Sunday, January 28, 2007

Siouxlands Presbytery on FV/NPP

Good News! from a higher PCA assemby:

Fathers, Brothers, and Sisters, it gives me great pleasure to announce
to you a victory for the cause of truth in the PCA. Included here is a
link to my blog, on which I have posted the Siouxlands Presbytery Study
Committee Report, which was approved at our recent meeting (yesterday).
The Federal Vision was definitively excluded from the bounds of
orthodoxy, as was the New Perspective on Paul.

Siouxlands Presbytery Study Committee Report

Rev. Lane Keister
PCA North Dakota

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Year's Best Non-Fiction: 2006 (Recently Published)

This year due to the fact that there are 23 titles contending for the top ten spots, I am judiciously dividing them into two categories. The Top Ten will be titles either published in 2006 or available then (ie: published in late or any of 2005), thus they will be the top ten recently published titles (that I have read, and in my opinion). The Honourable Mentions will consist of older titles, even though they may, indeed, deserve to be in the overall top ten category.

Top Ten:

1. The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis by Guy Prentiss Waters (P&R, 2006). A must-read follow-up to 2004's Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul.
2. Danger In the Camp: An Analysis and Refutation of the Heresies of the Federal Vision by John Otis (Triumphant Publications, 2006). Another excellent, orthodox evaluation of the Federal Vision kudzu. Comes with a cd with bibliographic material and bonus items.
3. Full Gospel, Fractured Minds: A Call to use Gods Gift of the Intellect by Rick M. Nañez (Zondervan, 2006). A surprisingly candid admission/survey (by one within the camp) of one of the serious flaws in Pentecostalism/charismania. See my mini-review here.
4. Christian Zionism:Road-map to Armageddon? by Stephen Sizer (IVP, 2005). Though I have read much of his work, in nascent form on the internet years ago, this was a welcome companion to last year's On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend by Timothy Weber.
5. True to His Ways: Purity and Safety in Christian Spiritual Practice by R. Davis (Baruch House/AMC ,2006). A moving examination of the occult influences and practices in charismania (Toronto Blessing, Vineyard, by one now settled in a Free Presbyterian fellowship.
6. An Emergent Theology for Emerging Churches by Ray S. Anderson (IVP, 2006). An embarrassing theological ediface/defense for the emergent movement. Worth reading for those who want to see what makes emergent tick. For critiques, see last years Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications by D. A. Carson, and numerous internet articles/reviews.
7. Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue, rev.ed. by Robert K. Johnston (Baker Academic, 2006). The original was published in 2000, and I did not know of it until this past year. If you read and loved Ken Myer's All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture, a popular text for courses on Christianity and culture, you will now be able to read the articulate, opposite view. Worthy for getting an understanding of such.
8. Meet the Puritans, With a Guide to Modern Reprints by Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson (Reformation Heritage Books, 2006). An updated and expanded version of Robert Martin's A Guide to the Puritans (though, not in the same format). Massive! 900+ pages, with illustrations(!), and up to date information on the Puritans in print.
9. The Gospel Code by Ben Witherington III (IVP, 2005). Only due to its publishing date. The Bock title, below, was the best response to the Da Vinci Code craze.
10. The Beliefnet Guide to Gnosticism and Other Vanished Christianities by Richard Valantasis (Three Leaves Press/Doubleday, 2006). A brief, yet comprehensive, survey of the varieties of non- and pseudo-Christian Gnostic and other spiritualities, which existed in the early days of the Church.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Year's Best Non-Fiction: 2006 (Honourable Mentions)

1. Breaking the Da Vinci Code: Answers to the Questions Everyone's Asking by Darrell Bock (2004). A suprising: best of the DVC debunkers.
2. Covenant Theology: The Key of Theology in Reformed Thought and Tradition by Peter Golding (Mentor, 2004). A nice, concise, overview both historical and theological of Covenant Theology. A recommended primer (but, for first year, post-secondary).
3. The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys by Mark Noll (IVP, 2004). The first in a projected five volume series dealing with the history of Evnagelicalism (to date, only vols.1 and 3 are in print). Although many would conclude that Noll has gone over to the dark side (ie: his defection to Notre Dame and his irenic Is the Reformation Over?: An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism with Carolyn Nystrom), he shows his historical prowess in this and other histories.
4. The Lord's Day by Joseph Pipa (Christian Focus, 1997). I needed to see the arguments for Lord's Day observance this year. This was beautifully written and argued!
5. A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani (MJF Books, 1991). Another brick in the edifice of my ongoing attempt to understand Islam and History in general.
6. War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin by Carlos M. Eire (Cambridge University Press, 1986). Part of a recent study I am doing on images. Excellent!
7. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels (Vintage, 1979). Had this laying around for over 10 years, and finally got to it during the DVC craze. Excellent seminal work for understanding modern spirituality and the neo-gnostic movement (in the churches, as well). Easily refutable by minimally learnèd individuals.
8. The Ecumenical Mirage by C. Stanley Lowell (Baker Book House, 1967). Impressive, scholarly earlier examination of ecumensim by a Methodist. Grist for another hobbyhorse of mine.
9. This is Music: A Guide to the Pleasures of Listening by David Randolph (McGraw-Hill,1964). Excellent intro to classical music. His intriguing thesis is that music is music (sensual/emotive); and it does not tell stories. The 90+ author still occasionally conducts, and his book was still in print as late as 1997.
10. Twelve Discourses Upon the Law and the Gospel [1836] by William Romaine(Old Paths/Gospel Press, nd). A clear delineation betwixt the two, with a Preface worth the price of the book alone! Should be in this year's top five!
11. Human Nature in its Fourfold State [1712] by Thomas Boston (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002). What can I say? A Classic! To be read in conjunction with Pink's The Total Depravity of Man.
12. The Covenant of Life Opened [1654] by Samuel Rutherford (Puritan Publications, 2005). These last two I have been reading/comparing in tandem (yet unfinished), in a continuing exploration of historical Covenant Theology. Though initially this volume appeared to be the more promising of the two minimal translation for ease of modern reading, newly typeset I have been disappointed, so far, with Dr. C. Matthew McMahons editing (ie: it is harder to follow than Ball's, below).
13. A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace (Facsimile Reprint from the 1645 edition) by John Ball (Peter & Rachel Reynolds, 2006). Despite the trepidation when I began reading this ancient text - I foresaw trouble with the print quality (facsimile), esp. w/side column references, and f/s-type archaisms, etc. I found it, actually, quite easier to read and understand than the McMahon edition of Rutherford (#12, above). Not only that, but I appreciated the original language as, I am sure, most more scholarly (than me) types will. (It seems odd that a 1645 printing would read better than a modernized 1654.)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Years Best Fiction: 2006

State of Fear [2004] Michael Crichton delivers once again in a surprisingly politically incorrect story about eco-terrorism (though, perhaps not surprising, when one considers his penchant for detailing bad science/scientists). The current eco-freak bugaboo - global warming gets a proper dressing down. I can hardly wait (Yes, I can!) for Next [2006], a twist on his Jurassic Park [1980] gengineering concept: cross-species breeding!! (Note: Crichton is supposed to be releasing the non-fiction States of Fear: Science or Politics? [2007], which hopefully will deal forthrightly with not only the myths of environmentalists but also the deceitful politics behind them.)

Medusa [1988] Medusa was a welcome return to Hammond Innes [1913-98]. A, sometimes idyllic, adventure which probably had more urgency during the final stages of the Cold War, but was still both entertaining and informative regarding international affairs riding on seemingly provincial politics. I had read Innes' The Trojan Horse[1940] several years ago and was impressed with the taut underground chase of the novel. My appetite for Innes whetted, I then tried Golden Soak [1973], and could barely get through the first chapters of the boring and to that point plotless novel set in the the northwestern Australian desert. I suppose I was anticipating something more like Quigley Down Under ;-)

Vixen 03 [1978] I returned to Clive Cussler this year accidentally skipping Raise the Titanic! [1976] enjoying a tale of a long-sunken plane with biological weapons as cargo. I will probably get to a few more this year. I hear his first with son Dirk, Black Wind [2004] is supposed to be quite good.

Fatal Voyage [2001] Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist, has embarked on a sideline career writing mystery novels about one Dr. Temperance Brennan (a character based largely on herself), who solves forensic mysteries in the environs of Montreal, Quebec and Charlotte, North Carolina. She also, coincidentally, has inspired and contributed to the TV drama Bones which, despite using the same character, is remarkably different from her books. Despite the appeal of the ensemble cast of the television series - albeit, the title character is drawn amusingly Vulcan-like - and the belief factor is limited, the novels prove (in spite of gratuitous sex and language) to be much more informative and, overall, better written. I have, as usual, begun her opus in chronological order, and thus have read the first four Deja Dead [1997], Deadly Decisions [1999], and Death du Jour [2000] this past year. The last, Fatal Voyage, about a plane crash, a biker, and a remarkable secret society, has proven to be the best so far.

The Romanov Prophecy [2004] Steve Berry is making a name for himself in the growing field of histrico-religious fiction. Regrettably, his books appear to be devolving (stylistically and idealogically). Having read all but his debut, The Amber Room [2003], as I have a silly idea that I should read the non-fiction The Amber Room [2005] by Catherine Scott-Clark & Adrian Levy, first. But, based on the qualitative trajectory of his novels after Romanov, there is The Third Secret [2005], a story which tries to sell the idea that the 3rd secret of Fatima would lead to the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church; and The Templar Treasure [2006] which tried to sell the idea that the treasure was the remains of Jesus Christ I would be inclined to presume that The Amber Room, his first, was probably his best!!

The Da Vinci Code [2003] Well, due to my apologetical research on Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (DVC) - see some of its fruit here, I thought it might be advisable to have read the novel. Before the brouhaha, I had read 90% of Angels and Demons [2001] because of its Illuminati subject matter, but found it kept on going after it should have ended. DVC, likewise has a weak ending but, nevertheless, reads like the modern movie-script novel. Entertaining, fast-paced, and very, very bad history. Brown has spawned a plethora of imitators (see Steve Berry and Kathleen McGowan for example); but, allegedly, got his own inspiration from Lewis Perdue's The Da Vinci Legacy [1983], besides the admitted and obvious Holy Blood, Holy Grail [1982] by Baigent, Leigh, & Lincoln. (Funny, I read Perdue's, and cant recall a thing about it. Perhaps DVC overswept it as literature? Nah!)

My first Charles Dickens, David Copperfield [1850], may have made the list...but I havent quite slogged through it yet. Also, in a category of wasted reads, Philip Kerr's A Five Year Plan [1997]. I dont know what I expected I think I read all of his A Philosophical Investigation [1992] but I was disappointed with the unbelievable plot and gratuitous sex and language.

Note: the lack of a Top 10 is an indication of both the small amount of fiction read and the general quality of that which was read.

So, not that much as far as so-called good literature is concerned in 2006.