message.  But at 700 pages long, I’m not particularly eager to.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Your God is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan – A well-written book about Christian living.  Dare to believe in a God who is not about rules, whose way is not comfortable or easy or popular.  Practice His presence.  Wait on Him and don’t give up, taking matters into your own hands.  It took me a while to read this book.  But every time I picked it up, it echoed the very lessons God was driving home in my lived-out life.

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning – All about grace.  And grace is always good.  I knew before I read it to be wary of some of Brennan Manning’s ideas, so that didn’t hang me up.  Even when I disagreed, I talked to my Jesus about it, and *that* made my week.

Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo – Was not a great story, not great writing, and not a great ending.  But I read it anyway, my first venture into Austen fan-fiction.  The title was the best part.  (To be Austen purist, I am pretty sure the author mis-identifies the inhabitants of Mansfield Park.  She should have said Bertram, but she said Rushworth.)

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (see full review)

Castles in the Sand by Carolyn A. Greene – A novel about the subtle ways pagan spirituality and eastern mysticism are becoming accepted in evangelical Christian organizations.  Focuses on the teachings and life of Teresa of Avila.

Annotated Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and David M. Shapard – The classic Jane Austen novel with lots of extra commentary as well as notes about history, economics, and fashion.  I liked it a lot!

Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul – Explanation of Calvinism especially versus Arminianism.  Focuses on the doctrine of predestination.

Tristan and Isolt, A Play in Verse by John Masefield – A short play telling a story of thoughtless love leading to tragedy.  What is real love?  How does Destiny figure in?

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart by Beth Patillo – Another adventure in England with the Formidables, this time featuring a codependent heroine who has the chance to reinvent her life for a couple weeks without worrying what anyone needs her to be.  The exercise reveals her insecurity and causes her to confront her life choices.  Can a woman build a life on other people?

Green by Ted Dekker – Book 0 of the Circle Series, the beginning and end of the Thomas Hunter story.  I haven’t read any of the other books in the series, which Ted Dekker says is ok.  But it was confusing.  And I don’t think I like reading the end before the beginning.  I did like all the talk about hope.  And remembering that spiritual realities are real, even if they are unseen.

Miniatures and Morals: the Christian Novels of Jane Austen by Peter Leithart – A wonderful look at the beloved authoress’ use of satire, contrast, irony, and very good story-telling to communicate a morality originating in a deeply Christian worldview.


The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, and Edmund Weiner (see full review)

Why Pro-Life?  Caring for the Unborn and their Mothers by Randy Alcorn A short summary of the major points of pro-life Christianity.  Pro-life is also pro-woman.  The “choice” is a moral one.  Preborn babies are people, too.  Pro-life ministries also help women after the babies are born.

That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (see full review)

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer with Todd Hillard

Britt Beemer’s America’s Research Group was commissioned by Ken Ham to survey 1,000 former attendees of conservative Christian churches, who are now in their twenties, to discover why they left.  Already Gone is a summary of the survey results, and a challenge to the church to heed the warning and make the radical changes required to remain relevant – not only to the younger generations, but to everyone. 

Do you believe in the authority of Scripture?  Does your life demonstrate it?  Ken Ham poses these questions to young adult Christians both in and out of mainstream churches, to pastors, Christian teachers, to parents, churches, and educational institutions.  The subject of Already Gone is the generation of Christians my age (20’s), many of whom have left the church.  Of those who have left, there are two main groups: one whose worldview is mostly secular and skeptical of the Bible, and one that believes the Bible is true and applicable but has found the church irrelevant.  How is the church failing to deliver a biblical worldview to the children and youth who faithfully attend Sunday school, church, and youth group?  Of the twenty-something’s who remain in the church, are they submitted to the authority of Scripture, or is their search for a worship experience prevailing over God’s teachings about the Body of Christ? 

What about the parents, pastors, youth pastors, and Sunday school teachers who make up the older generation, the church establishment?  Have they sold out God’s teachings on the church for their beloved traditions?  How much of what we think of when we hear “church” is actually biblical?  Why is the most common accusation against the church that it is hypocritical?  The church in America is losing members so drastically that we need to radically reevaluate our practices and teachings.  Compromise cannot be tolerated. 

As founder of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham must touch on his favorite subject: the foundational importance of Genesis, and how compromise on the historical and scientific truth of Genesis undermines all of Scripture, faith in God, and even the gospel.  He calls the church back to teaching “earthly things,” the correspondence between the Bible and reality.  Christians need to be equipped for apologetics from an early age, to guard against doubts and to answer inquiries from a godless culture.  This, more than music or games or attractive activities, is the only way to be relevant to people living in the real world and desperate for answers.

Already Gone is a fair, factual, and interesting treatment of the systemic problems in the church today.  Lest we become like post-Christian Europe, where church is a marginal pastime for a few elderly people clinging to vestiges of tradition in empty cathedrals, we must take action now.  Several reactions to the problem are presented, with their disadvantages and perks, but ever a challenge to study for yourself what God says about church and training up children. 

As a member of the generation under the microscope, on the edge of the traditional church and ready to flee, I was impressed by the willingness to take us seriously.  Some of us are leaving because we see the problems and want a church that does what a church should, and loyalty isn’t strong enough to keep us from looking outside our experience.  Ken Ham acknowledges, with some surprise, people in my situation.  I appreciated this book.  Even though I’m pushing for the more extreme reactions mentioned (abandoning Sunday school and traditional trappings: buildings, sermons, and orders of worship), I have a lot of respect for the way Already Gone ties the whole malady to the failure of Christians to teach and obey the authority of the Word of God.  If a person is faithful to study and submit to that, he will be led to the mode of meeting and discipleship God intends, strongly equipped for the Christian call to evangelize our world. 

Already Gone

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

           Each devotion in Godcast begins with a verse and ends with a prayer.  In between will be thoughts and anecdotes with a point, usually related to church or Christian living.  The articles are not deep, or set on expositing Scripture.  Its strength is application.  Generally this is a good book, though lighter than my preference.  And there were some frequent points that made me frustrated. 
 
          This book could be summed up with the following oft-repeated statements:
 

God has given us all the resources: physical, mental, spiritual, monetary to do
what He wants us to. 
 
The only critic who matters is the One
with nail prints in his hands. 
 
You must tithe. 
 
Get involved in missions: if you can’t go overseas, then pray and
pay for people to go overseas.

  
 
            The first statement is the real value of this book.  My favorite of the one-page chapters all dealt with the bigness of God, freeing me to depend on His grace. 

            But the third and fourth statements, which I’m not kidding, show up word for word about every fifteen pages, bother me.  I know that there is a large segment of Christianity that believes tithing is still God’s plan.  But it just isn’t in the Bible.  The Old Testament is filled with descriptions of the tithe, and rules about tithing.  Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, written to the Jews.  It calls the people thieves for not bringing God’s tithe into the storehouse.  Malachi wrote for Jews, under the law, with 400 plus years to go before the law was fulfilled and the new wine of the covenant was poured into new wineskins.  The author of Godcast claims that the church is the New Testament equivalent to the “storehouse,” because from thence we get spiritual nourishment.  He goes so far as to say that donations to other ministries cannot be counted as a tithe.  (He’s a pastor of a huge church with lots of staff and a multi-million dollar building.)  Each prayer on these chapters is unobjectionable, asking for a spirit of faith and giving and that God would give us wisdom to use His resources for His purposes.  I am all for giving, and was both blessed and challenged by his admonitions to a lifestyle embracing sacrifice. 
            Associated with this emphasis on regular, budgeted tithing to a single local church are some typical mega-church priorities with which I disagree: large congregations (in the thousands), expensive buildings, seeker conformed methods (A disturbing chapter is on needing bait as fishers of men, but the bait isn’t Jesus and life and salvation; it’s coffee!), professional staff, overly-planned and programmed worship services.  In a denomination like Assemblies of God, with its emphasis on the Holy Spirit, it is strange to me that they want to keep so much out of His control and fitted into a mold of traditional church structure.  On a positive note, the priority of his ministries seems to be people more than things or organizations. 
            Missions is obviously something to which every Christian is called, but we are not necessarily called to the easy task of being a missionary of supply.  Mr. Betzer is from the Assemblies of God, and I’ve been raised more or less in the Baptist tradition, but where I come from, we’re not given the excuse of saying that we send missionaries, but don’t have to preach the gospel ourselves.  There is just as much a mission field here in America as there is internationally, and so if you are not called to go overseas, you have a huge work here in your own city.  I believe that Mr. Betzer lives this way, though his lingo is misleading.  
             One other large concern to me is the focus on works and human responsibility.  If we do not preach the gospel to our friend, God is unable to save him.  If we fail to take our children to Sunday school, their lives will not be set on a godly course, and they will miss their calling.  Such are a few of the points made in this book.  
            To end on a better note, one of the chapters (#213) I read on election day was about Abraham Lincoln, and encouraged us to pray for our government, whether we agree with it or not.  How appropriate.  You can never pray too much, nor trust God too much. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »