Monthly Archives: February 2011

JRF

JRF’s #7 – Meaning at the Movies by Grant Horner

While every teacher (in school and out) has some kind of influence on us, most everyone can point to an individual or a handful of teachers that have significantly impacted the way one views the world. Grant Horner is one of those teachers for me.

I remember walking into my first class at The Master’s College as a relatively new believer and finding an essay sitting on every desk by some weird philosopher I had never heard of and couldn’t pronounce – Nietzsche. A few minutes after the class was supposed to start, a man wearing a fedora and tweed vest burst into the room (ya, he’s a bit eccentric – what would you expect from an English prof?). “Before you went off to college your father or pastor may have sat you down and warned you about all the dangerous philosophies you may be exposed to in academia. Perhaps he even told you that out of all the philosophers, ‘stay away from Nietzsche at all costs – he will destroy your faith!’ Well I don’t believe that we who have the truth have to be afraid of error, so we are going to start out this class by analyzing Nietzsche’s by the truth of God’s word and seeing how it holds up.” Thus was my introduction to the world of Grant Horner and more importantly the world of Biblical Discernment.

I have said before that I have learned more theology in his classes (I took English Composition, English Lit, and Film from him) than all of my theology classes in college and seminary combined. I would now rephrase that and say that what I learned from him was not necessarily the content of theology but the way to see theology in everything. He taught me to see or at least strive to see how God relates to everything and how everything relates to God, an essential endeavor to any Christian who seeks true wisdom (Prov 1:7). The discipline of discernment is one that is far too neglected in the church today, and we are suffering for it.

Oh ya. I’m supposed to review the book.

I’m in general agreement with Ron’s take on the book.  I think I enjoyed and benefitted more from the book than Ron did because I am acoustomed to Horner’s style and could fill in some of the blanks with what I had learned from him in class.

Highlights:

- I enjoyed the discussion on the relationship between the individual, the Believer and culture in the introduction

- I enjoyed the brief discussions of City Lights, 2001, It Happened One Night, Citizen Kane (movies I was introduced to in Horner’s class) and Blade Runner, Scarlet Street, Sunset Boulevard, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Marty.

Weakpoints:

- the biggest disappointment for me was not with what was in the book, but with what wasn’t. My two favorite films from his class, The Searchers and Metropolis, were not even discussed.  More importantly, I felt like Horner was just offering samples of what I got in class, not spending enough time in the book to really dissect the films and/or teach discernment.

All in all, this is a good tool to have in your discernment toolbox.  Not as good as it could have been but still good.

 

 

Jim

Jim’s #4: Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Forgotten God is pretty much what I expected from Francis Chan.  I really enjoyed Crazy Love when I read that and expected this to be similar, which it was but with a bit more theology to it than Crazy Love.  When I first saw that Chan was putting out this book I immediately got interested because the Holy Spirit has always been the God I know the least about.  The Celtic Christians called Him the Wild Goose and I thought that was always an interesting analogy.

Francis goes through the topic pretty systematically, beginning with why we need the Holy Spirit, moving into the theology regarding the Holy Spirit, and then discussing our lives and the pragmatic side of the Spirit.  He discusses numerous times the general feeling around the church that a day with Jesus would be better than a day with the indwelling Holy Spirit but goes on to show how the Bible (and Jesus) teaches absolutely contrary to that.  I mean, how is God being with us better than God being in us?

There were other parts of the book I really enjoyed as well, including his discussion on quenching the Spirit and point that we often settle for making life on our own accord rather than submitting to the Spirit and in so doing, achieve far less than we could as a church.  He also does a good job of avoiding ostracizing one extreme or the other as it relates to the fruits or gifts of the Spirit.  The middle ground (or right ground as far as the bible is concerned) between charismatics and conservatives is well laid out.

Finally, at the end of each chapter, Francis lays out a story of particular person that he sees as living a life filled with the Holy Spirit.  I found these stories to be the most powerful parts of the book and will come back to those in the future.  Overall, it was a good, quick read (or listen if you do it on audio), and I would suggest it to those who want to learn a little more practically how the Spirit works and moves in our lives.

Schlaefli

Schlaefli’s #1: Everyman by Phillip Roth

This post will have a confessional tone- until this week I have never read anything by Roth. First impressions- he is supremely talented, just as I’d been told by my admonishing friends. The book is a subtle homage to the medieval story of the same name- an unnamed man travels towards death, reflecting on his virtues and vices, his victories and defeats. It is a very sober and bracing meditation on the regrets we take with us to the grave, and of the yawning emptiness that awaits the unbeliever (As Everyman and Roth presumably are). There is a scene at the end of the book with the main character at the cemetery that is one of the most beautiful passages I have read in a while. Good stuff. I’ll be reading more from Mr. Roth.

Jim

Jim’s #3: The Surprising Work of God by Garth M. Rosell


There are plenty of books on the work of Billy Graham, but not nearly as many on Harold John Ockenga, the man behind much of what Billy Graham and his ministry achieved by God’s grace.   I had not heard of Ockenga before my church history course but after reading the book I have to wonder how that was the case.   Ockenga was God’s man behind the 4th Great Awakening and the Rebirth of Evangelicalism.  This book goes into incredible detail of his life and ministry.

Garth Rosell was asked by Ockenga’s family to write this biography (as his father, Carl Rosell, was another key member of the Awakening movement) and granted him permissions to all of Ockenga’s journals and private works to do so.  He gives great back story to the great Awakening and captured well the impact of Ockenga and Graham’s work.  Ockenga was an enormously powerful preacher  and evangelist(though quite awkward with the ladies as you’d find in this book).  He was part of the first graduating class of Westminster Seminary, founded by J. Gresham Machem after the split within the Presbyterians from Princeton and eventually the founder and president of the ever-important National Association of Evangelicals and Fuller Seminary.

I think what may have impressed me the most is the humility and accountability that these men had in the midst of their incredible success in ministry.  They would do speaking engagements and conferences together and draw huge crowds, but as Rosell states, “while any fair-minded observer would judge people like Billy Graham, Percy Crawford, Merv Rosell, Hyman Appleman, and Jack Wyrtzen to be genuinely remarkable individuals, the evangelists themselves were without exception convinced that anything of value they accomplished was because of God’s power rather than any human abilities they might possess.”  These men were genuinely humble and seeking the Glory of God alone.

In short, I think you could make the assessment that Harold John Ockenga and Billy Graham were to the Fourth Great Awakening what Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield were to the First Great Awakening. Rosell does a fine job of showing how these incredible men were used immensely by our incomparable God.

 

mark

Mark’s #7 – Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper

Think is John Piper’s plea to Christians to engage their minds in the process of delighting in God, and therefore glorifying God.  If you’ve read any of Pipers many books you’ve probably picked up on this theme in other areas of life as well.

Piper is clear from the beginning that the aim of this book is different from some of the other very well done books done regarding the Christian mind.  This book is a kind of apologetic for thinking, but not in the way the other books are.  Piper, as a pastor, and as someone with a passion for God’s glory in all things, approaches thinking, and our need for thinking rightly from that angle.

The big idea of this book was, for me, worth the price of the book.

Loving God with the mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things (pg. 80).

That focus of WHY we are called to love God with our minds was eye-opening for me.

Think is not John Pipers best book (he would probably agree that Desiring God holds that position).  There are parts of the book that seemed a bit foggy or unnecessarily long.  There are other points that Piper addresses that other authors seem to do a better job of bringing forth their importance with more clarity.  However, I do think Think adds a positive contribution to the wider variety of Christian books dealing with the life of the mind in our faith.

Here are just a couple of suggestions for other books in this general realm:

Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul by J.P. Moreland

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll

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