Tag Archives: slavery


Ron’s #34: Candide by Voltaire

I reread this novel before teaching it again in my 10th grade class. I love this unit, as it allows for discussions on the problem of evil and the nature of God. Here’s my past review.

In a satire against the optimism of Leibniz, Candide has its young philosopher traveling the world searching for his love and attempting to see if his tutor Pangloss is correct in that this world is the best of all possible worlds that God could have created.

The story begins as Candide is expelled from the Edenic castle in Westphalia for his scandalous kiss to the baroness, the fair Cunegonde. He travels across continents meeting a variety of common people and royalty; priests and sinners; wealthy and poor. Candide continues to struggle with the question of whether Pangloss (and ultimately Leibniz) is correct that this world, the one filled with greed and murder and hypocrisy and cruelty, is the best possible one out of the mind of God. He fights with what he believes and what he sees, and cannot justify the two. Candide is left to “cultivate his garden” rather than waste any more time thinking through these issues.

For the Christian, this book explores one of the key objections to a theistic faith: how can a good God allow suffering in this world? While that question is not specifically addressed, is it at the heart of Candide’s uneasiness. What happens when our world is filled with pain, disappointment, and horror? Can we reconcile a God with our life experience? This is a topic that Christians must not only address to those around who question the claims of Christianity, but we must also have an answer for ourselves when the horrors come.

It would be the height of hubris to state a simple answer to this issue, but we must begin our search for one in the gospel itself. We must remember that God the Father knows suffering and murder, as his Son hung on the cross to die for the sins of the world. He watched as Jesus was tortured and killed to become the payment for sins that we not his own. When we are trying to justify a good God with suffering, our question must begin with God himself. Candide met a cast of characters spewed from the bowels of humanity, but never discussed sin.

Christian doctrine teaches that Adam’s sin brought this world from perfection to the wastelands with people corrupted in the downward spiral. Leibniz’s optimism is wrong: this world is depraved and men have the capability to act like animals to one another. Candide’s observations should bring us back to the God who has provided his Son as a sacrifice to restore humanity to our true image-bearer state. The murderers, the rapists, the thieves in Candide’s journey point us back to a God, one who is perfect because we see that man is not. Corrupt men in the world show a moral structure beyond us that defines what corrupt men act like.

Candide’s decision to focus only on his own garden shows a hopelessness that Christians ought not have. Even in the light of pain and difficulty, we should see our “gardens” in light of the larger garden, the only that has the Tree of Life swaying. Because of this, we can have hope in that other world that is the best of all possible worlds.


Ron’s #14-20 (I’m back…sort of)

In my third year of reading a book a week, I stumbled. As we adopted our second son in May, I decided that I couldn’t keep up with the reading and writing that this project demands. I’m still reading as much as I can, but it is not as much as I used to or would like. For you who have two or more children, please assure me that I’ll read again!

I’m behind, but I’m still trying. Here is a wrap-up of the books I’ve read but have not reviewed. I hope to give longer reviews on upcoming books.

#14: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson






This was my first time reading this classic. Here is John’s review from this site.

#15: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

I read this again as I taught through it a second time this year. A wonderful novel with lots to discuss. Here is my former review.

#16: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs

I read this Puritan classic as a devotional in the morning. A needed reminder for me to be content in all things.

#17: A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison

Read Mark’s excellent review here. I agree that this was one of my best reads so far this year. It’s a must-read.

#18: A Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf

Abortion is not a merely topic over which political parties divide; it is murdering the innocent. The church cannot sit and do nothing about this. Klusendorf outlines important topics to use to think and discuss this pivotal issue. Here is Mark’s review.

#19: The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips

Check out my friend Dave Steele’s review of this book about God’s call to manhood.

#20: Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson

A great overview of how the Gospel must wake us up from our slumber. We must go beyond merely walking an aisle and coasting throughout our Christian life. If you are like me, chances are you could use this book.


Mark’s #28 – A Walk Across The Sun by Corban Addison (2012)

In 1852 a diminutive girl’s school teacher from Maine wrote a story that captured the attention of the world.  The novel was the spark that set on fire a movement that changed the course of American history.  Exposed to the first hand stories of savage brutality, and compelled by her Christian convictions, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote  Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Her story unveil any new insights, but rather it put forth a human face  in the midst of the national tragedy which was slavery.

Similarly, now in 2012 most people are at least vaguely aware that slavery still exists in various forms worldwide.  Some are surprised and shocked to hear that an estimated 27 million people are in slavery today.  Others are equally surprised to hear that slavery still exists in America today.  Yet, in spite of the evidence, most people remained unmoved.  Where’s the outrage? Where’s today’s widespread abolitionist movement?

Perhaps the movement simply needs a spark to set it on fire?  If so, A Walk Across The Sun by Corban Addison may just be that spark.

This is an excellent book on several levels.  First, it is a deeply compelling human story full of angst, hope, fears, joys, uncertainties, pain, and triumph.  The story follows the lives of two young Indian girls who are orphaned by the Tsunami along the coast of India in 2004. In their desperate attempt to find a safe place to live, the girls get conned and trafficked into an Indian brothel.  In addition, the story also follows the journey of an ambitious young lawyer seeking to climb the ranks within his mega firm.  When a major trial goes badly, his life is thrown into crises when his firm offers him a year leave of absence to do pro-bono work for an organization working to bring justice to enslaved girls in India (think International Justice Mission www.ijm.org).  As it happens that his estranged wife, who is from India, is also there. The lawyer goes to try to reconcile with his wife, and along the way get’s absolutely enraptured by the cause of tracking down and finding one of the trafficked sisters around the world.

Second, the book is fast-paced and engaging.  The story kept me up late into the night on several nights because I couldn’t put it down.  There is great tension, plot-twists, relational and character development, etc.  Additionally, the action moves from America, to India, to France, to America, and back to India.  This book has all of the best elements that a book written by John Grisham would have.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the story has an authentic and believable feel to it.  The author makes the reader feel the emotional roller-coaster that each of the main characters go through.  It’s interesting to me that throughout the book the reader sees countless other, though faceless, victims of injustice and slavery… yet, because we’re not allowed into their story, the reader doesn’t really feel for them (sort of like watching a news report about modern day slavery).  Yet that’s not the case with the two trafficked girls… it’s as though we can see through their eyes, feel their loss, their pain, their fear, their hope for rescue.

Finally, as a Christian pastor myself who has tried to view modern day slavery through a Christian worldview, I really appreciated the worldview that the author brought to this book.  While very respectful toward Indian culture and Hindu religious traditions and practices, I think the author also did a fine job of putting forth a Christian worldview that says “God cares about injustice, and his people should too” (Isa. 1:17).  In this way, Corban Addison was not heavy handed in his beliefs, nor was he overly postmodern and relativistic in his cultural and religious assessment.  Where Hinduism may turn a blind eye on injustice, Jesus engages and enters into our pain and our suffering.

No doubt, this has been and will be the best book I read this year.

I pray that God would use this book in the same way he used Uncle Tom’s Cabin to spark a movement that turns into an inferno.


Ron’s #2: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

When I was in Mrs. Neidz’s 9th grade English class, I tried to bluff my way through discussions using only the Cliffsnotes version of reading Huck Finn. I hoped it was good enough to help me pass the quizzes. During the class, I found myself interested in the story and actually wished I had read the book. Never enough to actually read it, though. It took me over ten years to actually read it for myself. I earned a D in 9th grade English, by the way.

Huck Finn is a classic for a reason: it is really, really good. Part adventure down the Mississippi, part friendship between Huck and Jim, part social commentary on the treatment of blacks in the South. It is an important book, and no high school student should graduate without reading it. Sadly, many teachers today shy away from it because of the overabundance of the use of the N-word, a hyper-reaction to political correctness. Most educated readers will quickly see that this is as racist as Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” is cannibalistic.

I’ve taught Huck Finn many times, and I still find new aspects to appreciate and enjoy about the book. And for those familiar to the story, the scene when Huck tears up the letter and decided to “go to Hell” is perhaps one of my favorite moments in literature.

Huckleberry Finn the boy is the prototype of all teenage angst characters. There’d be no Holden Caulfield with Huck. No young adult fiction without him, although I think that might be a good thing.

Do yourself a favorite and listen to what your high school English teachers probably told you: Read Huck Finn. You will enjoy it.

Cool kids who have already read the book understand what this means:

In case you are wondering what my teaching handouts for students look like, here they are:

Unit 6: To Read or Not To Read Huckleberry Finn part 1
Unit 6: Huck Finn part 2

Huck Finn App for iPod and iPad 
Huck Finn audiobook for iPod


Mark’s #31 – Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller

Currently it is in vogue to be a person who seeks to ‘do justice’ in the world – which is a very good thing.  Beyond the cliche, however, there are a variety of motivations and justifications for one’s particular approach to doing justice.  What then should be the motivation and procedure for the follower of Christ today?  In this book, highly respected New York City pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, author, and theologian, Timothy Keller shines his thoughtful, gospel-centered light on the issue of justice.

The subtitle gives away the thesis of the book, as he argues that it is the grace of God that can and should transform redeemed followers of Christ into passionate doers of justice in this broken and fallen world.  Keller starts his book by explaining what it means to do justice from a Biblical perspective, starting with the Old Testament, moving to the words and example of Christ, and culminating with a look at the parable of the Good Samaritan.

In the next section, Keller answers the “why” and “how” of doing justice.  Here he points out that the most common calls for ‘doing justice’ go unheeded, mostly because they are neither truly compelling, nor are they grounded in the nature of God and creation.  For example, typically we hear the, “you should give more to the poor because you’re a rich American, don’t you feel bad for the poor?”  As Keller points out, the problem with this approach is that we already have built in defenses for such appeals… after all, compared to my socio-economic class circle, I’m pretty average, and there’s a lot of people who have a whole lot more than me – right?

Instead, Keller argues that we should think about God and ‘doing justice’ based off of the two motivations the Bible gives believers:

joyful awe before the goodness of God’s creation, and the experience of God’s grace in redemption (pg. 82).

As we think about God and His creation we begin to realize the inherent value of the imago Dei  in the life of every human being.   God has literally imprinted his image into the souls of everyone – therefore, as the Bible often says, to lend to the poor is to give to God, to mistreat the poor is to mistreat God.  Furthermore, as we recognize God’s ultimate supremacy and ownership of all things, we see all people as His, and we see all our resources, talents, abilities, education, and opportunities as gift from Him for Him.

Next, Keller shows just how focusing on and understanding the gospel of Grace empowers and should motivate the believer to be a doer of justice in the world.  When we understand our spiritual bankruptcy before God, and instead of receiving the justice our sins deserve, we receive grace, that should astonish us and transform us to become grace givers ourselves.

Keller is careful to point out the distinction and the relationship between evangelism and ‘doing justice’.  In our day, some of the emergent types, or theological liberals have confused the two.  Rather, as Keller points out:

Doing justice can indeed lead people to give the message of gospel grace a hearing, but to consider deeds of mercy and justice to be identical to gospel proclamation is a fatal confusion.  I propose a different way to understand evangelism and social justice.  They should exist in an asymmetrical, inseparable relationship (pg. 139).

Of course, Keller has much more to say and many other great and biblical insights on this important issue for our time, all of which would make the book worth its price in and of themselves.  I highly encourage followers of Christ, and those interested in seeing a distinctly  Christian approach and motivation for doing justice to read this book.


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