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Archive for the ‘Author’ Category

The Man Who Knew Too MuchThe Man Who Knew Too Much by G.K. Chesterton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I like Chesterton’s non-fiction more than his fiction. This is (if I recall) the second book of fiction that I’ve read from the great GKC. I have read more of his non-fictional work, and I like it more.

This book, like many mysteries, was a confusing ride. GKC’s word crafting is gorgeous – at points, simply startling. He was a man who knew how to use language. He had a purdy mouth.

The story is full of murder, political intrigue, and interpersonal difficulties. The author worked in some scathing criticism of “Capitalism,” as he saw it in his day. You know, the book was fun, but not super fun. Truth be told, when it comes to someone like GKC, if it ain’t really, really good, it just don’t match up with my expectations. I guess I just expect a great deal from GKC, and this book was, therefore, a slight disappointment.

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I have been reading through NT Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God. Generally speaking, I’ve found the book to be informative and quite useful. Even though it is a scholarly work, Wright’s style is lucid and engaging – not an easy thing to achieve. I don’t fancy myself to be a NT scholar. I’m familiar enough with scholarship to know that I’m not one. Therefore, I know that I’m susceptible to the ol’ scholarly snow-job. What’s that, you ask? Well, it is common enough for scholars to give vent to their vast learning (which is impressive) in such a way as to hide or obscure an error. I think that Wright has done just this at a certain point. (more…)

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The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and LoveThe Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love by Augustine of Hippo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This little work was a pleasure to read. It consists of Augustine’s thoughts on the Nicene Creed (faith) the Lord’s Prayer (hope) and a short discourse on Christian love. It will serve as a good introduction to Augustine’s theological thought.

For my part, I love Augustine’s emphasis on the primacy of grace. His defense of the sacramental system is irritating, as it seems very weak. Finally, his take on faith and works is quite disappointing. He does not clearly distinguish between justification and sanctification.

There are a lot of things in this short work that will make the Christian’s heart rejoice, and there a few things that are less than celebratory. By any account, this little “handbook” of theology is worth reading, for Augustine is always worth reading.

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HereticsHeretics by G.K. Chesterton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m just finishing this book for the third or fourth time. Chesterton blows my little mind. He has such wonderful insight into what it is to be human. I think of him as a humanist that was a Christian. One of my favorite lines in this book is that “what is valuable and lovable in our eyes is man–the old beer-drinking, creed-making, fighting, failing, sensual, respectable man.” For Chesterton, man is incurably an idealist, a romantic, a thinking, feeling, paradoxical being. However, what is most human about humanity, what makes man man is that he’s a dogmatist. Man is the only created being that is necessarily drawn to generate a philosophy of life.

In this book Chesterton attacks those who either deny that such a philosophy exists or can exist and/or offer a philosophy that is inadequate. One of the difficulties of this book (and the reason I give it four stars) is how intimately tied it is to late 19th- and early 20th-century people and ideas. Thus, if one is really interested in understanding Chesterton’s criticisms in this book, one will likely end up doing some remedial work on men like George Bernard Shaw, H.G Wells, George Moore, and others, and on such movements as Aestheticism, Neopaganism, and a host of other unsavory isms. However, with a little Google research or simply an open window to Wikipedia, most of these things can be adequately pieced together, and, thus, Chesterton’s judgments will be understood more fully. All of this work will pay off handsomely, as many of these ideas are still flying around today (especially on university campuses!).

One final word about Chesterton’s style: it’s like totally rad. It is just downright pleasing to read his words. It is not just that he has a powerful command of humor and paradox, it is that he knows how to turn a phrase. He knows how to make words dance and sing. He is worth reading simply for his style. This book is full of deep insight which is communicated in glorious prose.

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The necessity of reforming the churchThe necessity of reforming the church by John Calvin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a good little read, which has the advantage of being very concise and direct. It was written to Emperor Charles V on the eve of the Diet of Speyer (1544). This tract was written as an apologia for the Reformation. What was going on in the sixteenth century that made reformation necessary? I think Calvin lays out a case that it was quite necessary, and that the only course of action open to the Christian who loved the church of Jesus Christ was to support the Reformation.

What will be most surprising about this work is how heavily some issues factor into Calvin’s reasoning. You might expect him to focus on sola scriptura or sola fide. These issues simply do not get much attention. Instead, Calvin focuses on the abuses in worship, prayer, and the Sacraments. This, I think, should be quite instructive for us. Too often, we place a great stress on theological purity, but scarcely think about purity in the corporate action of the church. We should have done the one without leaving the other undone. Let us serve our Lord by pressing forward toward excellence in all areas of life.

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I ran across a gorgeous little ditty from John Calvin today. It fits into the discussion about God’s will and the salvation of people. Calvin’s little tract is called “Articles concerning Predestination”; it’s found in a volume translated and edited by J.K.S. Reid entitled Calvin: Theological Treatises. In that the article is short, I will reproduce the whole thing below and then add some comments afterward.

Articles concerning Predestination

Before the first man was created, God in his eternal counsel had determined what he willed to be done with the whole human race.

In the hidden counsel of God it was determined that Adam should fall from the unimpaired condition of his nature, and by his defection should involve all his posterity in sentence of eternal death.

Upon the same decree depends the distinction between elect and reprobate: as he adopted some for himself for salvation, he destined others for eternal ruin. (more…)

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Heidelberg Catechism #44

Q. 44 – Why does the Creed add, “He descended into Hell”?

A. To assure me in times of personal crisis and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.

Theological: It is interesting to note that the Catechism basically bypasses all the discussion of the harrowing of hell in its answer. The wisdom in this policy is the controversy is not very edifying. (more…)

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