Sunday, January 30

The Jesus Inquest

The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster
The Case for and Against the Resurrection of the Christ

Charles Foster is a barrister in England (a barrister is a type of lawyer). In deciding to write about the authenticity for the death and resurrection of Christ, he decided to take an approach which felt most comfortable to him: that of a lawyer.

The Jesus Inquest
is an interesting book in that it strives hard to be as objective as possible. Foster broke the book into 8 chapters, each dealing with a different element of the resurrection story. Within each chapter two viewpoints are expressed.

The first of which is person “X” who argues that against Christianity. “X” is a conglomeration of what Foster sees as the most popular elements against Christianity. So, “X” argues against Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

Person “Y” is a Christian who is arguing that the Christian Bible is true and the resurrection story can be believed. The style in which each side follows is similar in how an attorney might present a case in a court room. Thus, the arguments usually follow a rational line of thought and each side works to rebuttal each other or preemptively defend their viewpoint.

At 318 pages, this book is quite detailed in its arguments, some of which I was never aware of. It also appears to have more of a scholarly background than a book such as Lee Strobel’s A Case for Christ, and also approaches the topic with the intentions of being objective, which I appreciated. To fully understand an argument it does help to view it without the opposing view adding asides that distract.

One of the major weaknesses of the book, however, is that both “X” and “Y” have extremely similar voices, since they are written by the same author. After a chapter or two, it grows easy to foresee exactly how “Y” will rebuttal “X’s” arguments. Their arguments also follow similar structures, though their conclusions and use of data differ.

There are also many points of redundancies among arguments. Foster tries to avoid the worst of these by having “X” or “Y” note that the argument had already been covered and then include a footnote with the pages, but it is impossible to cover all redundancies, especially when one chapter concerns the burial and another the empty tomb.

All in all, this was an interesting read. Foster covers a lot of ground and I would have to say it is one of the most objective books I have read on the topic (which is a rather surprising considering it is published by a man who appears to be a Christian and it was published through a Christian publisher). It also deals with what some may see as specific points of interest, such as whether the tomb of Jesus has really been discovered or an examination of the Shroud of Turin (a section which I found particularly interesting since I have never engaged the subject before).

3/5 Stars

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Wednesday, January 12

Rethinking the American Dream

Radical By David Platt

The American Dream. Largely the American Dream seems to be associated with achieving some level of success in the United States. AT one point in history, this would’ve meant having a family and reliable job with which to sustain your family. Lately it transformed into a form of entitlement and consumerism. Large screen TV’s, new cars, and cable have worked their way into this dream. It is about improving the comfort of our lifestyle.

But is this what Scripture calls us to do to? What if God has other plans in mind for us – plans that involve us leaving the comfort our homes to do? This is what prompted David Platt to write Radical. He confronts, head on, the American Dream.

Platt starts with a story of Christians in China – Christians who are forced to hold secret meetings lest they be imprisoned. Yet, despite the constant threat of violence and punishment if caught they have a desire to not only engage Scripture more but to bring others to Christ. He then transitions into a story of a church in American spending millions of dollars on building on addition to the church – an addition that added ‘extra’ stuff not remotely relevant to worship.

Or consider this section from the book from when David read through a newspaper:

“On the left one headline read, ‘First Baptist Church Celebrates $23 Million Building.’ A lengthy article followed, celebrating the church’s expensive new sanctuary. The exquisite marble, intricate design, and beautiful glass… On the right was a much smaller article. The headline for it read, ‘Baptist Relieft Helps Sudanese Refugees.’…the last senence said that Baptists had sent money to help relieve the suffering of the Sudanese. I was excited until I got to the amount…the article said, “Baptist have raised $5,000 to send to refugees…”

Though they seem to be two different churches, Platt cannot understand how millions are spent on a building and only a few thousand to aid those who were truly suffering.

Platt deals with many issues concerning evangelizing. His conclusion is that Christians must go into the world per the Great Commission. He tells many stories from his journey’s overseas. He also presents his thoughts on tough issues, such as whether a loving God would send those who never heard the Gospel to hell.

I thought the book started a bit slowly, but within chapters I was hooked. It is an eye opening read. It shows the necessity of evangelizing and urges Americans to get up off their American Dream and doing something useful for the world. We are more than Americans. We are members of a global community. Radical calls us to start acting like it.

Here's the book's promo video



4.5/5 Stars

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I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

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Sunday, January 2

Anticipated Films of 2011

I’m going to attempt a slightly different blog post than usual. Here’s a list of films that I’m looking forward this year, through August. To keep it simple, I’m going to pick one per month. I am going by the release dates as reported by IMDB. The end of the year hasn’t filled out yet, so I’ll be missing a few months at the end for now. Once release dates are in place for September – December I’ll try to remember to update this list.

January: Wow, this month looks a bit bare of good movies. I think I’ll have to go with The Rite on this one, a thriller about an exorcist. Stars Colin O'Donoghue and Anthony Hopkins.

EDIT: Terrible reviews are pouring in for this one. Sadly, I still think it looks better than the other movies released.

February: The Eagle, directed by Kevin Macdonald. February has a few more moves that intrigue me slightly, but this one does so the most. Macdonald directed The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, two movies which I enjoyed. Plus I love a good historical action film.

March: Gah! The first difficult month with five movies that I’ve been looking forward to. But the top one? Right now I’ll go Rango, though Battle: Los Angeles is a close second. I finally saw the Rango trailer and was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was going to be one of those talking animals living with humans movies. Thankfully it’s not going to be. I may have to update this list though when the trailer for Apollo 18 is released…

April: Source Code. One of my favorite blogs, ScriptShadow, ranks this as their #1 spec script, so over the summer I gave it a read. While I didn’t think it was quite as amazing as they did, it was interesting. And the trailer promises a good presentation of the script. Plus director Duncan Jones previously directed Moon, one of my favorite recent science fiction movies. Otherwise, this month looks pretty weak.

May: I think I’ll have to go with Priest on this one. I’m not very excited for another Pirates film, and I don’t think Thor will be nearly as good as Iron Man. Priest at least looks like a fun action film.

June: Super 8, hands down. After J.J. Abrams handled the Star Trek reboot so well, I’m excited to see him take a shot at an original Sci-Fi movie (even if it ends up tying in with Cloverfield, I’ll still be excited.). Any other year I would probably pick the Pixar film, but I have heavy doubts about Cars 2.

July: Another difficult month. Cowboys and Aliens comes out on top though. The cast looks fantastic and based on the trailer it should have a satisfying storyline to it. Of course, I also just want to see some cowboys fighting some aliens in some western/sci fi action.

August: 30 Minutes or Less. Mainly because it had scenes shot in Grand Rapids, but I’ve also heard the script is solid. And Jesse Eisenberg was fantastic in The Social Network.

What films in 2011 are you looking forward to?

Faith in the Midst of Suffering

If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn

I have never read a Randy Alcorn book before. In fact, for the longest time I thought he wrote cheesy Christian Romance novels. I was quickly corrected when I first mentioned it. As it turns out Alcorn is a Pastor who is well known for writing both Fiction and Non-Fiction, and is also the author of Heaven, a book that I’ve heard is quite popular.

If God Is Good
is Alcorn’s attempt to take a look at the presence of suffering. He largely writes in response to Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, who cite suffering as one of their reasons for not believing in a God. Alcorn also addresses the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner, who Alcorn believes paints an incorrect picture of how God deals with suffering.

This is not an easy book to get through. It is nearly 500 pages and is presented in a well thought out manner. The book is split up into 11 sections, including, “Understanding the Problem of Evil and Suffering,” “Evil and Suffering in the Great Drama of Christ’s Redemptive Work,” and “Why Does God Allow Suffering.” Each section is then broken into further chapters that go into further detail.

It is obvious from reading that Alcorn has put a good deal of thought and Biblical research into the topic. He also has researched opposing views, so that he may fully confront them. He explains his views in a way that is both understandable and applicable. When I finished the book, I felt like I had a better grasp on what he was presenting. When I’ve read other books on suffering, such as Plan B, they didn’t do much to address the problem of suffering. They merely sought to placate the reader by assuring them that God is present by using Bible stories. But in the stories Alcorn shares, sometimes Bible stories aren’t enough. Sometimes you need to be able to be able to identify for yourself the reason that God has allowed suffering on Earth. I believe that Alcorn presents this in his book.

Here’s a quick snippet from the book, “God’s goodness entails more than whatever makes us feel warm and happy. We argue that if God were as good as we are, then evil and suffering wouldn’t exist. On the contrary, evil and suffering wouldn’t exist if we were as good as God is….We conclude that God is not good because ironically, we are so far from good that we do not understand what severe justice that true goodness must exact against sin.” – page 168.

This is the strongest book on the topic of suffering I have read. While it won’t change the minds of atheist who use the idea of suffering against Christianity, it allows Christians something with which to examine those arguments. If you have ever had questions about suffering, and especially if books like When Bad Things Happen to Good People felt like they diminished God, this may help you. What Alcorn says isn’t always easy to hear. But then again, anything dealing with sin isn’t. However, it is hopeful because of the death and resurrection of Christ.

4/5

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I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255