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The End of Many Books

Taking God at His Word

Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me

by Kevin DeYoung

In Taking God at His Word DeYoung shows not only that the Bible is trustworthy, but tasty. As he says, this isn’t a book about hermeneutics and how to interpret Scripture, yet it is a delightful and encouraging book about why we should believe it and believe that we can understand it. Here’s a few questions he asks:

“Is God wise enough to make himself known? Is he good enough to make himself accessible? Is he gracious enough to communicate in ways that are understandable to the meek and lowly? Or does God give us commands we can’t understand and a self-revelation that reveals more questions than answers?”

DeYoung answers these thoroughly and throughout the book. In particular his chapter on “Christ’s Unbreakable Bible” is an excellent demonstration of how the incarnate Word viewed and used the inspired Word.

I was edified by reading this, and would highly recommend it for Christians who are young in age (junior high/high school) and certainly for those who are new in their discipleship to Christ. Get in the Word, and let it get in you (per Colossians 3:16).

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Forged from the Reformation

How Dispensational Thought Advances the Reformed Legacy

Edited by Christopher Cone and James Fazio

The “BUT WHO IS REALLY REFORMED???!” might be the most annoying, least productive discussion in Protestant and Calvinistic circles. So … LET ME ADD TO IT!!!?

I’m being playful, but I’m not really joking. It’s also not really my fault. I recently finished reading Forged from the Reformation: How Dispensational Thought Advances the Reformed Legacy. So let’s blame the editors, Christopher Cone and James Fazio. Why did they make me want to read this book?

The book begins with some history of the Reformation, especially focused on Martin Luther as the initial human spark-plug/lightening rod, followed by some history of John Nelson Darby as a similar character to Luther in his own place and time. After that most of the book defines the five solas and then argues—persuasively from my perspective—which group of Protestants have been most consistent in carrying on those Reformation solas. Spoiler: semper Reformanda belongs to the Dispies.

What?! How?! Dispies are usually defined as the hill-billy, bunker-building, rapture-theory, crazy second-cousins of the Reformed. So the “Reformed” are not actually the heirs of the Reformers?

Again, yeah, them’s fighting words. But, take sola Scriptura. If Scripture is the ultimate authority (over Roman Catholic Popes and Councils), then why would Christians be bound to confess some (very helpful but uninspired) documents written by some guys in West London in the mid 1600s? And if Scripture has clarity enough in translation to be read by the plough-boy (Tyndale’s conviction for which he gave his life), then why would you need to look through the lens of one (or three) extra-biblical covenants in order to understand the story of Scripture, especially when those extra-biblical covenants require eisegsis for (re)interpreting key words (like “Israel”)?

One thing I did not realize before reading Forged is the teleological distinctive between Covies and Dispies, namely that Dispies, especially since Darby, have consistently said soli Deo gloria includes God’s work of glory-getting on earth in time. Of course no orthodox, believing Presbyterian would deny that, but they tend to wrap up all the glory in God’s redemption of the one people of God. Anyway, it’s probably subtle, and easy to make a straw-man, but I can see it.

I’m only going to give this 4 of 5 stars. I’m taking two half points off for the following reasons. First, because there are over a dozen authors for various chapters, they all sort of write self-contained sections. It’s not that they contradict, it’s that there’s a decent amount of overlap; the book could be much less long. Second, as usual, I find “us Dispies” to maintain a dualistic worldview, which is really ironic, and stunting. Most Covies kick our butt when it comes to living and building, to equipping the saints for ministry and generational jealousability, liberal arts education and making beautiful things, and so on unto every square inch and stuff. My brothers, these things ought not, and don’t have to, be so.

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The End of Many Books

English Literature in the Sixteen Century

excluding Drama

by C. S. Lewis

This is a book full of judgments. It judged me.

OHEL—the Oxford History of English Literature—is Lewis’ big boy book, his largest single volume, the fruit of his lifetime love and study of medieval lit. His Anglican light on the Puritans and the Reformers tries to be critical but ends up confirming things for Calvinists. His critic’s light on 16th century prosers and poets introduced me to many new names and many new ways to say negative things with droll pleasure.

So I learned a lot and also smiled a bunch.

I started to read it in 2019, and it got the better of me in a few weeks. I started again last August, trying to give it ten minutes a day, and I am better because of it. I definitely don’t think everyone needs to read this, but if you like Lewis and words, this book should be in your queue.

5 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

by Madeleine L’Engle

I was told by @hobbsandbean that I would like this book. It is why I read the first two books in the series: A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door. I did not really enjoy either of those (it’s also true I listened to those as audiobooks, which rarely make the story better for me). I did like this one. The “Might-Have Been”s didn’t get me freaked out about Open Theism, though I suppose it could if I really wanted something to be OUTRAGED about.

I liked it even though the Higgins family wasn’t helpful. I liked it even though Pastor Mortmain was one of the worst characters. I liked it even though it was sometimes hard to distinguish all the similar sounding names who were living in a different When. I liked it when the unicorn said that being sent to our planet is “considered a hardship assignment.” Ha!

4 of 5 stars

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Strangely Bright

by Joe Rigney

Great stuff. In my ongoing efforts not only to love Christ but to love (all) the things Christ loves, this brief book is only profitable.

The categories Rigney provides are crucial for living on earth as God-fearing image-bearers that are not either idolators or ingrates. He points out totalizing passages in God’s Word that provide a comparative approach; God must be more valuable to us than any and all other things. Rigney also points out things-of-earth passages that show an integrated approach; God is valuable to us in/through His gifts, such as bodies and time and relationships and responsibilities and pleasures.

If you haven’t read The Things of Earth, do that, too. Read both. They cover some similar ground, but Strangely Bright also has a complete chapter on the goodness of baseball. Can’t beat that.

My only reason for not giving full stars is that Rigney can appear to give a little bit too much credit to natural revelation, for example, in stating that mountains reveal God’s righteousness. From my reading in Psalm 19 and Romans 1, the attributes of God revealed in creation do not include God’s mercy, holiness, and goodness which Rigney does state as being learned outside of Scripture. That said, there are a few explicit sentences where Rigney gives priority to Special Revelation and how “Scripture is the grammar textbook for [the] language” of nature. So, okay, I can work with that.

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

A Wind in the Door

audiobook cover

by Madeleine L’Engle

I was told that A Swiftly Tilting Planet is amazing. It’s the third book. I listened to A Wrinkle in Time, and fine. I listened to A Wind… and, it was okay. Traveling to a boy’s mitochondria turns out to not be my bailiwick, but Proginoskes and Blajeny were fun. I will go on!

2 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Unreasonable Hospitality

by Will Guidara

Part rising star autobiography, part intro to the world of fine dining, part leadership principles, the whole book is full of tasty courses from the hors d’oeuvre to the afters. A friend recommended it to me in January, but I procrastinated on getting a copy. In the meantime he recommended it to a whole bunch of people and then they all started talking about it so I could resist no longer.

I should have remembered Guidara and his restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, from a Seven Days Out episode that Mo had us watch a few years ago. The story is fun, even Legend; I wasn’t too many pages into the book before I cared about the author and his team.

Hospitality is a Christian virtue, and there is application to be found far beyond four star restaurants. How can you pay better attention to others, serve them, even surprise them? Hospitality is not exactly generosity, and it’s definitely not necessarily luxury. “Hospitality is about creating genuine connection” (loc. 1912), especially since “the human desire to be taken care of never goes away” (loc. 131), and comes with an opportunity “to make magic in a world that desperately needs more of it” (loc. 354).

Hospitality is potent, and something Christian cultures should develop. This book is a great encouragement toward that end.

4 of 5 stars

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Deeper Heaven

by Christiana Hale

If you would have told me fifteen years ago that I would love fiction, I would have so non-fiction laughed in your face. If you would have told me that my favorite novel would be in the sci-fi genre, I might have encouraged you to book a flight on a SpaceX rocket. Yet here we are.

Deeper Heaven is more than a commentary, it’s a sort of celebration of C. S. Lewis’ Ransom Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. We focused on this trifecta at our most recent Fiction Festival, and I thought I’d read Hale’s book as part of my preparation. Well worth it.

She references Michael Ward’s book, Planet Narnia, and especially the medieval cosmology/astronomy Lewis so clearly loved and threaded into Narnia and these earlier planetary books. I enjoyed Ward a lot, and I think anyone can read his stuff. But if you’re just getting started you might find Hale’s orbit a bit more inviting.

4 of 5 stars

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The End of Many Books

Contagious Culture

by Anese Cavenaugh

Glad presence. That’s the standard for a good culture (home, school, business), and it’s the standard for the leader who wants to set—or elevate—the tone of a good culture.

This is my second time reading the book. I picked it up again because I recommended it to a guy who’s part of a team that needed some cultural heart-replacement. And while I still think some of it is repetitive rah-rah, it does put the responsibility in the right place: the one you see in the mirror.

I find the principle easier to envision than to embody. The grumblers and malcontents can get to me, and it’s also been a challenge to compensate for low energy and internal meh. That said, not blaming others or letting ourselves off the hook are evergreen reminders. Try a “presence reboot” and be the person you want the group to be full of.

3 of 5 stars

Related, and for fun, this talk about one buttock playing shows how it’s done.

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The End of Many Books

The Gap and the Gain

by Dan Sullivan and (actually written) by Benjamin Hardy

If you have great ambitions you likely have great discouragements. The higher your ideals, the lower the chance you reach them. While it’s good to have good wants, it’s also crucial to have good perspective. This book encourages those who pursue big goals to practice even better gratitude.

The gap is the measurement between where you are and where you wish you were. The gain is the measurement between where you were and how far you’ve come. A focus on the gap likely leads to discouragement and frustration. A grasp of the gain promotes a positive frame and makes further progress desirable; you work out of good feelings rather than out of anxiety and pressure.

Here is the diagram:

The gap and the gain is a sticky idea, one that I won’t soon forget. And I’m only giving the book itself 3 out of 5 stars. A friend of mine recommended it, I’m glad I read it, and again, the concept has legs. But you see the whole track after a couple laps, and after a certain amount of repetition you just get tired, not better trained. It could also use a bit more warning: it’s not for the non-ambitious. Couch potatoes might be better being a little more frustrated.

If you are big-visioned and if you are big-struggling with how far away you seem to be from reaching the vision, this might edify you. You could also just try being more thankful, which never hurts.

3 of 5 stars