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.

 

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.

Book Review: Jesus Skeptic

Jesus Skeptic

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Easy, moderate length (300ish)

Summary
The subtitle does a good job of laying out the premise of the book. As a trained skeptic (journalist) he looks into the impact of Christians and into the credibility of the claims for Christ. The latter is a kind of a classical apologetics for Christ, while the former is more of a modern defense and response to some of the attacks against Christians today.

The book is broken into three parts – Skeptics Welcome, Measuring Christianity’s Impact on Society, and The Most Influential Person – as well as preface, intro, conclusion, and three appendices. The first part is autobiographical and how he came to start exploring Christianity. As an aside for this section, I didn’t like his capitalization of ‘primary evidence’ or him treating the term like it was new or proprietary. The second part looks at things like scientist who were Christians during the scientific revolution, the early Christian efforts to care for people which led to the creation of hospitals, as well as the establishment of public education and Universities. The final part is mostly classic apologetics – did Jesus exist, what did he do, what did his followers believe about him.

My Thoughts
This is also a little nit-picky, but the subtitle doesn’t match the order of the next parts in the book. He explore impact first. Of course most early schools were started to train pastors, and public schools were established to teach literacy, so that people could read the Bible. He takes this to combat the attack that Christians are anti-intellectual today, and as general evidence of the goodness of Christianity (especially with hospitals). He is a little all or nothing in that approach, because there are certainly anti-intellectual Christians, and many of those are big in the home school movement and the general attack on public school that exists today (all with no trace of irony). He has a chapter on the scientific revolution, and the impact of Christians who were important scientist. The stories are good and the evidence of their belief is pretty clear, but I don’t think it will have the apologetic impact he seems to think it might. Similarly, he focuses on abolitionist and slaves that were Christian, but I think attacks on Christianity will only focus on defenders of slavery (which he does acknowledge) or generally doubt the validity of the slaves beliefs.

The final section is the best part of the book, and probably the most useful for young or new Christians. Proof that Jesus (the person) existed is overwhelming and not in dispute in academia, I think the only doubters are internet Atheists, but he does a good job displaying the information from sources outside of Christianity. A common attack against Christian beliefs is that the Resurrection and Deification of Christ were much later additions to the established Church (despite clear evidence to the contrary in the Bible). I think the Divinci Code makes this claim, so it is pretty popular now. Of course there is non-Christian written evidence by Jewish and Greek historians written a few decades (not centuries) after Christ that state that Christians claim Jesus was raised from the dead and that they worshiped him as a god.

The final chapter alone is worth the book. The middle section is good. It is important for Christians to know their history and the impact we’ve had on the world, but the apologetic aspect of the last part is of greater importance. As a church, we’ve done a poor job education our people and this is especially true in history and apologetcs. The books is really well written and very accessible. My hope would be that it would spark some interest in Christians knowing more about ourselves and better able to defend attacks. If you are starting this topic, or already interested, this is a book to add to your list.

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

Book Review: The Bible Tells Me So…

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Medium length, easy read (Enns is an academic, but writes for a popular audience)

Summary
In some ways it is a little difficult to summarize this book. This is one of his few books that is written entirely for popular audiences, and he uses a unique form/structure, so it bounces around some. If you are familiar with Enns, there won’t be too much new here. For the most part you are getting some higher criticism, difficult passage in the Old Testament (as in, both things we just don’t like and unclear Hebrew), Jesus reinterpreting the Old Testament and changing the Law (because he is God), and Paul doing the same (in light of the resurrection).  The first chapter is autobiographical and touches on the subtitle of the book, but the following chapters mostly fit into the above outlines.

There are seven chapters – I’ll take door number three; God did what?!; God likes stories; Why doesn’t God make up his mind?; Jesus is bigger than the Bible; No one saw this coming; and The Bible, just as it is. The last chapter is a mostly summary and concluding remarks. Each chapter is broken into short (usually just under 5 pages) writings on anecdotes or individual passages form the Bible.

My Thoughts
If you never read any of Enns, this book could be a good places to start. If you have read most of his other books, maybe pass. Alternatively, if you want a summary of this book and response you could read Longmen’s Confronting Old Testament Controversies. You do get a little bit more of the his life story in the first chapter, but I was expecting more on the subtitle. I thought there were be more a thesis regarding our hyper focus on arguing/defending the Bible, and then the impact of that on how we read it. I agree with the former, and was really hoping on my insight on the later. However, often the subtitle and sometimes in the the title are written by the editors/publisher. I might have passed if I had know how small a part of the book this idea was.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I really like Enns as a writer, his style is short and funny. Everything is very readable, almost like a large compilation of blog posts (but better/more organized). There are points with which I disagree, and some of his translation seem a little too lose, making them lead more to the point he is trying to make than a stricter/better interpretation. It wouldn’t be a the top of my list, but if you’ve read a good bit about OT issues/problems/’contradictions’ or the way Jesus/Paul change/reinterpret them and you are still looking for something, this would be a good option. He has an appendix of notes and further reading from people who agree and disagree with him.

Book Review: The Big Sort

The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick, easy read; moderate length (300+)

Summary
With increased mobility, the country to more and more choosing to live in areas of like-minded people. This has the effects both of intensifying our own beliefs and not knowing anyone else with ideas different from ours. This has had profound impacts on our national politics. The book is divided into four parts – The Power of Place, The Silent Revolution, The Way We Live Today, and The Politics of People Who Live Like Us. Each part is broken into three chapters each. There is also a great intro, if you are in a library or can find a book store, it’d be worth your time to go head and read at least this chapter.

My Thoughts
You might think the title is a riff on the largely known book and popular movie, the Big Short; I did, but actually, this book was written almost a year ahead of it. I have no idea if the titles are independent, or if the short was a play on the sort.

The basic premise of the book is that we are in fact living in more and more like communities and that this change is bad for us. We live increasingly with people just like us. That is fairly easy to prove, based on census data, voting data, and surveys. What he spends much of the rest of the book showing, is that this separation leads to negative consequences. For instance, social psychology of groups/tribes (as chapter three is called). Experiments showing people are more likely to have the extreme view than individuals – attempting to show you belong. On scale of 1-10 on how liberal/conservative someone is, the group average may by a six, but when they all get together or have to make a joint decision, that response ends up being an eight.

So, you have this odd case where the decision or policy of the group ends up being further on the spectrum than most of the individual members. Then you end up with the corollary, that you can’t imagine another person have the opposite view, the view that is different from the group. This is exacerbated with the sorting of our communities so that one might not even come into contact with someone of a different political belief.

He also writes on the move in marketing to focusing on tribes. He describes two white women that advertisers had previously seen as the same (age, income, gender, ethnicity), but now targets them differently, mostly based on political views. One particularly interesting chapter to me, he looks at church growth and the focus and the seeker sensitive movement as people try to reflect an audience or attract a specific group. His point with these two chapters is that the sorting into smaller and specific groups is impacting every aspect of our life.

It has even influenced the way we watch TV, there are rarely discussion on anymore, they also have to be combative and argumentative, to draw ratings. Somehow, we take that to be the correct way to act in public. He has a funny reference to ‘your fired’ to show that people would rather watch abrasive personalities than anything constructive. Personally, this is why I’ve stopped watching most sports coverage. I used to watch my shows on ESPN, but they have adopted the model where the yell over each other in disagreement, but I just find that too obnoxious.

Overall, I think Bishop proves his thesis. Clearly, our communities are sorting and (as the book is over 10 years old) we’ve already moved past some of his concerns and things are worse than predicted. It would be really interesting to have a follow-up after the 2020 Census and Presidential Election. The writing is good, the author is a writer and it shows. The writing is quick and often funny. The only issue I have is that it becomes fairly redundant. He will cite a study in one chapter, or even go into it in detail, and then in a later chapter, cite it again and describe it as if we don’t know what it is. The book has the feeling of multiple independent articles compiled together. This is likely more on the editor/publisher than the author, but it does start to feel a bit tedious.

I should caveat this review somewhat with the point that I have a degree in geography and a masters in city planning, so I was very familiar with many of the studies and ideas in this book. Also, as I previously had an academic interest in this topic, it may well not be as popular or interesting to a wider audience. I say you should put this on your list, but that would be if you already have a deep interest in politics, particularly in the idea that we are polarizing ourselves, or popular geography. If not, maybe grab it if you decide you are looking for something about it.

Book Review: Shalom in Psalms

Shalom in Psalms: A Devotional from the Jewish Heart of the Christian Faith

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Longish (about 350 pages)

Summary
The subtitle more or less gets tells you what you need to know about this book. The intent is to be a devotional on the Psalms from Messianic Jews.  However, there are no days (40, 365, etc) or actual dates (a year in the Psalms). It is just a Psalm and then a devotional/commentary that follows which is written by one or two (usually Seif and Blank) of the authors. The goal of the devotional is to get to the Jewish roots and understanding of the Psalms, and to that end, the authors us the Tree of Life version(TLV) of the Bible; for which Sief and Blank are translators.

My Thoughts
The TLV is an interesting version, you can check out their website to read about their driving principles. Some are fairly innocuous, using Yeshua instead of Jesus (or Miriam and Jacob, instead of Mary and James). Though, when you don’t change all names, it leads to the feeling of that guy that studied abroad and now over pronounces the few words he knows. Likewise they use Adonia for LORD/YHWH, and use a few other words such as Shalom, which are somewhat familiar, though others I did not know and they never offered and translation note or explanation. This seems like a major oversight if your goal is to bring this view to those who don’t already know. Looking around their site I could ascertain whether their translation was literal or dynamic equivalent, though I suspect it was the latter. Overall the translation seemed readable and understandable, with the few exceptions of untranslated words.

As for the devotional part, it isn’t quite there. There are two problems (ish), the first one being, that often this worked more as a light commentary than devotional. I know the line can blur, and I actually prefer the commentary type more, but that isn’t always what people are looking for. Not necessarily a problem, but something for which to be aware. The second, much bigger issue is that the book is not broken into any type of daily format. They could have tried to fit it into 365, or picked some other random number (40, 200, etc.), but instead just offered their devotion/commentary after each chapter. So, that means one morning you may read a Psalm that is a few lines with maybe a paragraph of devotion. Then a week or two later, you’ll read Psalm 119 (the longest verse in the Bible, longer than books such as James or Ruth) followed by pages of commentary.

Again, this can work fine as a commentary, but a devotional is really set more for the 5-20 minute a day framework. This really fails as that model, which wouldn’t be such a big deal were it not for the subheading. If you are expecting a 10 minute morning devotional, broken into nice segments, you aren’t going to get it. Depending on the day, I would read two of the Psalms with both devotionals, if they were short (thing the 80’s and 130’s) or for longer ones, sometimes I’d read just the verse, then come back the next day and read the commentary. Overall, I think it worked to something like 200 or so days, which works fine if you have  Lent and/or Advent devotional to though in as well.

Overall, I enjoyed it, but the format should have been different. If you know that going in and plan to work around it, it can work well for a devotional. If you really like the Psalms, or are just looking for something different in a commentary, or especially if you are looking for a Jewish (or at least modern Messianic Jewish) perspective it is worth picking up.

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

Book Review: Five Marks of a Man

Five Marks of a Man

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick, easy, short

Summary
Just as the title says, the author lays out what he sees as the five distinctions of a man. They are that men – have a vision, take a minority position, are team players, work, and are protectors. The book is broken into sections for each mark, each of which is four to six chapters for a total of 24, plus a ‘how to read this book’, an intro, a conclusion, and finally what he calls an epilogue, but is basically a sales pitch for a camp he runs.

My Thoughts
Writing a book about what it means/is to be a man is problematic. It would be a life goal of mine to write a book for men, but first, I’m not a very good writer, and more important, I think it is basically impossible. Broadly speaking, there are two major errors that, as much as I hate to do this, generally fall on the liberal/conservative spectrum. On the liberal side there is a tendency to downplay or even dismiss the uniqueness of men (this is likely why there are few books from this side), which is neither physically, biologically, or Biblically accurate. On the conservative side you have a the hamming up of things like football, trucks, and Braveheart. While these are all things I enjoy immensely, they having nothing to do Biblical concepts. In reality, that is all marketing.

This book falls, obviously, into the later category. A few examples before I move on to what was good about the book: seemingly the ability to do push ups related to your level of manliness; apparently having a cat is feminine so he makes it clear that not only does he have a dog (which I guess is manly?), but that it is big (extra manly?); camping outdoorsiness also equals manliness (though he isn’t nearly as bad as Eldredge); and most egregiously, the shotgun out on the counter for the guy who wants to date his daughter. Good Lord help the insecurities of these men.

I cannot fathom feeling it necessary to bring my shotgun out when Sprout starts dating. What is the implication? That I want to scare you for some reason? That I will literally kill you? The dating(ish) chapter, in the ‘protector’ section, was so bad that I considered downgrading my rating. He goes on to say that later he took out (for a meal) a guy who wanted to date his second daughter. He talked with the young man about relationship and sex and his daughter, apparently. I find that a little weird, but maybe it is alright, except for one thing, there is no mention what so ever that he had any discussions with his son. Not even a parenthetical, ‘as I told my own son’. Nothing. No indication that he has ever discussed dating with his son. Now, maybe I’m too cynical and as it is a book for men, maybe it is implied that he did, but I don’t think so. That leaves me with two possible explanations, one, overly cliched writing on manliness stereotyped manliness lead him to just not include it in the book. Two, he proved various liberals, atheist, and other antagonistic to Christianity to be correct in that he only cares about the virginity/purity of his daughters and his son can do whatever he wants. This is incredibly problematic and frustrating.

Men, we have to do better than this cliched nonsense. When we do this we look like a bunch of jackasses. There is nothing Biblical about point a gun a teenage boy who wants to date your daughter, it makes you an idiot (check out our governor elect for more info). If you believe in tying sex and marriage together you need to talk to your own son as well as your daughter (her lady brain can handle it, I promise).

No, back to the review. While that particular chapter was garbage, or a terribly failed attempt, I still like the book for one very major reason – the entire premise is that the opposite of a man, is a boy. Yes, the Tome appears to fall victim to many cliches of supposed manliness, but he never contrast the masculine with the feminine. It is a terrible error for us today to think that what it means to be a man is to simply not be a women. With a three year old and two more on the way, I will need to buy a van. Recently, someone told me not to drive one, because women drive them. No, boys drive unnecessary trucks (what I had before my daughter was born), men drive what is best for their families and don’t concern themselves with what boys think they should drive. What women may do has nothing to do with it.

I really appreciate his focus on this aspect, because I think it is true. Now, I don’t think every one of his points lines up perfectly, or maybe some points just need a qualification. For instance, a man might often take a majority opinion, you don’t take minority opinions just because. So, maybe some clarifying language would be nice, if I’m going to pick some nits.

The strength of the book probably comes in the two sections on team players and work. Maybe the former being the best. He really challenges men to show affection to other men, to have close friends, and to connect with community. I believe that is something that is extremely important, especially in our disconnected world today. He shows how (basically after WW1), men stopped loving each other and bought into the lie of the ‘lone wolf’. He has a great point about wolves being pack animals and single ones would likely die quickly. But we believe that being men means being alone, and especially not sharing our lives with other men. This is clearly not even Biblically accurate (he points to David and Paul and the way they wrote about their relationships with other men). I was personally challenged in this section of the book, and I think others will be as well.

Overall, the book is pretty good. Most men will get a good deal of helpful info, though you can probably skip the section on protector, except the finance part. I also believe these books have to be graded on a curve, because they are so hard to pull off. The lazy cliches and over the top stereotypes are just too easy. With that in mind, if you have an interest in working with men or men’s ministry, area man, a husband, a father, or are raising a man it is worth putting on your list.

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

Book Review: Fake or Follower

Fake or Follower

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – Easy, short/moderate in length

Summary
This is another book that is hard to summarize. In her intro, the author tells the story of being confronted with what matters in life due to the death of her mother in law. Of course, on of those things is whether she is a legitimate follower of Jesus. The following 10 chapters really are more of a collection of loosely connected essays than a defense or story arc related to her title or thesis. This is likely more on the editors than it is in on the author.

Her first chapter, Refuse to Fake it, generally follows this idea and has very solid critiques of modern American Christianity. Other chapters criticize our ‘misplaced loves’ and overuse of social media versus actually living in community. Unfortunately, many of the other chapters seems scattered and disconnected, partially because the basis of much of what she wrote seemed to be autobiographical.

My Thoughts
I was torn on how to rate this book, and eventually lowered it as I tried to write out a summary. This is mostly due to the massive gap in theological agreement between us. She appears to be fairly far out on the Charismatic spectrum. In the book she claims to see visions and have dreams sent by God, including receiving direct revelation from God. This is problematic theologically that is beyond the scope of a book review, but it does seem to inform much of her thought in the book.

Another problem I have is her use of Bible ‘translations’. I had thought The Message was on of the worse one to use, but she also uses the The Passion, which I had never heard of. Neither of these are actually translations. The Message at least tries to convey the original thoughts; albeit in dumbed down/’modern’ language. The Passion is similarly a paraphrase, but instead of being written by someone who at least knows Kiona Greek, it comes from someone who claims Jesus came into his room and breathed the spirit on to him and he has ‘downloaded’ his version.

Though, as I said above, I do enjoy many of her points, especially on community and the kind of cultural Christianity that is prevalent in America, the theological implications and issues are too much to ignore. You could likely find most her salient points on her blog, or by other writers who similarly criticize and challenge us. Overall, the book probably isn’t worth your time.

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

Book Review: Grace in the Valley

Grace in the Valley: Awakening to God’s Presence When He Feels Far Away

Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – medium length, reads a little slow

Summary
It is hard to summarize this book as it was not what I thought it would be. I was expecting more of an exposition of Psalm 23. I knew it wasn’t a true commentary, but this was pretty far off from what I had anticipated. The book is kind of a mix of autobiography, sermon, and exposition more or less on Psalm 23, but almost more focused on David, overall.

The book is broken into 11 chapter plus an intro and afterward. Each chapter is titled with what he plans to focus on and then correlates(ish) to a particular section of Psalm 23 (e.g. chapter 2, Does God Recognize You? and the Lord is my shepherd). 

My Thoughts
I’m not entire sure what I think about this book. Overall it was pretty good. There were some valuable insights and the writing style is solid, though he lacks conciseness. I would have preferred more exposition and less autobiographical details. While some related, others seemed shoehorned in. I had a few theological issues with some of the more Pentecostal aspects of his story, but that doesn’t cause the rest of the book to suffer.

The biggest flaw in the book was likely that he failed to meet his subtitle. His central argument is that the valley and green pasture may be the same place. I wasn’t entirely convinced by his argument. Regardless, he doesn’t really address God feeling far away, unless you think that bad things happening and God feeling far are perfectly correlated, instead of each happening independent of each other. Further, I think the book lacked both focuses on grace and the ‘awakening God’s presence.’ Overall, the book was alright, the strength being when he did dig into the Psalm, but he didn’t make that the focus or majority of the book. The content didn’t really match the title/subtitle, which in his defense might have been the editors fault, so it wasn’t quite what I wanted, but it could be worth it, if you are looking for something.

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