Book Review

Just Ride

Just Ride, by Grant Petersen ★★★★
This is a cute little book of 89 chapters in 208 pages, giving advice on cycling. Grant Petersen founded Rivendell Bicycle Works, notes that he used to ride competitively, but now speaks strongly about the art of simply riding a bicycle and enjoying the endeavor. Advice fits into a number of categories, including how to ride a bicycle, what to wear, how to ride a bicycle safely, how to do the bicycle for health reasons, accessories for the bike, how to care for a bike, technical aspects of bicycle design, and philosophy of cycling. I disagree with some of what he has to say, but agree that his perspective on making bicycling an enjoyable pastime needs to be considered strongly by anybody riding a bike. It is a fun read, Grant writes well, and it will prove to serve as worthy advice even when he is not entirely correct.

Stealing America

Stealing America, by Dinesh D’Souza ★★★★
This book is actually two narratives. The first narrative regards Dinesh’s stay for 8 months in an overnight retention facility, and the sentencing that led to that retention. Each chapter has stories from his sentencing or life in the confinement center. The second narrative spring-boards from the first narrative, in identifying how the US government is operating in an increasingly criminal fashion, akin to the hardened criminals that Dinesh met while at the detention facility.
The first chapter speaks of Dinesh being caught for a crime that seemed somewhat insignificant and something that is performed all the time, but felony charges are avoided because high profile people are aware of the minor technicalities in helping one avoid the label of “crime” to the “mis-deed”. Dinesh accidentally gave beyond donation limits by giving to a candidate through friends. He could have given massively larger funds through a PAC or other agency, but because he did what he did and had enemies, he was labeled a felon and ultimately condemned to 8 months in a confinement center, though avoiding up to 3 years of prison by paying his life earnings to a high profile lawyer. Having personally seen enough of the court systems, I can heartily agree with D’Souza that courts are a political sham; they are not blind, and justice is NEVER served in the courts. They are highly politically motivated by extremist liberal social justice warriors with an agenda. The myth of the American court system is screamed loud and hard in the sentencing of D’Souza.
Chapter two outlines the confinement center, a description of some of the people confined within the center. The description paints the guards and personnel that run the center as more pathological than the inmates. The criminals in the center, while they created heinous crimes (and oftentimes did not!), are described as less criminal than the people that run this country. The theme of “theft” and “stealing” is beginning to be developed in this chapter, where inmates may have performed robberies, but the grander robberies are daily performed in full public eye by our politicians.
The next few chapters begin to develop certain themes. These themes are based on the crimes that inmates committed, and how the politicians that run this country have the same pathological mindset as the inveterate criminals locked up behind bars. Gangsterism is one theme. Through their particular gangs (Republican or Democratic Parties), the once innocent politician goes from poverty to unbelievable wealth, which cannot be explained by their salary as a public servant. The reparations scam is another, where astronomical payouts to an undeserving dependent class of people are made even more dependent on the system, all under the guise of repaying groups for some hypothetical crime allegedly committed against their distant forefathers by people that have been dead for many generations. The greed and inequality scam is how the government feels it is their duty to level the playing field of inequality by the continual redistribution of wealth. The only wealth not redistributed is that of the leaders. Another scam is labeled the “You didn’t build that scam”, or as I would say, “it takes a village” scam. This supposes that you would never have been able to accomplish anything in life if it wasn’t for the government, failing to realize that the government would not have existed without yours and your forefather’s taxes being paid. The “you didn’t build it scam” give the government the permission to steal your earnings for redistribution.
D’Souza then switches gears and discusses the life of Saul Alinsky. Saul spent much time with Al Capone, learning first hand the art of gangsterism. This is relevant, because two characters, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both admittedly spent much time under the tutelage of Saul Alinsky, Clinton  writing her senior thesis on Alinsky, while Obama worked under him as a civic organizer. The criminal nature of Obama and Clinton are then both detailed.
The last two chapters bewail how America has been “stolen” from the people, and offering a solution as to how to crack the deception. He really doesn’t offer much, suggesting only that we need to restore the original America that did not steal from its citizens. I didn’t expect profound solutions from D’Souza, as he really doesn’t see the full impact of what has gone wrong with our nation.
There are some serious problems with the book. First, Dinesh identifies the “problem” as starting with Bill Clinton and exacerbated by the Bushes and Obama. In actual fact, the problems of corrupt government in the USA goes back to its founding, with founding fathers stacking the constitution in its own favor. I would identify progressivism as we know it as starting with Teddy Roosevelt and ultimately “losing it” with Woodrow Wilson. We are simply seeing the end result of a 100 years of deterioration in our government, making it unrecognizable should any of the founding fathers return from the dead. The second problem with the book is that Dinesh tends to think the problem of a stolen America to be primarily a Democrat problem. In actual fact, as recent events have shown quite clearly, the Republican party is way too similar to the Democratic party, and their politics tend to differ less than the politicians would like us to think. The Democratic Party is not the only criminal gang, but there are two criminal rival gangs fighting for preeminence on the public stage. As a side issue to the Republican party, D’Souza gives inordinate praise to president Lincoln, a man worthy of praise, but omits that he, more than any other president before him, established an uncontrollably powerful central government, much to our loss and giving rise to all of the problems D’Souza wails on in his book. By decentralizing government, empowering states and empowering the 10th amendment, reducing taxation and eliminating unwanted tariffs, Lincoln could have both abolished slavery and preserved the union without a war. The third problem is that D’Souza was affected by a wantonly corrupt court system in bed with the reigning politicians. Yet, he really doesn’t grasp the entire nature of how and why our court systems no longer administer justice or freedom. I am a little astounded as to why he is so blind to this issue. The fourth problem affects Dinesh as much as the country and that is a loss of faith. Dinesh fails to ever bring out that the primary reason America has gone the way it has, is that there is no longer a Christian morality, a Christian ethos, or a Christian faith in America. Dinesh, through his past divorce, seems to have somehow lost it himself. True, he still identifies as a Christian, but this book would leave you thinking that he only has a Christian gloss; there is nothing in this book that conveys a serious Christian mindset. By that, I mean a mindset that holds God in control of the universe, in control of politics, and a moral God that will judge the sins of the nation. His morality seems to be a morality that is entirely utilitarian in its function to maintain a civil society. This is not the morality of Scripture. I dearly hope that D’Souza will some day soon come to the realization of the problems above and write a book that can encompass a true reckoning of the spiritual and political state of affairs of our nation.
The book is a depressing book. It’s not that I’ve learned something new in the book. It’s that it’s all been reinforced from a person that tended to be very optimistic about our political system and the fruits of that political system. What’s most depressing is to grasp at how few people in America realize that we are a country that has gone off the cliff and is in free-fall without a parachute. People quibbling over whether Sanders or Hillary or Cruz gets the presidency are like kids playing on the deck of the Titanic during its final hours—”the boat’s going down children, and it isn’t worth haggling over whether Suzy stepped on the line in the hopscotch game”.

It is About Islam

It is About Islam, by Glenn Beck ★★
I’ve read several other books by Glenn Beck, and have disliked them, feeling that Beck writes in a superficial fashion, selling himself as a thoughtful analyst of modern thought, yet writing in a popular emotional, non-analytical mode. The reviews of this books suggested that it was different and that Beck had provided an essay that was competent in reviewing Muslim mindset and proposing thoughtful action. I was quite disappointed in my expectations. Beck is able to throw a mountain of facts and quotes at you regarding a subject, but his ability to condense those facts into meaningful discourse is lacking
The book is broken up into three parts. The first is a brief history of Islam. This was short and focused on Beck’s agenda in the book. The second part is an argument against 13 deadly lies of Islam, such as “Islam is not much different than Christianity or Judaism”. He offers quotes supporting the “lie”, and then refutes those “lies” with facts. The third portion of the book discusses action items.  All three sections of the book are weak, and perhaps they are weak because Beck has a tenuous starting point himself.
Beck is quite spirited in developing the idea that the Islam religion is a religion of hate, and out to conquer the world. There is probably a reasonable amount of truth in that statement. His action points include the following. 1. Understand the “enemy”. Correct. That’s why he wrote this book. 2. Don’t be afraid to speak. Sure, but when somebody like Donald Trump speaks strongly about dealing with Islam, you condemn them. Go figure. 3. Know yourself and your traditions. Fair deal, but what traditions are he talking about. In this section, he simply waxes further about the problems of Islam immigration into the US. 4. We cannot reform Islam – only Muslims can do that. But, that’s not an action point. And, the thesis of the book was that Islam is a religion of violence. So, essentially, the plea is for Muslims to quit being Muslim. Sure. Hell will freeze over before that happens spontaneously.
Beck has a serious problem refuting the Islam religion because he doesn’t understand the nature of Muslim theology, and how it differs from his own. As a Mormon, he belongs to a Christian heresy just as the Muslim religion is a Christian heresy.  Though Mormonism is not so violent as the Muslims are, it has occasionally engaged in quite violent acts in the name of their religion. It would be impossible for Beck to compare and contrast Muslim vs Christian theology, since Mormonism is as far from Christian theology as the Muslim faith is from Christian theology. He couldn’t possibly discuss comparisons of salvation by works versus salvation by faith in Christ, since Mormonism is salvation by works, just as the Muslim faith is salvation by works, hoping in the end that God just might look favorably on you.
So, I can’t recommend this book at all. There are other books about Islam, notably books by Nabeel Qureshi such as “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus”that are actually worth reading. And, there are others. Don’t waste your money or time on this book. I should have known better.

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk

Grandma Gatgewood’s Walk, By Ben Montgomery ★★★★
This is a true and fascinating tale about a woman who married a very abusive man, had 11 children, and after her husband left her and the children grew up, she notified her children that she would be going for a walk. The year was 1955 and she was 67 years old. They had known their mother to occasionally disappear for a period of time, and so thought nothing of it. Eventually, she made it know to her family and the world as to what she was up to. She had decided to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. To allow that, she wore nothing but sneakers, some rummage sale walking clothes, and sewed herself a burlap sack to carry her scarce belongings, which she threw over her shoulder. She had a walking stick, an extra pair of glasses, since she was nearly blind, a blanket, and a large sheet of plastic to serve as a rain coat and shelter in the event that she could not find natural coverage from the rain. Her hike went from May until September, interrupted only by nosy and inquisitive news agents, and then, only once she was discovered as to what she was up to. It was a year of major east coast hurricane activity, so much of her northerly walk was drenched in rain and mud, and swollen rivers. She eventually made it to the tip of Katahdin, the northernmost part of the AT.
The story is broken up with three different dialogues. The most important was that of her actual walk, which was reconstructed from the notes that she took and the correspondence that she sent to her children. The second dialogue was flashbacks on her early life, going from childhood, to marriage, to a seriously flawed family life with a very physically abusive husband, 11 children, and much coping. Eventually she got a divorce, her children grew up, and she found herself alone, only to find her greatest enjoyment in walking. The third dialogue was discussion of the history of the Appalachian Trail, discussion of issues of the ecology of the trail, and the loss of a wild area.
The book is inspiring. It makes one wish to get out to walk. It is an easy but compelling read, hard to set down until the end. It was easy to follow the story lines in spite of the fact that they were broken up.
Since then, Grandma Emma Gatewood again did the AT a second time, becoming the first woman to ever hike the AT and the first person to ever hike it twice. She also section hiked it a third time, as well as walked from Independence, MO to Portland, OR following the route of the Oregon Trail. She did this while she was in her 70’s.
There is interesting discussion in the book about hospitality shown to her as well as mistreatment on her trip along the trail. Perhaps the book implies that people with crazy ideas need to be catered to.  Even in the 1950’s, most people that looked like “homeless tramps” were alcoholic, irresponsible persons. Grandma Gatewood was not alcoholic, but certainly expected assistance and handouts as well as shelter along the way. She could not possibly have done the trail in an entirely self-supported fashion, making her at least somewhat irresponsible. Yet, the book is still a good admonishment to show hospitality to strangers.
The book is labelled a New York Times best-seller. Like all labels of this sort, such as being a Pulitzer prize winning book or Oprah Winfrey book of the month club book, the label usually persuades me not to read the book. This book mostly stayed clear of political issues, but they could still be seen. As an example, the author spends much time speaking of the racial inequalities, and political machinations that transpired during the 1950’s. He happens to briefly mention the Republicans (never the Democrats) as associated with the segregation movement, without mentioning that the overwhelming majority of segregationists were Democrat. It is almost like taking the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” as reflective or based on history. In the Pirates movie, the pirates were the Spanish and the folk being robbed were the British. In real life, it was just the opposite. It’s as though history some day would have the Americans as killing off the Jews, with Hitler coming to rescue the Jews from a holocaust. New Yorkers, in their sophisticated sophistry, so often just get it completely wrong. Oh well. Read the book. Laugh about the historical or political mistakes. But get inspired to walk a long walk.

Slow and Steady

Slow and Steady: Hiking the Appalachian Trail, by Robert A. Callaway ★
I read this book because the title and summary had appeal to me. I was contemplating a long thru-hike. The author was a physician like me. The author was about my age. And the author considering doing the hike with his younger brother, like me. Everything else is different.
I reality, this must be the worst account I’ve ever read of thru-hiking a long trail. I’ve read many accounts of both the AT and PCT, and this really is the worst account I’ve ever come across. In essence, it is how Robert managed to jamb approximately 80 separate 1-3 day hikes into one long season that ultimately covered the Appalachian Trail. His brother dropped out be fore he made it half way. He stayed in hotels roughly 30% of the time. His down days were massive. Only once did he do 20 miles. He admitted to becoming a bit more sociable in the conduct of the hike. His manner of hiking was horrid, like any Obama liberal (which he took time off during the hike to vote for). He shuttled two automobiles throughout the entire Trail, leap-frogging them along the way to get where he was going. Environmentally, I went apoplectic, thinking about the volume of exhaust and “global warming” Bobbie generated by his venture. In my book, it would be the worst way imaginable to complete a trail. He did accurately describe the trail as a trail for socialites—not exactly the reason why one goes into the woods.
On any hiking adventure, one must HYOH (hike your own hike). Bobbie indeed did that. The book was such a bore and so un-like I would imagine doing any thru-hike, that I would not even offer this to my brother, with whom I plan on hiking the PCT in several years. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anybody unless you personally know Dr. Callaway and just wish a chronicle of his bizarre journey.

Just A Farm Boy

Just A Farm Boy, by Samuel Jacob Feucht ★★★★★
First of all, I don’t dare rate this as anything less than five stars, since my father wrote this book. As he was getting up in age, we talked him into writing a book of his life, and the two oldest brothers Dennis and Lewis helped him get this produced and printed. Sadly, I only have one copy of this book, and the binding is falling apart. I will probably have it spiral bound, and then try to get the word processing file from Dennis. I hope that he still has it.
Dad had a very interesting life. He loved to tell stories, and this book reads very similar to how dad used to tell stories about his life. He was born in the northwest corner of Iowa on a farm with 14 siblings. He left home in his early twenties, first going to Illinois, then California, then back to the midwest, then a brief time back in southern California, before settling in to Portland, Oregon for the rest of his life.
Dad was a wonderful man. He was multi-faceted, and was able to survive frequent poor health with stomach problems, had some very unfortunate bad luck, such as being zoned out of business in Baldwin Park, CA, but overall, troubles did not seem to keep him down, and his faith in Christ sustained him.
Dad expressed a number of times how he often wished that he could have remained in southern California. The family couldn’t have been more grateful that he got out of California and settled in the beautiful northwest.
Though I had glanced over this book a number of times, I found that this reading of the book, complete at one sitting, filled in a number of episodes in dad’s life that I had either forgot about or simply glossed over. There are many areas of his life in which he should have given more details, such as details about his parents, his life in California, his coming to faith, his meeting mom, and their early life together, as well as events that surrounded our lives when we were very young children.
I wish that he had imparted to us more of his skill at the care of farm animals, but that wasn’t to be. It is not uncommon for me to be sitting around and realize that I miss my parents, both dad and mom. I’m grateful that dad took the time to chronicle at least part of his life for his children and posterity.

Institutes of the Christian Religion

Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion: translated by Louis Battles (author John Calvin) ★★★★★
I initially started reading the Institutes in 1994, and got about ⅓ of the way through. Other books then became a major distraction. I restarted reading the Institutes from the beginning 2 years ago, taking a year hiatus in the middle for other books and issues, then returning to complete the entire 2 volume set at this time. It was a major undertaking, and something that I should have done years ago.
This is not a text that can be speed-read. There are many discussions of contemporary issues in Calvin’s time, that are now foreign to most of us. He takes up arguments against the Catholics which followed lines of arguments alien to today’s thinking. I was able to relate to his Anabaptist arguments, since I grew up Anabaptist. Calvin rarely ever addresses Luther and Lutheranism, occasionally simply mentioning side thoughts, such as when he was discussing the Lord’s Supper.
The style of Calvin’s writing is most interesting. Though at times he can be rather harsh in his words to opponents, this is found in most writings of that era, such as those of Lutherans, including Martin Luther himself. For the most part, Calvin writes in a very pastoral style. It is though he is delivering a 1520 page sermon. Calvin bleeds his heart and soul. You are never left wondering about how Calvin really feels about something.
Culture and society and the church have given Calvin some of the most nasty caricatures. He discussed as though his theology is 5 points (TULIP), and which of those five points should be accepted and which should not. (In reality, it is a logical all or nothing affair, but that’s another discussion.) The 5 points very poorly describe Calvin and his theology. Calvin spends very little time discussing such issues as predestination, limited atonement, irresistible call, etc. Though those doctrines are well established in the writings of Calvin, Calvin’s focus was on God, and not on five points.
Calvin is the probable author of one of the songs that we occasionally sing in church. I bring this up, because it best fits the heart and mind of John Calvin. The words are found below. If one reads it through thoughtfully, it gives the reader as good feel as to the nature of John Calvin. He is not the stern-faced hard-nosed preacher that developed a rigid exclusive form of Christian. His is a tender heart, seeking first and foremost to honor God, and to offer Him absolute supremacy and rule over earth. This is the Calvin that I saw in the Institutes, and a reason that everybody should read it through, all 1520 pages, some time in their life. As JI Packer noted, Calvinism is not just another “ism”, it IS Christianity. And I might add, Christianity at its best.
I greet Thee, who my sure Redeemer art,
My only trust and Savior of my heart,
Who pain didst undergo for my poor sake;
I pray Thee from our hearts all cares to take.
Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place;
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of Thy pure day.
Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
Sustain us by Thy faith and by Thy power,
And give us strength in every trying hour.
Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness,
No harshness hast Thou and no bitterness;
O grant to us the grace we find in Thee,
That we may dwell in perfect unity.
Our hope is in no other save in Thee;
Our faith is built upon Thy promise free;
Lord, give us peace, and make us calm and sure,
That in Thy strength we evermore endure.

What’s next. I now start Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, a 4 volume set, recommended by Pastor Rayburn, written 100 years ago, but recently translated from the Dutch. You might be waiting a while for this book report to come.

Trail Life

Trail Life: Ray Jardine’s Lightweight Backpacking, by Ray Jardine ★★★★★
Ray Jardine is the new godfather of backpacking, and has completely redefined the sport. Perhaps I might remind folk of Harvey Manning’s and Colin Fletcher’s texts…

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WalkerFletcherBoth of these texts defined backpacking when I was a kid. And, both of them were the bibles of how to do it. I remember reading Manning’s text backwards and forwards, and following every step of instructions that he gave. His advice is still apropos to the weekend 5-10 mile hiker. For anybody other than that, Manning and Fletcher are now hopelessly obsolete. Ray Jardine, starting with a text that I have already reviewed recently, published in 1992, irreversibly redefined the art of backpacking. Jardine’s text is most relevant to the long-distance backpacker, but his advice is still relevant to weekend excursions. Ray has thrown out the heavy hiking boots, the heavy packs, the massive requisite arsenal required for survival in the woods in favor of a lean-mean but still relaxed strategy. There is no backpacking text today that will fail to mention Ray Jardine, or the “Ray-way”.
This book covers all aspects of backpacking, including equipment, clothing, food, hygiene, planning, obstacles, safety, etc., etc. It is relatively comprehensive. Besides his continual plea to go light, distinctives of Jardine include a number of defining issues. He has an extreme objection to brand names, and will even purposely remove labels from clothing, sand off labels from equipment, etc. He has a sterility fetish, being even unwilling to use silverware in a restaurant, and brings his own spoon to eat. His dietary advice is unique, usually quite good, but also a touch weird. I guess I’ll try corn spaghetti, but will never plan on eating it almost every night on the trail. There are too many other good foods out there, without having to resort to freeze-dried foods. Ray and his partner sew all their own clothing, as well as backpacks and other hiking equipment. I don’t plan on doing that. I would hope that commercial enterprises can provide us non-sewers with similar items.
Other than that, Jardine is a must-read for the new style backpacker, and this text is beautifully organized and illustrated. Thus, a very high recommendation.

More Books About Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer, An Authentic Life, by Colin Duriez ★★★★
I haven’t thought much about Francis Schaeffer recently, but realized through conversations with younger Christians that Francis Schaeffer is no longer a recognizable name. This is to the shame of the church that he and his thinking aren’t occasionally brought back to mind. For many of us that became Christians in the 60’s and 70’s, especially during the era of the Jesus movement, he was quite influential at shaping our thinking and world view. I have read or listened to other biographies of Francis Schaeffer and his work, including the Tapestry and L’Abri, written by Edith Schaeffer, listened to the Covenant Seminary course on Francis Schaeffer, by Jerram Barrs, and have met and spoke at length with Edith Schaeffer and Francis’ son-in-law Udo Middelman, have read his complete works at least twice and watched both of his film series several times, but have never met Francis Schaeffer personally. I also have many friends who have spent time at L’Abri, all of whom would say that their contact with Dr. Schaeffer was heavily influential at affecting the remainder of their life course. My own pastor had spent many hours as a child with Francis, being that his father was president of Covenant Seminary. With that in mind, I review this book.
Colin Duriez, who has spent a number of years at L’Abri and much time with the Schaeffers, is a most capable person to be writing Schaeffer’s biography, and can include personal anecdotes, as well as the result of an interview with Schaeffer toward the end of Schaeffer’s life, in 1980, and this interview is contained in the appendix of the book. The biography is short, and thus is going to be missing in some important details. Specifically, other biographies suggest that Schaeffer was more of a churchman than is presented in this book. He was quite involved up to the end with his Presbyterian denomination, which eventually became the Presbyterian Church in America. His books such as The Church before the Watching World and others witness Schaeffer’s true concern for the Christian church as found in denominations, even though Schaeffer felt as much at home in a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox or Pentecostal church as he did in his native Presbyterian church environment.  Duriez speaks often and peripherally about Schaeffer’s philosophy, yet doesn’t develop it systematically. True, Schaeffer would identify himself as an eclectic mix of evidentialist, presuppositionalist, etc., and yet there is meaning to Schaeffer’s madness over and above trying to create a philosophy that was primarily evangelical in it’s intent. Words and thinkers (like Dooyeweerd) are thrown out without offering the reader at least some explanation as to why these people are being mentioned in the context of Schaeffer’s life. I loved the story of Schaeffer visiting Karl Barth, and wish that could have been further elaborated.
Duriez mentions frequently Schaeffer’s love for art museums, with an affection for modern art. Schaeffer appreciated some of the contemporary filmography, but tended to be highly selective in what he considered worthy of review. Duriez also mentions Schaeffer’s love for contemporary rock music, and knowing the words to many songs for the big rock groups of the 60’s and 70’s. Oddly, Schaeffer had a particular distaste for much music such as that of Wagner, and many 20th century musicians. Schaeffer rarely ever mentions Bach’s music as formative of a broader Reformed Christian community. This selection of particular appreciation for the arts has permeated Schaeffer’s disciples, almost to the point that they view Schaeffer as their cultural pope. I find that to be a touch disingenuous.
Outside of my criticisms, the book was an enjoyable read. Schaeffer is sadly being forgotten by the Christian world, and it is to our detriment. Nobody within Christianity has yet risen that was as capable as Schaeffer at providing both a philosophical justification for Christianity while demonstrating the need for Christians to be obedient to the word of God. His was not an ethereal philosophy, but very practical, since it emphasized the need to never divorce religion from experience or history.

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Francis Schaeffer, A Mind and Heart for God, edited by Bruce Little ★★★★
This short book was taken from a conference given in 2008 in Wake Forest, NC, which included five talks. I’ll briefly mention each talk.
Francis A. Schaeffer: The Man, by Udo Middelmann. This is a very brief but delightful summary of the life and thinking of Schaeffer.
Francis A. Schaeffer: His Apologetics, by Jerram Barrs. Jerram surveys the apologetic methodology of Schaeffer, concluding that Schaeffer was most interested in evangelism, and never ever thought of himself as an apologist for the faith. Thus, Schaeffer avoided debates, and avoided fixing himself within any apologetic category.
Francis Schaeffer in the Twenty-first Century, by Ronald Macaulay. This talk addresses the question as to whether Schaeffer was a prophet in foreseeing future troubles in the world. Schaeffer would have vigorously denied being a prophet, yet his cultural predictions have essentially become true. Schaeffer was particularly sensitive to a culture that advocated freedom without a Christian basis for it, or a Christian church based on religious sentiment rather than a dynamic belief in the word of God. Macaulay hits hard on Schaeffer’s war against contemporary pietism, which I appreciated. This was a delightful chapter to read, but am left wondering what Schaeffer would have been saying in today’s world. It is different than 50 years ago, in that, now that truth is universally accepted as unknowable, people no longer ask questions. The solution to any crisis in life is now resolved not by seeking philosophical consistency, but by seeking a hedonistic resolution for the moment without concern for future consequences. I would wonder regarding Schaeffer’s approach to the current political scene, now in a truly post-Christian scenario. “Speaking the truth in love” is going to take a different form than Schaeffer manifested throughout his life, perhaps being more pointed such as found in Christ’s, or perhaps Jeremiah’s ministry. What would Schaeffer say to a culture now overrun by the anti-Christian culture of the Muslim faith? I don’t believe that we could predict his response, and even if we could would still wish to defer to guidance from Scripture. Again, Schaeffer should not be treated as the political-cultural pope of our age, and he would agree with that if he could speak from the dead.
Francis Schaeffer: His Legacy and His Influence on Evangelicalism, by Jerram Barrs. Much of this talk focused on Schaeffer’s evangelistic method as it affected Jerram Barrs himself, as he became a Christian under the influence of Schaeffer. Barrs offers 8 points that characterize the nature and style of Schaeffer’s evangelistic methodology.
Sentimentality: Significance for Apologetics, by Dick Keyes. This talk has come under criticism from Amazon.com reviewers as being only peripherally related to Schaeffer, and not directly about him. Yet, I really enjoyed this talk, and felt that because it so heavily reflected Schaeffer’s thinking, that it was a worthy inclusion in this text. Sentimentality is displaced emotion that is directed toward the self. It denies a world that is not fallen, and does not result in appropriate responses. Though not mentioned in this chapter, my first thought was the outpouring of emotion when one watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion, yet I’ve to hear of even one life changed from this emotional Sintflut. Keyes discusses the result of Christians controlled by sentimentality, and how to deal with the sentimental person, by bringing them back to reality through some point of contact with reality.
I wonder how many more Francis Schaeffer conferences will be seen in the future, especially as those who lived in the 60’s and 70’s and were influenced by Schaeffer now are becoming a dying breed. Hopefully, his thinking will live on through such institutions such as Jerram Barr’s Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Seminary. The history of institutions devoted to a good cause seem to be rather sad. Just look at such institutions as the YMCA, which is now neither young, doesn’t know the difference between a man or woman, is definitely not Christian, but sadly remains an Association. Schaeffer’s books will live on, and hopefully will be read by our children’s children for many more generations. I pray that someone in a future generation will rise and capably question the culture, and be able to confront the culture as Schaeffer was able to do a half century ago.

The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster ★★★★★
This book was recommended to me by Stan Pense. I had never heard of it. It is really a children’s book, designed for the 8-12 year old kid. It is also a fun book for adults. The story revolves around Milo, a kid who is bored at school, at home, and just can’t figure out anything fun to do. A box shows up in his room, which on unwrapping and assembling the contents, results in a tollbooth to a strange land, where Rhyme and Reason, two princesses are held captive. Milo, with the accompaniment of a “watch dog” and giant bug, encounter the insanities of a land without rational thought processes. The author has a beautiful way of playing with words, using phrases that play on homonyms (such as which and witch), or play on the various meanings of words. An example is when Milo and his friends end up on the island of Conclusions, which you can only arrive at by jumping. The book is a delightful read, and would be a useful means of getting children to make use of their time, study hard at school, and try to think in an orderly, rational way.