Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Book Review: War of the Worldviews

The evening of October 30, 1938 will stick out in the minds of most Americans for a very special reason: it was the day this country went to war… with Mars.

Those listening to their radios that evening were startled by this unexpected and menacing news bulletin:

Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program of dance music to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News. At twenty minutes before eight, central time, professor Farrell of the Mount Jennings observatory, Chicago, Illinois, reports observing several explosions of incandescent gas, occurring at regular intervals on the planet Mars.

More reports followed. An unidentified flaming object crash landing in New Jersey; an entire army obliterated by an unknown force; more landings in other parts of the country.

Soon the terrified radio audience came to the conclusion that Earth was the target of a full-scale attack from Mars.

Of course, it was soon learned that the entire broadcast had been an elaborate hoax engineered by Orson Welles and the cast of The Mercury Theater of the Air – a hoax that caused widespread panic for a significant segment of the U.S. population.

The basis for this rather morbid joke was H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. This inventive bit of fiction has long been the classic template for sci-fi tales of alien invasion. The invaders of Wells’ story were ruthless creatures, chilling and fearsome, with a penchant for bleeding humans dry. The thing is, they aren’t real. The invasion isn’t real. The alien battle machines aren’t real. They’re nothing but a figment – however elaborate and lifelike – of Mr. Wells imagination.

But there is a very real and very dangerous invasion that’s happening right here, right now. It’s not extraterrestrial… at least, not in the typical sense. These invaders don’t sport death-rays or blood-draining equipment, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less deadly than the creatures of Wells’ novel.

This invasion is an idealogical one, involving philosophies which attempt to control the very core of society. And it’s this very invasion that Dr. Gary Demar addresses in War of the Worldviews. In the introduction, he says

Today’s real-life battle is between the worldview of biblical Christianity, where the infinite and sovereign God of the universe reigns and rules, and the worldview of man-centered philosophy, where finite and rebellious creatures work to rule and reign independent of God.

We will see no significant positive change in our culture until Christians first realize that we are in a war over ideologies that have personal, institutional, and societal implications.

So what do we do about? That’s precisely the question Demar deals with throughout the course of his book. It’s a sad fact that when faced with dangerous secular idealogies, most Christians these days don’t know how to respond. They’re helpless – as helpless as the humans were against the Martian battle machines.

That’s not how things should be.

In War of the Worldviews, Demar seeks to make Christians more aware of the multitude of pagan ideas and philosophies that plague our culture. Not only aware, but ready to fight back. As followers of Christ, we are instructed to “be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15). In other words, we aren’t supposed to take this invasion sitting down.

Gary Demar’s book is a superb overview of this modern “war of the worlviews”, and one which should be on every Christian’s reading list. It’s a short, concise, but incredibly meaty book that will strengthen your defenses against enemy bombardment. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The book covers quite a bit of ground in only 150 pages – including such issues as deism, occultism, socialism, and naturalism. These issues and others are addressed from a thoroughly biblical perspective, all in a straightforward, no-nonsense manner – one of the things I admire greatly about Demar’s writing.

All in all, War of the Worldviews is a must-read. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under 15 (due to some fairly mature themes), but for older readers who are looking for a good introduction on how to “engage the culture”, I don’t know of a better book to begin with.

Book Review: The Life of Dr. John Donne

Adopted into God’s family, and so,
My old coat lost, into new Arms I go.
The Cross, my Seal in Baptism, spread below,
Does by that form into an Anchor grow.
Crosses grow Anchors, bear as thou shouldst do
Thy Cross, and that Cross grows an Anchor too.
But He that makes our Crosses Anchors thus,
Is Christ, who there is crucified for us.
Yet with this I may my first Serpents hold;
God gives new blessings, and yet leaves the old –
The Serpent, may, as wise, my pattern be;
My poison, as he feeds on dust, that’s me.
And, and he rounds the earth to murder, sure
He is my death; but on the Cross, my cure,
Crucify nature then; and then implore
All grace from Him, crucified there before.
When all is Cross, and that Cross Anchor grown
This Seal’s a Catechism, not a Seal alone.
Under that little Seal great gifts I send,
Both works and prayers, pawns and fruits of a friend.
Oh! may that Saint that rides on our Great Seal,
To you that bear His name, large bounty deal.
~ John Donne

When people think of Izaak Walton (1593-1683), they usually think of the man behind the The Compleat Angler, the classic treatise on angling and joys of the English countryside. However, The Compleat Angler is not Walton’s only gift to the world of literature. He also authored several biographies. I finished his The Life of Dr. John Donne, and it was absolutely superb. I cannot recommend it too highly. Walton’s style is eminently readable, and he creates an amazing portrait of a godly man who was one of the greatest stylists of the English language. It is also interesting to note here that both Herbert and Donne were great friends of Walton. In fact, they often went fishing with him.

John Donne was born in London in 1573, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  As a young man, he was at first drawn towards the wealth and extravagance of Renaissance life, and even sailed as a gentleman adventurer at the time of England’s war with Spain in the 1590’s. Not long after that, he accepted a position as secretary to Lord Ellesmere, the Keeper of the Great Seal. It was a position which he eventually lost when he secretly married Lady Ellesmere’s niece. He then entered the ministry – despite misgivings of his own unworthiness – and was appointed dean of St. Paul’s in London in 1621. He went on to become one of the most eloquent and well-known preachers of his day. Today, we remember him for the beautiful poetry he penned. It is Donne who gave us the famous lines “No man is an Island, entire in itself” and For whom does the bell toll? It tolls for thee”.

Donne’s life was marked by sadness as well as triumph. In 1617, his wife died of exhaustion after bearing her twelfth child. She was only thirty-three, and had been her husband’s faithful and ever-loving companion throughout their marriage. Her death impressed Donne with a greater sense of the fleeting nature of worldly happiness.

Fourteen years later, at the age of fifty-eight, Donne himself lay dying. Walton remarks,

His speech, which had long been his ready and faithful servant, left him not till the last minute of his life, and then forsook him, not to serve another master – for who speaks like him – but died before him; for that it was then become useless to him, that now conversed with God on earth, as the angels are said to do in heaven, only by thoughts and looks. Being speechless, and seeing heaven by that illumination by which he saw it, he did, as St. Stephen, ‘look stead-fastly into it, till he saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God His Father;’ and being satisfied with this blessed sight, as his soul ascended, and his last breath departed from him, he closed his eyes, and then disposed his hands and body in such a posture as required not the least alteration by those that came to shroud him… thus excellent, thus exemplary, was the death of this memorable man.

John Donne was buried at St. Paul’s Church. The day after his burial, an unknown friend wrote the following epitaph with coal on the wall over his grave:

Reader! I am to let thee know.
Donne’s Body only lies below;
For, could the grave his Soul comprise,
Earth would be richer than the skies.

At the conclusion of his narrative, Walton leaves us with these observations about Donne:

He was of stature moderately tall; of a straight and equally-proportioned body, to which all his words and actions gave an unexpressable addition of comeliness.

The melancholy and pleasant humour were in him so contempered, that each gave advantage to the other, and made his company one of the delights of mankind.

His fancy was unimitably high, equalled only by his great wit; both being made useful by a commanding judgment.

His aspect was cheerful, and such as gave a silent testimony of a clear knowing soul, and of a conscience at peace with itself.

His melting eye showed that he had a soft heart, full of noble compassion; of too brave a soul to offer injuries, and too much a Christian not to pardon them in others.

He did much contemplate – especially after he entered into his sacred calling – the mercies of Almighty God, the immortality of the soul, and the joys of heaven: and would often say in a kind of sacred ecstasy, ‘Blessed be God that He is God, only and divinely like Himself.’

He was by nature highly passionate, but more apt to reluct at the excesses of it. A great lover of the offices of humanity, and of so merciful a spirit, that he never beheld the miseries of mankind without pity and relief.

He was earnest and unwearied in the search of knowledge, with which his vigorous soul is now satisfied, and employed in a continual praise of that God that first breathed into his active body: that body, which once was a temple of the Holy Ghost, and is now become a small quantity of Christian dust:

But I shall see it re-animated.

This is Donne’s legacy – a life lived to the fullest, for it was lived to Christ’s glory. God grant that such may be said of us when we have passed from this world into the next.

Book Review: America Alone

Mark Steyn’s America Alone will amuse you. It will sober you. It will disturb you. But most of all, it will challenge you to look at Islam and its relation to the world in a completely different light. Conservative political commentator Michele Malkin summed it up well when she remarked, “Mark Steyn is a human sandblaster. [America Alone] provides a powerful, abrasive, high-velocity assault on encrusted layers of sugarcoating and whitewash over the threat of Islamic imperialism.”

Because Islam is a threat – a most emphatically serious threat. The future, as Steyn brilliantly shows throughout his book, belongs to the fecund and confident. Islam is both, while the West is looking ever more like the ruins of civilization.

Someday soon, you might very well be awakened by the call to prayer from a muezzin. People in Europe already are. And liberals will continue to tell you that “diversity is our strength” – while enforcers from the Taliban cruise Greenwich Village, burning books and barber shops; and the Supreme Court decides that sharia law doesn’t really violate the “separation of church and state”; and the Hollywood Left decides to stop pursuing “gay rights” in favor of the much safer charms of polygamy.

If you don’t think that can happen… think again. You haven’t been paying attention.

Throughout the course of his book, Mark Steyn addresses this Islamic threat and challenges readers to take it seriously. In fact, he manages to cover quite a bit of ground in just a few hundred pages. The key factors which he deals with, however, are 1. demographic decline, 2. the unsustainability of the advanced Western social-democratic state, and 3. civilizational exhaustion. And he does it all with confidence, wit, and a liberal dose of humor.

One of my favorite passages in the book is on page 200, where Steyn brilliantly sums up the delusional way that the Western world views Islam:

Bomb us, and we agonize over the ‘root causes’. Decapitate us, and our politicians rush to the nearest mosque to declare that ‘Islam is a religion of peace’. Issue blood-curdling calls at Friday prayers to kill all the Jews and infidels, and we fret that it may cause a backlash against Muslims. Behead sodomites and mutilate female genitalia, and gay groups and feminist groups can’t wait to march alongside you denouncing Bush and Blair. Murder a schoolful of children, and our scholars explain that to the ‘vast majority’ of Muslims ‘jihad’ is a harmless concept meaning ‘healthy-lifestyle lo-fat granola bar’. Thus the lopsided valse macabre of our times: the more Islamists step on our toes, the more we waltz them gaily around the room.

That’s denial. Serious denial. And it can only lead to one thing: ruin. As philosopher Jean-Francois Revel wrote, “Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.”

Steyn believes that America can survive, prosper, and defend its freedom only if it continues to believe in itself, in the sturdier virtues of self-reliance (not government), in the centrality of the family, and in the conviction that our country really is the world’s last best hope. However, I would add that putting God back where He belongs in our hearts and minds is the real starting step. He is the Beginning and the End, and if He is not put first, all other measures, however good in and of themselves, will fail.

As Christians, we must also remember that God is wholly sovereign. Nothing is outside of His control. As the Heidelberg Catechism puts it, “… all creatures are so in His hand that without His will they cannot so much as move.” We are to live and look at the world in light of this fact. However, this does not mean that we are to turn a blind eye to the danger that is seething around us. We are to be watchful and aware. And reading this book will help you be more fully conscious of the threat that Islam poses.

I will add that this book is not for readers under 16. The themes that Steyn deals with are very mature, and there is some strong and crude language scattered throughout.

If you’re looking for something to read on current events, then definitely pick this one. It’s laugh-out-loud funny while simultaneously giving you a sobering new look at the world around you.