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.
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.
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.


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.
AGE RANGE: All ages.

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