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Thoughts on the Christian life in a fallen world

Sunday, August 31, 2014

If God Is Good - Randy Alcorn

Faith in the midst of suffering and evil.  Suffering is, in the end, God's invitation to trust Him.  This book answers the question, How can there be an all-good and all-powerful God if evil and suffering exist?
Randy is one of my favorite non-fiction authors, and is founder and Director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.  I was glad to see him write an extensive work on this subject.
One of the chapters takes on Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and his cohorts titled the Unbeliever's Problem of Goodness.  In which he says "People speak of gratuitous evil, but what about gratuitous good?"  How do these atheists explain the presence of good?  Where does goodness come from?  The author give the reader intelligent, well thought out answers to these questions and more.  He also references an excellent book titled Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed by Phillip Hallie, in which a French town under Nazi occupation provided Jews with food, shelter, and escape simply because it was the right thing to do.
At over 500 pages, this is a massive testimony to the author's research and knowledge of the subject.  A topical index can help find references to subject and names, and notes at the end of every chapter.  The book is divided into 11 sections with 45 chapters , most paragraphs beginning with a statement or question, and then goes on to make the systematic argument using scripture, personal insight, or quotes to reinforce the point.  Throughout this book the author states, "God is sovereign and is not the author of evil, but He is the author of a story that includes evil."  Elsewhere in the book he states," What we call the problem of evil is often the problem of our finite and and fallen understanding."  We are not going to understand why things happen , and even if we did, our limited, human minds could not handle or comprehend it.  Quotes from C S Lewis, Spurgeon, Thomas Aquinas, Victor Frankl, John Newton,  Elizabeth Elliott and others abound.
In chapter 36 titled :How the health and wealth Gospel perverts our view of evil and suffering, he takes on the prosperity Gospel with statements such as "In some cases, pleasing God results in suffering," and "Christians should expect to suffer more, not less, since they suffer under the fall, and as followers of Christ."  He states,"This is so obviously opposed to countless Biblical passages, it's difficult to imagine, apart from the deceptive powers of satan, how so many Christians could actually believe them."
There is so much material in this book that needs to be read, thought about, and then read again, it will take some time to process.  The author is extremely pro-life, having suffered law suits, arrest and job loss that he describes in this book.
In other parts of the book he tackles the inadequacy of the atheistic view by stating,"Why be angry with someone the doesn't exist?" Indeed that is true.  He also takes on "open theism" with logic and intelligence.
This is not a book to read once through and then put aside.  You can pick up from any chapter or section and find a complete and compelling argument for the existence of evil.  Much like one of his other books, Money Possessions, and Eternity,  this one reads like an encyclopedia with so many references and notes.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know the answer to the question, If God is God, why is there evil? This book offers one of the best answers I have read.
Published by multnomah publishing, and www.waterbrookmultnomah.com.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pursuing Justice - Ken Wytsma and Dr. Jacobson

The call to live and die for bigger things.  The only way to find abundant life is to give your life away.  What does it mean to have a robust, Biblical understanding of justice?  This book attempts to answer that question.  It may be a matter of opinion what justice really is and what it means.  Bruce Cockburn says in one of his songs, "Everybody loves to see justice done.  On somebody else."
There is an interesting analogy early in the book between static art and dynamic art.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up the book.  But what I did find was a Biblical explanation, in the author's opinion,of justice as it relates to modern history. It does depend on how you classify the word justice. In this world, justice may not always be proper or just.  He does mention people from history such as Bonhoeffer  and Elie Wiesel.
In Chapter 7 that is titled Remember What You Saw, the author mentions the empathy and WWII Holocost. The chapter on Playstations and Poverty reminds us that "The story we are part of is far larger than we think."  and "The way we consume directly affects the lived realities of many people."  Just thinking about how we live and how it affects other people in other parts of the world makes me uncomfortable.  Is is guilt? In the chapter on the Anatomy of Apathy, the author challenges us to care about our fellow human beings.  and "Love your neighbor as yourself."  as Jesus sad in Matthew 22:39.
Many parts of this book may make you uncomfortable, or even upset.  But the author is communicating what he feels justice would look like.  I believe he is sincere in his pursuit of justice, and has in fact devoted his life to it.  At over 300 pages this book covers a lot of ground,
There is a website www.kenwytsma.com/pursuingjustice for more resources.  There is also an extensive notes section.  A unique feature called interludes is a series of diagrams, poems and short stories to add variety.  One of the interludes includes an interview with Tom Roley, Executive Director of ROCHA USA a "Christian Conservative Organization" I found interesting.
I can understand the need to take care of the earth and pursue justice, but we can do that while "subduing the earth" and use it's resources in a responsible way.  And s long as we worship the Creator and not worship the creation.
I did get the feeling that this book could lead some into the fringe of environmentalism, and that our idea of consumerism and economics is somehow flawed and bad.  But, I do understand the author's thoughts on priorities of loving your fellow man and providing for others.  Honestly, I am lukewarm on this book, and can not highly recommend it. I was not aware of the environmental tone of this book.  I believe giving your life away can involve many other things besides being aware of consumerism.  Published by Thomas Nelson.  More info can be found at www.thomasnelson.com.
I have received a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Conditioned Mind - Michael J. Mannia

Overcoming the crippling effects of sin and guilt.  Why do you do what you do? This is the kind of book that I enjoy, psychology written by a Christian, from a Christian perspective.  God made the human mind very complex, and trying to understand it is very compelling.  At 300 pages, this book may be too much for some casual readers, but psychology buffs will enjoy it.
The author knows the trials of life first hand, growing up without a father and his mother was an alcoholic.  Today, serves as co-founder and president of Kingdom Community Ministries, on the internet at www.kcmcounseling.com, and helps others through the trials of life.
The Introduction is his personal story and describes how his father died, and his personal reflections on his mom's dysfunction.  Through 10 Chapters the author starts literally at the beginning with God's intent for humanity, and the complexity of sin.  Then, he reviews Breakng Through Denial and Matters of Repression.  Then finally Resisting the Devil, Ministry of the Holy Spirit, and Repentance.  He describes the psychological ideas in layman's terms that anyone can understand.  There are a few self-assessments to help understand and deal with repression and denial.  At several points he encourages someone who needs to, to find a Christian Counselor through the Association of Christian Counselors at www.aacc.net.
Bible passages throughout that begin the chapter and the subject matter are included and referenced.  He explains how all this can relate to sin and guilt, and the only way to deal with this is trust in God and help from others.
The author stresses the effects of sin in our lives and how it is "always polluting and corrosive." It effects every action and thought and is pervasive. Thus he describes accurately the total depravity of man.  He likens the system of self-deception to a three legged table of denial, repression, and rationalization.  The author has a sincere desire to help others find the freedom in Christ that he has found.  Through case studies and stories of real people, the author makes the case of those that have worked through the pain and found freedom in Christ.
There is an extensive notes a reference section that is 20 pages long.  Main focus of this book is repentance, forgiveness, and freedom that only trusting in God can give.  He can give you hope and heal you of your past.
Published by Crosslink Publishing.  I have received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this review.