June 28, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 "Simply telling people what to think in order to be orthodox, and then expecting them to be disciples, is like telling people what they should eat in order to be healthy and then expecting them to lose weight."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Hearers & Doers, pg 54

June 23, 2021

Review: We Were Soldiers Once...and Young by Moore and Galloway

We Were Soldiers Once... and Young: Ia Drang - The Battle that Changed the War in VietnamWe Were Soldiers Once... and Young: Ia Drang - The Battle that Changed the War in Vietnam by Harold G. Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moore and Galloway weave together an intense and fascinating narrative, taking the reader into some of the first major engagements of U.S. troops in the Vietnam war. But while the relation of the battles themselves is engaging and emotionally moving, that's not all there is in this book. There are no punches pulled when Moore speaks about the failures of the Johnson administration, and there is no heartstring left un-pulled he quotes from the individuals who lost loved ones in the battles in the Ia-Drang that fall of 65.

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June 16, 2021

Review: An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Dunbar-Ortiz

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (ReVisioning American History, #3)An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This was not an enjoyable book-not due to the writing, Dunbar-Ortiz is perfectly capable in that department. But this history she records is unbelievably depressing.

Some of her analytical tools fail her (critical theory, Marxist theory) and cause her to at times over-state the case or impute ill (Colonialist and Racist) motives to those who were undoubtedly concerned more with self-preservation and opportunity than with the destruction of the Native Peoples of the United States. One needn't say all white settlers and government officials had ill motives in order to make clear the horrific impacts such motives had in influencing the culture.

But whether or not one agrees with all of her analysis, the plain facts recorded of the immense number of Indigenous people killed, displaced, and otherwise harmed, treaties re-written, broken, and ignored, and the many attempts by the U.S. government to erase from existence American Indians is a heartbreaking and under-told story.

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June 14, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 "Why are you preaching this sermon? That obvious question draws many inadequate answers. [...] No matter how brilliant or biblical a sermon is, without definite purpose it will not be worth preaching."

Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching, pg 107

June 09, 2021

Review: Hearers & Doers by Kevin J. Vanhoozer


Hearers and Doers: A Pastor's Guide to Growing Disciples Through Scripture and DoctrineHearers and Doers: A Pastor's Guide to Growing Disciples Through Scripture and Doctrine by Kevin J. Vanhoozer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kevin J. Vanhoozer has written perhaps the most helpful book for pastors that I've ever read. His claim that "reading Scripture theologically is the royal road to discipleship" (pg xi) is both, in my estimation, exactly right and and woefully under embraced. I'm not sure a lot of Christians would even know what to do with a phrase such as, "reading Scripture theologically."

This is not a how-to book in the sense of "start this program and run it for 75 days, followed by a 43 day fast, and 12 consecutive 24 minute prayer meetings, and viola! disciples." But neither is it a book that flies around in the stratosphere of theory. Vanhoozer puts forward a compelling biblical vision for what a disciple is, and then argues -perhaps argue isn't even the right word here- that God really did give us the right equipment when he gave us the Bible and not a step-by-step guidebook.

The reason I wonder if argue is the right word is that Vanhoozer advances much of this through metaphor-which is a strikingly biblical way to communicate, if foreign to many books about the Bible. The metaphors which dominate are the idea of fitness -that a disciple is meant to be one fit for service- and the concept of disciples as actors of God's story, given a proverbial script by God in his word, but this script doesn't give us the precise lines to say in every situation, but instead teaches us what is fitting, in such a way that if we fully inhabit the biblical story, when we enter our world we will know how to act in such a way as it fitting. Again, fitness. If with a slightly different shade of meaning.

I cannot commend this book highly enough to pastors and laypeople alike.

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June 07, 2021

Commonplace Monday

 "Neglecting the church is neglecting Jesus."

Sam Allberry, Why bother with church?, pg 31

June 02, 2021

Review: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara


The Killer Angels (The Civil War Trilogy, #2)The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was amazed by how much I liked this book.

I enjoy history, though I don't read a ton of it anymore. Having listened to U.S. Grant's memoir earlier in the year, I decided to try a different part of the war, and a different style of book.

The writing is very good, and I felt like I was in the mind of each of the individual characters. The ability to essentially shift writing styles for chapters at a time and to somehow still feel like the book was cohesive is something I have seen poorly imitated, and so I was pretty skeptical. But Shaara nailed it. My heart broke with Longstreet, it thrilled with Chamberlain, and all in all I was left with that feeling I get anytime I read any good writing on war: what a hellish mess. There are beauties and glories, as with any part of human existence. But the sum total is not beauty. Men fighting for a million different personal or cultural reasons, many of which weren't the reasons that the war itself was being fought. Men being given authority because of their education or connections who have no business leading anything, let alone other men. Thousands of lives wasted in lost causes.

What a hellish mess. Bad situations with no good answers. How quintessential to the fallen human experience. How needed for people in our current chaos, to see these are struggles people have always dealt with.

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About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).