One of the more exciting prospects of the end of the semester and the beginning of Summer is the departure of assigned reading for my classes. This means that I’ll get back to reading only the things I want to. I thought I’d share briefly what those things are at the moment:

Strange Fire by John MacArthur- This book is written in MacArthur’s usual erudite fashion, with sternness and clarity. Though I’m only half-way, it has been the best critique of The Charismatic Movement, Word of Faith preachers, and the prosperity gospel that I have encountered. This is not least because the author has a relentless devotion to the supremacy of Scripture. MacArthur is actually one of those authors that I started out reading and that I have continued to read through the last couple of year. We don’t line up in every way, but from the perspective of a reader, it’s really enjoyable to work through MacArthur’s written thoughts. An important theological thought that I’ve gleaned thus far is that perhaps the greatest critic of the Charismatic Movement is the Holy Spirit himself, who demands that all focus, and worship, and glory be unto the Son. This book isn’t about rhetoric, or winning an argument. It’s an urgent call for orthodoxy.

The Church by Mark Dever- Dever has devoted his graduate work and ensuing career in Christian ministry and scholarship to loving the doctrine of the Church. It’s often overlooked, and the book does a superb job of laying out the centrality of the Church on the basis of the centrality of the Gospel for Christian life. Dever has organized the book to be about 1.) What the Bible says 2.) What the Church has believed and then 3.) based on Scripture and Tradition, how ought the Church look today? I’m nearly finished, and have enjoyed reading this book. It’s written from an unashamedly Baptist perspective, but every churchman, denominations aside, can benefit from reading this presentation of the doctrine of the Church.

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens- I was a fan of Hitchens for his debates and his appearances in mainstream media. As a new-atheist, he is far and away the most interesting of the uninteresting bunch, though his arguments against theism don’t hold very well. He is a moralist, and a contrarian. Liberal and conservative. This book has more than 100 of the Hitch’s essays. Only a few deal with criticism of religion, and they’re much better as argument for Atheism than his book God is Not Great which I have criticized elsewhere. The essays cover a vast aray of topics like historical imperialism, the modern conflicts in the Arab world, the future of education in the West, and even why women aren’t funny. It’s vintage Hitchens, and all the essays taken together probably make it the most well-written book in this blog post.

Paul and the Faithfulness of God by N.T. Wright- I started reading this a few months ago, inching my way through an intellect as high powered as the Apostle in question. This book answers all of the outstanding questions that Piper and others had about Wright’s view on justification that weren’t answered in his book by the same title. From the perspective of someone who is working on a BA in History, I really enjoyed parts 1 and 2 of the book in which Wright is reconstructing the world and worldview of Paul as a man of 3 worlds: Jewish, Greek, Roman. This book has many things in common with the New Testament and the People of God by Wright, which was the first in this series. I will have much more to say when I’m finished and I’ve been taking notes the whole way through. This book is being acclaimed as the most extensive look at Paul ever written by scholars from all over the theological map.

Those four are keeping me the most busy for now, but in the next week or two I hope to start From Heaven He Came and Sought Her which is a compilation of arguments for the doctrine of definite atonement, and Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham which argues for the gospels as historical documents based on eyewitness testimony. Looking forward to learning a lot this Summer.



Hunger Games Movie Review

I was able to attend the midnight premiere of “The Hunger Games” on Thursday night, but I guess it was really Friday morning. The series was unknown to me until a few months ago when the AP English class at my school had to read the Hunger Games, the first of three in Suzanne Collin’s masterpiece. Aside from J.R.R. Tolkien’s, and C.S. Lewis’, I haven’t read very much fiction, but I have to say, these books were phenomenal. Not very lengthy, the Hunger Games is just under 400 pages. I finished it, and sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay in a grand total of six days. Collin’s is a master designer of characters. Caesar Flickerman, and the sinister President Snow, the story’s main antagonist, are among the forefront of the brilliant roles created and detailed by Collin’s in the trilogy. I quickly became a huge fan of the series, and naturally was anxiously awaiting the first installment on the big screen.

Director Gary Ross wasted no time in jumping right into the heart of the conflict in Panem. We see main character Katniss Everdeen, comforting her younger sister Primrose, usually just “Prim” for the majority of her appearances in the books and movie. It is time for the yearly reaping, where one boy and one girl, between the ages of 12-18 will be selected as tribute from each of the 12 districts of Panem. They will be trained in the art of survival, and expected to fight to the death in a maniacal arena designed by the ruthless “gamemakers”. The tournament is hosted in the Capitol, and broadcast over all of Panem to serve as a reminder of the former rebellion of the districts which became a full blown war. The Capitol was victorious, and now rules with an iron fist over the districts.

As a modern commentary on the American perception of entertainment, Collin’s hope was to show in the book that our view of life and the importance of morality is deteriorating. As a pacifist, Collins also hoped it would arouse thoughts on the current efforts in the Middle East, and whether or not the reward is worth the sacrifice. Characters like Caesar Flickerman, and the other Capitol residents are representative of the “masses of people infatuated with reality TV and also those who are ignorant of the devastation in the rest of the world.” Collins said. President Snow’s character is very intriguing and Ross’s spin gives him an interesting element. He seems somewhat confined, and at times seems like he may be just another pawn in his own game.

Overall the movie was fantastic, and the crew did very well transitioning from a book to screenplay. I would highly recommend the movie, but I also encourage reading of the books! Even with the film running 2 hrs and 22 mins, there was plenty more from the first book that was left out of the movie. The second installment Catching Fire is in production and is set to release November 22, 2013. The escalating crisis in Panem, and the girl on fire will return to the big screen, and with a rumored budget double the size of the first. Stay tuned for a more in depth analysis of the movie and books, later in the week.

May the odds be ever in your favor…