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Freedom and Boundaries
Freedom and Boundaries
by Kevin L. DeYoung
Edition: Paperback
6 used & new from CDN$ 196.13

3.0 out of 5 stars Too many loose ends, Sept. 27 2014
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This review is from: Freedom and Boundaries (Paperback)
The purpose of this book is to concisely establish the argumentation for a "complimentarian" approach to the role of women in the church. A short, very short book, on a question that has been very divisive in recent decades. I believe that DeYoung, who ordinarily is a very readable author and is clearly strong on orthodox doctrinal questions, has fallen into some of the traps of trying to over synthesize this issue. The book remains very readable and certainly a good introduction to the topic, as long as one is able to accept both doctrinal and intellectual shortcuts to get to the conclusion the author reachers.

The book opposes the two basic perspectives on this issue, the first, complimentarian approach, proposes that men and women are of equal value, but have different roles in the church (in life really) which complete each other. Specifically, men adopt authoritative, leadership roles, women do not. There is something important that God wants to say to people by having different roles for men and women and if we erase these differences, we erase something of the message of God for the world. The second, egalitarian perspective claims that men and women can handle all positions in the church and that there has been a reparation of the original differences between the genders through Christ's work on the cross. The work is written in a context where, DeYoung admits, there is much cultural confusion regarding the relation between genders across society.

The basic passages are outlined and addressed and DeYoung's hypothesis is clearly structured. The problem with a short book, however, is that it must only build straw men. The outline of both positions are essentially caricatures. Only the most polemical positions are portrayed. There is no discussion of possible compromise, no possibility that in some circumstances, complimentarian and egalitarian positions can cohabitate and, frankly, no presentation of the serious questions that plague the simply presented but adopted complimentarian position.

The role of women in the church has been a difficult question for centuries and the fact that it has been should temper our efforts to be overly simplistic in addressing it, for fear of truly hurting and offending both Christians and non Christians. It is indeed a challenge to reconcile Christian claims to complimentary roles for men and women, with current society's push towards erasing any differences between the two. Male authority, unfortunately, has been highly abusive and oppressive (not all males, not all the time, of course) and as such, create an important obstacle for anyone who suggests that authority in the Church has been attributed to males. In this context, and in response, female calls for equality have been very vindictive, and have perhaps missed the point of the Biblical call to complimentary roles. One of the very real questions that arises from this study, not addressed in the book (very few books from what I can gather) is: If we accept the complimentary roles perspective that is drawn out in Scripture, how do we avoid male oppression, that is bound to happen? Is there an alternative answer to this practical problem other than simply erasing gender differences. DeYoung does not address this and other very practical questions. I believe that much pastoral and scholarly writing on this topic has been concerned with establishing Scriptural antecedent to a variety of different takes on this issue, without much preoccupation for the daily, practical concerns of the common church and churchgoer. This issue has also been a major concern for those who consider Christianity, but cannot accept a view of life where women are viewed as second class citizens. Obviously, complimentarians do not see their position in this way, but the book does not address how to address this perspective that non Christians may have. Again, a problem with practical questions.

I do not want to be overly harsh. Kevin De Young is a dynamic writer, well versed in doctrine and I very much enjoy and benefit from his work. I just think that a short book on this matter, not concerned with the very practical questions that this issue raises, leaves too many loose ends for most readers. And perhaps, this says something about how difficult it is to be clear about this issue, where history and doctrine, culture and context, converge.

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering
by Timothy Keller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.87
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hope, Aug. 29 2014
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I have read several Keller books and there are a few that stand out as extremely well organized and thought out, as well as very nicely written. I would have to say that this is one of them.

Suffering has always been a part of human experience and societies and cultures throughout history have attempted to come to terms with it, to find meaning for and in suffering or to simply reject it as something that must be fought and resisted tooth and nail. One of the interesting contributions of this book is that Keller summarizes nicely different historical and societal takes on suffering. One of the unexpected conclusions is that perhaps our secular, 21st century western world is ill equipped to deal with this issue. Drawing on both secular (Luc Ferry), Christian (Charles Taylor) or otherwise religious writers, Keller draws out nicely several different underlying premises that current thought on suffering rest on. In fact, there is much to learn not only on suffering, but on the general world view regarding the meaning of life in the West in present times.

Keller also does a masterful job in presenting a Christian perspective on suffering. This is a crucial part of Keller's work because there is a strong tendency in Christian circles to view suffering in different ways that, Keller argues, are in and of themselves not Christian, but simply a transformation of other perspectives, that eventually undermine hope. By relying very nicely on places in Scripture where there are examples of suffering, including a central accent on the meaning of Christ's profound experience of suffering, Keller states some important truths: Christians are most able to feel the pain of suffering, most equipped to understand that suffering was not part of the original plan, most able to enter into suffering. But, also, they have the greatest hope, and cannot be destroyed by suffering. It is not and can never be what defines them, whether they are victims, or responsible for their situation. The Christian hope has trumped and will ultimately trump, all consequences of suffering.

There is much Lewis, much Tolkien, old writers, new writers, the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly, pastors and philosophers, scientists and journalists. All kinds of people are cited and given thought to, testimony to Keller's uncanny ability to speak to people's experience and cultural context. I have already started giving this book away to friends. I am impressed by Keller's writing in a couple of ways: He is able to describe profound Christian truths in extremely pertinent ways, speaking clearly to the ambiant culture. I have met and read few that do this well. Second, there is definitely the feeling that Keller treats his readers as intelligent, thoughtful individuals, who have also given reflexion to the issues he raises. Finally, you get the impression that Keller's long experience as a thoughtful pastor comes through in his work.

I cannot recommend this book enough, not only for those who want to understanding suffering, but also for those who want to get a clearer picture of hope and how it might be becoming a rare commodity.

World Without End
World Without End
by Ken Follett
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.28
92 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Good story with some caveats, Aug. 19 2014
Ken Follett is a masterful writer. He is able to weave stories that are complex, that touch on the challenges, the pains and the joys of everyday life like few other authors can and, in this belated sequel to "Pillars of the Earth", he shows us again his knowledge of social structures and life during medieval England. Very few authors are able to communicate the texture of the medieval times as Follet does. This knowledge, along with particular insights into architecture and building knowledge during this time, are particular treats for the reader of WWE.

This is a novel that I would recommend, but not as highly as the first. Three points here: First, Follett brings to the fore too many 21st century moral issues and questions without much of the thinking of 14th century England to help us understand why people thought the way they did. Issues such as the women's liberation, abortion, the validity of religious belief, the possibility of a woman living with a man without being married, etc. all were certainly a part of life at that time, but essentially are portrayed in a way that makes 21st century thought on these issues as the "correct" ways of thinking, and 14th century thought as the rigid, incorrect and harmful ways of conceiving of these issues. It is fine that Follett brings his opinions to his writing. One would hope, however, that there would be some justice in the way historical ideas about life were treated. Perhaps an exception to this criticism is that Follett does a very nice job in showing how the seeds of the scientific revolution were perhaps present in early ideas about medicine and architecture. But here, social and moral issues are not as front and center as with other, more personal questions. Second, there is perhaps too much similarity between "Pillars" and WWE. There is also some important similarity in the character portrayals of the protagonists. It is a bit as if there was a path that Follett felt comfortable taking and took it up again, albeit with important changes. Finally, I would argue that scenes involving sex and intimacy are too graphic. There was a bit of that in Pillars, but too much in WWE. In addition, the same problem arises as in Pillars: this is a novel where church and faith-based questions are critical to the thoughts and behaviours of all actors, but there seems to be a decalage between how Follett describes faith-based questions and the actual thinking of that period. Again, perhaps too much 21st century in the 14th century.

Nevertheless, Follett's work remains remarkable because of the quality of the story he weaves and certainly, I will pick up other Follett books simply because the stories take you and keep you. So many written by others simply do not.

Child Development: A Thematic Approach
Child Development: A Thematic Approach
by Danuta Bukatko
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 179.63
18 used & new from CDN$ 98.10

4.0 out of 5 stars The bad: Much too expensive, Aug. 3 2014
The bad: Much too expensive, even for all of the resources that accompany this book. This is a book for poor university students, first year students at that. Also, an incredible focus on American research, with very little information on research conducted in other countries, examining questions that are not part of western cultures.

The good: Hands down, the single most exhaustive child development textbook on the market. Extremely well laid out, very helpful resources. Good questions asked throughout and an excellent accompanying workbook for students. Have tried many for my classes, am sticking with this one.

The Pillars of the Earth
The Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.54
123 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Incursion into Middle-Age England, Aug. 1 2014
The Pillars of the Earth is set in 12th century England and tells the tale of several individuals and families with intertwined stories over the course of 40 years. Ken Follett writes remarkably well and is very well read on the history of that period. If for nothing else, the story brings out the atmosphere of the Middle Ages and some of the personal, political and philosophical issues of the day. A couple of points can be made here. Follett writes with forethought and, as a reader, you quickly become on the lookout for anything in the text which has may have significance for some future event. The writing is carefully planned, for which I am grateful.

The story tells the stories of Prior Philip, Tom Builder and William Hamleigh, and those that gravitate around them. Life trajectories intertwine and life philosophies clash. Survival, power and faith are consistently and continuously brought out as prominent life lines. Follett continuously asks the question: How can the evil thrive? How can the innocent be mocked and suffer? How can the pious be without knowledge? In a religious society, he implicitly asks the question (a question he explicitly asks in the sequel to this novel), Where is God? These questions were important in the middle ages, when there seemed to be no law that could be used to submit everyone and where power and fortune ruled. However, these questions continue to haunt us, at a time when conflicts, illness and famines, global warming and multi-national carelessness and greed continue to lead us toward the proverbial brick wall. So while the story is set in the Middle Ages, there are ominously clear ramifications for our time. As a strong writer, Follett is able to weave story lines to address some of these questions over the course of this 1000 page novel. He doesn't cheat, doesn't offer easy answers, but always allows for some hope.

Follett develops characters very well and he is particularly adept at bringing out character's emotions and thoughts and how they may have a part in shaping long-term trajectories and destinies. He also brings a special knowledge of the activities and tasks of Middle Age England. The ideas behind engineering and architecture at that time are particularly well brought out, as are some of the different social and economic structures that regulated the lives of individuals at that time. In many ways, this novel is an immersion into a way of life that has long been forgotten, but that still resonate today, in economic institutions and social thinking. The economic importance of markets, the financial strain of war, the impact of famine and the very real concern for survival, the smells and humidity of castles, the warmth and poverty of peasants' homes, the incredible task of cultivating the soil in harsh conditions - all come home through Follett's writing.

One thing that Follett does not do so well is portray Christianity. It is perhaps the greatest weakness in Follett's writing in general. Religion is central to the Middle Ages, and religious characters are omnipresent in The Pillars and in almost no circumstance do we go beyond the superficial, modern portrayal of a non present, distant God. It is true that the institution of religion dominated that time. It is also true that faith was lost for many at that time, in many ways. But there might have been the opportunity to draw this out in some meaningful way. Some research in the spiritual writers of that time might have allowed for the cardinal points of Christianity to be more clearly drawn out. The character story lines certainly bring out many opportunities to make implicit references to the Christian message, that would have made the explicit message more accessible. Follett doesn't have to be Christian or agree with Christianity. Simply, portraying the issues at hand and the true struggles of marrying everyday life and suffering with questions of faith might have been historically pertinent.

However, in spite of this caveat, I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed reading this novel and my appreciation for the care and thought that went into writing it. Couldn't really put it down and basically read through it in a couple of days. Which was kind of a problem because, after all, it is 1000 pages long. Highly recommended.

The Man Who Was Thursday, a nightmare
The Man Who Was Thursday, a nightmare
Price: CDN$ 0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A modern day haunt, July 1 2014
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There are many different ways to interpret this novel. There are certainly a number of philosophical issues that are raised as the protagonist, Syme the poet, is enlisted in a secret group of men to work against a global anarchist movement. Chesterton, who was certainly writing at a time when many accounts of morality and how to structure society were seriously questioned and the German nihilists were taking the high road, raises this paradigm shift in thinking about how and why you stand for different issues and beliefs. The question that is raised throughout history and throughout societies and cultures resonates plainly in this story: Is there a right and a wrong or is there only power and those strong enough to take it?

Relatedly, there is an epistemological take on the story. Rapidly, one questions what and how Syme understands his mission to be and whether there are elements to the story, important elements, that are left out, that are not mentioned, but which are critical to understanding meaning and would no doubt be helpful to Syme (and to the reader). While we are able to have much information, especially in this internet age, how do we know we have the important information, that which would help us make the right decisions in shaping our destinies? Is it possible that the most important information lays hidden and that no matter how we think, we cannot get at it? And when we decide paths to take, have we integrated correctly the information that we do have? These issues lay at the heart of Syme's mission and resonate with any reader who is at all sensitive to the complexities of life.

There is also an omen-like quality to this story. It is written prior to the two world wars which, in may ways, incarnated the questions that society and individuals were struggling with at this time. They reflected the West's strong desire to discard Christian values, and move toward a world that recognized an altogether different set of values. And in a very definitive way, Chesterton suggests that this struggle is not only one for the global society, but is really about something going on within each of us. It is not only about right and wrong, good and bad. It is also about how secretly, wrong and bad may change our way of seeing right and good. Chesterton lays out the question without hesitation. Could the enemy be within?

An interesting read and a peek into a fascinating time in recent history.

Les sept paroles de Jésus à la croix (French Edition)
Les sept paroles de Jésus à la croix (French Edition)
Price: CDN$ 4.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Qui nous sommes, June 25 2014
Dans cette époque dans laquelle on cherche à nous convaincre que le bien et le mal sont des valeurs subjectives (vraiment?), que tous ont raison et peuvent mener leur vie de façon autonome, que Dieu est une entité non-nécessaire, qu'il est déménagé ou peut-être qu'il est mort et que nous sommes plus ou moins seul à définir qui nous sommes et le sens de nos vies, les auteurs de ce livre nous permettent de poser un nouveau regard sur la personne tout à fait exceptionnelle de Jésus Christ. Ses dernières paroles sur la croix permettent un regard lucide sur ce qui nous définit, qui nous sommes, sur notre identité profonde avec ou sans Lui. Si Jésus est vraiment Celui qu'il dit qu'il est, on ne peut l'ignorer ou prendre certaines parties de ses enseignements qui nous conviennent: il faut le prendre tout entier en tant que Dieu et en tant que sauveur d'un monde brisé par notre égoïsme. Dans ses dernières paroles, nous sommes confrontés à qui était Jésus, sur le pourquoi de son incarnation, qui se trouve dans le gouffre qui nous sépare de ce que nous sommes vraiment.

The Pearl
The Pearl
by John Steinbeck
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fable for now, June 15 2014
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This review is from: The Pearl (Paperback)
Fables allow us to tell simple stories that resonate in complex situations. The Pearl tells the tale of a poor pearl diver who finds a pearl of incredible value. He knows that the pearl is useless unless he can sell it. To sell it, he must be able to protect it and sell it at its value price. Otherwise, all is for not. Instantly, there are different individuals and groups who either want the pearl and are willing to go to great lengths to get it, or other groups, who also want it but will instead devalue it. And there is also what goes on in the hearts of Kino, the diver, his wife and those who love them. The pearl is a way out, but also a way in, to broken hearts and to the reality of our harsh world. The pearl is a place and an object of contrasts, of potential pleasure, of certain pain. A wonderful, thought provoking story, that provides much impetus for thought about what we search for, how we think about the happiness that we search, and the workings of our world.

Imperial Cinnamon Spread,250ml
Imperial Cinnamon Spread,250ml
Price: CDN$ 2.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cinnamon Spread via Amazon? Wow!, June 15 2014
We lived in Ontario for a while and came across this absolutely non nutritious, but incredibly delicious toast/bagel/croissant spread. Could not find it anywhere now even if our life depended on it (and some mornings, it felt like it did!). But now, wonder of wonders, miracle of this postmodern globalized village, you can order it from Amazon! Wow! Wow cubed even! This stuff tastes sooooo good. Of course, the fact that you can order it testifies to the relatively inert substance that you are consuming. You do not eat this if you want to become an olympic athlete. But sometimes, taste can lead to nothing else but a smile on your face. And that is more than ok :-)

The Prophet
The Prophet
Price: CDN$ 1.81

4.0 out of 5 stars Different from now, June 15 2014
This review is from: The Prophet (Kindle Edition)
I came to the prophet with mixed expectations. Khalil Gibran has been compared with different 20th century philosophers, Nietsche for one, and I was under the impression that he might be one of those oriental writers who was part of the same zeitgeist as that wave of writers who gave way to nihilism and the search for meaninglessness. Not so.

I also was under the impression that there would be a simplicity to Gibran's writing, a kind of moralizing tone that would take one away from autonomous thought. Again, mistaken.

The prophet recounts the story of a religious/spiritual figure who has been waiting for a ship for 12 years, waiting to leave a place where he has lived not of his own will. As he leaves, a woman who seems to be well acquainted with him asks him to impart wisdom on a number of very practical subjects: marriage, talking, working, pleasure, etc. The counsel of the prophet are simple, but not simplistic. There is definite morality, but it is not moralizing. Rather, there is a depth that surpasses the spirit of disregard for meaning that the early 20th century proposed. There is also a respect for life, for the value of individuals, which is manifested in the manner in which the prophet proposes that people be treated, that they treat each other, a quality of thought regarding others that is refreshing. There is value in human life. The prophet shows this.

This short book teaches a number of ideas that are in stark contrast to the manner in which our disposable society functions. Now, here, we do what we want. We look for instant gratification, and while we propose that we should not hurt others, it is only in our ignorance that this is so. Perhaps the prophet hearkens back to a time where values of individuality and autonomy were not what they are now. Perhaps this essay calls us back to remember who we are, more important than we think, less materialistic than would be suggested by how we act. Perhaps there is something to learn from the prophet.

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