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What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading (from July 2018 through September 2018)

What Pastor Blair Has Been Reading

(from July 2018 through September 2018)

 

Buchan, James. The Authentic Adam Smith: His Life and Ideas. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2006.

As I prepared for my trip to the Pacific Rim, I focused on the historical figure of Adam Smith (1723-1790). Smith is considered the father of modern economics and the proponent of the free market system. But prior to being recognized as an economist, he was moral philosopher. Smith developed his theories through careful observation of human behavior. While advocating self-interest in the free market system (i.e. profit motive), it could not be successful unless one operated in a ‘moral system’ – one in which everyone plays by the rules and looks to the better interests of others. Sadly, it appears that Smith believed this could be done without God. Buchan provides a good and adequate overview of Smith’s life. Some might find his writing a bit convoluted as he writes in a very British manner. But his work does give you the main themes of the philosopher’s life.

 

Busenitz, Nathan. Long Before Luther: Tracing the Heart the Gospel From to the Reformation. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017.

I am often asked when teaching church history what happened between the Apostles and Luther that the gospel was lost to the church. The questions is worded as though it had disappeared and was re-introduced during the reformation. That is a false belief. God has always had his church just as he promised. In this small volume traces the doctrine of justification, the distinction of justification and sanctification, and the belief in sola scriptura in the intervening years between the apostles and Luther. The argument is very convincing that the reformers were not creating something novel, but rather it was a point of emphasis. While the book is through, it is tedious reading. And many times, Busenitz relies too heavily on secondary sources as if to say ‘modern scholars believe this also’. But if one is looking for a brief description of the primary doctrines, this is a great place to start.

 

Eyrich, Howard & Cheryl Blackmon. After an Affair: Rebuilding Your Trust, Rebuilding Your Marriage. Hoover, AL: Growth Advantage Communication, 2018.

The standard text for reconciliation after adultery is Dave Carder’s book Torn Asunder. While not necessarily bad, the book focuses more on scientific research and fails to address some of the deeper spiritual issues related to betrayal. When Howard announced that he was releasing a book on this subject, I had high hopes. Sadly, it did not meet my expectations. That does not mean it does not contain wonderful truths that are beneficial to the reader.  There is a clear bent toward male readers, as most likely Howard has counseled mostly men. The book is only 74 pages long (which is not necessarily bad for men who do not like to read). It contains thirteen strategies toward rebuilding trust and five rules toward rebuilding the relationship after the affair. Each is two to three pages long for focused meditation of the reader. But disappointingly there is no description is how the book is to be used. And there is insufficient material to address the offended partner. I do think the book will make a nice ‘primer’ for offenders. But it would have been helpful to have advice on how to best employ the material.

 

Gratz, Alan. Prisoner B-3087. New York: Scholastic, 2013.

Olivia read this book for school. She asked me if I would read it as she was greatly moved. I do not normally review fiction, but this seemed appropriate as this was assigned reading for a teen at school. Prisoner B-3087 is a novelization of a true story (that of Jack Gruener). It follows the story of Yanek, a Jewish boy that grows up in Nazi occupied Poland. Yanek is first subjected to the horrors of a Jewish Ghetto and then forced into the concentration camps. The fictional account is that he is transferred to multiple camps such as Plaszow, Trzebinia, Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau. The author does this in order to show the sheer brutality at each location. Yanek is subjected to cruelty that seems beyond reason. It is amazing that anyone survived such an experience. The author is graphic in his account, but history tells us that much worse happened at these camps and he thankfully spared young readers some of the worst scenarios. The book succeeds in its mission to expose teens to the horrors of the holocaust. No doubt it will cause young readers to question why such acts were perpetrated and little done about them. If your child reads this book, it is a good opportunity to talk about man’s sin nature and what it can do if left unrestrained. It will also open doors to speak about Judaism and whether or not one’s faith makes a difference under adversity.

 

Grudem, Wayne. Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003.

In our contemporary society, business is presented as being bad. Because of it’s association with consumerism and profits, it is assumed that ‘business is the root of all evil’ rathe than the love of money. Grudem flips the argument demonstrating that while sin nature can always corrupt, work and making a profit can actually bring glory to God. Grudem demonstrates this with clear Biblical exposition. He covers such topics as ownership, productivity, employment, money, and borrowing and lending. (I must admit, he has changed my ideas about the latter subject in commercial transactions). This is a good primer on business from a Biblical perspective. It is especially good for those that might feel guilty for being engaged in business. 

 

Hornbaker, Tim. Fall From Grace: The Truth and Tragedy of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson. New York: Sports Publishing, 2016.

I am a native of Greenville, SC, the same town where Joe Jackson was born and died. I have long be regaled with the tales of the legendary baseball player, which was only heightened when the film Field of Dreams was released (why Ray Liotta was cast as a uneducated Southern ball payer still baffles me). People in Greenville still claim that Jackson was innocent of the Black Sox scandal of 1919. Hornbaker has written the most recent biography of the man. He has proven beyond all doubt that Jackson was complicit in throwing the world series. The man who Ty Cobb said was the greatest natural hitter he had ever seen had such potential, but in his greed he threw it all away and lied about it for most of his life. Hornbaker admires the skill of Jackson but is not bias. He has written an outstanding biography of the ball player.

 

Leehrsen, Charles. Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

In keeping with my baseball theme over the summer, after I finished the biography on Jackson, I moved on to Ty Cobb. He is a figure that has fascinated me since watching the Ken Burns PBS Baseball series and Tommy Lee Jones portrayal of him in the movie Cobb. In both of these previous accounts, Cobb was portrayed a cruel racist. But like the myths surrounding Jackson, Cobb had his own. Cobb as the greatest ballplayer of his time. He was probably the first celebrity athlete. While he was incredibly competitive, he was not near as malicious as he claimed to be. And while all humans struggle with prejudice, he does not appear to be the racist that he was portrayed. He was an outspoken supporter of Jackie Robinson when he broke into the league. Leehrsen’s book is well-researched and well-written. I commend it to those who are fans of the game. (But be forewarned, it is over 450 pages).

 

Marshall, I. Howard. Last Supper & Lord’s Supper. Vancouver: Regent Publishing, 1980.

Howard Marshall (1934-2015) was considered a brilliant New Testament Scholar. While there are points of theology I would disagree (he was Methodist, I am Baptist), he had keen insight in the text and first century history. In this book, Marshall proposes that the Lord’s Supper grew out of the Passover tradition to represent its own form. I certainly do not disagree that the Supper represents the fulfillment of the Passover. I do see that Jesus is inaugurating a new tradition within the Supper. The book is written on a technical level. It requires deep and substantive thinking. There are other keen observations that Marshall proposes such as the supper should be celebrated frequently (he believed every week), a common cup should be employed, and that it should be open to all who profess Christ as savior (not closed to a just a church’s membership). I enjoyed Marshall’s scholarship and his book has solidified several points that I have understood regarding the Lord’s Supper.

 

Nantchev, Adrian. Understanding and Applying Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand TheoryWolverhampton: Nantchev, 2017.

Adrian Nantchev is young British entrepreneur. This is a brief book that give a basic understanding of Adam’s Smith’s Invisible Hand Theory. As the theory goes, markets will shape and change economics. Governments and bureau-ocracy do not need to shape the economy. But at the grassroot level, consumers will shape prosperous markets, providing for profits and innovation, all as if an invisible hand were guiding it. Nantchev’s descriptions are overly simplistic, but that is the benefit of the book. It is a general interpretation of the free market system for those who are seeking enlightenment on the subject.

 

Reeves, Michael & Tim Chester. Why the Reformation Still Matters. Wheaton: Crossway,

I picked up this book last year in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of Luther’ 95 theses. I didn’t get around to reading until now. That was a shame. I think it would have given me a better appreciation for the Reformation from a protestant view. Reeves and Chester emphasize the key doctrines of the Reformation: Justification, Scripture, Sin, Grace, Union with Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The key idea of the book is the title- why the emphasis on these great doctrines still matter today. And that alone makes the book worthy to read.

 

Tripp, Paul David. Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change your FamilyWheaton: Crossway, 2016.

I have had this book on my shelf for a while and considering that it was going to be taught as a Sunday School class at Providence, I thought I had better read it. My only complaint now is I wish I had read it earlier. This is Tripp’s second attempt at a parenting book (Age of Opporutnity in 2001). That one did not resonate with me, but this one did. The first few principles will seem basic to the parent (maybe not new parents) but they are needed as a solid foundation. But the last half are full of practical wisdom that parents must put into place if they are to keep their sanity. Truths like, Children don’t need character management as they need worship realignment. Children want to be their own God. And parents cannot do what only God can do. We must remember God uses us as agents of mercy in their lives. This is an outstanding book. I still recommend Everyday Talk by John Younts for first time parents. But this volume needs to be added to every Christian parent’s library shortly afterwards.

 

Ureneck, Lou. The Great Fire: One American’s Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century’s Genocide. NewYork: Harper Collins, 2015.

I am unfamiliar with the modern history of Turkey. But if Ureneck’s account is correct, then I have missed one of the most atrocious events of the 20th century. When the Turkish army retook the city of Smyrna (now Izmir) from the Greeks in 1922, they burned out the city and forced the refugees to live in horrid conditions.  Millions were killed, but few thousand survived thanks to the valiant efforts of an American Methodist missionary and naval officer who was willing to disobey the orders of a superior. Ureneck appears to be very thorough in his research. He tells the history through the stories of those that lived it which makes it highly readable. Again, when reading this account the reader is confronted with the ravages of man’s sinful nature. We never know what we are capable of doing if God removes his hand of grace.