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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.

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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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The End of Many Books

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