Posts Tagged ‘books’

Christmas Books

December 28, 2010

I’ve been very busy with life and stuff, so the blog has rather suffered. I’ll start getting caught up next week, honest. In the meantime, as everyone else has been sharing their list of new Christmas books, here is a pic of my own festive additions. Santa was very generous indeed!

(Click to enlarge)

Book Review: Robertson – Dawkins Letters

November 21, 2010

Dawkins Letters

David Robertson is a Scottish Presbyterian who ministers in Dundee. Having read Dawkins ‘God Delusion’ he decided to respond with a series of letters addressing the major themes of the book. These include letters addressing: the notion that atheists are the truly enlightened, intelligent ones; the impossibility of true beauty without God; the myth of atheist tolerance and rationality; the myth of a cruel Old Testament God; the false dichotomy Dawkins creates between science and religion; the “who made God?” argument; the nonsense that all religion is inherently evil; the myth of morality within an atheistic worldview; the myth of an immoral bible, and; the charge of child abuse.

Where to start? The first half of the book is definitely less persuasive than the latter. One might conjecture that Robertson’s understandable irritation with Dawkins slides off into sarcasm and thus dents the force of his presentation. Seriously critiquing Dawkins view of “multiverses” could have been achieved without mockery. Even if, especially at this point, one does think that Dawkins might deserve a dose of his own medicine. Further, the brevity he must deal with each topic to fit his chosen format (short letters), inevitably leads to some shortcuts in his arguments. For example, Robertson doesn’t really address some of the real moral problems from reading the Old Testament. This is an area he really should have spent considerably more time on, as it’s something one hears more and more often. His letter on this, frankly, comes across as assertion rather than explanation for how Christians view this problematic material. It lacks substance and wanders off into preaching/proclamation rather than tackling the difficulties. This was the most disappointing chapter in the book.

Nonetheless, things pick up considerably in the second half of the book. The tone changes, becoming less polemical, and far more compellingly argued. Indeed, the strongest letters cover the basis for morality without God and whether religion is really the source of all evil. Here Robertson takes Dawkins to task for his continual oversimplification, ad hominem polemics, failure to express what Christians actually believe rather than his straw-man caricatures, and his genuine failure to engage informed and erudite Christian tradition. To say one does not need to know about spaghetti monsters is surely effective and clever rhetoric, but is simply a strategy of evasion, an utter cop-out to avoid being challenged by the best of Christian thought. The latter half of the book also pushes Dawkins to consider the outcome of his polemics and where it might lead, especially in view of the irresponsible charge of child abuse.

Overall, Robertson’s book is well worth reading, if only for the latter half of the book, which is passionately expressed, critically on target, and better representative of the concerns about the underlying philosophy Dawkins holds. Moral relativity and the drive of the selfish gene unchecked by the good, loving, and holy God revealed in the face of Jesus, are more likely to lead to ‘might is right’ and ‘the ends justify the means’ than ‘care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in your midst’ and ‘love your neighbour’.

Perhaps some day, when the heat has gone out of the current polemics, Robertson will write a much more lengthy and detailed response. If he does, I’d be glad to read it.

I.C. Rating 7/10

Fifteen Authors Meme

November 18, 2010

In this meme, you’ve to list the fifteen authors (poets included) who’ve influenced you and that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Don’t forget to let me know what you’ve chosen either here or on Facebook as I’d like to know!

Originally, I thought, ‘fifteen’? Actually, in less than three minutes I was up to seventeen and had to cut a couple. So here’s my list in no particular order:

  1. C.S. Lewis
  2. Tom Wright
  3. Richard Bauckham
  4. T. Desmond (Desi) Alexander
  5. Gordon Wenham
  6. Scot McKnight
  7. Marianne Meye Thompson
  8. Dallas Willard
  9. Bill Craig
  10. Keith Ward
  11. G.L. Prestige
  12. T.F. Torrance
  13. Tertullian
  14. Athanasius
  15. John Myendorff

Looking at this list with so many Anglicans probably helps explain why I’ve found myself in an Anglican church.

Scot McKnight’s “Praying with the Church”

August 1, 2010

Praying with the Church: Developing a Daily Rhythm for Devotional Life

As one who is originally from a very low church background, I appreciated what McKnight was trying to achieve with this little book: to demonstrate the value of regular fixed hours of prayer by using a traditional prayer book. He suggests that not only should we maintain our own “spontaneous” prayers, but that by using the traditional set prayers from various traditions, we can learn to pray with the Church – not alone within the church, but with it.

The first part of the book deals with Jesus in prayer and the wider Jewish tradition. The second part of the book introduces us to each of the major prayer books of the Roman Catholic, the Orthodox, and the Anglican traditions. He gives a useful sketch of what each entails and how they might be profitably used based on his own experience.

Importantly, McKnight points out that having fixed hours of prayer helps to reorientate our lives around a sacred rhythm. We should no longer shape our day around “breakfast, lunch, and dinner”, or “before work, work, and after work”, but rather around our times of prayer. Thus, we centre our daily lives around our communion with God, and after the pattern of Jesus’ own praxis.

This was a short, helpful little book for those new to prayer books and set times of prayer. I’ve even been persuaded to start using  The Book of Common Prayer (the Anglican one) in concert with Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours. I’ll use them for a few months and then maybe give an update on how I’ve found my journey. My only complaint about the book is that it is over-punctuated with personal testimonies of the value others have found in taking up set times of prayer. It’s not that I object to doing this in general, rather that it was a bit overdone – there wasn’t any need for quite so many. Nonetheless, 7/10.

To Buy: In the UK; In the USA (it’s on at a bargain price at the moment!)

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