Top Books of the Year

•December 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So I realize everyone loves reading as much as I do (lol just joking) but I figured I’d let you know some of the top books from the year, from people whose opinions I pay attention to (doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with them).

First of all, the best book I read all year is “Christless Christianity” by Michael Horton. I highly recommend it. It was a little academic at some points, but overall I didn’t think it was a very difficult read. The author basically looks at modern Christianity in North America and compares it to two of the largest heresies in Christian history – Pelagianism and Gnosticism. It wasn’t actually written this year, but it was still good, so it makes it on the list. There’s also a sequel, “The Gospel-Driven Life,” and it’s sitting on my bookshelf, but I haven’t read it yet, so don’t ask.

So now for other people’s recommendations (these are just their recommendations; it doesn’t mean I’m recommending them).

C.J. Mahaney’s 4 Top Books

Christianity Today’s 4 Top Books

Denny Burke’s recommended Children’s Bible

Justin Taylor’s books recommended for kids: New Testament, Old Testament

Keith Mathison’s Significant Books

Kevin DeYoung’s 10 Top Books

Ligonier Ministry’s recommended books

Mark Dever’s 3 Top Books

Russell Moore’s 10 Top Books

Scott McKnight’s Top Books

Thabiti Anyabwile’s 5 Top Books

Tim Challies’ 9 Top Books

Tony Reinke’s 13 Gift Ideas

Trevin Wax’s 10 Top Books

Upcoming books from Crossway/Zondervan, Baker/Moody

That’s alot of different books, but I’d like to point out a few that showed up multiple times: Adopted for Life by Russell Moore; Calvin by Bruce Gordon; The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf; Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller; Finally Alive by John Piper; The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne; Why Johnny Can’t Preach by David Gordon; Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

TheResurgence Gives Out 2 ESV Study Bibles

•December 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Another giveaway you might want to know about. TheResurgence is giving away two ESV Study Bibles (about $50 each). All you have to do is follow these instructions to have a chance at winning. I just bought one of these a little while ago (apparently at a much higher price) so I’m not going to participate, but I thought you might want to know.

“The Greatest Show on Earth” by Richard Dawkins

•December 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So, he’s done it again. Richard Dawkins, the world’s leading atheist (whatever that means) has reached the best-seller lists with his new book, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. What are my thoughts? Let’s first see what Dawkins says about it.

“This is a book about the positive evidence that evolution is a fact. It is not intended as an antireligious book. I’ve done that [most explicitly in his 2006 best-seller, The God Delusion] … The history-deniers* themselves are among those I am trying to reach in this book. But, perhaps more importantly, I aspire to arm those who are not history-deniers but know some – perhaps members of their own family or church – and find themselves inadequately prepared to argue the case” (pg. 6, 8 ) *Note – “history-deniers” and “40-percenters” are terms Dawkins uses to refer to anyone who isn’t a proponent of a strict Darwinian evolution (which ironically is just about everyone in the world but him, as he foolishly considers himself to be an arch-adaptationist).

So what did I get out of the book? I got an incredible view of the majesty of God, and of the beauty and incredible complexity of his creation. I don’t think Dawkins would be too pleased to know that’s what  I think.

Before I go on, I would just like to say two things. First, in order to get this book, I had to go all the way to the Kings College library (they didn’t have it at Taylor Library at the time). If you go to Western, you know what that means; but if you don’t, it means they didn’t consider to actually be science. Although, to be fair, the U.S. Library of Congress did classify it in the natural history and biology section (QH366.2.D374 2009, since you obviously wanted to know).

Second, I feel I need to give Dawkins at least some credit, for a number of reasons. First, he wisely refrained from using the commonly ill-cited “evidences” of evolution that have already been proven to be false. Just to name a few that come to mind – the Miller-Urey experiment, comparative embryology, and the many fraudulent fossils and skeletons. Second, he did (mostly) keep his word about not being anti-religious. He didn’t discuss the existence of God (until the very end of the book), although I suppose he did spend alot of time bashing 6-day creationism (which is pretty much necessary in a book defending evolution). That being said, he  did occasionally jab Christianity and Islam, with the occasional mocking of the Levitical law or of Noah. He wrote things far more insulting towards the end of the book (and I’ll mention them later if I remember), but for the most part he avoided the topic of religion. Third, he actually did justice to the sincere question, “where are the missing-links?” which he usually brushes off as ignorance of the concept of evolution. Although, in the end he mocks people for wanting to be shown intermediates (I’m confused as to why he then applauds scientists for looking for them).

So all that being said, now for my thoughts on the book. It was essentially a review of highschool level genetics, biochemisty, and (obviously) evolution. He didn’t say anything new, or anything that I’d never heard before. It was just the same old information, retold in a less dry way. He was very quick to discuss evidence for micro-evolution, and he spent a majority of the book discussing that. However, when discussing macro-evolution (the controversial aspect of evolution) he was incredibly vague at best. There were very few concrete examples, and even then he constantly used phrases like “presumably,” “almost certainly,” and “should expect.” Even his chapter that I assumed would be about macro-evolution (The Primrose Path to Macro-Evolution) continued to be about micro-evolution. For a book that is supposed to outline the evidence of evolution, there was an awful lot of speculation, and he left me feeling thoroughly unconvinced.

As could obviously be expected was the typical circular reasoning of evolutionary thought, and a poor philosophical analysis of the science behind it. I was expecting to see some stronger reasoning, as this is supposed to be the culmination of his previous books. Many people far smarter than I have already provided arguments showing this fallacious reasoning, and if you’re interested in checking those arguments out, read William Lane Craig, read Phillip Johnson, read Stephen Meyer, read other authors, use Google, it’s all out there. I would like to point out one video of why Dawkins deserves far less of a reputation than he already has.

Dawkins was fairly clear about a number of areas where evolutionary theory falls short, even though he was brief on them. He had a small section dealing with the problem of evolutionary theodicy (which I assumed was going to have to do with the Intelligent Design movement and its attempts to reconcile theodicy with evolution, but turned out to be nothing more than a confusion about why natural selection has caused the evolution of pain reception in the way that it has). He also admits that evolutionary theory can’t currently discuss the origins of life, and he quotes Darwin about this (“It is mere rubbish, thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter”).

I also want to point out that the first chapter (Only A Theory?) was an attempt to redefine “theory” in order to make “the theory of evolution” a fact. In my opinion, he failed horribly at this attempt, and made me more convinced that evolution is just that – a theory. I was expecting that Richard Dawkins, arguably being the world’s leading apologist and defender of evolution, would’ve provided a stronger case. Apparently my expectations were too high.

Now I want to discuss an area of the book where Dawkins deals with the idea of God. Here are a few quotes: talking about the eye, “it’s not just bad design, it’s the design of a complete idiot” and it displays the “obvious stupidity” of the creator (pg. 354, 356); “if you think of it as the product of design, the recurrent laryngeal nerve is a disgrace” (pg. 356); discussing the vas deferens, “if this were designed, nobody could seriously deny that the designer had made a bad error” (pg. 364); and Dawkins’ pinnacle of disrespect, talking about Ichneumonid wasps, “whose designer, if there were one, must have been a sadistic bastard” (pg. 370).

I am by no means a scientist, but I want to quickly discuss why these “imperfections” are more proof for design than for evolution. Look at the vas deferens (not literally please). Apparently it makes a crazy long detour around the ureter, for no clear advantageous reason (I’m going to need to take Dawkins’ word on this). Dawkins makes the claim that this is clearly evidence of natural selection, because a designer wouldn’t be dumb enough to do this. But wouldn’t natural selection favor the males that don’t have this problem? Especially since there’s no clear trade-off being made that would give a reason for making this detour. I’m confused about his argument, unless I’m just misunderstanding things. And I’m saying this as someone who would (somewhat) subscribe to Leibniz’s theodicy (if you don’t know what that means, Wikipedia knows all, but it’s not really all that important). I have no problem believing that God created the best-of-all-possible-worlds and yet having the vas deferens rerouted around the ureter. Because God didn’t create the world for my glory as a human male.

So overall, this book isn’t worth reading, especially if you’ve already studied highschool-level biology. Unless you’d like a short (437 page) recap on current evolutionary thought at a readable level.

I hate to end this post this way, but I need to take Dawkins’ side on two issues. First, if you’re going to choose to argue against Dawkins, or against any evolutionist, understand what you’re arguing against. Please don’t talk about fronkeys and crocoducks – it’s embarrassing. And don’t quote the Second Law of Thermodynamics to discredit natural selection. And please please please don’t use the poorly formulated argumentum ad consequentiam, that teaching evolution encourages immoral behavior, therefore evolution must be false. Even if it were true that teaching evolution encourages immorality, that doesn’t make it false. Another bad one is that if we evolved simply by natural selection, life is pointless; therefore, we didn’t evolve by natural selection. Don’t do that. Just because natural selection causes the life of man to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” doesn’t mean natural selection didn’t occur (unless you can take the argument a few steps further, but most people can’t). Understand what you’re arguing against.

And second, don’t quote-mine. Just because Dawkins does it doesn’t mean you can. We’re never going to get anywhere if we keep misrepresenting each other’s sides by taking quotes way out of context. It amazes me how many times Dawkins wrote things to try to prevent this – “I must be clear here,” “please don’t be mislead by my use of a phrase like…”, and my personal favorite, “you know what I mean, don’t be pedantic.” Don’t quote-mine, it’s not helpful.

Trevin Wax’s Christmas Book Giveaway

•December 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I just thought I’d let you know (for your sake, plus I get bonus points with Trevin) Trevin Wax is giving away his 10 favorite books from 2009. Check out how to win here.

People You Should Get To Know

•December 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This is a solid group of pastors and theologians whose ministries you should really spend some time looking into (I would especially recommend John Piper, John MacArthur, and R.C. Sproul).

From left to right: (back row) John Piper, Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, John MacArthur; (front row) R.C. Sproul, Thabiti Anyabwile, Albert Mohler

(taken from http://www.t4g.org)

Paul Washer’s Ten Indictments

•December 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Have you ever heard of Paul Washer before? Probably not, but if you have it’s probably because of what’s become known as his shocking youth message. He’s done alot more than just that though. This man is incredibly passionate about the gospel, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard him preach anything but that. This video is probably one of my favorite things I’ve seen by him. It’s two hours, and that’s long, but it’s definitely worth every minute of it. He spends the two hours teaching about ten major problems he sees in the church that he believes seriously need changing. I’ve summarized them below, but I would definitely recommending watching the video, because my summary is just that – a summary, and a poor one at that.

1. A practical denial of the sufficiency of Scripture (begins at 13:15)

It is necessary to come to see that, not only is Scripture inerrant, but it is also sufficient. We don’t need to (and shouldn’t) consult social sciences and popular psychology about how to live our lives and how to run a church, because the Bible is sufficient. In our planning and choices, we should open the Bible and say, “What is thy will, O God?”. (Isa. 8:16-20, 1 Tim 4:1-32 Tim. 3:14-17)

2. An ignorance of God (begins at 20:07)

Everyone knows that God is love, and he is forgiving, and he has a plan for your life. But we often ignore the fact that he is perfectly holy, righteous, just, and wrathful. And because we don’t realize those attributes of God, the idea of fearing God is lost on most people. We’re more likely to create a god in our own image and worship it rather than worship the true God, and because of this we have thousands of Christian self-help books to help us be godly, instead of being truly regenerated by the Holy Spirit. (Psa 50:21Jer 9:23-24, 1 Cor 15:34)

3. A failure to address man’s depravity (begins at 26:00)

So, what does the Bible teach about humans? It teaches that we are totally depraved in every way, and there is nothing in us that is pleasing to God. The problem is that, in order to be tolerant and accepting, we downplay the problem of sin and treat it superficially. This is a serious problem because until you realize how disgusting your sin is to a holy God, you can’t even begin to repent from it, and without repentance there is no salvation. (Gen 6:5, 8:21, Isa 64:6-7, Rom 1:18-32, 3:9-20)

4. An ignorance of the gospel of Jesus Christ (begins at 34:10)

If you’re not going to watch the video, I would at least recommend checking out this section of it. Because so few people know the gospel, it’s been reduced to 5 spiritual laws and 4 things you need to know about God. But the gospel is this: God is perfectly holy, righteous and just. We are not. Therefore, because God is just he must condemn us, or else he would be unjust. However, God crushed his own son in the place of those who repent and believe, because his only son took on our sin and paid the penalty for us in our place, to satisfy the wrath of God. That, in short, is the gospel, and that is what needs to be taught in church and evangelized. None of this “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” fluff that’s all true but doesn’t lead to genuine repentance. Check out Paul Washer’s thoughts on that. (Pro 17:15Rom 3:21-31)

5. An ignorance about the doctrine of regeneration (starts at 44:00)

How do you know if you’re saved? Is it because you once said a prayer as a child and you think you were sincere? Of course not. Paul says to examine yourself. Jesus says that good trees must bear good fruit. You can not be born again simply because some evangelist tricked you into “conversion.” You can only be born again by the Holy Spirit. (Mat 7:15-23, 12:33-35, 2 Cor 13:5)

6. An unbiblical gospel invitation (starts at 53:06)

This is basically a result of the above indictments. If you don’t understand God’s nature, and if you don’t understand man’s nature, and if you don’t understand the gospel or the regeneration that follows the gospel, how could you possibly attempt to invite people to the gospel?

7. Ignorance regarding the nature of the church (starts at 1:08:20)

We hear so much talk of how the statistics inside the church are the same as outside of the church (divorce rates, abuse, addictions, etc.). That’s because it’s not that the “sheep” are causing the problems, but rather the “goats” that have gotten into the churches, and have become the majority. The church is not our institutions full of goats, but rather Christ’s sheep whom he is shepherding. (Jer 31:31-34, 32:37-41)

8. A lack of loving and compassionate church discipline (starts at 1:23:18)

This doesn’t mean the church should be using excommunication as the first method of discipline attempted. However, we do still need discipline. You can’t be too loving to discipline. Discipline is about love. If a parent claimed he was too loving to discipline his child, we would consider him foolish. It’s the same with the church. Churches must discipline. (Mat 18:15-17)

9. A silence on separation and holiness (starts at 1:29:48)

Very few people understand or care about pursuing a holy lifestyle. How can you claim to love Christ, and yet watch, listen to, and do the things that he detests? You can only love one and hate the other. (Heb 12:12-14, 2 Cor 6:14-15)

10. The denial of the sufficiency in regards to the family (starts at 1:37:07)

This is pretty much a more in-depth look at the first indictment. Often we’re much more concerned about what Oprah and Dr. Phil have to say about raising our families than what the Bible actually says. We end up doing what’s right in our own eyes. This is definitely clear in the way we do Sunday school, and also in the way we do youth groups.  Children are no longer taught by their fathers, and that “duty” has been given to Sunday school teachers, who generally do a poor job of it anyways. And our youth groups are based on worldly practices that pretty much guarantee the youth will increase in their worldliness.

Bible Give-Away from Logos.com

•December 10, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Logos Bible Software is celebrating the launch of their new online Bible by giving away 72 ultra-premium print Bibles at a rate of 12 per month for six months. The Bible giveaway is being held at Bible.Logos.com and you can get up to five different entries each month! After you enter, be sure to check out Logos and see how it can revolutionize your Bible study.