Mar 08

The God of Miracles, by C. John Collins ★★★★★

The subtitle to this book is “An exegetical examination of God’s action in the world. Collins, in this book, attempts to form a Biblical basis for God’s interaction with the world, and to describe the nature of possible interactions with the world. To accomplish this end, Collins presents the three leading camps of thought that describe the nature of God’s ongoing interactions with his creation. They are providentialism, supernaturalism, and occasionalism. Collins begins by describing what we would consider to be unorthodox views of Gods interaction with the world, such as with Deism, which simply put, states that God puts the world into motion and then leaves it alone. Thus, miracles and supernatural interactions with the world do not and cannot exist, according to the Deist. To summarize the three “orthodox” stances, providentialism holds God to have created the world with such intricacy that unusual events are built into the creation and no event violates the natural laws that God built into the world; supernaturalism believes that God created the world with intrinsic laws that govern its normal behavior, yet God interacts with the system and is not bound by the normal laws that govern the system; occasionalism holds that there are no automatic laws that govern the behavior of the universe, but that God is active at every moment in its operation, so that unusual occurrences (miracles) are simply a part of the normal behavior of God in the universe.

The remainder of the book provides arguments for and against each position. First, Collins defines terms such as nature, miracle, and causation. Then, he explores Scripture to see where instances in support of each of these three stances might occur. Collins summarizes with a leading toward supernaturalism. The last chapter of this book discusses primarily the issue of intelligent design and how it fits into Christian thinking about the creation and sustenance of the world.

This book was written before “Science & Faith” but is supposed to be an academic attempt as the same subject matter as Science & Faith. I actually found this book easier to read, and provided better pause for reflection than the Science & Faith text. Both texts are complementary with minimal duplication in discussion, and thus both books are strongly recommended by me. I realize that Collins has come under attack from both the liberals and the 7-day creationists for his stances. I find Collins 100% committed to Scripture, and no way diverting away from proper exegesis of the text. He provides an excellent defense against those who truly deviate from a strong respect for the Scripture as God-breath words, an example being the theistic evolutionists. I would hope the reader maintains a critical but unbiased mind in reading his texts.

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Mar 08

Espionage and Covert Operations (Teaching Company), by Vejas Liulevicius ★★★★

This is an enjoyable set of 14 – 1/2 hour lectures on the history of spying from earliest records until the year 2011. There is much to like about these lectures. Liulevicius is quite entertaining as a speaker, and covers the topic of spying fairly broadly, from episodes of international intrigue, to states spying on their own citizens, and ending the series offers a solemn warning about care with the state spying on you. What I find intriguing is how often spy craft gets it wrong, often leading to worse consequences than if there were no spies, a recent example being intelligence evidence for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The few spying successes were found in WWII with the code-breaking of the German and Japanese communication signals. Our eagerness to maintain an international spy network has been troubled by numerous moles, leading to probably more deaths from spy activity than lives saved. Interestingly, misinformation given to spies has been quite effective at creating international pandemonium, and when international news alleges certain things, a strong aura of disbelief is healthy. I had wished that Liulevicius had spent more time talking about actual spy craft, perhaps even just a lecture on the nature of actually being a spy. One lecture did delve into spies in the literature and movies, and interestingly, many of these books, such as the books by Ian Fleming and LeCarre, were written by ex-spies. So, enjoy these at your own risk.

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