Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: Exploring Christian Theology

Apparently "The Church, Spiritual and the End Times" is the third volume in the "Exploring Christian Theology"series, but also the first to be released, or so I was told when I eagerly asked the publisher where I could find the first and second volumes referenced in the text. I read the third in a matter of a few short days (although it took me much longer to get around to writing this review).

Although I did not get much out of the practical application portions of the book, I do see the wisdom in and need for such chapters. And I great enjoyed Nathan D. Holsteen's and Michael J. Svigel's overviews of the various views and basic common traditions on ecclesiology and eschatology. I learned a few new things and reviewed several well-known things, not to mention found a fairly clear explanation of the various views on end times. The authors, friendly, fun and informative, left me with plenty of questions, too.

And although my introverted personality made the ecclesiology section hard to read at times, my "thinker" personality greatly enjoyed the many facts worth underlining. There's a great deal of church history in the book (with bias toward traditional views), and I particularly took away a good idea of the invisible vs. visible church.

"Exploring Christian Theology" makes a good, simplified, easy to read Systematic Theology textbook. I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next book in the series.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review: Loves God, Likes Girls

"Loves God, Likes Girls" is essentially a very well written personal memoir that require readers to piece together elements of the author's life before reaching the short portion of the book that actually really addresses the issue promised in the book's title.

Sally Gary has loved God her entire life, but she has also had plenty of family and personal problems that shaped her identity and what she ultimately saw as a same-sex attraction that did not agree with her faith or her generation's attitude toward homosexuality. Some may say that her orientation based on life experiences cannot define all homosexual relationships, but Gary does a pretty good job of actually agreeing with that. She does not seem to budge on what the Bible says, nor does she really provide any straight answers - "Loves God, Likes Girls Part 2" anyone? But what she does make clear in the final moments of her book is that homosexuality does not fit into the "just stop doing that" category.

In several gems throughout the tail end of her memoir, Gary writes of her deep needs for positive relationships and loyal friends to talk her feelings out. She says she doesn't have all the answers, and she believes there's more to God's reasoning than "that's what so and so passage in the Bible says." She also spoke of the pressures of society during her younger years when the normal attitude toward homosexuality was disgust, leaving people like her to struggle on their own. She needed someone to just listen, and she eventually found those people in her life, but it took time. I have to wonder what she thinks now that so much has changed.

Some may have a difficult time reading Gary's memoir because it contains nothing but short chapter after short chapter of memories. But I related to quite a bit in her story, and so found myself unable to put the book down once I really gave it a chance. And I do hope that Gary's ministry, Center Peace, more directly answers some of the questions left hanging at the end of "Loves God, Likes Girls," while still providing a place for open and safe discussion.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review of it.

Review: Pilgrimage by Lynn Austin

I've always wanted to go to the Holy Land, and I just finished reading one of Lynn Austin's Biblical historical books, so it seemed appropriate to mix the two together and enjoy her stories for her own journey to the Promised Land. At first, my cynical nature wanted to know how in the world she got all these insights from a short trip, how she remembered and wrote all that occurred down, and whether she actually applied these insights or was just fishing to make a bunch of metaphors and applications for her readers. Plus, I'm not a big fan of books written in present tense. I did, however, end up greatly enjoying her "Pilgrimage." Austin did a wonderful job of describing the landscapes and creating the old and modern worlds in my mind. She also provided a surprising amount of interesting points, sometimes going a bit off topic, but always keeping my interest. Unfortunately, I didn't keep a pen with me for this read, so I'll have to go back again to pick out the things worth remembering, but I get the feeling this book is worth the extra effort.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review of it.