Monthly Archives: July 2011


Jim’s #26: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

What a classic!  I don’t really have a ton to say about the book since I’m sure everyone that’s reading this has already seen the movie and most have probably read the book.  It was great.  A great story line, wonderful character development, and altogether fun and engaging.  After reading the Magician’s Nephew first, it is clear through some references in this one, that this was meant to be read first.  Jon Freiburg’s comment on my last post points to a neat article in Christianity Today on the chronology of the anthology.

Again, the depiction of Aslan as the Christ figure was great to read.  There were other biblical features that Lewis through in that I thought were particularly neat.  The deep magic of course referred to the law and the broken stone table simulating the torn veil.  Aslan’s words to Lucy and Susan on the night of his death were neat as well, instructing them to keep him company, but only to a certain moment, after which he would need to proceed on his own like the Garden of Gethsemane.  After his resurrection, it was the girls who were the first to see him as well and then he went to the Queen’s castle itself to free the souls she had claimed.  So many references yet they weren’t forced in any way and if you weren’t looking for them, I could see missing them altogether.  I spose that’s part of what makes the series so universal.

I think my favorite part of the book, however, was the pictures of Aslan, both in his playful, loving manner as when he was playing with the girls after his resurrection, and his ferocious, fearsome demeanor towards all things dark.  His emotions throughout the book were captivating in themselves.  His is certainly not a tame lion, but he is good.


Ron’s #27: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Outside of the novella The Old Man and the Sea, I haven’t read any long works from Ernest Hemingway. As an English teacher, I ought to be ashamed of myself. I love his short stories and his terse writing style, so I added a Hemingway novel to my reading list this summer, and I was glad that I did.

Published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises was Hemingway’s first novel. It tells the story of a group of American and British expatriates living in Paris after the First World War. I know that many of the reviews for this book discuss how the novel captures the hopelessness and disenfranchisement the “lost generation” felt after the war. I suppose this is true, but what I noticed is that this is a group of folks that drinks and drink and drinks. After the tsunamis of beer, wine, and coffee consumed at Parisian and Spanish cafes, I felt like I needed to call AA to get help.

The narrator Jake Barnes is a writer in love with Lady Brett Ashley, a gregarious Brit in love with every man she meets, with the exception of her husband. Jake loves Brett, but Brett loves Mike, Robert, and even the matador she meets in Spain. She is in a perpetual state of infatuation and drunkenness. Jake achingly watches her flit through life and love, but somehow he is unable to grab her and ground her.

The Sun Also Rises is a good introduction to Hemingway’s writing style with its plain-spoken language, short sentences, and dialogue. It also includes the running of the bulls at Pamplona as a backdrop to the violence in the relationships between these friends. The novel is worth reading to get a sample why Hemingway was so influential on American stories.

A bit of a sidenote: Kristie and I visited Madrid in 2007, and watched a bullfight. It was one of the most gruesome things we’ve seen in our travels. You can read my post about it here.


This is when we decided to leave. Take a look at the guy sitting to Kristie’s right. I swear that is Hemingway himself!


Mark’s #35 – A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden

Concluding my church history series at The Harbor, I choose to do the final message on Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).  I didn’t have time to read Marsden’s 600+ definitive biography on Edwards, but I was delighted to see that he wrote this much shorter (152 pages) biography which was also available instantly via kindle download (I did read several other articles and sections of books, as well as  listened to several other lectures and sermons as well).

Like most people today, the image that I had formed of Jonathan Edwards growing up was that of the old Puritan, no fun, all hellfire and brimstone, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” picture in my minds-eye. Like most caricatures, the real Jonathan Edwards is very different.  As it turns out, he is quite a different person with quite a wide and vast impact on philosophy, theology,  church history, and American history.

Marsden does a great job of capturing the depth of Edward’s story, his advanced intellect, dogged persistence, theological and philosophical contributions, his home-life, study habits (13 hours a day), his preaching as the catalyst for the first Great Awakening, and his affect on America and Christian world missions for  the past 300 years.

Edwards’ consuming and singular passion was to delight in the beauty and glory of God.  He was a towering intellect, but he also saw the necessity and role of one’s affections in a person’s relationship with and pursuit of God – Edwards connected the head with the heart.

If you really want me to unpack all that I learned in this book and my other studies, you’ll need to listen to my message here when I post it.  If you’re looking for a brief overview of his life, this book is a great start.

In the meantime, go order this t-shirt (and get me one while you’re at it – XL)

For the ultimate resource on all things Jonathan Edwards, go to the Jonathan Edwards portal at Yale University here -


Mark’s #34 – Calvin by Bruce Gordon

Currently I’m preaching through a Church History series at The Harbor. One of the catalysts for the series was to provide me with a motivation to read this in-depth biography of John Calvin (1509-1564) by Professor Bruce Gordon of Yale.

John Calvin, and the subsequent theological system known as Calvinism has led many to take an impassioned stand either for or against the man and the system.  Often, on both sides, the debaters are only vaguely aware of the main points of contention, often gleaning their thoughts and opinions from hearsay or passing references in sermons or books.  As such, Calvin is often cast either as a demoniac on the one hand, or an infallible and nearly divine figure on the other.

Thus, as many in the world celebrated Calvin’s 500th birthday on July 10th, 2009, there were many biographies published that year.  Of those biographies, many of my sources pointed to this book as a deep, rich, balanced, and fair biography.  Having now read the book, I would agree with those assessments.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being absolute hatred of Calvin, 5 being neutral, and 10 being idolatrous worship, I would say Gordon rests mostly at a 5… He’s no pushover when it comes to his assessment of Calvin and his faults.  While, at the same time, he readily acknowledges the great contributions Calvin made during the reformation and theologically through church history.

For the record, I am greatly appreciative of John Calvin, his life, and deep theological insights.  I also understand that, like everyone else, he was a man who fell short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and was in need of God’s sovereign grace as much as anybody else.  I’m grateful for the truth that with Calvin, and all the men I’ve highlighted in the church history series, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (2 Cor. 4:7).”


Mark’s #33 – The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin by John Piper

This is book one of John Piper’s ‘The Swans are not Silent’ series, which are brief biographical sketches from Church history.  In this book, as the title shows, Piper focused on Augustine, Luther, and Calvin.  The common theme from their lives was their hope, understanding, and proclaiming of the message of God’s sovereign grace and the joy that follows this great truth of theology.

None of these biographies are in-depth. All of them have a particular Piperesque slant to their story.  As Piper tries to capture the highlights of their lives, he also labors to show how each life uniquely celebrates an aspect of the doctrines of the sovereignty of God, sovereign joy, the majesty of God’s Word, and what that should mean for Christians today.  As such, these would serve anyone well who is trying to get acquainted with their lives and why it matters that we know about them.   Therefore the book seems to be half biography and half application… and since it is Piper pointing us to application, I would say that is a good thing indeed.

In a recent church history series at The Harbor we spoke on each of these men’s lives as well as the lives of Athanasius and Jonathan Edwards.  You can listen to those messages here.

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