Sunday, January 24, 2016

Nonfiction Review: J.P. Moreland's The Soul

J.P. Moreland's "The Soul" sets out a fascinating new method for defending the Christian faith: the idea of the conscious, mental, possibly disembodied soul. The book is for high-academic intellectuals, however. While chapter wrap-ups and key definitions are very helpful, there are some concepts and arguments presented that become caught up in jargon and difficult to comprehend, even upon multiple reads. Moreland's long chapters cover physicalism vs. dualism, the biblical teaching on the soul and afterlife (including a rather abrupt conclusion to the book that discusses heaven and hell), and the relationship between science and the soul. The treatment is thorough, but leaves the reader to make many of the connections and conclusions, herself. Moreland discusses near death experiences, the disembodied soul, and the relationship between the brain and the soul, but could delve more deeply into these subjects, while other subjects require him to warn the reader that she may wish to skip an entire section due to its difficulty (which I did, indeed, skip, after much due effort). It's not all painful to read - some sections make more sense than others. There is a saying that nothing worthwhile comes without effort, and perhaps that applies here, but a more practical and understandable approach in addition to philosophical approaches (which at times just seem silly) would be much appreciated.

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

Friday, January 22, 2016

Review: We Cannot Be Silent

I had a push-and-pull experience with R. Albert Mohler Jr.'s "We Cannot Be Silent." Mohler provides a thorough history of the LGBT rights movements and sexual revolutions, and I 100 percent believe him. The problem is, I had a difficult time getting a handle on what Mohler actually believes about these issues - after all, no-fault divorce, same-sex parenting, marriage, birth control, women's health, etc all have multiple sides, positives and negatives. We definitely see the overall, negative effect of society's changed mindset. And Mohler encourages the church to not take these issues lightly or with a one-sided hand. But at the same time, there's this underlining, silent feeling that Mohler himself may have a more one-sided solid opinion that he's not developing here. Mohler does provide one chapter with answers that need to be defended and upheld (such as the Biblical position on homosexuality), but he does not provide anything too new or revealing here. Overall, "We Cannot Be Silent" has some fascinating history that will likely shape your view on the modern world, but at the same time, readers won't find much advice for real-world conversation.

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

Review: Jesus Speaks Devotional

Given the testimonies from reliable, orthodox sources, as well as my own desire to delve into God's Word, I had higher expectations than usual for "Jesus Speaks." After reading through several of the devotions, however, I have to wonder if this is just a knock-off of "Jesus Calling," a false and unreliable book of devotions written as if Jesus were speaking directly to the reader. Such is also the case with "Jesus Speaks," although Steven K. Scott was smart enough to include a disclaimer that supports Sola Scriptura. Still, with such short devotions and such every-day applications, I have to wonder if the single verses used at the beginning and end of each page are used in correct context. I don't have the smarts or the time to check this out, but it looks okay from what I've read. Perhaps Scott's other book, which he constantly references (Marketing ploy, anyone? Just teasing.) helps. Ultimately, I applaud the concept of a book looking at Jesus' spoken, red-letter words, even if I wanted longer quotes and deeper insights into the actual text. That's not saying too much, however, since I've always had a difficult time getting anything out of short devotions. As devotions go, most people will find "Jesus Speaks" worthwhile.

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

Fiction Review: Irene Hannon's Thin Ice

Irene Hannon gives readers another edge-of-your-seat thrill in "Thin Ice." Although Hannon's story arcs are often the same, she never fails to provide a well-developed story arc - not so much a mystery, since she always gives a glimpse of the antagonist's point of view - but still a fascinating read. This particular book is not for the faint of heart, however, as Hannon's villain is quite dark in nature.

A former Olympic ice skater has an unknown enemy who has taken out his vengeance on her entire family. Of course, Christy can't help falling in love with the FBI agent assigned to her case, and that's where things become rather shallow and predictable. My two pet peeves over Hannon's work still apply. 1) The romantic leads do not get much beyond physical attraction to bring them together. Although "Thin Ice" does have some nice conversations about maintaining faith in difficult times. 2) Hannon introduces new point of views when she is already well into the book. To be specific, the antagonist is introduced on page 61, his crucial family member is introduced on page 86, and another third character receives a mere two pages told from her point of view, beginning around page 295.

Why do I continue to read Hannon's suspense novels? Well, because Hannon knows how to weave a good tale, and as predictable as her style is, it is also different from other novels I have read.

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

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Nonfiction Review: True Worshipers by Bob Kauflin

After reading John MacArthur's book on worship, the simple style and layout of Bob Kauflin's "True Worshipers" at first struck me as a book more suited for young adults. From the start, I appreciated Kauflin's dedication to truth and spirit in worship, a premise much the same as MacArthur, but the topics discusses soon became very different from, but very complementary to MacArthur's book. Kauflin's chapters focus on edification of the church, the gathering of the church body, and both the present and the future of worship. His topics sometimes felt preachy to me. I understand his Scriptural support, but as someone who has emotional reasons for feeling out of place at church, I didn't really find any solid answers or encouragements here, although they were hinted at. I certainly appreciated Kauflin's points on false, exaggerated emotional worship of extreme Charismatics. But most of all, I appreciated his two chapters on musical worship. Here, he begins to answers some tough questions. I wish he had chosen to expand his book just a bit more, but he states at the start that he chose to write a readable book instead of an overly intellectual book. I imagine most readers will thoroughly appreciate "True Worshipers," although those who are more hesitant in a church crowd may have a more difficult time reading it.

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Nonfiction Review: Why Trust the Bible by Greg Gilbert

In "Why Trust the Bible," author Greg Gilbert treats the New Testament as a collection of historical documents with the aim of proving the strong probability of their authenticity. I have read several books with similar topics, and Gilbert includes a list of such books for further research. That is because his own book does not really offer anything new. It does, however, package it in a fairly pleasant read. Gilbert's writing style and use of personable stories give a somewhat fresh perspective. I did find a few original points. For example, Gilbert points out that 45-75 years between the original events and the books is not that long of a gap considering people at that time kept one book for hundreds of years. He also considers the various early writings that indicate four gospels were accepted at a very early date. To recap the overall layout of the book, however, Gilbert covers questions like whether the Bible is just a copy of multiple copies, whether miracles are possible, and what the authors' intents were. He also includes a chapter on the implications his conclusions have for the resurrection.

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

Review: Whatever is Lovely coloring book

"Whatever is Lovely" is, well, lovely. It's an adult coloring book, so expected some sketches to be more detailed than others. The pages are thick and are NOT back to back, so you do not have to worry about ink sinking through if you use markers rather than pencils or crayons. Sketches vary in style, but leave room for us to choose our own style (leave some spaces white and it still looks good), but consistently offer encouraging quotes from the Bible and Christian leaders. For me, personally, I was too busy concentrating on coloring in the details to really meditate on the words presented, but whoever came up with the idea for a coloring book devotional was brilliant.

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

Nonfiction Review: Worship by John MacArthur

"Worship" is a topic I have always been curious to delve into. Congregational musical worship has never come easy to me. I'm a thinker, not an emotional person. And because I'm a thinker, I truly appreciate John MacArthur's detailed exploration of what true worship entails.

In his book, subtitled "The Ultimate Priority," MacArthur's main thesis is that worship must be of both truth and spirit, or mind and heart. That may seem obvious, but much of modern worship music seems to indicate otherwise. MacArthur appreciates all music forms and focuses on content rather than style. But he only includes one appendix chapter on church music worship.

The majority of his book deals with how Christians should worship God in their daily lives and with the "to whom" and "why" of worship. His writing style is similar to Randy Alcorn's detailed treatments of single topics, but without all the excess, repetitious details. I would like to see even more examples from the Bible on how people respond in worship, such as when David danced. I felt left short on a practical explanation of worship in daily life. But the examples of worship he does give are very pointed and helpful - for example, the woman at the well is used to look at the where of worship and the difference between Old and New Covenants.

Since worship is a topic I hope to study further, I plan to keep this book for my shelf. It has plenty of great bits that I would like to go back and digest more thoroughly.

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