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D Glover (northern bc, canada)
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Shack, The
Shack, The
by William P. Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.27
218 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Shack: remaking God in our preferred image, Dec 7 2012
This review is from: Shack, The (Paperback)
Well, I'm coming to this particular show in its run through the cheap theatre. I was going to avoid it altogether but for some reason I still have people asking me if I've read it and others telling me that I should. My wife read The Shack during the peak of the hype and she summarized it in two words: irreverent & erroneous. I can't really improve on that but I can expand, even if it pains me to do so.

Going in to it, I determined to try to find some positive things to say about The Shack so that in my conversations with folks it wouldn't seem like I was just rattling off a litany of negativity. There are a couple of "positive" things I can say but unfortunately they will mostly be qualified away once I get on to discussing the negatives. One positive is that the author has correctly noted that many people today have no right concept of fatherhood from their own experience and so they struggle with formulating a positive image of God as Father. Another positive: the author has correctly noted that much of the church has placed God in a box and limits him in their minds to the domesticated and truncated deity that they prefer...one they can control, at least in their minds. [The last positive I can think of are the titles of the Spanish and German translations, La Cabaña & Die Hütte - ein Wochenende mit Gott, respectively.] Sorry to say, that pretty much sums up the positives.

About the negatives, they begin with what I just said about the positives. While the author has certainly identified some areas of sickness in the ways the church and culture of today relate to God, his prescription is not going to help matters. He has pointed out that we have a gaping lack of positive fatherhood alongside a domesticated, controlled and too frequently shrunken concept of God. But the medicine he prescribes to fix our poor image of God the Father is to turn him into God the Mother. If we were struggling with God the Father before, it won't help to rebrand him as God the Mother, since it is as Father that God has revealed himself and wants us to relate to him. The Shack is only perpetuating a subversion of God-as-Father. Likewise, the solution to our domesticated and small view of God is to domesticate him further, which is what Young most certainly does by turning God into a pie-baking, dish-washing, laundry-doing, big momma fixin' greens and swaying to Bruce Cockburn in the kitchen. The church today focuses almost entirely on God's immanence to the near exclusion of his transcendence. What does Young propose as a corrective in this book? Make God even more immanent and try to do away with the thin and tattered shreds of any conception of his transcendence. If the author has rightly identified the fact that many people have a wrong view of God, his proposed corrective is no corrective at all. Rather, he not only perpetuates that wrong view but furthers and advances it in The Shack. If the modern culture and church's view of God is sick with cancer, Mr. Young has heard some coughing and weezing and diagnosed it as a cold. When the church ought to be pointed toward the radical treatment of the Bible, read, preached and taught in fullness and completeness, Mr. Young prescribes instead some new medicine that will end up having the affect of feeding and advancing the exact strain of cancer that we already have.

This book gets many things muddled and it is sad to see how so many people are effectively replacing their Bibles with this view of who God is. I believe The Shack is as popular as it is, not because it is radically changing people's view of God to a more biblically correct concept, but because it is confirming them in so many of the things they wish to believe about God already, preferring as we all naturally do a god made in our own image and according to our own preferences to the true God as revealed in the Scriptures.

Continuing on, The Shack's God doesn't "do judgment" and damnation, even though Jesus spends much more time teaching about hell in the New Testament than he does about heaven. The Shack's God says institutions, hierarchies and authority are all sinful human constructs, even though God's Word (OT & NT) tells us that it is God who raises up rulers and puts them down, he ordains governments and leaders and tells Christians to submit to them in any area that they are not commanding disobedience to God. God's own words in Scripture tell us that he himself has all authority and on that basis, commands people to do and live in certain ways. God bequeaths parts of that authority variously to many different supposedly "human institutions" such as family, church and civil authorities. Just because we don't see widespread obedience to God in the application of these institutions in our day doesn't mean that the institutions themselves are sinful. There may be a lot of counterfeit twenties out there but that doesn't mean that the Royal Canadian Mint isn't still making the real thing somewhere. The Shack's God says that salvation is a participation between God and humans, with God doing his part on the cross and making salvation available and now it is up to us to do our part and reach up and take it. Salvation is there for the taking and everyone's forgiveness has been purchased theoretically. Now God is wringing his/her hands and just hoping we have the gumption to reach out and grab it. The problem is that the Bible describes sinners as dead in their trespasses and sins, not that they are able to collaborate with God in the journey toward salvation. The Shack's God says there are no rules and laws in Scripture which God expects people to follow. Yet the Scriptures themselves state that God's expectation is that his people would live in holy obedience to his law. It is precisely our inability to do this that required Jesus to obey them on our behalf and to die to take the just penalty which we deserve for our rebellion against that law. The redeemed heart loves the law of God and sees in it freedom, not bondage. As David says, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the laws, statutes, principles and rules (yes, he even uses the word "rules") of God are his delight. Certainly one can't treat the Bible as a book of dos and don'ts but in our covenant relationship with God, the laws of God still have good and redemptive purposes. And certainly they serve to point out humanity's inability to meet God's holy standards without his grace to us in Christ (something The Shack starts to discuss - law as mirror - but then spectacularly bungles).

Of course, The Shack profoundly messes up the Trinity and how God reveals himself. If you turn your binoculars around and look through the big end, The Shack is essentially saying that, for Mack (and for anyone claiming to have really discovered new intimacy and awareness of God through this book), the incarnation of the Son of God, as recorded in Scripture and made know by the Spirit in us, was insufficient to make God known. Instead, The Shack gives us a triple incarnation where Father, Son and Spirit all take on flesh. And rather than God making his dwelling among men in the person of Jesus, God brings Mack out of the world to make his (Mack's) temporary dwelling among the three persons of God for his own, private personal weekend revelatory retreat. Apparently, even though the Bible makes things very clear about Immanuel, God with us, the Son as exact image and representation of the Father, coming to reveal the redeeming purpose and love of God, isn't enough. The Bible tells us that people in Jesus day beheld the fullness of deity in bodily form - "if you have seen me, you have seen the Father", "I and the Father are one" - and in our day, "blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believed". Peter tells us that we have been given all we need for life and godliness. Unfortunately, in The Shack, as in so many other Christian publishing trends (The Prayer of Jabez and The Purpose Driven Life also come to mind), readers are told that this is not the case and that, if we really want to go deep with God, this special book will awake authentic faith and deeper understanding within us. While it's not said in so many words, what such claims say by default is that the Scriptures, the indwelling Holy Spirit, Christ's death and resurrection and present reign, a covenant relationship with the Triune God, and our life with the people of God, the Church, are not enough.

There are other issues. Along with rejecting a biblical view of authority, we have broad-based egalitarianism espoused here. We have a semi-universalism replacing "no man comes to the Father except through me". The worship services and leadership of the church are disparaged as human inventions, and worse yet, boring, and the church is instead envisioned as wherever God's people come together "in relationship". There is a partial truth here, but it is mixed with so much falsehood that it knocks the truth off balance. Nothing is mentioned about worshipping the Triune God as the primary purpose for the gathered Lord's Day service of the Church. That Mack finds Sunday services boring and endless and that Papa confirms this perspective tells us a lot about the author. It is God himself who gave some to be preachers, teachers, elders, etc., and who created the form of church government and its qualifications we find in Scripture. Sure, it has been abused and manipulated, but that doesn't make the structured governance of the church wrong any more than the abuse and manipulation Mack suffered at the hands of his father makes fatherhood a bad concept in general. If we needed any proof of the Bible's warning that "not many should presume to be teachers", the warped theology of The Shack demonstrates that pretty effectively. I am always struck by people who claim they love Jesus but can't stand the church. The Bible tells us that the Church is Jesus' bride whom he loves. No, she's not without her faults, yet, but she will be perfect one day, and until then, God never gives up on her, unlike many who just drop out. I wouldn't consider anyone a true friend who told me that they like hanging around with me but can't stand my wife or kids. Yet that is exactly what Young has Mack saying and Papa confirming.

There are literary issues as well with the book, although they are secondary. The emotional hook of the first part of the story, where Mack's daughter is taken and murdered by a sicko, something which Mack understandably continues to struggle with and which any parent reading it can't help but sympathize with, serves to draw people in so that they identify with Mack and are (likely unknowingly) willing to suspend judgment to a large degree for the second portion of the book. I suspect if it were not for the set up of the "great sadness" of the first part of the book, the conversations in the second part would not have drawn in quite so many people. Speaking of the second half, the dialogue is heavy with clichés and labours along clunkily. I wish I had a dime for every time "God" says to Mack, "If you only knew..." or "it's all about relationship". Also, in places Mack acts quite inconsistently with himself, something I found very unbelievable. For example, for a guy who was doubting the goodness and probably even the existence of God, I found it pretty odd how quickly he entertained the possibility that it really could have been God who put the note in his mailbox (a note he should never have ripped up, by the way, but rather should have glued it into the back cover of his Bible and made photo copies of it so everyone else to do the same).

I can see why this book is so popular within the emergent church movement. The picture of God in this book is faithful to the emergent reimagining (with the possible exception that, at least in the Shack, God is still able to know the future, even if he/she doesn't ordain it and isn't working all things out but simply reacting to humans, the primary actors in the cosmos). Satan is absent. Hell is never defined and one is left wondering about it. The Bible is conspicuously absent except to say that Mack chuckles when he sees that Papa has placed a Gideon's Bible in his bedroom in the shack. I can't recall if the resurrection of Jesus is mentioned but it is certainly not emphasized. Much of the biblical story is treated a potentially mytho-poetry (no firm stance). People come to God through and within many and various religions without every leaving them for the Christian Church. Original sin seems to only be a wrong perspective on things and can be overcome by education, say, during a weekend retreat in the wilderness with God. What Jesus did on the cross was only a demonstration of God's love for humanity. While that is certainly true in one sense, that is not all that Jesus accomplished on the cross. It was the Father's will to crush his Son, Isaiah tells us, and God's wrath and just judgment on sin have to be satisfied. But the emergent movement would rather just explain substitutionary atonement away with a slight of hand and some snappy one liners and chalk it all up to God's statement of "I love you this much". God certainly does show us his love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. But he also poured out the cup of his wrath on Jesus rather than on us. Jesus certainly knew that which is why he asked that if possible, the Father would take that cup away from him. However, ultimately the Son submitted to God's will (did you get that - the Son submitted to the Father, something Young goes to great lengths to say the three persons of the godhead never do) and drank the cup of God's wrath to the dregs on behalf of those he came to save.

The version of The Shack I read had a long afterward in which the author discussed the collaborative process by which he and primarily two other men, brought this book to print, since all the publishers approached (26 or so, Christian and secular) turned it down for one reason or another. Young discusses how they dropped about 40% of the dialogue and worked through the draft to eliminate misunderstandings and avoid theological errors (they probably should have spend a lot more time on that part). He talks of how all three of them worked in such harmony and unity, each deferring to the others, no one angling for "power or fame" (his words). He talked of how these two brothers he worked with "entered his heart" and how they trusted each other to "have each other's backs". He goes on to say how none of them were naïve and how each one had been betrayed before by those claiming to be brothers. However, they chose not to sign any contracts, any memorandums of understanding, etc. They ultimately would trust to love for each other and to the Lord to "have their backs" together. Now, I wouldn't have brought that up, except that Young belabours the point as if to show that the theology taught in The Shack has been embraced by those working together on its publishing and, "see, it really works."

Interestingly enough, the book has become something of a publishing phenomenon, which is to say, it has brought in boat loads of cash. It turns out that the primary author, William P. Young, has taken the others to state court for what he believes to be several millions in royalties owed to him. The other two men haven't deferred to Mr. Young but stood their ground in a lengthy court battle by counter suing in federal court. Apparently, when there is huge money to be made, human institutions like the courts are helpful when those you are in love relationships with aren't handing over the big bucks you feel they owe you.

If only Mr. Young was a participating member of a local church where he could benefit from their collective wisdom, prayers, and hopefully submit to their leadership's direction to help work through these issues. Perhaps a body of believers together and their biblically qualified leadership could have helped these men reach reconciliation (one of Young's collaborators whom he has taken to court, Wayne Jacobsen, is president of BridgeBuilders, a conflict mediation consulting firm). But alas, Mr. Young is not a member of any church. [This fact alone disqualifies him from teaching others as he himself is not under biblical authority or teaching, but that is beside the point I am making here.] If only Mr. Young and his collaborators had spent more time studying the Scriptures they might have learned that God doesn't want Christian brothers to drag each other into the civil courts over money matters as it besmirches the name of God. They are instead to deal with their disputes within the "institutional" church when disputes cannot be resolved on their own or just covered by love. Watching this court battle over who should get more of the money from the sales of The Shack I can't help but see a certain amount of hypocrisy here. It is reminiscent of James Cameron, the famous movie producer, lecturing Canadians on shutting down the oil sands and telling the public to "learn to live with less". He owns 3 homes totaling 24,000 sq ft and none of them are powered by alternative energy sources. He owns a yacht, a private jet, a helicopter, a car collection, a submarine or two, and a Humvee fire truck. It's pretty hard to take a lecture on living with less from a guy who won't practice what he preaches. To me, it's the same thing here. Young says one thing about love in his book, but lives his life in quite another way, at least when it comes to issues about money. I hate to be cynical, but I think this dispute comes directly out of the theology of The Shack, not in spite of it.

I can't recommend this book to anyone and would instead like to recommend Knowing God, by J.I. Packer, The Holiness of God & Chosen By God, by R.C. Sproul, and Desiring God, by John Piper, and of course, the Bible itself, read and reread.

The Marvellous Land of Snergs
The Marvellous Land of Snergs
by E. A. Wyke-Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.28
23 used & new from CDN$ 4.21

4.0 out of 5 stars Peter Pan meets Hobbit meets Princess Bride, Nov. 8 2012
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This is a really fun book for those who love a good old fashioned fairy story (at least one that doesn't take itself too seriously). This story shares some responsibility for inspiring J.R.R. Tolkien's creation of hobbits and their adventures. Tolkien said, "I should like to record my own love and my children's love of E. A. Wyke-Smith's "Marvellous Land of Snergs", at any rate of the snerg-element of that tale, and of Gorbo the gem of dunderheads, jewel of a companion in an escapade." The Snergs share some very key traits with hobbits: they are small of stature but big on loyalty, they love feasting and celebration, they are resourceful and trustworthy folks to have at your side in a tough scrape, and in this tale at least, like hobbits, there is adventure in underground tunnels and forests and run-ins with ogres. Also, the main Snerg character's name in this story, Gorbo, is reminiscent of Bilbo and Frodo of Tolkien's tales, though his character is more frequently like a hybrid of Pippin and Bilbo.

Spoiler Alert!

This story is a bit like Peter Pan meets The Hobbit meets The Princess Bride. It all takes place on a remote island (which is either a part of the cost of England or a near by island, perhaps a fictional Mann) where disparate elements all weave together to make a fun tale of adventure. In light of his critiques of C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia", one imagines that the disparate elements woven together was not one of the aspects of this story that Tolkien appreciated. There is a village for superfluous children, rescued from England and the families that love them not by women who supply the love and structure which their own home situations did not. This village is located in a bay which can be accessed by ship but apparently never left. The Flying Dutchman is anchored in the bay and Captain Vanderdecken and his men, while perpetually readying their ship for sea, have built a settlement on the beach and have settled into comfortable arrangements with Miss Watkyns, a sort of Mary Poppinsesque leader of the S.R.S.C. (Society for the Removal of Superfluous Children). The bay is surrounded by a forest inhabited by friendly bears and beyond that some ways is the land of the Snergs. These people are also friendly and trade labour and goods with the S.R.S.C. and Vanderdecken. Beyond the Snergs is the river and beyond that, a land full of danger and enemies...or so it is thought until the foolishness of two runaway children and a bumbling Snerg, Gorbo, ultimately proves that there is much about this land which is misunderstood.

The story starts a bit slowly for very young readers as there is some back ground and explanation given to set the stage. But once the story starts, there is much for that younger audience to appreciate: a young boy and girl and their puppy for protagonists, a lovable but bungling Snerg, Gorbo, who will do whatever it takes to protect those children, a witch, a reformed ogre, knights, kings, castles, a beautiful princess, multiple feasts, an incorrigible jester, armies, dangerous escapes, etc. Throughout the story, there is much witty side commentary by the narrator which adds a level of pleasure to the parent who might be reading this tale to their children (the Bugs Bunny effect - appeals on a whole-nother level to the parents). The narrator promises throughout that the tale is working toward a worthy moral which will instruct its readers in wisdom. Here's a great quote from near the end which is an example of the commentary that in places elicited a chortle from this father and caused his children to look askance:
"It occurs to me here that there is some difficulty in proving a really useful moral from this tale, although I have almost boastfully referred to it as coming in due course for the instruction of my younger readers. For however reprehensible the children were in their disobedience and irresponsibility it cannot be denied that the general results of their conduct were beneficial. They were instrumental in bringing a swift finish to two persons who constituted a serious menace to the public. They had brought about the establishment of friendly relations between two countries, and removed doubts that had existed for centuries. Lastly, they had returned magnificently dressed and bearing expensive gifts. So perhaps the only definite moral that can be deduced is, if you by any chance meet an ogre who claims to be reformed, pretend to believe him until you have got a gun and then blow his head off at the first opportunity."

Just good fun.

Puffin Classics Tales Of The Greek Heroes
Puffin Classics Tales Of The Greek Heroes
by Roger Lancelyn Green
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 5.69
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great versions of classic myths, for kids and parents, Nov. 2 2012
Roger Lancelyn Green brings another canon of mythology alive, this time the myths of the ancient Greeks. It's a rare author who has the ability to take ancient myths and make them accessible to modern readers. Rarer still is someone who can make those ancient myths accessible to children. Green has accomplished both these ends and more. Green not only makes these tales accessible to kids and adults, he makes them enjoyable. Perhaps this shouldn't surprise us, as Green was a student and good friend of C.S. Lewis, creator of the Chronicles of Narnia and a masterful story teller. Green doesn't "drill down" and invent a bunch of back story and extra details either, as is the temptation of many reinterpreters of myth. Those who do so, while sometimes crafting really good stories, lose the mythic quality of the story somewhere along the way. These tales still feel like myths, with a minimalism and necessity of prose that at the same time doesn't feel sparse or empty. My wife and I read these aloud to our 3, 6 & 7 year olds and it passed the "keep reading, pleeeeease" test. All the most famous stories and characters are here and the stories are family friendly without being dummed down. If you are a home schooling family or if you want to supplement your children's education with a knowledge of classical literature and lore, this is a valuable resource. Its far better to read these stories directly to your children than to read a text book about the stories. But even if your motivations are higher still and you just plain want to read some great stories together because your family loves good stories, you won't be disappointed. I also recommend any of Roger Lancelyn Green's retellings of the great tales of the past:Puffin Classics Tales Of Ancient Egypt, Puffin Classics King Arthur And His Knights Of The Round Table, The Tale Of Troy, Puffin Classics The Adventures Of Robin Hood.

Rescuing Ambition
Rescuing Ambition
by Dave Harvey
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.99
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ambition redeemed and reoriented, Oct. 30 2012
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This review is from: Rescuing Ambition (Paperback)
Ambition is a dirty word in the modern church and increasingly in the surrounding culture. Once it was thought of as a positive trait to posses... "what an ambitious young man". But now, after the tech bubble, the real estate bubble, and several other bubbles have burst, the word ambition brings to mind industrial and corporate moguls (like Gordon Gecko), backbiting politicians and conniving power brokers, and young, unfeeling Wall Street stockbrokers who will do any dishonest or dastardly deed to climb ladders and stab backs in pursuit of power and wealth. But ambition, like worship, may be either good or bad, depending on its object. In fact, ambition is inseparably linked to worship in that what we worship we strive for and pursue. Dave Harvey has written a book on ambition that the church desperately needs.

Harvey admits that people can be ambitious for the wrong things in the right way, or for the right things in the wrong way, or for the wrong things in the wrong way. However, it does not follow that ambition can never pursue the right thing in the right way. Dave Harvey disabuses us of the prejudice that ambition is always wrong for Christians. Harvey rescues ambition by showing how it is not only possible to be ambitious in a God-honouring way, it is necessary. Harvey shows that ambition redeemed and sanctified has been behind all great works done for God in the past and godly ambition is necessary in the Christian life today if we are to fulfill God's calling on individual believers and the Church as a whole. Harvey shows that ambition need not be driven by pride and in fact is far more potent when undergirded by Godward humility, a God-oriented focus, and when that ambition points to the Cross of Christ. The reader is shown through clear exposition of Scripture and sound argument that it is only selfish ambition that God denounces, and that godly ambition is required of all believers and, in fact, was a central trait of the apostles and Jesus himself. It is when ambition is for our own glory that it becomes warped. When its end goal is to advance God's glory through living and sharing the gospel, ambition is just part of robust obedience.

Harvey also clarifies that ambition is not just a drive to accomplish "big" things. Godly ambition is to see God glorified by fulfilling whatever vocation, calling, project or role he has called you to, no matter how supposedly "small" and "ordinary" you might think it. This will be based on many things such as gifts, desires, the needs of your local church, the needs of those closest to you and your biblical responsibility toward them, the place in life God has put you, etc. And of course, ambition must be guided by God's Word. There are things it is not lawful to direct one's ambition toward, and there are lawful things that are not for certain people to pursue. But with all the appropriate caveats and clarifications of Scripture, ultimately ambition is a necessary part of the Christian life. Much thanks to Dave Harvey for helping to restore ambition to its proper place in the life of the Church. I hope and pray this book is widely read and taken to heart.

Spills and Spin: The Inside Story of BP
Spills and Spin: The Inside Story of BP
by Tom Bergin
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.64
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4.0 out of 5 stars The wages of spin, Aug. 14 2012
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Tom Bergin has written a compelling tale of a company, British Petroleum, who sacrificed the safety of its own people, its stakeholders and the environment for the sake of a robust bottom line. While the thrust of this book, like all stories, can never be purely objective, Bergin certainly was in a position to know the story more fully than anyone else, being the head of Reuters resource and energy sector coverage and personally managing coverage of BP for years. Bergin ultimately tells the tale of how the Gulf spill happened and the events leading up to it, but he is not satisfied with examining a few weeks ahead of the disaster. Bergin's story, and BP's, begins decades earlier.

Bergin traces the history of BP, particularly when John Browne was at the helm and then afterwards, when he handed the reigns to his former `turtles'. Bergin exposes a history of cost cutting, stop-gap or misdirected safety measures, and expensive green-washing PR and media messaging campaigns, to convince shareholders, regulators and the general public that BP was the operator of choice. Bergin argues that BP's long-time operating model, conceived of and implemented from the very top down, of rewarding its top executives for their business unit's ability to run with lean and shrinking budgets in order to maximize profits, ultimately led to multiple large-scale disasters such as the Texas City refinery explosion and the Prudhoe Bay, Alaska oil spill. When BP effectively made no real changes to its operating model after these events, it should have set off huge warning alarms for everyone concerned. Bergin convincingly argues for a systemic flaw in BP's operating model, one that put maximizing profits ahead of people and the environment. In the author's opinion, the `Macondo' spill in the Gulf was not an unforeseeable freak accident but merely a matter of time. And it's very hard to argue with his conclusion. `Spills and Spin' ought to be required reading for energy company executives and regulators as well as shareholders who desire to see their money wisely and not just profitably invested.

Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
by Mitch Stokes
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.47
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5.0 out of 5 stars Science as worship, Aug. 14 2012
This review is from: Isaac Newton (Paperback)
I was pleasantly surprised by this brief biography of Isaac Newton. This is not the first book by Mitch Stokes that I have read, so it wasn't his abilities as a writer that surprised me. Stokes is a good writer and there are some truly memorable turns of phrase in this book which is something I haven't often found in biographies. He also traces some themes throughout which serve well to tie Newton's life story together. Rather, what surprised me was how good a feel one gets for Isaac Newton as a person and how good an overall appreciation of the many and varied areas of his life's work one comes away with from such a short study (less than 200 small pages). The other aspect of this biography that was surprising was how naturally Stokes seems to translate a broad overview of complex concepts that Newton laboured over into easily digestible language for the layman. Its one thing to understand these concepts, which the author's masters in mechanical engineering no doubt aids in, but its quite another to write in such a way that one's readers are not lost in the discussion, yet this is exactly what Stokes does. Stokes introduces the reader to the many fields of Newton's life work including natural philosophy (science), math, optics, alchemy (proto-chemistry), theology and biblical exegesis as well as his time as master of the mint, and he weaves the narrative of Newton's relationships, struggles and triumphs throughout, telling not two parallel stories (as some biographies do) but one integrated story. This integration seems only fitting as Newton himself treated his myriad fields of study as an integrated search for truth to help us understand the universe and thereby its Creator better. Contrary to the Newton reinvented by modern atheist scientists, the fictional Newton who distrusted the church and who privately rejected "religion" for the purely mechanical universe of hard laws, Stokes shows us the true Newton, who looked at his lifelong learning as a profound and sacrificial act of worship. Newton believed that the better he could come to understand the two volumes of God's revelation, God's Word and God's world, the more he could come to understand the Author of those two volumes and the more glory and honour would be rendered to God.

If Mitch Stokes' aim in writing this book was to entice his readers to further study of the life and works of Sir Isaac Newton, he has certainly succeeded in my case. I highly recommend this book even to those who have no previous interest in Newton. You won't be disappointed. (And how cool is it to say that you're reading a biography of Isaac Newton.)

A Shot Of Faith To The Head
A Shot Of Faith To The Head
by Mitch Stokes
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.15
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A double shot of faith and reason, June 7 2012
This is a thoughtful, clearly communicated, witty and well written response to the new atheists. This response doesn't agree to argue with the atheists from the ground of their own assumptions but shows how those assumptions are themselves highly suspect and depend more on faith and less on observable, objective fact then any of them would like to admit. In fact, Stokes makes it clear that the new atheists aren't actually doing science when they argue for the non-existence of God, since that can't actually be objectively proven. Rather, they are doing philosophy and they are doing it very poorly. This book does a good job of exposing the flimsy philosophy of new atheism.

As part of helping to equip Christians to be able to defend their faith, the author introduces the reader to the work of Alvin Plantinga, and to a lesser degree, Nicholas Wolterstorf and Peter van Inwagen. These are three very intelligent and articulate Christians who also happen to be stellar philosophers by anyone's measure and who successfully defend their Christianity in the academy. One of the key ideas Stokes brings forward is the idea of warrant. Plantinga argues (and Stokes boils it down for the reader) that there is reasonable warrant for belief in God and that, far from what the new atheists claim, and which they themselves cannot live consistently with, not everything ought to be disbelieved until proven by incontrovertible and observable fact. Stokes shows how Plantinga argues convincingly that there is much in life and thought that people, including the new atheists, take on the testimony of someone else or by the authority of a document (like the time and place of their birth, or who their parents are).

Stokes does an effective job of pointing out that so much of the atheist's case against God is actually just bald pronouncement and then a whole lot of yelling and intimidation to "support" their arguments. This book and the arguments and strategies presented herein are a much needed shot of faith to any Christian's head (think "reason enhancing steriods") and its also a shot of faith to the head (think philosophical "right hook") of any atheist who is brave enough to engage the arguments it contains. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to Christians everywhere. It will also serve as a helpful guide to honest searchers and as a bucket of cold ice water down the back of the shirt of some overheated, tirading, cranky atheists as well.

Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life
Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life
by Douglas Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.76
15 used & new from CDN$ 7.23

5.0 out of 5 stars A writing "how-to" that shows what it tells, May 28 2012
For a really good review of this book, check out Tim Challies review at goodreads. Here's my additional 2 cents...Wilson describes this book as a Russian doll of writing advice, with seven main points that are in turn further fleshed out by seven supporting points. There is plenty of good material here so no where does this format seem forced. I have only read a handful of books on the "how-to" of writing, and some of them were quite helpful, but this was the only one where I could underline something on every page that was true, useful and thoroughly enjoyable.

This isn't a quick and easy guide on how to write a good book. This book focuses more on the type of life a writer ought to live in order to be worth listening to. Wilson advocates being part of the real world, and not just to compile useful but outside material for the latest writing project. He says that an interesting person is an interested person...I couldn't agree more. A true reader knows when an author really loves their subject or whether they just signed up for a night class.

Wilson is a master of punchy sentences, whether in his books, articles or blog posts (which is how I read the first version of this material), and he can place a well crafted summary sentence or illustration to jump out at you and knock you betwixt-the-lookers like very few living authors. Such sentences don't result in migraines so never fear, but they serve to drive his points home in a way that seems to make everything else he just said on a particular point stick with you as well. This book is a little gem with practical, down to earth wisdom and advice that, if taken seriously by a good number of up-and-coming writers, will result in a whole lot less shlock on book store shelves. I will close with one of my favourite sentences of the book: "Our world already has too much verbiage in it that comes off like it was written by a committee or a computer - or maybe a committee of computers." AMEN. And to paraphrase a phrase from Wilson, which phrase he first borrowed from Churchill (in one of the many instances where his book practices what it preaches without making a big deal of pointing out that fact), thankfully, Wordsmithy is not among the verbiage up with which we ought not put.

Deep Comedy: Trinity, Tragedy, & Hope in Western Literature
Deep Comedy: Trinity, Tragedy, & Hope in Western Literature
by Peter J. Leithart
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.13
13 used & new from CDN$ 10.72

4.0 out of 5 stars Hopeless vs. Hopefull Literature, Feb. 28 2012
In this brief but convincing study, Peter Leithart compares and contrasts the overarching ethos of the literatures of ancient paganism (represented by Greece & Rome) and Christendom. Leithart shows that pagan literature was (and modern and postmodern secular literature still is) inherently tragic in nature, declining from the origin of all things through ages of progressive deterioration, like Greece's golden age, silver age, bronze age and iron age. This is contrasted with Christian literature's fundamentally comedic nature (comedy in the classic sense, not in the movie genre sense) even when the tale told is a tragedy. In the Christian meta-narrative, history progresses from perfection, through fall and curse, to redemption and ultimately points to an ever increasing glorification greater even than the state of original perfection. Leithart argues that this historical tragectory is the work of the triune God as revealed in Christian scripture, and that only in a world and mind enlightened and informed by such revelation is truely and deeply joyful and hopeful storytelling possible.

Leithart examines The Odyssey and The Aeneid, two of ancient paganisms most comedic works (supposedly "happy ending") and shows that, even when the ancients were going for a positive trajectory in their works, they were still fundamentally tragic at their core, ending in death or in stasis, and concluding that one was not much more than a puppet of the gods an must simply accept what fate sent. Contrast that with the canon of Christian literature which, even when the specific work itself is tragic, the world in which the work exists and which exists within the work, is infused with hope and at least the constant possibility, if not always the realization of, redemption, reconciliation, resurrection and eternal growth. Leithart effectively illustrates this point by walking through two Shakespeare plays: a tragedy, King Lear, and a comedy, Twelfth Night. He shows that, far from being at the mercy of unmerciful fate, every character has true moral choice and the possibility to do right and that, even when things end sadly for the innocent or the helpless, there is still the hope of justice in the next life. Leithart concludes that only literature created from within a Christian worldview can be considered deeply comedic.

At times, it feels like this book is too short and examines too few examples on either side to make its case as well as it could. One thinks of the tragedies of Norse mythology as well as the triumphs of the Arthurian legends (which get some skinny treatment here) and wishes these could be fleshed out as they would certainly serve to bolster the author's argument. Leithart himself admits this is a brief treatment and laments the fact that the premise could not have been more fully explored and more works examined. This reader, at least, hopes for another volume as the present one was both enlightening and edifying and the topic of deep comedy could certainly be sounded to greater depths.

Saint George and the Dragon
Saint George and the Dragon
by Margaret Hodges
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.55
37 used & new from CDN$ 1.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story with great lessons, Feb. 14 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Reading books to children is an endangered activity in our present culture. The books that publishers are still printing for children seem more and more to be competing with movies, video games and noisy toys for market share (books with flaps, buttons, touchy-feely patches, sounds, hologram pictures, and books that are just a repackaging of some still shots from the latest animated movie). Many children's books have gone the way of most Hollywood movies, using big special effects and eye candy to make money rather than trusting to story and characters to draw in the hearts and minds of the audience. So in a world like ours at a time like this, it is refreshing to come across a story like this. This is a solid retelling of the classic tale of valiant St. George of England battling an evil dragon to save a princess and her kingdom from fear and destruction. Of course the fight is fierce (boys love that part) but George triumphs and wins the hand of the princess (girls love that part).

As with all good stories, this one appeals on multiple levels. The youngest children will be captivated by the detailed and rich illustrations and artwork on every page. Kids of all ages (and their parents) will be engaged by the story and characters themselves taken at face value. This story lends itself to teaching children the virtues of courage, perseverance, self-sacrifice, generosity and keeping your word. And, as with the original tale, there is the Christian symbolism present but not overdone (no where does the author come out and connect the dots for the reader). We have a lot of good books in our home but this is one our 3, 5 and 7 year olds all regularly pull out and ask us to "read it again".

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