Monthly Archives: March 2012

mark

Mark’s #13 – The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

New York City pastor and founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Tim Keller, has regularly engaged skeptics of faith in general and Christianity in particular.  In The Reason for God, Keller compiles decades worth of intellectual engagement with these skeptics to put forth a great introduction and defense for the Christian faith.  What C.S. Lewis did for the people of the 1940′s through Mere Christianity, Keller does for the modern mind and modern objections to Christianity.

Recently at The Harbor, we read and discussed this book in our monthly Apologia meeting.  Though this was the second time we’ve read this group, I once again benefitted from the read.  In part one, Keller addresses the most common and difficult objections people have, such as;

  1. There can’t be just one true religion.
  2. How could a good God allow suffering?
  3. Christianity is a straitjacket
  4. The church is responsible for so much injustice
  5. How can a loving God send people to Hell?
  6. Science has disproved Christianity
  7. You can’t take the Bible literally

After dealing with these objections, in part two Keller goes from the defensive to the offensive, in presenting the evidence he sees as compelling ‘clues of God’.  These include points such as design, beauty, longing, morality, the purpose of the Cross, and the reality of the bodily resurrection of Christ.

While I didn’t agree with every point Keller put forth, overall I would highly recommend this book for both Christians and non-Christians alike.

Buddy

Buddy’s # 13 Kisses from Katie

Kisses from Katie is the kind of book I would never purchase. Someone purchased it for us as a gift and I am glad they did because I loved it. I loved the stories of her struggle and the joy that comes from serving the least and the last.

There are times when I feel like the life I live here is a bit of a struggle. I have spent 4 of the last 13 months sick. I got home at 1:10 am this morning after going around our city on a moped looking for kids who may have been trafficked. Some days I just want to have a normal job and not deal with the heartache and injustice, the fundraising, the multiple ministries, and the multiple projects in multiple countries.

Katie Davis’s account of her first three years in Uganda was convicting, inspiring and challenging.

Convicting because the life she lives and the sacrifices she has made are 10 X’s more difficult than my own. Inspiring because she makes it clear that there is no better path to be on than the one that God has called you to. Challenging because she chose to despise the things of this world and say yes to the things of God.

If you are looking for a personal account of the radical life lived out, look no further.

Ally

Ally’s #16: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson

It’s hard to keep momentum going for three books straight, and this was unfortunately my least favorite of the Larsson trilogy. If I had to point to one thing to blame, it would be the focus on unearthing the extremely secret conspiracy going on behind the scenes in the Swedish equivalent of the CIA. It grew tiresome watching secret service agents, the journalists at Millenium, and the police talk themselves in circles speculating on the group behind the Zalachenko cover up. It may be interesting to watch on the big screen, but reading it is slow going for 500+ pages.

The final book in Larsson’s trilogy opens with Lisbeth Salander receiving medical care for the life-threatening wounds she received at the end of book two. Amazingly, her brilliant mind is unaffected by the bullet and bone fragments that burrowed into her brain. Her father, the infamous Zalachenko manages to survive an axe to the face and is recovering in the hospital room two doors from the daughter he tried to murder. An overzealous prosecutor is determined to burn Salander for aggravated assault and attempted murder and she is confined to prison after several weeks of recovery in the hospital. For a person who is banned from receiving visitors and has no contact with the outside world, Salander is able to accomplish a great deal. Not only does she compile a cut-and-dry autobiography that sinks the prosecution’s case, but she also pin points a source of harassment at one of the largest newspapers in Sweden, thus saving the reputation and career of the former head of Millenium  magazine, Erika Berger.

I was disappointed that the majority of the story revolved around Mikael Blomkvist, the man who sleeps with pretty much every woman he meets. I much prefer following Salander’s character, who is as cunning as her old man, but with a better moral compass. But Blomkvist is dogged and successful in his mission to exonerate Salander from all the evil that has been said of her and to expose the real criminals within the government–for that, I have to tip my hat to him.

To say much more might ruin it, so I’ll close by once again offering up a strong recommendation for this trilogy.

Ally

Ally’s #15: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

Oh man, I’m hooked. My dream came true in the second book of this series–the secrets of Lisbeth Salander’s past have unfolded. I don’t want to give too much a way for those who haven’t read it yet, so I’ll stick to generalizations and thematic observances in this review.

If your a fan of “Law & Order SVU,” you’d love this book, but let me warn you that it’s significantly more graphic in terms of (homo)sexual encounters, vulgar language, and the like. Sometimes I have to turn that show off because the subject matter kills a little bit of my soul, yet, I also want to cheer at the end when all the searching is done and the bad guy is caught. That’s what I love about Larsson’s series. He’s written up the strangest heroin I’ve ever heard of, and yet I find myself cheering for this 90 pound wildcat every step of the way. This is perhaps the most succinct and accurate description of Lisbeth Salander:

Salandar was the woman who hated men who hate women.

It truly sums up her mission in life, which we learn is born out of a history of being a victim and observer of abuse against women. You have to get through about 80% of the second book before you get the full picture of “All the Evil” that occurred during the mysterious gap in Salander’s early teen years that earned her a bed equipped with restraining belts in a padded room in a psychiatric ward for children.  Not only does Salander not want to share that part of her life with anyone, but the Swedish government also goes to great lengths to keep it hush hush. Anyone else smell a conspiracy?

While the first book was about Salander helping track down a murderer/rapist, the tables turn in this book and Salander is the one being hunted. She’s wanted in connection to a triple homicide and manages to not only evade the multitudes who are searching for her, but to also be successful in her own man hunt for the person truly responsible. In the process of searching for Salander, the police and the press hang all of Salander’s dirty laundry out there for the nation to see. They make sport her “mental incompetence,” her bisexual relationships, and her violent streak. My big question for the next series in the book is how does Salander go on with life in a place where everyone now knows every secret she had been trying to bury deep.

Bring it, Larsson. I’m ready for book three.

mark

Mark’s #12 – The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Over the past few years, as I’ve tried to read the books I should have read in high school, there have been times when I felt like I had cheated myself for not reading one of the classics of literature earlier in life – The Scarlet Letter does not fall into that category.

The Scarlet Letter is the story of Hester Prynne, her adulterous encounter with the town minister, and her subsequent life of punishment wearing the scarlet letter ‘A’ for adultery.

Written in 1850, the novel takes place 200 years prior in puritan Boston.  This book is a nasty caricature of Puritan life.  No doubt many negative conceptions of puritanism have been formed by this book.  The reader is left to believe that puritan Boston was a legalistic and graceless society.  However, when one takes time to read the works of any of the major puritan figures (Owen, Edwards, Burroughs, or Sibbes for example), you see that these men had a great understanding of the grace of God.

From a literary standpoint, I quickly tired of the overly dramatic prose.  The story, which explores issues of sin, legalism, and grace (or the lack thereof), goes too far.  The young daughter, Pearl, is constantly saying annoying phrases that no 18-year-old girl would say, let alone  a five-year-old.  By the end, when the minister reveals his own scarlet letter carved on his chest after preaching his ‘election’ sermon, and then dies, I was irritated by the cheesy predictability of it all.

Conclusion: If you’re in high school skip The Scarlet Letter and read The Hunger Games instead (Ron, I know you’ll love this line).

 

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