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    I review for BookLook Bloggers

    Thursday
    Oct162014

    Scot McKnight's One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow is $2.99 on Kindle

    PSA: Scot McKight's little book One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow is $2.99 on Kindle.

    When this book released I read it quickly, and proceeded to hand it off to high school seniors and college students as a nice, challenging book for those seeking to take a next step in their life with Christ.

    Not bad for adult Christians, either.

    Wednesday
    Oct152014

    Sermon Audio :: Whose Authority? Which Lord? : The Gracious Commands

    Ten Commandments, St. John's College, Cambridge

    On October 12, I preached a sermon on authority, the Lordship of Christ, and our response. We began with the Ten Commandments.

    Click here to read our primary text: Exodus 20:1-17.

    Download or listen to the sermon here.

    Or, visit the UBC website and stream online.

    Bonus links: God and Moses by Simon Rich and Moses and the Ten Commandments in History of the World, Part I.

    Tuesday
    Sep302014

    Sermon Audio :: Whose Authority? Which Lord? : The Rightful King

    Photo by James Gordon (Flickr!)

    On Sunday, I preached a sermon on authority, the Lordship of Christ, and our response.

    Click here to read our primary text: Matthew 21:23-32.

    Download or listen to the sermon here.

    Or, visit the UBC website and stream online.

    Saturday
    Sep202014

    Book Review: Charles Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010

    Several years ago I took a trip from Lawrence, Kansas to Dallas, Texas by bus. It was a grueling ride. But it was enlightening. I encountered a side of America very different from my everyday experience.

    Charles Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 is a book about class differences. Just as my bus ride was an immersion in another dimension of American life, Coming Apart is an excursion through two different Americas. Murray's argues that the rift separating upper and lower classes is more pronounced and markedly different than ever before. Whereas America once may have been divided primarily among racial or economic lines, today there is a vast difference in cultural experience, outlook, values, and behavior. While Murray's presentation relies heavily on data, his message is communicated clearly through narrative illustrations rooted in the histories of two communities: Belmont and Fishtown. In Belmont, a strong majority is college educated. Fishtown, by contrast, is populated by highly skilled blue collar workers like plumbers and machinists, and low-skilled laborers, like security guards, delivery truck drivers, and people who work on the dock.

    In Part II of this book, Murray moves beyond a robust definition of the new upper and lower classes and offers an analysis of specific virtues: Marriage, Industriousness, Honesty, and Religiosity. Murray selects these for a historical reason. In 1825, a German academic named Francis Grund observed that America's form of government and a public adherence to common morals was the strength of the American experiment, and that the two were both interrelated and indivisible. In Grund's opinion, "no government could be established on the same principle as that of the United States, with a different code of morals." Murray believes "Grund's observation about the United States at the end of its first century would not have surprised the founders." Murray argues that marriage, industriousness, honesty, and religiosity are best referred to as "the founding virtues." These virtues permeated early American society, and thus constituted a firm social fabric.

    Reading Murray's definition of these virtues and his application to Belmont and Fishtown is a strong example of social science that illumines, and the conclusions are of great concern. Through careful analysis of zip codes fitting the profiles of Belmont and Fishtown, Murray demonstrates how marriage, first, is in decline. A higher percentage of people in both Belmont and Fishtown have never married, but more disturbing is the gap between those in the upper and lower classes. Whereas in the 1960s, between 4% and 5% of those in Fishtown and approximately 8% in those in Belmont remained single (a difference of 4%), in 2010, 8% of those in Fishtown and nearly 24% of those in Belmost have never married, yielding a gap of 16%. Murray also analyzes relative happiness in marriage, birth rate, divorce rate, and family stability. The news isn't good. Applying similar analysis to the other Founding Virtues, Murray demonstrates that the growing divide in American culture and society should not only be a concern for those sympathetic to the political left, but should be of great concern for social conservatives.

    Lastly, in his conclusion, Murray explains what difference the current social divide makes, arguing that American community is collapsing in places like Fishtown, evidenced, for example, by significant decreases in level of participation in public life (voting, decreased interest in children's public education, political involvement and knowledge of government, friendships with neighbors). He also argues that a decrease in the founding virtues correlates with an overall decrease in reported happiness, and concludes that the American project, as a whole, is in jeopardy.

    As a pastor and a cultural observer, I found that Murray's analysis matched my own anecdotal experiences of interacting with the public. Religious institutions, in some pockets, have served as excellent places for those with different vocations, socio-economic backgrounds, and political affiliations to share in common worship and work together towards common objectives, for the common good. But in the communities I have served, I have seen increased polarization and fragmentation, at the same time. This means many things for public life, and poses a challenge for churches and other religious groups to transcend this divide, offering a common vocabulary for virtue and morality, the strengthening of marriage and the family, and cooperation across natural affinities arising from education and class.

    I recommend this book. It is compelling social science, and the conclusions are deeply challenging. Thoughtful people should read what is here, and carefully consider both what Murray's argument means for public life, and also for daily personal and familial disciplines that might reverse, or at least stem, these disturbing trends.

    Note: I received a copy of Coming Apart in exchange for a review.

    Saturday
    Sep132014

    Book Review: Geisler and McCoy's The Atheist's Fatal Flaw

    There is more than one way to refute an argument.

    One way is to argue directly against the assertion, showing it to be wrongheaded.

    But another way is to uncover the weak points and expose fallacies. One such approach is to expose internal inconsistencies, thus rendering the argument self-refuting.

    Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy use this strategy in establishing the truth of Christianity in their book The Atheist's Fatal Flaw (BakerBooks, 2014). Geisler and McCoy do their very best to outline arguments against theism as they are presented by atheists such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker, and Christopher Hitchens, quoting from primary sources. Then, through the application of logic, Geisler and McCoy expose problems and impart confidence to those seeking to defend the credibility of Christian claims concerning reality. While this book is technically written, Geisler and McCoy are clear and accessible for those seeking to engage in conversation with skeptics on faith, doubt, and the space between. My familiarity with the classical arguments for theism and for Christian belief, along with my reading of the intellectuals Geisler and McCoy set out to refute, helped my comprehension and enjoyment of this book. But I'd recommend this book to those just getting started with apologetics, as well. The subject matter is broad, and the presentation fresh.

    Regarding the progression within this work, Geisler and McCoy address the problem of moral evil, human autonomy and freedom, submission to the divine will and corresponding favor, death, guilt, divine punishment or pardon, and eternal destinies. They then raise specific inconsistencies, and offer an appeal for open inquiry concerning Christian truth claims as Christians present them at their best, rather than as weakened or distorted versions of Christian theology. In each chapter, Geisler and McCoy demonstrate that the atheist's primary objection is not the issue raised, but rather the notion of God in and of itself. Atheists have no problem with morality, nor with naming certain actions as definitively evil. Rather, they have objections to a God would might set conditions to allow evils to occur, or who is a final arbiter concerning morality. They have no objections to restraint of human autonomy and the limiting of freedom, so long as a divine person has not decreed it so. The primary objection, as noted by Geisler and McCoy in each chapter, is to God.

    Christians should be skilled in presenting the reasons for what they believe. This requires familiarity with basic arguments against theism, and ready answers that clear away rubble and roadblocks that obscure the pathway to belief. I will keep this volume at the ready on my shelves, and review it from time to time. This is a helpful book, and will have great value to any Christian apologist.

    Note: I received this book in exchange for a review.