A Bookish Hodgepodge

I don’t have a fully fleshed out book review for today, but I do have some book-related musings. Below are a handful of the titles I’ve recently finished reading, together with my thoughts in brief.

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933114-MFirst up is Persuasions by Douglas Wilson. This pithy little volume (with a tip of the hat to Pilgrim’s Progress) introduces presuppositional apologetics through a series of dialogues between the “Evangelist” and unbelievers of all stripes. Agnosticism, feminism, Roman Catholicism, and pantheism are just a few of the subjects addressed here.

The brevity of the book is a strength, but it’s also a weakness, since some of the conversations are concluded with frustrating abruptness; there’s so much more to be said. Of course, I realize that may be part of the point: Wilson is only giving an introduction, not an exhaustive treatment, which should inspire you to explore further material on your own. So… anyone up for Greg Bahnsen?

Many think that the law of God is like a frame full of small window panes. They think that if they can get through life without breaking most of them, they will be alright… [Scripture] indicates that the law of God is more like one large plate glass window. And it doesn’t matter if the hole is in the upper left hand corner, the lower right hand corner, or right in the middle. The window is still broken.

9780849945281_p0_v1_s260x420Can Man Live Without God is the first book I’ve read by Ravi Zacharias. It garnered the Gold Medallion for best book in the category of doctrine and theology in 1994, and it’s not hard to see why. Zacharias is not only an eloquent writer, but also a skilled, logical, and passionate defender of the faith. His writing plunges into rough waters as he studies the implications of antitheistic thinking, as well as the the answers Christianity gives to the problems of pain, meaninglessness, and drifting morality.

Any philosophy that has built its social structure assuming an innate goodness finds its optimism ever disappointed.

imagesNext up is Deathworld by Harry Harrison, which has something of a cult following in the sci-fi community. Just… why? I didn’t approach the book with any expectation of soaring prose, six-dimensional characters, or Shakespearean plot devices. But I was expecting some decently-written pulp science fiction. Alas, it was not to be. Poor writing, poorer characters, and generally abysmal storytelling are the most notable aspects of Harrison’s work. The time I spent reading it is time I will never get back.

I’d share a quote, except there’s nothing in this book worth quoting. Surprise, surprise.

paradise-lost-john-milton-paperback-cover-artLast but not least, we have John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Which is quite simply one of the most beautifully epic things I’ve read in…. forever. I do have a few theological nitpicks, and I’m still trying to decide about certain artistic liberties taken with the Genesis account; these issues aside, there’s no doubt in my mind that the classic, highly-revered status of this work is well-deserved. I’ll be reading it again.

Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse…

Do You Have Any Preference?

“I reminded him of the debate between philosopher Frederick Copleston and the atheist Betrand Russell. At one point in the debate, Copleston said, “Mr. Russell, you do believe in good and bad, don’t you?” Russell answered, “Yes, I do.” “How do you differentiate between them?” challenged Copleston. Russell shrugged his shoulders as he was wont to do in philosophical dead ends for him and said, “The same way I differentiate between yellow and blue.” Copleston graciously responded and said, “But Mr. Russell, you differentiate between yellow and blue by seeing, don’t you? How do you differentiate between good and bad?” Russell, with all of his genius still within reach, gave the most vapid answer he could have given: “On the basis of feeling – what else?” I must confess, Mr. Copleston was a kindlier gentleman than many others. The appropriate ‘logical kill’ for the moment would have been, “Mr. Russell, in some cultures they love their neighbors; in other cultures they eat them, both on the basis of feeling. Do you have any preference?”

– Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God (p. 182)

Creed

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and
after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy’s OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything’s getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there’s something in horoscopes,
UFO’s, and bent spoons.
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher, though we think
His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same –
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation,
sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens
they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then it’s
compulsory heaven for all, excepting perhaps
Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn

We believe in Masters and Johnson
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and
bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors,
and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that
is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth,
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,
And the flowering of individual thought.

Postscript:
If chance be the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
and when you hear:

State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!

It is but the sound of man
worshipping his maker.

– Steve Turner

Flotsam & Jetsam (3/12)

A Web of Wisdom – Jeremy Walker writes about using social media to the glory of God. “Like food offered to idols, our use of social media reflects on our profession of following the Lord and therefore, ultimately, it reflects on the Lord God himself.”

This Drug Won’t Give You Amnesia – Superb.

BPR: Monsters, Inc. – Ethan Hansen dubs it “the Pixar film by which all others are judged.” I couldn’t agree more. Pixar has yet to surpass it, and I doubt they ever will.

Following the Leader – A thoughtful piece by R.C. on leading and following.

All They Can See Is Weather – “If Jesus rose from the dead, inthis world, then this world is already being transformed into a new world. Now, someone might warn us, this world doesn’t like that idea very much. And all God’s people shrugged and smiled. We didn’t think they would.”

Ravi Zacharias Quotes – Good stuff. I now have even greater appreciation for this post since I just started reading one of Zacharias’ books, Can Man Live Without God.

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” – Douglas Adams

Of School Shooters and Video Gamers

Now I am not anti-video game crusader Jack Thompson. I’m not suggesting that everyone who plays a video game will act out that video game in reality. But I am saying that it is very dangerous to allow troubled, angry, teenage boys access to killing practice, even if that access is only virtual killing practice. Continue reading —>

I don’t agree with all of the author’s conclusions, but this article is worth reading and has prompted some worthy discussion in my own family. A few thoughts:

First, I think we can fall into one of two extremes when considering this issue. The first is to think that video games have no effect upon the gamer. This is patently untrue, just as it is with any other type of hobby or entertainment. The games we play, the movies we watch, the books we read, the music we listen to – they all help shape our thinking in ways we may not even be aware of. To deny it is absurd.

But equally absurd is the second extreme, which sees video games as the root of the problem, thereby mistaking correlation for causation. That’s a fallacy where I come from: post hoc ergo propter hoc. “After this, therefore because of this.” By this (il)logic, your love of racing games is responsible for your bad driving. Heck, Monopoly might even be responsible for your poor money management skills. “I told you to not to buy that property, Bill…”

Second, I find it interesting that in all this talk of roots and causes, the Biblical answer is deliberately overlooked by most: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Cain slaughtered his brother in cold blood, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a gamer. But he was a sinner. We all are. Sin is the real common denominator, not EA Games.