Top Posts of 2020

This is my third annual top post of the year post, and it is an interesting list, for an interesting year. Just as last year, not a single post I wrote this year was in my top 10. The top post written this year was Coronavirus and Christ, which was a book review, probably boosted by Coronavirus, it was number 17, there was only two others I wrote this year in my top 25. Of the top 10, seven are book reviews, which isn’t surprising since that is the majority of what I post and by far the most popular, two others are notes on Thessalonians. Interestingly, last year had two from Thessalonians, including what as my number two this year (it was three last year), so maybe I need to revisit those and actually finish the series. 

Here they are:

  1. Book Review: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life
  2. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
  3. Book Review: Disciplines of a Godly Man
  4. Why I Chose Olive Tree
  5. 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
  6. Book Review: The Fall of Hyperion
  7. Book Review: We’re Pregnant
  8. Book Review: Five Marks of a Man
  9. Book Review: Imperfect Disciple
  10. Book Review: Practicing the King’s Economy

Numbers 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, & 10 were all top 10 last year, with numbers 1, 3, 7, 9, & 10 also being top in 2018. I guess these are just very popular books to search. I think this makes sense, as they are about discipleship, mostly. We’re Pregnant might be a fluke based on search terms, though it is also a really good book. I think the political atmosphere of the last four+ years makes people wonder about the economy and what the Bible may say, it is also a great book. No idea what is up with Thessalonians. I made a prediction last year that Confronting Old Testament Controversies would be in the top 10 because I thought it was an important book that would be searched often. Instead it landed as my 78th spot, which is really nuts, honestly. All of my 2020 posts including Merry Christmas and my post from yesterday were ahead of it. So, not predictions this time.

The rest of the top 25ish were my other book review posts this year and fiction (mostly sci-fi) book reviews. Looking at my stats, this year was the third most words published at just over 36,000, but with only 37 posts it was my most words per posts ever.

You can check out my top 10 from 2019, and 2018, if you are interested. It has been an odd/terrible year, but I appreciate everyone who visited. I’ll have on more post up tomorrow and then off of the rest of the year. As I mentioned previously, there will be changes in 2021, I might be more consistent, but it will certainly be less posts (though I will likely re-break the words per post record from this year) or it may shut down all together. I guess will see if I am back with another lazy top post next year.

2020 Reading Challenge Review

I set the bar pretty low this year with my 2020 Reading Challenge, so, luckily, I was able to clear it. Some people were able to read more during the pandemic, but that was not the case for me. Two of the books were not on my list originally and were quite short (under 100 pages), but they were free on Kindle, so I tried them out.

I had originally planned to read two Keller books – Songs of Jesus and Meaning of Marriage – but I dropped both of those. I was about nine months through the former when our church started a read through the entire Bible plan and I only read the intro chapter to the latter because it was part of a study my community group was doing that started in March. I planned to pick both of those back up in August/September of 21. Coincidentally, I added two Keller books, I reread Prayer and read Reason for God, somewhat on a whim.

I had also planned to try to get through Greek for the Rest of Us and to read Foundations of the Christian Faith (Boice) with Mrs. MMT, neither of which worked. Other than those, I hit the rest of those on my list plus a few more. Some came because of some prep work for church, and others came on a whim where I just felt like ordering something else to read.

Here are the books in no particular order:

  • A River Runs Through It and Other Stories – a great collection of stories by an incredible writer, I bought this book along with a few others to avoid watching the news and give me something else to do.
  • Blood Meridian – another one I bought to avoid life. McCarthy might be one of the most overrated writers today.
  • Jesus, Justice, & Gender Roles – Technically, also a Keller book, but Kathy. This was free on Kindle and is part of a three part series. Somewhat ironically, this was the only one that was free.
  • How to Read the Psalms – I’m working a long term study of Psalms, had hoped to have it out earlier.
  • The Language of God – My Review, bought this as part of prep of a panel discussion on evolution/age of the earth (watch it here).
  • Anna Karenina – Been on the list awhile, Mrs. MMT stole it from me, read it first and then has complained I have finished. Netflix has the miniseries, so we’ll probably watch that when football is over.
  • The Reason for God – My Review. Fairly famous book that I had not read. I was talking to a coworker who mentioned reading it. He was not someone I would have expected to read something like this, so I felt compelled to get to it.
  • Four Views on Creation, Evolution, & Intelligent Design – My review, again prep for this series.
  • Prayer – My review. I was just struggle in the midst of the pandemic and had hoped to ramp up my prayer life, so I went back to this book, probably the best on prayer there is.
  • The Old Man and the Sea – My review. Good short book.
  • Speaking Truth in Love – This had been on my list for awhile. Not as great as I had hoped.
  • Seaworthy – My review. This might have been one of the wildest things I’ve ever read. Took it from my dad back this summer.
  • Coronavirus and Christ – My review. Free book from Piper.
  • Welcoming the Future Church – My review. I think this is the last ARC book I’ve received.
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Someone at work lent this to me. It helped her, but isn’t something I need too much help with. I may still review it, but ultimately it is a blog post turned into a book, where the guy seems to forget his shtick, and has to add nurmours f*cks on some pages.
  • Reflections at 90 – My review. Been on the list awhile
  • The Great Divorce – Reread it as part of my community group.
  • Dune – I could have sworn I reviewed this. I guess I need to get on it before the movie comes out. A genre defining book that lives up to hype.
  • Jesus Skeptic – My review, another ARC book, one of the better ones. Good for basic knowledge/apologetics.

Merry Christmas 2020

Merry Christmas everyone. This year more than others we’ve learned what it means to ‘mourn in lonely exile here’ as we spend time apart from each other during the pandemic. However this is a day of celebration, so enjoy Mrs. MMT sing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Critical Race Theory vs. Eternal Subordination of the Son

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been making the Christian Twitter rounds the past month or so, a few months after making the right-wing politics Twitter rounds. I don’t have a great deal to say about CRT, mostly because I don’t think it much matters. Some people in my world are quite panicked about it, and I’m honestly a little unsure where all their fear is coming from. CRT is an academic theory used by some academics, sometimes, in some subjects as a tool of criticism. You can find a good summation of CRT here, from John Fea, who is an Evangelical Christian that works as a Historian at a conservative Christian College. He explains it as used by academics and points out someone else’s definition, in which I believe most people would agree with at least one or two of the points. 

I personally think he is being too charitable to the theory, however, maybe that is the problem. Maybe he is exactly right. The problem comes from when an academic exercise becomes ‘popular’, but at that point it loses all meaning. I feel like at this point, CRT has become one of those things were you ask 10 people to define, you’ll get 10 different definitions. Even more problematic, the far side of the democrats/left have weaponized it in the ever escalating war of identity politics. Of course, predictably, the far side of the republican/right (and far too man Evangelicals) have then responded with their typical cowering and fearmongering. Somewhat famously now, all six presidents of the SBC seminaries have written a joint declaration condemning CRT. I find it odd to see so many serious academics (mostly theologians) fear a secular academic theory that has noting to say about theology, Biblical studies, Greek/Hebrew, etc. Surely they know better. The truth of the Gospel is eternal, while CRT will probably be replaced by a new more ‘interesting’ theory in, what?, 10 years at the most. 

In some sense, we’ve been here before. Luckily, we didn’t run in fear, but instead adopted it and found it wanting. That is what happened with ‘Higher Criticism’ (also called Biblical Criticism) of 150 years or so, ago. It was the trendy thing, also out of the Frankfurt school, to attack the Bible, partly based on Enlightenment ideas, Schleiermacher, and a mix of archaeology/geology. Most academic Christians (seminary professors) adopted many of the ideas, found some useful, and rejected/disproved the other aspects. However, we didn’t cower, and where would Biblical studies be today without it? We’ve grown so much in our knowledge and proof of the Biblical truth since then. 

I’ll quickly say something about two other things related to CRT before moving on. First, while CRT is overrated, I think we should pay attention to intersectionality. That is a theory that is a race to the bottom in the turtles all the way down sense that I believe will have a far wider impact than CRT. I couldn’t seem to find a good link, but Albert Mohler’s podcast interviewed a guy, maybe back in the summer (June-ish) that really dove deeply into the topic. He was a British guy, I believe, and while he leaned a little too heavily on the familiar boogeyman of Marx, his explanations and real life examples were wild and fascinating. Second, wokeness. Woke is a nonsense term that has no meaning. It is similar to CRT in a sense, except it has no background or standing in academia. It is just a lazy twitter meme that vaguely means you support every changing far left politics (or sometimes it just means you don’t think black people should be shot by the police). The ‘concept’ if you can call it that, is so devoid of meaning and substance that it seems unnecessary for theologians to even address.

Which brings me to Owen Strachan, who a few months back, had a bizarre sermon/chapel speech where he stated that anyone ‘woke’ must be excommunicated. Again, woke is too ill-defined to even sense of what he is saying. But this is my main issue and the reason I want to write this – Strachan believes in the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS). This is Semi-Arianism (at best) and does not comport with the Nicene Creed. ESS means that all persons of the Trinity are not equal, that the Son (and Holy Spirit?) are subordinate to the Father. Historical orthodox belief is that the Son gave up His equality in His condescension and incarnation, but now reigns again, co-equal with the Father. Full Arianism believes that the Father created the Son and Holy Spirit, meaning they were lesser beings. This was condemned as hearsay over 1,500 years ago (I do no believe Stachen et al supports Arianism). He isn’t alone the recently problematic Grudem also supports ESS. For a good article go here, Carl Trueman thinks that this may come from an odd defense of complementarianism (which is clearly Biblical without needing to rely on ESS), a timeline on the arguments with many links for a pretty deep dive, Michael Bird describe in a video the issue and then his thoughts

This was a few years ago, so why bring it up now? Because it made maybe a ripple in Christian Twitter to the tsunami of fears related to CRT. Maybe a tenth of the ink (pixels?) were spilled in defense of the orthodox view of the Trinity than was used for an opposition to the secular academic theory. Which matters more? Your doctrines of the Triune God or a social argument? My guess is most of those in your pews have never even heard of CRT, and if they have, it wasn’t in the true academic sense (see above). You know what else they don’t know – that God chooses those whom He saved before the foundation of the world (50% Evangelicals disagree), that God saves you, you don’t earn it (52% disagree), and most frighteningly about a third reject the Deity of Christ. Read these two surveys for stats and sadness. 

So, what is my point? I am deeply saddened and distressed that these leaders (some of home apparently don’t hold orthodox views) send so much time letter politics drive their message with their congregations don’t know Biblical basics or even the simple Gospel. 

*An addendum of sorts, I’ve been playing around with this article for about 10 days, unsure if I would even post anything (I actually stated on my last post that I likely wouldn’t post anything again). However, this has blown up even more on Christian Twitter/Bloggersphere, so I felt compelled to post, but with an edit here and a rework of my ending (which I guess I’ll just delete and end here). Many black pastors/professors have spoken out against the SBC statement on CRT. Many of them do not support CRT, and have written against it, but their arguments seem to fall into to camps. One right-wing political ideology is driving this, which seems pretty self evident, and two, that many fear that this blanket condemnation is a just a way to avoid any discussion of race, by then calling it CRT. This seems a bit hyperbolic, but then Twitter kind of proved it to be true. 

Edit – Like I said, I’m pretty done with politics. I don’t believe this post is about politics. I see it is a plea for our leaders not to fear the world and to do a better job pastoring their flock. Again, I can’t say this enough, who cares about the 10% or so that have even heard of CRT (and already rejected it), when half of your congregation doesn’t believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light and that no one comes to the Father except through him? Why do we spend so much time arguing about a secular, liberal, academic theory when orthodoxy regarding the Trinity is now longer settled?

Of course, many people who attack me for being political because I say things that doesn’t fit their political view. If I say transgenderism is incoherent and dangerous, people say ‘amen’, when I say Metexas claiming he will fight to his last drop of blood to defend a conspiracy theory and Trump is clearly Caesar worship, people say ‘I don’t like when you get political, stick to book reviews.’ You can tell what people truly worship by what you are not allowed to criticize. 

Discussing politics is exhausting, though, and I’m done, even though I can predict what will be written over the next four years. After four years of only the government can protect us and Romans 13, Christians will write endless articles about when/why/how to defy the Government. Then when republicans when again in 2024 (which I think they will if they take back the center, which I think the far left will easily abandoned with their nonsense) and we’ll all be about Romans 13 again. We’ve got to stop putting politics first and letting it drive our theology. I’ve retweeted a few things from people about CRT and most (not all, you know who you are) of the criticisms are the ‘hurr durr why don’t you think the Bible is truth/reject the Bible, you are the real racist, DEMOCRAT (clever, I know)’. Most things I’ve seen are intellectually lazy or disingenuous, at best.  So, if you read this and you have some brilliant thoughts on the evils CRT or want to no read anything and just ignorantly ask why I support it, keep it to yourself. However, if you have thoughts on ESS (either for or against), I’d love to hear them. Also, also love hearing any studies or classes or anything your church is doing to help educate your congregation on the basics of Christianity. Feel free to let me know. 

Edit 2 – If you don’t think people are overreacting, check out this tweet from a few weeks ago when Jared Wilson (a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) said something about race as it related to Jonah and Peter/Paul, and the reactions he received.

Final Edit – Our sermon from this past Sunday (last Sunday of Advent) was from Isaiah 9 and our preacher discussed some of the current political issues (of sorts). I will post it when the audio is available, please listen if you have time because he rocked it, and I think it is a good reminder to all of us.

Some Post Election Thoughts

Even though I shouldn’t, because I’m getting really burned out on politics. Some of your are lucky and political ad season is over, but for me, I can’t watch the weather without every add be about the two Senate run-off elections.

I don’t really have much in the way of politics, but there are some Biblical issues I want to get down, as well as a sprinkling of Covid thoughts, mostly because Covid has clearly affected the political climate. It seems to me that Trump would have won again (probably handly) were it not for his epic failure in leadership during this crisis. If you make it to the end, I have an update/tease on where this blog is going (if it continues) in the future).

I don’t typically listen to ‘Christian’ radio channels. Lazy pop rock isn’t really my style (and I get enough bad theology masquerading as ‘experiential worship’ from wannabe rock bands at church), and like old men in the generation before us that switch from music to talk radio or NPR, I mostly listen to podcasts when I drive. However, Mrs. MMT is a big Christmas music fan, on the local station here is only playing that right now, so on our way to church Sunday, that is what we were listening to. As I mentioned above, I’m still forced to hear political ads right now, but one stuck out to me. It was endorsing any candidate, just encouraging people to go vote (seriously it was pretty neutral, no save America/democracy hyperbole). However, the guy in the ad stated that we needed to exercise our ‘God given right to vote’. This is clearly unbiblical.

Now, I think Christians should vote. Just as I think everyone should vote. I wish we had mandatory voting and a national holiday to vote (check out Australia for example). Part of my job is to get people involved in local politics. However, there is literally nothing in the Bible about voting. There is nothing in the Bible about modern governmental or economic systems. We have no ‘God given right to vote’. In His blessing, I was born in a democracy (ish, conservatives are quick to point out right now that we don’t actually live in a democracy and seem to be doing everything they can to prove it) and have the right to vote for various leaders and policies. Yet to think God gave us this specific right is to conflate basic politics. I happen to see the other day, but I didn’t save it, and the guy just teased the data (hopefully a full survey/report) will come out later, but somewhere around 60% of Evangelicals (oddly, I don’t remember him narrowing it to the political category of ‘white’) believe the Constitution is divinely inspired. Think about that for a moment. That would mean that revelations did not end with the Bible, but instead ended with Deist to set up a new form of government. This is straight heresy, y’all, and even more concerning it is about the same percent of Evangelicals (according to Ligoner’s state of theology 2020) that believe Christ is the only way to the Father. Our Biblical literacy is dangerously poor.

A quick digression, radio related, before going back to bad theology and political idolatry. Dave Ramsey was in the news for his $10,000 a plate dinner reception at his estate. Apparently, he told the catering staff that they were not allowed to wear masks to protect themselves. He isn’t a pastor, but he is an influential figure in the Christian community. His Covid denial (we are over 300,000 deaths at this point) and political worship, as well as his disdain for neighbor/others is a sad, seemingly unending confluence right now. I guess a millionaire telling the working class to risk their health to serve them food is a pretty solid way to ‘act your wage’ in America currently.

To the election and idolatry. I’ve been torn on what I wanted to say, if anything, after Biden officially won the electoral college on Monday (the outcome was clear over a month ago, but the Kraken needed to go 1-58 in legal cases first, I guess). Biden in is the president elect of the US. More on what I think that means in a minute, but for now, the denialism that has been taken to a new level. Eric Metexas (famous for writing a poor historical biography of Bonhoeffer and I guess a radio host) state that he would die for Trump and overturning the election. Again, think about that for a minute. Who is he worshiping that he would die for a failed politician? I thought things couldn’t get worse than the FBC Dallas choir writing a song called ‘Make America Great Again’ and then signing during a Sunday service (which was broadcast on Fox News).

Of all people, Beth Moore called out Metexas for his idolatry. She was roundly attacked, including people ‘cursing her womb’ (she helpfully pointed out she previously had a hysterectomy, so people could save themselves some time). The lead person attacking her appears to be a self proclaimed atheist who thinks she is married to Dr. (according to some conservatives right now, he can’t say this) Russell Moore (president of the ERLC, the SBC lobbying/political arm) and Southern Seminary grad, whom he says is corrupt and liberal. This is who evangelicals are following right now. Again, think about this.

Metexas and others also held a bizarre rally blowing red, white, and blue shofars, calling themselves a Jericho March. As I was working on this Michael Horton wrote a piece in TGC which says better than I would, read it here, but these are a few highlights:

On Saturday, December 12, a bizarre rally was held on the Washington Mall. Shofars were blown. A flyover from Marine One was cheered by shouts of praise to the Messiah (evidently distinguished from Jesus). My Pillow founder Mike Lindell shared prophetic visions of Donald Trump.

Beth Moore sounded the alarm, and David French offered wise analysis. Rod Dreher, who just published a book decrying left-wing totalitarianism, wrote that he “began to think that all of this is the right-wing Christian version of Critical Race Theory, and various doctrines held by the woke Left.” Dreher was struck by how enthusiastically evangelicals seemed to participate in the inter-religious festivities. An American-born Israeli man received permission from his Orthodox rabbi to break Shabbat to blow his shofar and another, red-white-and-blue-decorated “Trump Shofar.” Roman Catholic representatives invoked the Virgin Mary and the saints.

He points out Moore, that link has a good summary of the issue, and French (who I believe is not Evangelical, but a conservative Christian who writes on conservative politics for a living) and Rod Dreher; both pieces are worth reading. Dreher is interesting, I think (and hopefully, I’m correct) that he is overblowing a concern of the coming Totalitarian from the left. Oddly, I first heard him promote his new book on the subject, Live Not By Lies, on Albert Mohler’s podcast (you can read my thoughts on Mohler’s turn here). At the time (as of yet, I don’t know if he has changed his opinion) Mohler was denying Biden won the election and supported Trump sending in troops to ‘swing’ states to overturn the election. The irony was apparently lost on him, which isn’t surprising considering his recent article on the cult of celebrity (which made good points, but was written by a man who supported a reality TV star for president).

Read Horton’s article, I think that is all I want to say on that. I do pray for those who worship Trump, that they will repent and turn back to the church. Their insularity is becoming worse and many are project. A popular talking point now is that if you attack a politician, you must be worshiping politics.

As I said above, we have no ‘God given right to vote’, but we do have a God given mandate to pray for our leaders, even if we don’t like them. So, I intend to pray for President Biden. Just as I prayed for Trump, that he would buffet the far end of his party (something God has chosen not to grant us), I will pray Biden hold the center and not give in to promoting some of the radical nonsense of the far end of the Democratic party and some of their supporters. I am interested to see how he will handle the pandemic and what he deems ‘essential’. It is somewhat moot, related to churches, as the Supreme Court has stated we cannot be closed down. I hope that he will take a more reasonable approach than other ‘blue’ state governors, those who nonsensically deemed bars, strips clubs, and casinos essential, but closed churches and elementary schools despite the latter two’s importance (I’m obviously biased for church) and ability to open safely (far more safely than the former three).

I suppose that is it for now. As always this was longer than I anticipated. I’ll try to do better next time. Though, to give you some insight on the future of this blog, there may be no next time. Almost certainly this is my last ‘political’ or current event post. I intend to post one more book review and then a reading challenge or year in review type post. Then it may be the end of MMT. I’ve spent over six years meandering through topics, listlessly posting with various frequency, I believe it may be coming to an end. I am working on another project that will likely launch early next year. With that, I don’t know what this may become. Perhaps just book reviews and long form thoughts on theological or Biblical studies, or perhaps shuttered entirely. Stay tuned for more, as I (as always) don’t even know what I’m doing yet. As always, thanks for playing along.

Covid Thoughts – Family Back to Church

Our church first opened back up to people, with limits, masks, no childcare back on Father’s Day this year, but as of November 1, we are back with childcare. Without childcare, we were unable to go together, as we can’t sit for an hour and half with a five year old and two 18 month olds. We still have limitations for service, and only a small number of kids in each classroom. I believe the toddler class is limited to five or seven, and I need two slots, so I’m usually pretty quick to sign up. I don’t think any of the classes have been full yet, neither has the service.

I think that is good, because I know people are being cautious, but I am also concerned that some people are just contented to stay home, or are being lazy. I know this is case for some, they have told me, however, there is more of the worrying trend of people sitting back and watching our service (or finding new, better services) while not meeting together as a body anymore.

It was significant for me the first day I went back on Father’s Day, and then again to finally sit with Mrs. MMT during the sermon, but not communion as she was leading worship that day. However, the two rows behind me were people from our community group. We often sit together or relatively close in normal times (the couple directly behind us typically sits with us, in the same row, back when that was a thing). So, there was an emotionally aspect two it, be able to be normalish and ‘together.’ Last week Mrs. MMT and I were able to take communion together for the first time since March.

This past Sunday, and this upcoming one, we were actually the people to do the scanning and checking in of kids. We take everyone’s temp (though this hasn’t been shown to be necessarily effective), which is pretty funny. In one case a friend of ours and her two daughters had the exact same temperature. It was more enjoyable than we thought, because we were able to talk with almost everyone who came in. Right now, we are not allowing people to linger and talk in the lobby, and ushers walk people back and forth to their seats.

So, we take temperatures, as people how they are doing, Sprout was actually the one handing out the stickers (for names/identifications). The nuggets were there, they didn’t help, but people thought they were cute and hadn’t seen them in months, so that was cool. We wore gloves, and of course all people wore masks, even kids from three and above.

It was just a sign of the times, I’d squat down to take a temperature and a three year old would move their hair back and they would be wearing little Disney or superhero masks. The masks didn’t seem to bother them, the only people that seem to struggle are 50-70 year old men. One of whom was told a few weeks ago he would have to wear one and hasn’t come back since. I hope he will repent and drop his idolatry soon and return.

What has also been fortunate is that they weather has been great, not particularly warm or cold since the beginning of October and very few days of rain (though when it has rained, it has poured, or worse such as when the tropical storm came through and schools were closed, which was the most 2020 thing of 2020), so they kids are able to play outside and when service is over everyone can stand outside (distanced) and talk/catch up.

I think it is important for kids to be able to see each other and have that social contact. Our church draws people from three or four counties, so the schools are doing different things. I think it is ridiculous that schools are closed but bars and restaurants are open. Where are our priorities? Even more idiotic is Nevada, apparently there, casinos are open but churches have to remain closed, a policy so dumbfounding that it actually make Fox News look credible.

Luckily where I am, school and churches are open (as is everything else) and it seems many people are taking precautions and doing the right thing. I feel very good about the way things are handled at our church. We intend to keep attending until either conditions (which are worsening every day) or executive order takes the childcare option away.

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.