Saturday, October 25, 2014

Christian Nonfiction Review: Randy Alcorn's "hand in Hand"

“Hand in Hand” by Randy Alcorn is basically a shorter version of his book “If God is Good,” but with stronger emphasis on explaining the various Calvinist and Arminian positions regarding human free will and God’s sovereignty. The two books share a lot of the same content. Alcorn’s conclusion in “Hand in Hand” even focuses on explaining how a good God allows evil to happen, the idea emphasized in “If God is Good.” 

There’s unique content, though, albeit sometimes repetitious. Alcorn makes his own Calvinist leanings evident, but goes back and forth between the various positions, providing a good overview that is fairly non-partial. Several illustrated charts and headlines make the book easy to read, and Alcorn uses a lot of Scripture, in addition to some quotes from other authors. I do wish his chapter on “voices of the past” had included more historical voices on more topics than finding neutral ground. 

At the end of the book, I still hadn’t quite wrapped my head around the book’s topic. I had plenty of unanswered questions and thoughts. Alcorn’s purpose seems more focused on bringing his readers to a position of Compatibalism that can lean toward either side of the debate, so he spends a great deal of space making it clear that the paradox of Sovereignty and Choice can work, even if we cannot understand it.

At any rate, Alcorn provides a good book for beginners, but perhaps he could write another book more the length of his previous books that goes into more detail.

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Nonfiction Review: The Romantic Rationalist

About half way through reading “The Romantic Rationalist” I came across an article that listed several factors that the article’s author believed led to the conclusion that C.S. Lewis was “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” “Romantic Rationalist” had already piqued my interest in Lewis’ weaknesses, and I respected and appreciated that its authors were not afraid to address the bad along with the good. However, thanks in part to the critical article and a comment from my father, I finished the book unsatisfied. Only one issue brought up in the article I read was addressed (and thoroughly, at that) by the book.

“Romantic Rationalist” was written by a group of authors (John Piper, Randy Alcorn and more) for a conference on C.S. Lewis. The authors have different styles of writing, but for the most part the book is well laid out and written. The only chapter that gave me any trouble was a difficult-to-follow chapter on salvation with confusing points on Calvinism. The chapters only graze the surface of Lewis’ writings, which means, once again, I’m left with a desire for deeper exploration. Other topics included Biblical Inerrancy (which Lewis did not wholly support), Imagination (and its compatibility with reason), the problem of evil, a good and sanctified creation, and Hell. Overall, it’s a very quick, easy and short read that honors C.S. Lewis and his place in the authors’ lives.

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

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Christian Nonfiction Review: Deep Things of God

I really tried to understand Fred Sanders' "Deep Things of God." I read more than 80 pages of the book, which has very long chapters. And I picked up a few points: The Trinity is the Gospel. The Trinity is already evident in the daily aspects of Christianity and our beliefs. However, Sanders often goes off on tangents, uses big words, and is very difficult to follow at times. Most of all, what he writes doesn't fit his main points. The organization needs fixing. Perhaps with shorter chapters, smaller words and a bit of organization this book might actually teach something about the Trinity. Or perhaps there's more about the Trinity later in the book. Good luck getting that far. I may give it a try, but not before posting this review so I can move on to a better read.

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

Young Adult Review: Thunder

"Thunder" is a young adult novel about a girl marked by an immortal and hunted by the people who brought her up. The action moves slow, and the character development lacks, but the book sets the stage for what will likely be an engaging series.

Author Bonnie Calhoun picked unique names for her characters, but difficult and unpleasant to pronounce names. The setting was also difficult to follow, with a mixture of fantasy and reality. The book takes place in what seems to be America after a tragedy called the Sorrows, but the presence of surreal "Landers" do not fit that setting so much.

The book was somewhat graphic in its violence toward its end, with one particular death being a bit too gruesome for me (unfortunately, it did stick in my mind). I also did not care for the switching of point of view so often with so many different characters, including the villains. Although, for the most part, these views served their purpose in telling the story.

The plot arc works well and leaves the reader anxious for the next book. That book, "Lightning," will arrive in Fall 2015. I probably will have forgotten the series by then. 

But as negative as this review may seem, I give the book four out of five stars and recommend it for any fan of young adult novels.

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

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bible Review: NIV First Century Study Bible

Kent Dobson's NIV First Century Study Bible gives you all the cultural contexts and notes. Before now, the Chronological Bible (which requires a more steady reading plan) was the only Bible I could find with this kind of information. I only wish the NIV version used here had not been updated to include gender neutral terms. Unfortunately, Dobson's determination to give all sides of the story means a study Bible that lacks firm conviction on controversial issues. A passage in Romans about homosexuality, for example, is said to be possible referring to a specific cultural situation. The same goes for passages about women in the church. Therefore, I recommend that when using this study Bible, readers find other resources for tough topics and compare notes with other study Bibles and commentaries.

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

Suspense Review: Deceived by Irene Hannon

"Deceived" by Irene Hannon is an incredible mystery thriller. The reader knows all along who did it, but with parts of the narrative told from the villain's point of view, it is always difficult to tell where the clues will lead, and the clues do unravel rather well.

Kate Marshall hires a private detective to find out if a boy she saw in the mall is her long lost, supposed dead son. By book's end, it seems all may end poorly. The threat is high and the hero unlikely to save the day. If the reader has been on the edge of her seat throughout, she'll now end up on the floor.

Apparently, the book is a part of a series that share characters, but one need not read the preceding books to enjoy "Deceived." And after reading Hannon's latest, one may easily devour the remaining books.

Personally, I don't care much for multiple view points in one book, and Hannon did bring in the lost son's point of view for a very short section of the book. The romance in the book seemed like a distraction, as well, but a beginning to what I hope could be another book.

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

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Review: Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders

Lost in Translation is a great coffee-table book that will intrigue those who discover it. The illustrations of words from other languages are creative and the short comments based on provided definitions are cute and fun to read. My favorite words included definitions of blue smiles, bananas, sunlight through leaves, falling out of love, "grief-bacon," "staircase words," "ostrich politics," showers, "cable-salads" and more.

I do wish author had included a few examples of usage of these foreign words, or at least a pronunciation guide. Also, the definitions are on the right, while the commentaries are on the left, the opposite of a normal reader's pattern of direction for reading.

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Christian Nonfiction Review: Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God

When I first began reading Dane C. Ortlund's book on Jonathan Edwards and the Christian Life, I had two impressions. First, that the book might become difficult to follow, and, second, that the book might turn out to be a systematic theology of sorts that leaves the reader better off returning to Edwards' original works in full text. About half way through the book, however, a few things began to stand out to me, and, ultimately, I finished with a few more gems of knowledge in my pocket.

Ortlund addresses Edwards' teaching son love, joy, gentleness, Scripture, prayer, pilgrimage, obedience, Satan, the soul and Heaven. I most appreciated his attention to worship in solitude (giving credence to all us introverted Christians), as well as his points on the true Christian's love of obedience, the sinner's inability to not sin, and God's unlimited love for the redeemed in heaven.

Ortlund's final chapter includes a few criticisms of Edwards' theology and sermons, a refreshing change from books that mostly praise the people they describe.

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