Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Summertime Reading Review

The sweet summer time is quickly coming to an end and this summer afforded me with the opportunity to read some fine books. I would love to do a more comprehensive review of each one, but I just don't have the time, so a brief book report will have to do.

Here are three of my favorites I have read this summer:

Alien Intrusions: UFOs and the Evolution Connection
by Gary Bates

The world has been engrossed with UFOs and alien abductions throughout much of the 20th century until now. Radio programs like Art Bell and George Noory's Coast to Coast AM treat UFOs and aliens with utter seriousness and regularly entertain guests who are alleged experts on the subject. One re-occurring guest, Richard C. Hoagland, believes human life began on Mars and some catastrophe in the distant past drove our Martian ancestors to Earth to live. He believes photographs from Martian surveyor satellites reveal ancient cities and other geometric structures designed as markers to remind humanity from where they came.
How does a Bible believing Christian even begin to address these claims? Most folks in the Christian community just wave a dismissive hand and say the devil is behind it all; but that is rather specious thinking.

Gary Bates has spent a good deal of personal research on the subject of UFOs and alien abductions. He has visited MUFON conferences and interviewed dozens of alleged UFO abductees. His book, then, is a record of his research and the conclusions he has drawn as a Bible-believing Christian. Bates sees three main things driving the UFO/alien phenomenon in our world:

1) The popularization of science fiction literature and movies. Blockbuster sci-fi themed movies help to shape our mental image of what aliens and UFOs are to look like.

2) The proliferation of materialistic naturalism through the philosophy of Darwinian evolution. In other words, life evolved here on Earth, so surely it happened elsewhere in the universe.

3) And the human fascination with the occult. In fact, what Bates discovered is that testimonies from individuals who claim to have been abducted by aliens is almost exactly the same type of testimonies from individuals who have encountered "spirits" during seances and other occultic rituals in a pre-science fiction society. Interestingly, Bates further notes that the great majority of alien abductees, especially repeat abductees who are taken over and over again, were already involved with occultic new age practices before the abduction, or come from families who were involved with such practices. One other additional factoid Bates uncovered: Genuine, Bible believing Christians have never experienced alien encounters with abduction. Even the secular UFO researchers are mystified by the fact "serious Christians"are the one group never experiencing abduction. (I have always wondered why Calvinists never talked about being abducted).

This was probably the most fun book I read this summer and the reason why I am so excited about it. I believe Mr. Bates offers a good apologetic for a biblical worldview and UFOs and provides some excellent material if and when Christians have to engage UFO believers.

The Divine Challenge: On Matter, Mind, Math and Meaning
by John Byl

This book, too, was another fun read for me, as well as one of the better introductions to presuppositional apologetics I have seen in sometime. Dr. Byl is head of the department of mathematical sciences at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Canada. As Dr. Byl explains in his introduction, his book is simply about the war of man against God, specifically, the rule of competing worldviews. Man desires to challenge God's supremacy based upon his own pride and envy, and as a result, men seek to reinterpret the universe by assigning it new meaning and transforming it to suit his own standards. Dr. Byl's thesis is that the mystery of mind, matter and math and how these three things inter-relate can only be explained adequately with a Christian theistic worldview. In fact, Dr. Byl argues that a person's worldview - what consists of our faith commitments that help us interpret our world - stands or falls with how it explains the three mysteries of mind, matter and math. He then goes on to examine how the three prevailing worldviews of today, naturalism, theism and relativism handle these trio of mysteries and demonstrates why Christian theism is the only one that can.

The book has some mathematical jargon in it, but Dr. Byl makes it easy to follow - and I say that as a kid who maintained a low C average in math class throughout grade school and still has trouble dividing fractions. I particular appreciate that Dr. Byl is well read on this subject, because he quotes from a variety of top authors and philosophers who are expert in their fields and yet hostile to Christianity. Some of the quotes Dr. Byl provides are stunning in their admission. One fellow quite pointedly states that he would rather believe an irrational worldview because the only other option is to believe in God and that is something he is repulsed by.

Sinners in the Hands of a Good God: Reconciling Divine Judgment and Mercy
by David Clotfelter

I just recommended this book to a friend, because it is probably one of the best studies on the theology of Calvinism that has been published in recent years. The book is basically Clotfelter's study in exploring the biblical teaching of God's divine judgment and grace. The author is heartfelt, because he writes from a position of one who sincerely wrestled with the thought of God sending people to hell for an eternity never to stop suffering for their sin, as well as his struggles with the doctrines of election and salvation in which God chooses some to salvation but leaves the rest to their sin and final judgment. The book is not written as a typical defense of Calvinism like Thomas and Steele's classic work, but Clotfelter approaches the subject in a rather unique way. First, he speaks to his struggle with the divine justice and shares how he moved from like the writings of annihilationalist theologian, George MacDonald, to Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century American Puritan. MacDonald, according to Clotfelter, despised Edwards and he uses this contempt MacDonald had for Edwards to frame the differences between the two traditional ways of understanding God's justice. The book then moves into an excellent defense for the eternality of suffering in hell and why the doctrine is necessary and biblical, and then moves to addressing God's salvation and the doctrines of orthodox Calvinism. Clotfelter spends a good amount of time interacting with objections to his position and just writes with a sensitive clarity that is rare with books on heavy theological subjects.


Blogger centuri0n said...

In an attempt to avoid admitting to what I read this summer, I'm going around to my favorite blogs and asking the question:

What do you think of Pat Robertson's latest, um, political theory that the U.S. should assassinate Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and the Venezuelan response that his comments are tantamount to international terrorism?

10:01 AM, August 24, 2005  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Funny you should ask that. I just saw this at Scrapple face:

Robertson issues fatwa against Venezuela's Chavez

Robertson is as irresponsible and foolish as the KJV folks I have been writing against.

I guess you could put him on a show, "When TV evangelicals go wild" with Benny Hinn and Bobby Tilton.


10:08 AM, August 24, 2005  

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