Book Review: The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea

My Rating: If you are looking for something

Level: Short, easy

Summary

An old fisherman who has not caught anything in days so farther out than usual to catch a fish. He catches a large one that drags him for days even farther out to sea.

Spoiler (for a 70 year old book), while the fish doesn’t get away, he was unable to get it back to shore as sharks pick off all the meat before he gets home.

My Thoughts

This is a classic book, that many people probably had to read in middle school and probably didn’t pay much attention to. The book is at its best when it is the old man and his inner dialogue of not wanting to quite and being stubborn. End the end, it doesn’t work, the incident is a perfect example of sunk cost fallacy. The old man believes himself to be resilient and tough, but he is actually a fool who loses almost every thing and gains nothing. Though as I get old (and continue to be an unsuccessful fisherman), I do gain more empathy for him.

Spoiler again – I knew this was a classically tragic story, but for whatever reason, I didn’t even think of sharks. I just assumed the line would break before he could get him to shore.

I detest the lack of chapters or page breaks. I find it annoying and think books or authors that employ this ‘style’ are often overrated for doing something different.

However, overall it is a pretty good book. A somewhat unique twist on an old story. There are cool historical notes about how poor fisherman actually worked back then, which was surprisingly interesting to me and probably a few dozen other people. If you are looking for a short book or an American classic, it is good one for the job.

Book Review: The Reason for God

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

My Rating: Must read

Level: Medium length, around 250 pages; moderate read, some parts are a little philosophical or scientific.

Summary

The title is fairly clear. This is an apologetic work for why Keller thinks there is a reason for God’s existence, specifically the God of the Bible. The book is broken into two parts – The Leap of Doubt, and The Reasons for Faith. The former deals with criticisms or issues that skeptics may have for God, while the later gives proofs. There is also a introduction and an epilogue.

Each of the parts are broken into seven chapters: There Can’t be Just One Religion, How Could a Good God Allow Suffering, Christianity is a Straightjacket, Science has Disproved Christianity, and You Can’t Take the Bible Literally for part one. Part two includes: The Clues of God, The Knowledge of God, The Problem of Sin, Religion and the Gospel, The (True) Story of the Cross, The Reality of the Resurrection, and The Dance of God.

My Thoughts

So, my first thought is that since this book is a little old, and highly influential, not much may seem new to you. Obviously, Keller didn’t invent arguments for God, he is using what is out there, but the way he so intelligently and succinctly puts everything together really stands out and has permeated the reformed/evangelical world over the past decade plus.

Even with that, I think this is a must read for most Christians, as it is more or less an Apologetics 101 in a relatively short book. Again, I think some of the arguments may seem well known, especially the the response to the ‘critique’ that all religions are the same. In some ways this critique is so intellectually lazy, that it should be ignored, but it really can’t be. For one, most Christians don’t take the Bible seriously enough to care whether it is true, but more importantly, on a philosophical level, the idea that the divergent thoughts of some many religions could all ‘be the same’ really needs to be shut down quickly. Now, that doesn’t get you to a ‘god’ and certainly doesn’t get you to the God of the Bible, but this line of thinking is internet atheist level ignorance.

Overall, I think the defense (part 1) section of the book is valuable in teaching people the critiques that are out there, even if some are weak. That isn’t to diminish some of the questions, most of these are thinks Christians have wrestled with for centuries. I think this section is especially valuable for new Christians or high schoolers (or parents of high schoolers), because that is about the time when people will go off and find their first criticisms of religion, especially as the go on and live their beliefs on their own.

I have mixed thoughts on the second part, not because isn’t good (it is great, actually), but because of my own views on the ‘self-evident’ type arguments. On one hand, I believe the proof chapters are the most important, but on the other, I find some to be less compelling. I’m skeptical of arguments for clues of God or knowledge of God. Now, Romans tells us that the ‘law’ is written on the hearts of all people, and there is some clear acknowledgment of this. For instance, read Sapiens or many high level works on Physics, and you’ll get to some ‘universal constant’ or ‘unifying theory of all’, but I wonder how compelling this is to non-believers. For the angry/internet atheist, they already believe in God, they are just angry at him. For the agnostic, they know there is something out there, their question is more on the comprehensibility (even if the couch it in ‘knowability’). Keller admits, even if someone acknowledges some level of ‘higher power’, we still don’t necessarily have the Trinitarian God of orthodox Christianity.

Which is why I think the latter part of section two is so important. Modern evangelism is over run with ‘the feels’, an everlasting by-product of Charles Finney (and the impact of Schleiermacher and the Enlightenment), in which we describe what we ‘know’ about God/Christ by how it has impacted out life. We explain Christ in what he has done for us. This is a non-Biblical practice. We don’t know Christ is Lord because he is ‘in our hearts’, we know because the resurrection is fact.

The most skeptical thing you can say is that the earliest believers accepted the resurrection as fact. I think this is truly the starting point for anyone interest in apologetics or skepticism. People died for this belief, people only decades after Christ died. There has to be a reason, and it also lends credence to truth and reliability of the Bible. Far too many Christians are unaware of this, either through lack of care or critical thinking or challenge or knowledge of history. Again, this is a great, important section for new believers and high schoolers, especially those headed to college, because these are the base facts of our beliefs.

Paul himself says that if the resurrection doesn’t exist, we (that is Christians) are the most of all to be pitied. Yet far too many of us can’t easily explain why we believe what we believe as a truth (often, if we can, it is only as a ‘feels’). This book is a must read for all Christians either as your first run, teaching you the basics of reason and understanding, or the older Christian as a reminder on the basics of the truths to which we believe.

Book Review: Language of God

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

My Rating: Must read

Level: Parts can get fairly technical, but Collins does a good job keeping it understandable; medium length (300+)

Summary

The book is broken into three parts, with two to six section in each. There is also an introduction and an appendix on bioethics. The three parts are: The Chasm Between Science and Faith, this is mostly autobiographical; The Great Questions of Human Existence, he starts with the physics of the beginning of the universe, then evolution, then his work on the Human Genome Project; and Faith in Science, Faith in God, which is the best part of the book and goes into what he calls the reactions to the evidence of science – Atheism/Agnosticism, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and BioLogos. 

My Thoughts

I appreciate what Collins has done with this book. I think it serves as a great intro for either people who are familiar, on the theological side, with the other ‘views’ of creation or as an intro to the science aspect of evolution, as understood by an evangelical Christian. The last section of the book serves as a mini ‘four views’ type book where we briefly reviews other positions and then states the issues he sees in them. If you are interested in this topic (creation/evolution) I think this book is a great place to start and then you can move on to deep dive type books such as Four Views on Creation (my review) for a better understanding of the different views (a mix of theology and science) or Four Views on the Historical Adam (my review) for more of a Biblical/Theological understanding. 

The strength of this book is probably the science aspect of it, and how well Collins explains and helps you understand it, especially on the DNA/Genome side of things. He also does a good job of using church history to explain the various views of Genesis over the last two thousand years (which is not a monolithic ‘literal’ only understanding, as many Young Earth would have you believe). This book can also contribute to the discussion of the so called ‘science vs. faith’ controversy. Collins has both a PhD and a MD, so his science credentials are pretty solid, while also being a devote and steadfast in his belief in historical orthodox Christianity. I would hope that many people with many views (especially non-religious) would read this book and try to gain some understanding. Overall, anyone with any interest in evolution, creation, or Christian beliefs, this book is a must read.  

Book Review: Four Views on Creation, Evolution,& Intelligent Design

Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology)

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Medium length, moderately to highly (especially the last chapter) scientific/technical language (from three of the authors)

Summary
The format is the now standard Counterpoint Series – Essay/Argument, responses from the other three authors, then a rejoinder. Also, intro and conclusion from an editor (this time, from one that is affiliated with one of the other authors, which I don’t think I’ve seen before, however, he does acknowledge this up front).

The four views are Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth/Progressive Creationism (also often known as Day-age Creation), Evolutionary Creationism (also known as Theistic Evolution, but she explains why they is a weak and broader term than her view, which I found compelling), and Intelligent Design.

My Thoughts
I was torn on how to rate this. Three of the authors made this a five star, must read, but the first author was just a disaster. I would give him a zero if possible. I’ve read probably 10 of the Counterpoint books and his essay was the weakest one I’ve ever read. He weakens not just this book, but the entire series.

Ham has no education or training in either science or theology and it shows. He doesn’t seem to understand how science works, and is unrelenting in his belief that his theological interpretation is the only valid one. His understanding of church history (claims that his view is the historical one, which is demonstrably false) and Hebrew is also lacking. His responses boiled down to ‘na-uh’, putting things in ‘scare quotes’ the he didn’t agree with, and questioning the salvation of the other authors.

The editor even pointed out in the conclusion that he refused to shorten his essay, due to be the only one to support Biblical authority (the editor also expressed dismay over the lack of charity). Obviously, this is incorrect as there are multiple conservative (SBC, PCA, etc.) pastors, theologians, commentaries authors, Hebrew scholars, and seminary professors that do not share his view. I assume when he said he wouldn’t meet the standards everyone agree to, that he threaten to leave the project, and it is a shame that the editor and publisher didn’t just allow this to happen and move on without him. The book would have been far superior with his absence.

Now back to the good part. Ross was likely my favorite writer of the group. He made compelling arguments for the ‘Day-age’ view of creation. So, he uses the more general ‘framework theory’ of Genesis 1, not that they are literal days. He agrees with geology and physics that the world is Billions of years old, but not with biology that we evolved (explicitly reject the ‘common descent’ evolution). He sees God involving himself in the changes to species throughout time, creating new ones in history. He also had a fascinating argument that one reason there have been no new species since humans came on to the scene is because God rested from creation. Not sure if I believe it, but compelling and interesting nonetheless. He take the order of creation to be literal, so expects that science will prove that at some point. I generally agreed with his interpretive view, but I wonder about picking some science and not others.

Haarsma took the Evolutionary Creation view, making the point that creation is the point and evolution modifies it, not the other way around, as with Theistic Evolution. Also, ‘theistic’ is no necessarily the God of the Bible. She accepts science on both age of the earth and evolution. She also takes the ‘framework view’ which is common among Evangelical scholars. She doesn’t take the creation order as literal and supports common ancestry. Her organization (Biologos) seems to be focused on evangelism to those in the scientific field, so she starts with accepting science, and then moving to God and Christ.

This is a different approach from Meyer. His group, The Discovery Institute, isn’t focused on evangelism or apologetics, but instead focuses on the issues within the science, and the argument that the science itself calls for a creator. In that way, his group does not have faith statements for the God of the Bible or Christ and has other religious and non-religious people within his organization; though he himself is a committed orthodox Christian. His focus was entirely on the science of biological evolution, and did not make much of a theological argument (which is fine, that is how his organization works). He accepts all science on age of the earth and biology in regards to evolution, his point is to argue that is was directed by God (which is not really different than Haarsma essay). His article was maybe the most interesting, but certainly the most technical, so get ready, it might take awhile.

Three of the authors have PhD’s in science, and then there is Ham. Due to this, there are some technical aspects of the writing in all chapters. There is also the academic argumentation that occurs in, well, academic/scientific research, but for some reason it seems odd in this book. Maybe that was an editorial decision. It is also likely, unavoidable, though, were I the editor, I don’t think I would allow arguments that use scientists who point out issues with evolution, yet still fully support it. That is just how science and research work, and the fact that these issues don’t sway those scientist somewhat undermines the argument.

Most of the authors cited widely, with the exception of Ham, who only cited himself (which is fine if you are published) or his organization (or their printing arm). He also labeled others who disagreed that were cited elsewhere as ‘atheistic’ regardless of what they actually believed, I assume in an attempt to scare people. Again, I would just cut him out entirely, so I’ll ignore the other issues with him.

Another editorial change would be to lock down some definitions. There seemed to be at least four working definitions for evolution alone, which sometimes lead to people talking past each other. I would have liked to see some more discussion of ‘special creation’ for those who support evolution, but I guess Haarsma mentions a few things that makes her views clear, while Meyer stuck to science and no theological arguments.

I’m actually still torn on the inclusion of Meyer. His arguments were inline with the others, with huge agreement with Haarsma. It is just that his tactic is different. Ultimately, I think he brought a lot of value, but due to his nature, it didn’t leave much for the others to interact with. Haarsma and Ross, agreed with him and his critiques of science, respectively. As I mentioned above, he article was maybe the best, but as he isn’t really arguing a different ‘view’, it left the chapter feeling a little disconcordant.

If you have interest on the science (mostly settled) and theology (all over place) of creation, this is a book to put on your list. As for age of the earth, if you are a committed young earth, this book will help you understand the old age arguments and show how it doesn’t have to end your faith. If you are trying to understand young earth, you should probably look elsewhere, as Ham is a street corner preacher that yells at people as the pass bye. Certainly there are better sources out there. The strength of the book is evolution science (though Ross and Haarsma have PhD’s/academic careers in the astro-physics realm, which does come up and is quite good), so if that is what you are interested in (while still maintaining a Christian belief, or if you don’t want to see the Christian belief that discusses evolution seriously) then this book is a must read. If you interest is the theology of evolution, this is still good, but the Four Views on the Historical Adam (my review) is better. If you are trying to read everything you can about all these, put it on your list.

 

BLM, Protests, and Removing Confederate Memorials

I’ve gone back and forth on whether I wanted to post something about all that is going on. However, I didn’t feel like I had much new to add to anything, and then there was the somewhat confusing message of people were maybe not supposed to write things last week. I am supportive of Black Lives Matter and the protesters (Mrs. MMT and I have been trying to figure out a way to go to one while juggling the kids), and removing Confederate names/flags/statues.

I wrote about Black Lives Matter and the police almost four years ago, so check that out if you want further thoughts from me. I also wrote about removing the Confederate Flag (with little more detail here, but that goes pretty tangential) and I would extend those thoughts to statues and base names (I didn’t even know Benning and Bragg were Confederate Generals).

I’m not sure I have much more to add, then what I’ve already written. This, again, was one reason I was hesitant to put anything up. But then a good friend of mine wrote something on his blog (it is good, go read it), so I felt I should at least do something. I think the writers at the Gospel Coalition are feeling the same way, so they wrote a short post that refers back to an older, longer one, about Confederate monuments and whether Christians should support them.

This may be naive, but this time does feel a little different. Maybe we are making some more progress and taking a few more strides. Hopefully, I won’t have to write another post in another four or five years, but I doubt it. There are still people who are in denial that there even is a problem. Think of all the officers (like Officer Karen) that keep talking about how they are being singled out, or categorized all as one group. The tone deafness of these complains is mystifying, this is basically what black people have been saying for decades. I think people noting this irony is actually helping to change some minds. Public support seems to be growing that there are more problems than we’d like to admit and we need to remove memorials. That is encouraging, but on the other hand there is often a rush to support gun laws after a dozen or so children die, but then we don’t do anything. We have to keep praying and doing what we can to move towards more equality.

Book Review: Seaworthy


Seaworthy: Adrift with William Willis in the Golden Age of Rafting

My Rating – Must read

Level – Quick, easy (with the exception of nautical terminology), medium length (250+)

Summary
Seaworthy is the apparently true, but often unbelievable, story of William Willis and his adventures rafting across the Pacific, his attempts to cross the Atlantic, and a wild, nonsensical story of a jailbreak in Guiana. The book is broken into 11 chapters, all with random names (three are names of his rafts/boats) that doesn’t tell you much of what is happening. The final chapter, Full Stop, is something like a conclusion and final thoughts.

The opening chapter has a 73 year old Willis being unable to cross the Atlantic in a small boat. Then circles back to his early life at 14, then a bit of an excursus into jailbreak that I just can’t fully believe (not doubting the author, but the original source), then to the building of his first raft that he will take from South America to Samoa (this is really four chapters and the heart of the book), but even with in this, there are the stories of other sailors/rafters/academics/physicians/crazy people, his attempt at normal life, then his attempts to fully cross from South America to Australia, before ending full-circle back to crossing the Atlantic from New York.

My thoughts
I ended up reading this book by accident. I thought my dad offered it to me by putting it on my things one day when I brought my kids to see them during the Covid Pandemic (my mom put it there it get it out of the hands of one of the Nuggets) but was interested because I thought it was corollary story from an autobiography I had read about someone shipwrecked (it isn’t). Regardless, this book is nuts. I read it in a few hours and it might be the best work of narrative non-fiction I have ever read. Willis is absolutely insane and the Pearson’s writing is outstanding.

He does a good job of painting Willis  as who he really was. Not some hero or someone necessarily even looking for fame, but a fairly flawed individual, who was unnaturally determined (and stubborn) yet still lacked follow-through, took short cuts, and often didn’t seem to think of much outside of himself. The Seven Little Sisters adventure is fascinating, as are the forays into other trips by various people and the historical accounts of similar voyages. As I mentioned above this is the meat of the book, while the longer trip (all the way to Australia, but broken into two trips) gets less narrative.

It looks like you can get some used copies of this book for under five dollars, and that prices alone is worth it for the Devil’s Island chapter. This is a story so wild, I really struggle to believe it. If it weren’t for his mishaps and essential failures, I couldn’t believe it. Willis seemed to run head long into things, often with no plan or thought (or just a vague idea of one), yet the ball would bounce his way and things would turn out (mostly) alright in the end. Even if you aren’t interesting in sailing, survivalist/endurance, etc. this book, well written and about a character that is far stranger than fiction, is a must read.

 

 

Book Review: Future Church

Welcoming the Future Church

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – Easy, short book

Summary
I’m struggling to summarize this book, partly because I didn’t like to very much and I think he missed the mark. His goal to to explain to church leaders how to reach young adults. There is an intro which is about Millennials, then three sections of the book – teach, engage, deploy – each with subchapters, followed by a conclusion.

The teach section is actually fairly interesting and is about how he puts his messages (sermons) together. Engage is more or less a revamped seeker-sensitive plan from the 90’s. Deploy is how he runs his ministry, which is helpful for people involved in church, but again, pretty well follows the ‘attractional’ model of a few decades ago, and sadly never mentions discipleship.

My Thoughts
Pokluda tries to use the subtitle ‘reach, teach, engage’ (this doesn’t match the three section of the book, but like was likely a publishers decision) young adults, but I’m not sure it worked. I suppose, overall, the book is about reaching young adults, as he is a young adult minister or leads this ministry at his church. However, I think it is problematic to use both a generational moniker (Millenials) and to say ‘young adults’. I understand why he did this, but in 10-20 years, the young adults will be a different generation. Also, I don’t see anything unique to Millenials, with the possible exception that we are getting married/having kids later. This is a somewhat interesting issue, driven partly by the unfortunate need that in the modern U.S. economy, a college degree is basically entry level, and partly because the Church spent a whole generation arguing about who should married (whether Christian or not) instead of explaining the meaning and importance of marriage, and finally the skyrocketing divorce rate we observed from our parents (boomers) generation.

Overall, the book missed the mark. I suppose for church leaders of older churches, there could be some useful information, but as I mentioned above, it is mostly ‘attractional’ model church building with the focus on numbers. I find some of interesting, but didn’t realize the book would be so programmatic. I thought the purpose of the book would be different (and this is on me for literally judging the book by it’s cover), focusing on the ‘future’ church in more a ethnic/nationality change. While most of the people on the cover are hipsters, they are fairly diverse. I know the future church (in America, this is already the case worldwide) will be non-white, and first generation Americans, as white America continues to liberalize and leave the church. As I said, that was my mistake, but I was expecting demographic data, not church programming.

I liked ‘Adulting‘, the author’s first book, and Pokluda is a good writer, clear and engaging, and he was some solid thoughts in this book, but I just don’t think it was ready for publication. Or the publishers took his ideas in a different direction. Either way, I don’t see this book as really worth your time.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Addendum – I generally hate any discussions of generational strife. New generations are never as innovate or special as they think, and they are never as bad or naive as the prior generations believe. Their is a painful irony, that the generation that was originally derided as the ‘me’ generation now complains that the generation they raised is selfish (especially despite most research that shows the millenials are more concerned about doing good than other generations).

The generation that invented the word ‘parenting’ mocks us for inventing the word ‘adulting’. The generation that gave us ‘participation trophies’ (which were never for us, we were five, they were for them, a trophy to show off for their good ‘parenting’). They laugh that our generation for paying our own money to take classes on cooking, sewing, budgeting, etc. Why? Because they never taught us, and cut the education budget so that many schools no longer taught Home Ec. Similarly, this book shares the concern that Millennials are knowledgeable about theology and Biblically Illiterate. It is beyond my understanding that this is considered a flaw of the younger generation and not the failure of the ‘parenting’ generation. My five year old knows the Lord’s Prayer and Apostle’s Creed (don’t @ me, I know this doesn’t save her or actually mean she understands anything), things I didn’t know until I was in my 20’s. She calls Sunday ‘Church Day’.  It is my job to make sure she can read and understand the Bible. I can’t fathom blaming her for her lack of knowledge. She may reject the Bible some day, but she is going to know it. If she doesn’t know it, how can that be on her?

Finally, can we stop with ‘authenticy’? Millenials are not special in believing they are authentic. You can read Sex, Death, and Fly-Fishing, by a middle-age guy (at the time) written over 30 years ago, and he talks about the importance of his generation being authentic. I’m drawing a blank, and this is already too long, but there are writers who were young adults in the 1920’s talking about the problem of ‘inauthentic’. I’m sure if you went even further back you’d find more. Anyway, rant against generational theory finished.

Book Review: Einstein Never Used Flash Cards

Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Moderate (written by academics, but for a popular audience), medium length (250+)

Summary
The basic thesis of the book is essentially the subtitle. Early education has become far too academic, with a focus on memorizing specific subsets of things (which doesn’t show actual knowledge or comprehension) and are not playing enough. The book is generally written about children under five, so the play is more of exploration and learning how things work. They use the example of teaching a kid to memorize 1+2=3, or having them understand, through play, that if they put one block on top of two blocks already stacked, there will now be three blocks stacked.

Chapter One, The Plight of the Modern Parent, lays out these play to memorization changes with fairly stark statistics, including the fact that in 1970 school age children (I believe that refers to 5-10 year olds) spent 40% of their time in play, but 1997 it was less than 25%; even worse 40% of districts no longer have recess. They also compare to how most other countries don’t bother learning to read until second grade or so, yet all (in the comparison) have better literacy rates and higher general levels of understanding.

The remaining chapters, 10 in total, explain how babies and children learn and then go through specific topics. Chapters two through 10 are – Brainchild: How Babies Are Wired to Learn; Playing the Numbers: How Children Learn about Quantity; Language: The Power of Babble; Literacy: Reading Between the Lines; Welcome to Lake Wobegon: The Quest to Define Intelligence; Who Am I? Developing a Sense of Self; Getting to Know You: How Children Develop Social Intelligence; Play: The Crucible of Learning; and The New Formula for Exceptional Parenting (the title is kind of play on the books that are out there, spoiler – they tell you to relax and let your children play and learn on their own, and to stop overscheduling them).

My Thoughts
I bought this book when my daughter was maybe around two years old, but didn’t read it until she had already turned four. I thought because the title referred to flashcards that perhaps the materials would be focused more on five years and older stages of life, but it is actually the opposite, the learning focuses on babies to about five (though some of the fiveish advice would carry you a few more years). So, don’t make my mistake, go ahead and buy this book as early as you can in your child’s life (or pregnancy).

I’ll als say that, at least in some circles, this book may be a bit dated. It was published in 2003 and I think the flashcard and Baby Einstein books (which they debunk, along with having your kids listen to classical music) have all fallen out of fashion. I think older Millennials, like myself, missed the flashcard memorization part. Though I didn’t get to play 40% of the time, I don’t remember using flash cards until I was in high school. This book was written just after I started college, and I wouldn’t have my first child for another decade. It seems the peak affected children were the second wave Millennials and early Gen Z. My daughter starts Kindergarten this year (assuming schools open again) and we certainly have never felt the need to force her to memorize anything and we never bought any kind of flashcards or other ‘learning’ devices. I’ve read maybe six or seven early childhood education books (I understand the irony of claiming not to be worried) and I think we have a basic understanding from the literature that memorization shouldn’t be the focus, so that could be at play. Also, school was always easy for us, so we assume (maybe incorrectly) that it will be for our children as well and we don’t need to worry too much. That aside, most of my friends have small children and I don’t know many that are concerned with most of the issues brought up in this book.

I’d say maybe the exception to that is the overscheduling, which is definitely true with sports. All that to say, while some of the issues in the book (they state the wrote the book to help correct these issues, and it appears to have helped) maybe be less of a concern, but the concepts and studies cited in this book still remain timeless and useful. That was probably the most interesting aspect of the book to me – all the little experiments or tests you can run on your children. As I mentioned, my daughter was already to old for most, but I read this right before my sons were born, so they have been little test subjects. I really wish the book had an appendix that listed the studies and test you can do with your children. You can see in my summary above, the book is laid out by topic, which has a rough chronology, but doesn’t move straight line with growing children.

Overall, this book is great and incredible interesting, especially if you have the opportunity to try out the subject matters they discuss in the book. For anyone interested in early developmental stages of children, or want to understand the basics of learning of your own small children, this book is a must read.

Book Review: Coronavirus and Christ

Book Image

You can get the book here, for free. 

I’m not doing to normal format today, just a quick review of a short book. You can get it free (digitally, at least) from Desiring God. There are multiple formats. I read it on my Kindle, but look at the PDF, ignoring all the notes and copyright/table of contents, you are looking at about 90 pages. Piper breaks the books in to two parts after an intro about what is happening and where we are (or were, the book was written mid March) – The God Who Reigns Over Coronavirus and What is God Doing Through the Coronavirus.

The first part is five short chapters, all on some aspect of God’s sovereignty. This shouldn’t be too surprising coming from Piper. As always, that sovereignty is both comforting and a little scary. We know that God is in control, but often we wish it was us instead. Likewise, there is a strong line of Christ’s Supremacy, and how He should be out focus. This part is saturated with Scripture, especially Paul.

The second part is what he calls ‘paths’, but I find that a little confusing, because they are not exclusive. Either way, the part heading is a little clearer in that these are things that God is/may be doing with Coronavirus. I don’t agree with all them, necessarily, and Piper even points out that people might; however he lays out what he things God is doing, and then explains why. The six ideas are – Picturing Moral Horror, Sending Specific Divine Judgement, Awakening Us for the Second Coming, Realigning Us with the Infinite Worth of Christ, Creating Good Works in Danger, and Loosening the Roots to Reach the Nations.

I found the first and third chapters to be interesting, but not sure it was the strongest case. I had the most disagreement with the second chapter. The second half were the strongest three, especially the calls to action he gives in the final two chapters.  Those are good reminders of our call in life as Christians and how we should be/act different(ly) than society as a whole. Our call to serve and reach people for Christ should be our highest priorities, even in the midst of tragedy.

He ends the book with a short prayer regarding Covid-19. In some ways the book could be a long sermon, especially the way he lays out the foundations of God’s reign over the world, followed by six ways God is acting. It is strongly Biblical and theologically sound. It is free and short, so if it is worth it for most people to read, even if you are one of those people (like me) who are trapped inside with a bunch of kids, while still trying to work remotely. As I mentioned, I don’t necessarily agree completely with all his points (in part two), but all are worth reading and pondering; the reminder of Who reigns (part one) over all is always a good thing to read and remember, especially in a time of great uncertainty, fear, and crisis.

Book Review: A Full Life

A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Easy, short (just over 200 pages), but a little slow

Summary
This isn’t a book about his presidency, he almost spends the least amount of time on that (his shortest chapter, by one page, is about his entire political career leading up the presidency). It is quite an autobiography either, because it isn’t comprehensive enough, though it is obviously written in the first person perspective. Mostly, it seems to be just a few thoughts on most of the major events in his life.

The book is broken into eight chapters – Archery & the Race Issue, this is the town in which he grew up, with additional thoughts on race at the time (and now to some extent); Navy Years, about his time in Annapolis and in the Navy including the first nuclear submarine, up until his father dies; Back to Georgia, leaving the Navy, taking over the family farm, foray in to politics; Atlanta to Washington, from running for Governor to running for President; Life in the White House; Issues Mostly Resolved, major political issues that he considered mostly complete/accomplished; Problems Still Pending, the issues that were not resolved; Back Home, post presidency, including his work with the Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity.

My Thoughts
I generally enjoyed this book. It is written well enough, but it can be a little slow. In some ways, it feels like talking with an old man, the stories are a little long winded, and some don’t seem to have a point. I didn’t mind this too much, it reminded me of talking with my granddads (both of which passed away last summer). They were from Georgia and South Alabama, both born a few months after Jimmy, and both served in the Navy. The one from Georgia, also named James, likewise taught Sunday School in a Southern Baptist Church for decades. So, for me, there was some very familiar about his life stories (except political office aspects).

Carter was out of office four years before I was born, and up until a few years ago, all I really knew about him was ‘stagflation’, ‘malaise’, and that yankees (especially Kennedys) didn’t like him. Granted, by his own admission, these are his views of events, but it does make me want to go find his official biography of his presidency. I didn’t know that he created the Departments of Energy and Education, that he was a proponent of Universal Healthcare, or supported decriminalizing weed. It is honestly a little depressing that we are still having these debates more than 40 years later with little to no progress.

The other thing everyone knows about Carter is that he is the ‘greatest ex-president ever.’ This certainly shows in the book, as he was in his early 50s when he was out of office, he felt he had a lot to do, and didn’t want to ‘just’ have a museum or library. That is why the Carter Center exists, he wanted a place to work, and it has done a great deal of good, especially as it pivoted to tropical diseases over the past few decades.

The two issues chapters were some of the most interesting, especially to see a politician state such clear positions, and to see how many are unfortunately still issues today. I don’t agree with all of his politics, but I appreciate his articulation and reasons behind it. If you have interest in Jimmy Carter, this alone probable makes the book worth it.  A little slow, but short and easy to read, he gives us something between a diary and an autobiography. Overall, I think it is one worth putting on your list.