The End of Many Books

The Winter King

by Christine Cohen

My first story by Cohen. How did I like it? Well I started her second book (The Sinking City) as soon as I finished.

Why did I read it? Mrs. Cohen is the keynote speaker for our upcoming Raggant Fiction Festival. I mean, I should read her stuff, right?

Why did I like it?

I enjoyed being repeatedly surprised that the heroine, Cora, chose the wrong thing. It’s not that she was mistaken and bumbled into bad things (like a young, female Inspector Clouseau), she consistently did the unrighteous thing. Turns out that her final wrong action was the right wrong action, which really did bring light after darkness, but most of her wrongs were bad.

I also enjoyed the power of “the Book,” and the foreshadowed twist in the ruined feast to the healing medicine. The truth will set you free.

If you haven’t read it, I don’t really think I’ve given too much away. What I really hope to have done is give you a reason to read it. Start before the winter’s over.

4 of 5 stars

The End of Many Books

Till We Have Faces

by C.S. Lewis

This was my second read-through, bumped up in my queue in preparation for our next Raggant Fiction Festival. As is usual for me with good books, my delight increased. Or maybe rather than delight, my gratitude grew. I’m raising my rating, adding it to my Fives.

The guy can write. Ha!

I’ve heard it argued that Lewis was not big on introspection. It may be true. But even if he wouldn’t encourage a man to look into his heart for too long, Lewis makes you look into someone else’s ugly heart. Mirrors hang on every page of this myth retold.

One guy said Lewis encouraged “imaginative glimpses” rather than a self-examination that bogs a man down in the slough of despond. We ought to hate proud self-love when we see it, yes, and then we ought to get into serving others for sake of the joy in obedience.

Till We Have Faces puts a face on that sort of narrative arc, for those who have ears to hear that they may not be the victim after all. Great story, and brutal, to the final page.

Should you read this? The better question is, why haven’t you already read this?!

5 of 5 stars

The End of Many Books

Crisis of Responsibility

by David Bahnsen

Some of the men I enjoy and respect the most recommended this book for all the men at our church to read and discuss. I’m glad they did.

Bahnsen lets no one off the hook. It’s an extended look in the mirror, and expects us to look from the financial angle, both the K-12 and higher education angle, the political angle, all the way down to the moral angle. Considered individually, your fault level may vary. Considered as a nation, the image is UGLY.

A great temptation for many men is not to look in the mirror but through the window. At certain moments they see themselves, and acknowledge some of the work they should be doing. But most of the time is spent looking at all the problems…other people have. That guy, that banker, businessman, politician, teacher, professor, immigrant, even robot (or owner replacing humans with automation), someone else is responsible for all the junk making our lives miserable.

Again, Bahnsen pokes at this irresponsible tendency. That’s good.

A few things make me less confident of Bahnsen’s claim that we can “cure” our cultural addition to blame.

First, the book came out in 2018. Sheesh, has a lot happened that has exposed even more of the rot. Even though Big Tech and Big Brother and Big Pharma and Behemoth U. aren’t the only bugs in the system, they sure are BIG bugs, and they’ve all sucked a lot more blood these last five or six years.

Second, speaking of changes since publication, the Foreword was written by David French, and French has gone all footsies with many in Big Media (as full-time writer for the New York Times), those who fancy themselves the taste-makers in elitist, Christian-hating culture. I don’t remember reading French in 2018, but this inclusion (and his name on the cover of the book) means Bahnsen’s book will be judged by the cover.

Third, there’s much less neutrality now, not that neutrality was ever really true, but it seemed like it, or it was easier to coast. Responsibility is not a commodity, it can’t be bought, and it most definitely cannot be sold. There isn’t anyone who wants to buy it! The virtue of personal responsibility has survived in name, but it is only consistently valued by those who believe in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot imagine a return to a culture of responsibility without a revival brought about by a great work of the Spirit to draw men to true life by the gospel. I don’t follow Bahnsen’s current work, maybe he is more explicit about that now. But while this book is interesting, it’s not compelling apart from a Christian conviction with Kuyperian flavor.

Should you read this? Sure, you should. There’s much to learn. And also, you’ve got to know that it only matters because Jesus is Lord.

The End of Many Books

Fast Like a Girl

by Mindy Pelz

I know I’m not a girl. I don’t have any underlying “girl power” attitude. I don’t plan to fast like a girl. But for a variety of reasons I read this book, and I’m glad I did.

Previously I’d read a book about the benefits of fasting for spiritual purposes. This is about the physical gains. That’s important, as fasting driven more by what one is giving up rather than driven by what one is gaining are different, and the motivations probably matter for longterm success.

Anyway, I have some physical problems (ha!) and maybe fasting will enable some system resets. I do also like the spiritual discipline part of it. And fasting is an attempt that requires no extra money or time. I’ve not got a lot of extra of those, so this matches my calendar and budget.

Though I finished the book today, I’ve already completed 12 intermittent fasts, the longest being 24 hours. I aim to try some still longer fasts over the next few months.

The author is so positive about fasting it almost comes across as spin at times. Maybe we all need a little more positivity. But there’s some biology to learn, some explanation of how the body reacts to various stages of starvation (ha!, she doesn’t call it that, but, I mean, that’s what it is, right?), lists of foods that help complement fasting for helping different systems in the body, a bunch of recipes, and again a lot of encouragement to give the body a little hormetic stress so that it can adapt toward a little more health.

The End of Many Books

The Shepherd’s Life

by James Rebanks

I share a job title with James Rebanks and yet we do very different work. He’s a shepherd, but the sheep he tends have four legs, and he did not intend this book for metaphoric application. 

Nevertheless, I read it a second time. I’m maybe just a bit less smitten with it than eight years ago, but the earthy, seasonal, relentless, and generational work parts continue to have good effect on my affections. I read it only on Sunday mornings while I got my body and blood moving to be ready for ministry to our assembled flock. 

Here are his three rules of shepherding:

“First rule of shepherding: it’s not about you, it’s about the sheep and the land. Second rule: you can’t win sometimes. Third rule: shut up, and go and do the work.”

He wouldn’t say it this way, but, that’ll preach.

5 of 5 stars

The End of Many Books

The Book that Made Your World

How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization

by Vishal Mangalwadi

This book is like great steak. There aren’t really that many surprises, but, man, it is GOOD.

I first heard about this book around the time Jordan Peterson was ranting about the Bible to Joe Rogan. There was some background on the socials, and it seems like, for as much as Peterson already paid attention to the Bible, Mangalwadi must have sent a copy to Peterson and it was like a shot of nitro into JP’s enthusiasm engine.

I happen to love the Bible. I don’t worship it, but it is the source of revelation from the true God whom I do worship. I started to read the Word for myself in high school, went to three different Bible colleges, and eventually went to the seminary I thought would teach me the most about ministering on the basis of and through the power of the Word.

But all through that time, and through almost my first decade of being a full-time Bible studying and preaching pastor, while I thought the Bible was AWESOME and as I looked to it first for ANSWERS, I kept reading it wrongly. I could say I was reading it partially, narrowly, dualistically. I read and studied it to learn “Bible” things, to glean theological truths, but failed to realize that the theological truths in the Bible provide the basis and the lens for reading and studying all things, as well as for building culture and civilizations.

Had I thought about it for even a second, it shouldn’t have been surprising. But I was giving credit to something “other” (without knowing or being able to name it) than God and God’s Word for creating the categories we share.

TBTMYW shows that secularism has no clothes; all idols likewise are naked. There just isn’t such a thing as neutrality. Ideas have consequences, and every idea comes from somewhere and connects with some kind of conduct. Cultures that haven’t had the Bible have had some good things, of course. Our Father makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. But the big, abundant BLESSINGS belong to those who receive the truth revealed in the divine Text.

Mangalwadi’s book is a who’s who and what’s what of Western Civilization. It has almost ALL the great names you’d expect. What makes it especially interesting is that Mangalwadi is looking into WesternCiv from the outside, from his Eastern culture. He argues that globalization, while certainly perverted and hijacked by some, has more to do with the Lord’s covenant to Abraham to bless all the nations of the earth.

TBTMYW a long book, but like a big steak, that should be the opposite of discouraging. Take it bite by bite. There is confidence in these pages. They obviously aren’t inspired, but they do inform our gratitude and increase our desire for the Word of God. God has been kind to give us a Book. We ought to read the Book, meditate on it day and night, and be careful to obey the Author of it. That would put some soul back into our civilization.

5 of 5 stars

Here’s the video of Peterson talking to Rogan about how “roughly speaking we have a bedrock of agreement…that’s the Bible.”

The Bible is the fundamental basis on which our (shared) categories of meaning and understanding depend.

The End of Many Books

Clear Thinking

Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results

by Shane Parrish

I’d recommend this book for people who need to make a myriad of decisions, and especially for those who forget how they’ve already made the thousands of decisions behind them (you know who you are). If you know your priorities and are addressing your weaknesses, you will be edified by reading this, but I wouldn’t say it will set you on a “new and improved” trajectory.

Parrish acknowledges that he’s written this as a result of working through a lot of material by others. Those who’ve read The Slight Edge and/or Atomic Habits, or Extreme Ownership/It’s Your Ship, or even Antifragile, will hear familiar rings. “Improve your position today” through consideration and use of “every ordinary moment” isn’t ground-breaking counsel, but it is foundational.

In terms of some things to avoid: “The person who wants to be seen as great shows the world how to manipulate them.” (Loc. 390) In other words, you want to be awesome rather than just look awesome, especially because needing to be seen in a particular light is not the same as doing what’s right whether ot not it’s seen.

Especially for leaders: Don’t let someone else define the problem, do the work to understand it. And in doing so, seek as best as possible to identify the root cause, not a symptom.

And then, even more important than getting clarity is demonstrating courage: “It’s not so much that we don’t know what to do as much as we don’t want to deal with the reality of doing it.” (Loc. 2476)

Flag-planting questions: “Who needs to know my goals and the outcomes I’m working toward? Do they know that the most important objective is?” (Loc. 2812)

Clear thinking for Christians (my application, not the book’s audience per se) involves not just priorities, and knowing we’re going to die some day, but having our affections in order. This book reminds us not to have our default affections get stuck in our (bad) emotions or in seeking the glory that comes from men, or even just the inertia of lazy thinking. We can get better at pursuing the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in.

3 of 5 stars (which means I liked it)

The End of Many Books

100 Cupboards

by N.D. Wilson

2010 This continued my fiction reading with the kids. MRH2 and CKH were a little disturbed near the end, but were totally engaged. I’m still wondering about the propriety of Henry and Henrietta in Henry, KS, but so be it. I think I liked it enough to move ahead in N.D.’s trilogy.


2017 Finished again and didn’t realize how much I missed the first time. I’m a different reader than I was six years ago.


2023 – Read again on my way through the Cupboards trilogy for my third time, just in case we get ND to talk at our Raggant Fiction Festival in 2024. Still good FUN!

5 of 5 stars

The End of Many Books

Dispensational Hermeneutics

by Michael Vlach

If you are committed to hating anything Dispensational, then it doesn’t really matter what a Dispy says. Alright. But if you are committed to trying to read the Bible and understand what it says, and want the Bible to tell you what “system” (if any) to believe rather than depending on the System to tell you what you can believe in the Bible, Dispensational Hermeneutics would edify you.

Vlach encourages me. He is clear, and he does not overstate his arguments, which is part of what enables him to avoid coming off as combative. I appreciated his start with the Bible’s storyline, including God’s purposes for “the salvation of nations/society and the restoration of creation” (Loc. 138). The guts of the book are his ten hermeneutical principes:

  1. Consistent Use of Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutics to All Scripture
  2. Consistent Contextual Interpretation of Old Testament Prophecies
  3. Passage Priority: The Meaning of Any Bible Passage Is Found in that Passage
  4. Old Testament Prophecies not Repeated in the New Testament Remain Relevant
  5. Old Testament Eschatology Expectations Are Reaffirmed in the New Testament
  6. Progress of Revelation Does Not Cancel or Transform Unconditional Promises to the Original Audience
  7. Fulfillments Occur with the Two Comings of Jesus
  8. Partial Fulfillments of Old Testament Prophecies
  9. Jesus as Means of Fulfillment of the Old Testament
  10. Types, Yes! Typological Interpretation, No!

He argues against a “Christocentric” reading, but offers instead “a Christotelic approach (that) asserts that all Scripture is related to the person and work of Christ, even though Christ is not found in every passage. All Scripture is not Jesus, but all Scripture relates to Him” (Location 1132). That’s a helpful distinction.

One of the things I’ve seen going around recently is that the nation of Israel doesn’t matter to God at all any more because Jesus is the TRUE Israel and all the OT promises are fulfilled in Him. But Jesus can be the Seed and there can still be future fulfillment for the other parts of the covenants.

“The New Testament writers do not apply a mystical, metaphysical personalism hermeneutic concerning Jesus that makes details of Bible prophecies evaporate into Him.” (Location 1757)

The teaching (and hermeneutic) of the apostles did not transform or redefine, let alone cancel, previous revelation. Come on, people.

There are two reasons I’m giving this 4/5 instead of 5/5 stars.

First, I’m sure there’s a good reason, but I think calling it “Dispensational Hermeneutics” is the wrong name altogether. Until a few years ago, I didn’t even know that people talked that way. Grammatical-Historial hermeneutics, YES! But the Dispensational nickname/label is a result of Bible reading not a way to get a certain “reading” of the Bible. Dispensational as an adjective should describe the person post-reading, not as an adjective for a pre-reading lens.

Consistent (and I know that’s not always easy to get) Grammatical-Historical reading of the text would reject extra-biblical covenants that are supposedly necessary to understand the story of the Bible. Consistent sola Scriptura bears the fruit of Dispensationalism, Dispensationalism is not the soil or seed. So I love the principles, and don’t love the adjective in the title.

Second, I’d love to see more “here and now” application which also comes from avoiding the “spiritualized” reading required by non-Dispy systems. Call it Kuyperian, call it non-gnostic/non-pietistic, you pick. Take this quote:

“The Christian worldview, though, affirms the goodness of both physical and spiritual realities. While they are distinct, physical and spiritual realities both are important in God’s purposes, and one does not supersede the other.” (Location 1433)

Yes and amen, but the book puts this worldview more in the future context, which is right, but misses some of the relevance for the present day. The physical blessings of God on His people will be unsurpassed in the Millennial Kingdom and into the eternal state, but many of those blessings won’t be unprecedented, as in, known for the first time only then. The blessings of salvation now include intangibles and many tangibles, even if only a taste during the current time.

This may be an issue of emphasis, not really disagreement, but so many Dispies I know are functional dualists, where only the spiritual things matter, and, ironically, that is bad Bible reading, which we claim to be better at.

Regardless, this is a great read, full of plain principles that encourage Bible readers to take God at His Word.

4 of 5 stars

The End of Many Books

Knowing Scripture

by R. C. Sproul

I’ve started teaching a Bible class again, though it’s got a WAY cooler name than “Bible Class.” We’re calling it Cornerstone. Boom. So I’ve been doing some extra reading, and this was my first time for Knowing Scripture by Sproul.

It’s got reasons to read the Bible, including an emphasis on the objectivity or “there-ness” of revelation, reminders on the perspicuity or understandability of revelation, and then some general principles for reading and interpreting.

His three primary rules for hermeneutics:

  • Sacra Scriptura sui interpres – Sacred Scripture is its own interpreter, similar to analogia Scriptura
  • sensus literalis – interpret according to the literal sense, meaning to pay attention to the “natural meaning of a passage…according to the normal rules of grammar, speech, syntax, and context”
  • Grammatical-Historical method – giving attention to the original meaning of the text rather than read in our own ideas

He also provides 11 practical rules for interpretation, and, they are…fine, sort of like guardrails a third of the way down the bank. They’ll stop you from exegetical death, but there’s plenty of off-roading you can do before stopping.

The whole thing is good, and as Sproul was a key player in the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy and the follow up statement on Hermeneutics, he had parchment in the game.

4 of 5 stars