Monday, July 16, 2018

Literary gift ideas for lovers of classical fiction

I read a lot of religious books and history, but I also like to read classic fiction as well.  Several of my sisters also like to read and I enjoy hunting for gift ideas for my sisters for Christmas and birthdays, looking gifts inspired by Austen, Alcott, Beatrix Potter and other writers of classics.

Here are some sources I've come across:
This is a website that was brought to my attention recently, it has shirts, backpacks and tote bags, all with simple designs inspired by various classic books, including, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and Pride and Prejudice. To get 20% off anything in the store, use the promo code SNICKERDOODLES20  The code can be used an unlimited number of times.  

Here are some pictures of things that caught my eye:

A little Women Tote bag
It looks pretty and simple, and comes in small, medium and large sizes (All sizes are the same price):

An Anne of Green Gables back pack
Comes in small, medium and large sizes (each the same price) and has a padded laptop sleeve (check the size of your laptop first, to make sure it would fit):

And a Jane Austen back pack inspired by lady writers. Again, comes with a padded laptop sleeve. And you can order the back pack in large, medium and small sizes, again all sizes are the same price:

And here are a few other sites:

This site has t-shirts, scarves, totes and posters with various classic literary themes. There are various images you can choose from, and if you look closely you will find that all of these images are actually made of up all, or part of the book, in very, very tiny font.  My cousin bought my sisters and I a Jane Austen's Emma poster for Christmas one year, and you really can look closely at any part of it and start reading the book!

This lady sells elegant, pretty, literary Jewelry.  It looks as though the shop is temporarily closed, but it should be back up again sometime soon.

Hobby Lobby has storage boxes that look like books.  I love the antique looking ones. You don't need to by them online of course, they should have some in your local store in the section with storage boxes/trunks.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Essential Jonathan Edwards

I've read a biography of Jonathan Edwards before, and I've read a small part of his writings, but still have felt as though I don't know Edwards and his works very well.  When I saw that this book, The Essential Jonathan Edwards:  An Introduction to the Life and Teaching of America's Greatest Theologian, by Owen Strachan and Douglas A. Sweeney, was available to request for review, I thought that this would be a good way to introduce myself more fully to Edwards.

The book is divided into five parts.  Part one gives a high level biography of Edwards with quotations from his works interspersed throughout.  The other sections are more topical,  with chapters dealing with Edwards' thoughts on "Beauty" (having chapters such as The Beauty of God, The Beauty of Creation etc.),  the other sections are "The Good Life", "True Christianity" and "Heaven and Hell".  All of these parts contain summaries of Edwards writings on various subjects along with many  quotations from his writings.

Do I feel like I know more about Edwards writings more?  I suppose so.  Does it make me want to delve into his writings? Sadly, no.  This is probably going to sound awful, but I found this book very boring. I stopped when I was about half way through and just skimmed the rest (the book is over four-hundred pages).  

Perhaps a lot of my boredom came from Edwards' writing style, he seemed kind of mystical or something, in my opinion.  It just grates me the wrong way. It seemed more like some of his thoughts were floating in the air of unlimited conjecture without a firm grounding in exegesis of biblical texts.

Let me give you an example,

"the Old Testament church was as Christ's mother, but the New Testament church is his wife, whom he is joined to and whom he treats with far greater endearment and intimacy.  He forsook his mother also in this respect. Vis.  As he made a sacrifice of that flesh and blood, and laid down that mortal life which he had from his mother, the Virgin Mary.  'That which [is] born of flesh is flesh,' though he did not derive flesh from his mother in the sense in which it is spoken of, John 3:6, viz.  Corrupt sinful nature, and therefore did not forsake his mother for the church in the same sense wherein the church is advised to forsake her father's house for Christ's sake…..Yet Christ derived flesh from his mother, viz. the animal nature and human nature, with the corruption that is the fruit of sin, viz. with frailty and mortality.  This Christ forsook, and yielded to be crucified for the sake of the church."  Huh? That is really confusing. The editors of this book comment, "The doctrine of the church developed here is quite unique.  Old Testament followers of God represent 'Christ's mother, while New Testament believers are 'his wife.'"  It certainly does seem like a unique thought, and I don't see its biblical basis…

Edwards seemed to use a lot of typology, and was too….I'm not sure how to term it, scholarly? For my taste. Especially when he makes typological connections that are not given as such in the Bible.  Also, at times he seemed to be trying to work up emotions or something with his descriptions of the loveliness of God, of Christ.  Can one over 'describe the loveliness of Christ, of God? I think one can if one's descriptions savor more of the imagination than of solid basis in God's revelation of Himself.  Don’t we think that one cannot rival God's own descriptions of Himself in His Word?  Even Edwards? I'd understand more if he seemed to be exceeding texts, which I suppose he could have been doing, but then my opinion would probably be that he used too many illustrations.  I don't know, I'm still thinking about it, It's still rather hard for me to pin down why I don't like his writings, I've read other long dead authors whom I've liked.

I'm sorry if I'm misreading Edwards, but right now, this is my impression.  I'm not rating this book only two stars because I thought the authors did a bad job of putting this together.  I actually think that they probably did an excellent job.  I simply find that I don't particularly like Edwards as an author. 

Many thanks to the folks at Moody Publishers (MPNewsroom) for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable)

My Rating: Two out of Five Stars

This book may be purchased at and

Friday, June 1, 2018

CSB Worldview Study Bible - Navy Leathertouch

The Worldview Study Bible seeks to remind Christians that the Bible is not just a book that we read to feel more religious, we are changed by it, our thinking, our worldview, our perspective of everything is changed when we use it to renew our mind.

This Bible has many articles in it, scattered throughout and dealing with various 'worldview' topics, articles like: "Biblical Models for Business", "Engaging LGBT Advocates", "Emperor and King Worship in Biblical Times", "Animal Rights" , "A Biblical Assessment of Abortion", and so on.  Some of the articles are quite interesting and helpful.  Others, I had some trouble with some of the content.  For instance, in the article on "Biblical Formation",  dealing with various ways one can utilize the Scriptures, it says, "Praying through the Bible flows naturally from Scripture meditation.  Giants of the faith, such as Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, and especially George Mueller, made a habit of praying through Scripture…..Praying the Scriptures helps to assure that one's prayers are biblically sound and pleasing to God."

 I think that if praying through the Scriptures was a way to pray correctly, then Christ would have told the disciples to grab some copies of portions of the Old Testament and pray them. He could have demonstrated by quoting one of the Psalms, or a passage of Isaiah.  But instead he gave them a model prayer.  How does one pray through the book of Leviticus? Or Judges? Should we pray the imprecatory songs, while thinking of a particular person who hates us when we are told in the New Testament to "Love our enemies"?  How would we know that the Scripture we are praying is the right scripture for us to be praying at that moment?  The Apostle Paul shows us that it is already assumed that we will have trouble praying biblically sound prayers, that we do not know how to pray correctly, but that's where the Holy Spirit comes in, "And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered;"(Rom 8:26) The Spirit wouldn't need to intercede for us if we already knew how to pray as we ought, and the Bible doesn’t say that we ever will get to a point where we know how to pray correctly, this side of eternity.  That's where our Helper comes in. 

And then, there is an article that seems to downplay the validity of Christian young earth creationists arguing with Christian old earth creationists, as if they should focus on arguing their common enemy (atheistic evolutionists) rather than debate the validity of each other's hermeneutic. But don't we remember that bad doctrine will most likely come from within the "church"?  Aren't we to look out for our brethren and correct them in a fault? Aren't we judging those within the church, see 1 Cor 5:12 (I know, that passage is dealing with practical moral sins, not necessarily bad viewpoints, but its implications may apply here as well), aren't we critiquing the viewpoints of those within our midst, making sure that we all have an accurate view of God's Word? We don't expect the world to listen to us, we don't expect the world to ever have a correct viewpoint, but we do want to help our brethren, fellow Christians, stay away from dangerous hermeneutics.  We are our brother's keeper.      

This Bible also has a good deal of commentary.  A lot of it seems pretty useful, and using a literal grammatical historical hermeneutic.  For instance, in the commentary on Jeremiah 29:11 it says, ""While it is true that from an eternal perspective God has good plans for believers (Ps 84:11; Rm 828), this of cited verse should be understood first with respect to its addressees; exiles who would have to wait an extended time for God to restore them…"  But the hermeneutic seems to change in spots, like in Revelation, where it speaks of the 144,000, "The number 144,000, with multiples of twelve and multiples of ten (completeness), is symbolic of the entire people of God.  That the tribe of Dan is missing while Joseph as well as Manassah (Joseph's son) are listed further supports the symbolic nature of the list."  Huh? How do those things clue us in to this section's not being literal?  The context would seem to indicate that it should most certainly be taken literally. After the description of these tribes, the VERY NEXT verse says,  "After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number".  Differentiating this group of many peoples from the sealed of the twelve tribes of Israel.  How much clearer, could it be?  It differentiates between those in Christ who were sealed from Israel, and points out a more inclusive group later on, encompassing all peoples?  How much clearer could John get in describing what he saw? Does he have to go through each tribe and say, "And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel: 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, Judah was the son of Jacob (also called Israel), the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, born in the year such and such.  The tribe of Judah was made up of all of the living descendants of Judah.  The first descendant's name was George, the second, Robert…..the 12,000th, Charles.  And I also saw that their physical features resembled Judah's.  12,000 from the tribe of Reuben were sealed, Reuben was the son of Jacob (also called Israel), the son of Isaac…." Would that make it more likely to be literal?  I suspect that some would think that the more detailed it gets, the more figurative it is.  Omissions and replacements of tribes does not mean that this is not to be taken literally, it probably should be taken VERY literally and the omission of Dan might be significant in some way, taken as such.  We shouldn't assume that the omission of one of the original tribes indicates that this is not Israel.  Why would God HAVE to choose men from the tribe of Dan to be sealed in order for this to be literal, ethnic Israel? Do we not remember what Paul tells us in Romans 9?  Not all Israel is Israel, and that God has the right to choose whomever He wishes within Israel (even individual tribes).     

This "Worldview" Bible has a lot of good notes, and some interesting essays, I just don't like some of the concepts in the essays, nor do I like the inconsistency in the hermeneutics.  Also, the essays scattered throughout seem a bit too distracting.  I think that if you are going to put multiple essays in a Bible it would be better to put them at the end of the book, and then you can just look up the page number in the index if you want to read a particular article, instead of it breaking up the text.  

This particular study Bible is okay but not great.            

Many thanks to the folks at B&H publishers for sending me a free review copy of this Bible! My review did not have to be favorable.    

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

This Bible may be purchased at and at

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Quote of the Day

Soon after I stopped feeling this intense love and presence of God, I started grasping for things that normally brought that passion back.  I would drive almost an hour away to find churches with great worship bands and speakers……I knew on some level that there was something off about the way I was approaching this, but I felt like I needed to do whatever it took to get that feeling back.  And then one day it struck me:  my faith had stopped being about God and had become about how I felt.  That was really selfish of me.  It shouldn't have mattered how I felt if I trusted that God was real.  At that point the best thing for someone like me was to remove those feelings so that my faith would once again become about God, not myself. ….the end result was that I began learning how  to center my life around God with or without the feelings that I once had…….To make Christianity purely about feelings is to make it about ourselves rather than God.  God doesn't promise to constantly flood us with intense emotion…From the earliest days of the church, Christians have based their closeness to God on theology - on what they knew about God from Scripture - rather than feelings.  Many of the first Christians shed blood for believing in God.  If anyone had the right to feel distant from God, wouldn’t it be the people suffering for his sake? Instead, the early disciples rejoiced at the chance to suffer for Christ (Acts 5:41)."

From the book:

See more quotes on my quote collection blog:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers - By Abner Chou

I saw that there was a book on hermeneutics coming out by Abner Chou.  I thought his name sounded familiar, looked it up and remembered that I had listened to a message by him a while back, critiquing the Christocentric hermeneutic and thought that it was pretty good.  Therefore I wanted to see how Chou would tackle hermeneutics overall in a book.

This book, The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers: Learning to Interpret Scripture from the Prophets and Apostles is written from the perspective that the Bible has a "built-in hermeneutic".  We don't have to come up with our own. I loved that Chou points out that we don't need to go searching the hermeneutical methods of the nations in the days that the books of the Bible were written, rather we search the Bible to see how the text interprets itself. 

But sadly, overall I did not like the book.  Let me explain why. 

First, I didn't like how the author keeps saying that the prophets were theological geniuses, they were experts in dealing with the Scriptures, they were experts at developing theology. If he just said it a couple of times I could have overlooked it, but he emphasizes it and seems to make it a major fact/point. Something you need to have fully ingrained in your head:   I'll give a few quotations to show you what I mean:

"The prophets were immersed in Scripture.  As a result they used it accurately in various situations and developed it theologically.  They could apply God's Word to their current situation (e.g., covenant disobedience and failure) as well as advance the theological themes and concepts therein via new revelation.  …In sum, the prophets were exegetes who carefully understood the Scripture, as well as theologians who profoundly expounded upon its ramifications."

"The prophets were immense biblical thinkers and writers because they were so accurate in handling the meaning and significance of Scripture.  That is what made them good exegetes and theologians."

"The prophets knew post revelation well enough to incorporate sophisticated theological ideas in their texts…the prophets intentionally positioned their writings for later writers to use."

So when it says that "the Word of the Lord came to Micah" that doesn’t mean that God actually gave direct revelation, it just means that Micah had studied previous revelation enough that he was able to formulate what he thought God would want to say to the Israelites, and therefore, the book of Micah is his own commentary on previous texts? At least that's how statements like the above come across to me.

I can almost see some of this somewhat applying to the Apostles, but not with the prophets. I don't doubt that they knew previous revelation very well, but in their case we know they received DIRECT revelation, the words to speak, and visions to describe, directly from God. The majority of the prophets' revelation was directly from God, not their own study of previous texts.

"knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit." (2Pe 1:20-21 ASV)  Adam Clark explains this verse in this way "- That is, in any former time, by the will of man - by a man’s own searching, conjecture, or calculation; but holy men of God - persons separated from the world, and devoted to God’s service, spake, moved by the Holy Ghost. So far were they from inventing these prophetic declarations concerning Christ, or any future event, that they were φερομενοι, carried away, out of themselves and out of the whole region, as it were, of human knowledge and conjecture, by the Holy Ghost, who, without their knowing any thing of the matter, dictated to them what to speak, and what to write;"

Clark goes on to point out that it sounds like the prophets didn't really do their 'studying' until after they gave their revelation. They didn't have to understand their own prophecies at all, as the One Who actually gave them understood them perfectly.  The prophets didn't think up all of this stuff, they didn't imagine their own visions connecting them to previous revelation, God showed them visions that corresponded to previous revelation.  They didn't have to study out the previous revelation to come up with their own "Thus sayeth the Lord",  God actually did "say" these things.  God, who knew exactly how everything connected, was the Prophetic Genius giving the prophecies and intentionally positioning them for the later saints to use. 

Second, I didn't like many of the hermeneutics Chou draws from the text. He makes some weird conclusions. For instance, that the prophets intentionally referred back to overall main concepts, for instance, that Daniel's  (God-given) vision of the beasts (chapter 7) being subject to the Son of Man is pointing back to creation and man having dominion over the animals, and that this vision signifies that creation will return to its original order?   That just seemed really, really weird.  Also he talks about the New Testament giving us a hermeneutic of viewing Christ as a new David (going into the wilderness like the Davidic dynasty went into exile, facing same trials as David, born in the same place as David), a new Moses, delivering His people from exile…etc.  I don't see that any of these are absolute hermeneutical principles that one should derive from the new Testament.   I think the point that we should see from all that Christ did is much simpler than all of that. Isn't the main point about Christ being born in Bethlehem, going into the wilderness, coming out of Egypt, was not to fulfill a picture, that of David or of Israel, was  that He was fulfilling direct prophecy about the Messiah, and thus He was the Messiah. 

 And then also that the prophets made sure that they used illustrations the same way earlier prophets did, like when many of them refer to an Eagle, they use an "Eagle motif", remembering how the "Eagle" picture was used in earlier revelation and  going along with that. I'm not sure that that's the point of the illustrations, that they can't be used to picture anything else, they have to somehow be referring back to the original context of the picture's first use. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I’m pretty sure that "yeast", in the New Testament is used as an illustration for various things (without every time being used to refer back to its original use). You can use the same picture to describe vastly different things, and I don't see that it's a hermeneutical necessity to have it refer to the same thing every time it's used. 

There were some good things in this book, but overall I didn't find it as useful as I thought I would.  Chou rightly says that, "We connect the dots they (Apostles and prophets) established; we do not create new dots.  Immense theology is already there, we do not need to (and cannot ) add anything new." I'm just afraid that there were too many dots connected in this book that aren't clearly connected by the Bible itself.

Many thanks to the folks at Kregel Academic for sending me a free review copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable)!

My Rating:  2 out of 5 Stars

This book may be purchased at and

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

God's Book of Proverbs: Biblical Wisdom Arranged by Topic

This book complies and sorts the wisdom of the whole book of Proverbs by topic. So you can look up wisdom on Anger, Conflict, Deception, the Heart, Money, Laziness…etc.  The version I have is a beautifully bound hardcover.  With an elegant design using shades of tan. The inside is very nice and elegant as well.

I really like the emphasis, in the introduction to this compilation, though wisdom is an excellent thing to have, on it's own it will not bring you happiness and salvation.  "King Solomon, the man  responsible for most of the sayings in this book, was considered the wisest man in history…..Even so, Solomon disregarded some of the wisdom God gave him…"  We need more than just knowledge of the right, we need the right Person to make us holy and put His law in our hearts. 

What I didn't quite get in the intro, though, was the statement that "The entire message of the Bible, including this book of Proverbs, is summarized like this:….(after quoting John 3:16)…By turning from our sin and trusting in Jesus, the one who became wisdom from God for us, we can know true wisdom now and be assured of living in God's presence forever."  I don't think that someone would get that message from just reading the book of Proverbs….  The book of Proverbs turns us to God but doesn't directly tell us that we cannot follow its wisdom without Christ.  But perhaps I'm just being too nit-picky here.

Anyway, this is a really handy book to have. Feeling lonely and as if you don't have enough friends? Turn to the Friendship section, in it you will find that "One with many friends may be harmed but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother." Feeling rather proud of yourself today? In the section on pride you will be reminded that "Pride comes before destruction and an arrogant spirit before a fall."

This book would make a great graduation present!

Many thanks to the folks at B&H Bloggers for sending me a free review copy of this book!  My review did not have to be favorable. 

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This book may be purchased at and
*Note I don't see the hardcover neutral color version that I have online anywhere in hardcover (or perhaps they haven't updated the picture yet?).  They only seem to have it as an ebook right now.  They do have a dark brown hardcover version though.