Monthly Archives: June 2010

ron

Ron’s #25: Robert Murray M’Cheyne by Andrew Bonar

I don’t read enough biographies, but when I do, I walk away thinking that I should read more of them. Christian biographies are especially important, as they show what a life lived for Christ looks like. Robert Murray M’ Cheyne by Andrew Bonar is no exception.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Scottish preacher born in 1813. After pursuing classical and religious studies in the university, he came to Christ following the death of his older brother David. David provided a godly example to his little brother, and God used that loss to lead Robert to Himself. He then became a passionate preacher, evangelist, hymnist, writer, and missionary during his short life. M’Cheyne died in 1843 at the age of twenty-nine. Twenty-nine! I am ashamed to see the dearth of godly pursuits evidenced in the first twenty-nine years of my life.

Robert Murray M’ Cheyne was written by his close friend Andrew Bonar a mere six months after Robert died. The book includes many of his journal entries reflecting on his ministry.

The strongest part of this biograpghy is the longer fragment from M’Cheyne’s writing titled, “Personal Reformation.” Much like Jonathan Edwards’s “Resolutions,” “Personal Reformation” sheds light on the heart of this man, one who aches to be close to his God. There was much in this book—but especially in these last ten pages—that were of great comfort to me.

“I am tempted to think that I am now an established Christian—that I have overcome this or that lust so long—that I have got into the habit of the opposite grace—so that there is no fear; I may venture very near the temptation—nearer than other men. This is a lie of Satan. I might as well speak of gunpowder getting by habit a power of resisting fire, so as not to catch the spark.”

“I ought to study Christ as an Intercessor…If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million of enemies. Yet the distance makes no difference; he is praying for me.”

“Live so as to be missed.”

This biography is a picture of a man who strived to live this way. What legacy do you want to leave in your 29, or 39, or 49, of 89 years on this earth?

ron

Ron’s #24: The Devil’s Delusion by David Berlinski

I was interested in this refutation of the “New Atheists” called The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions because the author was not a Christian. David Berlinski is a secular Jew, and he takes on Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens with power and wit.

Much of the material in here is challenging the essence of the worldview of Darwinism. As other voices continue to say, Darwinism’s biggest critic is science itself, not faith as is often caricatured.

While I enjoyed reading this book, much of the scientific discussions were too technical for this guy. If you have a strong background in the sciences, you may glean more from this than I did. I certainly appreciate was Berlinski brings to the discussion.

ron

Ron’s #23: Rome Sweet Rome by Scott and Kimberly Hahn

My friend recommended this book about a Protestant’s journey to Catholicism, as I am a former Catholic (as she is as well). I was interested in understanding the reasons for such a conversion. Overall, the subject of the book was an interesting read. I was impressed with Scott Hahn and his voracious study of theology and discussions with friends. He appears to be an intriguing fellow. The book itself is poorly written, even painful at times. [e.g. “I began to see that every time Kimberly and I performed the marital act, we were doing something sacred” (28).] But, I won’t let that cloud the discussion.

I see his transition marked by three main points of doctrine. 1.) Scott started with a change of mind about infant baptism and birth control. Both of those issues, not exclusively Catholic doctrines, caused a shift in his thinking. 2.) From there, he became convinced that sola scriptura (Scripture alone is authoritative) is unbiblical. 3.) Mary’s role in the life of a Christian was the biggest and final hurdle before becoming a Catholic.

If true, these three points should make us all Catholics. If infant baptism removes original sin, if Scripture does not have final authority in truth and doctrine, and if Mary prays for us and we pray to her, then it is crystal clear that we do exactly what the Hahns have done. However, I don’t think it is so.

Infant Baptism: While there are some solid Protestant churches that baptize infants as a mark  of entering into the covenantal community, they do not believe that it removes sin as Catholics believe. Throughout the book of Romans, we see the sin of Adam still present. Galatians makes the connection of the sin of Adam and the grace that comes through Jesus, our second Adam. Neither book mentions baptism as a way to wash away the sin as a baby.

Sola Scriptura: In order for the Catholic Church to be true, one cannot believe in sola scriptura. Catholics need to have a higher authority than the Bible– the Catholic Church. I’m surprised that more people do not have a problem with this. Given these two, which is more trustworthy and authoritative? Scott Hahn dismisses sola scriptura with a mere “it’s not in the Bible.” However, Galatians warns, “I (Paul) am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” It does not take much work to show that the Catholic Church is adding something more to the gospel already offered.

The Veneration of Mary: Scott addressed how difficult it would be to cross this bridge, but then he offered some strange analogy about mothers and sons, and somehow he crossed it. He then proudly prayed his rosary. This is one of the most troubling parts of Catholicism, and I cannot see how it is not either other gods and/or idolatry. If you pray to someone dead or resurrected or floating out in space somewhere, you deify it. Ask Mary to pray to Jesus for you seems– pardon my candor– ridiculous. Jesus is our Mediator between the Father and us. We do not need Mary as a mediator between us and the Mediator (yes, that is a confusing sentence). Jesus became a man in order to serve that role, and He did it just fine, thank you. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). No Mary. No St. James. No Nobody Else.

My biggest concern for the book is not that he left Protestantism for Catholicism; in fact, I enjoyed reading about it. Instead, I did not like his criticisms of Protestants and then never offering a clear justification (oops…I shouldn’t use that word in this context!) of the Catholic view. He must give clear views of why sola scriptura is “unbiblical” or why we ought to pray to Mary and the saints. He merely tells us that he became convinced of it, and then his wife followed. There must be more to his argument, especially about these important matters.

From the book, I see that Scott Hahn is an intelligent man, an insatiable reader, and an eager student of theology. However, he seems to use these facts in place of actual arguments why Catholicism is a better picture of Christianity than what Protestant offers. Rather than giving clear, powerful, and biblical arguments, Hahn only gives us pictures of smart men becoming Catholics. That is not logic; it is a logical fallacy (appeal to authority). Be honest…after reading this, are you more swayed by his solid arguments making the case, or are you impressed that a smart, learned man and his friends chose to be Catholics?

I had a personal interest in this story beyond just being a former Catholic. Scott Hahn was a Reformed Protestant Christian who moved to Catholicism at the same time that I began my own switch from Catholicism to Reformed Protestant Christianity. We passed each other in the aisle, I suppose.

I’m not sure what your interest is in Catholicism or Protestantism or even Christianity. I would say that if you have read Rome Sweet Home, you owe it to yourself to see the other side of the argument. Check out John Stott’s Basic Christianity or J. I. Packer’s Knowing God. These are both good places to start. Of course, the Bible is the main text. Read Galatians or Romans or Colossians today keeping what you know about Catholicism in mind. How well does it match with what you are reading?

I guarantee that neither Stott nor Packer uses the phrase “performed the marital act” in his book. That counts for something, right?

mark

Mark’s #21: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Recently I asked my English teacher friend, Ron Coia, to loan me some books I should have read in high school, but chose instead to play basketball.  The first book he gave me was Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

Originally published in 1953, this book seems increasingly prophetic.  Bradbury describes a society in the future that has no need – or even worse – a disdain for books.  There are at least two reasons for such a state of affairs.  First, books can be controversial.  They can offend.  Therefore, in the interest of not offending any minority group, such books and thinking should be done away with.  Second, society has become a purely ‘entertainment’ society, and therefore has no need with pausing and thinking (which good books require).

Bradbury describes a world where television is pumped into homes on wall-sized screens… sometimes on each of the four living room walls at once.  The viewers are then constantly bombarded with noise and flashing images.  While not watching these screens, the characters have ‘sea shells’ in their ears that pump music and noise into their minds (think ipods).  Schools have done away with any type of formal education, focusing rather on sports and government indoctrination.

Because technology has advanced so that there is no longer a need for firemen to put out fires, these firemen are now the ones with the duty of enforcing the ‘no books law’ by searching out and burning any remaining books.

When I read this great book I thought first of my philosophy professor from Denver Seminary, Dr. Douglas Groothuis.  Dr. Groothuis has long lamented our cultural attraction to diversions and mind numbing, incessant entertainment (to fight this, at restaurants he’ll engage in what he calls ‘culture jamming’ by turning off the blaring tv nearby).  In seminary he pointed us students to Blaise Pascals’ works who also lamented diversions.

Secondly, I thought of the recent hit movie “The Book of Eli”…. Anyone who reads Fahrenheit 451 and sees the movie will see the parallels and blatant high jacking of plot and themes by the movie.

This was a fun, quick, and insightful read.  I highly recommend it.

Here’s a few quotes I jotted down while reading:

“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?” pg 59

“Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal” pg 64  (used by a character to justify the book burning)

mark

Mark’s #20: Dave Berry’s Money Sectrets: Like: Why is There a Giant Eyeball on the Dollar?

Ok, I admit it… these last two books have been my attempt to catch up on the 52 book challenge… both books are very funny though.  Dave Berry’s kind of funny is more slapstick… with almost every sentence laden with sarcasm or double entendre.

For example, “the U.S. workforce is engaged in the service economy, consisting of 83 million people in cubicles furtively sending and receiving personal e-mails”

or… “explain to your child that if he buys lemonade from some other kid’s stand, then happens to choke on a lemon seed, then you would be in a position to sue the other kid’s parents for thousands of dollars”

you get the point… :)

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