Category: Goodreads

4 of 5 stars to Paradise by Dante Alighieri

2019: While I don’t know where exactly Dante got all his ideas on the celestial spheres, I do know that reading one man’s imaginative effort about it increases my desire to find out the truth of it in person. I need none of Dante’s exaltation of Mary (theologically or positionally in heaven) or merit, and I want much more face to face fellowship with God Himself (see 1 Corinthians 13:12-13; 1 John 3:2). But there is great glory, light, and munificence to celebrate in this final piece of the Comedy.

2017: I don’t know what I was expecting, but I should not have been surprised by the movement through heavenly planets having read Lewis’ The Discarded Image. That was great. Not great was the preeminence given to Mary. And as long as I could think of Beatrice as a representation of divine happiness things were fine, but reading Dante’s lines toward Beatrice as herself was…weird. I’m glad that in the final lines Dante enjoyed perfect affections, but then what? Still an enjoyable read.

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3 of 5 stars to Purgatory by Dante Alighieri

2019: I am still impressed by a couple things after my second trip through the poetic Purgatory. Penance is no fun, while also not being biblical, so, whew. That Dante mixes literature, history, and imagination into such an extended poetic form really does make one give thanks to God for His common grace in sub-creators.

2016: I’m sure I would have enjoyed this even more if I knew Italian history, and if I believed in Purgatory. As it is, I’m glad to be through it and heading into Paradise.

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4 of 5 stars to The Household and the War for the Cosmos: Recovering a Christian Vision for the Family by C.R. Wiley

The title is provocative, and I am thankful for Wiley’s guided meditation on the significance of what it means to live in an ordered cosmos and also on the thickness of household (and patriarchal) piety compared to the thin individualism causing our culture’s current foolish fruitlessness.

Should you read it? If you want to please your Father in heaven, then queue this one up.

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5 of 5 stars to Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

This book was even better than I hoped. Plus, James Clear is from Ohio, and played baseball. Boom. 

But also the content about starting good habits and stopping less good ones is clear and promotes action and iteration (without causing guilt to metastasize). If you’ve read The Slight Edge, which I highly recommend as well, then the idea of small but consistent changes will resonate. 

Clear also doesn’t let the reader off the hook. We always do what we most want to do, and what we want to do comes from our own hearts and our identity, for which we are responsible. Any long term changes we make will necessarily require identity change. He also talks about personal limits very fruitfully, reminding us that we can’t be just whatever we wish we could be, but we can look for areas and ways to maximize who we are as God made us (emphasis mine). 

Should you read this? Yes, you should start today.

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4 of 5 stars to Inferno by Dante Alighieri

I enjoyed this imaginary epic trip through hell again following Dante following Virgil. I still don’t know much Italian history, making me thankful as in previous reads for the footnotes. While I wouldn’t call Inferno helpful for Christian doctrine, I definitely think it works for deepening Christian devotion.

Read again in December 2016 as part of reading the entire Divine Comedy in Omnibus V.

2014: Entertaining and frustrating. Entertaining, not in the sense of amusement, but in the sense of focusing attention on the many deserved punishments of sin, even if only imagined by the poet. Frustrating because I know so little history in order to fully appreciate all the allusions. Thankful for the many notes by Musa.

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4 of 5 stars to The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

I listened to The Fellowship this time through, and found that Tolkien’s goal for the story rings true for me:

The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them.

My review from 2013: Alright, alright, I actually enjoyed it. I even sorta, kinda appreciate Frodo as both reluctant but doughty hero who is strong because he is weak (at least so far).

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4 of 5 stars to Beowulf – A New Verse Rendering by Douglas Wilson

I had only read Haney’s translation, and it was good though I knew no alternative. Wilson’s rendering was different, with more alliterative snap, and also good. The whole thing is epic, poetic dragon slaying at it’s best. Wilson’s essay at the end of on “Beowulf: The UnChrist” is also worldview-gold.

Should you read this? The story is required reading, and this edition serves the story well.

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4 of 5 stars to The Imaginative World of the Reformation by Peter Matheson

I finished this book a couple years ago but it’s been in my “currently reading” list since then. No longer! I read it in preparation for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, and I figured I’d post a review today in preparation for Reformation Day tomorrow.

Matheson argues:

“The Reformation…was more a song or a symphony than a system, more lyric than lecture, more a leap of the imagination than one of those social restructurings we are so heartily sick of today. It certainly produced systems, lectures and structures as well, but they were secondary.” (loc. 215)

This is not a disparaging word against the solas, it’s just that justification by faith alone belonged with abundant life not only clarified doctrines, let alone liberation from self-serving religious authorities. The Reformation gave Protestants freedom to read God’s Word, freedom to share communion, freedom from traditionalism and from dualism. It was a freedom to imagine (not outside reality but new concepts of reality) that daily work and survival meant something to God and was a good given by God.

“the Reformation can be seen as an infinitely varied, but coherent and extended, metaphor for the bountifulness of God’s grace.” (loc. 99)

Should you read this? You should put it in your queue if you’ve already read a lot of Luther and Calvin first, and if you’re interested to see how preaching was (actually only) a part of how nations were turned upside down.

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5 of 5 stars to Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader edited by James D. Bratt

Even though it took me more than five years to finish this book, I loved it. James Bratt collected and introduced sixteen of Kuyper’s essays on a variety of subjects such as modernism, common grace, Calvinism and constitutional liberties, evolution, sphere sovereignty, and education. I found this unique photo in the book, and found some current application for his thoughts on sanctimoniousness and powerlessness.

Should you read this? Probably not first, though it does give a bunch of Kuyper’s foundational thoughts in one volume.

I’d recommend starting with Lectures on Calvinism, then Wisdom and Wonder, and then Our Worship. I’ve started making my way through his Collected Works in Public Theology, but it’s quite a number of thumb’s-widths wide.

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3 of 5 stars to It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

I appreciated the stories and principles in this book. I did not like the egalitarianism found near the end, but reading to the end was worth it because that’s when he at least let a little off the air out of his humble-brags. Anyway, a leader should keep learning, keep listening, and keep leading.

“the winning leader’s first principle: Optimism rules. And the corollary: Opportunities never cease. The bottom line: It’s your ship. Make it the best.”

Should you read this? If you lead somewhere, then yes, put this into your non-urgent but needing-a-shot-in-the-arm queue.

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