Details

Today was, for the most part, a pretty productive day. I managed to read a couple of books, one on the kindle and one in hard copy form, and I saved the kindle book review for my stash of backup blog entries in case of slow writing days or days where I don’t have much time. As for the other book, that review will be forthcoming very shortly [1]. In addition to reading, I did my usual errands, as well as going to the barber, which was interesting, as it was a barber shop that I had never been to before. I have noted on occasion that finding a reliable place for a haircut is not always a straightforward matter [2], and finding the right balance of a good haircut at a good price is not always easy. The particular barber shop I went to today is located right across the street from where I currently live, and although its clientele is male, the barbers were all women, mostly young, dressed in skirts slightly shorter than their aprons, with tennis and baseball on the television. No wonder the place was crowded with guys. Among the interesting details there were the neck shave as well as the fact that the barber used a metal guard instead of a plastic guard on the razor.

I am generally impressed with having a firm grasp of the details about what is around me. I suppose part of that comes with being at least somewhat observant (unless something is going on around me when I am intentionally not turning around to pay attention to it). As it happened, the place where I wanted to relax and do my reading before getting my haircut ended up being closed because today happened to be the day they were doing a customer appreciation event at a local park. I suppose they did not do a good job at informing all of their customers. As it happened, while I was wandering around there I noticed the barber shop and decided to investigate it further, so I suppose it was all for the best. It is strange how little things can lead to the actions that we take in life. We do not often pay sufficient attention to the little details.

For my birthday, one of my friends got me a kindle. It is rather surprising that I had not had one before this time, but I suppose that while I am a competent user of technology and software that I am not necessarily an early adopter. I have noticed a few quirks about my reading habits, and one of them is that I tend to read books on kindle far faster than I read them in print, perhaps because the mechanics of reading are far easier on the kindle, and one does not have to worry about pages falling and one has less text to read at a time so there is less re-reading of material [3]. The friend who gave me the kindle was a bit irritated that I had not accepted any of the book requests she had sent, and got a little bit bossy about it. I happened to find the fine print that said that one should not send the loan requests to one’s kindle address, but rather to one’s personal address. Those details resolved, I was able to get a couple of books to add to my digital library. Once again, knowing the details is the difference between frustration and easy success. I guess that’s one more reason to pay attention to details.

[1] http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/book-review-the-five-thousand-year-leap/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/dont-you-wanna-stay-here-a-little-while/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/road-tripping/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/cliff-diving/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/im-in-no-hurry/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/theres-always-room-for-one-more/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/and-then-ill-go-and-spoil-it-all-by-saying-something-stupid/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/to-the-moat-and-beyond/

[3] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/27/book-review-a-family-secret-a-rabble-rouser-and-the-unmarked-grave/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/26/book-review-how-to-pray-for-the-peace-of-jerusalem/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/26/book-review-called-to-write/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/fragmented-book-reviews-part-one/

Posted in Musings | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Five Thousand Year Leap

The Five Thousand Year Leap: 28 Great Ideas That Changed The World, by W. Cleon Skousen

This particular book was loaned to me by a friend who has an intriguing taste in mostly historical works [1], after we had a somewhat lengthy conversation about its contents, and the historical and philosophical context of the American republican order. As this is a subject of great interest to me [2], as a student and practitioner of the principled American way of thinking, a way that is still not universally tolerated around the world, much less practiced. This book is largely a positive one, seeking to discover the ways that work, although it contains a fair amount of principled criticism of those who would consider the American constitutional order obsolete, and a great deal of praise in the way in which the Founders thought far more seriously about the example of history and the need to align the positive law of the American republic with both natural law as well as the laws of scripture.

The contents of this book and organization are very unusual. The book begins with a relatively short section looking at the challenge the Founding Fathers faced in establishing the American republic, as well as their similar and voluminous reading. The second section includes 28 principles of the American republic [2] that have accounted for its greatness, many of which are based on a firm understanding of biblical and natural law, and many of which are vulnerable given contemporary culture. Ultimately, the writer is harsh on our leaders over the past century, but also seeks to prompt change in the minds and behavior of the commonfolk. After this are two essays that reflect on the possibility of Israelite origin for the Anglo-Saxons in light of their similar legal order and repeat the information included in the principles, and then the book closes with some important American documents (the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and Common Sense) as well as a series of questions to ask people running for office.

Given the content of this book, it is clear that this book is designed for an American audience, particularly an American audience that would likely judge itself as constitutionalist. It seeks to straddle the divide among those who consider themselves supporters of Lincoln and supporters of the Confederacy (who might find the author’s praise of Calhoun as a Senator pleasing, which I do not). The author has some striking and honest and provocative statements to make, including a desire to overturn the 17th Amdendment and bring the election of Senators back into the state legislature. Although the book is based on American history, and points out the the founders deliberately rejected the sort of welfare state that has been a European project for the last couple of centuries, the book is clearly applicable to other nations and societies. How it is applied, of course, is a matter of considerable importance and delicacy.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/book-review-unbroken/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/book-review-stalling-for-time/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/elite-competition-and-the-decline-of-deference-in-late-18th-century-america/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/the-constitution-writers/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/non-book-review-ways-of-war/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/book-review-what-works/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/book-review-wilson/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/although-your-dominion-is-small-the-curious-connection-between-abraham-lincoln-and-san-marino/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/on-the-road-to-a-banana-republic/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/book-review-right-wing-handbook-debunking-ten-lies-of-the-left/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/book-review-the-pocket-catechism-of-the-constitution-of-the-united-states/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/today-in-history-on-december-16-1773-bostonians-threw-a-tea-party/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/book-review-rules-for-conservative-radicals/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/all-things-work-together-for-the-good-the-political-implications-of-predestination/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/book-review-the-panic-of-1857-and-the-coming-of-the-civil-war/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/its-the-late-1850s-and-chief-justice-roberts-has-declined-the-role-of-chief-jus1. tice-taney/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/10/28/the-center-cannot-hold/

[2] The 28 principles are:

1. The only reliable basis for sound government and just human relations is Natural Law.
2. A free people cannot survive under a republican constitution unless they remain virtuous and morally strong.
3. The most promising method of securing a virtuous and morally stable people is to elect virtuous leaders.
4. Without religion the government of a free people cannot be maintained.
5. All things were created by God, therefore upon Him all mankind are equally dependent and to Him they are equally responsible.
6. All men are created equal.
7. The proper role of government is to protect equal rights, not provide equal things.
8. Men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
9. To protect man’s rights, God has revealed certain principles of divine law.
10. The God-given right to govern is vested in the sovereign authority of the whole people.
11. The majority of the people may alter or abolish a government which has become tyrannical.
12. The United States of American shall be a republic.
13. A constitution should be structured to permanently protect the people from the frailty of their rulers.
14. Life and liberty are secure only so long as the right to property is secure.
15. The highest level of prosperity occurs when there is a free-market economy and a minimum of government regulations.
16. The government should be separated into three branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.
17. A system of checks and balances should be adopted to prevent the abuse of power.
18. The unalienable rights of the people are most likely to be preserved if the principles of government are set forth in a written constitution.
19. Only limited and carefully defined powers should be delegated to government, all others being retained in the people.
20. Efficiency and dispatch require government to operate according to the will of the majority, but constitutional provisions must be made to protect the rights of the minority.
21. Strong local self-government is the keystone to preserving human freedom.
22. A fee people should be governed by law and not by the whims of men.
23. A free society cannot survive as a republic without a broad program of general education.
24. A free people will not survive unless they stay strong.
25. “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship–entangling alliances with none.”
26. The core unit which determines the strength of any society is the family; therefore, the government should foster and protect its integrity.
27. The burden of debt is as destructive to freedom as subjugation by conquest.
28. The United States has a manifest destiny to be an example and blessing to the entire human race.

Posted in American History, Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, History | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Who Says?

This afternoon at services, I heard a sermonette that reminded me of one of my biggest pet peeves, and it is something that I consider worth writing about, as it is an area of considerable personal sensitivity. The sermonette speaker (who, it should be noted, was speaking on only a few days’ notice for someone who was out of town) started out in a way that I found somewhat dangerous. The comment was made in the context of an article that appeared about a year ago or so in the Oregonian (the major Portland newspaper) that talked about the ethnic origin of Jesus Christ, and it said something to the effect that “scholars say Jesus Christ would have been a person of color.” Needless to say, reading this particular comment made the speaker rather upset, and rightfully so, largely because it sought to make the Savior into a politically correct tool by people who have corrupted their God-given intellect. This is something that tends to make any sincere believer upset.

What struck me about the comment was the way in which the speaker engaged in the same sort of error that the author of that article apparently did. To say, “scholars say” is an immensely lazy and terribly inaccurate technique as a writer and a journalist. Scholars, of any field and discipline, are not a monolithic group. Whatever espirit d’corps tends to exist among people who share a particular discipline or intellectual enterprise, there is also always, in any area of intellectual study, a rich diversity of views and positions and schools of thought that have widely varying views about the various areas of study that are within their fields. Often the diversity of views and particular opinions and positions and judgments about matters varies on the individual level, given the specific emphases and foci that a given thinker will have in distinction from others. To lump all scholars in a given field in a given statement, without any kind of nuance or context or citation is an immensely lazy way of writing, lacking any kind of research skill or the openness to let those scholars who say such ridiculous things face ridicule by name rather than hiding behind the skirts of some nebulous community of scholars in which they wish to hide in anonymity.

That said, the speaker himself committed the same error when his message attacked intellectuals in general rather than the corruption or misuse of the God-given act of the intellect. To be sure, this is a lamentably common problem [1], in that people feel safe in attacking the gift of the intellect in a way that they would not feel comfortable doing for other gifts. As an intellectual and scholarly sort of person myself, I tend to take the broad-brushed attacks on intellectuals that I see as a personal affront. There are a few reasons why I take it as a personal attack, probably chief among them that I tend to see a basic community among people who seek to use their brain and develop their capacity for reason and intellect, despite a diversity of foundations and worldviews upon which these reasonings and justification is based, and the fact that I tend to feel that in a world of people who are not particularly inclined to develop reason and intellect for their own sake (or for the glory of God) that those who do take this effort tend to be vulnerable on account of envy as well as fear that those who are intellectual look down on those who are not and that intellect can be easily corrupted. In stark contrast to this, while we recognize that beauty and strength can be easily corrupted by those who have them, we do not tend to attack all beautiful people or strong people (we are generally still attracted to beauty, and still appreciative of strength, even if we realize that people can misuse them; this is not necessarily the case with intellect) simply because some people corrupt these God-given gifts, even if we do not always consider intellect in the same light.

I am aware that the speaker may not have wished to paint such a broad brush. For that matter, the writer of the Oregonian article may have wished to convey a smaller set of scholars and not the entire community of Bible scholars. That said, both of them spoke or wrote in such a broad brush that the nuance and diversity of the community was neglected in a desire to score points for a particular opinion. Despite the fact that such opinions were contrary, one person wished to marshal an imaginary unity of scholars in favor of an opinion that is patently ridiculous, and another person wished to use the patently ridiculous opinion of a few self-professed scholars to impugn the worth of education and intellect as a whole. Ultimately, both positions are not so different after all, in that they equate (whether consciously or not) the value and worth of intellectual development, or those who are self-identified (or identified by others) as scholars and intellectuals, with political factors, as if the legitimacy of the gift of intellect depended upon the agreement of those people with whatever position one had. Self-professed intellectuals have no monopoly on wisdom, and there are many ways in which the mind can be corrupted by pride and immorality and unbelief. That goes without saying, as does the fact that the heart and body and spirit can and are easily corrupted as well by the same things. Yet the worth of beauty does not depend in any way on whether any beautiful people wish to be with us, nor does the worth of strength or health or any other God-given gift depend on the fact that we possess these gifts or the fact that those who do wish to use these gifts on our behalf. It is high time that the gift of intellect be seen in the same way, as a gift to appreciate, even if we do not always agree with the way it is used or the conclusions it reaches.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/anybody-else/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/signs-of-mind/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/05/18/so-that-they-are-without-excuse/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/romans-1-18-23-concerning-foolish-atheists/

Posted in Christianity, Church of God, Musings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: A Family Secret, A Rabble Rouser, And The Unmarked Grave

A Family Secret, A Rabble Rouser, And The Unmarked Grave: Three Compelling Reasons To Preserve Your Family History, by Beverley Prideaux

Naturally, as someone who is no stranger to family secrets [1], as someone who has been considered a rabble rouser by many people and at least one country [2], and someone who has an intense interest in my family history [3], the title of this book was compelling to me. Fortunately, this book lives up to its compelling title, filled as it is with deeply personal and fascinating stories about the uncovering of dark family secrets involving illegitimacy and shame (subjects that my family is no stranger to either). Another side of the author’s family was involved in labor work to help the downtrodden, after having had a harrowing experience with government oppression in his youth. These are the sort of families I can identify with very well personally (and, likely, I am not the only one who can). The author’s personal family history contains some compelling reasons to write about recording one’s family history.

I can see a great deal of myself, for example, in the figure of Monatague Miller, who is said by the author to be: “a multi-faceted personality; a tireless fighter for causes that moved him, a gentle, sensitive poet.” Such things could be said just as easily about myself. The richness in detail and story provided by the author demonstrates the importance of knowing one’s family history, so that we might know ourselves in the origins of our sensitivities and our genetic and environmental heritage (in terms of disease as well as our epigenetic heritage). When we document our family history we are able to cherish stories about brave and notable ancestors and their deeds that may encourage and inspire us, we may recognize that our family members are kindred spirits that have often had to deal with the same struggles that we have, and we may even have the documentary information to honor our family as they wish to be honored, and to carry on their struggles and defend their honor long after they are gone.

As might be expected of a book of this kind, it is a short volume that is designed to introduce and encourage the reader to read (and purchase) other products, as well as to investigate further information about the subjects discussed in the book. Among the sort of people who would be most interested by this book, and the subject matter of recording one’s family history, would be those who struggle with multi-generational illnesses, the heirs of large family businesses that wish to understand the reasons for their family company culture, and those who wish to better understand themselves by knowing where they come from. These are all noble and worthy goals, and even if a passionate interest in one’s family history can uncover many dark corners, it can also be a way of enjoying the knowledge that we are a part of concerns and projects that are far beyond ourselves that we are an important part of. This knowledge that can comfort and encourage all of us, by putting our lives and the lives of others in a larger narrative and in a proper context.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/why-do-they-always-run/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/dark-night-of-the-soul/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/you-have-always-worn-your-flaws-upon-your-sleeve/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/book-review-not-quite-healed/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/the-miseducation-of-nathan-albright/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/please-remember-to-obey-the-law/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/a-non-book-review-thaistory/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/the-appeal-to-heaven-rebellion-the-right-way/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/divinely-authorized-rebellion-and-its-limits-an-examination-of-1-kings-1126-40-1225-33/

[3] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/a-family-legacy/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/a-family-crest/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/history-and-memory/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/a-rose-by-any-other-name/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/det-bedste-er-ikke-for-godt-a-lego-story/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/death-is-a-hungry-hunter/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/the-wheels-on-the-bus-go-round-and-round/

Posted in Book Reviews, History | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: How To Pray For The Peace of Jerusalem

How To Pray For The Peace Of Jerusalem: A Guide To Praying For Israel, Jerusalem, And God’s Chosen People, by Mike Evans

While I was wandering this morning on one of the Bible sites I look at from time to time, I found a free book download, and as readers of my blog can attest to, I am not slow in the least to read free books of interest. As someone with a deep interest in Israel, given my ancestry and my religious beliefs as a “primitive Christian” [1], this book is clearly of interest to me, and like to many others who also pray for the peace of Jerusalem, in the knowledge that the peace of Jerusalem can only come with the help of God, because for mankind it has always been a place of struggle and difficulty, despite our best intentions [2]. This is a short book (only about a couple dozen pages), but it does provide the reader with a great deal of interest.

Most of this book does not consist in explanations at all. It is far too short to go into great detail about why one should pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Rather, this book assumes that the reader is already either a Messianic Jew or an Evangelical Christian who already has an interest in and a passion for praying for the peace of Jerusalem and God’s people. The book, as might be imagined, does not imagine Israel in any larger sense than the remnant of Judah that inhabits the nation-state of modern Israel. The book does not contain any kind of discussion about the difference between the remnant of the Jews there who have come from oppression in many lands (particularly at the hand of the Arab and non-Arab Muslim states of the Middle East and North Africa) to seek peace and prosperity in the Holy Land and the secular state that bears the name of Israel but includes only a small portion of the children of Israel.

Instead, about half of this book is taken up by quotations from the Bible that deal with a variety of prayers, some prayers of praise, some prayers for deliverance, some imprecatory prayers against the enemies of God’s people (whether those who preach an anti-Semetic Replacement Theology, or those who engage in lies and propaganda against the Jews and in favor of the terrorists among the Palestinians). These quotations are taken as standalone comments and do not contain any kind of analysis of their context, but are taken as short prayers that can be said to remind God of His promises to protect the survivors of His people, and to show our solidarity with them. The other half of the book appears to be short prayers written by Mike Evans himself, some of which are very cheeky and bold, among which are the prayers that the author writes for his own organization, to pray for its safety and success. I suppose I cannot begrudge anyone else praying for their own well-being, as I do that often enough, but those prayers for the well-being of others come off as far more worthwhile and valuable.

In reading a book like this, which is worthy of considerable praise, one must remember that the safety and peace of Jerusalem cannot be seen apart from the spiritual state of the people of Jerusalem themselves. At their heart, although God promises that a remnant of His people will survive the various judgments and calamities that have come upon them, the well-being for any people as a whole depends on their devotion to God’s ways and their being loyal believers in a covenantal relationship with the Eternal. To the extent that a people, even the people of the nation-state of Israel, has forsaken the ways of God, they cannot then claim the protection of the God whom they have rejected. We should all take to heed that sort of warning, for the world in which we live has many dangers and many threats, and we are not always sufficiently careful about our own conduct to avoid the traps laid for the unwary by our adversary.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/book-review-the-israeli-solution/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/book-review-in-the-shadow-of-the-temple/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/book-review-the-jewish-heroes-of-christian-history/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/book-review-mans-search-for-meaning/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/book-review-anti-semite-and-jew/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/book-review-the-lonely-god/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/book-review-the-historical-atlas-of-judaism/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/book-review-elementary-principles/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/11/24/on-my-way-to-see-jerusalem/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/i-walk-these-streets/

Posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: Called To Write

Called To Write: Biblical Truths For Bloggers And Authors, by CM Logan and KM Logan

Over a year ago, when I was on a business trip to the Eugene/Springfield area [1], I prepared for the trip, which I (mistakenly) thought would be for a more lengthy period by downloading a lot of free books to read from Amazon. At the time, I did not have a kindle or any other kind of e-reader (I used my laptop), and this was one of the books I got. Although the subject is of great interest to me as a Christian blogger and writer, I hesitated a fair amount in reading this particular book, given the fact that claiming a calling or a ministry is an act that can be immensely and unnecessarily provocative act, and that we should be wary of appointing ourselves for tasks related to the ministry of God [2]. It is therefore with a great deal of cautious that I looked at this book to see what it had to say.

For once, it appears, my caution was rewarded with relief, as it quickly became clear that this particular book had in mind biblical counsel and advice for writers that was not in the least provocative, and that in most ways was rather obvious to someone who has a passion for writing and takes God’s words seriously. Many of the chapters contained personal testimony about the authors as well as about other Christian writers about the need to be patient and wait on God’s time and not our own, to seek God’s glory and not our own, to engage in prayer and Bible study and to seek to speak encouraging words that would give others the opportunity to seek God and turn to Him, and to not judge our success as a writer by sales or blog views, and to understand the amount of time it often takes to hone one’s craft and to see any material benefit from the fruits of our labors.

This advice is timely, and it is applicable to our pursuits far outside of writing alone. However, for those who have a drive to write, and have acquired skill at it through effort and diligence, it makes sense as a Christian to give praise to God, and to recognize that the longing we have been given for expression is itself a revelation of at least part of what God wishes for us to do, and that it should be done for the glory of God. In particular, the author gives compassionate advice as well to those writers who have lived a difficult life, in the knowledge that we can use our stories as authors to show our humanity and show what God has had to work with, as a way of showing gratitude for God and honest sincerity about our own struggles and difficulties. This book is very short, but its advice and scriptural counsel is definitely something that would be of great encouragement to many writers who wish to honor God and develop their God-given gifts.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/let-me-upgrade-you/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/dont-have-a-cow-man/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/staring-at-the-sun/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/labore-et-dignitas/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/book-review-the-second-exodus-generation/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/book-review-the-making-of-a-prophet/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/profitless-prophets/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/we-are-not-divided-all-one-body-we/

Posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Lonely Island

So, either last night or this morning before I came to work (which would have been very early), all of my neighbors’ computers and desks were moved, leaving me by myself in the island of desks where I happen to sit. This had been discussed for a few days, but it was still a bit of a shock to see everyone’s computers and stuff moved, with no one else particularly close to where I am. Needless to say, this particular situation inspired a lot of commentary, including questions about whether I had been the ax man of the other people there, or whether I had said something to offend them, and other jokes like that. Naturally, I sought to be as good-humored about being all by myself all day, because there was little else to be done since just about everyone who passed by felt it necessary to comment on it.

One of the more humorous bits of conversation was related to singing. One of the managers asked if I was going to sing now that I had the whole area to myself. I’m not someone who likes to sing to myself in public or talk to myself. That said, there were plenty of songs that one can think of when it comes to being alone for as long as I was. Thinking about it later, I thought of songs like “Message In A Bottle,” “Alone Again (Naturally),” and so on. However, during the course of my work day there was one song that kept on popping up, largely because it was based on a melody I had talked about yesterday, and because the lyrics were mentioned by one of my coworkers who noted that I was “All By Myself.” It was a suitably melodramatic song.

Of course, I know that I am not alone in being alone. Besides thinking about music, I thought a lot about the lonely islands around the world that I happen to write about often. For example, there is the lonely cop in Tristan Da Cunha [1], the lonely islands whose residents were all removed for an American military base to be built [2], the lonely islands fought over between Argentina and Great Britain [3], the lonely island that is basically an ice sheet with some scattered fragments of coastal area with small settlements [4], or other small and scattered settler colonies [5]. When I thought about it, I realized I wrote a lot about lonely islands, at least in part because I can strongly identify with it. Sometimes this ability to identify can lead to suffering, but sometimes it can lead to a great deal of encouragement as well.

After all, our experiences allow us to relate to others. According to the author of the book I read today, a curious fear of the 21st century American is solitude. Why is this the case? Do we fear loneliness because it leads to boredom and we cannot amuse ourselves easily by pondering what a trip would be like from one isolated island settler colony to another? If no man is an island, how is it that we find islands so appealing as areas of study as well as places to live and vacation? Yet if we like the isolation of islands, how come we do not handle solitude well when our outside environment is not surrounding us with the beauty that distracts us from the voices inside our hearts and minds? If we cannot learn to deal with those voices, how will we ever feel comfortable in our own skin, whatever lonely islands we might find ourselves on.

[1] http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/consider-your-target-reached/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/non-book-review-rebalancing-u-s-forces/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/who-says-you-cant-go-home/

[3] http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/how-long-can-the-united-kingdom-retain-control-over-the-falkland-islands/

[4] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/would-an-independent-greenland-be-welcome-in-nafta/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/arctic-fire/

[5] http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/a-salute-to-freedom-loving-british-settler-colonists/

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Book Review: The Tabernacle

The Tabernacle: Living In Power Through Abiding Prayer, by Timothy C. Dunlap

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bostick Communications in exchange for an honest review.]

This particular book, in many ways, is similar to many other books of its kind. It is a self-published effort written by a man who has studied certain aspects of scripture at great depth and who wishes to share that insight with as many people as possible through a book [1]. Some of these books are self-published because no publisher would touch them for reasons of content, because it was too controversial, others because the quality of the work was not good enough. This book is certainly polished and reflective and has something intriguing to say, but it is equally clearly the work of someone who wants to speak their mind on their own and not be beholden to any sort of publisher. There is no doubt, in looking at this book, that the author has something to say that he believes is profound and world-changing.

This book is divided into a few chapters of greatly unequal length. Some chapters deal with the nature of God (which the author understands to be a Trinity, particularly of the Greek model), others deal with the symbols of the tabernacle and temple and their spiritual analogues as well as their place within the physical body of believers (in a manner that seems almost to copy the idea of the chakras from Eastern religion). Still other chapters deal with the mechanics of prayer standing up (and other questions of application) or are discussions about words like abiding or seek to provide a close analysis of a particular Bible passage. It is particularly striking that although the author seeks to provide some explanation of the importance of the tabernacle in understanding the Christian walk, the book itself follows the Greek form of seeking one meaning for various words rather than the biblical (i.e. Hebrew) way of showing a great deal of shade of meaning for words and concepts that includes multiple layers of application and truth.

This tension, or contradiction, is emblematic of the work as a whole. On almost the same page the author laments the lack of intellectual heavyweights in the Christian community and then goes to disparage the mind and praise the heart. This anti-intellectual tone pervades a work that seeks to give intellectual instruction on the meaning and use of Greek words in the Bible, as well as the deeper meaning of biblical symbols. The author thinks that the long life of John was enough to make him spiritually “off the charts,” and only grudgingly respects Paul for his mystical visions of heaven while barely mentioning Peter (who, like John, saw the transfiguration) and not mentioning James at all. Particularly odd about his focus on John is the fact that this book focuses on a relationship with God when John said in 1 John 4:20: “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” Likewise, this book speaks about those in whom Christ Jesus abides not sinning, but says nothing about the way in which we know we love God, not a feeling of the heart, but rather: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” from 1 John 5:3. It would seem, after all, that this author’s interest in John is largely for his own gnostic or Hellenistic Greek ideas, rather than a thorough and complete interest in what John has to say.

Despite the serious questions one can have about this book and its contents, it is of use in a few areas. The advice this book gives about praying standing up is very sound and excellent, namely because it is biblical. Likewise, the book does show how typology can help us to understand the Bible better, so that we are not afraid of symbolism and its deeper meaning. Likewise, this book reminds us (if such a reminder is necessary) that our problems do not often tend to be a shortage of intellectual knowledge, but often a shortage of confidence (i.e. power) or problems in our hearts, in our motives and relationships. Although this book largely ignores the matter of the second greatest commandment, which is really inseparable with the greatest commandment inasmuch as the latter five commandments are inseparable from the first five [2]. Here’s hoping that the author corrects the imbalance between the focus on the relationship with God to the exclusion of one’s relationship with others. After all, the power that we gain from our private prayers is not supposed to make us arrogant mystics, but rather better servants of the Most High God to others (see Matthew 20:25-28).

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/book-review-becoming-the-son/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/book-review-love-truth-from-here-to-eternity/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/book-review-god-and-men-no-holds-barred/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/book-review-restoration-of-the-heart/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/book-review-christianty-karma-and-reincarnation/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/book-review-there-are-no-space-aliens/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/the-five-point-biblical-covenant-model/

Posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Wind Rustles Through The Trees

I suppose that as of late I have become quite the morning poet [1], in the manner of William Stafford [2], who famously would get up early in the morning to write while he was not being bothered by anything else in life. Although I have typically been a late night writer (which is when I do most of my blogging), for whatever reason getting up early in the mornings has allowed me to enjoy the poetic moments of the gray early morning period as night turns into day. This morning, for example, the brisk and windy weather inspired me to write:

The wind rustles through the trees,
And as I listen to it through my window
I wonder if it sings for me
Or for itself alone.

I see the trees sway with the sound
Of the wind’s song
And though the tree is mighty
And rooted in the earth
Still it moves to the breath of the wind.

Yet the wind is so insubstantial,
One could hardly know it was even there
Unless one saw the world bend to its force
While it wandered here and there
Over the face of the earth
And over the surface of the seas.

Perhaps we too are like the wind,
For no one can see where we’ve been,
If they ever cared to know,
And no one can say where we are going
Except if they divine our path
From the way in which we move
While we are here.

*

One would think that writing in the early morning, at dawn, would tend to inspire happy and optimistic poetry as the day breaks into sunlight. I have not found that to be the case of late, though. Today’s poem is not necessarily a melancholy or mournful one, but it is certainly reflective. That seems to be the dominant mode of my recent poetry, reflection, specifically tied with the relationship between the interior world of thought and emotion and the exterior world of physical creation. So, at least briefly, I would like to comment a little bit on the circumstances of what inspired this poem and at least a few of the elements that I was pondering on when I conceived it. As is often the case, little experiences in life tend to fire my creativity.

Early this morning, sometime between 5 and 5:30AM, I was puttering around in the kitchen and eating a bit of breakfast when I heard what I thought was the rain. When I looked outside my window, though, all I could see was trees swaying in a moderately intense breeze. As it happens, the area where I live has a lot of trees, and so in the morning light I could see the results of the breeze, which sparked a reflection about the intensity of the wind. Of course, the wind is greatly powerful (as I have long known, having grown up in an area where hurricanes and tropical storms were a frequent threat), but it is also invisible except for the effects it has on the world around it. It is also a nomad, wandering the world, but usually in bands that show patterns and regularity despite the constant movement. I was struck by these contrasts, and by their relationship to my own life. Naturally, it led me to write, because there is so much that the world around us has to say about our own concerns and our own existence, if we will only pay attention to it.

One of the results of my recent interest in writing poetry, along with my longstanding interest in music, is that I have chosen to add some musical coursework to my studies. Right now I’m working on a music theory class, which has been interesting so far. I have also added a class on songwriting. Of course, this means that I have more music related and poetry related material cycling into my mind, which usually leads in some indirect way to more creation. Reading and observation fuel the fire for creation, which in turn provides more material to reflect and muse upon, and to provide the experiences and conversations that fuel more writing. So long as one remains open to life, and to the little moments that spark thought and reflection, I suppose there will always be something to think about and write about and talk about, hopefully with different perspectives that improve our lives, and the world we live in as well.

[1] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/33/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/99-shades-of-gray/

[2] See, for example:

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/book-review-every-war-has-two-losers/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/book-review-writing-the-australian-crawl/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/book-review-crossing-unmarked-snow/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/while-the-world-sleeps-under-lead-gray-skies/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/every-war-has-two-losers/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/the-darkness-around-us-is-deep/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/the-golden-thread/

http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/a-story-that-could-be-true/

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Book Review: Becoming The Son

Becoming The Son: An Autobiography of Jesus, by C.D. Baker

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bostick Communications in exchange for an honest review.]

This is the second book I have read by this author [1], and like its predecessor, it shares some notable similarities. Both have provocative titles, both deal with Christianity as a major thematic element, and both feature a lot of attention on gentle and sensitive men who are attentive and tender with women and children and flirtatious ladies who end up in abusive relationships and struggle to feel attractive and loved. While the first novel focused on a young woman in Nazi Germany and her troubles, this novel focuses on the difficult life of Jesus Christ, an even more provocative subject matter (especially as the book is a first-person perspective fictionalized autobiography that, like the other novel of his I have read, combines a sympathetic main character with the struggle for nobility, a certain sensitivity to the outcasts and downtrodden in society, and a life that is full of trouble.

This novel was self-published, for reasons of controversial content. To be sure, writing a novelized version of the life of Jesus Christ is a daring choice, and while sometimes that choice pays off (Garner Ted Armstrong’s The Real Jesus being a notable example), more often the attempt fails miserably [2]. To be sure, those people looking to find criticism in this book will find much to criticize. Yet there is also much to appreciate here as well, including the fact that the author is honest about wanting to be true to his vision, as well as the fact that he bases his novelization on three concentric sources, the Gospels themselves (along with other scriptures), the research and thoughts of scholars, and surmises and personal reasoning. Among the best aspects of his novel, and the most honest, are the many scholarly footnotes that show justification for the author’s decisions in terms of the text. Of course, the author’s research leads him to include almost every variation of Abba and Avi that he can use for “father” in the text, and to include speech that is constantly full of scriptural references (most of which are helpfully footnoted).

There is a lot to like about this book that deserves mention. For one, the book is immensely sympathetic, with an intuitive work at how Jesus Christ grew up to be so sensitive to the thoughts of others, and tormented by abuse, a difficult family situation, and the attacks of the evil one through years of nightmares. The book shares with the Gospel of Luke a focus on women and outcasts in society, and is particularly sympathetic to the women of Jesus’ life (like his mother and his female disciples). It is honest about its presuppositions and asks the indulgence of readers for any flaws. There is a clear emphasis on the mercy of God and a clear universality of love (which is also just as clearly not well understood by the disciples). The novel is written in an excellent style that is easy to read and full of memorable discussions and quotable comments and excellent research.

This is not to say that the novel is perfect, though. There are some flaws in both what it includes and what it does not include. It includes a lot of information about Jesus’ childhood and youth that was not included in scriptures or any historical sources. Among this added material includes an imagined romance between Jesus and an imaginary girl named Leah. I suppose the author cannot believe that someone as gentle and loving and understanding as Jesus would not have had any sort of romance, even if His destiny precluded Him from marriage and family, which would have made him very unusual in his culture, where bachelors were not considered as full men. While that material was added, there was quite a bit that was not included from the Gospels. For one, there was no Transfiguration, nor any part of the ministry in Caesarea Phillipi, and the Olivet propchecy are all taken out. In addition, some of the parables of Jesus Christ are turned into events in his life, like the Good Samaritan (to give but one example). Despite these flaws, though, when looked at indulgently, this is a novel that is full of thought provoking writing about the life of Jesus Christ. As long as it is seen as a novel and not as gospel, one can appreciate the insight and not be offended at the controversial material. We could all use a bit of indulgence, call it grace, after all.

[1] http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/book-review-the-seduction-of-eva-volk/

[2] http://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/book-review-johns-gospel-the-way-it-happened/

Posted in Bible, Biblical History, Book Reviews, Christianity, History | Tagged , | 1 Comment