Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds by Phillip Johnson

Phillip Johnson wrote this in 1997 to equip students for the intellectual battle over evolution in philosophy and science. While it discusses a few scientific points, the primary focus is on the philosophical naturalism that often undergirds evolution-affirming science (and which often remains unacknowledged), and how to challenge it.

That question–is philosophical naturalism necessarily and inextricably tied in with the real scientific elements of evolution?–is the primary idea I’ve pondered about this issue for a number of years now. The answer to that sets the stage and defines the parameters for what I am willing to accept and consider in this realm. Johnson makes a compelling case that the two are indeed inextricably linked, and thus must be challenged and fought.

For having been written almost 20 years ago, it’s surprisingly relevant: scientific research–particularly in the field of genetics–has continued to undermine the credibility of blind natural selection as an explanatory theory. And many of his tips about how to engage/challenge both lay persons and scientists are still helpful.

The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister (The Ancient Practices Series)

I am reposting this 2009 review because the Kindle Editionn is on sale for $1.99
I grew up as a low church baptist.  We didn’t pay attention to the liturgical year, we didn’t use the Lectionary.  I have absorbed some things about the church year through my time at Wheaton College and seminary.  Some friends have paid more attention to the liturgical year and my wife and I have paid attention to Lent on and off since we went to Israel for Easter in 2001.  But this book was a good formal introduction to not only what the liturgical year is, but why it is.  The author describes it this way:

“The church year is not the marking of one lucelent, passing moment in the midst of eleven long months of dark nothingness all the rest of the year. It is month after month, every year of our lives, being taken back to the empty cross and the empty tomb, one way or another, in order to shape our own life in the light of them.” (From the 1st chapter.)

The author is a catholic nun, and writes using the Roman Catholic system as her primary focus.  She also talks about some of the differences between Eastern and Western calendars and where the differences arose.  It is not technical, fairly conversational and quite understandable to an outsider.  It was a quick read, I read it is in two evenings.

The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters

Summary: There is only 6 months before the world ends, but Detective Palace still has crimes to solve.

Mostly I picked up this book because I liked the concept. A large asteroid is coming toward earth and because of its odd orbit it was not detected until just about a year before it is scheduled to hit the earth. At the time of the book, it is six months until it hits. It has been confirmed that it is a certainty that the asteroid will hit and it will likely wipe out most of the population of the earth.

The world economy is in shambles (reminiscent of Station Eleven), but there is a longer preparation time. What would you do if you had six months to life, and so did everyone else?

Hank Palace is a young detective. Only 25, but he is sure that his recent suicide case (his ninth in 3 months) is not actually a suicide. But he not only has to fight for the freedom to solve it, he has to try to solve it in the context of a system that is breaking down.

The Scorch Trials, a Step Away From the Book

Unfortunately for Thomas and his fellow Gladers, the maze was only the beginning. With an impressive opening weekend in the box office, the second installment in The Maze Runner series solidifies the latest dystopian trilogy as a hit. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is just the latest in a long line of dystopian fiction to hit the market. In recent years, the young adult dystopian genre has seen a boom of new books published and adaptations continue to hit the big screen at a continuous and steady rate.

Of these adaptations, some have risen to the top of the heap, while others have fallen to the side of the road. The Maze Runner adaptation was initially written off by many critics, and even a few fans, as another mediocre entry into a flooded market. As if to prove these naysayers wrong, screenwriter T.S. Nowlin and director Wes Ball have returned with an even more action-packed adventure straying further from its source material than the original.

The Scorch Trials sees Thomas free of the Maze but far from true freedom. Upon discovering that the omnipotent group known as World in Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department – or WCKD – had been responsible for trapping the group in the maze as a sort of experiment to fight against a post-apocalyptic threat, we once again watch as Thomas leads his fellow Gladers out into a desolate area known as the Scorch and fight to escape WCKD’s experimentation plan. After being rescued by a mysterious third-party group and becoming suspicious of their true intentions, Thomas and the group once again venture out into the Scorch taking us on a wild ride coming up against deadly superstorms, depraved scoundrels, and lethal “Cranks.”

The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Summary: A family law judge wrestles with the ethical issues of her job and the personal issues of her life.

I once primarily read science fiction because it was in science fiction that I thought that ideas were best explored. I have since grown and experimented more in my reading choices. And recently I have come to think that ‘literary fiction’ should be defined more by its ability to interact with bigger ideas than any other measure.

The Children Act (and the Susan Howatch books I have been reading much of this year) are prime examples of what I mean by this description of literary fiction.

Fiona Maye is a UK High Court judge. She has very difficult cases in areas that in the US we would call family law. Divorce, child abuse, medical treatment of children, etc. While she is at the top of her career, a career that she has sacrificed her own chances of motherhood for, her husband has decided that his life needs a change. And so he is asking her permission to have an affair, although it is clear he has decided to have one regardless of her permission.

The High Flyer by Susan Howatch

Summary: A high flying lawyer, with no time for the spiritual life, is forced to confront the spiritual world.

Carter Graham is a no nonsense lawyer that has a life plan and is sticking to it. That life plan includes getting married at around 35 and having children sometime before 40. When Carter meets Kim Betz, she thinks she has found a perfect partner to continue her life plan.

As with most of Susan Howatch’s books the story is important, but the story is also a means to work through spiritual and philosophical issues. In this case, the atheist Carter Graham, confronts the reality of the spiritual world through unexpected spiritual manifestations (ghosts, spiritual healers, curses, etc.) and then has to work through her issues around theodicy, the problem of evil, the role of God in evil, why God didn’t create a perfect world, her role in sin and how her sin affects others and other’s sin affects her, etc..

More than most of Susan Howatch’s books I have read this is a book of explication. Carter spends a lot of time talking through issues with counselors, doctors, psychologists, spiritual directors, friends, etc. This allows for a lot of different perspectives, but also a book that is as much theology as story.

Holy is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present

I am reposting this 2013 review because the Kindle Edition is on sale for $2.99 this week.
Holy Is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present

Summary: Another beautifully written book about finding God in the present.

I love blogging. But every once in a while I get tired of the pressure to keep churning out content. It is work to try to figure out something to say about every book that you read.

However, much more often books are a joy to read. It is one of my great pleasure to be able to recommend particular books to friends and family and then have them come back later and say they loved the book.

One of the books that I recommended to many over the past two years is Carolyn Weber’s Surprised by Oxford. It is Weber’s account of her first year of studying at Oxford and her unexpected conversion to Christianity during the same year. It is a beautifully written book.

So I have been expectantly waiting for her new book Holy is the Day. I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy the day before I left for vacation last week.

This was an airplane book (the only place I regularly read paper books.) Much shorter and more episodic than her previous book, Holy is the Day recounts stories of where Weber finds God in daily life.

I, as an expectant father, was particularly drawn in because the book opens and closes with birth stories. Birth and death are natural places where we see God because they are such transcendent experiences. But in between birth and death God sometimes gets a little lost (or at least we lose sight of God in the midst of our busyness).

Most of the stories are in some way about family, community and the church. We have a tendency to live as if we are alone. But it is in community, our families, the church, neighbors, friends, that we often most clearly see and hear God. (This is very similar to the focus in Eugene Peterson’s Practice Resurrection).

Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

This book is a lot of things. It’s a mini autobiography of the author and her transformation from liberal feminist and queer theorist to evangelical Christian; it’s a theological treatise on sin, identity, mortification, sanctification and the gospel of grace; it’s a discussion of sexual orientation and its Freudian roots as a 19th century category error; it’s about biblical hospitality and how to engage your neighbors and include them in your daily rhythms of life.

Butterfield writes from her 16 years of experience living faithfully as a Christian, and as one who admittedly learned from her queer community most of what she knows of living in openness and hospitality today. She is in a unique position, having lived on both “sides” of the tracks and fully embraced (at different times) both communities. She has the intellectual chops to articulate the biblical truth about human sexuality and brokenness, but her explication is comfortably paired with the gentleness, compassion and relational authority earned by her previous community experience.

Waterfi Waterproof Kindle Paperwhite Review

If you asked me what my favorite thing to do, on the list would be floating in the ocean, reading. Several years ago I found a floating waterproof case for my Kindle 2. And up until recently I had still been using it. It finally broke and on impulse I picked up a refurbished Waterfi Waterproof Kindle Paperwhite two weeks ago right before I went to the beach for a week’s vacation.

The first thing you notice about Waterfi’s waterproofed Paperwhite is that it is basically indistinguishable from a regular Paperwhite. The waterproofing is not visible and doesn’t add any weight (at least not enough to be noticeable).

Waterfi is an aftermarket system. So you purchasing one from Waterfi voids the Amazon warranty. A refurbished Waterfi has a six month warranty. The refurbished Paperwhites are a mix of 1st and 2nd generation Paperwhites, but you can ask them for one or the other.

There are two main negatives about the Waterfi system that was not true of my old floating Kindle case. First, it does not float. So if I dropped it in the ocean, I would have go grab it. I have thought about how to create some type of float for it, but I haven’t worked that out yet. (I think some type of foam case should work.) I was just careful when I was swimming with it.

The second negative is that because the Paperwhite is a touch screen device that moves by electrical conduction, hard spray from salt water can turn the page or turn on the screen commands. It was not a huge problem, but I did need to try to keep it out of the spray to actually pay attention to the book. (And it really makes me wish that either Amazon had real page turn buttons or that Waterfi had waterproofed a Kindle Voyage).

But those two negatives aside I am really happy with the purchase. It is waterproof, the screen was not at all fuzzy as the one waterproof case for the Paperwhite that I have tried was and while I would not normally spend the extra $20 to get rid of ads, it is nice to not have ads.

Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are by Shauna Niequist

Reposting this review from earlier this year because but the Kindle Edition is on sale for $1.99.
Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are is the first devotional written by essayist, blogger and speaker, Shauna Niequist. Niequist has authored the wildly popular books “Cold Tangerines, “Bittersweet” and “Bread & Wine“. (Last two reviewed by

Savor is a daily devotional incorporating Niequist’s writings paired with a Scripture verse. Regular readers of Niequist’s blog will no doubt recognize some of that material as it was originally published online. This may be a disappointment to her long-time online audience. However, those unfamiliar with Niequist’s work may find Savor to be a good jumping on point.

Niequist is an insightful writer. Her daily devotional and follow-up questions for personal reflection are a good starting point for readers new to devotionals or even new to the Christian faith. As an added bonus, sprinkled throughout Savor are recipes that Niequist’s readers have grown to enjoy from her other works.

Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are by Shauna Niequist Purchase Links: Hardcover, Kindle Edition, Audiobook, Scribd Audio