Thursday, July 29, 2010

Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis (highly recommended)

I just finished Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis.  This is book four in the Chronicles of Narnia series.  The writing and the story are both good.  I would highly recommend this.

Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are called back to Narnia.  Possibly, hundreds of years have passed in Narnia since the last time they were there.  Time travels differently in Narnia than it does in the real world.  A bad man, King Miraz rules the land but his step son, Prince Caspian, is the true king of Narnia.  The story is about how Caspian, helped by Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, (and Aslan, of course) tries to defeat Miraz.

Reepicheep really caught my attention in this story.  I liked that a mouse of such small stature has such a large heart of courage.  Reepicheep takes honor very seriously and that kinda inspired me.  Good times.  (I also had a hard time pronouncing his name.  I had to say his name out loud every time I read it to practice getting his name right.  Even now, I tried to say it fast and what came out was Reechipeach; I guess I need more practice.)

Something that really affected me about the story is Edmund.  In the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe, especially in the beginning, Edmund is nasty to Lucy but in this book, Edmund supports Lucy.  Lucy sees Aslan when the others cannot.  Edmund doesn't see Aslan either but he supports Lucy.  I love it.  I love how Edmund grows from book to book.

Overall, I thought this book had a fantastic story and was very well written.  I would highly recommend this.  :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Horse And His Boy by C. S. Lewis (highly recommended)

I just finished The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis.  I thought it was a great story.  I would highly recommend it to kids and adults alike.

The title of the book is interesting.  Why isn't it The Boy and His Horse?  Doesn't the horse belong to the boy?  In this story, the answer is no.  The Horse, Bree, is a free Narnian Horse that has the ability to talk.  The title shows that it would be just as appropriate to assume that the boy belongs to the horse as the horse to the boy.  Interesting?  I think so.

The Horse and His Boy is a story about a young man named Shasta.  He runs away from his guardian (who is not such a nice man) with a talking Horse, Bree.  They are trying to get to Narnia, the nation located north of Shasta's home.  During his journey, they meet a young lady, Avaris and another Narnian, Hwin.  They discover a plan to attack Archenland (the lands neighboring Narnia) and Narnia itself.  The companions must hurry to Archenland to warn them of the coming attack.

A theme in the story that edified me was the theme of providence.  Aslan directs and protects each characters in the story.  The powerful part of this theme is the characters are frequently unaware of Aslan's direction and protection.  It reminds me of God's providence in my own life and it reminds me to trust in God's plans.  God is directing and God is protecting each and every one of us.  Our lives may seem like it's spinning on its own merit but it is being carefully directed by God.  Amen.

Overall, the story was outstanding, the writing was fantastic and the pace was perfect.  I would highly recommend this book to any kid or adult.

It has come to my attention that there is some criticism about Lewis being a sexist.  Quite frankly, I don't really sense that.  Lewis did not have our modern 'enlightened' values (for those that didn't catch it, I put ENLIGHTENED in sarcastic quotes).  I think that Lewis' view of gender roles were fine for the time that he lived.

Well, until the next time...  :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (highly recommended)

I just finished The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.  This is the 2nd book in the Chronicles of Narnia series.  I've read this book many times before; I can't remember how many times.  It is always a joy to read.  I would highly recommend this book.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is about four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.  They enter new world, Narnia, via a wardrobe in the old professor's house.  Something is wrong in Narnia.  The White Witch has caused it to be winter for many years.  The four children entering Narnia may fulfill a prophecy bringing the end of the White Witch's rule.  And it brings about the return of Aslan, a mighty lion.

The story is an allegory for the story of Christ and his sacrifice for those that have sinned.

The thing that struck me the most reading it this time was this: C. S. Lewis is a very good writer.  Every sentence is important and communicates much information.  I was struck by Lewis's storytelling ability.  Outstanding.

Overall, I think the writing and pacing is great.  I think the story is fantastic.  I highly recommend this book to everyone.  :)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley (highly recommended)

I just finished Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley.  The title, Church History in Plain Language (CHPL), is a great way to describe the book.  It is about church history from the time of Jesus to the end of the 20th century AND it is easy to read (i.e. in plain language).  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in history and to any and all Christians.

The writing is the most appealing part of this book.  Church History can frequently seem daunting because of all the names and events; and many books are written so academically that the information is not readily accessible to beginners (such as myself) to Church History.  This book is a remedy to that ailment.  The book is easy to read and, at the same time, I didn't feel like the material was diluted.

The book is written from a Protestant perspective but that was okay with me; I just happen to be a Protestant.  :)

Each chapter is about 10 to 15 pages long.  The chapters are organized loosely by chronology.  They are organized more by topic within a time period within church history.  Where Shelley could, he writes an anecdote about person and then describes the context of that person within that time.  This method was great because it drew me into the story of each time period and it personalized the period allowing me to see it through the eyes of an individual.

There were a lot of things (especially between the time of ACTS up to the REFORMATION) that I just never learned.  For example, I did not know that Atilla the Hun came from Mongolia right up to the walls of Rome.  I did not know why the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church split or even what the difference between the two were.  Etc.

A perspective that CHPL helped me gain was this: the problems that are plaguing the church today, the heresies that Christians have to deal with today, none of it is new.  Looking through CHPL, the problems we have today are just theme-and-variations of problems that we've had in the past.  So for anyone who needs to problem solve, a study of church history may be invaluable.

Overall, this book was outstanding.  The information is essential (I believe) for all Christians.  The book is written well and the written in such a way that the information is easily accessible.  The book is engaging and the drama and stories of each age are highlighted.  It is not too long (for a history book that covers 2000 years); it is about 500 pages long.  I would highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in history or any Christian.  :)  Well, until the next time...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (highly recommended)

I just finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  It is my second reading.  I still liked it the second time.  I would recommend this book, as well as the entire series, to anyone who likes a good story.

At this point, I think everyone knows about Harry Potter and this series of books.  So instead of a review, I've decided to ask five trivia questions:

1.  What are the nicknames of James Potter, Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin?

2.  How many points do you get for catching the Snitch?

3.  Who is the seeker for Ravenclaw?

4.  Who created the patronus that saved Harry from the dementors?

5.  What food helps temper the effects of a dementor?

Overall, the writing was good, the story was well paced and the story was engaging.  I highly recommend this book and this series to all muggles.  :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Why don't protestant Christians include the Apocrypha as Scripture?

I remember having a conversation sitting around a chiminea about the inclusion of the Apocrypha in Scripture?  At the time, I only vaguely remembered the answer to the question, "Why don't protestants Christians include the Apocrypha as Scripture?"

To edify those that have this question, I have found a short excerpt from Church History in Plain Language, 2nd edition by Bruce Shelley, page 60, that addresses this question:

"The question is extremely complicated, but the debate centers around the fact the Jews in Palestine in the early years of Christianity had a canon corresponding to the thirty-nine books of the Protestant Old Testament.  Jesus referred to this list when he spoke of the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms (Luke 24:44).  The evidence seems to indicate that neither Jesus nor his apostles ever quoted from the Apocrypha as Scripture.

Beyond Palestine, however, Jews were more inclined to consider as Scripture writings not included in this list of books.  The Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint was especially influential in making known certain books of the Apocrypha because it included these books along with the Old Testament books accepted in Palestine.

Early Christians also differed, then, over the question of the Apocrypha.  Believers in the eastern portion of the Roman Empire, nearest Palestine, tended to agree with the Jews in that area.  In the West, however, Christians under the influence of Augustine, the well-known bishop of Hippo, usually received the Apocrypha as part of the canon of Scripture.  During the sixteenth-century Reformation most Protestants accepted the view of early eastern Christians and rejected the Apocrypha as canonical.  The Roman Catholic church, following Augustine, accepted the books.  And that is how the churches differ to this day."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist by Geisler and Turek (highly recommended)

I just finished I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek.  This book was lent to me by my esteemed colleague LM.  Thanks for lending and recommending this book to me.  This book is 1) a proof for the existence of God and his character and 2) a proof that Jesus is God and 3) the reliability of Scripture.  I thought the book was good.  I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in Christian apologetic.

The book is organized as follows: 1) truth,  2) creation vs naturalism, 3) debunking macro-evolution, 4) morality, 5) miracles, 6) the historical Jesus, 7) the reliability of Scripture, 8) Jesus' claims to be God and 9) the gospel presentation.  There are three Appendix articles (I didn't really like the Appendix articles.  Even, though I agree with the Christian perspective, I felt like they were straw-man presentations).

I enjoyed reading this book for the most part.  The writing was very simple and easy to follow.  There is a bit of philosophy and science in the book but it has been presented in a very accessible way.  Anyone who can read at a middle school reading level (or greater) should be able to read this book. 

I thought the arguments were pretty sound.  I did feel that a few parts were weak and I would have liked it if more was written about that topic in this book.  I really liked the progressive presentation of the arguments; it was like an elegant math proof.  At times, I would read something and think of an atheist's rebuttal and then sudden remember that rebuttal was already covered in a previous chapter.

The purpose of the book was NOT to present an ironclad argument for Christianity but rather, to argue that the atheistic view is NOT ironclad, that the atheistic view is much weaker than the Christian view.  I believe that this book was successful in winning that argument.  At the very least, this book should communicate that Christians have not committed intellectual suicide by becoming Christians but rather, that Christianity is a plausible and sound thing (and may I dare to say, the most logical thing) to believe.

The only complaint is that, at times, the writer comes off as a little snide.  For example, there are times when the author will say that the atheist view is ridiculous.  I would have preferred when the atheist perspective was presented and that I had had the opportunity to decide for myself if it was ridiculous without being told by the author.

In the end, I still have some questions.  I still have to think about some of the stuff that I've read.  There were some things that didn't sit well with me and I'm going to have to work them out.

Overall, I think this is a great book.  I think that every Christian and non-Christian should read it.  The question, "Does God exist and if he does, what would he have me do?" should be incessantly on our minds.  The only SURE thing in our lives is our end; one day we will all be food for worms.  The answer to what happens when we die is very important.  I think that this book should help people who genuinely have questions about God and apologetic for both Christians and non-Christians alike.  I would recommend this book to anyone who has eyes to read.

Well, until the next time...