Books Read

Improbable Planet by Hugh Ross

Improbable Planet by Hugh Ross

A book describing the many highly improbable factors required for life to be possible at all, possible in this universe, and possible on our planet. Sometimes the science described can get a bit technical for some, but that should not deter the reader as it only means even those who do understand the science will be able to appreciate the complexity of this thing we call creation. Although written from an old earth perspective, anyone will benefit from reading just to see all the attention to detail the whole universe displays. Read it as fiction if you need to, but read it. See in it how fabulous God appears because he is the one who makes all of this highly detailed stuff happen.

This is probably Dr Ross’ best book on the topic.

4 stars. Highly recommended.

Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton

Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton

While the title may make you think this to be a dry tome about the inner workings of Christian doctrine, the truth could hardly be further. In it you are made to think of what is necessarily true vs what is possibly true. Between what we can imagine to be true vs what we cannot imagine not being true. In style it reads more like Alice in Wonderland than a doctrinal work, but it makes you think again. Everything is presented from a fresh perspective. Chesterton is a first-rate philosopher who thinks and writes in fanciful language rather than the standard language of philosophers. Thus he holds your attention more easily and keeps your brain working more readily.

He provides a viewpoint I have not seen from other authors. It is refreshing, a delight to read, and a welcome addition to the discussion of right (orthodox) belief.

4 stars. Highly recommended.

Salvation Belongs to the Lord by John M. Frame

Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology by John M. Frame

An excellent introduction to Systematic Theology could be the subtitle, so I will since he never would. The book is thorough enough to be used as a college-level textbook and still very readable and easy to understand. Unlike a more technical treatment of Christian doctrine like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (which I also highly recommend), Frame’s book can just be read through rather than be used as a reference book. He delivers the material in an engaging fashion.

Anyone would benefit from reading this book if they wish to gain a thorough understanding of Christian doctrine, particularly from a Reformed perspective.

5 stars. Highly recommended.

No Other God by John M. Frame

No Other God: A Response to Open Theism by John M. Frame

Frame deals with many significant themes, such as God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, but with the added perspective of a response to open theism they have a new freshness. As with his other writings, Frame is even-handed, lucid, and complete. Open theism doesn’t stand a chance against such a clear and fair treatment of the material.

As this is highly specialized material, unless you have a need to study open theism, or an interest in it, you can pass this by.

5 stars, Recommended.

Being Logical, DQ McInerny

Being Logical, A Guide to Good Thinking, DQ McInerny

Functionally, McInerny’s book serves as a basic logic textbook, but it accomplishes its task in an approachable fashion. At 130 pages and laid out in a straightforward fashion, the reader will find the basics of rational reasoning, fallacies of logic to be avoided, and overall gives a thorough, but not overwhelming overview of the logical thinking process. If you are at all interested in logical argumentation, the book is an enjoyable read.

There is one significant error in the book. The reader is encouraged to see if they are able to spot it. Let me know if you think you’ve found it.

Anyone wishing to brush up on their reasoning skills would do well to work through the book.

5 stars, well recommended.

The Soul of Shame, Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves by Curt Thompson, MD

The Soul of Shame, Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves, Curt Thompson, MD

The opening pages make me hopeful that Dr Thompson will be providing helpful insight into this pervasive and destructive force called shame. Alas, I find this is not the case.

In the introduction to the book only negative aspects of shame are listed. He notes this, but somehow it’s not satisfying that we will end up with a balanced product.

What follows here are notes taken from the pages referenced.
P16 ‘living a more fully integrated life’ sounds like psychobabble jargon. What even is that really?
He states he doesn’t address how shame is a good thing. I wonder how this can be a balanced, i.e., integrated, approach, although he admits to a lack of space to address this all.
P17 Thompson tells us he often has a hard time believing the truth of the Bible.
He speaks of a God who would rather die than have anything come between us and Himself. That’s not accurate theology. It’s not why Jesus died.
P27 The book is beginning to drift into a feelings-based tome. He is forgetting that feelings are supposed to follow, not lead. The last two people he talked about were believing lies. This was their problem. The feelings are just symptomatic.
P34 He writes that instead of turning away in shame you need to turn toward it in vulnerability. I agree but for a different reason. Being vulnerable, i.e., being honest and open, is facing the lie that you need to turn away from. Then, instead of believing the lie you need to be believing the truth and doing the truth.
P76 He speaks of the problem that occurs when the proper response doesn’t arrive and lists a number of types of persons from whom this supposed correct response should come, but neglects to list God as a possible source for that response.
P83 Amazing! He has actually connected the person’s problem with believing a lie…
P84 …and immediately wraps it up and throws it away in psychology. I wonder if he knows that it is the truth will set you free. I wonder if he knows that, it is lies that the truth sets you free from.
P99 He say that, “Shame is the emotional feature out of which all that we call sin emerges”. No. He’s wrong. That is just backwards. Shame comes from sin, not sin from shame.
P101 He astutely quotes Michael Polanyi who points out that doubt is simply the transfer of trust to something else, but then fails to understand that Biblically Trust, Faith, Belief, are all the same thing and so this transfer of trust is just unbelief on Eve’s part. She has sinned the sin of unbelief in what God said. This is the source of her later shame.
P102 He confuses doubt with insufficient knowledge, which someone of his training really shouldn’t fail to see, but if he understood it this way his story wouldn’t work.
P104 He observes (correctly) that Eve is now motivated by her feelings, but fails to inform the reader that this is exactly the problem. We must live by the truth, not our feelings. We must keep them under our control and not have them control us. Then on
P106 he points out that the Biblical narrative does not care about the development of her emotional state. Exactly. That’s because our emotions and feelings are not the important aspect.
P108 He points out their eyes were opened and asks how this can be unless they were active in the process. Well, the English and more importantly, the Hebrew is passive. They were not active. Cp Luke 24:31. Someone who gets simple matters as this so wrong is not in a position to be giving advice.
P110 He states that God is not asking where they are as in geographically, but where they are in their thinking. Unfortunately, the Hebrew word used here does not mean what he is trying to make it mean. He is just wrong.
P111 The progression into shame he again has backwards.
P112 A minor point, but he poetically says the horse of shame has left the barn. In terms of the metaphor, this would mean the shame is gone. Again, the opposite is true. Shame is in full force, something the author knows, but didn’t catch that his metaphor says something else.
P113 He says that evil uses shame not just to get us to do wrong (but see note on P99) and then goes on to say that is exactly what is expressed in the Genesis account. He then goes on to state what he believes the purpose really is while giving no support at all.
P120 Another small point, but a silly mistake nonetheless. He states that vulnerability is what we are. No. We can be vulnerable. We cannot be vulnerability.
P124 He, like so many others, succumbs to the false notion that God trusts us. God does not trust us. No where in the Bible does it say God trusts us.
He says that in creating us God risked everything. That is simply wrong.
P135 he says that Jesus knew he needed to closely engage Satan in order to recognize when shame was in play. This is patently ridiculous.
P136 he speaks of Satan’s attempt to convince Jesus that he was not God’s son. Again, patently ridiculous.
P139 he discourages analyzing why you feel shame. This is also wrong because it short circuits the defusing of the cause of shame. It is wrong because the Scriptures say we should examine ourselves for sin, and the shame we have is caused by sin.
P141 He doesn’t realize that Jesus could scorne the shame because he Himself was sinless.
P151 he says that it is bad to say we only expect you to do your best and he goes on to say that no one can really do your best. What he fails to understand is that doing your best can be done in the context of all things considered or all things being equal. See note concerning page 163.
P163 He says that the right type of praise is praise for making a good effort. How is this really different from doing one’s best, which on page 151 he said was not a good thing?
P164 He says ‘perseverance’ is the equivalent of ‘praise for effort’. It most certainly is not. Perseverance is very frequently continuing on without praise.

I will stop with these few examples. Glance again at the number of times I’ve marking in bold print where the author is simply wrong, or worse, has the point backwards.

One of the positive aspects of the book is drawing attention to the fact of How deeply pervasive shame is. As to describing what happens when shame hits, he is spot on. As to the reasons for it and why certain things help, he shows insufficient understanding of shame from God’s perspective to be used as a source.

His book is rejected.

God of the Big Bang, by Leslie Wickman

God of the Big Bang by Leslie Wickman, PhD.

From the cover, GotBB purports to address the question of the compatibility of Faith and Science. Nine chapters of widely spaced text, the book is an easy read.

All of the material is current state of the discussion and very good quality. The problem is that she covers altogether too much material and doesn’t do justice to any of it. As a handy reference for someone wishing to dialogue with a person who does not yet understand the position it could serve well. By referring to the book you can be sure that you covered every topic. Unfortunately in the book itself no topic is dealt with in sufficient detail to make the case for anything. Points are made. Supporting materials are referenced. But that’s as far as it goes. Chapter topics include the existence of God, the scientific method, logic, the Bible, creation, fine-tuning of the universe, and others, so it should be obvious that no topic can be dealt with in anything other than a cursory glance.

If you are looking for a list of the topics that need to be addressed and the points you need to make on these topics, GotBB is a good and quick read. If you are looking for understanding of any of these topics and how to address them to someone who does not yet understand, you will need to look elsewhere.

3 stars, with shortcomings noted.

No God But One, Nabeel Qureshi

No God, But One, Evidence For Islam & Christianity, Allah or Jesus? by Nabeel Qureshi.

If you are going to have one book on understanding and responding to Muslims, you will be hard-pressed to do better than this. First rate apologetics, deep insights into the different mindset and worldview of Islamic thinking, short and concise chapters in a logical and easy to follow progression all make for a superb resource for anyone dealing with Islam or merely interested in understanding the religion.

5 stars. Highly recommended.

Jesus Among Other Gods, by Ravi Zacharias

Jesus Among Other Gods, the Absolute Claims of the Christian Message, by Ravi Zacharias

A general apologetic for the Christian faith, written in Ravi’s inimitable style. Delightful, caring, brilliant, sensitive. He makes an emotional appeal yet understands the arguments deeply and makes strong and compelling arguments.

Ravi deals with Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity as they are the leading religions by number of adherents. Being broad in scope and relatively short in length, the book necessarily lacks depth on any one area and may fail to answer enough of any one person’s questions.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for a good, basic, current apologetic for Christianity which you could learn from and share with pretty much anyone without offending, this is an excellent choice.

4 stars. Recommended.

The Insanity of God, by Nik Ripken

A book about the persecuted Christians in the world today. I put this book in the top two or three books I’ve read in the last decade.

The book doesn’t exactly sneak up on you, but the first chapters are just interesting, well-written story-building chapters to a destination you aren’t quite sure where. Then a few chapters later you find yourself already in a torrential river of powerful descriptions of what the church is really like in so many parts of the world. Pictures of a thing that people in America just do not know.

Will persecution come to America? The author wonders why it would. We are already asleep. Why would Satan do something that might wake us up. Persecution only occurs where there is faith.

Read the book. This isn’t even a recommendation and while not exactly a command, it is a declaration. Read the book.