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Month: January 2022

Year of 2021 Reading: A Rapid Retrospective, Part 1

When I started this I imagined that I’d fly through the 33 books I read in 2021 and give a short one sentence sentiment and move on, but it became clear that I have more that that to say about each book. So I’ve broken this up into parts, this is part 1.

In 2018 I began to consider my own personal improvement and the fact that I enjoyed reading and I had commonly expressed my views that a healthy habit of reading is very important, but in actually examining it, I wasn’t myself being disciplined in my approach and therefore my talk was rather cheap. In 2019 I decided to put more effort into it and was pleased to be able to manage a rate of reading of nearly 2 books a month at a pace I felt was very manageable, so I made a goal of 50 books in 2020, I achieved that goal but much of it had to do with the fact that I began actively reading to Emmelia who was getting to the age where she could maintain some engagement in rather complex books. A hefty percentage of the books I read in 2020 were to her, which was a great joy and I’ve not felt that was any less beneficial reading than reading for myself, therefore I’ve happily counted the majority of those towards my yearly count as well. This year hasn’t been any different, I set the same goal of 50 books and and have overshot that goal with much aid to a growth of reading to my kids, see the retrospective I posted on the kids books if you’re interested.

This year I was able to complete 33 books outside of my reading to the girls, 2020 was a busier year and reading time was hard to come by, especially between February and July for some reason. It wasn’t all just being busy, I think there was a little loss of enthusiasm or interest in my own reading that I had to regain. I was saved somewhat by audio books which I began to take in at 15 to 30 minutes chunks every time I traveled alone anywhere or mowed the lawn; this time optimization was key to meeting my goal this year. Next year my reading goal is to read 5 books a month, for an even 60. I’ll still count quality “kids” books, so I’m positive I can nail it and exceed it if I can stick to the habits I’ve been trying to form.

With the background taken care of, below I intend to list the books that I read this year in order of reading and give a sentence or two on my impression of the book, the impact it had on me, and what value I perceived.

Against the Protestant Gnostics by Philip J. Lee

Gnosticism in it’s various forms and derivatives in history and it’s impact on the Church was incidentally a theme that kept coming up in my conversations and in reading during 2020 and particularly Flight From Humanity by Rushdoony spurred the conversation. My good friend Clayton recommended this book to me and I was very pleased with the suggestion.

I believe this book is very valuable in giving insight and perspective into the historical struggle the Western Protestant Church has had with gnosticism from Plato to now. Where I felt the author fell a little flat was in his application of the cure for gnosticism in the Church and in culture today, but that doesn’t diminish this books positive utility. It’s a fair generalization to say that most Christians are hardly aware (or care to be) of gnostic tendencies that are practically baked into our thinking. Die gnosticism die!

The Flight From Humanity by R.J. Rushdoony

This book appears after Against the Protestant Gnostics because I read it as a part of a book study group lead by my good friend Clayton. We started the book earlier in 2020 but didn’t finish it til April.

This is a small book that’s not particularly hard to read and certainly offers more than it’s brevity might lead one to think. It deals with the modern and historical error of falling into neoplatonic dialecticism, a particular form of gnostic thinking that the world has commonly utilized throughout history and has generally infiltrated the church through it’s syncretic proclivities. The categories that Rushdoony presents are valuable for everyone to engage with and understand. Though, you will have to read through the chapter on the miserable Wigglesworth, but no spoilers here.

The Idea of Decline in Western History by Arthur Herman

This is a fascinating history of a perception of history and the part man plays in it that is absolutely eye opening. While Herman is no Christian and therefore fails to recognize the influence of the fall and sin on man or the sovereignty of God in his conclusions, it’s an indictment of the brokenness of the modern evangelical man that fallen man may recognize the historical consistency and inevitability of the upward trend of the world in spite of man’s natural pessimism.

This book reads well with Against the Protestant Gnostics and Flight From Humanity, it traces the perception that the demise of the world and/or society is right around the corner and man’s attempts at solving the problem. Most importantly it notes that this view in every single generation has been patently disproved by history.

The proliferation of manachean pessimillennialism (all ahmillennial and premillennial eschatologies) can largely be attributed to the heritage of sinful man’s lack of faith in Christ and hence his inability to see God’s redemptive plan working it’s way out of the Church to all nations in time and history. If the predominant presupposition is that history is winding down then it of necessity must exclude any cosmically and culturally hopeful eschatological position as anything but irrational.

Dress Codes, How the Laws of Fashion Made History by Richard Thompson Ford

I heard the author of this book interviewed in NPR, and yes, you’ve caught me, ever so often I tune in to see what the liberals are up to. The premise of this book arrested my attention and I ordered the book and had a great deal of fun reading it. The author is no longer a Christian as far as I can tell, but his father was a Presbyterian minister and the author gives a lot of credit to his father for forming his sartorial perspectives.

One thing that I will gladly claim must have come from a borrowed Christian worldview is the idea that clothes say something about who you are and what you want. Christians should think more about their sartorial language and this book gives an entertaining history of this language.

On the despicable side, the author felt compelled to make homage to the sodomites and transvestites and their particular sartorial language today. What a Christian would have readily been able to point out here is the that their clothing screams rebellion against how God fashioned them and the responsibility to faithfulness to His design.

Devoured by Cannabis by Douglas Wilson

I was of course interested to see what Wilson had to say about Cannabis. I suspected that I would agree with him somewhat on some things and disagree with him a lot of most things. Needless to say I walked away agreeing with him on most things and disagreeing on only a few.

I particularly thought his view on the “legalization” of marijuana was a valuable discussion in relation to Godly protection of society from what I’ll call legalized dissipation in the workforce. What I disagreed with Doug on was the implementation of some sort of marijuana courts that would impose fines. Anyone want to discuss hit me up.

Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God by Adolf Harnack

A couple of years ago I was introduced to the impact of semi-marcionite hermeneutics, probably by Peter Leithart, and had been intending to get to know more about Marcion since then. Primarily because his influence in the early Church seemed interesting and relevant, especially because Marcion was wrapped up in the gnostic tendency that the early church battled and as such it played well with books I was already reading (see above). The history was interesting, but Harnacks’ conclusions were more interesting: it turns out that Harnack is more than semi-marcion himself, and I quote “…since the law pervades the entire Old Testament, including the prophets, the entire book [the Bible] as a unity is below the level of Christianity.”

Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper

This is a philosophical work that’s not about leisure in the sense of vacations. It’s a theological work in that it calls man to faith in thankfulness to God. It’s not a long book and It was well worth the read, it’s on my desk to come back to again soon.

The End Times Made Simple by Sam Waldron

Ahmillennial eschatology and manacheanism meet here. In the struggle between good and evil Waldron has failed to realize that Christ has already conquered completely, there is no struggle here and now, not for Christ. The Church is engaged only in victorious conquest of what has already been given to the Son by the Father. However, Waldron’s commitment to the view that readings of “this age” in the New Testament are still to be read as “this age” by the post 70AD world drive his conclusions. What did Christ usher in by his death? For Waldron the order of the world is the same as it always was, Christ hasn’t yet made all things new, but somehow the Church is radically new all by itself yet it’s culturally and cosmically neutered and it will never prevail, it’s fighting a losing battle pregnantly waiting for “that age”. Welcome all you saints to the mostly impotent church, the pregnant barefoot, frustrated, and harried bride with no future in sight…no matter, she’s got a spiritual hope and can smile. As a matter of fact, Waldron believes so firmly in a fundamental reality where world is characterized by “this age” that it’s only blessing is a mysterious backwards leakage of purely spiritual grace coming from this “net yet”-reachable age to come, “that age”, into “this age”. The Author’s entire premise hangs on one passage which he reads conveniently (Luke 20:34-36). If he happens to have read that incorrectly (and I’m confident he has) then the entire book falls flat. Needless to say it is true that it’s an awfully simple book that has a single passage as it’s linchpin.

But Waldron offers another sort variety of simplicity in this simple smorgasbord, throughout our author depends on the simplicity of his reader and their willingness to summarily buy into his eisegesis. why having already bought into the eschatological system one can easily sense the contradictional tensions between chapters 5 and 6. The contradictions cease when you and me, now, as believers in Christ, read Luke 20:34-36 as those who have been handed the keys to the all-encompassing kingdom that fully belongs to Christ and take on the task of being Christ’s workers and soldiers in thin redemption and the salvation of the world, having done this it is easy to see that Christ has made us worthy here and now to be active and potent in the attainment of “that age” spoken of which is now “this age” that we’re in now. And when the attainment is complete the resurrection well come about and then we’ll be like the angels. But instead what you get is the mortal conflict between the other-worldly spiritual good and present worldly evil. Die gnosticsm die.

Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation

This might have been more of a stat’s padding book. It was full of little charts and graphs, and a few articles and commentaries by folks. But one thing that the book points out and makes clear is that American culture is no longer “Christian” this is Babylon. I don’t think you need Barna’s studies to see it, but it’s interesting to see the numbers all the same.

Theopolitan Reading by Peter Leithart

This is a small book, one in a series of 4 I think put out by the Theopolis Institute. It’s essentially a more condensed take on Through New Eyes by James Jordan. Bad hermeneutics leads to bad theology, reading the Bible the way it’s intended to be read is crucial and I highly recommend both these books to help keep the Godly principles of reading His word in view.

Toward a Christian Marriage by R. J. Rushdoony

A Biblically based understanding of marriage is fundamental to society. When marriage is marginalized the structure of the family is at risk and when it begins to crack the integrity of the Church is compromised, and then cultural revolution and anarchy or some form tyranny will be the order of the day. We see it now. Toby Sumpter is correct to point to strong marriages as being Molotov: when Christian men and women look honorably upon marriage and take it’s reformation seriously they can be prepared to witness the the designs of the devil go up in flames.

David’s Harp by Alfred Sendry & Mildred Norton

This is an overview of Biblical music. It’s broad and thorough. I particularly enjoyed the sections related to musical renascence brought about by Samuel and David in the development of tabernacle worship. Furthermore the history and purpose of the Psalms was of worth. There is a great need to look at the Psalms liturgically and “eucharistically”, while Sendry and Norton aren’t here to make that point, their observations paint a picture of the purpose and use of music in the Old and New Testament Church showing that it was intended for corporate liturgical worship. Often in the search for the “real David” the Psalms are stripped of the corporate liturgical utility which was the basis of their canonization and the Scripture is thus reduced to the the individual and personal “dear diary” thoughts of the “real author.” David was the king-shephard, and his verses were always intended as a rod and reproof to the nation of Isreal as a corporate entity.

Part 2 coming soon. I know you can’t wait.

Below I’ve appended the complete list of books I read this year not including books I read to me kids:

  • Against the Protestant Gnostics by Philip J. Lee
  • The Flight From Humanity by R. J. Rushdoony
  • The Idea of Decline in Western History by Arthur Herman
  • Devoured by Cannabis by Douglas Wilson
  • Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God by Adolf Harnack
  • Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper
  • The End Times Made Simple by Samuel E Waldron
  • Theopolitan Reading by Peter Leithart
  • Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation by Barna
  • Toward a Christian Marriage by R. J. Rushdoony
  • David’s Harp by Alfred Sendry and Mildred Norton
  • The Divine Right of Resistance: Biblical Options for Apposing Tyranny by Phillip Kayser
  • The Household And The War For The Cosmos by C.R. Wiley
  • Notes From a Tilt-A-Whirl by N. D. Wilson
  • Critique of Modern Youth Ministry by Christopher Schlect
  • How to Exasperate Your Wife by Douglas Wilson
  • Overcoming Masturbation and Impure Thoughts by Phillip Kayser
  • Pastors and Their Critics: A Guide to Coping with Criticism in the Ministry by Joel R. Beeke and Nick Thompson
  • The Ecclesiastical Text by Theodore P. Letis
  • On Secular Education by R. L. Dabney
  • The King James Only Controversy by James R. White
  • Against All Opposition by Greg L . Bahnsen
  • Revision or New Translation by Oswald T. Allis
  • Heaven Misplaced: Christs Kingdom on Earth by Douglas Wilson
  • Conspiracy, A Biblical View by Gary North
  • The King James Version Defended Edward F. Hills
  • Evanjellyfish by Douglas Wilson
  • No Mere Mortals: Marriage for People Who Will Live Forever by Toby Sumpter
  • The Neglected Qualification: Black Sheep in Pastors’ Homes by Douglas Wilson
  • Against Christianity by Peter J. Leithart
  • Against the Church by Douglas Wilson
  • The Institutes of Biblical Law by R. J. Rushdoony

Year of 2021 Reading, A Retrospective: “Kids” Books

It’s been my goal for the last few years to read more and I’ve managed to accomplish this largely with help of my children: because of their joy of stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading them many great story books this year, most of which have been as much for me as for them. Together we’ve managed to read 26 large books this year, and I wanted to share my thoughts and impressions on these books with you, see below a few words about each series we read.

A note about reading to little kids, every child will arrive at the ability to sit and listen to a chapter of a longer book at a different time, it’s been a joy to me that Emmelia particularly has enjoyed from the time she was about 3 the process of listening to me read while sitting in my lap and it’s become evident that her ability to comprehend and engage in stories has rapidly grown so that, while all concepts are not mastered by any means, the flow of the narrative is meaningful and compelling for her. Isla on the other hand still comprehends and remembers less, but she’s starting to relate with the characters and their struggles and events that occurred, she doesn’t still as long but still enjoys the process. The point being that your kids might not enjoy these books or the process…yet…but if you love the process and engage your children in it patiently, I think your children may also get lots out of these books even if they’re very young. And remember, books are wonderful because you can read them over and over again.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

For the past 3 years we’ve included reading The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe into our Advent season. Because of have how readily Emmelia (3 at the time) engaged with the story it became evident that I should read the rest of them to her as well, and she loved it. Following in that same tradition, starting in December of 2020 we read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, then finished the other 5 in January and February. This year I began reading The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe specifically to Isla, we finished it before Christmas and are currently in the middle of Prince Caspian. And of course we read them in the correct order: that in which they were written.

I love these books because they are written for Children, while the themes are complex and rich they’re themes and thoughts that are established in such truth that they grow with, I know because they’ve grown with me as I’ve read them over the years and especially as I have been able to read them out loud to my own Children.

(Last year it was recommended to me by my brother in law to read Planet Narnia by Michael Ward, while it’s a pretty scholarly work and therefore can be a little on the tedious side, it greatly improved my grasp of Lewis’s goal behind these books and gave me a greater appreciation and regard for them, I highly recommend this book too.)

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

My girls have greatly enjoyed this series, in fact this is the second year we’ve read through the entire series. It’s an adventure book featuring kids ages 9-12 and it’s just fun, funny, and only a little scary. I think the humorous writing style makes this one especially fun for parents to read and the themes of sin, guilt, responsibility, redemption, adoption, betrayal etc are quite rich.

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

I read these as a boy and it wasn’t until I began reading them to my girls that I realized the greatness of these books. The import of these books is the author’s (a Christian) self conscience call to young men to be men and young women to be women. My children enjoyed these books greatly. I also enjoyed learning how to pronounce all the names.

100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson

Up to this point in our reading I’ve been pretty confident that the books were accessible to Emmelia and not completely irrelevant to Isla, but I was worried that this book might lose their interest, I am so thankful that I moved forward, these books were a joy to read. The word I would use is thematically “rich”. Emmelia especially was thoroughly engaged and together she and I found ourselves in constant story grip, we read every spare moment we could find and when we reached the end we both felt it was too soon. We’ll be reading these again this year.

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone

Rachel and I obtained the Harry Potter series as they became popular, red them, generally enjoyed them, and mostly forgot about them, but they happen to be printed quite large and therefore have some prominence on our bookshelf, this along with the nature of the cover art has caused Emmelia to ask about them frequently. Therefore after the Chronicles of Prydain we decided to give it a try, overall she enjoyed it, as far as fun stories go, I did too but having spent the year reading Lewis, Tolkien, Alexander, ND and Peterson the story was readily shown to lack the life brought by homage to Christ. I’m not against reading them, and I’ll probably read more of them to my kids as I judge age appropriate, but they’re not high on the list.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

At first I wasn’t sure if Emmelia at least wasn’t old enough to appreciate or have the patience to sit through the beautiful but slow sections of these books. We began by reading the Hobbit last year and Emmelia loved it and so she insisted that we read it again this year, and so great was her enthusiasm that I felt risking a venture into the next three books was worthwhile, and I was not disappointed, Emmelia couldn’t get enough. Isla on the other hand used most of the time to play without older sister interference, I think it was a good arrangement.

I took the opportunity to try to make all of the moments as engaging as possible, I was greatly gratified at Emmelia’s dismay in tears at the loss of Gandalf in Mordor, and her wonder at his return. Our tears joined the grief of the company on the shores of the Nimrodel and I think inspired a fitful mode for the Lay of Nimrodel which I come up with on the spot and am quite proud of. We will be returning to these books often I think.

Interspersed through our serial series reading we read some possibly more age appropriate books, mostly because I remember reading them when I was a kid.

  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins
  • The Story of Doctor Dolittle
  • Stuart Little

It was a very full and rich year of reading to the girls, precious time spent that I already cherish even though I know I’ve got much more if it in front of me. My encouragement to parents is to grow in this type of quality time with your kids, it’s an rewarding investment in the stewardship of your Godly calling towards your children.