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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 indecently 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 now, 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 one one small 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. Regardless, it’s an awfully simple book that raises up a single passage as it’s linchpin.

That brings us to the “simple” part of this book. The reason it’s simple is because it depends on the simplicity of the reader and their willingness to summarily buy into the author’s scriptural eisegesis . Without 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

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