At-A-Glance: “Bible Study Anywhere” w/ Mark Driscoll


Bible Study Magazine‘s most recent feature article “Bible Study Anywhere” is an easy read with some good insights for people wanting to develop good bible study habits.*

Like George Whitefield preaching in the fields of New England, Mark Driscoll is gathering a harvest of believers from the hard places of America’s most un-churched city. The rapid growth of Driscoll’s church and his unconventional style have placed him in limelight and gained him the attention of media outlets from the New York Times to CNN’s D.L. Hughley. “Bible Study Anywhere” takes readers behind-the-scenes of Pastor Driscoll’s evangelistic method and reveals connections between good Bible study and good evangelism. The article is short, about 4 pages of the magazine, but still manages to pack in some good ideas worth remark.

*This article is only available to subscribers of Bible Study Magazine.

Continue reading At-A-Glance: “Bible Study Anywhere” w/ Mark Driscoll

In Review:
Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian“All war movies are antiwar movies,” opined Francis Ford Coppola, “in that they describe horrible incidents and the most profound thing of all, to lose a young person.” This truism has ended with the latest film installment of the Narnia Chronicles. Not only is Prince Caspian a war movie that is not antiwar, it is war movie targeted to young people. And to this I say: It’s about time Hollywood made a war movie for children.

As Narnia author C.S. Lewis once claimed, “The war creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it.” This is why there needs to be more war movies for children. War movies are metaphors, and in the proper context, can be powerful literary tools for teaching children the fundamentals of moral conduct. At its best, Caspian succeeds in presenting a vision of how people–even at a young age–must reckon with a world infected by violence and evil.

Because we have grown accustomed to viewing the Chronicles of Narnia as safe books for Christian children, we often overlook how radical a moral universe they present.
For instance, near the beginning of Caspian, four schoolchildren living in WWII-era England leave the realm of air-raid sirens and sandbagged lined subway platforms for the war torn landscape of Narnia. The Pevensie siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy, are leaving a country where they were helpless children and returning to a kingdom where they once ruled as kings and queens.

On children’s television channels like Nickelodeon and Disney, precocious tweeners and young teens are often at the center of the action while parents and other adults are at the periphery. By contrast, in the world of Narnia, human adults are either the enemy of the children or are completely absent. This is a radical departure for modern children. Not only can young moviegoers not relate to a world with a monarchial hierarchy, they can’t relate to a world without helicopter parents.

The Pevensie children, however, are not alone in the Narnian universe. They are surrounded by various creatures, from satyrs to talking badgers. Yet as “Sons of Adam” and “Daughters of Eve” they have dominion and authority over all other beings. With one exception: Aslan.

In Narnia, Aslan is God. As explained in The Magician’s Nephew, the prequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the land of Narnia was literally sung into existence by Aslan. The noble lion is the creator, sustainer, and sovereign over all that exists in the land.

The “Aslan as Christ-figure” is readily apparent in Wardrobe. Even the most secular audience member can figure out what the death and resurrection of Aslan is supposed to represent. However, in Caspian the allusion is more subtle, though possibly even more profound.
It’s exasperating, though not surprising, that so many Christians who have seen the movie complain that Aslan is not given enough screen time. They seem not to get the point that Aslan is in every frame of the film.

Everything in Narnia was created and is sustained by the breath of Aslan. Evidence of Aslan is seen in the trees, the sun, the woodland creatures, and in everything that exist. His presence is everywhere. How then can Christians miss the point that Caspian is about faith, about “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”?

Perhaps the problem is that they are unable to make the shift from readers to moviegoers; they are too attached to the book. While Wardrobe was a rather literal book-to-film translation, Caspian is a loose adaptation. This is a wholly good and necessary change, for the book, one of the weaker Narnia tales, is structurally flawed and narratively flabby.

To compensate, the movie includes a variety of new elements; some that deepen the story (an extended siege on a castle) and others that serve as minor diversions (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it romance). Overall, though, the liberties taken are what transform the talky, walking-through-the-woods book into an action packed honest-to-goodness war movie.

For this is indeed a war movie and the war scenes are spectacular. Caspian is the first children’s movie that has a body count comparable to Braveheart. The images of battle are brutal, poignant, sad, and yet pleasantly gore-free. Seeing children in combat should be disconcerting, though I found it refreshing. I especially appreciated how Queen Susan was allowed to tap into her inner Xena in order to fight valiantly alongside the boys, bears, and badgers. (And no, I do not think woman should serve in combat. Then again, I’m opposed to sending Dryads, Maenads, and talking squirrels into combat situations too.)

The biggest weakness in the film is the titular character – Prince Caspian. The character, tediously dull in the book, is given far too much screen time. While Ben Barnes, the young actor who plays Prince Caspian, was obviously selected as eye-candy for the Hannah Montana crowd, the writers could have done more than make him a pint-sized Inigo Montoya (complete with the faux- Castilian accent!).

Also, every moment spent on the crowd-pleasing CGI-characters (e.g., the cute but overrated Reepicheep) was time when the screen wasn’t filled with the vastly more interesting Pevensie children. The movie should have given them even more space to mature. High King Peter and Queen Susan were only allowed to shine in the fight scenes, though Queen Lucy–my favorite character–was magnificent in just about every scene.

Overall, I loved the movie and thought it was superior to both the book and to the film version of Wardrobe. But your own reaction is likely to be markedly different, particularly if you are a mother.
Moms simply won’t be able to appreciate seeing a teen boy getting thrashed in single-combat against a man twice his age. They won’t cheer heartily at seeing a teen girl expertly dehorse a half-dozen soldiers with a bow and arrow. Nor will they gasp with delight upon seeing a six-year old draw a dagger when faced with an opposing army.

This ain’t no Veggie Tales; this a Dad’s movie. So kids, put down the Wii controller, grab Pops and drag him off to see Prince Caspian, the greatest war movie ever made for children.

Ad Hoc Review #4


Iron Man {movie} – The world of comics books is dominated by two publishing houses–DC and Marvel–each with its own unique universe of superheroes. But while they rarely converge, the DC and Marvel universes often mirror one another. Take, for example, two of the most intriguing characters.

In the DC universe there is Bruce Wayne, a brilliant, emotionally damaged billionaire industrialist and playboy who uses his resources and genius to transform into the crime-fighting hero Batman. In the Marvel universe there is Tony Stark, a brilliant, emotionally damaged billionaire industrialist and playboy who uses his resources and genius to transform into the terrorism-fighting hero Iron Man. While they share many key similarities, they also have traits that make them polar opposites. For example, Wayne is a brooding introvert, while Stark is a gregarious extrovert. But in both cases it is the man under the mask (or titanium helmet) that fascinates us.

Unfortunately, movies based on comics often forget this point. Because they focus on the costume they often fail in the critical component of casting. A prime example is the Batman film series which suffered through three disastrous casting choices (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney) before director Christopher Nolan found Christian Bale. Luckily, Iron Man director Jon Favreau found the perfect lead in Robert Downey Jr. (At first Downey seems to be a strange choice for a superhero. Then when you consider that the character of Stark is a charming, womanizing, alcoholic it seems almost as if the actor was typecast.)

The casting of the other characters is also unexpectedly spot-on. As an actress, Gwyneth Paltrow is usually a bit twee, a bit precious. But in Iron Man she transforms the role of Pepper Potts from a pre-feminist Girl Friday into an admirable servant-leader sidekick. Likewise, Jeff Bridges–bald and bearded–adds layers of nuance to the two-dimensional character of Obadiah Stane.

While the characters and performances are memorable, the plot is standard fare. Indeed, the story is so basic that to describe it would give too much away. Suffice to say that like in most superhero movies the “origins” section is the most interesting (Iron Man has two origins sections, the second being the best part of the film).

Many critics and moviegoers have also tried to discern the politics of the movie. For those so inclined here is all you need to know: Tony Stark loves the American military and acts accordingly in every situation. Whether this makes the movie liberal or conservative is debatable; the fact that such speculation is tedious and boring, however, is beyond dispute.

Just as The Dark Knight claimed the title of Greatest Superhero Movie Ever (DC universe), Iron Man can claim the title of Greatest Superhero Movie Ever (Marvel universe). If there is any justice in the (Marvel) universe we will be seeing Iron Man sequels for several summers to come. Rating: A


Darius rucker.jpg

Darius Rucker, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” {music} — Hootie’s gone country? Yep. Darius Rucker, former lead singer of the iconic 90’s band Hootie and the Blowfish, will soon be releasing his debut country solo album on Capitol Records Nashville. His first single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”, debuted at #51 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs.

The inevitable question that comes to mind when hearing the single is, “Does it sound country?” After hearing the song most people will conclude, “No, not really.” But this isn’t surprising. Rucker also made a decent solo R&B album that didn’t particularly sound like R&B. And he didn’t sound much like a frat rock singer either, even while heading up the greatest frat rock band of his era. Rucker has a distinctive voice that can handle almost every style of popular music without quite fitting into any specific genre. “Don’t Think” may not be a great country song, but it’s a good Darius Rucker song. And for Hootie fans, that’s quite enough. Rating: B-



Sara Bareilles, “Love Song” {music} – “Love Song” debuted in June 2007 on the Billboard charts at #100, rose to #4, and since dropped back down to the #8 slot. After hearing the song in commercials (Rhapsody), trailers for chick-flicks (Made to Honor), and on the radio for the past 26 weeks, it’s understandable if you’ve grown tired of the song. But there’s a reason why people can’t stop playing it: Bareilles has created a perfectly crafted pop song.

With McCartneyite skill, Bareilles mixes a bouncy piano line, an incessantly catchy melody, and subtle, superb phrasing to create an aural masterpiece. Close your eyes, listen again, and try to hear with fresh ears the technical mastery of one of the best pop songs of the decade. Rating: A+

Ad Hoc Review #3

Expelled Expelled {Documentary} – Ben Stein’s new documentary Expelled is a Rorschach test for revealing people’s true feelings about intellectual freedom. Not surprising, many people–especially academic and media elites–loathe the film. While these groups often claim to value freedom of expression and thinking that challenges the status quo, they are often rigidly doctrinaire. Most blog readers will find this point obvious, for the blogosphere is crowded with young academics that use pseudonyms for fear that they will never get tenure if they speak their minds.
But there are many Americans that are surprised by the McCarthyite tactics that are used to quell dissenting views. It is this group that Stein and company are aiming to shock in this amusing, intriguing polemic.
The film doesn’t attempt to present the scientific case for ID (though Stein promises this will be included on the DVD version) nor does it attempt to undermine the credibility of neo-Darwinism (though the Darwinists in the film do a masterful job of that, albeit unintenionally). Stein’s primary focus is on the freedom of academics to merely consider an idea that is deemed verboten in the Ivory Towers. He uses a series of interviews, interspersed with Cold War imagery, in a way that that is both entertaining and enlightening. It is only when it veers off into the historical connection between Darwinism and Nazism that the film stumbles. The conjunction between the two is indisputable, though ultimately as irrelevant as the connection between religion and ID. Scientific theories must be judged on their merit, not on unfortunate outcomes that may result.
Another caution is that Expelled isn’t a fair movie. When Stein interviews advocates of ID he selects scientists and philosophers that are thoughtful and sober while the Darwinists tend to be either a bit nutty (Bill Provine) or unable to keep from damaging their own cause (PZ Myers). Likewise, he stacks the decks in ID’s favor by interviewing intellectual heavyweights like David Berlinski while allowing neo-Darwinism to be defended by Richard Dawkins, a man who is highly educated but of only modest intellect. The result is a film that isn’t balanced and isn’t fair. But it is both funny and infuriating. At least it is, as Stein would no doubt say, if you value freedom. Rating: B+


SalvoSalvo {Quarterly Journal} — Salvo has been described as “Adbusters for Church Kids” (by a detractor) and “like Richard Weaver back in the flesh with cyberpunk clothes” (by a fan). Both the praise and the criticism are apt; Salvo is both snarky and sincere, ultra-hip and uber-conservative. But it’s also one of the few journals for people who can appreciate Adbusters, cyberpunk, and Richard Weaver.
A publication of The Crux Project, Salvo is “dedicated to the cultural myths that have undercut human dignity, all but destroyed the notions of virtue and morality, and slowly eroded our appetite for transcendence.” Such an anachronistic mission statement seems more fitting for dusty church bulletins than for a journal filled with satiric faux ads and articles on cutting-edge topics. Yet the quarterly manages to fill a void for its target audience (which ranges from sharp young Christians to oldheads like me who miss re:generation Quarterly). Not everyone will “get it” and not everyone will like it. But for those who are looking a quirky, culturally relevant, and intellectually stimulating read, Salvo may be just what you’re looking for. Rating: A-

World War ZWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War {Audiobook} — Zombies have become the monster metaphor of choice for our post-9/11 culture. Whereas vampires and werewolves once fulfilled the role as Threatening Other, zombies show us the Threatening Us. The attack from within–from our own friends, family, and neighbors–is what makes the threat of zombies so poignant. But while most zombie tales focus on the geographically local (New York City in I Am Legend, England in 28 Days Later), Max Brooks offers a global scale apocalypse in World War Z.
Brooks frames the story as an oral history, a series of post-war interviews with notable survivors of the “Zombie World War.” Each interview provides an intriguing personal perspective while revealing the larger events that transform a world plagued by the “living dead.” This structure lends itself well to the audiobook format. The abridged version, which won an the 2007 Audie Award for best Multi-Voiced Performance, is read by a host of actors, including Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins, Rob Reiner, and John Turturro. (Here’s a sentence I never imagined I’d write: Alan Alda’s performance is absolutely riveting.)
Brooks’ has a superb eye for the intriguing how-did-he-ever-think-of-that detail. He also manages to keep the focus on humanity, even when fighting an enemy that has lost theirs. Even those who aren’t fans of the horror genre will find themselves hooked by this gripping alternative history. Rating: A+

Ad Hoc Review #2

guiness civility.jpg Os Guinness, The Case for Civility {Nonfiction} – In his latest book, Os Guinness offers a modest proposal for restoring civility in America as a way to foster civility around the world. For decades, the China-born British expatriate has been one of evangelicalism’s leading intellectuals in America. Yet as an outsider on the inside, Guinness is able to maintain a respectful appreciation for American ways and values while keeping the distance needed to criticize our excesses and prejudices.
When it comes to “church and state” Guinness believes in both “separatism” and “accommodationism.” He recommends we “Say no to a sacred public square”–a position he associates with the Religious Right–but also “Say no to a naked public square”–which he pins on the secular left. His alternative solution is to develop a “cosmopolitan and civil public square” where every faith tradition (and non-faith tradition) is equally free to enter and engage in public life.
Although this approach is both laudable and necessary, Guinness pushes the idea too far. Indeed, at times he seems have too much faith in the restorative power of civility, implying that the “culture war” would dissipate if only we were able to disagree in a more respectful manner. Throughout the book Guinness puts too much emphasis on method while glossing over our nation’s all-but-intractable problems, including the hostility to religion in public life. Toning down the rhetoric on both sides of these issues is warranted but civility alone will not lead to a cease-fire in the culture wars.
Still, Guinness’s wise counsel is always worth hearing. His solution may not be an ultimate answer but it is certainly a move in the right direction. We would all be better off if civil discourse became more civil. Rating: B+


PlatinumXL_lt_sml.jpgGroom Mate Nose & Ear Hair Trimmer {Tools} — “An elegant work of craftsmanship” is not the sort of description you expect to hear about a nose hair trimmer. The Platinum XL Nose Hair Trimmer, however, is not an ordinary tool for taming facial hair. For such grooming tasks we men tend to prefer the loud and electrical over the quiet and hand-cranked. But after using the sleek, corrosion-proof stainless steel Platinum XL you’re likely to throw away the whirring battery-powered trimmers. Skeptics who might balk at paying $19.88 for such a utilitarian tool can take comfort in the “Unconditional Money-Back Guarantee” while those of us who are convinced will appreciate the product’s lifetime warranty. Rating: A

Mark Millar’s Wanted {Graphic Novels} — Wanted provides a nihilistic twist on the old “hero’s journey” monomyth: an amoral loser discovers he’s the heir to a career as an villainous assassin in a world where such villains have secretly taken control of the planet. The only thing notable about the book is that it holds the distinction of being the single worst comic I’ve ever read. The disdain and contempt the author has for his audience is apparent throughout, though he makes sure it is made obvious in the last two pages of the work. I would say that Wanted is excremental but that would be unfair to excrement; dung is useful as fertilizer while Wanted has no redeeming value. [Note: A film loosely based on the comic starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman will be released later this year. Fortunately, the movie is reportedly nothing like the comic.] Rating: F-

spamalot.jpg Spamalot {Theater} – The plot of this Tony-award winning production is based loosely on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail (which was based even more loosely on the tale of King Arthur and the knights of the round table) and features “a bevy of beautiful show girls, not to mention cows, killer rabbits and french people (sic).” You don’t have to be a fan of Monty Python movies (or “french people”) to be charmed by the play’s unadulterated silliness. Even people who aren’t fans of musicals (people like me) and who don’t understand the appeal of Clay Aiken (also me) will be won over after hearing the former American Idol runner-up singing “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway (If You Don’t Have Any Jews)”. Now playing in New York, Las Vegas, London, and on U.S. tour. [Cautions: Bawdy humor and mild profanity] Rating: A-

Josh Turner - EIF.jpgJosh Turner, Everything is Fine {Music} – Just as Randy Travis had done twenty years earlier, Josh Turner ushered in an era of neotraditionlism with his 2003 plantinum-selling debut album Long Black Train. Unfortunately, few other country artists followed his lead by abandoning the “Nashvegas” sound. The South Carolina native has had to shoulder the genre almost single-handily but with his third album Turner proves he’s up to the task.
While Turner’s deep rich bass is fine on the upbeat downhome tunes, the standout tracks are the two slow, wistful duets. On “Another Try” he’s joined by Trisha Yearwood, country music’s best backup vocalist, in lamenting lost opportunities for love. And on the best duet of the year, Turner harmonizes with blue-collar R&B crooner Anthony Hamilton on “Nowhere Fast.” Rating: B+

Ad Hoc Review #1

The Last Word N. T. Wright, The Last Word [books] — N.T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham in the Church of England, is one of the most brilliant and prolific New Testament scholars in the world. Unfortunately, he is also viewed as one of the most controversial because of his association with the “New Perspective on Paul.” This “perspective” (which I personally reject) causes many evangelicals to dismiss the totality of Wright’s prodigious output. This is regrettable for while his work should be approached with caution, the Bishop has many valuable contributions to offer the Church.
One example is The Last Word, in which Wright attempts, as the subhead notes, to move “Beyond the Bible Wars to a New Understanding of the Authority of Scripture.” This “new understanding” is premised on Wright’s central idea:

“…the central claim of this book: that the phrase ‘authority of Scripture’ can make Christian sense only if it is shorthand for ‘the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through scripture.'”

This insight is so rich that it would take a much longer book to suss out it implications; Wright merely scratches surface. (In his introduction he preempts this criticism by saying: “I trust that those who have grumbled at the length of some of my other books will not now grumble at all the things I have left unsaid in what is a very compressed, at times almost telegraphic, treatment.”). Still, he makes some valid tangential points, particularly in pointing out the “Misreadings of Scripture” on both the left and the right. While this short volume (146 pgs) will not be “the last word” on the authority of the Bible, it is certainly a worthy starting point for the discussion. Rating: B+


ALL-ETT ALL-ETT Wallets [products] — Remember the episode of Seinfeld where George Constanza’s wallet was so overstuffed with junk that it made him sit at a tilt with it in his back pocket? George solved the imbalance problem by stuffing his other back pocket with napkins. Instead, he should have bought an ALL-ETT, the “World Thinnest Wallet.” I ordered one after reading the review of David Wayne and quickly concluded that the ALL-ETT is the perfect wallet (though I share David’s one criticism: “…the only problem is that you may forget you are carrying it.”).
My current wallet holds 3 insurance cards, 3 credit cards, 5 membership cards, 1 driver’s license, and 8 one dollar bills and yet is still roughly the thickness of 3 nickels. The nylon “spinnaker cloth” version is paper thin and dirt cheap ($19.95) but I recommend spending a few dollars more ($29.95) for the fine grain Italian leather Executive. Be careful, though, when ordering it by mail. When it comes the envelope is so thin that you might mistake if for junk mail and throw it away by accident (seriously). Rating: A+

Iron Man Iron Man: Director of S.H.I.E.L.D [comics] — For fans of Iron Man, the concept of Tony Stark subbing in for a missing Nick Fury as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. is pure genius. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t take advantage of the rich possibilities and instead dishes out the standard post-Civil War fare. Fanboys, however, will appreciate the extras included in the trade paperback, including a reprint of the first appearance of S.H.I.E.L.D., a classic Stark/Fury team-up, and comprehensive profiles of both Iron Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. Rating: B-

Plato’s Lysis [classics] — I suspect the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote The Clouds–a satire which mockingly portrays Socrates as a foolish sophist–after reading Plato’s Lysis–a dialogue that unintentionally portrays Socrates as a foolish sophist. The discussion is ostensibly about friendship (which, herein, appears to mean boy-boy love). Yet after a meandering throat clearing session followed by a dull aligning and knocking down of strawmen, Socrates concludes by summarizing:

If neither the beloved, nor the lover, nor the like, nor the unlike, nor the good, nor the congenial, nor any other of whom we spoke-for there were such a number of them that I cannot remember all-if none of these are friends, I know not what remains to be said.

I too know not what remains to be said, except, “Maybe Aristophanes was on to something…” Rating: D
Related: My friend (and Plato scholar) John Mark Reynolds reviews my review and finds it lacking:

Plato has written a dialogue, a genre that is not written like contemporary philosophy or apologetics. It is more like a philosophical play than treatise. Of course, it is not a play in the sense that it intends merely to entertain. It is trying to encourage participation.Socrates is confronting some very opinionated young men eager to love and sure they understand what love is….
Plato wrote, therefore, in a more guarded manner. He does not “hide” his meaning to frustrate modern readers, but partly for prudence. He also (see Phaedrus) worries that “dead books” that simply pronounce truths will stifle free inquiry and mental growth in a student.

JMR makes some interesting points and he adequately defends Plato and his method. On those points we are in agreement. But what JMR has not done, in my opinion, is explain what makes Lysis a good dialogue. Plato is of the greatest thinkers in history and “friendship” is one of the great themes. So are we really to believe that this is the best that Plato could do?
What say you readers? Who is closer to the truth? Me or JMR?


David Archuleta [music] -For the first six seasons the cultural juggernaut known as American Idol has seeded pop music with the great (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry), the good (Jennifer Hudson, Elliott Yamin, Bucky Covington), the bad (Kellie Pickler, Blake Lewis, Sanjaya Malakar), and the mediocre (Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Taylor Hicks). But this year the show finally delivers the sublime: David Archuleta.

This week the show is down to the remaining eight contestants: David Archuleta and seven inevitable runners-up that are not named David Archuleta. The 17-year-old wunderkind is the best discovery the show has ever made. (Even New York magazine’s snarky Vulture blog asks without irony, “Is David Archuleta the Greatest ‘American Idol’ Contestant of All Time?”) Rating: A+

60 Second Review:
The Irrational Atheist

irrational_atheist.jpgThe Book: The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens by Vox Day
:10 — The Gist: Maybe I should let Day explain the purpose: “I’m not trying to convince you that God exists. I’m not trying to convince you to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I’m not even trying to convince you that religious people aren’t lunatics with low IQs who should be regarded with pity and contempt. But I am confident that I will convince you that this trio of New Atheists, this Unholy Trinity, is a collection of faux-intellectual frauds utilizing pseudoscientific sleight of hand in order to falsely claim that religious faith is inherently dangerous and has no place in the modern world. I am saying that they are wrong, they are reliably, verifiably and factually incorrect. Richard Dawkins is wrong. Daniel C.Dennett is wrong. Christopher Hitchens is drunk, and he’s wrong. Michel Onfray is French, and he’s wrong. Sam Harris is so superlatively wrong that it will require the development of esoteric mathematics operating simultaneously in multiple dimensions to fully comprehend the orders of magnitude of his wrongness.” (pgs. 13-14)
:20 — The Quote: ” Of course, the simplest explanation for this mystery of why so many people believe that citing the historical atheist predilection for mass murder is a devastating retort to the assertion that religious faith is dangerous for mankind is because it is a devastating retort that demolishes the argument. This simple
explanation also happens to be the correct one. After all, if religious faith is the root cause of violence, then it should not be so easy – so trivially easy – to find so many historical examples of individuals who lacked religious faith and still managed to commit large-scale acts of lethal violence.” (p. 149)
:30 — The Good: The meticulous attention to detail makes it as useful introduction and reference for responding to the inane and superficial assertions of the New Atheists.
:40 — The Bad: Some of the apologetic sections rely on theologically suspect contentions. For example, Day seems to subscribe to “open theism” (“…the Christian God…makes no broad claims to omniscience….”) and uses that position in arguing against the appearance of logically inconsistent divine characteristics.
:50 — The Verdict: Vox Day is a cyberpunk sage, equal parts inflammatory and erudite. Those familiar with his blog and his WorldNetDaily columns will know what to expect from Day, while new readers may find his style abrasive and off-putting. (For example, he starts Chapter 1 with “I don’t care if you go to Hell.”) But those who stick with the book will find a well-researched and exhaustively documented rebuttal. Day has applied his skills as a blogger to present a book-length fisking of the writings of antagonistic atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens (indeed, Day should excerpt his book as a daily blog entry). Reading the book is like watching a streetfighter hammering a string of inferior and nasty opponents–while a bit tedious in the blow-by-blow its ultimately exhilarating to see them get their comeuppance.
:60 — The Recommendation: Both fans and foes of the New Atheists should read Day’s well-reasoned rebuttal to their inane and superficial assertions.

60 Second Review:
The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible

The Book: The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible by Robert J. Hutchinson
:10 — The Gist: Religious writer Robert Hutchinson defends the Bible against ” mockers, skeptics, and deniers” and argues that it is “the source for the Western ideas of justice, science, and democracy.”
:20 — The Quote: “The notion that you can read an encyclopedia of ancient wisdom like the Bible–written over the course of 1,000 years, in the three difficult ancient languages, by many different human authors spread across the breadth of the Middle East–the same way you read a newspaper article only reveals an astonishing comic book (for lack of a better term) understanding of the ancient world.” (p. 6)
:30 — The Good: Provides a useful introduction to the reliability and influence of the Bible…
:40 — The Not-So Good: …but does so–not always but too often–in a manner that is politically strident and off-putting.
:50 — The Verdict: The latest entry in Regnery’s popular P.I.G. series probably won’t convince hardcore skeptics or atheists that the Bible is the Word of God. But Hutchinson, who holds an M.A. in biblical studies, from Fuller Theological seminary, ably defends the Scriptures against typical lame attacks (i.e., it’s full of discrepancies; there is more than one Gospel account) and shows how the book has impacted and influenced Western civilization. The breadth of scholarship that is covered is surprisingly broad for such a general level book, though most of the material will be familiar to students of the Bible. Regrettably, the P.I.G. format requires that the subject be framed in the language of the culture war, which grows tiresome after a few chapters.
:60 — The Recommendation: A handy book for Christians who listen to a lot of conservative talk radio and need an introductory-level defense of the Bible.

60 Second Review:

Ex-Gays?The Book: Ex-gays?: A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation by Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse
:10 — The Gist: Psychology professors Stanton and Yarhouse present and defend their results on a longitudinal study that examines the possibility of change of homosexuality orientation via religiously mediated means.
:20 — The Quote: “The fact that some human beings can break the four-minute mile barrier establishes that running a four-minute mile is not impossible, but that same fact does not establish that anyone (every human being) can break the four-minute-mile barrier. So also our findings firmly refute any notion that change of sexual orientation is impossible. Saying that change is not impossible in general is not the same thing as saying that everyone can change, that anyone can change or that change is necessarily possible for any given individual. ” (p. 372).
:30 — The Good: Presents the most solidly researched and conclusive study affirming that reparative therapy can affect homosexual orientations.
:40 — The Not-So-Good: In pointing out the shortcoming and imperfections in their own study, the authors concede too much to their critics and downplay the significant results of their findings.
:50 — The Verdict: By maintaining the politically correct lie that homosexuality is immutable, mental health professionals harm patients who desperately want to leave a destructive lifestyle. Yarhouse and Jones provide a valuable service in exposing how the professional counseling community chooses to cling to an illogical and anti-science position on reparative therapy rather than address actual research. They show that, despite the claims made by the professional psychological and psychiatric associations, there is no evidence that participation in ex-gay ministries is harmful. And while the outcomes of such therapy are modest (it rarely leads to a complete eradication of homosexual attraction) in any other area such treatment would be considered “respectable in the mental health field.”
Despite its shortcomings the study is valuable in countering the anti-religious bias against ex-gay therapies and for showing the need to respect the “autonomy and right of self-determination” of individuals who seek to be free of a homosexual orientation.
:60 — The Recommendation: Both supporters and critics of “ex-gay” ministries would gain from carefully considering the arguments and implications of Jones and Yarhouse’s research.

60 Second Review:
Discover Your Inner Economist

inner_economist.jpgThe Book: Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist by Tyler Cowen
:10 — The Gist: In this breezy, brief, and charming tome, Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, shows how using economic principles such as markets, incentives, and signals can hone our skills of pattern recognition and help us make the best decisions possible.
:20 — The Quote: “When should we finish a book we have started? In this regard I am extreme. If I start ten books maybe I will finish one of them. I feel no compunction to keep reading. Why not be brutal about this? Is this the best possible book I can be reading right now, of all the books in the world? For me at least, the answer is usually (but not always) no. Whatever is that best possible book to be reading, I am willing to buy it or otherwise track it down. Most books don’t make the cut.” (p. 73)
:30 — The Good: Cowen incorporates into the book the best elements of his blog, Marginal Revolution (the absolute best economics blog on the web).
:40 — The Not-So Good: The rambling narrative style sometimes obscures the economic point.
:50 — The Verdict: This book changed my life, albeit in minor ways. I stopped forcing myself to trudge through Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (and stopped watching the movies after the first excruciatingly dull half hour). At restaurants I started ordering appetizers and skipping desserts. I even changed to this ’60 second’ book review format after reading this book (reviews help people make a simple decision about whether they want to read a book, a task that should take no more than a minute). Inner Economist joins the glut of other pop-economics that were inspired by the surprising success of Freakanomics. But whereas Freakanomics showed that Stephen Levitt is a clever economist, Cowen shows how economics can make us all more clever.
:60 — The Recommendation: For people who want to think more clearly, and those who still think economics is all about finding the equilibrium point on a supply and demand curve.