The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the category “Books”

Top Ten Books Pastors Should Read

This post was originally published at the Becoming Human blog. You can read the entirety of the post here.

Every time I see a list of the “Top Ten Books for Pastors” I can almost always guess what they’ll be. I may be wrong on which specific books will be suggested, but I’m always right on what kind of books will be suggested: non-fiction. Allow me to diverge from the regular fare of book suggestions.books1

Read more…

Aaron’s Rod Swallowed Their Rods

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by Marc Hays

Christian, do you feel as though the enemy has won a victory?  Is your pessimillenialism lingering just under the surface ready to burst through with eschatological doom and cliches about polishing the brass on a sinking ship?

If so, C. H. Spurgeon offers sage advice in his devotional, Mornings and EveningsRead more…

Book Review – The Authenticity Hoax

reviewed by Justin Dillehay

Authenticity_Hoax_FNL_cvrOrganic food. Samuel Adams. Mud-floors. Vintage Levi’s. What do they all have in common? According to philosopher Andrew Potter: authenticity. People eat, imbibe, walk on, and wear these things in an effort to be “real.” Potter views this so-called authenticity as a reaction to modernity, describing it as a “rejection of the various tributaries of mass society’s current, including the media, marketing, fast food, party politics, the Internet, and—above all—the program of free markets and economic integration usually derided as ‘globalization’” (8). In the space of 273 fascinating and often hilarious pages, Potter analyzes the history, meaning, and manifestations of authenticity, ranging from Jean Jacques Rousseau in the 18th century to Oprah Winfrey in the 21st. Through it all, Potter concludes that authenticity is a hoax; a “dopey nostalgia for a non-existent past, a one-sided suspicion of the modern world, and stagnant and reactionary politics masquerading as something personally meaningful and socially progressive” (270).

For me, Potter’s most helpful (and entertaining) insight is that authenticity is a form of one-upmanship and status-seeking; an effort not to be real, but to be different. If everyone starts listening to the Avett Brothers, the truly authentic will drop them like last month’s YouTube sensation (they must be sell-outs anyway). If Wal-Mart starts placing organic food within the financial reach of the hoi polloi, this is cause—not for rejoicing—but for anti-capitalist consternation (129). Once indie bands and organic food lose their ability to distinguish the authentic from the rabble, the truly authentic move on in search of substitutes, like locally grown food. All this and more in a chapter entitled “Conspicuous Authenticity,” a term Potter adapts from economist Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class. Read more…

Chesterton on Courage

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by Marc Hays

G. K. Chesterton thrived on the unexpected turn: that twist in the story that set all that seemed normal on its head, thus showing that true north may sometimes be upside down because we were facing south to begin with, but didn’t know it.  It comes as no surprise then, that Christianity’s paradoxes would bring him comfort and reassurance, rather than instilling angst and doubt. The following passage is from his book, Orthodoxy, Chapter VI, entitled “The Paradoxes of Christianity.”

“Granted that we all have to keep a balance, the real question comes in with the question of how that balance can be kept. That was the problem which Paganism tried to solve: that was the problem which I think Christianity has solved and solved in a strange way.

Paganism declared that virtue was in a balance; Christianity declared it was in a conflict: the collision of two passions apparently opposite. Of course they were not really inconsistent; but they were such that it was hard to hold simultaneously. Let us follow for a moment the clue of the martyr and the suicide; and take the case of courage. Read more…

The Abuse of Power and the Power of Abuse: Dealing with an Inconvenient Truth

By Uri Brito

Republicans are the party of small government. Democrats are the party of big government. These distinctions no longer hold true. Reagan’s first term, perhaps, in recent history, is the last to come close to the type of small government Republicans say they envision. But for too long the scenery of the political landscape is replete with big government towers. We, the people, stare hopelessly at those babel-like towers wondering if any of them have read Genesis 11. We are Tolkien’s hobbits wanting to be left alone smoking our tobacco and drinking the finest beer, but alone they will not let us be.

David Shipler’s The Rights of the People: How our Search for Safety Invades our Privacy (2011) detailed some of these abuses. Shipler wrote that the Bill of Rights were “embedded in the first ten amendments to the Constitution…to climb and counter the might state, to keep their speech free, their confessions true, their trial fair, their homes and files sealed from cavalier invasion by police.” We are losing that right as speedily as the government (NSA) is tracking your e-mail or Verizon phone call right now.

What we are seeing today is more than the undermining of the Constitution; we are seeing the undermining of morality. And this implies that we need the objectivity of Christendom. We can no longer amen the actions of any party, because both major parties do not care about the shire. They will make deals with anyone. We need the boldness to assert the foolish actions of our party and then condemn them each election.

Obama’s promise to secrecy and the respecting of civil liberties in 2007 has quickly derailed into a Mordor-like crystal ball. They have looked and accessed every conceivable file. They have found what they wanted and used that information for their own purposes. “We cannot have 100% safety without inconvenience,” the president argues. Inconvenience? An absurdly burdensome tax system,  the waste of our taxpayer money, TSA, a destructive economic policy, reckless wars led by reckless leaders, the murder of the unborn? This is more than inconvenience; this is abuse; and all in the name of an agenda.

What we are witnessing is not the era of inconvenience; those days were relatively comfortable. At least we knew when the inconveniences would come. We are entering the era of abuse. We are in an era where the words “abuse of power” have become redundant. In an abusive society, led by abusive leaders, we do not know what to expect. Power corrupts, but absolute power in the hands of fools leads to abuse.

We are not claiming that this is a distinctly Obama problem. Bush’s Patriot Act opened the doors to this type of infringement. The tyranny of technology began long ago. And we are now recipients of a president who is continuing those policies.

The Economist observed in 2007, that in the past, information was gathered by drawing conclusions about citizens from fragmented reports by party loyalists. They would tap phones, send informers to workplaces, and follow people around. Today, “data about people’s whereabouts, purchases, behavior, and personal lives are gathered, stored, and shared on a scale that no dictator of the old school ever thought possible.”

We are living in a new era. This is an era where privacy is becoming extinct. The security of e-mail exchanges, counselor to counselee phone calls, and a host of other matters are sacrificed at the altar of safety. But are we safe? The answer to that is an inconvenient truth to our president.

Book Review – Out of the Silent Planet

silentplanet

by Marc Hays

This morning I finished reading Out of the Silent Planet, by C. S. Lewis, which is the first book of his “Space Trilogy”.  I’m going to begin this book review with a genre review, because of how the genre unexpectedly affected the way I, as the reader, received the story.  I am not a trained literary scholar, analyst, or guru, so if the things that struck me in the reading of this book seem infantile, it is probably because they are.  After all, I’m nearly 40 and have just begun reading Lewis’ Space Trilogy.

As mentioned in a previous post, I enjoy taking my family on excursions into Narnia. In order to get there, we suspend what we understand as reality and follow the Pevensies and their cousins through magical portals. These gates are common items like wardrobes and wall-hangings that Aslan uses to supernaturally transport sons of Adam and daughters of Eve from this world to different one–a fantastical one.  In our minds we suspend reality in order to step through to Narnia, a world like ours in many ways, but wholly unlike ours cosmologically; hence, the reason the Narnia Chronicles are considered “fantasy” literature.  It is a place that is wholly other than our own.  When you close the book, you actually can’t get there from here. Read more…

Book Review – Mathematics: Is God Silent?

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by Marc Hays

Last year, my path crossed that of a mathematician named James D. Nickel. I traveled with my family to Cincinnati to hear him lecture at the Toward the Quadrivium conference, which was hosted by Classical Conversations, Inc.  In a single Saturday, Mr. Nickel took Cornelius Van Til’s epistemology and R. J. Rushdoony’s triune solution to the problem of the “one and the many” and applied these truths to the physical world around me. As surely as the triune God who lives has created the “stuff” that exists, He organized His work according to a pattern, and therefore, created it knowable. He has spoken words and He has spoken numbers.  He has revealed Himself and His beauty in both word and number, and He has hidden Himself and His beauty in both word and number. Mr. Nickel opened the doors to this world where number, sequence, pattern, unity, and plurality are perpetually speaking the beauty, goodness, and truth of God’s wonder-filled universe. Read more…

Book Review: The Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor

The Incarnational Art of Flannery O'ConnorThe Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor by Christina Bieber Lake

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is just phenomenal. Christina Bieber Lake is amazing in this book. She is interesting and keeps you moving through the book. She brings in philosophers and authors to shed light onto O’Connor’s writings. She frequently references books that O’Connor read or underlined and often does so in the context of O’Connor having read that book while writing a particular novella or short story.

Read more…

Happy Birthday, GKC

g-k-chestertonby Marc Hays

One-Hundred and thirty-nine years ago today, Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in Kensington, England.  I tend to keep track of the anniversary of his birth, because I was born 100 years and 2 days later.  (It would be way cooler if the “2 days” part was not there, but it is what it is.)

Since you’re here, and  given the small amount of time you have to devote to reading blog posts, I am going to give you the gift of brevity for Mr. Chesterton’s birthday, i.e. I’m going to hush and let GKC speak for himself.  If the best gift you can give an author is to quote him, then Mr. Chesterton, having perfected the art of  quotability, must be one of the easiest people in the world to buy for. Read more…

That Your Joy May Be Full: Celebrating the Ascension of our Lord

By Uri Brito

The Church celebrates the Ascension of our Lord this Thursday. Since many Protestant churches find it difficult to gather parishioners for a Thursday service, many of them celebrate Ascension on Sunday.

The Ascension of Jesus is barely mentioned in the evangelical vocabulary. We make room for his birth, death, and resurrection, but we tend to put a period where God puts a comma.

If the resurrection was the beginning of Jesus’ enthronement, then the ascension is the establishment of his enthronement. The Ascension activates Christ’s victory in history. The Great Commission is only relevant because of the Ascension. Without the Ascension the call to baptize and disciple would be meaningless. It is on the basis of Jesus’ enthronement at the right-hand of the Father, that we image-bearers can de-throne rulers through the power and authority of our Great Ruler, Jesus Christ.

The Ascension then is a joyful event, because it is the genesis of the Church’s triumph over the world. Further, it defines us as a people of glory and power, not of weakness and shame. As Jesus is ascended, we too enter into his ascension glory (Col. 3:1) This glory exhorts us to embrace full joy. As Alexander Schmemann once wrote:

“The Church was victorious over the world through joy…and she will lose the world when she loses its joy… Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.”[1]

But this joy is given to us by a bodily Lord.

We know that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He is ruling and reigning from his heavenly throne. He has given the Father the kingdom, and now he is preserving, progressing, and perfecting his kingdom. He is bringing all things under subjection.

We know that when he was raised from the dead, Jesus was raised bodily. But Gnostic thinking would have us assume that since Jesus is in heaven he longer needs a physical body. But the same Father who raised Jesus physically, also has his Son sitting beside him in a physical body.  As one author observed:

Jesus has gone before us in a way we may follow through the Holy Spirit whom he has sent, because the way is in his flesh, in his humanity.[1]

Our Lord is in his incarnation body at the right hand of the Father. This has all sorts of implications for us in worship. We are worshipping a God/Man; one who descended in human flesh and who ascended in human flesh. He is not a disembodied spirit. He is truly God and truly man.

As we consider and celebrate the Ascension of our blessed Lord, remember that you are worshiping the One who understands your needs, because he has a body just like you; he understands your joy because he has a body just like you.

[1] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World. Paraphrased

[2] Gerrit Dawson, see http://apologus.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/ascension-and-jesus-humanity/

Uri Brito is a pastor and blogger. He treasures earthly life, but dwells in the heavenly places.

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