Monday, July 21, 2014

C. S. Lewis and Mere Christianity: The Crisis that Created a Classic - By Paul McCusker

World War II England, and in particular, WWII London, was an intimidating place to be; itt seems that around 40,000 civilians in total were killed in England during the war.  During this time, when many bombs were being dropped by Nazi Germany on the civilian population, the director and the assistant director of the BBC's Religious Broadcasting department, James Welch and Eric Fenn, were searching for someone to draw people to the religious programs they were broadcasting on the BBC's radio station which were apparently being passed by in deference to stations/programs that were entertaining.  C. S. Lewis was the man they ended up recruiting. 

C. S. Lewis and Mere Christianity by Paul McCusker is the story of how C. S. Lewis' book, Mere Christianity came to be.  It took a little bit for me to get used to the way the book was put together.  The story is told, not by mere sequence of events, but also by 'flashbacks' to C. S. Lewis' history, and constantly switches from section to section from what C. S. Lewis is doing, to what is going on at the BBC, and also explanations of what world events are happening in regards to Hitler, Churchill and the war in general.  I got used to it quite quickly, and it does keep the interest pretty well, though sometimes you want the part you were just reading to continue going instead of switching to a different topic.    

There are also what I'll call 'information boxes', some of them very large/long, that pop up in the middle of the part you were just reading, some give biographical summaries of people who were just mentioned in the narrative, others explain different aspects of the war, and there were still other topics as well.  It was a bit odd and I couldn't quite figure out if it was annoying or not.  At least I know I didn't absolutely dislike them, it was just unusual to me.
 
This account of the making of "Mere Christianity" (of which I have only read snippets) is quite interesting.  I didn't fully realize that it originated from some of the radio broadcasts Lewis did during the war on various topics related to Christianity.  The book gives quite a bit of information of what was going on in his life at the time.   As he was working on the scripts for the radio broadcasts, he was taking care of, and dealing with, his 'adopted' mother(who apparently was quite bossy), helping and encouraging his brother who had problems with alcohol, teaching at Oxford, doing his duties as a home guard, writing books, as well as other tasks. 

I'm always a bit wary of Lewis because of his rather ecumenical views, and my perspective is no different having read this book.  As an example of where I am concerned about his views, it seems that during the war Lewis felt as though he should go to a 'confessor', and convinced himself of it by thinking of a quote, apparently speaking of Christian beliefs, "Let us hold on to that which has been believed everywhere, always, by everyone", and went to an Anglican confessor, apparently continuing the practice throughout his life.  I find his reasoning very flawed and dangerous, especially considering Christ's command:  "Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it. "(Mat 7:13-14 ASV)   

But I did find the book a very interesting read, and a very intriguing look at WWII.

 

Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book!(My review did not have to be favorable)
 
This book may be purchased at Amazon

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

the Israeli Solution - By Caroline Glick


The Israeli Solution:  A one state-plan for peace in the middle east is an excellent and very compelling argument for the abandonment of the "two-state solution".  Just today, I heard that, though Israel had accepted a cease-fire, Hamas  rejected it. So Israel still has to defend itself against their enemies who do not desire peace with them, but desire their annihilation instead.  This has been the case for many years, beginning even before Israel even existed as a state.   

In this book, Caroline Glick takes us on a trip through history to examine the Arabs' constant rejection a Palestinian state. As she puts it so well, "Israel's desire for peace with the Arabs has been amply proven".  They have put themselves at risk multiple times, releasing their proven enemies from prison, giving up land that could be used as a base of attack against them, even approving the entry of known terrorists into the land they relinquished.  In peace talks they have been willing to make huge concessions, some in particular that would make them greatly vulnerable to their enemies, all in order to have peace with the Arabs; but the Arab's have consistently rejected these offers.  Glick shows that history makes it clear that the Arabs do not want peace with Israel, nor do they want a Palestinian state, they simply do not want Israel on the map of the world. 

Reading this book really made me ashamed of America.  We have consistently supported and deferred to the Arabs for 20 years or more, and we have never supported Israel, our ally, as we ought.  Glick points out that "In 2013 alone, the US committed $440 million taxpayer dollars to direct financial support for the Palestinian Authority." I was appalled to learn about how much America has snubbed and spurned Israel, treating them as the 'bad guy' simply for trying to defend themselves, and despite Israel's proven desire for peace.  Even President Reagan literally protected Israel's enemies from Israel sending in Marines to protect them from Israel's forces.  It was embarrassing, frustrating, but also interesting to see the comparison of Obama and Bush's policy towards Israel.  Surprisingly, Glick shows that they both favored the Palestinians, "The distinction between Bush and Obama is rhetorical, not real." 

Glick shows the absurdity of the United States make Israel give up land for a Palestinian state, "This demand is without precedent in the in the history of warfare.  There is no precedent of a civilian population, displaced by a war that their leadership started and lost, claiming a right to return to territory that they failed to conquer."  By the same argument, America should start giving back the land they conquered from the Confederates, and then in turn, both the Union and Confederates should give America back to the British and then the "Native Americans" .  And every country should be held to this standard and so the world will be in chaos with everyone trying to figure out what land belongs to whom as they go further and further back into history to see who had what land, and who should give it up to a certain people, and who that certain people should give it up to…and it won't end for a long time, if ever.   

 This book is a very concise argument, one that emphasizes the obvious in a readable way.  This book serves as an excellent history lesson regarding the State of Israel and its relations with the United States.  Glick has a good, logical, present day application of that history.  There is repetition, but, in my opinion, it is done in a way that enhances the argument, rather than rendering it boring.  

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about America's role in the Middle East conflict, or if you are wondering what position to take on the issue. 

 

Thanks to Blogging for Books for sending me a free review copy of this book(My review did not have to be favorable)
 
This book may be purchased at Amazon.com

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Commentary on the Psalms v.2 - By Allen P. Ross

It is odd, at least to me, to find a commentary that is both exegetical and Premillennial.   Normally exegetical/linguistic commentaries are really good with their linguistics, and much of their basic exegesis, but are Amillennial, Covenantal and overly typological.  And to my knowledge, most premillennial commentaries are not exegetical/linguistic commentaries but more of the devotional/light type, and like the Covenantal commentaries, are too typological in their views of certain texts.    This commentary on the Psalms, by Allen Ross, is a very refreshing find in that it is both exegetical and Premillennial, and if anything, tries a little too hard not to be typological, focusing on examining the text for what it says. 
Each examination of a Psalm starts out with the Psalm itself, and underneath the Psalm, one of my favorite features, LOTS of footnotes containing textual variants from other manuscripts, such as the Greek version, Symmachus, the Syriac, Targums and other sources. These footnotes discuss the differences between the  Masoretic text and other manuscripts and sometimes explains  why the author favors one rendering over another.     

Next we are brought to examine the "composition and context" of the Psalm, and eventually we will end up at an outline of the Psalm, which happens to be another feature that I like.  Following the outline, we come to "Commentary in Expository Form" which delves into the meaning of Psalm in more detail.  This part deals with the verses in groupings with  headings, such as "The Righteous must not be troubled by the pomp of this world because it cannot redeem and it cannot survive death(5-12)."  This section also has many footnotes, and some rather long ones too, which delve further into discussion of various word meanings and other things about the  verses in question.  And finally, we end with a look at the "message and application" of the Psalm.

My only real qualms with Mr. Ross is that, as I mentioned before, he seems to be a little too careful about not coming to conclusions about whether a Psalm, or verse or two of a Psalm, is prophetic or not.  For example, Psalm 45 vs. 6-7 reads:

"Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever; an upright scepter is the scepter of your kingdom.  You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of rejoicing over your companions…." Part of Ross' commentary on these verses is that, "In Israel the king was never considered divine.  He might be called 'God' as in this psalm, but only because he his vice-regent in the theocracy…It was an easy step for the New Testament writers to apply this passage to Jesus the Messiah, who they were convinced was divine."  That makes it sound like the writers of the New Testament simply looked for verses that they could apply to the Messiah, rather than using actual proof texts.  When the New Testament writers look on a verse as a solid proof text, we should defer to them and assume it was/is such, rather than that they just looked for just looked for similarities to the Messiah in the Old Testament to  use in their defense of the Messiahship of Jesus.   That wouldn't be a solid biblical stance on the Apostles' part, they could have been answered very easily by the Jews that the text wasn't really speaking about the Messiah, and all that they could say in defense of their usage of the verse was that, though it was not speaking of the Messiah, it sounded a lot like the One they(the Apostles) claimed to be the Messiah so they applied it to Him.  Now, this Psalm was quoted in the epistle to the Hebrews, defending and explaining the Messiahship of Christ, and His perfect salvation. But this commentary makes it sound as though the Jews were to be convinced by the Apostles application of the Psalm to Jesus, not by the Psalm as a prophetic text speaking of Jesus, the Divine Messiah Himself. I can't buy that. 

But aside from things like what I just mentioned, the commentary is rather good, and really does give some good insights into the text.  I am pleased with it.

 

Many thanks to Kregel Academic for sending me a free review copy of this book!(My review did not have to be favorable)
 
This book may also be purchased at Amazon