June 2011

The Heresy of Orthodoxy

The Heresy of Orthodoxy, by Andreas Köstenberger and Michael Kruger ★★★★
This book was written as a defense of Scripture, and contra the Bauer-Ehrman thesis. In short, the Bauer-Ehrman thesis supposes that early Christendom consisted of many “orthodoxies”, and that the rise of Constantine and the state church forced a given “orthodoxy” on the rest of us. Concurrent with this thinking, the numerous pseudographia and Gnostic texts discovered in the last several hundred years have brought some theologians, Ehrman especially, to consider these texts as on par and equal in consideration as the Scriptures that we have. Also argued is that because of textual corruption, it is impossible to know exactly what the Scriptures are or should be. To this, Köstenberger and Kruger capably argue in opposition. The flow of the book is as follows. In the first section, the authors argue that there indeed was diversity within the early church, but that there was a prevailing orthodoxy, and clear conception even in the first century of heresy. The diversity among orthodox thinking was minor and not related to major issues of Gnosticism, or the doctrines of God and Christ. The second section develops the idea that a canon of Scripture was apparent early in the second century, and even in the mid to late first century of Christianity, contra Ehrman who claims a very late concept of the canon of Scripture. It was clear early on which texts did not fit into the canon and which texts did. The last section discusses the preservation of the texts, arguing that an intelligent Christian population existed early on who could copy and read the text and that although tampering could be seen in the text, it never significantly altered the overall meaning of the text. The book is a worthy read for those interested in one of the many battles occurring over the Scriptures today.

Tchaikovsky String Quartets

Tchaikovsky String Quartets, by the Borodin String Quartet ★★★★★
I don’t often review music that’s sat in my library for many years, but this is an exception owing to its excellence. Tchaikovsky isn’t too well known for his chamber music, yet this set of 3 string quartets is gripping, addicting, moving, and most enjoyable to listen to. The melodies are catching but never “jingoistic”. The Borodin Quartet is flawless in its performance, but not mechanical, adept at extracting the soul of the piece. The absence of popularity of these pieces should not prevent one from giving these pieces one’s full attention for many an evening.

Christ of the Prophets

The Christ of the Prophets, by O. Palmer Robertson ★★★★★
I’ve already reviewed a number of books by OP Robertson, and this one is among the best. It is not exactly the book I expected, but actually better than I expected. The layout of the book is quite simple, in that the preliminary chapters introduce the notion of prophetism in Israel and the general theology of prophecy. The latter chapters run through the various prophets in a chronological fashion, giving a short summary of their environment, thesis, and end result. Overlaid throughout the book is a systematic attack on the new liberal thinking which has even pervaded the writings of many conservative biblical scholars. He shows how the new approaches of redaction and literary criticism tend to offer more confusion than clarity to a text, while simultaneously offering explanations for the textual origin that are completely unsubstantiated. Because the Scriptures claim that the validity of the prophet is determinant on the truth of the prophecy, to make the claim that the prophetic words were written after the fact essentially invalidate the prophet and the Scriptures. Yet, conservative scholars will give in and allow for the claims of higher criticism. The only outcome of this is to allow academia to act as a front for unbelief. Robertson shows quite clearly that there is no reason or justification for not believing the prophetic words of the Old Testament at their face value. The attack on higher criticism found in this book makes it more than worthy of reading. Robertson is not only the best of the best in academic thinking but also the best of the best at being entirely Biblical in his thinking and approach to God’s Word.


Demonic, How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America, by Ann Coulter ★★
For the first 20 pages of this book, I thought that I might be giving this book a 5-star rating. I’ve read (and reviewed) other Ann Coulter books, and agree with much of what she has to say. So, when I saw this book on sale at Costco, decided that it wouldn’t hurt to read it. As with other Coulter books, much of what she has to say could (and should) have been said in the first chapter. Ann doesn’t know when to stop talking. Though she brings up many historical tidbits that the press seemed to ignore about the liberal “mob”, her persistence tends to grow weary as she seems to go nowhere with her thinking. The second section of this book does a poor and brief recollection of the French revolution and then attempts to correlate that with the behavior of modern Democrats (liberals). Somehow, Ann is convinced that the Democrats and Republicans are two different species of animal. This leads to page-by-page arrogant rants as to how the liberals never do anything right and conservatives never do anything wrong. Her absence of humility becomes quite intolerable. Ann lives in her own world. She refuses to find any problem with Obama’s birth certificate, only because this is not a bandwagon that she can ride. She viciously attacks the non-neo-cons Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan for no good reason other than having properly thought out a Christian-constitutional approach to foreign policy. In the last pages of the book, she actually has the audacity to support the terribly liberal treaty of Versailles, probably the greatest mistake of the 20th century. Ms. Coulter should perhaps re-read history, including the history of the mob, which was used by various factions, conservative and liberal throughout the Greek and Roman empire. But then, according to Ann, the mob defines one as liberal. I’ll make sure I never go to a Republican rally, as they also try to engender a “mob” think. Though I agree with much of Ann’s rantings about the extreme bias of the press, better books have been written to develop this thesis. I too detest much of what is liberal in America, yet I find conversations with liberals oftentimes informative and thought-provoking. This is perhaps the last book I’ll ever read by Ann, as there are others that develop her themes much better and argue with consistency. As for Ann, a little humility might help. She needs to spend more time reading and listening, and less time talking. She might also be best served by getting married, though I’d feel a touch sorry for her husband.

Fall and Rise of China

Fall and Rise of China, taught by Richard Baum (Teaching Company) ★★★★★
This is one of the best Teaching Company series that I’ve heard in a long time. Prof. Baum was quite compelling in his presentation and maintained a competent discussion mixed with a large volume of personal experience to be not only informative but also enjoyable to listen to. I personally appreciate Baum’s teaching style, though he does demand full attention, since he typically does NOT repeat what he’s said. I especially appreciated how Dr. Baum maintained neutral political stances in his discussions–he did not use his lecture stand as a bully pulpit to push down his personal ideology. Yet, few professors in my recent memory (from the Teaching Company) have sparked such interest in the topic at hand. A day did not go by when I was seeking further information from the internet, and even better, from close friends who grew up in mainland China and could not only confirm but expand on the professor’s statements. Prof. Baum offers several introductory lectures to provide a background history of the West’s involvement with China in the 1800s, leading to the rise of anti-western sentiment and the emergence of Mao Zedong. Baum follows through the life of Mao to his death, with China emerging from its backwater status to be a leading economic and social force in the world. These lectures are a beautiful complement to another excellent Teaching Company series “From Yao to Mao: 5000 years of Chinese History”. Regardless of one’s view of China, it remains a people that are rising on the world scene, and there is no better way to mentally fit China into the grand scheme of things than through this set of lectures.

Selkirk Loop

The Selkirk Loop Bicycle Ride 02-06JUNE2011
Russ A. and I had been planning this loop for quite a while. We had other loops in mind, such as going to Glacier National Park, but realized that the snow conditions were not permissive of a ride anywhere we wished. There is a website that promotes this loop (www.selkirkloop.org), so we decided that this would be a perfect choice. We drove to the start of the loop in Newport, Washington in driving rain, hoping that the weather would clear. We stayed in a cheap motel and took off the next morning. Here is a map of the loop, and then our Garmin statistics…
03JUNE – Newport, WA to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, riding time 4:21, 101 km, 295 m ascent, 3755 calories – mostly cloudy weather, no rain; stayed in a hotel in Bonners Ferry
04JUNE- Bonners Ferry to Gray Creek, B.C., riding time 6:29, 125.5 km, 949 m ascent, 4872 calories – perfect weather, stayed in our tent at an RV park at Gray Creek, on Lake Kootenay
05JUNE- Gray Creek to Salmo, B.C., riding time 4:56, 88.54 km, 848 m ascent, 4098 calories  – again, perfect weather. Hard climb noted out of Nelson.
06JUNE- Salmo, B.C., to Newport, WA, riding time 7:33, 147 km, 623 m ascent, 5864 calories, we took the LeClerc Road variant, which was very flat, along the Pend Oreille River. The weather was perfect, but we drove back to Tacoma that evening, noting a very hard rain on the drive from Newport to Spokane, WA.
Total stats: 23:19 hours riding time, 462 km (287 miles), 2715 meters elevation gain (8907 ft), 18,689 calories burned off. We essentially accomplished the loop we wished, though it took us a little less time than anticipated. The only significant plan alteration was that we hoped to go to Kaslo and New Denver on the extended upper loop, but the weather did not look like it was going to stay perfect long enough for us to enjoy an entirely dry trip, and thus gave reason for doing the standard Selkirk Loop rather than a variant. Besides, we needed an excuse to return. Also, Russ had an injury to his thigh on the second day of riding, which suggested that it be best that we not push matters too hard.
In all, it was a delightful ride, and I had a wonderful time with Russ, and am already planning our next touring trip. It would be helpful if we knew what to expect in towns, and maps like the Adventure Cycle Association would be nice to have for all towns. Some towns on the map were essentially ghost towns, others had stores and motels and other provisions, and it was impossible to know what to expect along the route. This made it harder to plan for stops. Here are some photos of the trip…
Russ with the Selkirks in the background
Me on my loaded Co-Motion bicycle
Lake Kooteney in British Columbia
Lake Kooteney scene
The Glass House – built out of embalmers bottles
Lake Kooteney
On the Ferry crossing Lake Kooteney
West Arm of Lake Kooteney looking at the town of Nelson
Our hotel in Salmo, B.C.
Russ humping up a long steep hill out of Salmo
Russ and I in Metaline Falls
Last day – along the Pend D’Oreille River
So, we’re back. Tired, but, it was a wonderful trip.