Christianity Today’s 2015 Book Awards

Christianity Today has announced its 2015 Book Awards.   Two titles are recognized in the categories of Apologetics/Evangelism, Biblical Studies, Christianity & Culture, Christian Living, The Church/Pastoral Leadership, Fiction, History & Biography, Missions/Global Affairs, Spirituality, Theology/Ethics, Her.Meneutics.  See the list and a little about each title here.

In my experience, this is usually a very good list, alerting me each year to some titles worth reading.  I was a judge, actually, and I was glad to see that my top two choices in the culture category were chosen.  You can see those after the jump.  But go ahead to the main site for the entire list.

The descriptions of these two book are excerpted from longer reviews.  Later, I’ll post my full reviews so that you can see why these books are so good. [Read more...]

What a Shakespeare folio does not prove

A copy of the 1623 folio of Shakespeare’s collected plays has been discovered as part of a former Jesuit library in France.  This has re-ingnited speculation that Shakespeare was a Roman Catholic.  But, as Shakespeare scholar David Scott Kastan points out, that a Jesuit would own a copy of a Shakespeare book published after his death proves no such thing.  In fact, another folio in another Jesuit library was heavily censored for what the owners back then considered anti-Catholic sentiments. [Read more...]

My new book on the imagination

 I have published a new book, one that I collaborated on with Matt Ristuccia, an evangelical pastor in Princeton.  It’s called Imagination Redeemed:  Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind. 

The imagination often gets mystified these days with its association with the arts and creativity.  We get into those areas in the book, but we are trying to recover a much more basic understanding of the concept.  The imagination is simply the power of our minds to conjure up mental images.  When you use your memory to recall past experiences, when you make plans for the future by visualizing what you are going to do tomorrow, when you daydream, when you dream, when you fantasize, when your consciousness is just running on neutral, you are using your imagination.

There have been quite a lot of Christian reflection on the faculty of the mind known as reason.  Other mental powers such as the emotions and the will have gotten significant attention.  But there has not been that much lately on the imagination, which, arguably we use more than any of the other mental faculties.  Older theologians, however, from Augustine to Luther, did address the imagination, as we go into.  After the jump, I will explain some of  what this book gets into and has to offer. [Read more...]

Death comes to a mystery writer

The British mystery writer P. D. James has died at age 94.  She took a popular conventional genre, the mystery story, and brought to it her gifts as a serious literary novelist.  Drawing on her work in a police forensics unit, she perfected the “police procedural” in novels of gritty realism and psychological depth.  She was also a Christian who said that the final revelation of a mystery story is analogous to Judgment Day.

A good place to begin with her works is her first Adam Dalgliesh novel, Cover Her Face.  (I love that allusion to the horrific 17th century tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi.)   Also read her pro-life dystopian thriller The Children of Men. [Read more...]

The 100 best Christian books

An Anglican site has compiled a list of  The 100 best Christian books.  Of course, such lists are a matter of biased opinion, but there are some real treasures here that you might not be familiar with.  (St. Augustine’s Confessions is #1.  George Herbert made #10).   As one would expect in an Anglican list, the English classics are all here (Donne, Bunyan, Chesterton, Lewis), and lots of Catholic works.  The Reformation is under-represented, though there is quite a bit of modern theology.

Check out the list.  What titles do you think should belong?

Lars Walker’s new novel

Imagine a time in not-too-distant America when only religions that pass government tolerance criteria are allowed, relegating Christianity to rebellious teenagers, graffiti-spraying street gangs, and mysterious hideouts in Minnesota.  (Islam, however, is grandfathered in, having established the Islamic state of Europe and threatening to invade Michigan.)  Everyone is happy, though, because if you are not, you have easy access to the Happy Ending Clinics, where euthanasia is also used to deal with people who are troublesome to the state by peacefully putting them to sleep.  This is the setting of Death’s Doors, the new novel by Lars Walker, who often frequents this blog.

In the story, a writer is researching a book on a religious group that is trying to restore the old Norse paganism.  The group, consisting of New Age vegans, Nordic Fascists, and Viking re-enactors, somehow manage to bring back an actual Viking from the 10th century.  Though he is bewildered by city lights, automobiles, and egalitarian society, he shows them, to their distress, what actual paganism is–or was–like.   Then we have wormholes, time travel, ancient lore, and a single father’s desperate efforts to reach his teenaged daughter.  And then things really get weird. [Read more...]