The New Yorker: Can Reading Make You Happier?

Terrific article. Bibliotherapy is part of my toolkit for myself and others I care for.

Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers. “Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines,” the author Jeanette Winterson has written. “What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination.”

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/can-reading-make-you-happier

Don Carson: Jesus and the Son of God

This is a wonderful book. I love Don Carson and nearly everything he has written is pure gold. This book is a wonderful exploration of the significance of “Son of God” within biblical theology (mostly messianic/Davidic themes) and systematic theology (doctrine of the Trinity and Christology). He weaves the two together beautifully.

Carson makes this observation from the NT:

New Testament texts quote Psalm 2:7 to prove Jesus is superior to angels, to prove Jesus did not take on himself the glory of becoming high priest but was appointed by God, and to demonstrate that God has fulfilled his promises to the Israelite ancestors by raising Jesus from the dead – even though, on the face of it, Psalm 2 does not mention angels, has no interest in the high priest’s office, and makes no mention of the resurrection of the Messiah. (p45)

Carson goes on to show using typology and Biblical theology how all these themes are woven together in a way that respects the original intent of the Psalm. Read the book to get the full explanation!

In fact, I’m surprised that Carson doesn’t make reference to the 1986 article by Douglas Moo entitled “The Problem of Sensus Plenior” (in “Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon” edited by Carson and Woodbridge, 1986, Zondervan). Moo has an excellent discussion of the struggles in trying to be sympathetic to the NT usage of the OT – but Moo gives up on the use of Psalm 2:7 in the NT as a kind of impossible-to-justify case. It is marvelous to see Carson so capably shows how the Psalm really is used that is within the realms of authorial intent and the progression of biblical theological themes without conceding an uncontrolled Sensus Plenior (i.e.: hidden meaning).  With humility Carson writes:

Many is the Christian who has thumbed through Old Testament pages to find the passage that has been quoted by the New Testament and applied to Jesus, only to feel let down by the fact that the connection is at best obscure, and in some cases seems to be talking about something radically different. It takes some hard work to uncover how these trajectories, these typologies, actually work. But when we take the time and effort to examine them, we are hushed in awe at the wisdom of God in weaving together intricate patterns that are simultaneously so well hidden in their development and so magnificently obvious in their fulfillment (pp76-76)

I’m so glad to see this material published which Carson has been lecturing on around the world for a long time. I remember him going through this material at a preaching conference in Melbourne in 1998.

Short review and thoughts on Driscoll’s “Real Marriage”

While not agreeing with everything in Driscoll’s book, it is generally helpful and I enjoyed the openness of Mark and his wife sharing their struggles and overcoming them to have a godly and happy marriage.

The book is not nearly as controversial as many are claiming. From the Reformation onwards, Protestant Christians have always had a very high and unembarrassed view of the God-given blessing of sex within marriage, for pleasure as well as procreation.

The past few decades have seen a wealth of evangelical books dealing explicitly with sex. This has not gone on unnoticed – for example, secular on-line culture magazine Slate carried an article in 1999 on the “booming Christian sex-advice industry“. That article refers to the book “Intended for Pleasure” by Ed and Gaye Wheate, which I would still recommend as more helpful and more basic than Driscoll’s practical sections.

The strength of “Real Marriage” is helping Christians recover from the mind-poison of pornography and the widespread sexual assault and abuse which clouds so many marriages. Not only does the gospel of Jesus Christ bring full forgiveness, but it has power to heal and reshape even the most struggling marriages. The book models this very well, it does not come quickly or easily but via the gospel there is hope for every marriage.

Leaving aside the obviously distracting “Can We ___?” chapter, the book is full of biblical and practical wisdom on male servant leadership and wifely respect, on mutual friendship and understanding, working against bitterness and developing real forgiveness. It’s advocacy of ‘full disclosure’ between spouses as a path to healing and growth is to be commended. The discussion on contraception is very helpful.

This book is not bad and also not great, but it is a good book. I doubt it will become a Christian classic. I think there is more benefit to listening or watching Mark’s excellent preaching online where he deals with marriage topics.

In my view the best conservative evangelical theological and biblical primer on Christian marriage is still Douglas Wilson’s “Reforming Marriage” (published by Canon Press in 1995).

 

 

 

 

 

Best Books of 2011

Some of the best books I have enjoyed this year:

Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A great summary of what it means to live the Christian life and be part of God’s people.

John Calvin, Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: Calvin is wonderful for learning what it means to be a Christian pastor.

Paradise Lost, John Milton: Wonderful stuff, and the preface by CS Lewis is gold.

The Pastor as Scholar & The Scholar as Pastor – Reflections on Life and Ministry, Piper and Carson: Excellent hearty reflections on godliness and leadership, especially Piper.

The Peacemaker – A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, Ken Sande: Best book on forgiveness I have read, other than the Bible.

The Narnian, Alan Jacobs: Terrific unpacking of the thought of CS Lewis and why he is so enduring.

 

Lit! The Taste of Honey | Books and Culture

Wonderful Christian reflections on the value of books and reading, especially the third paragraph:

First, I’ve found that we can gauge our literary tastes with Scripture. Is Scripture sweet to me like honeycomb dripping directly into the mouth (Psalms 19:10, 119:103)? This taste transition from Scripture-as-broccoli (necessity) to Scripture-as-honey (pleasure) is nothing less than a divine work of grace. To find spiritual delight in the prose, the poetry, the promises, and even the warnings of Scripture is at the pinnacle of God’s purpose for literacy.

Second, the Savior’s glory transforms literacy. When we see the knowledge of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ, we read the Bible differently (2 Cor. 3:14-16). And we read everything differently. God’s illuminating grace makes it possible for us to see what reflects our Creator and Savior in the starlight of creation and on the pages of great literature. The gospel provides us with new literary awareness.

Third, in the search for meaning, books trump images. It is no small challenge for a language-centered people to live faithfully in an image-saturated culture. Adam and Eve turned from the command of God when they saw the beautiful fruit. Ancient Israel chucked the earrings of adornment into a fire to craft a golden statue. And when the ear, the organ of language reception in an oral society, is exchanged for eye candy, things always go badly for God’s people. The same is true today. This sacred history can help motivate us to develop our literacy.

via Lit! The Taste of Honey | Books and Culture.

Carson: What is the Gospel? – Revisited

Classic Carson with some real sting.

The Christian gospel is news to be preached:

‘… it is not surprising that Paul speaks of the foolishness of what was preached rather than the foolishness of what was taught, or discussed, or reasoned over…  the gospel is primarily displayed in heraldic proclamation: the gospel is announced, proclaimed, preached, precisely because it is God’s spectacular news.

So when one hears the frequently repeated slogan, “Preach the gospel – use words if necessary,” one has to say, as gently but as firmly as one can, that this is smug nonsense,’ page 158.

His footnote references the apocryphal link of this phrase to St. Francis of Assisi.

In contrast to so many today that seek to extract an ethical ‘gospel’ from the teaching corpus of the Gospels, Carson rightly challenges:

‘All that the canonical Gospels say must be read in the light of the plotline of these books: they move inevitably toward Jesus’ cross and resurrection, which provides forgiveness and the remission of sins. That is why it is so hermeneutically backward to try to understand the teaching of Jesus in a manner cut off from what he accomplished; it is hermeneutically backward to divorce the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels from the plotline of the Gospels,’ page 160.

Great stuff.

The article can be found in the anthology: “For the Fame of God’s Name – Essays in Honor of John Piper”, edited by Storms and Taylor, Crossway Books 2011.

 

Quadrant Online – The Decline of Reading in an Age of Ignorance

Good analysis and critique of modern educational values and literacy:

If the twentieth century was called the Age of Anxiety, the twenty-first should be called the Age of Ignorance. To coin (or rather, purloin) a phrase, never in human history has so much knowledge been available and accessible, and yet so little curiosity or effort been expended by so many in response to it.

via Quadrant Online – The Decline of Reading in an Age of Ignorance.

Best Fiction Reads of 2010

Another journey through the Lord of the Rings. Still amazing and lifegiving. Also loved reading the Hobbit to the kids.

I finished reading my way through all the Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I read a one volume collection of the stories of Flannery O’Connor. Including ‘Wise Blood’ and ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’.

Gilead was an enjoyable read. I love father-son stories.

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Poetry wise I very much enjoyed Adrian Lane’s ‘Southpaw’.

Best Books of 2010

I love books. Here are just some of the best books I have enjoyed this year:

The Trellis and the Vine – Colin Marshall and Tony Payne.

No frills exhortation towards 1-1 ministry of the word and a discipling culture.

There are no magic bullets in this book, but it is very good tonic for sanity in the programmatic avalanche that churches find themselves under.

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Leadership on the Front Foot – Zac Veron

I read this at the start of the year and loved it. Hard hitting and practical yet grounded solidly on an evangelical theology. A breath of fresh air.

Probably need to reread given I am now in charge in my own parish..

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The Rage Against God – Peter Hitchens

Ignoring issues to do with his famous atheist brother, this book is a wonderful testimony from a convinced leftist atheist who became a committed Christian.

Great insights into the heart of polemic atheism from one who was on the inside and is now a committed, intelligent and educated Christian.

(I wrote a review of this book for EFAC Essentials but it hasn’t appeared online yet, only in the print edition)

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The Reason for God – Belief in an Age of Skepticism – Tim Keller

Articulate and humble, this is a very compelling read. The new giveaway book.

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The Core – Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education – Leigh A. Bortins

A great little handbook out of the resurgence of interest in classical education.

Not as detailed and useful as The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. The best books on this topic are still those by Doug Wilson: Recovering the Lost Tools of Education and The Case for Classical Christian Education.

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Douglas Wilson, Canon Press – Full View on Google Books

It looks like all of Douglas Wilson’s Canon Press published books are ‘full view’ on Google Books.

Well worth an online read, you’ll end up buying some of them!

Fidelity

Future Men

Reforming Marriage

Mother Kirk

The Paideia of God and Other Essays on Education

Heaven Misplaced – Christ’s Kingdom on Earth

Angels in the Architecture – A Protestant Vision for Middle Earth

A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking

Best Books of 2009

Some of the more enjoyable recent books I have read or used this year:

(some wordpress bug is causing the images to cascade unless I put full stops in to space them out – bleh)

actsThe Acts of the Apostles,  David Peterson, Pillar New Testament Commentaries, IVP.

Preaching through the final third of Acts this year, this new commentary has been invaluable.

Peterson has an excellent grasp of the use of the OT in Acts, and of the Lordship of Jesus as the pivotal theme.

Excellent and insightful.

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greenactsThe Word of His Grace, A Guide to Teaching and Preaching from Acts

This is a really enjoyable summary of the theology and structure of Acts.

Exemplifies the very best of the Proc Trust tradition, really giving you a good sense of the ‘melodic line’ of different parts of Acts – to use the David Jackman phrase.

A great big picture look at Acts.

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tpg Keller – The Prodigal God

Excellent confrontation with ‘elder brother’ legalism that pervades today.

Many wonderful exegetical insights that could only be discovered by a pastor-evangelist.

Destined to be a Christian classic.

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notes-from-the-tilt-a-whirlNotes from the Tilt a Whirl – ND Wilson

If you like philosophy then this is a fun ‘ride’.

Solved one theological puzzle I’ve been wrestling with for many years. That alone was worth the price of the book for me.

(I’ll have to blog the ‘puzzle’ another time)

Could be a good book to give away to well-read unbelievers. It gets under your guard.

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calvinCalvin Sermons on Genesis 1-11

This new translation from Banner is wonderful.

So often people miss out on the best of Calvin because most retailers hock a crappy 19th C public domain facsimile translation.

This translation is readable and quotable.

His sermons have alot more applications than his commentaries, great for preachers.

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making-it-all-workMaking It All Work, David Allen

Not a Christian book but I did really enjoy the follow up to his productivity classic “Getting Things Done”.

Unfortunately Penguin Australia has a grammar nazi in management. They renamed the books as “How to Get Things Done” and “How to Make it All Work“. Lessons from rulebook of “How to Make Books Sound Dumber as if People Don’t Know the Real Title from the Net”.

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bookdepository.com is incredible

We ordered a bunch of text books from Peace Hill Press six days ago from bookdepository.com. Many arrived today.

The .com book depository has a wider range of USA sellers.

The .com book depository is very, very fast.

I feel like I need to go on a book spending spree – something this good cannot last!

I remember when I first shopped from Amazon 10 years ago – waiting 3 months for precious books to arrive. Now I can order them one by one, much cheaper, and they arrive in 1 week. (Amazon still takes 3 months)

new book depository

www.bookdepository.co.uk is the cheapest place to get books. Free delivery to your door (takes about 8-10 days to get to Australia).

They have launched a US version:

www.bookdepository.com

The prices are in UK pounds on both sites.

I’ve noticed that sometimes you can get even cheaper prices on the .com version. My guess is that this especially applies for books printed in the USA.

The range is excellent. And you get cool bookmarks that my family are buying books just to collect.