Showing posts from January, 2011

book report: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (2009)

A new friend this year, a Muslim international student, bought me Zeitoun for my birthday, and I am very grateful. The last time I read about post-Katrina New Orleans was Douglas Brinkley's book, The Great Deluge in 2006, book report here. But this story did not start with equally destructive force called FEMA. Instead, the book starts with the young boy Abdulraham Zeitoun fishing off the coast of Syria. With frequent flashbacks we learn of his amazing life, his adventures around the world, and his settling down with his wife Kathy in New Orleans and the successful contracting business he founded there. Incidentally, they are Muslim, she an adult convert before meeting him. I appreciate so much how normally Eggers treats their faith. If only everyone's faith could be treated so respectfully, yet causally. Faith pervades so many Americans' lives, yet typically seems ignored or exagerrated, read the Get Religion journalism blog to see what I'm talking about.
I really enjo…

book report: Free of Charge by Miroslav Volf (2005)

The deepest understanding of unconditional forgiveness can only come from
Cover via Amazon experiencing the most grievous offenses. Miroslav Volf has made hard choices, and chose the unworldly option of following Christ's exhortations. He draws on his own experiences, those of victims in Yugoslavia's civil, Jesus, the apostle Paul, and Martin Luther's works, to present his conviction about the prominence of generosity in Christianity.
The full title of the book reveals its broad outline, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. The first half of the book is about the act of giving. Regarding our need to give he writes, "The self will lose itself it it simply lives in and for itself. It will seek only its own benefits, and the more it seeks its own benefits, the less satisfied it will become. That's the paradox of self-love: The more you fill the self, the more it echoes with the emptiness of unfulfillment." p.52 He contends we emula…

Miroslav Volf on forgiveness

I'm reading Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a culture stripped of grace by Miroslav Volf. I'm not done yet, but his chapter on "How should we forgive?" is magnificent. I am challenged and blessed by his understanding of the relationship of repentance to forgiveness. He sets us up,Cover via Amazon "Those who argue that we should repent before God forgives us usually also argue that offenders should repent before we grant them forgiveness." p. 180 I want to disagree with everything in this sentence. Doesn't Peter tell the crowd in Jerusalem to repent, Acts 2:38. On the other hand, I also understand our Lord's Prayer instructs us to forgive, regardless of the response of the offender.
But Volf does not contradict Peter. Later he writes, "Without faith and repentance we are not forgiven - God having done the forgiving notwithstanding. God has given, but we haven't received. Forgiveness is stuck in the middle between the God who forgive…

a one sided theological conversation

With a theologically liberal friend on my Facebook page. You only get my side. It's a discussion about the exclusive way to God through Jesus Christ alone. Stuff gets lost forever if it's on Facebook, so I wanted to save it here. Here it is.
Jesus taught "repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 4:17. He also taught that unless people repent they will perish, Luke 13:3. More on repentance here. He also taught us to believe in him, the one God sent, Luke 6:29. Jesus makes many exclusive claims about himself, and John's gospel really focuses on these, John 5:24"I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life." A little later on he says 40"Yet you refuse to come to me so that I can give you this eternal life." So my goal is to persuade as many people as I can that Jesus alone will give them eter…

I'm giving away a prize!!!!

Last month, I announced that Tyndale had a Bible giveaway called Win a Bible, Give a Bible. Happily, I won an NLT Study Bible. I don't think it overlaps much at all with the other study Bibles I have in my library: my good old NIV, my more recent NET, and my newer ESV. I also received a coupon to give away for a free NLT Life Application Bible. So, I'm looking to give this coupon to someone who comments on this post. Leave a comment telling us your favorite book of the Bible. I'll pick a winner next week. I can only give the prize to those I can contact. So make sure I can contact you, either by email addy, phone number, or I know you because you live nearby.

Gabion House for Haiti - Project R (The Rubble House)

World Buildings Directory - Project R (The Rubble House) This page has a great idea for a place like Haiti, which is filled with concrete rubble since the earthquake last year. The only thing I'm not quite sure about is the availability of wire to make strong cages. But this picture is beautiful. I know of at least one house being done in Haiti like this, as described in the comments at the Earth Bag building blog. Owen Geiger is also proposing to use rubble but in bags. Anyway, this house in Lebanon is gorgeous.
Update: Good news. Oxfam is indeed doing this in Haiti. They are planning 100 houses and are using chicken wire and rebar to hold the rubble together.
Another update: More gabion houses have been built in Grand Guave. Discussion and picture here. Website, Haiti Replacement Homes.

book report: The Quotable Chesterton, ed. Belmonte (2010)

If you are like me, and know little to nothing about Chesterton, then don't do what I did and start in the middle of the book. However, if you are a fan then go right ahead. I was lost trying to bumble my way through an alphabetical list of topics, until I read the first of 10 essays spread throughout the book. As I learned more and more about Chesterton as Christian apologist, mystery writer, essayist, friends with great artists, man of letters, journalist, literary critic, novelist, philosopher and poet, I became more and more appreciative of the quotes Belmonte selected. I now have many pages dog eared for quotes to share on Facebook. Here is an example of one I liked. It has often been said, very truly, that religion is the thing that makes the ordinary man feel extraordinary; it is an equally important truth that religion is the thing that makes the extraordinary man feel ordinary. p.225, from his critical study of Charles Dickens. If you have a friend who already likes G. …

book report: The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders (2010)

Even the full title of this book jazzes me, The Deep Things of God: how the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders. This book was one of my favorite Christmas presents. I like it so much I want to share it with everybody who wants a little more philosophical depth to their understanding of the gospel. I've been reading Sanders for years now at the blog, The Scriptorium. He writes well and loves God.
I love that this book is a celebration of evangelicals and their trinitarian theology, but he does not need the filoque clause to distinguish the Holy Spirit, so even an Orthodox Christian can enjoy this book. Sanders is not ashamed of his evangelicalism, and he wants evangelicals to not be ashamed. He wants us to know our trinitarian credibility is real, so he limits himself to (almost) only reference Protestants, from Tyndale to Calvin to Wesley to Edwards to Watts and Warfield and a bunch of people I never heard of. I'm really glad to meet some of these people in my religious…

a brief note on Fasting from a Vineyard pastor

Vineyard Christian Fellowship-West :: Feasting Through Fasting has a brief, but great introduction to fasting. I'm planning on doing some more this week. And this note is very encouraging.
Fasting isn’t about pain, but perspective.Fasting isn’t about renouncing the goodness of food, but recognizing the spiritual sustenance in God.Fasting will be a battle because my spiritual nature is having to press through my physical nature.

the best understanding of Joshua's conquests

I've struggled a long time with language of Joshua's genocidal conquest of the promised land. This explanation is the best I've come across, hyperbolic language.
Part 1 is titled, God and the Genocide of the Canaanites Part I: Wolterstorff’s Argument for the Hagiographic Hyperbolic Interpretation
Here is a snip. If one takes these passages literally they record the divinely-authorised commission of genocide. But genocide surely is morally wrong. In the light of this, critics of Christian theism often ask a rhetorical question; how could a good and loving God command the extermination of the Canaanites? One response which goes back to the patristic era is to suggest that the strict, literal reading on which this rhetorical question is based is mistaken. Recently, several, protestant scholars have suggested a hyperbolic reading of the relevant passages.
Part 2 is now published online. Here is a clear example of the hyperbolic language.In addition, both Kitchen and Younger note t…

Christianity's foundation

Paul tells the crowd in Athens, God overlooked people's former ignorance about these things, but now he commands everyone everywhere to turn away from idols and turn to him.
For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead. Acts 17:30-31.

Paul talks elsewhere about the resurrection as essential to the faith he was teaching. 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.
16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.
17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.