Book Review

Guilty

Guilty, by Ann Coulter ★★★
I didn’t want to give Ann three stars, as she deserves 5 for all the work she went through compiling this book. But then, this book kind of wears on you. In fact, I didn’t finish it, because it seems to just make the same point again and again and again and again. It’s like reading assembly language code–it ends up being nothing but ones and zeros, even though it may be coding something quite significant. Coulter’s thesis is correct regarding media bias and serious bias of the left. Her approach to resolution is rather caustic, and more fitting for a lawyer (which she is) than for a real person. Her book is a  perfect example of having a correct thesis but a wrong approach to stating that thesis. She does make a true point about liberals. But then, she casts liberals into a single confined mold, which I don’t think is appropriate. Liberals tend to be correct on many issues that seem to escape Ann. Thus, Ann gets only three stars.

Momo

Momo, by Michael Ende ★★★★
Momo is a children’s book, written entirely in German, by the same author that wrote The Never Ending Story. It is the tale of a small orphan girl living alone in the ruins of an ancient city, adjacent to a large modern city. Over the course of the story, she encounters the Die Graue Herren, the grey men, who go around stealing time from people. In the process, everybody becomes too busy for everything and has no time for relationships. Momo is eventually able to determine how to fight the grey men through the help of a tortoise and Prof. Hora, and give civilization its time back. It’s a cute story, written for about the 8th-grade level, which is also essentially my level for reading without the excessive use of a dictionary. Mr. Ende tends to have a socialist slant towards life, reflective in this writing, but he does drive home the truth that honesty and loving relationships are more important than wealth and efficiency. Ende’s book doesn’t end with balance, and doesn’t show that both efficiency and relationships are important – it’s an either/or situation for him. His book makes the strongest statement against the state efficiency of the East German government and regimes of the like.

Two Days that Ruined Your Healthcare

2 Days that Ruined your Health Care, William Waters III, MD ★★★★★
I had started to type up a paper for publication documenting my frustrations with the health care system when I received this book in the mail. After reading it, I realized that Dr. Waters had discussed half of my contentions with the system. He is a nephrologist that practiced in the Atlanta, Georgia region for a number of years, and remains an academic type at Emory University. The two days are 1) 02OCT1942 when congress voted to allow employers to deduct health care premiums from employees’ taxable income, and 2) 10APRIL1965 when LBJ signed the Medicare law into existence. Owing to those events, Waters shows how the government then had the ability to slowly take over health care. This has led to government control of all aspects of health care, regulated by politicians and bureaucrats who do nothing about daily health care delivery determining minute policies that regulate your behavior and practices in the office. The book details how government intervention has led to increased prices for health care, now making most health care expenses out of the range of the average citizen. He finally discusses the role of health savings plans and other solutions to the system. My only disappointment with the book is that he omitted several other important factors that are also of great importance, including 1) the loss of morality in the profession (most doctors would not take the oath of Hippocrates anymore), the loss of purpose in our profession, 2) the crass commercialization of medicine, starting when the AMA caved into the Feds in the 1970s to the issue of physician advertising, 3) the litigation scene forcing increased costs, regulation, and costly physician behavior, and 4) increasing demands and expectations of many patients resulting in a health care fantasy that progressively forces all the other above problems. Eventually, patients will get what they are willing to pay for… just take a close look at health care in England or Canada. I disagree with Waters in that I do not see health care in the US as being in a state of being able to be fixed. It is time for physicians to quit being sacrificial lambs to the system, let the state have their healthcare, and hope that a better system could possibly rise from the ashes.

Inside Islam

Inside Islam, Reza Safa ★★★★
Seeking further insights into the Islam mind, I decided to read this book, which was written by a former militant Shiite Muslim who converted to the Christian faith. Safa takes a fairly even-handed approach, going light on his Muslim brothers and sisters, which speaks of the inconsistencies of the Islam faith that drove him to Christianity.  I appreciated the book because it was not only easy to read but contained a tone of writing that left you feeling you talking directly to Reza. What he says seemed to be coming from his heart and emotions, rather than just an emotional diatribe or intellectual comparison of the Islam vs. Christian faith. He was especially able to address the Christian hypocrisy which seems to rule in the West. Apparently, he has Pentecostal leanings. I take it, he now is living  in Norway. His English is superb. His heart for reaching out to Muslims is contagious.

The Heart of Evangelism

The Heart of Evangelism, Jerram Barrs ★★★★★
I was given this book since it is currently being used for the Sunday School class at church. At first, I was reluctant to read the book. I had heard Jerram Barrs speak in the past, and he definitely was dreadfully boring. This book is everything but boring. Barrs is definitely a better writer than he is a speaker. Jerram comes out of the L’Abri movement of Francis Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential people in my life, influencing my thought quite profoundly during my college years. Jerram addresses the issues of talking about your faith to other people, not like any other “evangelism” text I’ve ever read so far (which is really not many). Throughout the book, one can see the thinking of F. Schaeffer coming through, though with Barr’s distinct style. Schaeffer speaks of pre-evangelism, but Jerram gives concrete meaning to the term. He especially emphasizes the nature of Christ’s teaching while on earth, which though harsh with Pharisees and those who are self-righteous in established religion, was as gentle as a lamb and never insulting, demeaning, or harsh to the “man-on-the-street”. Through it all, Jerram emphasizes that it is not our skills of persuasion that lead people to faith, but rather the Holy Spirit working in peoples’ lives.

Who Told You That You Were Naked?

Who Told You that You Were Naked, Victor Schlatter ★★
I first met Vic Schlatter in 1969, when he had come home from furlough to the mission field. Vic was an energetic, and very magnetic personality, with a tremendous amount of smarts. Before becoming a missionary to the New Guinea Waola tribe, he had worked at Hanford as a nuclear chemist.
In this book, Vic covers some of his pet peeves, including media bias, organized religion, feminism, political correctness, and the new world order. He does this in a quasi-historical fashion. Vic is not very straightforward in his writing, putting on paper more the ramblings that would happen if he were speaking to you. All of his writing is laced with constant dry humor, which keeps you reading. Vic seems to have two special theses that he always driving home.
The first is the “Aristotleanization” of organized (and unorganized) contemporary religion. I remember him speaking about the influence of Aristotle on the church even in 1969, so, he hasn’t gotten this off of his mind. Unfortunately, he doesn’t define exactly the nature of this influence, and I remain hard-pressed to understand. Certainly, we can blame Thomas Aquinas. But we also have to blame Plato, who, through Plotinus, was a heavy influence on Augustine, and thus the rest of Christendom. Vic tries to “de-Greek-ize” Christianity, which is, unfortunately, an impossibility since even the New Testament writers were heavily influenced by their Greek world. As an example, Paul, John, and Peter write instructional letters to various churches, which was unheard of before certain Epicurean philosophers. It is a mistake to define orthodoxy as strictly abiding by a Hebrew mindset.
So, Vic lapses into his constant and persistent rhetoric regarding the superior and transcendent nature of the Jewish. Now, I certainly have an appreciation for Jews and have many good friends who are also Jewish, but I don’t view that as making the person any more special than any other race or color of the skin on earth. I certainly hold that it is possible that in an age to come, a special relationship with God is again formed, but certainly don’t see that in the current age. Indeed, the Jews are living outside of the Covenant of their own Scriptures, and so stand condemned by God.
I met Vic recently at a funeral of a mutual friend and inquired of his eschatological stance. He seemed to reject dispensationalism, yet his book still seems to drift toward a style of post-tribulational dispensationalism, though he never mentions a Millenium. Perhaps his absence of clarity is Vic’s attempt to “de-Aristotle-ize” and to “Waola-ize” himself. Certainly, his view of the anti-Christ seems to drift from classic dispensational teaching. I would have liked to pick Vic’s mind more as to his true stance. All in all, I found Schlatter’s book entertaining but not terribly informative.

Dark Side of Islam

The Dark Side of Islam, R.C. Sproul & Abdul Saleeb ★★
This book, written by the well-known theologian R.C. Sproul and an ex-radical Muslim, A. Saleeb, actually talks very little about the dark side of Islam. It is mostly a conversation between the two authors regarding some of the theological differences between the Islam and Christian faith, mostly dealing with the nature of God, sin, salvation, and the person and work of Christ. I found it contained only limited information, and thus not terribly helpful for my poor inquisitive mind, which is asking for a more precise analysis of Islam/Christian differences, which tend to be quite significant. Since I’m now reading “Answering Islam” by Norman Geisler, I might have my questions answered.

Geschichte der Deutschen Literatur

Geschichte der deutschen Literatur, Manfred Mai ★★★
Manfred Mai is a children’s author and writes about the 8th-grade level, so is quite easy for me to read. The other text of his that I have read was the History of Germany and was quite enjoyable. This was easy to read when Mai was writing, but he includes numerous excerpts, of which multiple writing styles were employed, proving to be a serious challenge to my ability to comprehend. He also spends a little too much time with modern authors—I would have preferred more attention to the classic German literature. All in all, the book was informative, and a decent survey of the breadth of literature in the German tongue.

Introduction to the Old Testament

An Introduction to the Old Testament, by Tremper Longman III and Raymond Dillard ★★★★
Longman & Dillard, both from respectable conservative Reformed seminaries, provide a modern review of the OT, with insights on current academic thinking regarding the source and interpretation of each of the 39 books of the OT. It is an encyclopedic style text, though designed for a standard through-read by poor seminary students. I have mixed feelings about this text, with both good and bad feelings. I certainly would NOT advise this text as the sole OT textbook for seminary studies. The strength of the book is its organization, in that each chapter works through a successive book of the OT, systematically discussing a global overview of the book, references, a literary analysis, historical background, theological message, and finally orientation toward the NT. The text was strong in pointing out the current status of scholarly thinking, including higher form-criticism of the books, and discussion of possible authorship of each book of the OT. Compared to other conservative surveys of the Old Testament, I deeply appreciated the academic approach of L&D and enjoyed exploring the status of academic scholarship, liberal and conservative, on the study of the Old Testament. Too many textbooks of this sort offer a brief textual criticism, then plunge into a variable-depth survey of the contents of each book of scripture, leaving one with minimally more insight than one could get by simply just reading the text. The books’ weakness is in providing a very poor conservative response to the liberal critics. Oftentimes, idle liberal speculation is given play, without barely a response. This is true of the liberal approach to many of the OT books, which suggest that differing literary styles in the various portions of the book, including Song of Solomon, Isaiah, and Zechariah, as a few examples, imply fragmentary assemblage of the biblical text by various authors in various time periods. Such speculation has minimal grounding and a cold assumption that authors never write in differing styles throughout their life. L&D allows liberal assumptions to hold credibility, including a supposition that predictive prophecy could not occur, miracles could not happen, the Scriptures must be inherently inaccurate, and that propositional inspired truth is a fairy-tale. I also had serious problems with some of the theological conclusions of Longman and Dillard, such as their statement that Ecclesiastes was essentially uninspired and not useful for instruction in holy living. Sorry L&D, but you some help in better seeing the vast wisdom of scripture. In summary, this text was an enjoyable (though lengthy) read, with disappointments that the authors could have made this a much stronger text without much additional effort. I would hope that conservative scholarship identifies the vacuous nature of liberal scholarship as L&D has done, but does not take it quite as seriously as L&D do in this text. I would compare this OT scholarship to the new think of the Jesus Seminars, which really is too fanciful and speculative to even demand that serious scholarship provide detailed rebuttals to their ungrounded speculations.

The Essential Cycling Tourist

The Essential Touring Cyclist, by Richard Lovett ★★★★
I’ve considered the possibility of doing some bicycle touring, and so purchased this text to get the low and skinny, as it was fairly high-rated on Amazon.com. It is a fairly basic but well-written book that is easy to read, always applicable, with many helpful hints as to how to survive out there on a bicycle. It covers most expected topics, such as how to choose a touring bicycle, what bags to get for the bike and what to put in them, how to survive the long road, and how to plan a trip, including possible European trips. The book is an excellent choice for anybody just starting out on cycle touring.