The Gospel Coalition

Owl Post 9-27-12

Links for Reviews and News for J.K. Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy:

J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy: We’ve Read It, Here’s What We Thought:

It’s not really possible to open The Casual Vacancy without a lot of expectations both high and low at the same time crashing around in your brain and distorting your vision. I don’t know if it’s possible or even desirable to avoid them. I know I had a lot of, let’s call them feelings when I opened the book (which happened on Saturday morning; don’t ask; I work for the military-industrial-entertainment complex, let’s just leave it at that). I have spent many, many hours reading Rowling’s work. I am a known Harry Potter fan.

J.K. Rowling’s debut novel for adults is a hard story that’s worth a read:

If you’re looking for what makes J.K. Rowling magical — emotion, heart — you will.

“The Casual Vacancy” is the first novel written for adults from Rowling, the successful-beyond-belief author behind the “Harry Potter” series about the young boy who discovers he’s a wizard.

Poverty Informs J.K. Rowling’s New Novel For Adults:

J.K. Rowling has a new novel. She’s moved away from Harry Potter, the boy wizard whose stories prompted millions of kids to obsess over books big enough to serve as doorstops. Having concluded that series, she’s written a novel for grown-ups called The Casual Vacancy, a story of troubled teenagers and their even more troubled parents.

Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama:

Tell certain liberals and progressives that you can’t bring yourself to vote for a candidate who opposes gay rights, or who doesn’t believe in Darwinian evolution, and they’ll nod along. Say that you’d never vote for a politician caught using the ‘n’-word, even if you agreed with him on more policy issues than his opponent, and the vast majority of left-leaning Americans would understand. But these same people cannot conceive of how anyone can discern Mitt Romney’s flaws, which I’ve chronicled in the course of the campaign, and still not vote for Obama.

The Days I Need the Gospel Least:

Preach the gospel to yourself! Preach the gospel to yourself every day! I think we are all growing accustomed to being told that Christians need to center their lives upon the gospel and that one of the keys to doing this is to be continually reminded of what is true by preaching the gospel to ourselves every day. I’ve been hearing this for years now and to varying degrees have been practicing it. However, just last week I had a bit of a breakthrough in my thinking about it. (Though this is a breakthrough for me, it is may well be one of those things you have understood for years.)

Former Saviors Now Stumble:

At first glance, you might think they’ve done a fine job… look at an illustration by John Buscema realized in the form of James Purefoy, or a vintage Frank Frazetta drawing fleshed out by Taylor Kitsch. On a surface level, it might look like Solomon Kane and John Carter have been translated from their literary origins to the wonder of 21st century movie-making, characters created a little over or under a century ago finding new life in cinema. Problem is, whether you enjoyed, abhorred, or found yourself indifferent to the cinematic versions, these icons have nevertheless been significantly, and intentionally, tarnished.

A Free People’s Suicide:

Os Guinness has performed an act of social ecology. With A Free People’s Suicide, he questions whether the American way of life is sustainable. But when we talk about sustainability in this sense, the question is not whether America will keep its air clean, its water pure, or its forests lush. Guinness is interested in a deeper and more urgent question: Will American freedom continue to thrive, or will it unravel as a result of its abuses?

Reviews I Didn’t Write

I love to read, but I do not have time to review every book; especially when there are so many good reviews out there already. So here are some great reviews of books I have read recently or are on my to read list. Hope you enjoy the reviews and then read the books!

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction: by Alan Jacobs 

It seems a rare accomplishment that a book on the pleasures of reading could actually pull off being pleasurable itself. But Alan Jacobs’ newest book, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, does just that. It is a marvelous manifesto of sanity in an age of jeremiads about the modern predicament of attention loss on one hand, and those proud champions of distraction singing the hallelujah chorus of a world devoid of long-form books on the other. “Read at Whim” is Jacob’s advice and motto for a new generation of readers. Read, Jacobs proclaims, for the sheer pleasure of reading; simply for the hell of it. And by all means, don’t get bogged down by the authoritarians who smugly look down their noses at those who aren’t reading the “right” books on the “list.”

Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Forgotten History: By Christopher L. Bennett

In Forgotten History, Christopher Bennett returns to the world of The Department of Temporal Investigations, the quirky government body that oversees and regulates all the temporal, timey-wimey stuff in the Federation.  This story takes us to the very founding of the department by showing us flashbacks to the events that necessitated the creation of the DTI.  Much like in Bennett’s previous DTI novel, Watching the ClockForgotten History does an excellent job in explaining things from episodes of Star Trek that simply don’t make a lot of sense when considered in the grand tapestry of Trek history.  Oftentimes, people tend to forget that Star Trek wasn’t made with some kind of over-arching goal and narrative in mind; rather, it is a somewhat muddled hodge-podge of stories written over the course of 45 years by numerous writers.  Inevitably, something that writer B writes is going to clash with what writer A wrote years before.  In both this book and the previous DTI title, Bennett proves himself a master at bringing these disparate ideas together and creating a cohesive story from all the little bits that actually makes sense.  Forgotten History, for example, provides a valid reason why Starfleet crews aren’t always going back in time using the seemingly-easy slingshot-around-the-sun method.  It seems that it’s actually much more difficult than it seems, but then Mr. Bennett turns around and provides a perfectly cogent reason why Kirk and company are able to do it so easily in a Klingon bird-of-prey in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  Another interesting so-called “ret-con” is the explanation provided for the alternate Earth featured in the original series episode “Miri,” other than the old fall-backs of “Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planet Development” or “The Preservers did it.”

What Money Can’t Buy: by Michael J. Sandel

Thinking morally about the economy is one of the most important topics of our time. In What Money Can’t Buy, Michael Sandel, professor of government at Harvard University, grapples with the tangible ethical issues where this question becomes most acute. He articulates important concerns in a clear and forceful way. However, he adopts a philosophical framework that limits his ability to connect morality to the economy. Even within that framework, his analyses tend to be one-sided and impressionistic. The result is a book that will no doubt gratify readers who already share Sandel’s assumptions and predispositions but probably frustrate those who don’t.

X-Wing Retrospective Part 1: Rogue Squadron: By Michael A. Stackpole

If you listen to podcast here at Tosche Station, (and if you do, great, if you don’t, why not?) you’ve heard that in honor of the coming latest addition to the fantastic X-Wing series, Mercy Kill, we’re presenting you a retrospective of the series.  It will provide a great opportunity for those of us who haven’t read the books in a very long time to refamiliarize ourselves with it.  That is actually my own situation—I love these books but somehow I haven’t read them for what must have been a solid decade.

Owl Post 5-11-2012

The titles are the links to the full article.

Science Reveals Why We Brag So Much:

Talking about ourselves—whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money, researchers reported Monday

Justification by Twitter:

John Calvin wrote that the human heart is an idol factory. He was right.

Throughout history, we have bowed down to golden cattle, celestial beings, stone animals, and even human body parts. With the passage of time, the number of ways we exchange worship for the one true God for lesser, false gods has only increased.

Maurice Sendak Scared Children Because He Loved Them:

It is rare for an artist to remain beloved throughout his lifetime. Attitudes shift and tastes evolve. As they do, even hallowed creators and entertainers watch themselves become relics in their own time.

How to Win the Public on Homosexuality:

“President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage is making headlines but not news. That’s probably because he was in favor of same-sex marriage before he was against it and now in favor of it again. Campaigning in 1996 for state senate in Illinois, Obama said in a typed statement, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.” Running for statewide and then national office apparently changed his perspective, at least temporarily.” Here is other link on the president’s announcement  – Evolution’s End?

This is the oldest Maya Calendar Ever Discovered:

For years, archaeologists have referred to an ancient set of texts known as the Maya codices to study that ancient civilization’s relationship with astronomy and time. But now, a team of archaeologists has discovered a set of murals, hieroglyphs, and astronomical calendars deep in the rainforests of Guatemala, that predate those texts by hundreds of years.

Create Culture, Not Subculture:

The question itself is open to misinterpretation. Christians and non-Christians alike tend to hear “Christian worldview” and assume that this refers to Christian film as a subculture, a genre of its own, focusing on strongly redemptive and openly evangelistic or biblical storylines (for example, Fireproofand the Left Behind series).

Why fiction is good for you:

Is fiction good for us? We spend huge chunks of our lives immersed in novels, films, TV shows, and other forms of fiction. Some see this as a positive thing, arguing that made-up stories cultivate our mental and moral development. But others have argued that fiction is mentally and ethically corrosive. It’s an ancient question: Does fiction build the morality of individuals and societies, or does it break it down?

Most Read Books in the Last 50 Years Infograph:

Owl Post 4-20-2012

Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

Social media—from Facebook to Twitter—have made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic)—and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill. A report on what the epidemic of loneliness is doing to our souls and our society.

Piper, Ryken, Reynolds, and Nielson Commend the Classics:

This week The Gospel Coalition welcomes you to join us in an exciting new series called Commending the Classics. We’re thrilled to welcome Wheaton College professor Leland Ryken as a sort of literature scholar in residence to guide us as we read classic books together. Every week he’ll lend us his decades of learning to help us understand why these works have come to be regarded as timeless treasures. Have you ever thought, I’ve heard that book is great, but I’m intimidated to read it myself without any help? Then we’ve designed this series precisely with you in mind. You get the benefits of a reading community who will help you along and a gifted professor who will answer your questions.

The Kindle Index: What City Buys the Most E-Readers?

Recently, a new form of reading elitism has come about: judgement against people who haven’t yet switched from paper books to digital ones. Even I will confess to patronizingly acting surprised when encountering someone who still reads using the “dead tree format.”

Why ‘Blue Like Jazz’ Won’t Save Christian Cinema:

What happens when you water down the message? “Religious people rarely get a fair shake at the movies. Mainstream films usually seem bent on portraying faithful people as joyless hypocrites: Think of the shrill Hilary Faye in Saved or the stern principal/nun inDoubt. Movies produced by overtly Christian companies are no more nuanced. Films like Courageous andFireproof show firemen and police officers in straightforward moral dilemmas with straightforward Biblical solutions, while the pro-life subgenre is filled with stories that distort and oversimplify the way a woman decides whether or not to keep an unwanted baby.”

Chase a dream, not a number:

There’s a bed they sell that let’s you set a “sleep number.” You get to determine the stiffness or softness you want with a dial and then enjoy a restful night of customized comfort. I forget the name of the manufacturer, but if they want to sponsor my blog, I would Google that on the quick and write it in bold. (The kids need new shoes! Keens specifically, because wow, those things stink after a season of backyard romping.)

Not Quite a Teen, Yet Sold for Sex:

If you think sex trafficking only happens in faraway places like Nepal or Thailand, then you should listen to an expert on American sex trafficking I interviewed the other day.

“Ifs” Kill!

One of the problems in the current conversation regarding the relationship between law and gospel is that the term “law” is not always used to mean the same thing. This is understandable since in the Bible “law” does not always mean the same thing.

Owl Post 4-6-2012

The Neglected Resurrection:

Too often in our churches the resurrection of Christ is a doctrine of secondary importance. It is neglected and forgotten until Easter comes around each year. The same disregard for the resurrection is seen in how we share the gospel. Christians tend to share the gospel as if Jesus died on the cross and that is the end of the story. We make a zip line from the crucifixion to “repent and believe,” contrary to the example Peter sets for us in Acts 2:22-24 and 4:26. The cross is central to our salvation, but what God accomplished there is incomplete unless the tomb is empty on Sunday morning. Therefore, the resurrection of Christ is vital “for us and our salvation” (to borrow from the Nicene Creed). But how exactly? Link

Andrew Sullivan: Christianity in Crisis:

If you go to the second floor of the National Museum of American History inWashington, D.C., you’ll find a small room containing an 18th-century Bible whose pages are full of holes. They are carefully razor-cut empty spaces, so this was not an act of vandalism. It was, rather, a project begun by Thomas Jefferson when he was 77 years old. Painstakingly removing those passages he thought reflected the actual teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, Jefferson literally cut and pasted them into a slimmer, different New Testament, and left behind the remnants (all on display until July 15). What did he edit out? He told us: “We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus.” He removed what he felt were the “misconceptions” of Jesus’ followers, “expressing unintelligibly for others what they had not understood themselves.” And it wasn’t hard for him. He described the difference between the real Jesus and the evangelists’ embellishments as “diamonds” in a “dunghill,” glittering as “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.” Yes, he was calling vast parts of the Bible religious manure. Link 

Christianity in Crisis? A Response to Andrew Sullivan

Mariylnne Robinson on the Anthropology of Religion and the Intervention of Grace:

Man, I wish I could write like Marilynne Robinson. Such precision and clarity, so much soul and insight. She takes on subjects that can be so dull, and breathes such life into them. The following quotations come from the first essay in her much-recommended new collection, When I Was a Child I Read Booksalt, entitled “Freedom of Thought.” Link

Homosexuality, Christianity, and the Gospel:

The following are the videos from the Equip Forum for our leaders last Tuesday night. It was a pretty incredible time–we looked at the issue of same-sex-attraction from a biblical, pastoral, counseling, and personal perspective. We tried to get past the myths, the political talking points, and discover how the gospel challenges this issue and those of us on both sides of it. Link

The Cross and Christian Blogging:

We love the shrewdness and wit of Jesus. There’s a fist somewhere inside that pumps whenever we read the parts of the Gospels where the religious leaders are left unable “to answer him a word,” or when no one “dared to ask him any more questions.” Link

The Satanic Ideology of Photoshop:

A cover photo for Intelligent Life magazine caused a small stir recently because it dared the unthinkable: show a celebrity’s actual face. Cate Blanchett, 42, appears on the cover in little makeup, her smile lines and wrinkles un-retouched. She looks less like an Hollywood star and more like a dignified human being, like someone you might see drinking tea at a neighborhood Starbucks. Link

Owl Post 3-30-2012

 

There is a lot out there to share, so I hope you enjoy these as much as I have.

Hunger Games Roundup:

Let the Hunger Games Begin – Relevant Magazine 

The Hunger Games is not the first young adult book series to spawn a film and a frenzied fanbase. It isn’t the first to provide a compelling love triangle or to lure readers into the late hours of the night with its fast-pace and simple phrasing. It isn’t the first to inspire costumes, tattoos and curious fan fiction. But it is the first in a long time to rely not on magic or handsome vampires to captivate its readers; rather, when they escape into Katniss’ head, they aren’t escaping much at all. They are being confronted by the harsh realities of a not-so-unbelievable future, and the responsibilities that it entails.

Movie Review: The Slick Hunger GamesPurges All the Horror – Vulture 

The audience at Monday’s packed preview of The Hunger Games came out juiced and happy, ready to spread the good word, while all I could think was, They’ve just seen a movie in which twenty-plus kids are murdered. Why aren’t they devastated? If the filmmakers had done their job with any courage, the audience would have been both juiced and devastated.

Mad Men Roundup:

Mad Men Returns – The Gospel Coalition 

One of television’s most celebrated series returns to the air on Sunday. Mad Men is set in 1960s, revolving around the lives of Madison Avenue advertising executives, their families, their mistresses, and their secrets. Powerful screenwriting and acting has made it a darling of critics, a perennial award-season favorite, and a deeply loved show by its raving fan base.

The Peculiar Allure of Mad Men – Relevant Magazine 

Last night, Mad Men returned with its long-awaited fifth season premiere. It’s been 17 months since fans spent time with the faces of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and they’ve been clamoring to know the status of the marriages, children, advertising deals and various misbehaviors of the team. Whether or not you tune in to the AMC drama, there is no question the show is a success: it’s inspired clothing lines, launched careers and garnered 15 Emmy awards thus far, including four for Outstanding Drama. But the stories, motives and characters that drive Mad Men are as questionable as they come. Why does the show demand such devotion?

‘A Universe From Nothing,’ by Lawrence M. Krauss:

Lawrence M. Krauss, a well-known cosmologist and prolific popular-science writer, apparently means to announce to the world, in this new book, that the laws of quantum mechanics have in them the makings of a thoroughly scientific and adamantly secular explanation of why there is something rather than nothing. Period. Case closed. End of story. I kid you not. Link

Student-Loan Debt Tops $1 Trillion:

The amount Americans owe on student loans is far higher than earlier estimates and could lead some consumers to postpone buying homes, potentially slowing the housing recovery, U.S. officials said Wednesday. Link

A Slow-Books Manifesto:

I don’t personally like all that this article says, but I think it is a very interesting discussion. What do you think? “Everywhere you look these days, there’s a new “slow” movement. Since 1989, when the activists behind the Slow Food manifesto began calling on us to change the way we eat—arguing that meals that take time to prepare are better for our health, our world, and our happiness than faster foods—their ideas have steadily gained power.” Link

Tebow in Babylon:

THE Prophet Jonah was sent to Nineveh. St. Paul was sent to Athens, Macedonia, Rome. And now Tim Tebow has been sent to New York City. Link

Righteous Minds, Moral Matrices, and the Real (Non-)Difference Between Liberals and Conservatives:

Are our brains fundamentally wired to experience and filter reality according to standards of moral righteousness? And if so, what’s the emotional and relational cost? We know how the Apostle Paul would respond, and we now know how cutting-edge UVA social psychologist Jonathan Haidt would. Link and a follow-up Link

Owl Post 3-1-2012

I know there are a lot of links here; I have not had the time to share them recently, but they are all worth the read.

60 Second Summary: After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?

The Gist: Since it is currently permissible to kill prenatal children because they are only potential persons and do not have full moral status, then we should be able to kill postnatal children for the same reason. Link

Atheist Alain de Botton Insists Society Needs Guidance From Religion:

Famed atheist Alain de Botton, also a best-selling Swiss author and philosopher known for challenging Richard Dawkins and what he calls his “destructive” atheistic theology, has in a recent interview highlighted many ways in which religion is useful even for secularists. Link

The Hope Amidst Porn In A Marriage:

The sin of pornography is not just a male issue. In fact, recent studies show that one third of people who are looking at porn are women. But, men are still the ones who primarily struggle with this sin—and implicate their wives in doing so. Link

The myth of the eight-hour sleep:

We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night – but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural. Link

Contemporary Tolerance Is Intrinsically Intolerant:

The notion of tolerance is changing, and with the new definitions the shape of tolerance itself has changed. Although a few things can be said in favor of the newer definition, the sad reality is that this new, contemporary tolerance is intrinsically intolerant. It is blind to its own shortcomings because it erroneously thinks it holds the moral high ground; it cannot be questioned because it has become part of the West’s plausibility structure. Worse, this new tolerance is socially dangerous and is certainly intellectually debilitating. Even the good that it wishes to achieve is better accomplished in other ways. Link

If Only:

Feeling inadequate and out of control of any number of life stresses, I feel small and weak. Instead of being humbled, I tend to reject the discomfort of my need, and become prideful. I demand control, believing that if I regain control, I will be restored. My wandering, grumbling heart searches for some end to my familiar fatigue. Link

There’s Lots of Yelling in Campaign to Break This Glass Ceiling:

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—This week, a student-body vote at Texas A&M University could make Samantha Ketcham the first female cheerleader—make that yell leader—in school history. Link

Don’t Assume: 

As one of our society’s most popular verses, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Too many people, non-Christian and Christian, take Jesus’ words to be a blanket rejection of all moral evaluation. But given that Jesus alludes to his opponents as dogs and pigs five verses later, it’s safe to think Jesus wasn’t condemning every kind of judgment. We see from the rest of the Gospel that Matthew 7:1 is not inconsistent with strong criticisms, negative statements, church discipline, and warnings about hell. Judgmentalism is not the same as making ethical and doctrinal demands or believing others to be wrong. Link

The Reasons Google+ Is Still a Ghost Town:

The Wall Street Journal has boiled down the failure of Google+ to make a dent in the social network dominance of Facebook, which we have noted for months to two simple stats: users spend about three minutes per month on Google+ compared to six to seven hours a month on Facebook. After all the hype and hope of being the next “It” social network, what happened? Link

Five lessons learned from the Republican presidential race:

Eleven states have cast their votes in the Republican presidential nominating contest. Ten more will do so in six days time, the biggest single day of voting in the GOP race. Now then seems like as good a time as any to take three big steps back and look at what lessons the first two months of votes have taught us about the Republican race. Link