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The End of Many Books

The Care of Souls

I am glad I read this. I did also get tired of reading it numerous times. Some of the fatigue was due to repetition, some of it was all the Lutherany lingo. The author is Lutheran, so, it wasn’t unexpected, and there are ways in which hearing from different than usual perspective can be beneficial, sure. I appreciated the habitus emphasis, certainly over more technique and tips. I appreciated the concept of “baptismal therapy,” as in, a way of referring to our identity in Christ as crucial for our sanctification and consciences and comfort. And yet, I probably wouldn’t include this high on a list for new or old pastors to read. I’m thankful for it, and thankful I’m done.

3 of 5 stars

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Trust Me, I’m Lying

by Ryan Holiday

This book is full of bad news, and I mean that in a couple ways. So much news is no good, as in fake, and I certainly have even less trust in the headlines than ever. Holiday also offers little more than heightened awareness of digital conmen and their schemes, he doesn’t really provide an antidote.

It gave me more reason to appreciate Dorothy Sayers’ question from 1947:

Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined?

The Lost Tools of Learning

Holiday points out that we are a culture of fools, fooling others and being fooled by them.

3 of 5 stars

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Last Stands

I heard about this book on the Canon Calls podcast. Through these pages I learned a lot of history, I learned some military strategy, and I was reminded of some fundamentals of manhood in a fallen world.

The primary lessons are not new. Some battles cannot be avoided, and attempts to avoid fighting end in greater loss, not peace. Once the fighting has started, the cost has already been decided: whatever it takes; winners must be willing to endure not only unpleasantries but danger and privation. Today’s crushing loss at least be an effective inspiration for future fighters. There are worse things than death.

As the author said about the Spartans at Thermopylae: “With the outcome decided, all that was left was the glory.”

The only reason I’m not giving it 5 of 5 stars is because I don’t want to immediately start rereading it. But there is no good reason for you not to read it.

4 of 5 stars

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Four Thousand Weeks

We will not live forever in the flesh. We cannot do all the things, visit all the places, love all the people, fix all the crises. There are limits. We can either accept the limits and give thanks for them and work within them as we’re able, or we can attempt to ignore them or deny them or distract ourselves from the painful/humbling parts of the limits.

This book was a good read, even though I do not share some underlying worldview with the author. He uses more Zen and Hindu and humanist resources, though Ecclesiastes did get one shout out. He argues that his version of “and then you die” allows for true freedom. But his version has nothing and no one after the final breath. If you take that all the way down, there is not a consistent reason to work, and certainly no reason for joyful toil. But if, as Christians can, we take our limited time all the way up to God and His purposes, we shouldn’t bury our talents no matter how long it is until the Master returns. We will give an account to Him, and we will be resurrected to live with Him forever.

But amidst this book’s shilling for climate change and criticisms of capitalism, he really does let us out into the field to chew the cud on the fact that we can’t do it all, and a wise person stops trying. He urges a better perspective over better life-hacks.

I’m aware of no other time management technique that’s half as effective as just facing the way things truly are. (Loc. 369)

He also has some helpful (if inconsistent with his own worldview) observations on how so much productivity advice is about setting up “bulwarks against the risk that other people might exert too much influence over how your time gets used” (Loc. 2339). When, turns out, sharing time with other people is exactly what makes our time meaningful. The book doesn’t quote Solomon on this, but wisdom avoids isolation:

Again, I saw vanity under the sun: one person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business. (Ecclesiastes 4:7–8)

4 of 5 stars

(See this previous post as well.)

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Desiring the Kingdom

A friend gave me a copy of this book and I was eager to get after it right away. It didn’t take too long before I was reading bigger chunks at a time…so I could be finished with it faster.

The book is primarily about the power of liturgy to affect our desires/loves. And amen. This is something I had not thought about until ten or so years ago, and I am very thankful that this book by James Smith is not the first one I came across. It might have messed me up all over.

It’s not just that I don’t care for a number of his terms, such as “precognitive,” but I really came to not believe him when he tried to stick on a weak qualification here or there about how we shouldn’t abandon all propositions/sentences/statements of truth. Liturgy should be emphasized, especially among those who only see worldview issues through catechesis. But Smith emphasized it in such a way that liturgy becomes the autocrat of pedagogy, so to speak. But God gave us His Word. His Son is the Word. Psalm 19:7-8 describes the Word as potent.

I cannot recommend that you read this, and, if you do, watch out that you do not follow Smith in giving too much authority to the experiences and feelings and traditions of men.

1 of 5 stars

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Angels in the Architecture

Published in 1998, I wish I had read it that long ago. Not that I would have appreciated, or even accepted, its message back then, but if I had been teachable I might have avoided a lot of dualistic confusion and battled for a lot better things. My point here is, don’t let my mistake be yours. Get a copy, read it soon. See how the medieval weltanschauung (not that they called it that) has much for our Kuyperian (not that they called it that) living and joy. Without agreeing with every jot and tittle, this book points toward a love of truth and feasting and poetry, of submission and sphere sovereignty and the silliness of so much so-called science, of earth and work and relationships teeming with beauty and breath and blessing.

4 of 5 stars

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Gospel Culture

This book was gifted to me by a friend, and I’m thankful for it (and him). It’s brief, but edifying, especially as it makes a biblical case against dualism, and especially a so-thought virtuous dualism under the more formal name of Two Kingdoms theology. Boot demonstrates that the material and temporal are not enemies to the Christian, nor must we try to escape (since God called His creation good). Sin is our enemy. Christ came to conquer sin, and as His people live in Him they live differently with their stuff and in time.

4 of 5 stars

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Die Empty

Reminders don’t always need to be profound, just timely. This is another book in the kick-in-the-pants genre, making a case that it’s better to spend ourselves for what we think is important than to always be holding back/waiting/fearing. “Make progress on building a body of work” and “make an effort to create value where it didn’t previously exist.” Though the book is not Christian, a Christian could see some of the advice as a partial application of passages such as Psalm 90:12 and Ephesians 5:15-16.

3 of 5 stars

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Forsaking Israel

I haven’t read that many books about Dispensationalism. My Dispy beliefs come from a few basic definitions I’ve read and then reading the Bible (without bringing a system with me) and seeing God’s promises to Israel. This book was recommended to me by a friend, and it is great. The authors provide more than mere primer on the Millers (Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, Amillennialism), but in a way that is accessible for a lot of interested beginners. I appreciated the demonstration of how the church has read “Israel” from the early church fathers and through the Reformers, and I appreciated the explanations of how Covenant theology needs to come to different conclusions about “Israel.”

I’m holding back one star more as a personal problem, ha. I’ve come to really want more said about the fact that dispensational premillennialism insists that God’s promises are working in “human history on this fallen earth,” and yet so many Dispies are very bad dualists. We shouldn’t be, on principle (hence Kuyperianism). Anyway, I do recommend this book to get familiar with many of the terms/arguments, and I’ll be following some of the footnotes for further reading.

4 of 5 stars

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Live Not by Lies

So much about this book is good for all times, and so much about it is particularly timely. Soft totalitarianism, especially as seen in the faces of social justice ideology and surveillance technology, is upon us, it’s just a question of its level of influence in various places, and how much of it we accept for (preliminary) conveniences.

I held back one star because Dreher’s observations are, from my perspective, tinged with more fear than thanks. And while I wholeheartedly agree with him that it is crucial for Christians to preserve the faith and pass it on to their children and small communities, should we (or the generation that gets to come out of “survival”) ever expect to use (let alone create/advance and give God thanks for) broader technology? Which kinds? Under what circumstances? Because we see the abuses of good, and even an increase in those abuses around us today, are believers only supposed to build bunkers?

Nevertheless, I highly recommend reading this (and sharing it with your Russian friends!).

4 of 5 stars