Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Call Waiting: How to Hear God Speak - by Robert K. Hudnut

Biblical patterns for receiving God's call

While I think this is a good book for anyone who wants to know about hearing God's call, I think it is an especially great resource book for preachers. It provides compelling character sketches on more than 30 biblical personalities, and it shows how God worked through all sorts of different situations to make his call known.

I used some material from this book when I was constructing my Listening for God's Call sermon series last December. And I received overwhelming response. I believe this is a topic that we need to understand more about. People were just hungry to know that God is working and wants to communicate with them.

So I would highly recommend this book.

That being said, I would caution that the author has a bit too much of a predestination POV for my tastes. And while he does get wishy-washy on it in chapter 29 and make it sound like he's just talking about prevenient grace, a strong theological stream of double predestination runs throughout the whole rest of the book.

And I suppose that the idea of predestination is comforting. It makes a great excuse (eventually) for never putting yourself into a position where you can hear God's call. Either you do hear it or you don't. And I suppose if you're reading the book (or this blog), then you do hear God's call. But it was not because you chose the book. No. This isn't a book you would have chosen. It has chosen you. By God's great design.

Or something.

Friday, July 09, 2004

The Inferno - by Dante Alighieri, tr. John Ciardi

In which the blogger laments not being able to speak Italian

I guess it's time you all knew the truth. I admit it. I'm a tad ashamed, but this is the first time I have ever read Dante's Inferno. It's just that no one ever forced me to in all my academic career.

(paragraph two goes here)

And that's why I never learned Italian. So I feel ill-equipped to comment on Dante's greatness as a poet (second only to Shakespeare, from what I'm led to understand), since I don't understand the original language and didn't read it in the original anyway.

But I really like the format of the John Ciardi translation. It's easy to follow. I especially appreciate the summary of the action at the beginning of each canto. And the notes at the end of each chapter might have been useful, had I cared enough to consult them.

So I guess I have to comment about content. Right.

In a way, I feel like this might have been along the lines of a Michael Moore "documentary" when it was written. It takes special care to skewer family enemies, known criminals, and corrupt individuals within the Catholic church (kind of fun to have an "infallible" "vicar of Christ" suffering eternally in hell for his misdeeds). I bet everyone just had to have a copy to see what kind of torture Dante was meting out on the naughty neighbors in Florence. I'm certain that's why we have copies around to this very day.

It's also really bizarre to have such a mish-mash of ideas all in one book. The idea of an eternal hell, where God is actively torturing individuals throughout all eternity, is a staple of most "Christian" belief systems. And then Dante throws in a ton of ancient mythology with Minos and Cerberus and Styx, Medusa, and Hercules. Not really such good theology. But I guess I can understand it better if I see it as less of a theological work and more just playing off of the Weltanshauung of his local Florentines, using all of their reference points to present his gory tale.

Which brings me to the last part of my entry: Dante is gross. "Between his legs all of his red guts hung..." etc. I think Canto 28 is the worst. I suppose Dante just wanted to use the most powerful force to get his point across about the future consequences of the afterlife. And I suppose he did a good job.

I just find it unfortunate that all of this torment, gore, blood, abuse, torture (a thousand times worse than Abu Ghraib ever dreamt of being), and evil is ascribed to the hand of God as just judgment. I can't believe some "Christians" can actually think that about God. Amazing.

It's a classic. So I guess you should probably read the book... if you have to.

Monday, July 05, 2004

The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime - by Miles Harvey

In which the blogger suggests the author get counseling

I guess I should start out by saying that this is not my book. I "borrowed" it from Pastor Matt Segebartt in Lincoln, NE about a month ago when I was staying at his house. I saw it sitting on his shelf, and I appropriated it because it looked so interesting. I did ask before I removed it from his house, however. So I suppose I owe Pastor Matt a debt of gratitude for letting me run off with his book.

And what an interesting read! Maybe you've heard that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Island of Lost Maps proves the point. It is really a great story about a specific cartographic crime spree that hit the whole United States (and some of Canada (and maybe Britain)) in the 1990s. But as it tells its tale, it drags in the entire history of cartographic crime throughout the centuries.
And then it drags in the history of map-making.
And then it drags in every great piece of literature ever written about travel.
And then it drags in the jobs and failures of librarians . . . and map collectors and dealers.
AND THEN it drags in the neurotic compulsions of the author as he stalks the perpetrator of this crime spree.

The book seemed to be a very well planned-out piece of stream-of-consciousness writing. (Yes, I know they are supposed to be mutually exclusive.) But you end up getting caught up in the author's quest and have to keep reading the book. Even if it is pretty scattered.

Basically, for my tastes, the book seemed a little too self-serving on the part of the author. And I think the self-revelation and self-discovery belonged in a psychologist's office instead of the pages of this interesting crime documentary. But the net effect of the book is mesmerizing, in the way voyeurism might be mesmerizing.

So my ego and my id still give it two thumbs up.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

DaVinci Code (Reprise)

In which the blogger laughs out loud at Dan Brown, Dave Barry, and Hollywood (in that order)

Previously, I wrote my opinions about The DaVinci Code (read it here). It was obvious from my posting that I thought the book was pretty silly (if fun to read).

Here is Dave Barry's take on The DaVinci Code. You can tell that he and I share the same opinion about Dan Brown's bestseller. Of course, Dave Barry is much funnier in the way he presents his review. It is truly a thigh-slapper.

But all this is nothing compared to the fact that Dave Barry's (Dan Brown's) movie is actually being made. View the trailer for National Treasure here. You will be truly amazed.

Friday, July 02, 2004

The Gospel in Brief - by Leo Tolstoy

In which the author of this blog is disappointed in a neutered and impotent Gospel

I think we have to see if this "Gospel" is really all that the word denotes. Gospel means "good news." As I read through Tolstoy's gospel, I was very confused how any of this could be good news to anyone. Because of Tolstoy's philosophical bent (no doubt), all of the miraculous events are taken out of the gospel. Thus, God's plan for the virgin birth becomes just an inconvenient bastardization. Jesus doesn't heal people. He doesn't really show what God is like (because He is not divine). He merely spews political rhetoric and ticks off the Jewish authorities. So they kill Him. And then He doesn't even rise from the grave. And the whole meaning of the Son of God dying in our place to take away our sins is erased.

I guess if I had to keep the original title, I would have to put ALL of the emphasis on the word "Brief." If there was any good news of the gospel in Tolstoy's contorted retelling, it was certainly lost on me.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

I'm So Behind!!!

In which the author stresses about not reviewing several books he has completed

So, since the last time I blogged (sorry about the length of my absence), I have finished reading 5 books. I will list them here, give a slight impression, and spend some time writing about them later.

Cat's Cradle - by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - trippy

Goodbye, Mr. Chips - by James Hilton - touching

The Screwtape Letters - by C. S. Lewis - ouch. was he writing about me?

A Gift of Light - by Roger W. Coon - persuasive

The Emerging Church - by Dan Kimball - wow!