Monthly Archives: December 2016

“LIBERAL” AND “CONSERVATIVE”

In my own interactions I’ve found the hardened categories of liberal and conservative, or left and right, to be confusing and not helpful. Too many claim these labels without knowing what they mean.

I’ve never had difficulties interacting, even debating, with liberals in the best sense of that word, or conservatives in the best sense of that word.  I have had much difficulty with illiberals who think they are liberals, and conspiratorial folks who claim conservatism.   Neither are very knowledgeable of political philosophy or history. 

BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Reading is critical to what I do, but more importantly, who I am.  My reading is divided into various categories: reading related to a writing project, reviews and/or interviews with authors, and other miscellaneous books that are significant to be conversant on.  There are many classics that I have on my list (yes, I keep many lists), so books coming off the presses today are scrutinized pretty closely.

As I get older (58 now), I find myself rereading books which have made the biggest impact on me.  This means that I am getting pickier with my new selections with each passing moment which is not a bad thing.

Instead of giving a large list, let me mention seven books all published in 2016 which I found quite good.

The very best for the entire year was a three way tie with MAKING SENSE OF GOD by Tim Keller, SILENCE AND BEAUTY by Mako Fujimura, and AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY: A LOVE STORY by John Kaag.

So here are my seven favorites in no particular order…

SAVING THE BIBLE FROM OURSELVES: LEARNING TO READ AND LIVE THE BIBLE WELL by Glenn Paauw.

https://www.amazon.com/Saving-Bible-Ourselves-Learning-Read/dp/0830851240/ref=cm_rdp_product

My interview with the author is here:

Saving the Bible from Ourselves

AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY: A LOVE STORY by John Kaag

https://www.amazon.com/American-Philosophy-Story-John-Kaag/dp/0374154481/ref=cm_rdp_product

John Kaag is a philosopher, but don’t let that scare you away from his writing, at least not with this book.

American Philosophy: a Love Story is remarkable twin tour of a long abandoned library and the human heart. Kaag is a candid diagnostician of his own interior life with all its complexities and contradictions.

I’ve been reading some of Kaag’s interlocutors for some time, especially Ralph Waldo Emerson. As a Christian, I disagree with much of what Emerson wrote, but he makes me wrestle with important issues in ways that make me a better Christian…at least a better thinking Christian.

Kaag is vulnerable about his own personal struggles and path to happiness. Like Emerson, I don’t agree with Kaag’s philosophy of life, but reading about his pilgrimage to greater sanity was fascinating and time well spent.

This is a brilliantly conceived and exceedingly satisfying read. If scholars like Kaag wrote more books like this one there would be a whole lot more interest in philosophy!

I think a wonderful movie could be made from this book…at least a well-crafted documentary.

PURSUING HEALTH IN AN ANXIOUS AGE by Bob Cutillo

https://www.amazon.com/Pursuing-Health-Anxious-Gospel-Coalition/dp/1433551101

Dr. Bob Cutillo has written a book that Andy Crouch describes this way: “Perhaps once a year, if I am lucky, I encounter a book that addresses a supremely important topic and does so in a supremely helpful way. This is such a book…”

Cutillo is a medical doctor. He serves in various capacities: as professor at a major university, teaching at an evangelical seminary, and providing compassionate care to those on the margins of society.

How should we understand health? Well, it depends on your frame of reference. If you believe that Jesus has conquered death, then you will answer that question very differently from those who don’t.

Cutillo is not just a “science guy,” though he certainly has great competence there having earned his MD from Columbia University. Cutillo also loves great literature and philosophy. He brings in wonderful insights from wide-ranging readings of great books. This offers a real model of responsible and competent integration. I’ve read other books that seek to integrate from various disciplines, but few pull it off as well as Cutillo.

MAKING SENSE OF GOD: AN INVITATION TO THE SKEPTICAL by Timothy Keller

https://www.amazon.com/Making-Sense-God-Invitation-Skeptical/dp/0525954155

My review can be found here:

Tim Keller’s Newest

DEEP WORK; RULES FOR FOCUSED WORK IN A DISTRACTED WORLD by Cal Newport

https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Work-Focused-Success-Distracted/dp/1455586692

Here is my interview with the author:

Cal Newport: Focused Success in a Distracted World

MEDIEVAL WISDOM FOR MODERN CHRISTIANS by Chris Armstrong

https://www.amazon.com/Medieval-Wisdom-Modern-Christians-Authentic/dp/1587433788/ref=cm_rdp_product

My interview with the author is here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2016/07/16/medieval-wisdom-for-modern-christians/

SILENCE AND BEAUTY: HIDDEN FAITH BORN OF SUFFERING by Makoto Fujimura

https://www.amazon.com/Silence-Beauty-Hidden-Faith-Suffering/dp/0830844597/ref=cm_rdp_product

I am writing a book on how to trust God in the midst of suffering. Recent reads were Endo’s Silence followed by Makoto Fujimura’s Silence and Beauty. I made over 200 marginal notes in the pages of Endo’s Silence. It is an extremely important work for Christians to digest deeply.

Usually a commentary on a great book may be helpful and illuminating, but hardly of the caliber of the classic. This book may break this regular rule.

Fujimura’s reflections on Endo’s classic work are simply stunning. Silence and Beauty is a wonderful companion to Endo’s Silence. In fact, I would argue that Fujimura’s Silence and Beauty is indispensable to reading Endo’s work. Silence and Beauty takes you into the heart of Japanese culture and rituals. It helps you understand why Christianity is such a threat to its cultural ethos.

Silence and Beauty is wonderfully conceived and full of compelling insights. Highly recommended.

 

 

“MAD DOG” MATTIS

“What I’ve found over many years in many different organizations if you take good people and good ideas, but you match them with bad processes, the bad processes will win 9/10 times.”

Mattis went on to describe how our government process with respect to the budget is “convoluted” so good ideas are stymied and don’t emerge like they should.

Fascinating interview here:

http://www.wsj.com/video/uncommon-knowledge-retired-us-marine-corps-gen-james-mattis/D8F1B039-5E25-4829-9397-A704100629E0.html