Mar 31

I just ordered this book on Kindle, a revised updated (but NOT abridged) and illustrated version of Pilgrim’s Progress. This will be my reading on the trail. It was inspired by a book that I am about half done with, Praying, by JI Packer. Dr. Packer mentions that he reads through Pilgrim’s Progress every year, and has done so for many years. Well, it will be good reading for the trail. The book I intend to read on the train down to San Diego is by John Frame…

This is a small soft cover book, which I hope to have completed before I arrive in San Diego to meet Tom Braithwaite. On my iPad I will also be reading another much larger book by John Frame, recommended by Bob Case…

So, I have my reading cut out. I find that after a hard day of hiking, my reading brain doesn’t work so well, but I’m hoping that I can get a few more books completed while on the trail.
On the Pilgrim’s Progress theme, a song that we sing in church will be one of my themes, Who would true valor see…

Who would true valor see, let him come hither;
One here will constant be, come wind, come weather;
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
his first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.

Who so beset him round with dismal stories,
Do but themselves confound his strength the more is.
No lion can him fight, he’ll with a giant fight,
but he will have a right to be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin nor foul fiend can daunt his spirit;
He knows he at the end shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away; he’ll fear not what men say;
he’ll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.

So, as I get ready to head out, many thoughts whirl through my head. I love hiking, but I love my wife even more, and I will be constantly concerned about her welfare and safety with me gone. Thankfully, we have supportive friends, and I won’t be totally ex communicato, so that matters should work out well. Naturally, Betsy is worried about my safety, which I can grasp. I will try to minimize the risks of this venture, and play it as safe as possible. Assuredly, I am confident of the Lord watching over my every step as I proceed. I welcome your prayers and support.

I have mentioned previously that my venture is also a hike-a-thon, raising funds for Huguenot Heritage. Please consider supporting that ministry. The website hike-a-thon donation function is not quite functional as of yet, but you will be able to help support a very important and needy cause through my hike. In a week or two, get online to HuguenotHeritage.com and commit to a penny, a nickel, a dime, a quarter or a dollar per mile. Since it is 2650 miles on the trail, for a penny, you will be out at most $26.50. Because the donation is through Huguenot Heritage and not me, I will not know who or what amount was pledged, so I will thank you in advance for your consideration of this.

But there remain typical and expected anxieties in my mind this evening as I prepare to leave. I have done what I could to prepare for this with many practice hikes. I’ve sustained foot blisters, joint pain, and exhaustion pushing myself. There were the countless hours spent researching the trail online, discovering who were the reliable sources for information, and processing that information. What do you wear? What goes in the pack? Where do you resupply? What do you eat? What’s the best equipment? How do you find your way on the trail? How do you best stay out of trouble? What is it going to cost? How will I stay in contact with Betsy? I’ve spent countless hours drawing up, drafting, guess-timating time that I will need to get from point to point, and estimating the amount of food needed. There was a week or two packing resupply boxes for Betsy to ship out. I’ve researched appropriate apps for my iPhone and will be using the latest, greatest technologies. I’ve done many compromises and expenditures for lighter or more convenient equipment that I would be using. Last night, I even unpacked my pack and slept out on my back porch, just to get a feel as to what it is like to be backpacking again since my last trip was last August/September. It also gave me a better feel as to how I should go about packing my pack, supposing I get hit with setting up my camp during a downpour. It may seem strange to many but my biggest preparation has been mental, preparing for this venture. I wished to have various Psalms and song memorized or loaded on my iPhone for use on the trail.

People wonder what I hope to get out of this venture. Why am I doing it? I can think of several things…
1. To fulfill a long-standing dream to hike the PCT
2. To raise funds and increase awareness for Huguenot Heritage
3. To allow me to see multiple unfolding landscapes that reveal God’s handiwork and worship Him in that setting.
4. To have a significant time to meditate, pray and praise the Lord while on the trail.
5. To be a witness to our Lord Jesus Christ and His goodness while encountering others on the trail.
6. To prepare for much easier adventures with Betsy.
Perhaps that is sufficient reason, though I’m sure the list could go on much longer.

I welcome your prayer. I welcome your interactions. E-mail me. Post a note on FaceBook. I may not respond but I will read and appreciate all of your input. Make a donation to Huguenot Heritage. Deus Vobiscum!



Tagged with:
No Comments »
Mar 25

Der Ring des Nibelungen DVD set, composed by Richard Wagner, and performed by Bayreuther Festspiele, conducted by Pierre Boulez ★★★★★

What can I say? I love the music of Wagner. Wagner the man is despicable, but like so many people, their person and their art are not congruous. Many folk hate Wagner. Some dislike his music. It’s not strophic. They expect a Mozart performance with ensembles, duets, solos, and delightful musical interludes. Wagner has no intention of offering that. I was first encouraged to listen to Wagner by Dr. Sunderland with whom I was doing a summer research project. She was Jewish but loved Wagner, and loaned me a recording of Tristan und Isolde. I listened to about 15 minutes and found it intolerable—it is the very music that years later hear with riveting fascination and tears in my eyes, wondering how music could be so beautiful. Wagner’s music is definitely complex and thus needs to be listened to several times before true appreciation can occur. It is not easy music, but a little sweat and patience will definitely pay off. Isn’t that also true of the music of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, Shostakovich, and so many other truly great composers?

The other reason people hate Wagner is because of his personality. It is true that Richard was a horrible excuse for a human being, proud, atheistic, rebellious, racist, anti-semitic to the core, self-serving, and envious of all others outside of himself. The music of the Ring, when rightly understood, is highly anti-semitic (the dwarves representing the typical Jew), and it is to that which must be looked through to admire his works. Wagner is a vehement atheist and was at times an intimate friend of Neitsche. The “God is dead” theme reverberates through this opera. When examined critically, the god that Wagner portrays is the god of Arminian theology, a not-so-powerful god that is dependent on the choices and will of others, and dependent on an external standard of morality. Wagner’s god is not all powerful or transcendent, not omniscient, immoral, and needs to rely on others to know things or to accomplish things. He is subservient to the oaths carved out on his spear and lapses into terminal despair when that spear is shattered by his “grandson” Siegfried, the Übermensch, the hero that knows no fear.

I will not detail the story of the Ring. If you haven’t seen it at least once before, you will not be terribly interested in my rehashing of the storyline, and it is not a terribly gripping story, missing the music that drives it. Too many listen only to the Walkürienfluct or Siegfried’s Rheinfahrt only to miss 17 hours of steady great music. It is no wonder that many conductors today that are known for outstanding Ring performances also happen to be Jewish, like James Levine. Listen to the music, and forget the man. I try to listen to or watch a Ring performance every year. I certainly love most of the other operas of Wagner, personal favorites which include Parsifal and Tannhäuser. Wagner was first introduced to me by a childhood friend in Portland, Ron Bonneau, who would listen to the Ring in his living room off of vinyl: it took about 35 or more records and he would diligently change and flip each record from start to finish, pausing only to feed his wolf dog. I’ve seen both the Ring live (in Seattle with Dr. Cull) and Tannhäuser (in Chicago with Alan Segall). Betsy and I both marvel at how the singers can not only remember their lines, come in at the right time but also act so well. Truly it takes the best of the best opera singers to do Wagner. Give the Ring a chance or two and you also might become addicted.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Mar 25

I had written previously about how much I appreciate my old music tradition in the Apostolic Christian Church, where fairly complex music was sung in church and people were expected to sing in 4-part harmony. I also spoke about how I still love the Zion’s Harp hymnal that we used. I was then a touch critical about how my current Presbyterian church sometimes did not present the best quality of music possible in a church setting. In this piece, I would now like to take an opposing view. During our time at Faith Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, we have been blessed with much wonderful music, to which I will address.

Before I specifically address the music found at FPC, I would like to discuss the conduct of the service itself, since it offers the appropriate setting for the type of music heard in church. FPC offers what might in England be called a high church service. It is a formal service, and the conduct of the service is aimed for worship and away from being a form of entertainment. Thus, the choir is unseen and behind, as they are not performing for you but for God. The only person in front is the pastor, who represents God speaking to us. The pastor will lead the entirety of the worship. All children are expected to be in the worship service and be behaved. There is no children’s service, as adult worship is supposed to be a model for your children. There might be lite beer, but there is no Worship Lite. The congregation does not select the hymns to be sung because they are selected by the pastor to fit the theme of the sermon. There is either a piano or organ which leads the singing, and nobody serves as the conductor/song leader in front of the congregation. There is no projector for the tunes, there is no worship team (the pastor is the worship director), and no dancing girls and guys leading the song worship, as there is no drama. When church becomes entertainment, it ceases to be church. The pastor wears a robe, the order of the service is printed, prayers (outside of congregational petitions) are said on kneelers. We do raise our hands (as in the photo above) whenever the offering hymn is sung or when the tune describes the trinity or the majesty of God, such as in the last verse of Lo He Comes in Clouds Descending. There is nothing informal about the service from start to finish. In many settings, such conduct of service would be dry and boring. For FPC, worship is anything but boring, and the church has remained a packed, growing community of the faithful. It has been particularly effective in our community which is ultra-liberal, and where people are craving for authenticity. FPC provides that authenticity. At this point, I would never return to a contemporary style service. I get more worship in a formal Catholic church service than in most of the pop contemporary services, even when they are PCA churches. I don’t think many contemporary church-goers view a worship service as a worship service. Church worship should promote a deeply reverent view of God. Enough! I will return now specifically to music.

FPC does have a choir which has been conducted under the excellent direction of Florence Rayburn, wife of the pastor. When we first started attending FPC, we became particularly aware that Florence held the choir to a very high standard. Practices were rigorous, and nothing shoddy was allowed to come across during a worship service. Often pieces were sung in Latin, German or French, and a translation would be provided in the order of service. Many pieces by classical composers were presented to the congregation, all with good effect. More recently, a number of the children of the congregation have become expert in the violin, flute, trumpet and other instruments, and have been able to accompany the choir or congregational singing.

At times, music at church would go beyond this, and a full classical piece of work would be presented. There were friends of the congregation from other PCA churches around who sung professionally in the opera and at major public performances in Seattle. There were a number of members of our congregation that are semi-professional singers, and they would provide the solo parts of the Messiah, various Bach works, etcetera. As an example, this Easter, a Saturday performance of Faure’s Requiem will be offered. Unfortunately, I will be on the PCT at that time. One time recently, we even had a Tacoma area choral group accompanied by FPC instrumental musicians perform Bach’s St. John Passion. Music at FPC definitely has its outstanding features, which was only rarely found in my past ACC denomination.

When we first started attending FPC, many of the hymns were completely unfamiliar to us. They did not sing many of the gospel songs that are so familiar in Baptist/Anabaptist church circles, or which we sang in the ACC. Pastor Rayburn was very sensitive to the words of a hymn, which had to not only be doctrinally correct but also to have poetic excellence. We sing every printed verse of the tune, to catch the full impact of the hymn writer for the hymn. Many times, Dr. Rayburn would discuss the hymn writer and tell stories about them. As an example, I can no longer think of the hymn “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” without including “by Ray Palmer”. Some tunes were ancient. To those, I identify the Doxology and Gloria Patri. Also included and loved is “Oh Light that Knew No Dawn”, a wonderful hymn written by the Cappadocian father Gregory Nazianzus, and one of the oldest existing hymns of the Christian tradition. There is also “Hallelujah Praise Jehovah” taken from a Gregorian Chant by Lowel Mason, and “Art Thou Weary, Art Thou Languid” translated from St. Stephen. I dare not forget “Hail Gladdening Light”, usually sung in the evening service, and probably the oldest existent hymn. It is sung as a chant. The music is included below.
In the early Reformed tradition, we have
1) The Old 100th (All People who on Earth do Dwell) by Louis Bourgeois
2) I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art by John Calvin
3) God Shall Arise and By His Might, a Huguenot versification of Psalm 68
4) All Praise to God Who Reigns Above (Johann Schütz)
5) The Sands of Time are Sinking (Rutherford/Anna Cousins)
Many of the hymns of Watts/Cowper (pronounced like Cooper!), Newton and Wesley which were not sung in our ACC tradition, include
1) Give to Our God Immortal Praise (Watts)
2) God Moves in a Mysterious Way (Cowper)
3) Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending (Wesley, best with the tune Helmsley, music below)
4) Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder (John Newton)
5) Sometimes a Light Surprises (Cowper).
6) Who Would True Valor See (John Bunyan, music below)
I am not sure why these absolutely wonderful hymns did not make it into ACC hymns, as they would not be doctrinally offensive.
Then there are the early American composers, before the gospel song movement took over…
1) Lord With Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee, a wonderful hymn written by the author of the National Anthem, Francis Scott Key
2) Great God of Wonders (Samuel Davies, pronounced Day-vis, like Davis!)
The 19th-century British hymn writers also stand out, especially Andrew Bonar…
1) For All the Saints (WW How)
2) Hear, O My Lord (Bonar)
3) Not What My Hands Have Done (Bonar)
4) I Lay My Sins on Jesus (Bonar)
5) When the Weary Seeking Rest (Bonar/Mendelssohn)
6) A Few More Years Shall Roll (Bonar)
7) Jesus I My Cross Have Taken (Henry Lyte)
8) Weary of Earth (Samuel Stone, music below)
9) O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus (Trevor Francis)
10) Father I Know that All My Life (Anna Waring)
A smattering of others include versifications of the Psalms, some already mentioned above, and include “Unto the Hills Around (Ps 121) and “God Be Merciful to Me” (Ps 51). Just a few other new (to me) hymns that I particularly like include
1) God My King Thy Might Confessing
2) Whate’er My God Ordains is Right
3) Come Ye Disconsolate
I’ve omitted many hymns that Betsy and I have learned since coming to FPC. These are hymns that are on our minds all the time. We cherish them as wonderful statements of our faith in Christ. It is a treasure that we are most grateful of Rev. Rayburn to have provided to us.

I still have a few persistent dislikes with the music at FPC, which reflects what might be happening at many PCA churches in our denomination. Keith Getty tunes have become popular. The words are solid, but often not as well written as many of the older hymns. Newton or Cowper or Gerhardt might even go so far as to identify the Getty songs as nothing but doggerel. What annoys me the most are the tunes themselves. They lack creativity. Once you’ve heard one Getty tune, you can predict all the others. If you were to identify any tune, it could be broken down into certain phrases. Amazing Grace would be A-B-C-A’, or the traditional Rock of Ages A-B-A’-A’-A-B’. With the Getty tunes, the phrases are simple and highly repetitive, almost like singing a mantra. One tune for instance, “By Faith” would be phrased as A-B-A’-A. (Giant Yawn!) They just don’t make for good music. Then, there is the New City tune (A-B-A-A-B’-A’) (Super Yawn!) to Rock of Ages, where the tune is catchy but highly repetitive and has absolutely no correlation with the words. JS Bach would turn over in his grave if he heard and understood the New City Rock of Ages tune. My criticisms are light, my praise is heavy for Presbyterian music.

I also have some complaints about what the PCA has done to the Trinity Hymnal. Why in the world would they drop “Weary of Earth”? Why are they adding popular tunes that truly are not fit for congregational singing? Why are they including newer songs, devoid of theological content, just because they are popular? The Trinity Hymnal from 1961 truly is a great hymnal, with well-translated hymns, versifications that excel, and a variety of hymns that cover every circumstance in life. Most of the newer “improvements” have only diminished the value of the hymnal. Hopefully, the PCA does not ultimately lose its tradition for quality church music.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Mar 23

Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality, by William Edgar ★★★★

My dear friend Robert Case recommended that I read some William Edgar, and I’m most happy that I followed his advice, as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this book. I not only learned much about Francis Schaeffer, but also a bit about Bill Edgar. I had no idea that Bill became a Christian under the ministry of Schaeffer. Dr. Edgar documents his encounters with Francis Schaeffer through the years, including his work at L’Abri.

The book is divided up into three segments. The first segment is a very brief and truncated biography of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, noting only some of the most important events in Schaeffer’s life. Edgar interestingly provides insights on how Francis’s image is as much that of Edith as him. I’ve not met Francis but have met his wife and spent a moderate amount of time with her when she came to Tacoma as an invited speaker at a Pierce County Crisis Pregnancy center when I was chairman of the board. Her personality is unforgettable, and precisely what I previously considered to be that of Francis, save that I presume him to be a bit more brooding and her more vivacious. It was great to get Edgar’s view of their life and personalities.

The second section is on true spirituality. In this, Edgar mostly summarizes several books of Schaeffer, most notably True Spirituality, and showed how what Schaeffer said and how he acted were very consistent. He was genuine to the core in his speech and behavior.

The third second was about trusting God for all of life. This segment mostly closely reflected on how the Schaeffers thought and how they lived. Edgar details in a chapter how Francis and Edith spent much time in prayer. This chapter was most convicting to me, a lesson on prayer tends to be the first thing neglected in our lives. Those that truly believe that God exists and is a personal God who listens to our prayers surely would wish to spend much time speaking with Him, yet we tend to ignore this admonition. Through affliction, God forms us into the people that He wishes us to be, and Edgar shows how affliction and the Schaeffers were constant companions. Schaeffer’s view of the church in light of the problems occurring in the Presbyterian church is discussed. There is then a lengthy chapter on Schaeffer’s thoughts and behavior regarding the cultural mandate, to be citizens of the world, and to react lovingly and as a testimony with all whom we encounter.

Anyone who has read my Memoirs will realize that Schaeffer and his writings has had a major impact on my life, as few others have had (my parents, Dr. DasGupta, Pastor Rob Rayburn, and JI Packer being the others that most quickly come to mind, though many many others also had a HUGE impact on my life—in case I just happened to not mention your name!). I had read and reread all of Schaeffer’s works many times. He more definitely than anybody else is why I am here writing as a Christian person. So, I am delighted to see what an impact Dr. Schaeffer has had on so many other people in this world. In this book, you get a small taste of the remarkable character of this man and his wife. Edgar creates a highly readable picture of the man, the legend, and the giant, of whom many owe their very faith to him. This is a delightful book to read, and I can soundly recommend this book as a quick image of why Schaeffer stands so strongly in so many people’s hearts and minds.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Mar 21

I’ve been busy. Those who follow my posts will note that I have tried to read a few more of my vast stack of unread books. You will see several more book reviews before I begin my quest. I have tried out different gear. I have trained too hard, and developed blisters on my feet which have laid me up. I move much faster in training than I would on the trail, and don’t stop to tend to sore spots on my feet. This something I don’t do when actually backpacking, and so I know why I don’t experience blisters when seriously on the trail. Happily, I have learned that I also recover quite quickly from bad blisters, so I know that I won’t ever be thrown off the trail just because of a sore or two on my feet.

New Equipment

I have had a few equipment changes that are not entirely of my own personal choice. I decided to carry a personal locator beacon (PLB), and for me, it is the Garmin InReach device. I chose this device since it also carries maps of the trail, and can serve to provide as a back-up in case my iPhone goes on the blink. I will not be carrying paper maps in order to keep my weight down. With the choice of a PLB, I desperately needed something to remove in order to keep down my weight. I decided to remove my camera, at least for the desert segment of the trail. This took off about 2 lb and added 1 lb, so I’m getting a bit closer to my ideal pack weight. I will still take photos, but just use my iPhone for that. I might be using a larger (26800 mAh) backup battery.

I have several shoulder strap pockets that I’ve tried out, and I don’t like either one of them. The iPhone does not go in and out easily, and it is hard to store other items in the strap pocket. Thus, I have ordered and will try out a fanny pack that many thru-hikers use, called the ThruPack Summit Bum. It provides not only a most convenient place to store my iPhone, but also trail snacks, insect lotion, and sunscreen cream, the things you wish to access on the trail without having to remove your pack. It should arrive in the mail soon, and so I’ll give it a try when it arrives.

I am experimenting with various sorts of water containers. Because I like to use a hydration bladder, I also need a means of bringing extra water in the desert sections. I simple solution would be to have several 1.5 liter SmartWater bottles. I am using some new collapsable canteens, much lighter than the Nalgene canteens of yesteryear, yet very versatile. I would like to make as few of changes as possible at this time, so I probably won’t switch out anything else until I’m actually on the trail and find something that doesn’t fit my fancy.

Huguenot Heritage

One raison d’être for this hike is to raise funds for Huguenot Heritage. Huguenot Heritage is the ministry of Francis Foucachon, a French-born person, trained as a French chef, later becoming an ordained minister in the Reformed faith, now functioning as a missionary to the French-speaking people of the world. Dr. Foucachon is partnering with Third Millenium Ministries in translating materials for theological education into the French language. This stuff is desperately needed. Francis tells me of people coming to Christ in Africa through the ministry of Benny Hinn, and having no clue as to authentic Christianity. With Third Mill materials, natives in the field can receive a full seminary type education in the faith without ever having to leave their country or their community. It is just a super idea that is worthy of all of our support. Please prayerfully consider signing up for my hike-a-thon to support Huguenot Heritage. Hit the link above to discover more about HH and learn what they are doing among the French-speaking people of the world. Pennies per mile is all that I ask, and if you commit to only 1 cent per mile, you’ll only be out of $26.50 if I survive all 2650 miles of the trail. Of course, I encourage you to donate more than 1¢, but any amount matters. You are not supporting me, as I am fully supporting myself; not a cent of your donation will come to me. Your money will be used entirely for building God’s kingdom. So, just do it! They should soon have the ability to make pledges on their website.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Mar 19

In the Beginning: Genesis 1-3 and the Authority of Scripture, by EJ Young ★★★★★

EJ Young was one of the scholars that help define early Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received his theological training at Westminster, then later joined the faculty, following Machen and many others in their split from the PCUSA denomination. Dr. Young was a Hebrew scholar whose most definitive work was the three volume commentary on the book of Isaiah. Dr. Young’s distinctive is his high view of Scripture, and his use of Scripture as the starting point for exegesis of the text.

In this very brief and non-technical text, and in 13 quite brief chapters, he summarizes his thoughts on Genesis 1-3, while offering commentary on the new (at that time) liberal trends in the interpretation of Scripture. He does not view Genesis 1-3 as allegory or myth or Geschicte, but rather, as a definite history. He is very careful not to take a young earth or old earth stance and is frequent in claiming that there is only so much that is knowable from the text itself. Thus, idle controversies as to precisely how God created the world remains (for Dr. Young) outside of the realm of authoritative speculation. Young is very adamant in defining Adam (and Eve) as real people, and as the first people of the human race. Scripture to him is quite clear that Adam did NOT evolve, but was created de novo (probably based on animal models already in existence) from scratch by God. The fall was accompanied by a real snake and the fruit (we have no clue what fruit it might have been) from a real tree.

I enjoyed reading this book, as I am in complete agreement with Young’s approach to Scripture. It is sad that so many academic theologians are leaning away from Young’s approach to Scripture, and using Scripture as something that can be analyzed, inspected, disassembled and reassembled, and critiqued. Young would be horrified to see this attitude coming even from very conservative schools of thought, and bewildered as to why scholars of a conservative bent would have a problem with starting with Scripture as the veritable God-breathed word.

There is perhaps another way of stating Young’s approach to Scripture which is not in the book itself. Modern scholarship would rate God as a flunky in the realm of being able to communicate to man. God, in contemporary minds, had a serious problem identifying the challenges that His Word might present to the modern intellectual scientific mind, and did a terrible job at making clear that His word really is not history, but just allegory, or to be interpreted in some other mystical way. Countless generations through thousands of years have wrongly identified His word as history, if you buy the new “think” on Biblical interpretation. One “out” for theologians is to simply claim that God is so transcendent that any communication would have been impossible in verbal form. Yet, if such were true, we should not pretend that we could know anything at all about God. Young’s approach is to consider Scripture as perfect, timeless communication between the timeless-infinite God and finite (space-time contained) man. Young is excellent at identifying passages that give us a problem, such as the heavenly bodies being created on the fourth day. In my view, it’s better to simply say you don’t know than to try to offer an explanation that does travesty to the words of God in Scripture.

So, this book is excellent. I have sitting on my reading list a more technical version of this book by Dr. Young (Studies in Genesis 1) but it may take me a while to get to that text. Also, it has much Hebrew in it, meaning that it would be a very slow read for me. This book is more for the layman, and I highly recommend it to anybody interested.

Tagged with:
2 Comments »
Mar 16

Christ Among Other Gods: A Defense of Christ in an Age of Tolerance ★★★★★

This book is a set of 12 sermons that Lutzer delivered at Moody Church a few years ago. The reading of this book is very easy as the writing is in a relaxed narrative style. Though the book is 246 pages long, it can be read in several nights sitting.

The forward by JI Packer is most interesting, in that Packer is most deeply a Reformed theologian, and yet Lutzer is dispensational and elaborates dispensational thinking in one chapter of the book, chapter 10 on the return of Christ. Yet, Lutzer also heavily quotes recent Reformed thinkers that are distinctly outside of his camp, such as BB Warfield and JG Machen, showing that both Packer and Lutzer don’t have restrictive eschatologies. In the course of this book, Lutzer tends to suggest a drift away from strict dispensational soteriology and towards a more Reformed understanding of the nature of salvation from an infralapsarian perspective (which I also hold).

This book is not a book on comparative religion, as is offered by JND Anderson. Lutzer does not detail the various religions of the world, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Animism, etc., but speaks in general terms about those religions in comparison to Christianity. Lutzer is correct that there is a very distinct gulf between all other religions and the Christian faith, making it imperative that the Christian religion be examined for its worth. Lutzer spends a chapter covering the issue of “tolerance” and the Christian perspective on tolerance. He discusses relativism—can Christians truly make absolute truth claims? The majority of chapters then delve into Christian claims, most centered around the Christ event, including his birth, his life, his authority and claims, his death, his resurrection, and ultimately, his return. In chapter 11, he addresses the claim that Christianity is unique, arguing that challenges to that uniqueness ultimately fail. In chapter 12, he calls on Christians to share the good news. We have a set of truth claims that neither Muslim, nor Buddhist, nor atheist, nor any other religion can ultimately challenge since it is based on the true creator God of the universe.

I enjoyed reading this book much because it reads so easily and provides a non-technical rational for our Christian stance in the forum of multiple religions. Also, the book was a wonderful reminder of sitting under the pulpit of Erwin Lutzer during our Chicago years. The book is a spiritual challenge to me to be bold in presenting a real, true faith to an ever more pagan world. So, I highly recommend the book to all, Christian and non-Christian alike.

Tagged with:
3 Comments »
Mar 11

When A Nation Forgets God, by Erwin Lutzer ★★★★

This is a very short book of seven chapters, that can be read easily in 1-2 evenings, and represents sermons that Lutzer preached at Moody Church in Chicago. Lutzer has frequently spoken of the theme of lessons from Nazi Germany in his sermons, but in this book, the focus is entirely on how the USA is paralleling Nazi Germany in forgetting our Christian roots and marching after other drummers. The seven chapters address how our freedom of religion is slowly lost, how compromise to the Christian faith is accomplished through economic concerns, how evil laws can somehow allow moral permissiveness, how propaganda from the state tends to affect the evils we become inured to, how the state becomes the educator of our children much to both our own and our children’s detriment, and how political correctness is killing us. As a solution, Lutzer calls for ordinary heroes to stand up for the faith, and how the cross of Christ needs to be our all and total focus in life.

I had mentioned elsewhere how we enjoyed sitting under the pulpit of Erwin Lutzer, and in this review (and the next), find that reading his books brings back many memories of our time at Moody Church. Lutzer is not an expository preacher but is excellent at confronting our culture in a cry for returning to Christ and Scripture for our guidance in life. This book is recommended as an easy and enjoyable reading experience.

Tagged with:
No Comments »
Mar 08

God’s Will: Finding Guidance for Everyday Decisions, by JI Packer with help from Carolyn Nystrom ★★★★★

As a young man, I worried a lot about receiving guidance from God and was offered a potpourri of bad advice as to how to achieve that guidance. As an older man, I now am in a position of giving younger people advice as to how they might receive guidance from above. I had mentioned quite briefly in my Memoirs the modus operandi that I have used over the years in getting guidance from God which has set the course for my life. It is mostly in accordance to that found in this book. I have also reviewed a similar book on guidance written by Bruce Waltke (see 02JUL2009). His text tended to be more technical, showing that many of the ways in which Christians seek guidance from the Lord are more akin to witchcraft than to honest inquiry as to the will of God. It also is an excellent book and most worthy one’s attention.

Packer approaches finding God’s will in a similar fashion to Dr. Waltke and also John Newton, for which he has a lengthy quote at the end of his book. Starting with the 23rd Psalm, Packer acknowledges that simply by being one of God’s sheep necessitates him being your shepherd and directing your path. Packer then works through a number of issues on a chapter by chapter basis, including 1) maintaining good spiritual health, 2) paying attention to commands in Scripture as to how to live, how to walk, and how to think, 3) seeking maturity and wisdom of the Solomonic type, learning how to think wisely through problems, 4) seeking Godly counsel, consulting friends and family, 5) looking to people that model the Christian life and living accordingly. The Lord Jesus Christ stands primary as our model. 6) when it comes to major life commitments, such as a job, school, marriage, moving, etc., trusting in the Lord’s guidance knowing that God will direct your heart and mind in the way that you should go, 7) when ethical concerns cloud the situation and ethical dilemmas arise, trusting in God for wise leanings and taking care regarding the many temptations that will assault you, and 8) relying on the Holy Spirit. Packer spends careful time on speaking about the Holy Spirit, correcting mistaken ideas such as hearing a voice in your ear or seeing a vision that will direct you. As an example of how the Spirit really works, Packer suggests that the Holy Spirit has a “floodlight” ministry in illuminating a narrow segment of the “stage” that directs you in the way that you should go. Specifically, Packer notes mistakes made by “superspiritual” Christians, including a) undervaluing God’s gift of reason to you (i.e, just think things out!), b) overvaluing the role of patience and waiting on the Lord (when action should be taken), and c) programming, or putting limits, on the Holy Spirit’s work by demanding or expecting exactly how the Holy Spirit should act. Contrariwise, Packer also labors intensely in condemning the opposite extreme, which he calls the sub-spiritual extreme, where a Christian does just the opposite of the three points above, with point c) being that of expecting nothing from the Holy Spirit.

The book is an excellent read, and worthy of any Christian interested in walking according to God’s will. Packer writes in a very pastoral fashion, and reading his books is almost identical to listening to him. I believe that many of his books are exactly that, lectures or talks that have been transcribed. Packer has the ability to take the most complex theological ideas and make them simple. In addition, Packer never ceases from emphasizing that theology demands both praise and practice, walking joyfully and thankfully in His ways. I would recommend this book to any interested reader.

Tagged with:
1 Comment »
Mar 06

The True Story of Fake News: How Mainstream Media Manipulates Millions, by Mark Dice ★★★★

Mark Dice is best known for his documentation of the Illuminati and the Bohemian Grove, and thus is often accused of being a “conspiracy theorist”. I’m not sure such accusations logically follow and consider the accusation that Hillary Clinton is a conspiracy theorist holds more credibility than such accusations against Mark Dice.

In this book, Mark Dice attacks mainstream media. By that is meant not only the standard media channels like CNN, ABC, MSNBC, CBC, etc., but also the internet social media and reference sites, such as Wikipedia.

Dice first goes after social media. I would have thought that social media would have been fairly free of bias, but the contrary is mostly true. Google has the ability to manipulate how searches are performed in order to favor a liberal bias. Facebook tends to have a horrid bias in how it censures conservative vs. liberal media. Dice’s complaint about U-tube is in how it manipulates advertising revenues based on the “offensiveness” of content, and offensive is often deemed as anything of a conservative nature. Since Dice depended heavily on revenues acquired with U-tube, it has affected him most heavily.

The attack then rages against the standard media channels. Step-wise through the various media channels, Dice documents many incidents where the media either created the news or manipulated the recording of the news (for instance, editing out segments of comments to make them say exactly the opposite of what was said) in order to provide a strong liberal bias. Sadly, he does not include Fox News, which has also manipulated how it reports the news in order to force a bias in the direction that Fox News wished. I am sure that the examples provided by Dice are just the tip of the iceberg in how our news is manipulated to heavily biased ends.

The book is slightly tedious to read. His short last chapter provides a brief overview summary of the problems in fake news. This is where I know Mark Dice could have used his book as a springboard to discuss the problem of news bias and what to do about it. 1. What alternatives do we have in attempting to gain news without a distorted slant? 2. How do we live with the news swamp that is currently given to us? 3. What other sources of news are available? 4. What ways can we protest social media in an effective fashion? Is boycotting social media the best action? 5. What grass-roots efforts are available that seem to be effective at forcing more responsibility with the news media?

Since news will always be biased, we cannot simply demand news without “bias”. The reporter holding a world view similar to our own would be helpful. The only effort that I am aware of to provide more conservative newsagents has been the World Journalism Institute, though even it has had somewhat of a neo-conservative bias reflected by the parent news magazine, World Magazine. Reporters of a conservative bent have found it overwhelmingly challenging to live in the liberal shark tanks of the liberal press. Too often, like Ross Douthat, they have caved and showed themselves mostly as liberals in sheep’s clothing, perhaps having a pro-life stance, but otherwise being rottenly liberal to the core. Hopefully, Mark Dice will think through and provide a better scheme that conservatives could use to confront the liberal (and lying) press.

Tagged with:
2 Comments »
preload preload preload