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Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Economics

Christian Economics in One Lesson

by Gary North 2015 / 268 pages Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson is what its title suggests, just one economic lesson explained in the first chapter – that we focus on the obvious impact of a government program, and don’t consider what otherwise might have happened with those dollars. It’s the seen vs. the unseen. That one lesson is then repeatedly applied to different situations in the 24 chapters that follow. In chapter 4, it is applied to public work projects: when the government builds a new sports stadium we can see the job created by its construction. What’s unseen is all the jobs that might have been created by businesses if they hadn’t had to pay the taxes to build that stadium. Overall, Hazlitt is making a general argument for less government and more economic freedom, but is making it on the basis of practicality: that a free market approach will make us all, overall, more prosperous (download the book for free). Effectiveness is the fruit, not the goal In his Christian Economics in One Lesson, Gary North makes his argument for free market economics on a very different basis: obedience. He also thinks the free market is the most effective way of making us all richer, but he sees that, not as a goal, but as a side effect – the fruit – of being obedient to God’s commands do not covet, and do not to steal. As his title suggests, he is riffing off of Hazlitt, and his chapters are a reworking of each of Hazlitt's. Economics is sometimes treated as a being simply about the math, about some sort of neutral accounting, pitting the different economic systems against each other to find out which creates the greatest benefit for society. Both socialists and capitalists could even agree that economics is about dealing with the problem of scarcity – there is only so much to go around, so how do we make the most of it? But North is arguing that economics is really a matter of ethics, and applying God's guidance on money, work, property, and covetousness to the real world. Then the better way is the way that obeys God’s commands. Now, like Hazlitt, North thinks the best system is the free market, and not the sort of so-called capitalism that involves getting government contracts and special favors. None of that crony "capitalism." This is, instead, a free market where people make exchanges voluntarily, and consequently, both sides benefit. No temptation to tweak But even as Hazlitt and North both hold to the free market system, it is significant that they got there very different ways. Hazlitt got there because the free market works – it is the most prosperous of all systems, doing more to raise people out of poverty than any other economic system before it. North arrives there because the free market is what results when we are obedient to God, respecting our neighbor's property and pushing back against our own covetousness. So, both support the free market. But for those like Hazlitt who arrived there for practical reasons, there will always be the temptation to tweak, and in doing so, to succumb to socialism. If capitalism works best, who's to say if capitalism plus just a smidge of socialism might not be better? Maybe just 5%? Or 10? How can we know unless we try? But there isn't the same temptation to tinker for Christians who choose the free market for its alignment with God's Word. We won't want to be 5% or 10% less obedient. And it is worth noting it is no coincidence that the economic system that most aligns with God's Word is also the one that best raises people out of poverty. That's simply God's love – He knows what is best for us, and when we obey, especially when we do so on a societal level, it goes better for us. Conclusion North's insight – that economics is about ethics, not efficiency; it is about obedience, and not prosperity – is a brilliant one, and worth the reinforcement that comes in the repeated applications that follow. If this isn’t the most important book I read last year, it is certainly in contention… and it can be downloaded for free here....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Anglo-Genevan Psalter in Four Part Harmony

compiled by Carl Oosterhoff 2022 / 241 pages Singing songs in harmony is a tradition going back to before the time of the Reformation. The Reformation resulted in Lutheran hymns and Genevan psalms, also published in harmony at that time. However, the British Anglican church started the tradition of singing harmony within the church service. Subsequently, the Great Awakening preacher-musician teams brought this tradition to North America. The Anglo-Genevan Psalter in Four Part Harmony is a new publication containing 150 psalms and a few hymns in four-part harmony. This is the first edition published with the lyrics of the (Canadian Reformed) 2014 Book of Praise. The harmonizations have different styles from several periods and by various people. When using it, the letter-size spiral-bound book is helpful for singing and accompaniment. The font size is very readable, and the spaced-out notes make it easy to follow each voice. The layout is similar to a traditional American hymnal but on a larger piece of paper. People familiar with singing in harmony will not have much difficulty singing from this selection. I suspect that also home schools and Christian schools can teach children these harmonies. To that end, a suggestion: when you first begin practicing singing in harmony, perhaps start with just two voices rather than all four at once. And sing one stanza until the individual voices become familiar. There are a few points that I'd like to highlight. Psalm 119 includes an alternate harmony with the melody in the tenor, which is a delightful variation. Some of the tunes have a lower pitch than in the Book of Praise, which make them generally easier to sing. In the Book of Praise some Psalms have the same tunes (for example Ps. 24, 62, 95 and 111) but each here has been given a different harmony. Now, I would have kept the harmony the same for all of them, to benefit the singers, but it does mean there are more harmonies to choose from. The Anglo-Genevan Psalter in Four Part Harmony is an excellent addition to any home. And if the pianist or organist is playing the harmonizations, this book could be used in a church setting too. Why not try it in your home school, or suggest learning a few songs at your Bible study? And, of course, at choir – I would not be surprised if an average choir can almost sight-read this music. Copies can be ordered by emailing [email protected] or find it at ReformedChristianBooks.com, ReformedBookServices.com, and HeritageResources.ca....

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

The Vow

by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter 2012 / 183 pages This is Exhibit #1 in why you should never judge a book by its movie. If you've ever wondered what it meant when a Hollywood film said it was "based on a true story," if The Vow is any indication, it doesn't mean much at all. Both the book and film tell the story of a couple whose marital vows are put to the test after a horrific car accident leaves the wife with no memory of marrying, or even meeting, her husband. The real-life couple is Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, both Christian, which impacts every part of their story They met each other when Kim, a baseball coach, purchased some team uniforms from the company where Krickitt worked. Krickitt always loved her family, which is why Kim went to her father to ask for permission to marry his daughter. They saved sex until after they were married and had a big traditional church wedding with family and friends. They said their vows before God and his people. After the accident, Krickitt briefly stayed with her parents, but the couple never considered divorce, and three years later they had a second wedding ceremony and renewed their vows. In the film the couple have been renamed, with Leo owning a recording studio and Paige a vegetarian artist who hates her family and hasn't spoken to them in years. So, of course, Leo doesn't ask Paige's dad for permission to marry his daughter because Leo doesn't even meet his father-in-law-to-be until after the accident. The couple lives together before marriage and has sex long before marriage. Their marriage ceremony is an impromptu one that takes place in an art museum, it includes lots of giggling, warm and fuzzy promises, and is interrupted by museum security guards. After the accident the couple eventually divorces, only to later get married once again. So why such a departure from the real events? It turns out the film’s two primary scriptwriters, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, never met the Carpenters, and never even read their book. Kohn noted: gave a couple of lines about the true story and allowed us to go invent a movie that we liked.... I think if they told us too much we’d feel responsible to those details. But we felt responsible to nothing. The irony is, while the scriptwriters decided to depart from the real story in order to make it more interesting, the end result was a movie that didn't feel authentic. The vows Leo and Paige made were frivolous, done seemingly as a lark, and the sort that couples facing far easier trials break every day. In this secular setting why would Paige feel any reason to keep promises to a man who, after that accident, she doesn't even know? The true story teaches the meaning of faithfulness, both in how Kim refuses to turn his back on Krickett no matter how much she has changed, and even more remarkably in how Krickett decided to keep promises she didn't remember making, to a husband she didn't know, because she knew she had also made those promises to God. Now that's a story. But it’s clearly one that Hollywood could never do justice to. At 183 pages the Carpenters’ book is a quick, fun read. It may not be great literature, but the story itself is extraordinary… and so much better than the “inspired by true events” Hollywood version. A version of this originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue....

Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

Risk is Right: Better to lose your life than to waste it

by John Piper 2013 / 51 pages How often do you take risks? If you’re anything like me, it’s not often. I like to maintain the status quo and to never feel that knot in the pit of my stomach when the outcome of a decision is in limbo. I like to feel safe. John Piper in his short book, Risk is Right, sets out to destroy this myth of safety. We live in a world full of uncertainty. No matter how hard we may try to eliminate risks from our lives, it is impossible. But as Christians, we need never be afraid of risk, for we have the ultimate security, salvation through Jesus Christ! This one thought should release the chains that hold us from risk: we have been freed to honor Christ in this life and in death.  That is not to say that safety is wrong. We don’t need to be adrenaline junkies, looking for the next adventure to get our blood pumping. Rather, it's the safety that comes from cowardice that is wrong. Queen Esther risked it all when she approached King Ahasuerus without being called. Esther did not know the outcome but trusted that God was powerful enough to save both her and her people. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have bowed down to Nebuchadnezzar's statue and guaranteed their safety. Instead, they refused, handing the outcome of their lives to God. It is right to risk for the cause of God, and refusing these risks because of cowardice is wrong.  I recommend this short book to everyone. We live in a culture that is so risk averse that “two weeks to stop the spread” became two years. We wanted safety so badly, that even as it became evident the government wasn’t able to provide it, we settled for having at least a false sense of security. This book knocks away such crutches so we can live a life worth living, by finding our security in Christ.  A bonus: you can download it for free here....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Economics

Economics in One Lesson

by Henry Hazlitt 1946 / 193 pages Universal basic income, a four-day work week, and government-funded daycare are just a few big-ticket proposals that are gaining momentum nationally, and even within our own church circles. All these proposals boil down to getting more while doing less. Promises have been made that middle and lower class families will not have to pay a cent more in taxes but the wealthy 1% will do all the heavy lifting.  In Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt argues that all these policies can’t deliver what they promise. He argues that many of these proposals only focus on a special interest group in the present and fail to consider how the proposal will affect the general populace both now and in the future.  For example, when a government announces a multitude of public “make-work” projects, at first glance these projects seem like a good idea, or at least seem like they couldn’t do any harm. The citizens get: An employment opportunity  Tangible infrastructure But Hazlitt warns that although these benefits look attractive, there are many indirect consequences that are not considered.  First, someone must pay for these employment opportunities. For every dollar spent on a public work project, a dollar will be taken away from a taxpaying citizen. Not only are the citizens as a whole worse off, there is now less money for them to create new jobs. Second, now that the infrastructure exists it is easy to assume that without that piece of infrastructure the country would be worse off – having a bridge would seem obviously better than not having a bridge. But in reality, one thing has been created instead of others. Instead of the government-built bridge there could’ve been citizen-built houses, or cars, or dresses and coats. All of these items are unrealized because the bridge is now standing. Although Hazlitt wrote this over 70 years ago, many of the issues he deals with are just as relevant as ever. We should be wary of governmental promises to ease our daily tasks. Our sinful nature yearns for an easy life; that is why these promises are so alluring to us. However, as Christians we are not called to an easy life. That does not mean that we should always seek out the hard way, but we shouldn’t become entangled in false promises of an easy way. To get Economics in One Lesson as a free pdf book, click here....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

The NIV Sola Scriptura Bible Project

2,032 pages (in 4 Volumes) / 2017 (3,500 BC - 90 AD) I received a gift from a dear friend last Christmas and in April decided to start reading it. The Holy Bible: The NIV Sola Scriptura Bible Project is a publication of the Bible that forces the reader to focus exclusively on the text of Scripture itself, without any other distractions. The foundation of this project is the Protestant Reformation and the call to return to the roots of our faith by embracing Scripture alone (sola scriptura) as our highest authority. From the webpage: “In this set of reading Bibles, the Old Testament is ordered according to the traditional shaping of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Torah, the Former and Latter Prophets, and the Writings. The New Testament is reorganized by placing each of the four Gospels at the head of four groupings that together bear witness to the central story of Jesus... the NIV Sola Scriptura Bible Project also removes the chapter and verse numbers, red letters, and cross-references present in most modern Bibles.” In my personal devotions, I found that I’d read some of the historical accounts for long periods of time as one might read a historical novel. Likewise, it became natural for me to read minor prophets and New Testament epistles in their entirety in a single sitting, allowing unifying themes to jump out at me more obviously. The publishing project also clearly invested thought into ensuring the paper quality and the font type and size maximized the reading experience. I’d recommend this set (or the ESV's version, in six volumes) as a means of reading through Scripture in a year. While I plan to finish reading this set in the next couple months and will return to it in future years, I’ll switch between various devotional reading plans from year to year. ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Free book: The Divine Challenge: on matter, mind, math & meaning

Christians believe the world, the universe, and everything came about by Supernatural means – our God created! Those that deny the supernatural say that the universe came about only by natural processes – mere physics and chemistry, over eons of time. Is this a debate to explain why there is something, rather than nothing? No, says John Byl, the real question is “Who will rule: God or Man?” And in the world’s attempts to usurp God, they’ve crafted many a worldview to try to explain things apart from Him. In his brilliant apologetic work The Divine Challenge, Dr. Byl shares the world’s best godless worldviews. He shows, often in the proponents’ own words, how their explanations are self-contradictory or simply fail to explain what they set out to explain. Naturalism says there is nothing outside of nature, and materialism that there is nothing outside matter, so how can either explain how matter came to be, or the non-material world of math and meaning? Byl also makes evident how very often these godless philosophers understand the emptiness of their best answers, and yet cling to them anyway because they hate the alternative: bowing their knee to God. This is a book that will stretch most readers, and in some parts (Chapter 14 was a doozy!) I only got the gist of it. But what an encouraging gist it was! While the 2004 paperback edition is still available, Dr. Byl has made his 2021 revision a free ebook you can download at his site Bylogos.blogspot.com and here: ReformedPerspective.ca/rpfreebooks/the-divine-challenge....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

In the Beginning: Listening to Genesis 1 and 2 

by Cornelis Van Dam 2021 / 371 pages Dr. C. Van Dam begins his latest book by explicitly laying out his presuppositions.  He’s upfront about his non-negotiable assumptions and biases.  As I review his book, it’s appropriate that I share mine too.  I share his presuppositions about Scripture as the trustworthy Word of God, but I also bring a personal bias to the table.  Back in the day, Van Dam was my Old Testament professor at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary.  I had an affectionate nickname for him in view of his ability to put the smack-down on unbelieving or shoddy scholarship:  “Wham-Bam-Van-Dam.”  This was always said with the greatest admiration for Dr. Van Dam.  As a seminary professor, he was nothing if not thorough and careful. Far more than a commentary This new book exhibits that same kind of comprehensive and precise approach to the two opening chapters of Scripture.  Van Dam leaves no stone unturned.  In the Beginning is an exhaustive treatment not only of the meaning of these two chapters, but also the various challenges that have been raised in Old Testament scholarship regarding them.  What you’re looking at here is not just a commentary on Genesis 1-2, but far more. Over the last decade or so John Walton has become well-known for his views on the early chapters of Genesis.  Walton argues that we often misunderstand Genesis 1-2 because we don’t take into account the ancient Near Eastern context of these chapters.  Once we do that, says Walton, then we can see that Genesis 1-2 was never meant to be taken literally as history.  The history can then be filled in with what science teaches us, including what science says about human origins.  In chapter 2 of In the Beginning, Van Dam discusses Walton’s views at length and explains how and where they fail to do justice to the character of Scripture as the Word of God.  In my view this is the most important chapter of the book. A sampling To whet your appetite further, let me share a selection of questions that Dr. Van Dam answers elsewhere in the book: Can new scientific data be regarded as general revelation given by God? What is the relationship of Scripture to science?  Is Scripture a scientific textbook? Can geology give us a history of creation? Was Herman Dooyeweerd faithful to Scripture in his view of origins? How are we to evaluate Meredith Kline’s Framework Hypothesis? Did the ancient Israelites believe that heaven was a solid vault above us? Why is there no mention of evening and morning with the seventh day in Genesis 1? What does Scripture mean when it says that God created through his Son? Can the breath of life in Genesis 2:7 be equated with the Holy Spirit? Was there animal death before the fall into sin? Why did God create everything with an appearance of age?  Was he being deceptive in so doing? Those are just a few of the questions answered.  There are far more.  What I appreciate about Van Dam’s answers is that he bases them on what Scripture says.  He doesn’t want to go beyond Scripture and so he’ll sometimes say, “Scripture doesn’t say more than this – this is as far as we can go.” A point of disagreement If I would venture some respectful disagreement, it would be in the final chapter where the author briefly discusses whether there’s a need for new confessional formulations to address the challenges of evolution.  In 2014-15, I was involved with an effort to add some clarification to article 14 of the Belgic Confession in the Canadian Reformed Church.  That effort was ultimately unsuccessful.  I don’t regret having made the effort, nor do I think it unnecessary to this day. Van Dam argues that Scripture is clear and our “confessions faithfully reflect that testimony.” However, that fails to account for those who have argued that the Three Forms of Unity provide the latitude needed to hold to forms of theistic macro-evolution.  Their arguments have persuaded some.  This wiggle-room ought to be addressed, especially if there is openness to theistic macro-evolution in your churches. Van Dam also posits that: “A difficulty with preparing a new formulation asserting the historicity of Genesis 1 and 2 is the temptation to go beyond what Scripture says, in other words, to provide specifics about that which Scripture gives no additional detail.” The proposal to add clarification to BC 14 was to state what Scripture states:  that Adam was created from dust (Gen. 2:7) and Eve from Adam’s side (Gen. 2:21-22).  As a consequence:  “They were created as the first two humans and the biological ancestors of all other humans.  There were no pre-Adamites, whether human or hominid.”  If one thinks that this infringes upon the freedom of exegesis, then one is willing to grant the latitude for theistic evolutionary accounts of human (and other) origins. Conclusion That criticism notwithstanding, In the Beginning was a delight to read – personally it brought me back to many of the OT lectures I enjoyed from Dr. Van Dam in my seminary years.  While enjoyable, it could be tough-going at times for some.  It’s not highly technical, but in places Van Dam does go academic.  It’s not a book you’d necessarily be giving out as gifts to those doing profession of faith.  It would, however, be a great gift for someone doing post-secondary studies, whether in the sciences or in the humanities.  And it’s definitely a recommended read for those who’ve completed such studies. Dr. Bredenhof first posted this review to CreationWithoutCompromise.com, a blog “promoting the biblical understanding of origins” and it is reprinted here with his permission. For an even more in-depth review, check out Martin Williams' "Genesis: No Room for Theistic Evolution" at Creation.com....

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

R.C. Sproul: A Life

by Stephen J. Nichols 2021 / 400 pages Stephen J. Nichols has produced the first biography of Sproul since his death in December of 2017. The author, teacher, and pastor truly appears here as a man after God’s own heart: a man in pursuit of his Maker’s holiness – eager to understand it, to mirror and communicate it as faithfully as he might. Following his conversion very early in his college years, Sproul’s zeal drive him and his wife, Vesta, to hunt after vital educational and ministry opportunities, both formal and informal. As a result, they relocated almost annually during the first decade of marriage. Very soon Sproul’s winning personality, warmth, seriousness, and authenticity as a “battlefield theologian” make him a magnet for those determined to grow in – and publicly defend – the faith. We see the launching of the Ligonier Study Center in 1971 in rural Western Pennsylvania, the writing of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and Sproul’s costly stand against reductive ecumenicism. Nichols gives ample space, as well, to the substance and impact of Sproul’s many books and the Renewing Your Mind radio program. Finally come the stories of his Florida pastorate, the building of Saint Andrew’s Chapel, and the founding of Reformation Bible College (RBC). Nichols succeeded Sproul as president of RBC in 2014, and his writing is aided by close acquaintance with Sproul and his family, colleagues, and friends. One can hardly imagine major detractions to Sproul's legacy and certainly will find no ammunition for that here – though glancing notice is made to R.C. Junior's sudden resignation from the board of Ligonier and RBC in 2016. The Sproul we meet in these pages is the gentle lion so many of us felt we knew, at least distantly and casually, through the books and radio program. Nichols has chosen to write an everyman biography, an accessible book with a tone popular rather than scholarly. And here we rediscover several Sproul family anecdotes which many have encountered previously in his teaching. Sometimes the stories are expanded, sometimes the reader can anticipate and supply added detail. Yes, we meet again an old friend, and a true one. Without a doubt, Sproul loved the church, and he immersed himself in the vocation of shepherd. Nichols's book is both deeply encouraging and even convicting as we view the whole-life portrait of this dedicated, faithful teacher unfolded before us. The church in the 21st century, as much as any time before, greatly needs the stories of such brothers and fellow saints....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

Just do something

A liberating approach to finding God's Will or how to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random Bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc. by Kevin DeYoung 128 pages / 2009 What does God want me to do with my life? It’s a great question but not one we should get stuck on. Some folks sit around waiting for a sign from God, instead of using the brains they got from God. DeYoung wants Christians to stop contemplating whether this, that, or that other thing might be what God wants most for our lives, and wants us instead to “just do something.” Does that sound...flippant? Careless even? DeYoung's point is that God's will for our life isn't that hard to figure out. We are to: Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, wherever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God. It’s that simple. But because we do complicate things, DeYoung spends another 100 pages, explaining why various approaches to fathom God’s will get it wrong, and then he outlines “the way of wisdom”: using Scriptures to rule out some options (don’t date pagans) and to establish proper priorities (will this job be near a good church?) turning to our parents and other wise counsel for advice asking God for wisdom in prayer proceeding in confidence that we are honoring God in whatever decision we then make There is an older book, a classic by Garry Friesen called Decision Making and the Will of God, that covers the same ground, but what takes Friesen almost 500 pages to tackle, DeYoung does in just 128 pages. It is that conciseness that makes this so very valuable: I've shared it with both young and old, and gotten rave reviews all around. So two thumbs up for a very readable, biblical, and helpful book for this most important topic. A version of this review first appeared in the February 2014 issue. Jon Dykstra also posts reviews at the Dykstra sibling book blog where you can find his brother Jeff's longer take on "Just Do Something." R.C. Sproul's "Can I Know God's Will" is another concise excellent book on this subject and while I think it not quite as good as DeYoung's effort, Sproul's is free as an ebook. ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

The Gospel Comes With a House Key: an instructive, inspiring, downright intimidating look at Christian hospitality 

by Rosaria Butterfield 2018 / 240 pages ***** This is a scary book. I have heard of several people putting it down after only reading a chapter or two of it, feeling overwhelmed by Rosaria Butterfield’s seemingly heroic examples of daily hospitality to her numerous neighbors and friends. As Carl Trueman states in his recommendation, “She sets the bar very high - and there is plenty of room here for disagreement on some of the proposals and details.” But fear not! As Trueman goes on to say, “The basic case, that church is to be a community marked by hospitality, is powerfully presented and persuasively argued.” Think of it this way. One of your friends just memorized the entire book of Ephesians. You think that’s admirable, but it sounds like more than you can handle. Yet, there are some verses in Psalm 4 that you want to memorize because they comfort you, so this reminds you to do it already. Or maybe your cousin enthusiastically tells you he is part of a “Read the Bible in 90 Days” group that really helped him see the connections between Scripture portions and helped him improve his Bible-reading habit. But when you hear he was reading one hour each day, that sounds like more than you can do. Yet, his example encourages you to increase the amount you are currently reading. Rosaria Butterfield’s The Gospel Comes With a House Key is about using hospitality to spread the gospel. It is about loving your neighbor as yourself and thus spreading God’s love, peace, and salvation to the dying world that is next to you. It is about viewing where you live as the location where God placed you and figuring out how you can, as the saying goes, “bloom where you are planted.” Whose house is it? Hospitality is similar to the Greek word philoxenia, which means “love of the stranger.” The hospitality Rosaria is encouraging is not about inviting your relatives and fellow church members over for coffee or soup and buns on a Sunday, or taking them a casserole at a difficult time. What Butterfield is talking about is what she calls “radically ordinary hospitality.” Those who live out radically ordinary hospitality (ROH) see their homes not as theirs at all but as God’s gift to use for the furtherance of his kingdom. They open doors; they seek out the underprivileged. They know that the gospel comes with a house key. They take biblical theology seriously, as well as Christian creeds and confessions and traditions…. Engaging in ROH means we provide the time necessary to build strong relationships with people who think differently than we do as well as build strong relationships from within the family of God. Cost in time and money But how can we manage this, when we are already so very busy, and finances may be tight? Rosaria gives the answer: Practicing ROH necessitates building margin time into the day, time where regular routines can be disrupted but not destroyed. This margin stays open for the Lord to fill – to take an older neighbor to the doctor, to babysit on the fly, to make room for a family displaced by a flood or a worldwide refugee crisis. Living out radically ordinary hospitality leaves us with plenty to share because we intentionally live below our means. In other words, we may need to learn to leave some space and not to schedule every moment of every day, filling it up with things that we desire to do. Those who become parents find that life cannot follow a strict schedule, because children have a way of barfing, bruising themselves, or battling with siblings that is always unscheduled. In the same way that we scaled back our desired goals then, we ought to do it to allow for hospitality. If we truly believe that we should “be there” for others, then we may need to be open to the unusual and unexpected. On the other hand, it is possible as well to set aside a period of time each week in which you reach out to your neighbors. Rosaria and her husband started this by putting a picnic table on their front lawn on Thursday evenings and providing food for whoever wandered by and wanted to join them. This eventually grew into a well-attended and beloved activity for a lot of their neighbors, but it started with one dinner time. If you don’t have a house or a picnic table, why not try to visit a neighbor or invite a coworker to have lunch or dinner with you? As for cost, all of our money comes from the Lord – might He not want you to allocate some of it for the hospitality that He asks you to do? Rosaria writes: Daily hospitality can be expensive and even inconvenient. It compels us to care more for our church family and neighbors than our personal status in this world. Our monthly grocery bill alone reminds us that what humbles us cannot hurt us, but what puffs up our pride unwaveringly will. But what if we run into people who have different viewpoints than ours? What kind of example will that be for our children? Here is where we really need to believe that hospitality is something that God calls us to do. The truly hospitable aren’t embarrassed to keep friendships with people who are different. They don’t buy the world’s bunk about this. They know that there is a difference between acceptance and approval, and they courageously accept and respect people who think differently from them. They don’t worry that others will misinterpret their friendship. Jesus dined with sinners, but he didn’t sin with sinners. Jesus lived in the world, but he didn’t live like the world. This is the Jesus paradox. And it defines those who are willing to suffer with others for the sake of gospel sharing and gospel living, those who care more for integrity than appearances…. the sin that will undo me is my own, not my neighbor’s, no matter how big my neighbor’s sin may appear. What will I say to them? If you feel like you don't know what to say to a stranger, just remember that people always like to talk about themselves. Get to know them. Ask about their interests and try to find a common ground in gardening, cars, sports, cooking, knitting, reading, or whatever. If they have a difficulty they are enduring, offer to pray for them before you end your visit – just a simple prayer. Be friendly. This isn’t the type of evangelism where you have to lead them down the Romans Road and get them to sign on the dotted line at the end of your time together. Jesus is the one who saves. The Holy Spirit will draw some people to God, and we are just planting or watering the seeds. We may or may not get to do the harvesting. But the reason we want to be hospitable is because people need to be rescued from their sin, just as Jesus rescued us from our sin. We are living examples of what God has done, and what He can do for others. Hospitality, then, is a chance to put God’s work in us on display. Radical hospitality shines through those who are no longer enslaved by the sin that once beckoned and bound them, wrapping its allegiance around their throat, even though old sins still know their name and address. Used by God Rosaria gives a list of how she hopes and prays that her book may inspire us to: Use our home, apartment, dorm room, front yard, gym, or garden to make strangers into neighbors and neighbors into friends and friends into the family of God Build the church by living like the family of God Stop being afraid of strangers, even when some strangers are dangerous Grow to be more like Christ in practicing daily, ordinary, radical hospitality Be richly blessed by the Lord as He adds to His kingdom Be an example of what it truly means to be a Christian to the watching world Have purpose, instead of casting about for our own identity, or wondering what to do with our time Conclusion Let’s not be sidelined by fear that people will hurt us or that we won’t know what to do or say. Using our home regularly to show hospitality brings glory to God, serves others, and is a way of living out the Gospel. It may seem sacrificial, but then aren’t we called to die to ourselves and live for God? So don’t be afraid to read the book. Be inspired, and pray over what God would use you to do. ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

What’s your worldview?

by James N. Anderson 112 pages 2014 If you’ve got fond memories of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books you’ll really enjoy this adult update. This time it’s a journey to discover our own worldview and, like the kids’ books, we keep coming to forks in the road. So, early on, we either agree there is objective truth and then go to page 22 or we say there isn’t and then go to page 91. A Christian reader flipping to page 22 will be asked to consider, “Is it possible to know the Truth?” The author James Anderson lays out the case for both options, after which we again have to choose which way we want to go. After a dozen or so steps, readers will eventually arrive at the worldview that matches their professed beliefs. Anderson is a Christian and his biases are acknowledged up front. So, even as he has challenging questions for anyone who lands on one of the other 20 worldviews, he also raises the problem of evil for Christians. He wants everyone to follow God, but he refuses to pretend as if Christians have it all figured out. That means this is a book you could give or share with people you know who aren't Christian. How's this for a conversation starter: "Hey Fred, do you know what your worldview is? Come on over, I've got this great little book that'll help us figure it out." Overall, I'd say the strength of the book is this really fun format and also it’s conciseness  – there is just so much packed in such a little space. I'd recommend it for teens as a graduation gift, and for college students and adults too. Maybe the best use of it is as a coffee table book, because it can be digested in chunks by choosing one "adventure" at a time. To get a peek at the first 20 or so pages, you can find it here on the author's website. And if you want to hear Dr. Anderson give an overview on worldviews, check out the 20-minute presentation below that he gave at the 2016 Ligonier Ministries National Conference. ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Still Thinking: more delightful doodles, and deep thoughts

by Jason Bouwman and friends 187 pages / 2019 This creative, challenging, accessible, readable, godly book is quite hard to describe. Oh, sure, it’s easy to layer on the adjectives – it’s all that and more – but to describe what exactly it is? That’s hard because there’s nothing else like it. Is it a devotional? It could sure be used as a great one. Each of the two-page spreads includes not only a powerful quote, thought-provoking word art, and insightful commentary, but a number of suggested Scripture texts. So this would be a fantastic way to regularly dig into God’s Word. With its many doodles, maybe we could describe it as a comic book of sorts. It's also a coffee table book extraordinaire since it can be started anywhere. Each two-page spread stands on its own, so if you only have a couple minutes to read, this doesn’t require more. But I’ll bet you don’t just read one!. And as a discussion starter, it's sure-fire. Read this around other people, and soon enough you’ll be reading sections out loud or passing it around for your spouse/friend/teen to check out one of the bits of word art. It is certainly a book to be shared. My wife and I bought 10 of Jason Bouwman’s first book (the unfortunately sold out Just Thinking) and we’ve already ordered 10 of this, the sequel. It’s the rare book that can be given to your 70-something-year-old aunt for her birthday, and your 17-year-old nephew for his profession of faith, and that you can then be sure both will love, and actually read. How often do you find a one-size-fits-all present suitable for pastors, neighbors, parents, and your second cousin twice removed? On top of that, it’s good for them. This is an accessible book, but it’s sure to challenge every reader at some point, reminding us of where we’re falling short, or just failing to even seek God’s glory at all. Quite the combination: enjoyable yes, but also edifying! This is not available in stores, and the only way you can order it is through the author’s website. The first one sold out, so it’d also be best to order sooner than later (and if you order now, well, you could have all your Christmas shopping done before December even rolls around!). I can’t imagine anyone not loving Still Thinking. So pick up a copy (or ten) at JustThinkingBook.com.    ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Timothy, Titus & You: a Study Guide for Church Leaders

by George C. Scipione 55 pages / 2018 (originally 1975) Crown and Covenant Publications Many Bible study books are full of questions. Questions can be good. Questions are the backbone of serious Bible study. But questions, once answered, often get forgotten. Having sat through a few Young Peoples’ bible study meetings in at least two different Canadian provinces I have seen this firsthand. The book is opened. The first question is asked. It is answered. The second question is asked. It is answered. And so on. I have even seen good discussion cut short because ‘we need to get through the questions.’ This Bible study book is also full of questions. However, its target audience is not Young Peoples’ Societies, but Church leaders. Specifically, the author envisions this study guide to be used by elders and potential elders both in their leadership role in the church and as they prepare for such a role. Designed to be used over a nine-month period, the guide has four major goals for the reader in each lesson: To gain knowledge of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus – Questions get readers thinking about each assigned Biblical passage, and about its application to their lives. To examine himself– Learning about God moves us to learning about ourselves and learning about the role of church leader. To grow in self-discipline– Prompts and assignments encourage readers to transform their lives. To consider how to lead others– Self-discipline is the beginning, but leadership involves learning how to disciple others. Positives Given that this study guide is intended for those in or aspiring to leadership in the church, the questions are well focused and most likely to be taken seriously. Drawing their inspiration from the passage of Timothy or Titus, the questions seek to apply the lessons learned to the leadership and life of the reader. Some are deep, probing questions that get at motivations and attitudes. Some are questions that get at behaviors and actions. All the questions are clearly connected to the Biblical passage at hand. Taken seriously, and done thoroughly, this guide could be a good way for an elder or someone who aspires to be an elder to grow both in personal holiness and their role in the church. Negatives Having read through this guide, I don’t really know much more about Timothy and Titus than I did before. This is because the guide is heavy on personal and leadership application, but short on actual Biblical exposition. Even in the “Knowledge of the Word Study Questions” section in each chapter, the questions are exclusively “you” focused. The author leaps over original context, intended meaning of the author, and application to the first audience, and lands squarely on what the text means for me now. This is why I am a little hesitant about contemporary study guides. Too many of them are heavy on questions that are of more interest to the reader (or user) of the guide, and light on questions that get at the meaning and original application of the text itself. Issues of context, definitions, and even themes are absent in this study guide, issues which could have strengthened the application questions and made them more meaningful. Conclusion This, then, was a good leadership book, but not a great bible study book. The author truly wishes to encourage and assist his readers in their role as leaders in the church. The questions and exercises are serious, probing, and show faithfulness to Scripture and its authority. However, the fact that there is little exposition, and the questions focus too heavily on application to the reader is unfortunate. While useful as a means for elders and those aspiring to this office to grow and prepare, it is not quite a “study guide” in the traditional sense of reading and learning about the Biblical text itself. So use this study guide with a group of leadership-minded men to focus and assist discussion. But have a commentary on Timothy and Titus on hand as well to study the text itself....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

2 to help us understand the Muslim holy book

WHAT EVERY CHRISTIAN NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT THE QUR'AN by James R. White 311 pages / 2013 More than ever, Christians need to be equipped to deal with the challenges posed by Islam.  We often live beside Muslims, work alongside them, and study with them.  It’s good to have helpful resources to inform our conversations with our Muslim neighbors.  Though it is now a couple of years old already, James White’s book on the Muslim sacred text is one of those valuable helps. White is the author of numerous non-fiction books.  He’s well-known as an author, speaker, and debater.  He is an elder in a Reformed Baptist church in Phoenix, Arizona, and the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, an organization with a focus on apologetics (done in a Reformed, presuppositional manner). Rather than summarize everything in this book, let me just highlight two points which stood out for me. Qur-an’s caricature of the Trinity shows it isn’t perfect One has to do with what the Qur’an says about the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.  In chapter 4, White points out that the Qur’an says Christians believe the Trinity to consist of Allah, Jesus, and Mary. Christians are alleged to believe that Allah and Mary had relations to produce Jesus.  This is important because: Everyone affected would affirm that by the early decades of the seventh century, God Himself would have a perfect knowledge of what the doctrine of the Trinity actually says. And if that doctrine does not accurately represent His own self-revelation, He would be in the perfect position to refute its falsehoods with devastating precision.  But is this what we find in the Qur’an? The Qur’an doesn’t get the Trinity right, and so the Qur’an can’t be taken seriously as a revelation from God. Qur’an’s claim about itself is patently false In chapter 11, White has a penetrating discussion about the text of the Qur’an.  Muslims claim that it is a perfect, immutable text. Of course, that’s contrasted with the text of the Bible which, they allege, has been mutilated by Jews and Christians.  White gives a couple of examples from Muslim writers. This is one of them: Muslims and non-Muslims both agree that no change has ever occurred in the text of the Qur’an. The above prophecy for the eternal preservation and purity of the Qur’an came true not only for the text of the Qur’an, but also for the most minute details of its punctuation marks as well…It is a miracle of the Qur’an that no change has occurred in a single word, a single the alphabet, a single punctuation mark, or a single diacritical mark in the text of the Qur’an during the last fourteen centuries. White demonstrates that this claim is patently false. He notes that “even widely published editions of the Qur’an contain information indicating variations in the very text.”  He cites Yusuf Ali’s edition with its note on Surah 33:6.  In The Hidden Origins of Islam (ed. by Karl-Heinz Ohlig and Gerd-R. Puin), there is an essay by Alba Fedeli on variant readings in early Qur’anic manuscripts.  It is simply not true that there is a single immaculate Qur’an text preserved from the time of Muhammad. Conclusion One question I wish White would have addressed is whether these claims are made in ignorance or deliberately to deceive.  There is a doctrine in Islam known as al-Taqqiya.  This teaching says it is permissible to lie in order to advance the cause of Islam.  This is one of the things making Islam such a threat to western civilization in general, and Christianity in particular.  How can you tell when a Muslim is lying about Islam? I would recommend this book to anyone who has regular contact with Muslims.  Be aware though: most, if not all, of the points raised by White in the book have rebuttals by Muslim apologists somewhere online.  The rebuttals are weak, but if you are going to use White’s material in conversations it would be advisable to prepare yourself beforehand for what your Muslim neighbor may bring back in response. Dr. Wes Bredenhof blogs at Yinkahdinay.wordpress.com. ***** UNDERSTANDING THE KORAN by Mateen Elass 193 pages / 2009 If I were to offer a one-sentence review I'd describe this as the most readable and most loving Christian book on Islam I've yet read, and while it isn't a very big book, there is a lot packed in it. The advantage of this “Quick Christian guide to the Muslim Holy Book” is how much it packs into its small size. The author, Mateen Elass, wanted to craft an introduction to the Koran that anyone could pick up and read, and somehow he's managed to make it both easily digestible and 100% solid meat - there's no fluff here. Elass is a Presbyterian pastor who was raised in Saudi Arabia so he knows what he’s talking about it, and can offer a solid, biblically-grounded insight. He outlines how the Koran is a compilation of muddled Bible stories, Gnostic accounts, and Jewish folk tales, and compares and contrasts Christian views on our Bible with Muslim views about the Koran. The only caution I had regards Chapter 6 “Is Allah a False God?” where the author argues that, like the Samaritans in New Testament times (see John 4:22), Muslims worship the real God, but in ignorance. This is a controversial stance – Muslims insist that Allah has no Son – but it becomes less so when the author makes it clear he isn’t arguing for any sort of equivalence between Islam and Christianity or that Muslims can be saved apart from Jesus. Introductions to Islam can generally be divided into those that have nothing but good to say about Islam, and those that have nothing but bad. One strength of this title is that it takes a third approach – the author is Christian, but one knows and loves Muslims, so while he is direct, thorough, and quite devastating in his critique of the Koran, he always remains calm, and never resorts to rhetoric. Understanding the Koran is small and engaging enough to be read in a few evenings, but the depth of material, and the review questions for each chapter, make this one worth reading a second time at a slower more studious pace. Jon Dykstra and his siblings blog on books at ReallyGoodReads.com....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

BOOK REVIEWS: Two on depression and joy

SPURGEON'S SORROWS: Realistic hope for those who suffer from depression by Zack Eswine 144 pages / 2014 Drawing on over eighty sermons by C. H. Spurgeon (largely from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit), the author paints a vivid picture of the recurring bouts of depression, melancholy, and helplessness that harassed Spurgeon. But Spurgeon’s difficulties also enabled him to minister from the pulpit and in correspondence with many suffering from depression and from the callous comfort of “friends.” The book is organized under three themes: 1) Trying to understand depression 2) Learning how to help 3) Aids for daily coping The author places a strong emphasis on the fact that depression often has “circumstantial, biological and spiritual contributors and challenges” and “that the spiritual side of things could originate its own kind of depression.“ He draws on sources contemporary to both Spurgeon and our day on depression, A section named: “Jesus Suffered Depression Too” may raise eyebrows! Spurgeon on Heb. 4:15 and Heb. 2:18: “readily applies this sympathy of Jesus to include not only our physical weakness but also our ‘mental depression.’… Realistic hope is a Jesus-saturated thing.... is an ally, a hero, a companion-redeemer, advocating for the mentally harassed.” **** THE HAPPY CHRISTIAN: Ten ways to be a joyful believer in a gloomy world by David Murray 256 pages / 2015 In this book David Murray sets out to: “identify the major causes of negativity and unhappiness in our lives and outline ten biblical and practical ways to tilt the balance of our attitude, outlook, words, and actions that will lift our spirits, compel attention for the Christian faith, and make the Church an energizing force in a life-sapping culture.” The “key is individual Christians and the Christian church repositioning the positive symbol of the Christian faith, the cross of Jesus Christ, at the center of their faith again.” Murray combines biblical breadth and depth with current research and statistics on happiness and mental health.  He presents this in an older more Puritan-style of writing, full of alliteration and multiple angles of description and application. Throughout the book there is much meat and sweetness to savor and meditate upon. The chapter on “Happy Differences” deals with the topic of “diversity” or “Why can’t everyone be more like me?” He carefully distinguishes between issues of ethnic/cultural diversities and seeing all moralities/immoralities as the same. One quibble: I do find it odd that virtually all the Scripture citations are in the end-notes and not in the text. ...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

7 quotes from "Learning Contentment"

2017 / 115 pages An in depth review is in the works, but in the meantime, here's a taste of Nancy Wilson's wonderful and, more to the point, challenging new book. ***** What is contentment? “Contentment is a deep satisfaction with the will of God.” On perfectionism “We sometimes flatter ourselves into think that it is a good character trait to be a ‘perfectionist.’ But this label brings much trouble and temptation with it. A so called perfectionist is never satisfied with his work (or anyone else’s work)…..As creatures we must learn to find our true satisfaction in our Creator God. Then we can be satisfied with out imperfect work. Then we can offer our imperfect work to Him and be thankful that He is satisfied with us in Christ. Then we can rest. Only God is perfect. When we think we can be perfect we are stumbling blindly.” We're allowed to be distressed “ struggled in the garden in Gethsemane. He was ‘sorrowful and deeply distressed’ (Mt. 26:37). From this we learn that sorrow and distress are not contradictory to contentment. Jesus wrestled in prayer and asked God if there was any other possible way. But He concluded His time in prayer with “Your will be done” (Mt. 26:42)…. If we want to find contentment, humility must be our frame of mind. If we want to be like Christ, we must take the form of a servant." This is the other side of “Train up a child…and he will not depart from it” “The more we hear ourselves grumble and complain the more we take it to our heart and believe our own words. This is where crotchety old women come from. When they were young, they were complaining about something, and now that they’re old, it has become a way of life.” Grab a hold of your thoughts “One of the central ways we can resist mental temptations, including the temptation to be discontent, is to pay attention to what we are thinking about….Setting your mind on things above (Col. 3:2) literally means picking your thoughts up and moving them elsewhere. How do you begin to do this? First you have to tune in. What are you listening to all day? What you listening to when you go to bed, when you rise up, when you hop into the shower, when you drive across town? You may be surprised to notice how much fault-finding, reviewing of hurts and wrongs, wishing for things you don’t have, dissatisfaction, and complaining are going on….If you want to change your thought patterns you must practice thinking about things that are 'praiseworthy' and root out the things that are not.” There is no neutrality “We are always either feeding discontent and starving contentment, or feeding contentment and starving discontent.” What kind of score are you keeping? "Contentment counts its blessings. Discontent counts its grievances. Contentment is cheerful. Discontent pouts. Contentment takes the hit. Discontent points the finger. Contentment is generous. Discontent won’t share.”...

Book excerpts, Book Reviews

5 quotes from Greg Koukl's "The Story of Reality"

The following quotes are from Greg Koukl's new apologetic book "The Story of Reality: How the world began, how it ends, and everything important that happens in between." You can read Dr. Bredenhof's review of it here. GOD'S STORY IN ONE SENTENCE “It’s a story I can tell in a single sentence, though it’s a bit long. Here it is: God, the Creator of the universe, in order to rescue man from punishment for his rebellion, came to earth and took on the form of humanity in Jesus, the Savior, to die on a cross and rise from the dead, so that in the final resurrection those who receive his mercy will enjoy a wonderful friendship with their sovereign Lord in the kind of perfect world their hearts have always yearned for.” IT"S NOT ABOUT ME “The Story is not so much about God’s plan for your life as it is about your life for God’s plan. Let that sink in. God’s purposes are central, not yours. Once you are completely clear on this fact, many things are going to change for you.” WHAT EVERY WORLDVIEW SHARES “Every worldview has four elements. They help us understand how the parts of a person’s worldview story fit together. These four parts are called creation, fall, redemption and restoration. Creation tells us how things began, where everything came from (including us), the reasons for our origins, and what ultimate reality is like. Fall describes the problem (since we all know something has gone wrong with the world). Redemption gives us the solution, the way to fix what went wrong. Restoration describes what the world will look like once the repair takes place.”  THE PROBLEM OF EVIL FOR ATHEISTS “…given a Godless, physical universe, the idea that things are not as they should be makes little sense. How can something go wrong when there was no right way for it to be in the first place?” WE ARE THE PINNACLE OF GOD'S CREATION “If you have ever asked yourself the question ‘Who am I?’ you now have your answer. The Story says you are a creature, but you are not just a creature. You are not a little god, but you are not nothing. You are made like God in a magnificent way that can never be taken from you. No matter how young or old or small or disfigured or destitute or dependent, you are still a beautiful creature. You bear the mark of God. He has made you like himself, and that changes everything.”...

Adult non-fiction

BOOK REVIEW: God has a wonderful plan for your life

by Ray Comfort 128 pages / 2010 Why doesn't the modern evangelistic message "work"? In this book Comfort is confronting an enormous problem that he argues is related, at its root, to a lack of concern for the law – 90% of seeming converts in Christian crusades are gone from the church within a year, and many never set foot in a church at all. He argues the cause for this distressing statistic is the "modern message," which promises earthly happiness for those who turn to Him. Meanwhile the Bible and church history show persecution is a likely result of following Christ. Comfort tells us that the "lost key" to true evangelism is the use of the law. Only knowing our sin – our specific sins, not just our weakness or brokenness – begins "making grace amazing.” To illustrate this, Comfort makes a brilliant analogy about giving parachutes to two airplane passengers. The first man is  told that the chute will make his flight much more comfortable. When, instead, he finds that wearing it makes him feel silly in the eyes of the other passengers and makes it hard to sit in his seat, he gives it up in frustration. The second passenger is told that the chute will save his life when (not if) the plane crashes – a metaphor for our inevitable appearance before the judgment seat of God. You can imagine how much more grateful he is for his "gospel chute." Comfort next makes it clear that Jesus Himself used the law to convict sinners of their need for forgiveness through God's grace – the only chute that can save us from the crash of our condemnation – and concludes by stressing that churches filled with false converts are no testimony to the power of a false modern message. The appendix is a model of "gentleness and respect" as Comfort passes on a word "For My Campus Crusade Friends," demonstrating that some of the organization's own leaders have come to see the necessity for the law in the proclamation of the gospel. CAUTIONS This is not the first book by Ray Comfort that I have read. The previous one, Revival's Golden Key, was a good read, but this one is a really good read. The two books have similar messages, but God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life is a better read for two reasons: 1. It's almost 100 pages shorter. 2. Comfort's use of Scripture is simpler and more literal. In Revival's Golden Key, Comfort sometimes slips into an allegorical interpretation of particular passages to support his contention that it is the law of God that brings sinners to true Christian conversion. God Has a Wonderful Plan sticks to texts that clearly relate to preaching and evangelism to make the same point. CONCLUSIONS If you believe that Comfort can show a better way to obey the Great Commission as Reformed churches begin to make evangelism a greater priority, you can download a free pdf copy of the book here (just click on "Start Reading Now"). This review first appeared on ReallyGoodReads.com....

Adult non-fiction

Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection

by Gary Bates 2004 / 382 pages Are people actually being abducted by aliens? That’s the question being asked by this book…and the recently released documentary based on it. The author is Christian, so you might expect he’d answer with an emphatic “no,” but Gary Bates's response could best be summarized as, “sort of.” The way the book is structured, Alien Intrusion could be given to anyone, Christian or not. The cover and first few chapters hardly give a hint that this is a Christian book since, initially, it seems to be making a case for UFOs and aliens. Bates notes that millions of people, including a past president of the United States, claim to have seen a UFO, and he discusses how many popular TV shows, like Star Trek and various science fiction movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, assume that aliens are somewhere out there. But after delving into what people think about aliens and UFOs the author then begins, step by step, to explain why aliens could not possibly be visiting us from other planets. Most of the reasons are simply practical – the distances are too far and the energy needed simply too immense. Despite the fact that it is physically impossible for aliens to be visiting us, the author doesn’t believe that every story of alien abduction is simply a lie or a delusion. After debunking many famous “UFOlogists” Bates notes that there are still too many ordinary folks making abduction claims – people who have nothing to gain, and personal credibility to lose – to simply dismiss the phenomenon altogether. This is where the book starts to become clearly Christian. The author argues that it is only now that our world has embraced evolution (and dismissed God) that UFO sightings have become so prevalent. There is also a strong correlation between UFO belief and occult experimentation – many of the more famous “UFOlogists” have also dabbled in the “dark arts.” It is worth noting, too, that the messages “aliens” pass on are often direct attacks on the Bible, portraying Jesus not as the Son of God, but merely as some advanced alien. So are people being abducted by aliens? Bates argues that while some people may indeed be having these encounters it is not with aliens but rather with demons masquerading as extraterrestrials. Now, I’ve not yet seen the 2018 documentary of the same name, but the trailer (see below) looks promising. I suspect that it follows the same sort of format, first presenting the evidence for an alien intrusion, before then explaining why it just isn’t so. As for the book, it is fantastic, and a great gift for anyone interested in science fiction, Bates employing a solid Christian worldview to separate the fact from the fiction. https://youtu.be/0ZxYkM7PB7U...

Adult non-fiction

4 books on the irreconcilable divide between Creation and Evolution

Four encouraging books to equip the Church in the current Evolution vs. Creation debates, listed by size, smallest to biggest. No Adam, No Gospel: Adam and the History of Redemption by Richard B. Gaffin Jr. 29 pages / 2015 More and more professing Christians are accepting scientific theory that suggests that man-like mammals (hominids) preceded the coming of Adam by millions of years. Biologos, a well-funded organization, is also pushing evolution using scholars who have a conservative reputation to convince people to accept evolution. But what does affirming evolutionary origins of the human race do to the gospel? Can you affirm that Adam was not historically the first human on earth without jeopardizing the Good News? Professor Gaffin clearly shows that “the truth of the gospel stands or falls with the historicity of Adam as the first human being from whom all other human beings descend.” After clearly explaining Romans 5:12-19 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49, Gaffin responds to The Evolution of Adam, a book written by a popular Old Testament scholar, Peter Enns. Gaffin shows how the views of Enns lead to a complete abandonment of the Reformed faith in its biblical understanding of sin, salvation, and death. Indeed, no Adam, no gospel! The results of accepting evolution theory are disastrous for the Christian faith. Although a small publication, this booklet is timely and packed with excellent biblical insights. I highly recommend it. The Faces of Origins by David Herbert 180 pages / 2012 It’s often said that new scientific knowledge has made it impossible to continue to accept the truth of the Genesis creation account, that this new knowledge meant scientists had no choice but to accept evolution. Herbert challenges this narrative. He says it wasn’t the new knowledge, but a new worldview that led to the rejection of the Genesis creation account. Western civilization left a worldview based on biblical revelation, where God was actively involved in history, and instead embraced a naturalistic worldview based only on reason. Naturalism believes that natural processes alone are sufficient to account for life and creation. Herbert shows that for eighteen centuries a biblical understanding of origins had the upper hand. Real change came during the seventeenth century. Indeed, BenoÎt de Maillet (1656-1738) was the first modern uniformitarian and evolutionist. Once scientific findings were interpreted without God, through the lens of naturalism, evolution became the most popular explanation of our origins. This in spite of the fact that the empirical evidence points to design and not evolution. The price of excluding God and denying Genesis is high. It has led to a resurgence of atheism. This book is a great and easy read. By Design: Evidence for nature's Intelligent Designer – the God of the Bible by Jonathan Sarfati 260 pages / 2008 The Bible tells us that God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made, so they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20). One implication of these words is that scientists who study creation must be able to see something of God’s awesome power and wisdom. Yet, most mainstream scientists steadfastly refuse to give glory to God and instead seek to honour the god of their making, the theory of evolution, to account for the wonders of creation. This delightful book illustrates magnificently how God’s glory can indeed be seen in his handiwork. God’s design is evident everywhere and it all argues against evolution. For example, God has put an incredible amount of information in creation to enable everything to work properly. “There is enough information capacity in a single human cell to store the Encyclopaedia Britannica, all 30 volumes of it, three or four times over.” This book is chock-full of all sorts of examples of God’s wonderful design, including the incredible designs allowing sight, smell, flight, orientation, and stickiness. Critics are answered and God’s wisdom is celebrated. Understanding Genesis: How to Analyze, Interpret, and Defend Scripture by Jason Lisle 496 pages / 2015 Building on his The Ultimate Proof of Creation (2009), Jason Lisle, who has a doctorate in astrophysics, goes into considerable detail in outlining the rules and principles for correctly interpreting God’s Word. He wants to logically refute faulty interpretations of Genesis and equip Christians to defend God’s Word against compromised positions, especially with respect to Genesis. These concerns take up the first half of the book. The second part of the book goes into considerable detail in applying sound principles of interpretation to the matter of geocentricity, the age of the earth, theistic evolution, and the extent of the Genesis flood. Two appendices on a defense of the Trinity and formal fallacies round off the book. Lisle’s approach is sound and he does an excellent job in fleshing out how to interpret Scripture. He resists the temptation which earlier creationists like Henry Morris fell into by claiming that the Bible is a scientific textbook and so this book appears to be a significant improvement in the manner in which the Bible Is used. Lisle rightly prioritizes Scripture over scientific theories and through careful exegesis wants to let the Word of God speak. This is a very helpful book. Dr. Van Dam is the Emeritus Professor of Old Testament at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary and the author of several books including "The Deacon: The biblical roots and the ministry of mercy today," and "The Elder: Today's ministry rooted in all of Scripture."...

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