For those of you paying attention to our Chronicles of Narnia book reviews, you may have noticed that I am going out of order in the way the Narnia books are often organized. If you own at set of books, you will see that book one is The Magician’s Nephew. Meanwhile, I began with The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe and then Prince Caspian. The reason behind this is that I am reviewing them in the order in which they were released by C.S. Lewis.
To that end, the next book in the series is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. For those of you who did not see the movie rendition when it was released in 2010, do yourself a favor and rent it on Netflix tonight. Of the books turned movie, this was perhaps the most well-done, at least from a Christian parent’s perspective.
A borrowed summary reads, “Lucy and Edmund Pevensie return to Narnia with their cousin Eustace where they meet up with Prince Caspian for a trip across the sea aboard the royal ship the Dawn Treader. Along the way they encounter dragons, dwarves, merfolk, and a band of lost warriors before reaching the edge of the world.”
The movie does not entirely follow the book, but there are some thrilling scenes to behold, and the Christian references in the movie are the most explicit. Without ruining the plot, there is a powerful allegory comparison made between Aslan and Christ himself that children will understand.
The Dawn Treader book is crucial to the whole Narnia series in several ways, one of which is the introduction of the character Eustace Scrubb, who appears in other books in the Chronicles. The opening line of the book says, “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”
The transformation of Eustace from a snobby, cowardly, childish, annoying little boy to a redeemed one is remarkable. It involves the assistance of Reepicheep the mouse, one of C.S. Lewis most endearing characters in all of Narnia.
In the book, as with the movie, there are some suspenseful moments that may frighten the youngest readers and viewers. With that caution aside, this sea-faring adventure of a book is one of the most delightful in all of the Narnia series. It will entertain, uplift and challenge us all to live a more virtuous life, by the grace of God.
From time to time, a book comes along that captures the heart (and pocketbook) of Christian book readers. A few years ago it was The Shack, today it is a new devotional, Jesus Calling.
Until now, I have put off reading and reviewing the book, which offers daily devotionals to the reader. The book’s appeal is readily apparent. Attractively bound and laid out, any believer could quickly import the book into his or her daily life. It has bite-sized readings for each day and Scripture references at the bottom, perfect for someone’s daily “quiet time.”
What’s more, the author, Sarah Young has hit upon a novel concept. She has written each entry as if Jesus Himself is talking directly to you. “Enjoying Peace in His Presence,” is the book’s promise. Indeed, many of the writings speak exactly to the perceived everyday struggles for the Christian walk.
I have personally spoken to many Christians who testify to the book’s powerful impact on their lives and spirit. However, I have some significant problems with the book that I must air, in descending order.
Problem #3: Becomes a substitute
Time is limited. In today’s fast paced society, with all the distractions of media, believers are bombarded with messages that distract from our time with the Lord. By the grace of God, having time with the Lord has become a standard for being a disciple of Christ.
Every day, millions throughout the world start and end their day with Scripture and prayer. To augment those times, many believes will invite in a devotional or study aide. In doing so, we must carefully choose what we invite in.
This extended review from noted Christian blogger Tim Challies underscores why, for theological reasons, “Jesus Calling” is not a good pick for devotional times. Furthermore, while many devotionals quote directly from the Scripture, this work only lists cites that you have to go look up, and when it does, only singular verses. The average reader will not take time to do this and therefore the book becomes an inadequate substitute for time that could have been spent in the Word.
Problem #2: Not His teachings
In the book of Acts, about the Berean Jews “were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11). In other words, the Bereans were good at comparing teachings they heard to the Bible. Anyone familiar with the words of Christ to those in this book will leave the reader scratching his head.
Here is a sample from the August 12 entry (pg. 235):
“Do not compare yourself with others, who seem to skip along their life-paths with ease. Their journeys have been different from yours, and I have gifted them with abundant energy. I have gifted you with fragility, providing opportunities for your spirit to blossom in My Presence.”
Even if this line of thinking were consistent with Scripture, it is a far cry from Christ saying He has come to “seek and save the lost.” It is far from the real blood He shed. In fact, it sounds more like afternoon talk show advice than the living Son of God. Unfortunately, examples like this are not uncommon in the book.
Problem #1: Not His voice
It would be problematic enough if Young were claiming to have captured the voice of Christ. From interviews, however, it appears that she claims to have captured the very words of Christ.
Sarah Young has said, “I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day. I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believe He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message. It was short, biblical, and appropriate. It addressed topics that were current in my life: trust, fear, and closeness to God. I responded by writing in my prayer journal.”
When considering a book, consider the author as well. We have here, from her own lips, her stated purpose for the book. The Bible, meanwhile, forbids adding to the Word of God (Rev. 22:19, Deut. 4:2, Prov. 30:6). In penning this work, Young walks onto dangerously thin ice.
While I am sure the book is of course not all bad, its problems are significant enough that readers should set it aside. In the end, what promises to be a live call on the phone line from Christ ends up being more like a prank call.
Many readers have heard of Lee Strobel’s popular apologetics book The Case for Christ, but not everyone is familiar with its predecessor, The Case for a Creator. In this book, Strobel travels across the United States interviewing some of the country’s most esteemed professors from a wide range of prestigious universities, both Christian and public. By collecting the proofs from experts across the board, Strobel pieces together the scientific proof that today’s most widely accepted theories on the Earth’s origin cannot work in tandem without a divine creator.
Strobel was not always interested in apologetics. He received a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a Master in Law Studies from Yale University. Strobel then pursued a successful career at the Chicago Tribune where he worked as an investigative reporter. Strobel, a firm atheist at the time, began an investigative study on the scientific and historical proof of Christianity after a debate with his wife, a devout Christian. Strobel’s investigation led to his conversion of faith and several books, four of which have received the ECPA Christian Book Award.
One of the things I value most in Strobel’s writing is straightforward approach. Many of the experts Strobel interviews explain their work in field-specific jargon, and Strobel does not water down these theories. I find this to be the most honorable quality of the book as it lends credibility of his interviews and allows me to dive into the research for myself without being told the conclusion in elementary terms. The Case for a Creator also presents an appreciated diversity of interviews. Strobel speaks with Christian, atheist, and agnostic professors in capturing an objective collection of scientific proofs that do not blatantly align with a particular agenda. As a college student, I am all too aware of the hidden bias professors often have and find Strobel’s source diversity a refreshing point of credibility.
While I respect Strobel for not dumbing down the theories he presents, I think his case could be stronger if he expanded more on the implications of the scientific data he collects. If you are not a molecular biologist, astrophysicist, or theoretical physicist, many of the professor’s explanations will go over your head. Strobel does an excellent job of presenting expert theories and highlighting conclusions but fails to link the two in a way that general audiences will understand.
Although Strobel’s book is at times difficult to digest, I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in dabbling with apologetics. I would especially suggest this novel to college students, as it relies on a collegiate-styled research method that will be familiar. His sources are credible and objective, which lend to his airtight argument for a creator. While the book may require outside research on the part of the reader to better understand some of the more complex theories he mentions, it is well worth the time in providing a solid foundation for Christianity’s Case for a Creator.
Anyone who’s read me for long knows about my year long study of grace. That was a necessary journey for me, and one that has forever changed the landscape of my soul. You cannot draw near to the exquisite grace of God and come away unscathed.
However, for some time now, I’ve been drifting just a bit, struggling with desire and motivation. Praying for direction and guidance and grace for my weaknesses, yearning to see sanctification at work. I do believe now there was a hole in my holiness.
I purchased this book for Tim for Christmas. I thought my motives were pure in getting him a gift, but it possible that I was intrigued by it myself, because it wasn’t far into January before I picked it up and began reading.
From chapter one, Mind the Gap, to chapter ten, That All May See Your Progress, the author, Kevin DeYoung, seemed to be preaching directly to me. In me, there was a gap, it needed to be minded, and I felt that gap gloriously bridged through the reading of this book.
We can carry around connection confusion in our minds without being fully aware of it until some of those vital intersections meet. So it was with me. After immersing myself in a (very necessary) study of grace, I had some lingering confusion over these issues:
the place of Law now in our lives as Christians
how to practically pursue holiness with an understanding of grace
what it looks like for grace to be at work in me
striving, effort, and hard work in the Christian life
separating holiness from legalism, pursuing the one and rejecting the other
DeYoung answers all of these questions and others that I didn’t even know I had until I read. I believe this book contains a vital message that fuels believers with conviction for the holy lives God is calling them to lead. I needed that. I didn’t know how much until I started reading.
I have to restrain myself from over-quoting this book, but I’ll just end with one helpful quote about the use of Law in our lives now that we are blood-bought believers.