Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian by Brian McLaren

Review: The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian
Brian McLaren
Convergent Publishing

The Great Spiritual MigrationI hadn’t read anything from this author in quite a while and when I saw this book I decided to see what he had to say now.  McLaren communicates well and can be very convincing.  He hasn’t lost the touch over the years.  This book is engaging, thought provoking, and will make some folks unhappy.  That’s his style or at least what I have read it is.  This book is not just for those that identify as Christian.  And it’s my opinion that even an atheist might find this a good read.  

Each chapter can be read as a standalone, so start where you want after the preface.  Being a bit of a traditionalist I read front to back.  Most of the central thrust addresses what McLaren see as a religion bound by the rigid form of its own belief systems and unable or unwilling to meet the challenges of today.  As his title states, that same system is seeking change.  “A better way to be Christian” may not describe the changes sought, but we’ll let that go.  Have to sell the book, and there’s scads of them now all looking at the same topic with less optimistic titles.

Basically, what I see in this book is a return to the idea of love for all people and doing the right thing by those people which would include a broad range of targets for choosing the right thing to do.  The environment, political systems, religious systems, racial harmony, gender equality, business, liberation…  There’s no end to of ways to express love and all this from the Christian perspective.  
McLaren covers a lot of territory and in my opinion does it well. He includes not only a critique but suggestions for improvement.  That in itself is refreshing.  This book could trigger some very useful conversations among those that read it.  Things that still need plenty of talk, action, and new ways to go about whatever needs to be done.  Do I agree with all that he says?  Of course, not. 

That’s McLaren's gift, to challenge and explore.  I do think he pushes the language to emphasize a point.  Definitions are stretched to fit around some of his points.  His theology leaves a lot to be desired in some cases, in my opinion.  Those shortcomings do not disqualify all that he has to say.  And I think a lot of it needed to be said.  

I’d challenge you to read this book and give it some serious consideration.  Then you can do with it what seems appropriate to you.  

I received this book from the publisher in return for a review.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Review: Greek for Everyone: Introductory Greek for Bible Study and Application by A. Chadwick Thornhill

Review: Greek for Everyone: Introductory Greek for Bible Study and Application
A. Chadwick Thornhill
Baker Books

Wow! This book is much more thorough than I had expected.  I had studied beginner Biblical Greek and thought this would be a good refresher book.  It is that and more.  It also contains some good information on interpretation and exegesis.  Nearly hermeneutics in scope, I think.  That too is good.  But, you knew that was coming, this is no lightweight read.  As such I will need much more time to read through it.
Greek for EveryoneWhat I would like to do is to comment briefly on what I have covered so far. The author wants to present an overview of the Biblical Greek language that presents not only grammar, but some of the important points to consider for proper interpretation.  His explanations are accessible and complete.  I believe that this would have been helpful to me when I originally studied the language.   Seems to be more of the how and why than I’d seen before.  So as a review, this book will work just fine.

How about the person just meeting Greek for the first time?  First of all, this book will convince most people that language study requires work.  If a foreign language was required in previous schooling, then most know what that work entails and how much they come out not knowing.  A couple of years of Spanish for instance, means you might be able to read simple works, but not at all prepared to converse with a native speaker or understand the nuances of his particular dialect.  Same is true for Biblical Greek and the author reminds his readers of that---gently.  This book will not make you an expert and that is not what most of us are seeking to achieve anyway.

What he does do well. I think, besides instilling a healthy respect for language, is to help his readers with some of the basics and point them toward an informed course for further study.  His discussions of the means of communication within a language I found helpful.  A word has a range of meanings; the context narrows the meaning (hopefully).  Those sorts of reminders help me not to chase a rabbit too far afield. 

So there’s my initial take on this book.  It makes a good review book.  I think it would make a great introductory work, too.  He provides a few short exercises to practice what the chapter covered and an answer key. He encourages the reader to memorize a short list of vocabulary, mostly key words like the terms for heart, word, sin and the like.  Along the way he has recommendations for study sources available for those that wish to dig deeper.  Overall I think he accomplished his stated goal.  “I approached this text intent on accomplishing two things: (1) laying a foundation for those who lack formal training in biblical language to gain insights from the original language of the New Testament, and (2) providing an exegetical framework to help guide the way in which those insights are developed.” (214-215).

I received this book from the publisher in return for a review.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review: The Blue Guitar by John Banville

Review: The Blue Guitar
John Banville
Vintage Books

Product DetailsIt’s pretty brazen of me to write any sort of review for an accomplished author, but I had to because some of the reviews for this book confuse me.  For me this author portrayed so many of the people I know right this minute, young and old.  They live the good life until it craters and then wonder how they ended up in the mess they find themselves.  Maybe the objections to the protagonist have something to do with looking into the mirror?  Others think another of his books has a better plot.  That may be the case for that other book, but is this book designed to have anything like the other?  It doesn’t seem that way to me.  

Whatever the case may be I liked this book for a number of reasons, not the least of which is Banville’s writing itself.  I found it a joy to read and intend to re-read it in the near future.  Yes, Orme drifts into painterly type language often in an effort control what is before him, but then he snaps back to realize some of his motives.  He’s in and out of blame and pride trying to understand himself.  Even to the very end of the book.  No spoilers, though.  But I will say the last few pages can touch you deeply.  

Beyond the writing itself is the look inside a character that you want to like and will until you don’t and then you will again.  He’s one of us in many ways.  The other characters could tell similar stories if the book had been based from their own points of view.   As it’s written they are weak supporting cast members intentionally since Orme’s the center of his own life. 
One last note, the title has meaning and it will become obvious toward the end.

I enjoyed this book and I think you will too.