Book Review: “On Satan, Demons, and Psychiatry”

Ragy R. Girgis, M.D., On Satan, Demons, and Psychiatry: Exploring Mental Illness in the Bible (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2020), 112 pages.

Overview and Purpose of the Book

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On Satan, Demons, and Psychiatry by Ragy Girgis, MD

When I received a copy of Dr. Girgis’ book, I was eager to read it. I am fascinated by the connection of body and soul, and I was excited to see a Christian’s perspective on mental illness in the Bible.[1]

Dr. Girgis clearly states his goal on page 3, writing, “Therefore, the goal of this book is to help change misconceptions that have historically pervaded Christianity by educating both laity and clergy about serious mental illness.” In order to accomplish this goal, Dr. Girgis sets out to perform an “exegetic examination of Biblical accounts of what may have been untreated serious mental illness,” to see the biblical worldview of mental health as represented in a variety of passages of Scripture.[2]

After mentioning a few books that have sought to accomplish this goal, Dr. Girgis sets his work apart as reading the Scriptures through a “post-Enlightenment narrative,” changing the way the Scriptures are interpreted to reflect a modern understanding of the

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The chapters of the book follow a primarily exegetically-driven focus.

mental illness.[3] Without denying the accounts recorded in Scripture, he desires to view them in light of modern, medical advancements. He writes that the reader will “gain an appreciation of the non-morality and non-spirituality-based, biological nature and timelessness of available treatments.”[4]

Finally, Dr. Girgis ends the Preface and Introduction with a reminder that his book is written: “to be a resource for any Christian, including both the lay believer as well as clergy and Christian academicians.”[5] He wants his readers to see that “mental illness” is not a spiritual issue but a physical one.

Chapter two provides a wonderfully succinct overview of mental illness. Chapters 3-9 are exegetical examinations of individuals who may have struggled with mental illness. These include Moses and the children of Israel (Ch. 3), King Saul (Ch. 4), King David (Ch. 5), Jonah (Ch. 6), Nebuchadnezzar (Ch. 7), the Gadarene Demoniac (Ch. 8), and the demon-possessed man (Ch. 9). In chapter 10, Dr. Girgis performs an overview of the various teachings regarding witchcraft and sorcery. Chapter 11 seeks to describe the power and limits Satan (and demons) have on the creation and human beings. He provides his own assessment of end-times views in connection with a demonic activity in Chapter 12. In Chapter 13, Dr. Girgis brings the book to an end with a message of hope and encouragement.

Strengths of the Book

This book is helpful for its contributions to the field. Dr. Girgis is an experienced psychiatrist. Additionally, he has published many articles in peer-reviewed journals and has contributed to several scientific books. His professional experience alone provides a wealth of wisdom. Added to this fact is his faith in God.

Another strength of Dr. Girgis’ book is his heart. Repeatedly you read phrases like “I find that many Christian believers, including both laity and clergy, have misconceptions about serious mental illness, such as that it is related to morals weakness, bad parenting, and/or volition.”[6] Dr. Girgis seeks to help believers understand that mental illnesses are biological in nature, not necessarily a result of sin on behalf of the individual.

A third strength of the book is its accessibility. I am about a month away from completing a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling, and in the coursework,  we are required to read many works in the fields of psychology and counseling. Thus, I was familiar with the terms and literature connected with Dr. Girgis’ field. However, the average layman (or, woman) would be able to pick up his book and read it with comprehension. He provides helpful definitions of a variety of terms and illnesses. For example, on page 17, he provides this definition of disorganized speech, as “is an abnormal thought process.” He then proceeds to provide several clarifying statements. He follows this method throughout his book.

A fourth strength is his inclusion of biblical references. In his 112-page book, Dr. Girgis devotes eight chapters to examining specific passages of Scripture. Then, two other chapters have many references to the Word of God.

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This work offers several examinations of the Biblical texts.

A fifth and final strength is his desire to help individuals understand that mental illnesses are not the result of sin but are biological phenomena. He writes, “These misconceptions often prevent Christian believers with serious mental illness and their families from seeking professional mental health treatment when it is most needed. In many cases, they do not accept psychiatric medications as they would medications for non-psychiatric conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.” Many Christians completely reject this thesis, and this ultimately harms many who have biological problems causing mental disorders.

Weaknesses of the Book

While I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Girgis’ book, and as a whole, found it helpful, there are a few issues I have. First, Dr. Girgis, in his effort to reexamine Scripture, ultimately questions it. To his credit, he frequently reminds his readers that his view does not deny the miracle, it merely enhances it. He writes, “I would suggest that this additional understanding [i.e., that mental illness was the problem afflicting individuals that are described as ‘demon-possessed’] actually enhances our understanding of these miracles and, more importantly, of how we would understand serious mental illness.”[7] He routinely returns to this idea.[8] Why is this a weakness?

I see it as a weakness because it denies the literal understanding of the Bible. The authors of Scripture know what mental illness is (which Dr. Girgis acknowledges in chapter 3).[9] Thus, the writers of the Bible were familiar with it, and if the individuals possessed by demons, or individuals afflicted with depression (such as Saul), our response should be to believe them, to take them at their word. By seeking to view the Scriptures through post-Enlightenment eyes, he inadvertently, regardless of claims otherwise, calls doubt to God’s Word.

A second weakness is a failure to acknowledge the effects of sin on the mind. I agree that Christians must change the way they view mental illness. In fact, this is a strength. However, it appears that he dismisses the potential that spiritual issues can cause mental illness. For example, in Saul’s case, he routinely rejected God’s Word. After a terrible verdict of judgment, he begins to experience the afflictions of “an evil spirit.”[10] Saul’s rebellion brought about this tormenting spirit. This, no doubt, increased his hatred for David as well as contributed to his psychotic behavior. Likewise, the curses pronounced in Deuteronomy 28:28, God uses these distresses as judgments against sin.

A third weakness is an inconsistent and honest exegesis of Scripture. I mentioned one part of this in the first weakness, but I want to address another aspect of that. Dr. Girgis sets out to perform an overview of angelic power and abilities in the Scripture. After examining or referencing five passages, he concludes, “Therefore, Satan, or any angel or other spiritual being, has no power over Creation, or humankind, who was actually given dominion over Creation by God…These statements indicate that angels, in general, do not have power over Creation and have barely more power than humans.”[11] This is simply not true. Angels are incredibly powerful beings. A look at most systematic theologies will provide ample references to prove this. The writer of Kings dismisses this by writing, “That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp.”[12] This does not sound like they “have barely more power than humans.” Along the same lines, Dr. Girgis completely dismisses the clarify of Scripture concerning the possession of Judas.[13]

A fourth weakness, though similar to weaknesses one and three, is that he fails to interpret Scripture in a cohesive manner. For example, the Bible clearly teaches mental illness exists (see Deuteronomy 28:27-28, 34). However, in the Gospels something changes. This is a weakness.

Who should read this book?

Pastors and church leaders should read this book. It is helpful because he brings awareness to the biological issues related to mental illnesses. I think it will help open their eyes to the fact that we live in fallen bodies, and many in our churches are afflicted, not with spiritual issues, but with the physical fallenness of life.

I think Christians, in general, should read this book. It is accessible and clear. Keep in mind the weaknesses, and you will enjoy this book and expand your view of mental illness.

[1] Dr. Girgis declares his faith on page 11.

[2] Girgis, On Satan, Demons, and Psychiatry, 3.

[3] Ibid., 5.

[4] Ibid., 7.

[5] Ibid., 13.

[6] Ibid., 13.

[7] Ibid., 8.

[8] See, for example, pages 30, 45, 46, 48-49, just to name a few.

[9] See Deuteronomy 28:27-28, 34.

[10] 1 Samuel 16:14, NIV.

[11] Exodus 17, Job, Genesis 3, Revelation 12:7-9, and Hebrews 2:5, 7-8; Girgis, On Satan, 81.

[12] 2 Kings 19:35, NIV.

[13] Girgis, On Satan, 86.

 

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Book Review: “The Faithful Spy” by John Hendrix

John Hendrix, The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler (Amulet Books, 2018), 172 pages.

 

I first heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer while driving home from work one evening. His story intrigued me, so I went and purchased my first biography of him. It was written by Eberhard Bethge, one of Bonhoeffer’s students and close friend. The massive work was thoroughly enjoyable! I wanted to learn more, so I purchased some more biographies, books written by Bonhoeffer, and even works that address his theological views.

With that said, Bonhoeffer can be an overwhelming figure. Regardless of your agreements with his theological views, the man was blessed with an incredible intellect. His entire family stood at the top of most of their fields. Add to that the enormous conflict that was World War II, and Bonhoeffer becomes similar to Mt. Everest, only a few brave people can climb its height.

That is where John Hendrix’s work comes in. He writes at the end of the work, “This story is not primarily a work of scholarship but a work of art.” (170) He is right. It is a work of art. The graphic pictures, stark color contrasts, and handwritten font all give a glimpse at his ability. More than simply a work of art, however, is the story of one of the most influential pastor-theologians of our time. Add to this the discussions of world events, particularly within Germany, and you have Hendrix’s work.

Several positive aspects are worth noting. First, I love the art work. Many of the pictures display exquisite detail. Hendrix uses 3-4 shades of colors, which is easy on the eyes. The story of Hitler’s rise to power, Bonhoeffer’s inner conflict, and the actions of many Germans can be read from the artwork alone. Another great asset to the work is the font. It is handwritten, which I loved! It changes from all capitals to regular print. The colors, size, and placement of the font is varied as well. Each page provides a new layout for the reader’s eyes, and yet the consistent use of color schemes and font give a holistic feel to the book. One final aspect worth mentioning is the story itself. I am amazed at how Hendrix gives such an excellent overview of Germany, WWII, and Bonhoeffer. I could never author such a work! After reading Bethge’s 933 pages, I cannot imagine dwindling it down to 167 pages! Yet, Hendrix does so without leaving out any key details.

This work would be excellent for the average individual. It is also helpful for the scholar. Most importantly, it is great for anyone wanting to know history and how pastors can have influence in the community at large.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Book Review: “Whole Identity: A Brain-Based Enneagram Model for (W)Holistic Human Thriving”

Dr. Jerome D. Lubbe, Whole-Identity: A Brain-Based Enneagram Model for (W)Holistic Human Thriving (Dr. Jerome D. Lubbe, 2019), 101 pages.

I have spent the past few days working through Dr. Jerome D. Lubbe’s work Whole-Identity: A Brain-Based Enneagram Model for (W)Holistic Human Thriving. I was intrigued to receive the name of the work, and having dabbled in personality tests for a few years (thanks to a dear friend and mentor), I thought I would give it a read.

OVERVIEW

The work seeks to build upon the Enneagram model from a neuroscience perspective. The goal is to utilize the Enneagram model for “integrating physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual growth through the universal common denominator of brain function.” (under disclaimer) The overarching idea, weaved throughout the entire work, is to achieve wholeness. That goal is kept at the forefront, as Dr. Lubbe discusses the historical development of the Enneagram, its functions, its tests, and its practical applications.

The basic structure of the work follows under seven headlines (there are actually eight, but the final section is for suggested resources). The first section addresses the acknowledgements and disclaimers that any work of this type would necessitate. The second section explains and develops the history and growth of the Enneagram. The third section provides an explanation of the nine numbers, their natures, their wings, and their relative descriptions. The fourth section provides a practical example of how to figure one’s scores and understand their meaning. The fifth section provides incredibly practical ways to develop and enhance the individual’s nine numbers. The sixth section illustrates the lifelong development as a whole individual. The seventh section encourages further research for the Brain-Based Enneagram model and understanding.

STRENGTHS

  1. The first strength of the work is its accessibility.

    I do not have a science degree, yet I found the descriptions completely within my grasp. There are times when I read academic works, and it is an intense labor. Dr. Lubbe provides the language and understanding for the average individual to grasp.

  2. The second strength is its beauty.

    There is an inherent beauty to the work. The book itself displays varied pictures and icons for understanding It is graphically pleasing. But more than that, there is a beauty for self-improvement. I always strive to be better, and this book helps break down the Enneagram model in a way that provides an encouraging push in that direction.

  3. The third strength is its practicality.

    Many times, works such as Dr. Lubbe’s exist in a heavenly realm, unreachable to the average person. There is a difficulty when producing works as academics. The difficulty comes with bringing the knowledge to a level on which the average individual can consume it, but also with regards to how one can use that information for one’s life. Dr. Lubbe provides a step-by-step guide, giving examples and even providing a blank template to develop one’s Enneagram’s identity. The action steps he offers (section five) are all practical.

WEAKNESSES

Perhaps the greatest weakness of Dr. Lubbe’s work is its lack of Christian foundation. As a Christian, I seek to bring every thought under the Lordship of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I understand that Dr. Lubbe is not writing from a conservative Christian standpoint, but I am evaluating his work upon it. Thus, the failure to include a treatment of one’s standing before God limits the wholeness that is sought.

Another weakness of the work is its view of the history of the Enneagram model. Though it is certainly not written from an academic standpoint, it would be nice for there to be more and clearer information regarding the development of the Enneagram. (For a treatment of this from a conservative Christian standpoint, see Kevin DeYoung’s blog post on the topic.)

LAST WORDS

With the strengths and weaknesses briefly evaluated, I think it is a fascinating tool. I have personally benefited from studying my own and others’ personalities. This, as I see its usefulness, helps bridge out that study into the way the brain relates to the personality. If you are interested, grab a copy of it. Let me know what you think, what you found helpful and/or dangerous, and how you would use it in your life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Atonement and the New Perspective: A Review

Atonement and the New Perspective: The God of Israel, Covenant, and the Cross by Stephen Burnhope, published by Pickwick Publications, Eugene, OR: 2018; 245 pages

Who should read it?

Burnhope’s work is highly technical, so it may not be for the average reader. However, for the individual desiring a broad treatment of the main contributors to the discussion of the atonement, particularly from the evangelical perspective (see pages xiii-xv). Burnhope also works within a reformed worldview (though he does not clarify this in detail, see page ix), so it appeals to that audience as well.

Overall, the pastors who consider theology a vital component of their work would do well to read it. Though they may not agree with all of Burnhope’s conclusions (I myself do not), Burnhope presents an excellent overview of a variety of contributors to the discussion of atonement.

Physical Book

The book is laid out in a readable manner. The type and spacing provide ease on the eyes. The size of the text is perfect. It is not too large, nor is it too small. The footnote size is excellent as well. The book also includes a margin in which many notes can be marked. The binding allows it to lay flat, which enables easier study.

The Contents of the Book

Stephen Burnhope begins the book by discussing, at some length (xi-xxx), the atonement and the accompanying issues. By presenting an argument for a kaleidoscopic view, Burnhope attempts to broaden current scholarship’s understanding while not neglecting the Scriptures.

Chapter one covers the doctrine of the atonement (pages 1-53). Burnhope provides many materials, quotes, and questions on the past and present understanding of the atonement. He offers attention to the main contributors. I personally found this section very informative (I underlined on almost every page!).

Chapter two addresses the NPP concerning first century Judaism. This section requires a little more focus due to the broadness and unspecified descriptions of the NPP. As with his treatment of the atonement at large, Burnhope provides an airplane view of the main contributors of the NPP. Perhaps the most significant part of this chapter begins on 137 when Burnhope asks, “At what point, ten, can it be said that ‘everything changed’ and an identifiable ‘Christianity’ becomes separate and distinct from an identifiable ‘Judaism’?”

Chapter three focuses on the atonement in the NPP. This section, at least to me, is the hardest to read because of the technicality as well as the refocus. Dealing the election, the covenant, and supersessionist/non-supersessionist

The final chapter provides a way to maintain a conversation with the variety of atonement views. By emphasizing the atonement, sin and the reinterpretation of them all.

Concluding Thoughts

I do not agree with Burnhope’s conclusions, but I appreciate the peaceful nature and discussion I could have with Burnhope through his work. I also think pastors should read this because it covers a wide spectrum concerning atonement.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

“The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke” Review

“The father never found his daughter or laid eyes on his granddaughter again. They, and the entire colony for which he was responsible, vanished from history.” (xx)

Such is the beginning of The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and The Search for The Lost Colony of Roanoke, written by Andrew Lawler. Historians and researchers have long pondered the disappearance of the Colony of Roanoke. Lawler details the events and figures leading up to the founding of the colony in part one of the book (chapters 1-4). Lawler’s research and footnotes are balanced with a winsome depiction of the events leading up to the Colony of Roanoke. While following the conquests of European and Spanish conquistadors, Lawler focuses his attention on the famous (or infamous) Sir Walter Raleigh. He also paints beautiful landscapes in the minds of the readers as they embark on their own voyagers. Lawler also contrasts the generosity of the Native Americans with the greediness of the colonists.

Part two shifts from a look at history to a National Treasure search for the lost colony. Lawler tracks his research for seven chapters. From conversations to fellow-researchers, to voyages to strange towns, Lawler weaves his own search on the backs of White and others. Part three continues the trek through this search, where Lawler continues to meet new people, getting more clues and seemingly no closer to the answer. Does Andrew Lawler discover the Lost Colony of Roanoke? Does all his research pay-off? You will have to buy the book and learn for yourself!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

“Conscience”: A Review

I recently attended a Pastors’ Conference at Virginia Beach Theological Seminary. This is the second conference I have attended, and I have thoroughly enjoyed both times. The faculty and staff are sweet people. They are focused on the right preaching and teaching of the Word of God.

In addition to hosting guests who are gifted (Heath Lambert at the first conference; Dave Doran and J. D. Crowley at the second), the seminary offers a free gift to a certain number of guests. The gift for this conference was Andrew David Naselli and J. D. Crowley’s Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ, published by Crossway.

The book is divided into 7 chapters:

  1. What is Conscience?
  2. How Do We Define Conscience from the New Testament?
  3. What Should You Do When Your conscience Condemns You?
  4. How Should You Calibrate Your Conscience?
  5. How Should You Relate to Fellow Christians When Your Consciences Disagree?
  6. How Should You Relate to People in Other Cultures When Your Consciences Disagree?
  7. A Closing Prayer

The book is relatively short (149 pages, which includes two appendices).  However, its brevity does not demean its treatment of the subject.

I will admit, I was not altogether eager to read this book. Sure, the title sounded interesting, but it’s not a textual criticism book, or commentary. However, one page in and I was extremely thankful to have received this book.

As a student pastor, I interact with students and families with a wide range of consciences. This book has been a tremendous help in changing the way I view my own conscience and that of others. Pastors, you will be helped by digesting this work.

The strength of the work lies in its focus on Scripture. Every chapter (with the exception of the chapter on prayer) quotes Scripture. Thus, Naselli and Crowley anchor their work in the safety and security of Sacred Scripture. More than this, they provide a biblical treatment (at least from the New Testament) of conscience. They walk through each verse that addresses the conscience and then extrapolates its meaning and usage. Additionally, they treat both the positive and negative aspects of the conscience and what it does. Finally, they end the chapter (chapter two) with several conclusions, based on Scripture, which form the framework for the remainder of the book.

They spend the next few chapters covering how one’s conscience affects oneself, how to tune one’s conscience with God’s Will, and then how to handle disagreements between one’s own church members and members of different cultures.

I want to end with how I think this could benefit the church.

  1. For the conservative (possibly fundamentalist) Christian:

    This book can help you understand the Scriptures better. It will help bring certain passages to your mind, and should you be open to the teachings of the Sacred Text, your knowledge of how our consciences work and what is a matter of conscience and what is unbiblical. Specifically, I recommend chapters four and five. Even if it does not change your convictions (which, if they change, were they truly convictions?), it will help understand the struggles between the strong and the weak brothers found in Romans chapter 14. Thus, you will be better equipped to shepherd those who are both strong and weak in the faith.

  2. For the liberal (possibly antinomianism) Christian:

    Freedom seems to be the word summarizing evangelicals today. Is alcoholic consumption wrong? We are free. Can we listen to secular music? We are free.

    Of course, this is an oversimplified. However, the desire for freedom (which is quite biblical, and its abuse unbiblical) should never outweigh the spiritual growth of a fellow believer. Conscience implores the strong (which, contextually is the freer of the two) to consider the weak and limit freedom for their spiritual growth.

    This book will help anchor the discussion of freedom in the body of Christ. Our goal, whether weak or strong, is God’s glory and our good.

 

Brothers and sisters, read and meditate on this work and the Scriptures referenced, and you will be better equipped to handle: 1) your own conscience, 2) interacting with other consciences, 3) avoid conflict by limiting freedom for the sake of Christ.

Tolle lege!

“The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP”: A Review

The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP by Terry Heaton is an interesting, self-reflective book. To be honest, upon seeing the title I was not sure what to expect from Mr. Heaton’s work. In a short summary, it is the walkthrough of Mr. Heaton’s time working with Pat Robertson and CBN, covering how the motives of Mr. Robertson and CBN eschewed the lines between legality and truth, adherence to love for neighbors and the pushing of an agenda. Ultimately, it is a memoir of Mr. Heaton’s journey to a more open, emergent faith.

Rather than walking through the book, I want to present my thoughts on different aspects of the work. It may be confusing, but as this is the way I digested the book, I wish to be consistent.

At times, it is difficult to follow the book. It roughly follows a timeline of Mr. Heaton’s time with CBN and Mr. Robertson. However, interwoven throughout the work are “soapbox” stands, political views, and personal issues with both Mr. Robertson and CBN. Unfortunately, Mr. Heaton confuses conservative politics with the actions of a few, presents his arguments as the best, and then leaves the reader with the only conclusion that anything less than a leftist, liberal politic is following a gospel of self.

For example, Mr. Heaton opens his first chapter with these words, “The evangelist’s message has always been self-centered, for it preaches the gospel as a means to saving one’s own ass from eternal hellfire and damnation in the afterlife. Evangelical Christianity has refined the message over the years and turned it today into the means for blessings in this life as well.” (Heaton, 2017) Mr. Heaton is illustrating a failure to grasp the biblical Gospel. It is not a means of “saving one’s own ass” but of God intervening to deliver individuals from death in trespasses and sins to life (see Ephesians 2:1-10). Later in the book his asks, “Was I naïve, because I was such a novice in the faith?” (Heaton, 2017) Yes Mr. Heaton, you were, for the views you present in your work are not biblical Christianity. Furthermore, Mr. Heaton attaches his hatred for conservative views (politically, economically, etc.) by attempting to apply the “blessings in this life” with those views and stances of conservatism.

Let me say that Terry Heaton has a point. This aspect of his book should be eye opening to those who claim to be Christians but do not go to church, do not believe the Gospel, and fail to live the Christian life. Instead, they find an avenue that furthers their greed and personal comfort and cloaks it with the name Christian. Mr. Heaton’s book does an excellent job of this. He acknowledges, “We presented as Biblical mandates or “laws” economic views that catered to the haves of culture, teaching that being one of the haves was available for everybody.” (Heaton, 2017) The problem with Mr. Heaton’s work, however, is a failure to distinguish individuals who proclaim a prosperity gospel rather than the true Gospel. Additionally, his hatred for conservatism belies an ignorance of how the economy works, basic constitutionalism, and how balanced Christianity is in light of both conservative and liberal views. He laments, “There is no zeal quite like that of religious zeal, for it comes with blinders to alternative views of reality.” (Heaton, 2017) Is this not what Mr. Heaton is doing? If you read the book, I believe you will come to that conclusion.

In his condemnation of the politics of Mr. Trump (see pages 7-13) he fails to exhibit grace in reaching out to others (see pages 38-39). He refers to the viewers of his programs as “ignorant, polyester-wearing, Bible-thumping morons.” (Heaton, 2017)

The chapter on The Shadow Government, 1984-1985 was highly interesting. I would like to say I am shocked about the accusations, but Christians, particularly those who are most likely not Christians, it is no surprise.

Finally, the last chapter is an appeal to an emergent view of Christianity. The emergent church movement is a joke. The absence of biblical basis is ridiculous. The movement saps the foundation and material of Christianity from the faith and leaves nothing but a blubbery mess of confusion and damnation.

Who should read this book? I think it would be helpful for individuals claiming to be Christians and hyper-conservative. It may help open your eyes to your own consistencies. For those on the left, I recommend reading this to see the spirit in which some of your own arguments come. Both sides have much to learn from each other. One last recommendation: do not read this book for any information about the Scriptures, God, or the Gospel. It is a failure for this.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

“Mind Your Life” A Review

Mind Your Life

Mind Your Life: How Mindfulness Can Build Resilience and Reveal Your Extraordinary was a challenging read. Not because of the depth of the material or the inclusion of verbose vocabulary. Rather, it was difficult because I have zero experience with mindfulness.

The book is largely based off the work of Shinzen Young, a fact that Meg Salter discusses in her special recognition. I will provide an overview of the book and then my final thoughts.

The book does an excellent job weaving the personal stories of the author (Meg Salter) and others throughout the chapters. She begins with the basics (the third chapter Changes to Brain and Body and develops the key concepts of mindfulness. She defines it as “learning to pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment in the mind, body and external environment.” (Salter, 20) The book flairs when Salter discusses the practical applications of mindfulness, beginning with chapter seven and ending with chapter eleven. I really appreciate how practical the book is. I find books addressing similar topics to be woefully lacking in these life-changing ways.

I mentioned before, but I really enjoy the life stories of both the author and various individuals. It gives a real-life feel to the book. One can read of the benefits mindfulness has had with a recovering PTSD individual to people struggling to survive in life.

With all of this said, there are limits to what mindfulness can achieve. I think the religious and cultural barriers present difficulties with the general understanding of mindfulness. Simply paying attention to one’s “happening in the present moment” will not be a fix-all to every problem we face. Salter acknowledges this on page 6, but then goes on to suggest a different form of mindfulness will suffice.

It was certainly a challenging read, but one that I do not see as being helpful for my current stage in life. However, you may find it to be the opposite.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

“Seven Stories”: A Review

“Seven Stories”: A Review

I recently received a copy of Anthony Bartlett’s Seven Stories: How to Study and Teach the Nonviolent Bible from SpeakEasy. I am going to divide my review into different stages: aesthetic appeal, content, and overall thoughts.

Aesthetic Appeal

The book itself is quite beautiful. The print is crisp and contrasts well with the predominately-white background. Even when other colors are used (from blue to green) the print is easily read and pleasing to the eyes.

The paper itself feels good to the touch. I enjoy printed books, and they are more enjoyable when the quality of the materials is high. The binding is solid, allowing me to bend the pages in order to lay flat on my desk. Additionally the pictures, charts, and inserts are well designed. They are simple and cover the point well.

The only negative aspect of the book itself is the size. It is designed (in part) to be used as a textbook. Bartlett notes on page 14, “Alternatively, Seven Stories can be teacher-led, where at least one individual with background in the study of scripture and theology will undertake to lead a group of students through the material.” While being a perfect size for a textbook, it does prevent easy transportation. Thus, I was limited in where I could bring the book. Overall, I’d give it a 9 out of 10 on design and quality of materials.

Content

To understand where the book is coming from simply read “About the Author.” I had not previously heard of Dr. Bartlett, I had no idea what to expect. The title hinted at the content, but at times authors use appealing titles to draw in readers.

To sum it up (simply, so I beg your pardon!) he is writing for an emergent viewpoint. There is now a great deal of literature on this topic, and I encourage you to read through the vast amounts of materials according to your desire and time. This will provide a better framework for understanding Bartlett’s concepts and views.

Basically, it is a denial of biblical, orthodox Christianity in favor of a less-violent, less-offensive religion and view of God. In his introduction he develops the framework of the book, covering the different stories with accompanying lessons.

In the chapter “Method” he attempts to provide a brief treatment of the various methods of interpreting Scripture. He then presents his own method (modified and heavily relied on the work of René Girard) as the preferable method for understanding God as He truly is.

From this point he addresses each story, covering the biblical history and focusing on different issues or topics surrounding the story. For example, in his story on “Victim to Vindication” (or story 5). He develops the idea of “the way in which the victim’s vindication leads to forgiveness.” (Bartlett, 148) This, of course, builds off the idea of a bloodless faith that is examined in more details in stories two and three. At Bartlett notes, “Job is the indisputable case, the locus classicus, of the innocent victim who is vindicated.” (Bartlett, 148) He understands Job as vindicated from God (see pages 151-152). It is this different understanding of the account of Job that illustrates Bartlett’s method of interpretation and its effect on the understanding of Scripture.

On a different note, I love Bartlett’s ending for each lesson. In his story “The Temple and its Destruction” (pages 172-193), at the end of lesson one he includes the following: lesson questions, personal reflection, glossary, resources/background reading, and cultural references.

I found these to be quite fascinating, and something that, should I ever have the privilege of writing a book, would love to include in my work. The lesson questions are very direct and cover the materials addressed. The personal reflection takes the materials presented and personalizes them. The questions are developed around different aspects of the lesson but allow one to personalize them. The glossary provides the reader with excellent definitions of key terms (as a bonus, the terms and others can be found on pages 227-232). The resources/background reading provides the more scholarly student with additional materials that are similar. Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, the cultural references. Bartlett connects the teachings of the stories (or lessons) with various media in culture. For example, in lesson one of “The Temple and its Destruction,” Bartlett cites C. S. Lewis’ book Till We Have Faces, A Myth Retold “for descriptions of the terror and power of the sacrificial holy.” (Bartlett, 179)

 

Overall Thoughts

As a Christian adhering to the orthodox creeds and faith, I found myself frustrated working through Bartlett’s book. Stemming from his method of hermeneutics, his understanding of Scripture simply brushes aside biblical doctrine, accounts, and theology to present a god in whom he can believe.

It is nothing new. Brian Mclaren, Rob Bell, and others have already attempted to present logical and scholarly reasons for rejecting the orthodox views of Scripture. Though at times he presents some interesting views, holistically it is unfortunate.

If you enjoy reading and being challenged on your biblical views, check it out.

If you do not believe in God as understood throughout centuries of Church history, then you will enjoy Bartlett’s reinterpretation.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

“So, You Want to Be Like Christ?”: Five Sources of Mind Clutter

I’ve been reading through Chuck Swindoll’s “So, You Want to Be Like Christ? Eight Essentials to Get You There”. I’ve been using his section on prayer as we study this in our small groups on Wednesday evenings.

It is a relatively small book, numbering 188 pages. But this morning I came across an excellent chapter on simplicity. Toward the beginning of his chapter he wisely states, “Christlikeness is a journey, not a destination….” [Swindoll, 2005]

I think that we often forget that our journey is one of a lifetime. In our society our goal is efficiency, productivity, the mastering of each and every second. I am wired this way. I miss so much because I feel as those I am wasting time if I am not doing something. I can’t just sit and rock in the rocking chair. I have to read, write, plan. And while there is definitely wisdom in capturing every moment (Ephesians 5.16) there are times when we simply need to sit. Just sit and listen. 


Imagine yourself as the individual in the picture. Hear the birds chirping, the cicadas as the sing to each other, the wind rustling the leafs, and the waves lapping the shore. This is simplicity. Imagine hearing that still, small voice of God speak peace to your heart (I Kings 19.11-13, cf. Mark 1.35).

So what keeps us from this simplicity? What “clutters” our minds, as Swindoll discusses? He offers “five sources of mind-clutter common to the twenty-first century.” [Swindoll, 2005]

  1. First, most of us today say yes to far too many things. -How often do we say no? I mean simply say no? We almost think it is rude to turn down that lunch invitation, that movie request, that hang out time with a friend. But it’s okay to say no. And in order to simplify our lives, we must become more accustomed to saying no.
  2. Second, most of us do not plan time for leisure and rejuvenation. – My wife is one of the most organized individuals I have ever met. She schedules everything. And once she has made a schedule she sticks to it. I love that! I was fairly organized before we got married, but I’ve learned so much from over over the past six years from her. And one thing she schedules is down time. Now I used to think that was insane. Like, why do you need to schedule that? Don’t you just simply take a break? But the problem is that we don’t take breaks. We find more tasks to be completed, more projects that need starting, and so on. So, if you are a planner, plan time to rest.
  3. Third, most of us rarely experience the joy of accomplishment.– Swindoll references Proverbs 13.19. How true is that? When was the last time you completed a project? Finished a book? How many times have we started something only to leave it to begin another? Simplifying our lives means focusing on a given project, assignment, or desire to its completion. 
  4. Fourth, most people living in wealthy countries owe more than they can hope to repay. –This is something a vast majority of Americans struggle with, including myself. The desire for more and the ease of credit cards has helped create a society built on covetousness and greed. We work to pay bills for items we purchased to have no time to use or enjoy. Simplifying our lives means enjoying the things we have, taking time to enjoy that cup of tea, watching the sunset, or simply sitting in stillness. 
  5. Fifth, most of us fool ourselves into thinking that with out modern technology, we have simplified our lives. –Swindoll writes, “In an age when, thanks to technology, most everything requires a tiny fraction of the time it did just a century ago, we have less unoccupied time than ever!” [Swindoll, 2005] I often lament this fact. My wife and I love watching Andy Griffth, and one of the things I love about that show is the pace of life. Now certainly they were busy, and assuredly they had busy seasons of life. But in more than one episode you find Andy reading a newspaper while drinking coffee, Opee sitting in the floor playing with a toy, and Aunt Bee knitting. It seems so peaceful. Now we are all on our smart phones, multitasking between emails, texts, the latest breaking news, planning that trip to the parents, paying that electric bill, all while binge watching the popular show on Netflix. What a vast difference! And while I love many of our advances in technology, I often wonder what we have lost for the exchange of convenience

So what needs to be eliminated? How can we simplify our lives? Life is a journey. Don’t become so bogged down on the road map that you miss the amazing people, places, and perspectives you come across.