Category Archives: reviews

Wedgeworth Reviews Wright on Luther

Steven Wedgeworth, who blogs at Wedgewords, posted a thoughtful series of reviews on William J. Wright’s book Martin Luther’s Understanding of God’s Two Kingdoms: A Response to the Challenge of Skepticism from the excellent series edited by Richard Muller called “Texts & Studies in Reformation & Post-Reformation Thought” {HT: Fulford}:

Introduction

Chapter 1- Interpretations of Luther’s Idea of the Two Kingdoms during the Last Two Centuries

Chapter 2- The Skeptical Challenge of the Early Italian Renaissance

Chapter 3- Northern Humanism: The Context of Luther’s Two Kingdoms

Chapter 4- The Two-Kingdoms Worldview: How Luther Used the Concept in Diverse Contexts

Chapter 5- The Reformer Applies the Two Kingdoms to the Christian Life

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New Credo Magazine Available

Credo Magazine released its January 2012 issue today entitled, “In Christ Alone.” There are essays in it by scholars like Gerald Bray and Nathan Finn, as well as interviews with David Wells, and Robert Peterson. Among the reviews is my own of Michael Haykin’s very useful Rediscovering the Church Fathers, that I think would make for a good textbook for first year patristics or historiography courses. You can access the PDF of the magazine here or in an open publication format – which means you can “flip” the pages on your screen. Below is the table of contents for the main essays:

Gerald Bray, “Does the Holy Spirit Speak Apart from Christ?” 23

Todd Miles, “The Fate of the Unevangelized and the Need for Faith in Christ,” 29

Todd Borger, “Can Inclusivism Be Supported by the Old Testament?” 39

Ardel B. Caneday, “‘Faith Comes By Hearing’: Some Lessons for Evangelicals?” 45

Timothy Beougher, “Does A Belief in Inclusivism Weaken Movitation and Evangelism?” 52

Nathan Finn, “Responding to Bell on Hell: Some Lessons for Evangelicals,” 58

My review is on page 72.

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January Issue of Credo

Credo Magazine has just released the cover page and table of contents of their upcoming January issue entitled “In Christ Alone,” dealing with inclusivism. It looks to be quite good with articles by Gerald Bray, Ardel Caneday, Nathan Finn; interviews with David Wells, Michael Horton; shorter pieces by Trevin Wax, Michael Reeves; and reviews by Fred Zaspel, Steve Cowan. I’m thankful to have a review in this issue as well; it is on Michael Haykin’s Rediscovering the Church Fathers.

 

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Review: Through Western Eyes (Letham)

Here’s my review of Robert Letham, Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective (Fern, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 2007). It is in the new issue of Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics.

Christians in the West have little understanding of Eastern Orthodoxy. Though at odds, Roman Catholics and Protestants have a fairly good take on each others’ faith and practice. Both, however, are largely ignorant of their Eastern brethren. All three Christian expressions share in the rich theological tradition of the patristic period and look back to fathers like Athanasius, the Cappadocians, and the early creeds for their Christology and doctrine of God. After the split between East and West, precipitated by differences in Greek and Latin, the two streams diverged with little confluence. While the West underwent theological growth influenced by medieval and Reformation cultures, and had to undergo the challenges of the Enlightenment, the East was largely untouched by these cultural shifts. As a result, the two sides of the split look very different and often have different ways of expressing their Christian faith.

Robert Letham’s Through Western Eyes goes a long way to helping Protestants, especially those conscious of their Reformation heritage, understand the theological development and appearance of the East. Letham was a Presbyterian minister in the U.S. A., and has held teaching positions at Westminster Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. Currently he teaches at Wales Evangelical School of Theology. He has authored important works on the Trinity and Christology that deal well with patristics and is an expert in post-Reformation history. He is more than qualified to write a book of this nature.

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New Hope’s Reason Journal

Here’s the latest issue of Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics. It is both an online and print journal, this is the online bit. The print will be available some time soon.

Articles

“An Apologetic Church”
Stephen Bedard

“Apologetic Testimony from an Unlikely Source”
Mark Eckel

“The Witness of the Spirit: Developing a Pentecostal Approach to World Religions”
Jeffrey K. Clarke

“The Christian Doctrine of God Explained and Defended for Muslims”
Luis Dizon

“The Resurrection, Two Scholars, and Historical Method”
J. Steve Lee

Reviews

Ravi Zacharias, Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend by Stephen J. Bedard

Carl R. Trueman, The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Fred G. Zaspel

Tom Wells, The Priority of Jesus Christ by Fred G. Zaspel

Andreas J. Kostenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel by Fred. G. Zaspel

Paul R. Williamson, Sealed With An Oath: Covenant In God’s Unfolding Purpose by Fred G. Zaspel

Norman L. Geisler, If God, Why Evil? A New Way to Think About the Question by Stephen J. Bedard

Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? by Fred G. Zaspel

Rob Bell, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Stephen J. Bedard

Daniel C. Dennett and Alvin Plantinga, Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? by Josiah J. Batten

Drew Dyck, Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith by Jeffrey K. Clarke

Paul Hughes (ed.), Think and Live: Challenging Believers to Think and Thinkers to Believe by Stephen J. Bedard

James Hannam, The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution by David Rodriguez Jr.

Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith by Ian Clary

Tim Challies, The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion by Michael Plato

William Edgar and K. Scott Oliphint, Christian Apologetics: Past & Present: A Primary Source Reader: Volume 1: To 1500 by Ian Clary

Robert Letham, Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy: A Reformed Perspective by Ian Clary

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Review of Love Wins by Rob Bell

Here is my review of Rob Bell’s Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Much has already been said about the book, so I tried to take a bit of a different track with it. As you can imagine, I’m not favourable to it. Thanks to Credo Magazine for posting the review.

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Review: “The Rage Against God” by Peter Hitchens

We’ve updated the articles and reviews at Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics. My review of Peter Hitchens’s The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith is there. I reprint it below:

Atheism in the twenty-first-century is a facile form of its counterpart from a previous generation. The abandonment of atheism by Antony Flew before his death in some respects marks the closing of an age of disbelief that at the least offered well-framed arguments against the Christian faith. With the ascendancy of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and others who follow in their procession, arguments against Christianity are often superficial and presented with a force that is unwarranted in light of the weakness of the proposition.

Admittedly, there are aspects of recent arguments that have popular appeal. In the case of Christopher Hitchens, his rhetorically-gifted appeals to throw off the shackles of a totalitarian God; to free the mind from the limitations of religious thought and to reclaim the right to make autonomous moral decisions have a certain ring to them in the opinions of many. The attraction to him amongst the sixties generation and their progeny can be accounted for because Christopher embodies the spirit of that movement—indeed, he was and remains a key figure in that lingering cultural revolution.

Hence why The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith by his brother Peter Hitchens is so utile; it strikes at the heart of Christopher’s arguments from a common perspective. The two Hitchens’, though often at odds with one another, share similar experiences: each went to a respected Cambridge boarding school; both are former Trotskyists who made loud breaks with the Left; are journalists who have reported from conflict zones around the globe; are masters of English prose; are trenchently forthright with their views and are committed to independent thinking. In a sense, The Rage Against God is like Hitchens battling Hitchens; not in the sense of brother against brother, rather of Christopher against himself.

While Christopher has garnered significant attention with God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Peter Hitchens remains relatively unknown outside of Britain. He is somewhat notorious as a conservative thinker in England where he writes a column for the Mail on Sunday and is a frequent contributor to politically-oriented talk-shows. As a journalist Peter has reported from Communist Russia and was a correspondent in Washington for the Daily Express. He has written a number of  books, including The Abolition of Britain, a sociological look at the rapid changes taking place in British society due to the replacement of a Tory worldview with that of New Labour. As well, he has famously taken on high-level British politicians including Labour’s Tony Blair and the Conservative’s David Cameron, the current English Prime Minister. While a Conservative, Peter is just as scathing in critique of his own party as he is of those of the Left.

The Rage Against God is a refreshing and accessible alternative to the dismissable arguments of God is Not Great. As well, it shares reflective similarities with Christopher’s recent Hitch-22: A Memoir. There is overlap between books as they recount stories of life in middle-class twentieth-century England. One could learn a lot about the decline of religion in Britain and the resultant change in culture from reading the three together. They are also an introduction of sorts to twentieth-century literature; the writings of T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Evelyn Waugh, George Orwell and other recent additions to the western canon loom large in the lives of the Hitchens’.

Peter’s book is divided into three sections. The first is autobiographical where he reflects on his upbringing; the failings of a theologically liberal Christian education; the demise of traditional English values; and his embrace of atheism and Trotskyism. In some ways this reads like a summary of The Abolition of Britain and one sees that the British subtitle, “Why Faith Is the Foundation of Civilisation,” is appropriate. Hitchens excoriates the Left for leading England away from its traditional cultural milieu that once made it a great nation and he chides the Right for its withering and useless class-structured governance. Both are to blame for the relativist mess that has changed Britain, according to Hitchens, for the worse. In the midst of this, Peter explains how he lost his faith, memorably demonstrated in the burning of a bible when he was fifteen years old. The chapter on his rediscovery of faith is an especially good part of the book. Peter’s conversion involves him being awakened to the reality of his own immanent judgment by God as he contemplated the painting The Last Judgment by Rogier van der Weyden in the Musee de l’Hotel-Dieu in Beaune, France.

The second section is apologetic where Peter takes on what he calls “the three failed arguments of atheism” against religion: conflicts fought in the name of religion; morality without God; and atheist states not actually being atheist. Each argument is dismantled using examples from history and common sense. For instance, it is demonstrably reductionist to claim that all religious conflicts are always about religion. In the case of Northern Ireland, says Hitchens, religion is less a factor than the ownership and control of territory.

The third section looks at some of the defenses of atheism, in particular those of Christopher in God Is Not Great. This is the part of the book that Peter sees as “the foundation of the answer to my brother’s position” (164). Christopher denies that the atrocities committed by atheist states are a result of atheism, even going so far to argue that Stalinist Russia was actually religious. Peter, again using history and common sense, clearly shows that such arguments fail. Not only is Christopher’s failure in view, but socialism’s as well. One of the final sections of the book highlights the “totalitarian intolerance” of the New Atheists, which is especially true of Christopher, and is an unfortunate and unnecessary correspondent to his critiques of religion.

There are many good things to say about The Rage Against God. It is very well-written. Both Peter and Christopher are wonderful writers and this makes reading their books delightful, even if one disagrees with their final conclusions. It has been said that both brothers are great respecters of the English language, and this is borne out in Peter’s writing. The tone of the book is noteworthy for two reasons. First, Peter observes the fundamentalist streak of the New Atheists that manifests itself in vitriolic screeds. Instead of fighting fire with fire, Peter writes circumspectly and never deteriorates into personal attacks, even though he makes good use of wit and satire. Second, Peter’s columns and television appearances are often devastating in terms of argument and tone; he brooks no quarter with those whom he disagrees. The tone of this book is noticeably different.

Peter also has an excellent grasp of the issues and explains them with clarity. He is not fooled by the rhetoric of the New Atheists and sees past the non sequitors, the ad hominems, the generalizations, the redundancies and the euphemism of their arguments. He demands honesty from atheists who critique his religion and offers it in turn, even if it hurts.

The book is also a helpful commentary on the role of beliefs in the shaping of national ideologies. Due to his experience in Russia, he can offer first-hand accounts of the devastation wrought by Communism and its atheist hand-maiden. His insights into the cultural changes in the West, that mirror certain aspects of Communist Russia, is a sound warning to those who want to pursue a similar agenda.

A drawback of the book is its lack of theological depth. Hitchens is a journalist, so it would not be fair to expect him to delve into intricate dogmatic issues. However, more interaction with Christian thought is not unreasonable. There is very little mention of Jesus Christ or the gospel message, which is the book’s biggest failing. If Hitchens has even the slightest hope that someone would be converted to Christianity as a result of reading the book, he has severely limited the possibilities.

Also, his method of critique follows tit-for-tat responses against popular atheism, but it would have been more effective if he had examined some of atheism’s—and his brother’s—philosophical underpinnings. For instance, Peter rightly points out that the problem of conflicts in the name of religion are actually problems of human nature. Instead of leaving his answer at this juncture, another step could be taken: what is the atheist’s standard for evaluating the value of religious conflict? Given atheism, objective, universal, immaterial moral standards are illusive. An even further step could be taken by pointing out that when an atheist makes a moral statement, he must abandon his precommitments in favour of another that makes sense of morality; in this case, Christianity. In almost every section of the book one wishes that Hitchens went further. While this does not lessen the force of his arguments, he could be more effective if he took this more thorough apologetic approach.

Be that as it may, Peter Hitchens has done a good job at giving answers to the puerile claims of his brother, and basically makes Christopher’s book on religion look foolish. It is a shame, because Christopher is an intelligent man and the open flaws of his book, so well pointed out by Peter (and others) is a blight on his otherwise commendable literary reputation. The Rage Against God is a good book to give to atheists who trumpet the arguments of Christopher Hitchens as though they posed a real problem to Christianity. It is also good for those who have doubts about their faith; Peter Hitchens demonstrates the importance of Christianity to a well-ordered society which, in a way, is a proof for its truthfulness.

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Review: Why Catholics Are Right by Coren

In an earlier post I mentioned that a number of us had the privilege of spending some time with Canadian television personality Michael Coren who discussed his book Why Catholics Are Right. I have written a fairly critical review of this book for the Credo Magazine website. I confess to a little fearfulness in publishing this review, because Michael Coren deserves much respect for the political work he has done over the years. But there are such important errors in the book that I thought it best to point them out.

Many thanks to Matthew Barrett, the editor of the excellent Credo Magazine for being willing to publish the review. I thoroughly enjoy this publication and am happy to be a part of it; even if notoriously!

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Reviewing Christian Film

Liam Neeson in Pilgrim's Progress

I’m not going to comment on the quality of “Christian” films, I very rarely watch them. I thought Facing the Giants was decent in that Rudy or Remember the Titans sorta way, but I’ve yet to see The Blind Side or Fireproof. Generally I cringe at these types of movies, wincing through some of the sappier “Christian” moments. You may think, Didn’t he see Amazing Grace or Luther? For whatever reason, I don’t consider them a part of the “Christian” genre. I’m rather arbitrary, I know.

Anyways, this new movie Soul Surfer seems to be this year’s Fireproof, and I likewise doubt I’ll see it. I read a review at Salon.com a month ago and felt justified in my dismissal. But then I read Timothy Dalrymple’s post: “Are Christian Movies Really So Bad?” where he notes the trend amongst film critics to be particularly scathing to the Christian genre. He offers three reasons why:

1) Reviewers want to maintain their reputations, and giving a positive review to a movie like Soul Surfer would be a good reason to lose all cred.

2) The lack of faith themes in Hollywood movies makes their appearance jarring.

3) Cynical reviewers don’t get the Christian worldview, so these movies are just plain strange.

Read the rest here.

***UPDATE*** I got to thinking, Why am I so arbitrary in my tastes for this type of film? There must be something that makes me not mind Narnia or Luther (although I thought Narnia was kind’ve cheezy, especially the kid’s hair). I’m thinking maybe it has to do with the purpose behind the films. Fireproof and those kind of movies are more evangelistically oriented; call it the “evangelism genre.” A large part of their purpose is to get the message out. Amazing Grace, it seems to me, is more intended as a story about a historically important figure who happened to be a Christian. Maybe we can call it the plain ole “Christian genre.” I know I’m splitting hairs and any sane person could push me to the wall on this. But it’s the only way I can account for my thinking.

As they say, for what it’s worth…

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Review: Jonathan Edwards, Lover of God

I published a very brief review of Owen Strachan and Douglas Sweeney, Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God The Essential Edwards Collection (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2010) for the magazine Barnabas. I post it here for your reading pleasure:

There has been a revival of interest in Jonathan Edwards amongst evangelicals, so much so that his portrait has made it onto t-shirts. Yet, it is hard to know how much of this can be chalked up to trendiness rather than a genuine appreciation for “America’s greatest theologian.” While most books on Edwards tend to the technical, few introductions to his thought are popularly accessible. Thus the five-part The Essential Edwards Collection by Strachan and Sweeney is a welcome arrival. Their purpose is to offer a broad exposition of key areas in Edwards’ theology, written at a managable level and style; a target they succeed in hitting. This first volume, the biographical lead-in to the series, is clear, concise, theological and practical. Pastors and lay-people will benefit from the life-application of Edwards to the reader and from the authors’ willingness to help us also learn from Edwards’ mistakes.

Barnabas (Spring 2011): 13.

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Review: “Biblical Authority” (Woodbridge)

Here is my review of John D. Woodbridge’s excellent book Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982).

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Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics 2.1

Well, now that the first issue of Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics has gone to print, we are now at work on the second. What’s neat about this journal is that you can follow each issue’s progress online. As new articles and reviews go through the peer-review and are accepted, they are posted on our website. Once we have a goodly-sized collection, they are sent off to the printers and, voila!, a new issue.

Thus far our second issue has an article on Deuteronomy as an apologetic source written by Mark Eckel, Professor of Old Testament at Crossroads Bible College in Indiana. We also have a couple of reviews written by Fred Zaspel, author of the recent study The Theology of B. B. Warfield. We have some pretty good articles lined up and a tonne of reviews, so check the website periodically for updates, or follow us on Facebook for news.

We are always open to submissions both for articles and reviews. If you have an article that you would like to publish, and it fits the criteria listed on our site, then email our editor Stephen Bedard at editor@apologeticsjournal.com. If you have a review(s) then send it to me, the book review editor, at books@apologeticsjournal.com.

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Thoughts on “Biblical Authority”

I’m almost finished reading John D. Woodbridge’s Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982). This is an excellent book in many respects, but what I find most helpful is reading it as an aspiring historian. Woodbridge did his doctoral studies at the University of Tolouse in France and has taught church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for quite some time. He is an expert in Reformation, post-Reformation and modern church history, in particular French evangelicalism.

Because Jack Rogers and Donald McKim argue historically that certain Christians denied the complete infallibility/inerrancy of Scripture, Woodbridge critiques them on the level of historical method. He points up common fallacies that the authors regularly make, highlights their misuse of sources whether through dependence only on secondary material or disingenuous quotations, and pokes holes in the logic of their historical interpretations. When I read a book like this I get a little fearful–it’d be horrible to have a book subjected to such exacting critique! Could Rogers and McKim sleep at night after this was published?

So, not only would I recommend this book for its value in setting the record straight historically about the doctrine of Scripture, but I would also suggest that historians read it and consider their own work and the potential that they too might be at the receiving end of such a review. It should cause historians to be assiduous in their use of primary sources, to be honest with the texts they study, and rigorous with the logic of their interpretations.

***UPDATE***

As it turns out, Woodbridge says as much regarding historians himself at the close of the book:

In a way that the authors [Rogers and McKim] probably did not envision, their study creates a call for those historians engaged in the current quest to discover the ancient attitudes of Christians toward Holy Writ. These historians should do their research in an even-handed manner, consider well the conceptual problems associated with their undertaking, and write technically competent analyses on delimited subjects before attempting the grand synthesis (p. 155).

For more of Woodbridge on historiography, see his introduction to Paul Kjoss Helseth’s new book “Right Reason” and the Princeton Mind: An Unorthodox Proposal (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010), ix-xiv.

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More on Bonhoeffer and Metaxas

Further on my earlier post (scroll down), Tim Challies links to Richard Weikart’s excellent article critiquing Eric Metaxas’ biography Bonhoeffer. This goes into much further detail than the one I linked to in my post and comes from an evangelical perspective. Check out “Metaxas’ Counterfeit Bonhoeffer: An Evangelical Critique.”

***UPDATE*** Carl Trueman offers his thoughts, making a useful comparison between the reception of Bonhoeffer in evangelical circles with that of C. S. Lewis: “Bonhoeffer and Anonymous Christians.”

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Son of Hamas Review

Here’s my Discerning Reader review of Mosab Hassan Yousef’s Son of Hamas.

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So What Does Hart Really Think of Hitchens?

Earlier this year I read about half of Christopher Hitchens’ book God is Not Great, but couldn’t continue because it was so bad. I’ve thought of reviewing it, but to get explain all of the mistakes would have taken another book of double the size. Thankfully, Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has a piece in the recent issue of First Things on the New Atheism that deals with Hitchens perfectly {HT: Between Two Worlds}. Below is the section on Hitchens, but I highly recommend reading the whole article–it’s hilarious. I laughed and laughed my whole way through!

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Review – “Christology: A Guide for the Perplexed” (Spence)

(The following review will appear in the next issue of Barnabas).

Alan Spence, Christology: A Guide for the Perplexed (London/New York: T&T Clark, 2008); x + 174 pages; ISBN: 978-0-567-03195-2.

Christology is a daunting subject – its history and theology paint a complex picture. Thankfully, Alan Spence offers readers an able introduction. His work is a good contribution to the “Guide for the Perplexed” series.

Spence, the author of a study of John Owen’s Christology, is well qualified to introduce his subject. He traces Christology from the church’s response to gnosticism, through Arianism, to the issues surrounding Chalcedon. He studies Owen’s unique understanding of the Spirit and Christ’s humanity, liberalism’s extended Socinianism and modern discussions by Barth and Pannenburg.

There are, however, glaring omissions to Spence’s work. For instance, the towering figures of Augustine and Aquinas are absent. Nor is there mention of the “myth of God incarnate” debate of the late twentieth-century. Unfortunately, there are a number of typographical errors. In spite of such problems, Spence should be thanked for his treatment of Owen, whose Christology is often neglected. Christology will be useful for pastors, educated lay-people and undergraduate students. From this one should consult the work of Donald MacLeod and Oliver Crisp.

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Review: Collision (by Mark)

My buddy Mark Nenadov has a review of the recent documentary Collision that follows Christopher Hitchens and Doug Wilson as they debate on the question of whether Christianity is good for the world. Check it out.

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Don’t Shoot the Messenger

I returned the book within the hour after I had purchased it. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t that I have somehow turned my interests away from Nick Cave – not at all. It’s just that the book is dreadful and I couldn’t stand the thought of wasting thirty dollars on claptrap. So I returned it.

If you’re reading this, you probably think that I’m a fool and I might well agree with you. Nick Cave is a lyrical genius you say – to which I consent head and heart. But my argument is that he’s a terrible author. At least if his latest novel means anything.

No, no, again I agree with you, his screen-writing abilities are quite good too. Yes, yes, I loved The Proposition and thought it was solid story. But as I turned the pages in The Death of Bunny Monroe, my vicarious embarrassment (to paraphrase a friend) was in full throttle. I mean, I am in the middle of reading Steinbeck’s overwhelming masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, so my standards are admittedly set a little high. Of course, nobody really compares to Steinbeck. I would have settled for less, honest I would. But when his gentle prose rings in your remembrance – “To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth” – how do the lurid and cheap descriptions of a drunken fool’s lustful contusions of the mind really stack up?

To be quite honest, I thought Nick Cave could do better. And he should have. Bunny Monroe is pure schlock. At least the first four chapters were (I couldn’t bear to turn to the fifth chapter or any other for that matter). They read like a low budget Harlequin romance, only instead of men who look like Michelangelo’s David caressing beautiful women, you get Bunny Monroe gawking at the heaving breasts of any woman who walks in the room. There is nothing of the beauty of The Boatman’s Call. There are no Henry Lee’s in this pile of rubbish. Not even a Stagger Lee. Just Bunny Monroe, grabbing his crotch, swilling liquor, making an “O” with his mouth before he puffs a cigarette – really Nick, an “O”? Is that the best descriptor you had at your literary fingertips?

Believe me, I can be convinced that the overarching narrative is good. At least it sounded good when I first read about it. A man named Bunny Monroe (no comment on the name) loses it after his wife commits suicide. The rascally rabbit goes on a bender of drinking and prostitutes all the while neglecting his son Bunny Jr., (again, no comment). The story reaches its crescendo with the boy winning over his old man in the bliss of redemptive reverie. And the reader, after he/she puts down the book is left to consider the oft-difficult relationships between fathers and sons. All in all, a story I wouldn’t mind reading. But, unfortunately, not the way Nick Cave wrote it.

So, as I stood in line at Indigo in Toronto, waiting for Nick Cave to sign my book, I summoned up the gumption and stormed right up to the master author himself and demanded an explanation. This can’t be, I yelled. Aren’t you the one who gave us “Red Right Hand”? How can this be? Did you really write this??? Well, no, not really. I just waited patiently in line, handed the cashier the book and she refunded me in cash. I glanced over at Cave who stood in the midst of a heaving crowd, happily putting his John Hancock to the frontispieces of his book, clutched in the hands of his unsuspecting fans clad in the trendiest indie attire. And indeed, I felt a little let down. It was like when I witnessed the debacle of Neil Young’s Greendale album first hand in Detroit. A little bit of my muse was torn away as I slinked over to BMV and bought a biography of Marshall McLuhan for $3.99.

Will this book be one more thing that he’s sorry for in the Thirsty Dog?

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The Irish Puritans Review

I had sent in a review of Crawford Gribben’s The Irish Puritans: James Ussher and the Reformation of the Church (Evangelical Press, 2003) to the Discerning Reader in July and forgot to post it here. Click here if you’d like to check it out!

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