Sunday, June 28, 2009

Book Review

Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions is an encyclopedic work that could well have been the product of a team of writers. It is the, however, the work of one individual. James A Beverly has contributed a massive amount of research in this 850 page volume.

The “illustrated” aspect of the book contributes to its readability. Throughout the volume one finds informational boxes, biographical sketches, photographs, and time lines. Many of the important features of the religions that are covered are bulleted for ease of reading. The style of writing will appeal to everyone – academics, pastors, and laymen.

Beverly admits that he writes from the perspective of a conservative, evangelical Christian. Yet, I found his treatment of other religions to be fair and even-handed. He is careful to mention some of the positive aspects of various religions, when possible. It is refreshing to find someone who can deal with “cults” (a pejorative term, I realize) and yet debunk some of the misinformation and conspiratorial ideas that have been associated with other belief systems.

The section on the New Age is one of the longer parts of this book, and one of the more interesting. He is very thorough in dealing with the more popular groups as well as those which are lesser known.

In an age of runaway pluralism, this reference would be a great asset.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Making the World Safe...

I am no political junkie, but I came across these interesting stories. It seems that the House passed the Waxman-Markey bill, aka the climate bill. You can read 2 brief articles here and here.

I can sleep peacefully knowing that the United States Congress will rescue the environment from the evil clutches of Global Warming in the same competent manner that they rescued AIG, the banking industry, General Motors and Chrysler. Yep, all's right with the world.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Signs You Drink Too Much Coffee

My smart-aleck brother sent these to me:

Do you think you're drinking too much coffee? You just might be if you exhibit any of the following:
  • You answer the door before people knock.
  • Juan Valdez named a donkey after you.
  • You lick the coffeepot clean like one does the icing bowl.
  • You're the employee of the month at the local coffeehouse even though you don't even work there.
  • You chew on fingernails - both your own and other people's.
  • You can type sixty words per minute with your feet.
  • You can jump-start your car without cables.
  • Your main source of nutrition comes from "Sweet & Low."
  • You don't sweat, you percolate.
  • You go to AA meetings not because you're an alcoholic, but because they have free coffee.
  • You walk ten miles on your treadmill before you realize it's not plugged in.
  • You've built a miniature city out of little plastic stirrers.
  • The Taster's Choice couple wants to adopt you.
  • You are of the opinion that instant coffee takes way too long.
  • Your birthday is a national holiday in Brazil.
  • You have a picture of your coffee mug on your coffee mug.
  • You don't tan, you roast.
  • You can't remember your second cup.
  • You help your dog chase its tail.
  • When someone asks, "How are you?" you say, "Good to the last drop."

Hmmmm... Maybe you should cut down...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Reading: Church History

For your summer reading enjoyment, why not try reading church history? Here are 5 books that I recommend:

Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelly. Shelly writes in concise sentences for those who may be unaccustomed to more academic treatments. It is available in paperback.

The Story of Christianity by Justio González. This is available in a 2 volume in 1 edition. I am presently reading this book. González writes clearly. Parts of it read like a novel.

Historical Theology by Alister McGrath. McGrath provides us with an interesting combination of theology and church history. In this book, he traces theological controversies and developments. This is a must read for all interested in either or both disciplines.

A Faith for All Seasons by Ted Dorman. For those who may have difficulty with McGrath, this offers essentially the same kind of material on a non-academic level.

Turning Points by Mark Noll. Noll examines “decisive moments” in the history of the church. This is your best bet for a bird’s-eye view of Christian history.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dangerous Brew!

Coffee, which has been associated with all things Arabic, was actually banned from Arab countries in the 15oo’s. Mark Pendergrast reports this in Uncommon Grounds (p. 7):

The Grand Vizier Kuprili of Constantinople, for example, fearing sedition during a war, closed the city’s coffeehouses. Anyone caught drinking coffee was soundly cudgeled. Offenders found imbibing a second time were sewn into leather bags and thrown into the Bosphorus. Even so, many continued to drink coffee in secret, and eventually the ban was withdrawn.

Why did coffee drinking persist in the face of persecution in these early Arab societies? The addictive nature of caffeine provides one answer, of course; yet there is more to it. Coffee provided an intellectual stimulant, a pleasant way to feel increased energy without any apparent ill effects… Coffeehouses allowed people to get together for conversation, entertainment, and business, inspiring agreements, poetry, and irreverence in equal measure. So important did the brew become in Turkey that a lack of sufficient coffee provided grounds for a woman to seek a divorce.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Take Heed to Yourself

Take heed to yourselves, lest your example contradict your doctrine, and lest you lay such stumbling-blocks before the blind, as may be the occasion of their ruin; lest you unsay with your lives, what you say with your tongues; and be the greatest hinderers of the success of your own labours... This is the way to make men think that the Word of God is but an idle tale, and to make preaching seem no better than prating...It is a palpable error of some ministers, who make such a disproportion between their preaching and their living; who study hard to preach exactly, and study little or not at all to live exactly.

Richard Baxter (1615-1691), The Reformed Pastor, p.63-64

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Luther on Preaching

I hate to always be the last to find something good, but when I do, I must pass it on. Ray Ortland posted this Luther quote today.

The office of preaching is an arduous office, especially when it is like what Paul encountered here [in 2 Corinthians]. I have often said that, if I could come down with good conscience, I would rather be stretched upon a wheel or carry stones than preach one sermon. For anyone who is in this office will always be plagued; and therefore I have often said that the damned devil and not a good man should be a preacher. But we're stuck with it now.

John W. Doberstein, translator, Luther's Works, Volume 51: Sermons I, page 222.