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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

fordeGerhard Forde argues that the Heidelberg Disputation is Martin Luther’s public account of God’s “attack” via the cross on the sinners’ understanding of how they:

1) objectively value good deeds [Thesis 1-12],
2) subjectively desire to do good deeds [Thesis 13-18],
3) see the way out of not doing enough good deeds [Thesis 19-24], and
4) perceive God’s role in this way out [Thesis 25-28]. 

Forde notes that the Disputation’s paradoxical format itself is meant to reflect this irreconcilable and inevitable “combat” between the worldviews and operations of the theologians of the cross and the theologians of glory (4). (more…)

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franklSome of the most important principles in my life can be found in Dr. Viktor Frankl’s The Doctor and the Soul. Without them, I along with my efforts to do good in the world would be lost in cynicism and depression. The book is an answer to Ecclesiastes’ refrain, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” The book is an answer of hope.

I have pitied certain people to the point of questioning how they could endure life. I think of the boy whose alcoholic father had poured gasoline over him while he was sleeping. His face and over 90% of his body had been burned and melted. He no longer has ears, lips, or a nose. This nine year old boy has 50 or 60 more years to live among us. (more…)

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volfI read this book because Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church quoted from it more than once, and what he quoted caught my attention. Here is the passage:

“Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion – without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see onself in the light of God’s justice and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness.” (p.124)

In 306 pages, the Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf shares the lessons he was teaching his seminary students while Serbian forces were establishing rape camps in and around his hometown. (more…)

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kellerThe first thing I do when I visit a church is look through the bulletin for any community service outreaches. In 99% of the Reformed churches I visit there are none. There may be service to the community (Bible studies, picnics, sports fellowships), but that community is limited to the church and usually excludes the poor and hurting.

Consequently I have often wondered if there is anything about Reformed theology itself that uniquely hinders Christians from showing compassion. Of course there are exceptions. Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan with over 20 established outreach ministries comes to mind. Moreover there are plenty of liberal churches disengaged from mercy ministries. (more…)

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beckerDeath is the one aspect of reality nobody faces without somehow masking it out of fear. That is the premise of one of the most powerful books I have ever read. Reading Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, is a little like suffering from acrophobia and climbing Mt. Everest or having claustrophobia and locking oneself in a car trunk. But facing the fears in this book is far more daunting because in those scenarios just mentioned hope is still left in tact; you may eventually come down from the mountain or emerge from the trunk, or even perhaps triumphantly overcome these phobias.

But death, as this book relentlessly explains, affords no such hope. You can build foundations with your name on them, or start a prestigious family lineage, but such crass attempts at immortality, which every eternal soul encased in decaying flesh yearns, are only grasping of wind. In the end we only become worm food, a gigantic clump of what we regularly flush down the toilet. We can play more games, watch more movies, get high on more drugs, get more drunk on social status, in order to forget our mortality. But death does not forget us nor does it let us forget reality for very long. (more…)

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chestertonReading G.K. Chesterton’s essay “The Ethics of Elfland” is like experiencing a surprisingly great movie or sermon. You are anxious that the wonderful sensations the previous scenes have evoked will not only end with each upcoming scene but will be completely ruined by it. But this essay does not disappoint.

It takes you up paragraph by profound paragraph to higher ground and leaves you at a height where everything and everyone – including yourself – can be seen in greater perspective. The essay, like its subject, is enchanting. It is something every believer should read at least twice. But Calvinists and apologists in particular should read this work even more carefully. For the essay indelibly reminds us that the kingdom of God is not for adults but for children. (more…)

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weilSimone Weil was a remarkable saint of the modern era. After being raised in a Jewish middle class family and graduating from the finest schools, she went to work in the inner city as a blue-collar factory worker. She once complained to the supervisor about a coal drill: “This drill was designed to break rocks. It was not designed for human hands” while illustrating the vibrating effects with her arms. She reportedly debated Trotsky on the living conditions of the proletariat into the ground.  (more…)

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