Book Review

Deutsche Geschichte

Nachgefragt: Deutsche Geschichte, by Reinhard Barth   ★★★★★
Translated essentially “Inquiry-German History”, this is a delightful little overview of German history written by a German for the school-age person. It presents various historical vignettes by first asking a simple question, such as, “How did the thirty-years war come about?”, or “What was Hitler’s goal in foreign policy?”, and then, a short 1-2 page answer is offered. More complex words are redefined in the columns. All in all, it makes for excellent reading practice for a faltering English speaker trying to learn another language. Of course, I did learn many new words, all of which a write down on an index card for re-review. The history is itself is fascinating, covering subjects that most Americans are not terribly familiar with, such as the events of the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and the raid on Springer Verlag. Other topics are discussed differently than one would typically be presented in American schools, such as the nature of the two world wars. It is true that the victors write history, which usually is at least partially incorrect. So, one gets the feel with the history of Germany. In all, it was a good read, and I’ll be looking for more German history books to both practice my Deutsch, as well as see history from a different perspective.

Exegetical Fallacies

Exegetical Fallacies, by D.A. Carson   ★★★★
The book is divided up into four main chapters, each of those chapters illustrating a principle area of error in biblical exegesis. The first two chapters, on word-study fallacies, and on grammatical fallacies, were a tad bit challenging to read, in that I knew very little Greek. The chapters were not worthless, but educational in showing how interpretational assumptions and sloppiness can create grave errors in interpretation. The most practical personal lesson was to realize the danger of learning just a little Hebrew and Greek. Unfortunately, it will guarantee to create more false interpretations that light on a subject. This is easy to understand, as, when one learns another language, one can pick up a text and assume to understand clearly what is being said, until one reads a legitimate interpretation. Such an experience can be quite embarrassing. The third chapter, on logical fallacies, was very good at pointing out how sometimes muddled thinking leads to the most inappropriate conclusions. Such muddled thinking includes carrying in assumptions and preconceived baggage into a Scripture passage, that causes is to say something other than what the author truly intended it to say. Finally, presuppositional and historical fallacies were discussed. Some discussion was spent in the review of the new deconstructionist movement, attempting to claim that the Scriptures could mean whatever the reader saw in them. Such an interpretation is in defiance of the historical author, who meant his words to mean very specific things. All in all, this is a must-read book for any serious biblical scholar, and though it will be a bit above the head of the one not entirely skilled in the Biblical languages, is still instructive at helping one detect when exegesis has failed to properly divide the word of truth.

Systematic Theology

Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem ★★★★
Grudem’s and Berkof’s Systematic Theologies were both required reading when I took a systematic theology class from JI Packer with Regent College in Vancouver, Washington. He encouraged us to read Grudem since, he stated, “there is no God in Berkof”. Grudem’s strengths are often his weaknesses. It is an easy read, perhaps too easy. Many theological words are not used, and it is written at about the 8th-grade level. This is a little bit of a pity, since seminaries are using this as a textbook to train pastors. It would be like going to medical school, and using the anatomy coloring book as your primary text, talking about the collar bone rather than the clavicle, armpit rather than axilla, or belly button rather than umbilicus. True, you need to know both terms. But, I expect seminary students to be trained in a fashion that befits advanced post-graduate learning. Otherwise, throw out college, and send our pastors-to-be to bible school, like the Baptists do.
Grudem tends to be solidly grounded in Reformed thinking, which makes this a pleasure to read. My main complaint is that he tends to be preoccupied with certain topics and ignores others. Many historical controversies, such as the origin of the soul, are nearly completely ignored. Yet, he spends over 70 pages discussing the role of gifts in the church. Regarding gifts and miracles, Grudem is definitely a non-cessationist, to which I don’t have a serious problem, except when pushed too hard. Grudem is very reluctant to admit that miracles have always tended to be rare, and he would rather like to think that they are predictable and expected. Regarding prophecy, I tend to agree with him that prophecy is more than just teaching, though I disagree that it is necessarily something more earth-shattering than exhortation. Grudem is also quite eager to defend the pentecostal version of tongues, which I have a serious problem with. He even admits that “tongues interpretation” is only a rough summary of the meaning of what was said, which, in my book, is NOT what is meant by interpretation. I have yet to see a charismatic or pentecostal service that uses tongues in a biblical fashion. I’m also not a pre-millenialist, but won’t object too seriously his stance on that. He fails to offer any suggestion that historic pre-millenialism might have legitimate objections. Grudem’s greatest strength is in discerning which issues are truly worth rolling up your sleeves for a good fight, versus those issues which are not worth being divisive about. All in all, I’d give it 4 stars for laymen’s use, and only 2 star for seminary use.

Long Distance Cycling

Long-distance Cycling by Edmund Burke and Ed Pavelka    ★★★★
A helpful manual on how to truly torture yourself on a bicycle. They offer help on how one can ride a bicycle steadily for 120 days (exaggerating a little bit) while sleeping only 2-4 hours a night. In actual fact, it is a nice book for familiarizing one with the thought of riding one’s bicycle farther than around the block. They offer helpful hints on how to increase your stamina, how to prepare for a long ride, how to remedy the most-common ailments of the long-distance cyclist, and how to maintain one’s composure while riding long distances, including what to eat and drink, and how to maintain ones’ well-being and sanity. A helpful read for anyone wishing to ride their bicycle more than 30 miles at a time.