Books Finished in January

(3 paper books, 1 e-book, and 4 audio books)

Listen to this Post

Heaping Praise On The House Of Saud

Today the UK/US media, American President, and the Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper are gloating over one of the most despotic dictators in the world. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has died and they are hailing him as “loyal ally”, “reformer”, “bold”, “courageous” and even “vocal advocate of peace in the Middle East”. Surely if he weren’t so “cooperative” on various military adventures, he would be denounced as a thug and despot. It almost reads as if it is coming straight out of The Onion. The next time our governments or media say we are going to war to fight for freedom or get rid of dictators or fight extremism–it should be noted that they have eagerly praised (and supported and protected) one of the worst totalitarian states in recent history.

I think talking to people from the area pretty quickly reveals the extent to which the kingdom has been characterized by corruption and extreme forms of totalitarianism.

For those interested to read, I recommend the Palestinian-Egyptian author Said Aburish’s book “Rise, Corruption and Coming Fall of the House Saud”. Though it is dated, it does a good job of setting the historical context and also showing the depth to which the Saud family has been able to manage its reputation in the media and in Western governments–both through finesse and intimidation.

Listen to this Post

Books Finished in 2014

In 2014, I’ve finished the following 67 books. This is my lowest total since 2010 and this year’s total is less than half of what I completed in 2012. Nevertheless, this appears to have been the year of GREAT books, and I can’t think of any year in which so I’ve had the pleasure of reading so many excellent ones.  The books I’ve added the prefix of an asterisk (*) are my “best ten books I read in 2014″. There are easily another 10 books which would be a close runner-ups for this distinction.

Paper Books

  1. *Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King
  2. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
  3. *The Pure Flame of Devotion: The History of Christian Spirituality, edited by G. Stephen Weaver and Ian Hugh Clary
  4. Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church by Michael Haykin
  5. The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay and Laney Salisbury
  6. Lectures on Calvinism by Abraham Kuyper
  7. Jonah: A Study in Compassion by O. Palmer Robertson
  8. Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell
  9. Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice
  10. *The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  11. Why Windsor?: An Anecdotal History Of The Jews Of Windsor And Essex County by Alan E. Abrams
  12. A History of the Baptists by Robert G. Torbet
  13. Baptist Roots In America by Samuel Waldron
  14. The Teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses by John H. Gerstner
  15. The Obsession Book of Timbuktu by Bruce Meyer
  16. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
  17. The French Reformation by Mark Greengrass
  18. Dr. Seuss ABC’s by Dr. Seuss
  19. *The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence by Thabiti Anyabwile
  20.  The Armies of the Lamb: the Spirituality of Andrew Fuller edited by Michael Haykin
  21. *Anne of Green Gables – Book #1 – L. M. Montgomery
  22. Immigrants, Baptists, and the Protestant Mind in America by Lawrence B. Davis
  23. 30 Years a Watchtower Slave by William J. Schnell
  24. Alligators and Crocodiles by Gail Gibbons
  25. The Baptists in Upper and Lower Canada before 1820 by Stuart Ivison and Fred Rosser
  26. William Cowper by Norman Nicholson
  27. Why Read The Puritans Today? by Don Kistler
  28. William Cowper: Nature Poet by Roderick Huang
  29. The Unpublished And Uncollected Poems Of William Cowper by William Cowper
  30. *Knowing God by J. I. Packer

Electronic Books

  1. The Holy War (re-read–previous read in 2005) by John Bunyan
  2. Emily, and Other Poems by J. Newton Brown
  3. The Apocalypse: a poem by J. Newton Brown
  4. Gospel Assurance and Warnings by Paul Washer
  5. The life and times of Menno: The celebrated Dutch reformer by John Newton Brown
  6. Basil of Caesarea: His Life and Impact by Marvin Jones
  7. *Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probability and Random Events by Vern Poythress
  8. The Threefold Cord: The Dark Harvest Trilogy, Book Three by Jeremiah W. Montgomery
  9. Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God by Dane Ortlund
  10. Beer Is Proof God Loves Us: Reaching for the Soul of Beer and Brewing by Charles W. Bamforth

Audio Books

  1. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  2. 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
  3. Wind Among the Reeds by W. B. Yeats
  4. Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff
  5. Man with Wings: The Story of Leonardo da Vinci by Joseph Cottler
  6. According to Promise: The Lord’s Method of Dealing with His Chosen People by Charles H. Spurgeon
  7. Hexaemeron by Basil of Caesarea
  8. Jill the Reckless by P.G. Wodehouse
  9. Alarms and Discursions by G. K. Chesterton
  10. What The Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell
  11. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
  12. Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
  13. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  14. The Autobiography of a Clown by Isaac Frederick Marcosson
  15. A Guide to Stoicism by George Stock
  16. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris
  17. American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt by Daniel Rasmussen
  18. *The Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate’s Code of Silence and the Biggest Marijuana Bust in American History by James Higdon
  19. AfterLife: What You Really Want to Know About Heaven and the Hereafter by Hank Hanegraaff
  20. How Google Works by Eric Schmidt
  21. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
  22. The Closer by Mariano Rivera
  23. Poems 1817 by John Keats
  24. *The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  25. The Traitor by Thomas Dixon Jr.
  26. *No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald
  27. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Listen to this Post

Books Finished in December

(3 paper books, 2 e-book, and 4 audio books)

Listen to this Post

Learning German – Resources I’m Currently Using

As of late I’ve been returning to German and Spanish. Both are languages which I’ve worked on in the past–but never got beyond some very primitive basics. The awesome language learning platform “Duolingo” has enticed me into returning to these languages.

I’m keeping it pretty simple–I’m trying to get to the point where I have a basic reading comprehension so that I could slowly read a book in the target language.

Here are some resources I have been using for German:

  • Duolingo – I use this language learning platform on both the web and their app on my Android phone. My brilliant niece’s description of Duolingo is worth reading.
  • German for Beginners (from Barnes & Noble’s Everyday Handbooks series) by Charles Duff and Paul Stamford
  • Steuben (Cultural Graded Readers) by C. R. Goedsche and W. E. Glaettli
  • Michel Thomas’ German audio lessons

Are you working on learning a language? What are you using?

Listen to this Post

Mere Strangers – Xenophobia is Forgetting Redemptive History

SimonPatrickA previous article I wrote ( left many areas for further exploration. One obvious one would be a survey of how Leviticus 19:33-34 has been historically understood. This article does not pretend to do that, but will look at one example from the seventeenth century.

There aren’t many seventeenth century commentaries on Leviticus that are complete and readily available. In 1689, the Anglican Bishop Simon Patrick (1626-1707) produced one of them. We will look at his comments on Leviticus 19:33-34 (p. 389-391), a Bible text which reads:

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (ESV)

Simon Patrick sees a “natural law” aspect embedded in the text, where “common Humanity” teaches everyone “to be kind to all manner of Strangers.” And this kindness is “not merely to refrain from oppressing them.”

However, in Patrick’s eyes, the force of the passage is not rooted in “common Humanity” but rather a specific remembrance of a portion of redemptive history. The text was grounded in remembering the time the Israelites were strangers in Egypt and were treated with kindness there even though they were outsiders and didn’t “assimilate.”

Patrick acknowledges that later Jewish interpreters not only understood “neighbour” as equivalent to “Israelite,” but also reasoned that the stranger who deserves affection must also be an Israelite. On the contrary, Patrick insists that this passage is abused if it is be interpreted that way. The passage, on its face value, must apply to strangers regardless of religion and perhaps it is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ later clarification of the term “neighbour.” Patrick does, however, admit that it is perfectly reasonable to suppose that while love and kindness is owed to all strangers regardless of religion, there can be a “strict Friendship” which is reserved for those strangers of the same religion.

So, what was to move the Israelites to have pity on strangers of different religions? “The remembrance of what their condition was in Egypt,” Patrick says. For, “they and the Egyptians were not of the same religion” and yet through the kindness of the Egyptians, the Israelites “found such kind Entertainment there a long time.”

Then Patrick sees a strengthening of the argument in the text. The kindness to the strangers was not contingent on some sort of full assimilation. And that absence of full assimilation is grounded in the fact that Israel didn’t fully assimilate to the Egyptian society. Patrick basically says that even strangers who do not obey the laws of Israel should receive kindness if they are more united to Israel than the people of Israel were united with Egypt. Basically, in Patrick’s mind, the text seems to be arguing from the lesser to the greater. Should not the people of God excel beyond others in offering kindness and hospitality to those who might not assimilate fully?

And then Patrick turns to those who are sluggish to be kind to strangers and says that “[the Lord God has] done so much for you, when you were meer Strangers, that you should not stick to be kind to those who are in the like Condition.”

This identifies precisely what xenophobia rests on–“natives” forgetting that they too, in some sense, were once in “like Condition.” At the very least, all Christians can trace our identity as pilgrims and strangers back to the time when our forefathers (God’s people of old) were the recipients of kindness in Egypt. And we, as Christians, have many more reasons to love strangers, especially when we review the words and activities of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We should also remember that what eventually made Egypt inhospitable for the Israelites was the emergence of xenophobic fears on the part of the Egyptians. The Egyptians became fearful about a “menacing” increase of the Hebrew population. So then, perhaps the Israelites reception of Egyptian kindness is not the only lesson here. Perhaps Egypt’s reversal of their hospitality due to fears should be a cautionary tale for us. “Natives” must beware of irrational letting fear of immigrants propel them into destructive behaviours and policies.

Listen to this Post

Rand Paul On The Cuban Embargo

In Time, Rand Paul has written on the Cuban embargo, largely in response to Marco Rubio.

He puts his finger on an interesting contradiction. Those who so busily go around deriding non-interventionists as supposed “isolationists”, when it comes to the subject of Cuba, suddenly  become actual isolationists (no trade, no diplomacy, etc.) and scoff at those who want to “appease Cuba”.

Whatever one thinks about him in general, Rand does a good job of bringing out the problems and contradictions in the thinking of the pro-embargo people. Here are some quotes from Rand:

“The supporters of the embargo against Cuba speak with heated passion but fall strangely silent when asked how trade with Cuba is so different than trade with Russia or China or Vietnam. It is an inconsistent and incoherent position to support trade with other communist countries, but not communist Cuba.”

“My family’s opposition to communism was so fierce that when Nixon said the U.S. would trade with Red China our response was heated and passionately opposed. But over time my family and many conservatives came to believe that trade was better than war and more effective. While China’s human rights record leaves much to be desired, our engagement and trade has without question helped to open Chinese society.”

“The 50-year embargo against Cuba has not worked. If the goal was regime change, then it sure does not seem to be working. It also hurts the people more than the regime, because the regime can blame the embargo for hardship.”

Listen to this Post

A Review of Glenn Greenwald’s “No Place To Hide”

greenwaldNo Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald

Whatabook! I highly recommend this as a fairly comprehensive treatment of the circumstances behind (and the content of) the Snowden leaks. Greenwald does a fine job of laying out a narrative of the events leading up to and around the release of the information. He also debunks disinformation, duplicity, and subterfuge. Surprisingly, the thing that I think is MOST important about this book is not what it says about surveillance, but rather what it says about journalism and the media. It is effectively a convincing, stirring critique of current-day journalism. Far too often the media has simply regurgitated what it has been spoon fed. We need a revival in the old tradition of investigative journalism and this book is a powerful call for the media to get off its easy chair and start actually doing some serious investigative journalism.

Think what you will about Greenwald, Poitras, and Snowden–you must at least congratulate them for doing what the media is supposed to be doing (but generally wasn’t). They had an incredible amount of guts and risked their freedom and safety to actually push forward our knowledge of the truth. Whistleblowers have an important role to play in a free and civilized society, and among whistleblowers it is hard to imagine one as significant as Edward Snowden.

Listen to this Post


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: