October 19th, 2012



Book Review: “By This Standard,” by Greg Bahnsen


“God’s Law or Chaos. God’s Law or Tyranny. God’s Law or God’s Judgment. For over a century, most conservative Christian social thinkers have denied all three of these assertions. Some of them have even gone so far as to argue that God’s law is inherently tyrannical. But God’s law is not only just and sufficient, it is obtainable and ideal for civilization. Christianity has the opportunity to overcome all evil with good, and the basis for all good is in the richness of God’s law.
 
God’s law is Christianity’s tool of dominion. This is where any discussion of God’s law ultimately arrives: the issue of dominion. Ask yourself: Who is to rule on earth, Christ or Satan? Whose followers have the ethically acceptable tool of dominion, Christ’s or Satan’s? What is this tool of dominion, the biblically revealed law of God, or the law of self-proclaimed autonomous man? Whose word is sovereign, God’s or man’s?
 
Millions of Christians, sadly, have not recognized the continuing authority of God’s law or its many applications to modern society. They have thereby reaped the whirlwind—cultural and intellectual impotence. They implicitly have surrendered this world to the devil. They have implicitly denied the power of the death and resurrection of Christ. They have served as footstools for the enemies of God. But humanism’s free ride is coming to an end. This book serves as an introduction to this woefully neglected topic.” — from the back cover

 
This is a fantastic book. Using the words of Jesus Himself, the God-breathed words of the Apostles and others, and the general attitude of Scripture regarding the law, Dr. Bahnsen clearly and cogently shows from Scripture that the New Testament supports the continuing validity of certain aspects of the Mosaic Law.
 
He describes the tripartite classification of the Law—moral, judicial, and ceremonial—and shows how the first two categories are still valid. Moral laws—those laws regarding our personal behavior, such as “Thou shalt not covet”—are still binding on all men. No man in his right mind will say otherwise. Judicial laws—those laws which, while also moral, have civil implications, such as tax laws and penal sentences—are likewise binding on all men, but in principle. That is to say: many of these laws had cultural aspects to them which obviously are not quite the same now; so while a man should still receive the death sentence for homosexuality, it is not necessary for stones to be employed. But it is necessary that his death be a public example, as a warning for other would-be malefactors.Ceremonial laws—those laws which relate to the sacrificial system—are no longer binding, because of Christ’s atonement. To continue keeping these laws would be sin. Another division, arguably part of the ceremonial laws (as opposed to its own category) is that of the cultural separation laws—such tassel laws, beard-cutting laws, blended-fabric laws, dietary laws, etc. These no longer apply, either.
 
Here is an excellent quote taken from the book, pages 16–17:

…There is no word from God which fails to tell us in some way what we are to believe about Him and what He requires of us. Paul put it in this way: “Every scripture is inspired by God and PROFITABLE for doctrine, for reproof, for correction for INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, in order that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). If we disregard any portion of the Bible we will—to that extent—fail to be thoroughly furnished for every good work. If we ignore certain requirements laid down by the Lord in the Bible our instruction in righteousness will be incomplete. Paul says that every single scripture is profitable for ethical living; every verse gives us direction for how we should live.
 
The ENTIRE Bible is our ethical yardstick for every part of it is the word of the eternal, unchanging God; none of the Bible offers fallible or mistaken direction to us today. Not one of God’s stipulations is unjust, being too lenient or too harsh. And God does not unjustly have a double-standard of morality, one standard of justice for some and another standard of justice for others. Every single dictate of God’s word, then, is intended to provide moral instruction for us today, so that we can demonstrate justice, holiness, and truth in our lives.
 
It is important to not here that when Paul said that “every scripture is inspired by God and profitable” for holy living, the New Testament was not as yet completed, gathered together, and existing as a published collection of books. Paul’s direct reference was to the well known OLD TESTAMENT scriptures, and indirectly to the soon-to-be-completed New Testament. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul taught New Testament believers that every single Old Testament writing was profitable for their present instruction in righteousness, if they were to be completely furnished for every good work required of them by God.
 
Not one bit of the Old Testament has become ethically irrelevant, according to Paul. That is why we, as Christians, should speak of our moral viewpoint, not merely as “New Testament Ethics,” but as “Biblical Ethics.” The New Testament (2 Tim. 3:16–17) requires that we take the Old Testament as ethically normative for us today. Not just selected portions of the Old Testament, mind you, but “every scripture.” Failure to honor the whole duty of man as revealed in the Old Testament is nothing short of a failure to be COMPLETELY equipped for righteous living. It is to measure one’s ethical duty by a broken and incomplete yardstick.

But what are we to make of the dismissals of the law in the New Testament? Dr. Bahnsen deals with these alleged dismissals as well.
 
Truly the conclusions Dr. Bahnsen reaches in this book are logically inescapable.
 
A must-read.
 
 
 
INDECENCY: None.
BAD LANGUAGE: None.
AGE RANGE: Starting with as young men and women as can understand it.




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September 15th, 2012



What Then Shall I Read?


Several months ago, I approached Mr. Doug Phillips, Mr. Kevin Swanson, and Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr, three men I very highly esteem, all leaders in the biblical home education movement. I asked them a rather straightforward question: “I’m nineteen, I’ve graduated from high school, I have no job, no wife, and no children. Since I don’t have time to read everything, could you help me prioritize and provide me with the names of the most important books I should be reading in this season of my life?” They all kindly took the time to answer, and I’d like to pass on their answers to you, with the hopes that they’ll help guide your reading.
 
 
DR. R.C. SPROUL, JR.
 

Bondage of the Will, by Martin Luther

Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton

Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman

Postmodern Times, by Gene Edward Veith

Christ of the Covenants, by O. Palmer Robertson (I’ve read this one and it is the book on Covenant Theology)

The Conservative Mind, by Russell Kirk

 
 
DOUG PHILLIPS
 

He said to read Theologies, Histories, and Biographies

He said to read the writings of the Puritans and Reformers: John Calvin, Jeremiah Burroughs, John Owen, Richard Baxter, Thomas Watson, John Bunyan

Authentic Christianity by Dr. Joe Morecraft—a hefty, five-volume commentary on the Westminster Catechism

On histories, he gave me three sub-categories: Church History, American History, and Ancient World History

Listen to 2,000 Years of Christian Theology, audio lectures by Dr. Joe Morecraft

For biographies, he said to read not only those of aforementioned church fathers and Reformers, but also ones of great historical leaders, political leaders, and significant missionaries (John G. Paton, as one example)

 
 
KEVIN SWANSON
 

The Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin

He said to read church history

He said to read the apostolic and church fathers (Justin Martyr, Clement, etc.)

Confessions and The City of God, by St. Augustine

Revolt Against Maturity, by R.J. Rushdoony

Foundations of Social Order, by R.J. Rushoony

When I explained my personal vision for reforming an aspect of our culture, he said I ought to continue reading books on culture, and recommended All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes by Kenneth A. Myers

 
 
DR. JOE MORECRAFT (I approached the other three men as a result of a conversation I had with Dr. Morecraft)
 

Systematic Theology, by Louis Berkhof

An Eschatology of Victory, by J. Marcellus Kik (click here to read my review of this excellent book)

Knowing God, by J.I. Packer

Pushing the Antithesis, by Dr. Greg Bahnsen

Always Ready, by Dr. Greg Bahnsen

The Sovereignty of God, by Arthur Pink

The Puritan Hope, by Iain Murray

He Shall Have Dominion, by Dr. Ken Gentry

 
 
Thus their thoughts—and I’m very thankful that they took the time to answer my question. I’m afraid I’ve got my reading cut out for the next ten years!




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August 28th, 2012



Book Review: “The Second Mayflower,” by Kevin Swanson


“America enjoys a heritage of faith, family and freedom unlike any other country in history. Yet, those who love our country and its heritage are deeply concerned about the gradual decay of these values in our modern life and culture. The influence of the Christian faith in culture has faded as abortion and homosexuality are now being taught as ‘values’ in the public schools and society in society at large. The memory of that first band of Christians in 1620 who formed a colony at Plymouth has all but disappeared from the consciousness of the nation.

But the vision of the first Mayflower is not dead. No other nation on earth has been blessed with such a powerful Christian legacy, and the vision of the first Mayflower is returning. In this book, Kevin Swanson outlines a potent vision for the heirs of the First Mayflower and its world-changing vision.” — from the back cover

If a little tough for me personally to get through, this was nevertheless a good book. For the first half or so of the book, Mr. Swanson describes the history of the First Mayflower in the 1600s and the mentality the Pilgrims had of taking dominion for Christ. Mr. Swanson shows how we as a nation started (in the late 1700s) to deviate from God’s law, and subsequently came to be in the sad state we are in today.

But he doesn’t stop there. Mr. Swanson explains that no nation who rejects God’s law can have any hope for blessing—but that nation whose God is the Lord, blessed it is! Over the rest of the book, he casts a vision for effecting reform in our culture. He writes how full-orbed our vision must be, and how it must encompass all areas of life (as Scripture encompasses all of life). With the publication of Dr. Henry Morris’s and Dr. John Whitcomb’s book in 1960, The Genesis Flood, the voyage of the Second Mayflower began as the conventional, evolutionary standard was challenged. A line in the sand was drawn that year, and we must continue challenging the world on all fronts, taking dominion in all areas of life for the Kingdom of God—starting with the family and working from the bottom up.

What if our country refuses to be reformed, but grows in tyranny? Should we secede? Leave? Stay here? Mr. Swanson touches on the various options available to Christians in this area as well.

Recommended.
 
 
 
INDECENCY: In part of chapter four, “The Rising Tyranny,” Mr. Swanson talks about the various moral perversions that are becoming increasingly commonplace as he’s evaluating the sad state of our culture today.
LANGUAGE: None.
AGE RANGE: Young men and women in their mid-to-late teens, at the earliest.




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August 11th, 2012



Guest Post: “Magic Mike and Male Modesty” by Gabriel Hudelson


Gabriel Hudelson at Thine is the Kingdom put up this excellent post yesterday on the oft-neglected subject of male modesty. “[W]here’d we get the idea that girls need to, you know, wear clothes, but guys can show off their sculpted physique with impunity? I don’t know, but I don’t think that we got it from The Bible”, he writes. He’s spot-on correct.

Recently a film by the name of Magic Mike opened to rave reviews.

The film is about male strippers.

The audience for Magic Mike? 73% female.

Cue thinking face.

Let’s look at Genesis chapter 3, verse 21.

“And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam’s wife, Eve, but told Adam that, since Eve didn’t struggle with lust, the principle of modesty didn’t apply to him, and so he could continue to wear his fig leaf.”

Wait, what? Your translation doesn’t say that?

*searches madly*

OK, so where’d we get the idea that girls need to, you know, wear clothes, but guys can show off their sculpted physique with impunity?

I don’t know, but I don’t think that we got it from The Bible. We hear plenty of exhortations directed to Christian girls, warning them, pleading with them, to be modest, to embrace purity, to think of their brothers, to, you know, wear clothes. Rightly so, for Scripture directs exhortations to modesty directly to the ladies (1 Tim. 2:9), while nature testifies to the powerful attraction that the feminine form has to men- for good and for bad. Furthermore, our culture viciously pulls women towards “strutting their stuff,” so the exhortation to remain covered rarely comes amiss for young ladies in my generation.

But when was the last time that you heard a sermon on the way guys dress? It seems that for some reason we have assumed that girls don’t struggle with lust. At a deeper level, it seems that while we know that the Bible has something to say about how women dress, we somehow conclude that It is silent on the male wardrobe. This is a glaring inconsistency in our orthopraxy.

Click here to read the rest—and I’d encourage you to read the comments. There’s much excellent discussion there, too.




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August 2nd, 2012



Book Review: “An Eschatology of Victory,” by J. Marcellus Kik


There is a great debate today over the meaning of Matthew 24 and Revelation 20, two passages central to any discussion of eschatology. Does Matthew 24 prophesy a Great Tribulation or a premillennial return of Christ? Does Revelation 20 describe a millennial age on earth, or in heaven? Will the nations be converted before the coming of Christ?
 
J. Marcellus Kik provides great insight into these passages and the questions that surround them. He writes, ‘It is the habit of a few to read a few chapters of a book on prophecy to see which school of thought the author belongs. Then if they do not agree with his particular school it is cast aside and condemned. It is my hope that the reader will not use the norm of any particular school of prophecy but will use the Scriptures. Does the Word of God teach this or does it not?’” — from the back cover

Before I review the book, let me give a brief synopsis of my eschatological history, so you know where I’m coming from.
 
For me, eschatology has always been a sort of mysterious fog of bizarre imagery, doom, destruction, glory, and to top it all off, dissenting opinions about all of it and when it shall come to pass (if it even comes to pass at all).
 
Though my early thinking was rather lightly seasoned with premillennialism (I say lightly simply because I’d just accepted whatever I’d heard, not having had a chance to study it out for myself) I’d not really been steeped in any particular school of thought on eschatology. Reading The Last Sacrifice several years ago by Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer was my first exposure to the idea that the tribulation may well have been in AD 70 instead of sometime in the future under a world dictator. That exposure did two things for me. First, by throwing contrary ideas about the tribulation at me, it prevented me from keeping what few errant presuppositions I had and second, it began to prepare my mind for postmillennialism.
 
Again, since I’d not studied eschatology at all up to this point, but had just heard this or that, I had a rather clean slate regarding my doctrine of the end times. The next step I unwittingly took was when I read the first volume of R.J. Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law and had my first encounter with practical postmillennialism. As I read the book, I got a keen sense of the duty we Christians have here on earth regarding taking dominion in every area of life and advancing the Kingdom of God. I didn’t know it at the time, but that mentality was the practical, direct result of the eschatological school of thought known as postmillennialism.
 
J. Marcellus Kik’s An Eschatology of Victory was the first book I’ve ever read that deals specifically with the end times. With all the foregoing in mind, here’s my review.
 
 
 
Most of the book is divided in two. The first part deals with Matthew 24 (where Jesus speaks of the tribulation, and this generation not passing away, and the Son of Man coming in the clouds, etc.). Kik exposits the passage very ably and makes, in my opinion, a rather conclusive and exhaustive argument that the events of Matthew 24 did indeed come to pass before the generation then living—just as Jesus said would happen.
 
In the second portion, Kik exposits Revelation 20, wherein we find descriptions of the Millennium, the heavenly city, Satan being bound with chains, and other vivid imagery. This section was no less excellent than the first, but in a couple of areas, Kik challenged some of the ideas I’d held during my life. But I’m a firm believer that reformation cannot take place unless presuppositions are challenged—and if those presuppositions are sound, they’ll remain; and if they’re not, they’ll be reformed (Lord willing).
 
Right at the outset of the book, Kik succinctly summarizes the three main eschatological positions. This was especially helpful for me, someone just beginning to learn about these things:

As you know, the premil looks for the establishment of the millennial kingdom after the second coming of the Lord. As to the amil view we quote Prof. D. H. Kromminga: “The name literally means ‘no millennium’; while as a matter of fact its advocates believe that the millennium is a spiritual or heavenly millennium rather than an earthly one of a literal reign of Christ on earth before the final judgment.”
 

 
The postmil looks for a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of a glorious age of the church upon earth through the preaching of the gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit. He looks forward to all nations becoming Christian and living in peace one with another. He relates all prophecies to history and time. After the triumph of Christianity throughout the earth he looks for the second coming of the Lord. (pp. 3–4)

Now, what of those other eschatological positions? What about amillennialism and premillennialism? Kik’s purpose in this book is not to refute other positions as it is to make a Scriptural case for his own. As such, he doesn’t touch too much on the objections other perspectives bring to the conversation.
 
I recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand the end times. It’s this kind of book that I read and wonder, “This argument is so solid, how can anyone bring an argument against it?”
 
Highly recommended to me personally by Dr. Joe Morecraft.
 
 
 
INDECENCY: None.
LANGUAGE: None.
AGE RANGE: As young as can understand it, but that range would probably begin with young men and women in their mid/early teens.




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July 24th, 2012



Book Review: “A Cry From Egypt,” by Hope Auer


“‘Girls, get back!’ Ezra shouted.
 
His face was pale, but his eyes kindled with indignation as he stood in front of the girls protectively. Ezra dropped the pitchers in the sand and his hand flashed to a dagger, concealed under his tunic. Jarah’s eyes grew wide. He could be killed for carrying a dagger!
 
Jarah was a slave in Egypt. It was a dangerous place to be.Her work was exhausting and her family was torn between the gods of the Egyptians and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And her brother…would his Ada be given in marriage to an Egyptian in the palace? Would they ever be free?
 
Adventure, excitement, love, and faith come together when Jarah and her family find themselves at the culmination of four hundred years of history.” — from the back cover

I approached this book with a bit of mild skepticism. Regrettably, novice Christian writing has gotten a bad rap for being preachy and poorly written; and here was a young Christian authoress who was deeply concerned about the state of young peoples’ reading, and was determined to offer something else, an alternative, to the fluff and trash that is out there. Though such a motivation is admirable, to be sure, I was still skeptical.
 
But I was in for a pleasant surprise.
 
Hope Auer has done a great job, in my opinion, of combining biblical historical events as recorded in the book of Exodus with the story of a fictional family living under the tyrannical Pharaoh’s rule. Not only was her writing cohesive, but it was engaging: even though this book was written for a younger audience of boys and girls, it held my attention—as a nineteen-year-old! While Hope communicated a number of important messages very well, nowhere did her writing seem “preachy.” (One of the subplots included a “romance,” but Hope handled it in a wonderfully biblical fashion.)
 
A book like this is a breath of fresh air. Hope has done a great job, and I can say with complete honesty that I can’t wait to read book two.
 
Highly recommended.
 
 
 
INDECENCY: None.
LANGUAGE: None.
AGE RANGE: Any age, but it’s written for young boys and girls.




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July 14th, 2012



Thoughts on Birth Control


A couple of weeks ago, I read and reviewed Pastor Doug Wilson’s book Reforming Marriage. It was a great book. I loved it.
 
But.
 
Regretfully, while Pastor Wilson had many wonderful things to say (and said them well), his position on birth control was, I believe, incorrect, and I respectfully, but strongly, disagree with him on this point.
 
In the extra space of the book, I started to write my thoughts on his position. Those notes grew so lengthy that I thought it might be worthy of putting here on my blog. Perhaps someone will be edified. With that in mind, here is the unedited text I wrote in the book—my thoughts on his thoughts.

 
While I would still classify him [Doug Wilson] as being pro-life (based off his statements on page 126, “…it is clear that certain forms of birth control are expressly prohibited in Scripture.…infanticide and abortion. The Bible excludes all such practices in the most direct way possible—‘Thou shalt not kill.’ What many may not realize is that this commandment also excludes certain birth control devices, such as ‘morning-after pills’ or the IUD. These are devices which prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg, consequently, they are unlawfully taking a human life after it has begun.”), I believe he is incorrect in his assertion that “There is nothing in Scripture that says the act of using birth control is unlawful in itself.” I will grant that Scripture is silent in the sense that one cannot look in one’s concordance and hope to find the phrase “birth control”, but I believe Scripture is by no means silent concerning the principles behind the idea.
 
Mr. Wilson himself says, on page 125, that “the Lord is the One who opens and closes wombs.” He is absolutely correct here. But if God is indeed “the One who opens and closes wombs”, why are we deciding to regulate them?
 
Any time we with our modern technology devise a method for doing or regulating something which occurs naturally in Creation, we need to tread very carefully and ponder whether our new way of doing things is really the best way. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Pr. 14:12)
 
When God created the world, He created an order. When we tamper with that order we dance dangerously close—whether we realize it or not—to playing God.
 
The Lord is the One who opens and closes wombs; and in a proper marriage, children are the natural fruit of such a union. Therefore, we act foolishly if we regulate that which God did not design to be regulated by man.
 
It is a sin for a man and wife to use birth control of any kind. When a man and wife choose to use birth control, it is to say, first, that this couple deems it best that they not have a child at this time. It is to say that they know every possible reality which could result from every possible decision, and that to have a child right now is not the best thing. Only God has such knowledge of possibilities. Such an attitude, therefore, lays claim to divine omniscience. The second point follows from the first: namely, that when a claim to omniscience is made, and the claimant believes that something other than that which God has decreed or ordered is best, the claimant throws into question God’s omniscience. Two parties claiming omniscience yet differing as to what is best in a given situation cannot both be omniscient. Either one is, or the other; but not both. Therefore it follows that when a man or woman makes such a claim (however unwittingly) on the omniscience which only God possesses (by differing with Him as to what is best in a particular situation), he or she casts into doubt (however unwittingly) the omniscience of God. They claim for themselves knowledge which God apparently does not have, and He is therefore not omniscient. And therefore God is not God.
 
Birth control is blasphemy.
 
 
 
Perhaps Mr. Wilson is correct. Perhaps I am wrong. But I will have to be convinced from Scripture that he is right before I change my opinion.




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July 4th, 2012



Book Review: “George Washington’s Sacred Fire,” by Peter A. Lillback


“What sets George Washington’s Sacred Fire apart from all previous works on this man for the ages, is the exhaustive fifteen years of Dr. Peter Lillback’s research, revealing a unique icon driven by the highest ideals. Only do George Washington’s own writings, journals, letters, manuscripts, and those of his closest family and confidants reveal the truth of this awe-inspiring role model for all generations.
 
Dr. Lillback paints a picture of a man, who, faced with unprecedented challenges and circumstances, ultimately drew upon his persistent qualities of character—honesty, justice, equity, perseverance, piety, forgiveness, humility, and servant leadership, to become one of the most revered figures in world history.
 
George Washington set the cornerstone for what would become one of the most prosperous, free nations in the history of civilization. Through this book, Dr. Lillback, assisted by Jerry Newcombe, will reveal to the reader a newly inspirational image of General and President George Washington.” — from the back cover

This is not a biography of George Washington, but rather a scholarly, gracious defense of his Christianity. Totaling around 957 pages of the main text and nearly 200 pages of endnotes, this book is, I think, the greatest, most cogent defense of George Washington’s Christianity penned yet. I really don’t see how it could be otherwise: authors Dr. Peter Lillback and Jerry Newcombe simply bury the arguments against Washington’s Christianity “under an avalanche of facts”, as one reviewer states on the back of the book. That reviewer is right. The authors of this book leave no stone unturned in their meticulous research.
 
Lillback conducts extensive word studies, analyzing all the “religious” words and phrases Washington used and how many times they were referenced; and what Bible verses were referred to both explicitly and implicitly. We read of the many sermons Washington owned and appreciated. We learn of the dozens of prayers he wrote for so many different causes and reasons. The authors touch on alternate biographies of Washington (such as that written by Parson Weems) as well as the famous story of Washington and the cherry tree.
 
But Lillback also deals with objections, those that claim that Washington didn’t take communion, that Washington was a Freemason, that Washington had a temper, that Washington owned slaves. But Lillback and Newcombe always weigh the evidence carefully against the objection to determine the validity (or lack thereof) of a particular objection, instead of letting their personal feelings interpret the evidence.
 
As Walter A. McDougall has said of this book,

Secular historians ignore George Washington’s ward Nelly Custis, who wrote that doubting his Christian faith was as absurd as doubting his patriotism. But they cannot ignore this mountain of evidence suggesting Washington’s religion was not Deism, but just the sort of low-church Anglicanism one would expect in an 18th century Virginia gentleman. His “sacred fire” lit America’s path toward civil and religious liberty.

It’s a long book, and the pages are salted heavily with superscript numerals referencing the exhaustive endnotes. But in the end, it’s well worth the journey—especially in an age of history revisionism where the heroes of yesteryear are thanked for their sacrifices by getting their names dragged through the mud.
 
Highly recommended.
 
 
 
INDECENCY: None.
LANGUAGE: None.
AGE RANGE: All ages.




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June 28th, 2012



Book Review: “Reforming Marriage,” by Douglas Wilson


“How would you describe the spiritual aroma of your home? The source of this aroma is the relationship between husband and wife. Many can fake an attempt at keeping God’s standards in some external way. What we cannot fake is the resulting, distinctive aroma of pleasure to God. Most marriage books address the mere externals of marriage, without seeking to understand the heart issues. Godly marriages proceed from an obedient heart, and the greatest desire of an obedient heart is the glory of God, not the happiness of the household.” — from the back cover

 
I bought this on the high recommendation of a friend. I was not disappointed.
 
Short, witty, and wise, this really is a great book, and I profited a much from it (even though I’m not married). In discussing “A Practical Theology of Marriage”, Doug Wilson draws from the marriage of Adam and Eve and the picture of Christ and His Bride, and shows us what we can learn from each example. Wilson writes on “Headship and Authority,” “The Duties of Husbands and Wives,” “Efficacious Love,” “Keeping Short Accounts,” “Miscellaneous Temptations,” “The Marriage Bed is Honorable,” “Multiplying Fruitfully,” and “Divorce and Remarriage.”
 
Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book, from the chapter “Headship and Authority”:

In this passage of Ephesians, Paul tells us that husbands, in their role as head, provide a picture of Christ and the church. Every marriage, everywhere in the world, is a picture of Christ and the church. Because of sin and rebellion, many of these pictures are slanderous lies concerning Christ. BUT A HUSBAND CAN NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT CHRIST AND CHURCH. If he is obedient to God, he is preaching the truth; if he does not love is wife, he is speaking apostasy and lies—but he is always talking. If he deserts his wife, he is saying that this is the way Christ deserts His bride—a lie. If he is harsh with his wife and strikes her, he is saying that Christ is harsh with the church—another lie. If he sleeps with another woman, he is an adulterer, and a blasphemer as well. How could Christ love someone other than His own Bride? It is astonishing how, for a few moments of pleasure, faithless men can bring themselves to slander the faithfulness of Christ in such a way. (page 25)

Here’s another, from the chapter “Multiplying Fruitfully”:

No greater instrument of slander is given to those who resist the truth than when adherents of the “truth” do what any fool, saint, scoundrel, wise man, or high school sophomore can do (i.e., beget a child), and who then fail to bring up that child in the fear of the Lord….The Lord said that when someone stumbles a little one it would be better for him that a millstone be tied around his neck and he be thrown into the sea. What then are we to make of a male who begets little ones he will not teach, fathers children he will not feed, and sires offspring he will not pastor? As if one millstone were not enough, he has demanded more. (pages 121–122)

There are so many other excellent quotes I could post here!
 
There were only one or two points in the book where I though Mr. Wilson may not have gotten it right, but they are for the most part inconsequential. However, he wrote one chapter, called “Multiplying Fruitfully,” in which he discusses how children are a blessing and a gift from God. That is well and good, and much of his writing in this chapter is sound—except for the section where he describes his unusual position on birth control. In short, he believes that any kind of birth control which terminates a life (everything from the “pill” to infanticide and abortion) is automatically excluded by the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” However, he does believe that in some instances, preventative birth control may be used by a couple who a) understands properly the value of children (Psalm 127, etc.) and truly seeks to raise them in a godly fashion, and b) has the proper motives (I don’t recall him specifying exactly what those motives would be). Regretfully, Mr. Wilson did not get specific with the kinds of birth control he did allow—but I very strongly (though respectfully) disagree with him. I believe any use of birth control at all is wrong. (I wrote a good bit in the margins of the book, and perhaps I will post them on this blog sometime.)
 
The above aside, this book is excellent. Mr. Wilson spices his book with humor here and there and explains graciously yet firmly what our Scriptural duty as husbands and wives are. This book is highly recommended.
 
 
 
INDECENCY: None, per se; but there is one chapter, “The Marriage Bed is Honorable,” in which Wilson deals with the sexual aspect of marriage and its sanctity. It’s a longish chapter, and definitely worth reading, but parents should be aware of it’s being in there.
LANGUAGE: None.
AGE RANGE: Mature, unmarried young men and women, at the youngest; and certainly married couples, or sons and daughters in the courting process.




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June 10th, 2012



Movie Review: “The Adventures of Tintin”


Tintin. Comparatively few Americans know the name, but in Europe, he’s very well known: Tintin is a young man, a journalist, who travels the world with his dog, Snowy, and his sea-captain sidekick, Captain Archibald Haddock. Written in the early/mid 20th century, Tintin’s escapades are presented in comic-book form by the Belgian author Hergé—and this film, directed by Steven Spielberg, is a combination of three of those stories.
 
After purchasing a beautiful model of a ship, Tintin is thrust into a mystery of three brothers, three ships, and lost treasure. Kidnappings, escapes, gunfights, and crash-landings—the entire film feels very much like an Indiana Jones film (without the language, occultism, and adult content, thankfully). From picturesque Middle-Eastern cities and adventures on the high seas, to car chases and messages written with blood—it’s all in here. Not to mention the fact that young Tintin is also an excellent example of a responsible young man who seizes a situation and takes control.
 
And oh, the music! John Williams’s score for The Adventures of Tintin is epic, loud, and adventurous, and yet at the same time maintains a precise delicacy and subtlety in the orchestration and performance that brings a wonderful balance to everything. It’s really a beautiful work of art—not unlike a auditory dance where all the instruments step, flit, leap, and fly gracefully around each other to create a beautiful experience. All elements are masterfully unified, but nowhere is such a unity a muddy one.
 
The Adventures of Tintin is an action-packed film for the family—and I’m eagerly waiting the second installment! Isaac Botkin has written a far more in-depth review here.
 
 
 
INDECENCY: Other than perhaps one or two innuendos (I couldn’t tell), none.
 
LANGUAGE: One “swear to God”, one use each of “hell” and “damned”. Also, some odd exclamations like, “Ten thousand thundering typhoons!” and “Great snakes!” and the like.
 
VIOLENCE: Punching and gunfire mostly. There is destruction of private property both during a chase through a city and at a climatic battle towards the end between two enemies. A man is shot to death (we hear gunfire) and he dies on someone’s doorstep, after writing a message with his blood on a newspaper.
 
OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS: Captain Haddock is a drunkard for the first portion of his screen time, until he appears to overcome his addiction with the help of Tintin. In another scene, in order to save an airplane from crashing into the ocean, a man belches very loudly into the fuel tank of the plane—causing the engine to quite literally “run on fumes.”
 
AGE RANGE: While not graphic, some sequences are tense and may cause a discomfort to very small children.




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May 28th, 2012



Guest Post: “Is God Boring?” by Jon Acuff


Sometimes it just hits me: God didn’t have to make life anything more than functional. He didn’t have to give us colors, or beauty, or music, or emotions. But He did, and we often take it for granted. A while back I ran across this article written by Jon Acuff on this subject and I thought he did a great job. Acuff says it better than I could.

Last summer I got stung four times by jellyfish while visiting Tybee Island. If you don’t follow me on Twitter than you probably missed that fascinating series of tweets that mostly involved me saying stuff like “Got stung by a jelly fish again today! Why does this keep happening?”
 
Looking back on it a year later it’s pretty obvious why it kept happening. I was in the ocean. Where jellyfish live. And I have amazing skin. Pores most people kill for. Just completely irresistible to most forms of marine life. The bigger question is, “Why am I not constantly getting stung by jellyfish, even when I’m not in the ocean? What is keeping them away from me in the grocery store or when I’m playing jai lai?”
 
Once I had chopped some wood and wrestled a bear so I could forget the pain of the stings, two activities I regularly do to offset the lack of manliness my unbelievable skin generates, I forgot all about the jellyfish.
 
Until the aquarium.
 
I saw a trio of jellyfish floating in the water and the first thought I had was one I was not expecting,
 
“The world didn’t have to be beautiful.”
 
Have you ever thought about that?
 
Jellyfish didn’t need to look like canopied dreams, flying underwater with a grace that shames ballet dancers.
 
Sunsets didn’t have to look like paint sets exploded against the wall, slowly falling down the horizon.
 
The tide on this planet didn’t need to dance with the pull of a glowing sphere thousands of miles away.
 
God didn’t have to make the world beautiful.
 
He could have designed sunsets like we designed light switches. On, off. He could have been utilitarian. Function meets function with form nowhere to be found. Instead, the deeper we explore the planet, the more we see the creativity he’s whimsically hidden on every inch.
 
Fish that provide their own light. Slugs that are neon and fireworked. Hundreds of species of butterflies migrating thousands of miles on wings that are gossamer thin. He’s playful in his design, curious and colorful in ways we can barely scratch the surface of.
 
Though we often paint God in two colors, “gray” and “angry,” the more I see the world, the harder it is for me to think he’s vanilla.




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May 18th, 2012



Where Are the Authors?


Where are the authors? The world of children’s literature today is often fraught with rubbish or, at best, “neutral” stories for children. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with many of these “neutral” stories (and indeed some of them are truly delightful and wonderful stories we grew up with), where are those who will be brave and daring and set a standard and write Reformed books for children?—storybooks for us to read to our little boys and our little girls?—storybooks of godly family life?—history books that are unafraid to tell history accurately and point out the Providences of God?—biographies of great Christian men and women?—books that are willing to take the fundamental and absolute authority of the Word of God as the fundamental and absolute starting point for children’s literature?
 
Where are the Authors? Are they nowhere to be found? Is there no one who will advance the Standard of God in the arena of modern children’s literature? “The battle is won or lost in the high chair.”—While this quote is referring specifically to child training, the principle behind it also applies to literature: what we feed our children’s minds when they are young is one of the greatest contributors to the shaping of their character as adults one day.




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May 16th, 2012



Book Review: “A Word In Season,” by R.J. Rushdoony


Meant to be a sort of “devotionals,” these three volumes are a collection of articles Dr. R.J. Rushdoony wrote over a period of about 25 years for a California periodical. I’ve never really paid attention to many “devotionals” per se, so I’m afraid I can’t contrast how much more meaty they are than your typical, mainstream daily readings. But knowing who wrote them, I suspect they are far more substantial than those devotional booklets.
 
Dr. Rushdoony covers many, many different subjects in these books. Slander, irrelevant preaching, where true charity begins, fools, humility, happiness, fearfulness, standards, prayer, the vengeance of God, and the future—all these subjects (and many, many more) are covered in these little books of about 140–150 pages each.
 
I think these books would be great for a father to read over dinner. This would also enable him to explain these lessons to younger children who might not normally understand the writing. Highly recommended.
 
 
 
INDECENCY: None.
LANGUAGE: None.
AGE RANGE: The recommended age range would probably start with young men and ladies in their early teens sometime, but I would have no problem letting my children read them as early as they can comprehend the subject matter—and if a dad is reading them to the family, he can explain the principles in simpler terms to younger children.




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May 10th, 2012



C.S. Lewis on God’s Omnipotence


I have been reading a decent amount of C.S. Lewis lately in an effort to study his theology and worldview. As I do with all authors, I agree and disagree with Lewis on certain issues to varying degrees, but I appreciate what he has to say on the issue of impossibility and God’s omnipotence.

OMNIPOTENCE means ‘power to do all, or everything’. And we are told in Scripture that ‘with God all things are possible’. It is common enough, in argument with an unbeliever, to be told that God, if He existed and were good, would do this or that; and then, if we point out that the proposed action is impossible, to be met with the retort ‘But I thought God was supposed to be able to do anything’. This raises the whole question of impossibility.
 
In ordinary usage the word IMPOSSIBLE generally implies a suppressed clause beginning with the word UNLESS. Thus it is impossible for me to see the street from where I sit writing at this moment; that is, it is impossible to see the street UNLESS I go up to the top floor where I shall be high enough to overlook the intervening building. If I had broken my leg I should say ‘But it is impossible to go up to the top floor—meaning, however, that it is impossible UNLESS some friends turn up who will carry me. Now let us advance to a different plane of impossibility, by saying ‘It is, at any rate, impossible to see the street SO LONG AS I remain where I am and the intervening building remains where it is.’ Someone might add ‘unless the nature of space, or of vision, were different from what it is’. I do not know what the best philosophers and scientists would say to this, but I should have to reply ‘I don’t know whether space and vision COULD POSSIBLY have been of such a nature as you suggest.’ Now it is clear that the words COULD POSSIBLY here refer to some absolute kind of possibility or impossibility which is different from the relative possibilities and impossibilities we have been considering. I cannot say whether seeing round corners is, in this new sense, possible or not, because I do not know whether it is self-contradictory or not. But I know very well that if it is self-contradictory it is absolutely impossible. The absolutely impossible may also be called the intrinsically impossible because it carries its impossibility within itself, instead of borrowing it from other impossibilities which in their turn depend upon others. It has no unless clause attached to it. It is impossible under all conditions and in all worlds and for all agents.
 
‘All agents’ here includes God Himself. His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to His power. If you choose to say ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it’, you have not succeeded in saying ANYTHING about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words ‘God can’. It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.

Lewis, C.S., The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 16–18.




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May 5th, 2012



Movie Review: “Hugo”


After his clockmaker father perishes in a museum fire, Hugo goes to live with his Uncle Claude, a drunkard who maintains the clocks at a Paris train station. When Claude disappears, Hugo carries on his work and fends for himself by stealing food from area merchants. In his free time, he attempts to repair an automaton his father rescued from the museum, while trying to evade the station inspector, a World War I veteran with no sympathy for lawbreakers. When Georges, a toymaker, catches Hugo stealing parts for his mechanical man, he recruits him as an assistant to repay his debt. If Georges is guarded, his open-hearted ward, Isabelle, introduces Hugo to a kindly bookseller, who directs them to a motion-picture museum, where they meet film scholar René. In helping unlock the secret of the automaton, they learn about the roots of cinema, starting with the Lumière brothers, and give a forgotten movie pioneer his due, thus illustrating the importance of film preservation, a cause to which the director has dedicated his life. If Scorsese’s adaptation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret isn’t his most autobiographical work, it just may be his most personal.” — from Amazon.com

 
Hugo had me from the beginning. Hugo Cabret is a young boy, an orphan, who lives alone in a train station in Paris. He’s intrigued with and enjoys fixing mechanisms—gears, springs, teeny screws; and his father, before tragically passing away, obtained an old automaton—a mechanical man—and spent time with his son working to restore the robot.
 
But a terrible disaster happens, and now Hugo is alone—until a young book-loving girl, Isabelle, befriends him and they work together to repair the automaton. Neither Hugo nor Isabelle know it, but one of the great pioneers of movie production is living right under their noses. Together the two uncover the wondrous history of this man and bring the proper recognition to him that he deserves.
 
From a production standpoint, Hugo is an astonishingly colorful film. Blues and yellows, turquoise, reds, silver: every single frame from the film is a beautiful tapestry. The cinematography is excellent as well, and the storyline and characters are compelling and endearing.
 
Hugo is, in short, a visual treat and a wonderful story.
 
 
 
INDECENCY: Very little. Some of the very old films pictured have rather immodest women. A man makes a comment regarding possible infidelity—but this is so quick that, unless you have subtitles on, it will likely be missed by anyone not looking for it—especially children.
LANGUAGE: Surprisingly, none.
AGE RANGE: Family-friendly.




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