Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Review: Unformed and Unfilled

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Unformed and Unfilled:
A Critique of the Gap Theory
by Weston Fields

ISBN: 089051-423-2
Trade Paperback: 246 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: 1976, 2005

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Publisher's Website (modified):
Is there a "gap in time" between the first two verses in Genesis? Does this alleged gap really represent a vast amount of time? Weston Fields makes a detailed study of the gap theory, paying particular attention to the original Hebrew language of Genesis. His explanations will help readers who struggle with the question of the time taken during the creation week. Was it really six days? Can Christians find a workable solution to the debate about creation and time? This book is a professional, scholarly work that can be easily understood by laymen.

About the Author:
Weston W. Fields, Ph.D., is a scholar of the Hebrew language. He divides his time between Alaska and Israel where he does research work related to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

My Review:
Unformed and Unfilled is a critique of the gap theory (the idea that there's a large gap in time--usually between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2--between God's original creation of the universe and a re-making of the earth after a world-wide flood upon the earth done in judgment of Satan's rebellion). The author was very thorough in his explanations of why the gap theory (in its many variations) isn't consistent with the Biblical account, especially when studying the original Hebrew words and grammar. His writing was more formal in tone and required anyone not familiar with Hebrew grammar to learn a lot about it from this book. However, it was written clearly so that his arguments were easy enough to follow.

The author covered the arguments given for the gap theory in great detail so that highly-read believers in the gap theory will understand his points. However, someone who doesn't know that much about the arguments for the gap theory could get overwhelmed by all the information and miss the really critical points. Still, I'd recommend this book to those who hold the gap theory or day-age theory (though books with more scientific evidence for recent creation might be more effective) or those who want to know the Scripture-based arguments for why those ideas don't work.

The author covered what the whole Bible has to say about creation and its timing, ancient Jewish interpretations of Genesis 1:1-1:2, and early Christian interpretations and post-"long-age-geology" Christian interpretations of Genesis 1:1-1:2. He gave a detailed explanation of the grammar and linguistics of Genesis 1:1-1:3 (mainly, bara/"create" and asa/"make"; what type of sentence is Genesis 1:2; the waw type; "was" versus "had become" or "became"; and tohu/"without form/shapeless" and bohu/"void/empty"). He also covered the lesser arguments of 'Genesis 1:2 had darkness, but God is light,' "framed" in Hebrew 11:3a, pre-Adamic men, and Lucifer's flood.

Finally, he covered other long-age creation theories: the dependent clause interpretation of Genesis 1:1 ("When God began to create...") and the Day-Age theory. He described three types of apologetics along with why he believes nothing is really gained by compromising Scripture to make it appeal to people. He concluded with a very brief explanation of (Noah's) flood geology as an explanation for fossils, etc., and two scientific evidences for recent creation (the Earth's magnetic field and radiocarbon dating).

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: View the table of contents and read from chapter one.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And the winner free "ebook" for all

It's time to announce the winner of the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop for The New Answers Book by Ken Ham. Including Twitter entries, 62 people entered. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

Betty: Reflections with Coffee

Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always buy a copy of this book from your favorite bookstore or see if they have it at your local library. If you don't mind reading books on your computer, then you can read this book for free:

Main Page

Chapter 1: Is There Really a God?

Chapter 2: Why Shouldn’t Christians Accept Millions of Years?

Chapter 3: Couldn’t God Have Used Evolution?

Chapter 4: Don’t Creationists Deny the Laws of Nature?

Chapter 5: What About the Gap Theory & Ruin-Reconstruction Theories?

Chapter 6: Cain’s Wife—Who Was She?

Chapter 7: Doesn’t Carbon-14 Dating Disprove the Bible?

Chapter 8: Could God Really Have Created Everything in Six Days?

Chapter 9: Does Radiometric Dating Prove the Earth Is Old?

Chapter 10: Was there Really a Noah’s Ark & Flood?

Chapter 11: How Did Animals Spread All Over the World from Where the Ark Landed?

Chapter 12: What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs?

Chapter 13: Why Don’t We Find Human & Dinosaur Fossils Together?

Chapter 14: Can Catastrophic Plate Tectonics Explain Flood Geology?

Chapter 15: Don't Creationists Believe Some “Wacky” Things?

Chapter 16: Where Does the Ice Age Fit?

Chapter 17: Are There Really Different Races?

Chapter 18: Are ETs & UFOs Real?

Chapter 19: Does Distant Starlight Prove the Universe Is Old?

Chapter 20: Did Jesus Say He Created in Six Literal Days?

Chapter 21: How Did Defense/Attack Structures Come About?

Chapter 22: Is Natural Selection the Same Thing as Evolution?

Chapter 23: Hasn’t Evolution Been Proven True?

Chapter 24: Did Dinosaurs Turn into Birds?

Chapter 25: Does Archaeology Support the Bible?

Chapter 26: Why Does God’s Creation Include Death & Suffering?

Chapter 27: How Can I Use This Information to Witness?

Bonus Chapter: How Can We Use Dinosaurs to Spread the Creation Gospel Message?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop

book coverFor the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop, Master Books has agreed to send one copy of The New Answers Book edited by Ken Ham to the winner of this giveaway.

You can view a preview of the book.

This book provides solid answers to questions like:
  • Where did Cain get his wife?
  • Doesn't Carbon-14 Dating disprove the Bible?
  • Was There Really a Noah's Ark & Flood?
  • Where does the Ice Age fit?
  • Are there really different races?
  • Did Jesus say He created in six literal days?
  • Why does God's creation include death & suffering?

This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @ChristFocus. Enter me in the giveaway for THE ANSWERS BOOK by Ken Ham."


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered. Please also leave some way for me to contact you--or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement.

This giveaway ends April 25 at midnight. The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner on April 26, 2011 on this blog.

If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address so I can contact you or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your mailing address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within seven days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The blogs participating in the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza Giveaway Hop:

Book Review: A People Tall and Smooth

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A People Tall and Smooth:
Stories of Escape from Sudan to Israel
by Judith Galblum Pex

ISBN-13: 978-0-98-189293-1
Trade Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Cladach Publishing
Released: April 15, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
"At that time gifts will be brought to the Lord Almighty [to Mount Zion] from a people tall and smooth-skinned." -Isaiah 18:7

The popular beach town of Eilat, at the southernmost tip of Israel, is visited daily by international tourists who want to visit the warm waters of the Red Sea. But when hundreds of tall, dark Africans show up to stay, curiosities are piqued. Where did they come from? Why are they in Eilat of all places? When a group of them enter The Shelter hostel run by John & Judy Pex, answers to these questions unfold.

These are the very real stories of how and why five refugees escaped the genocide in South Sudan and Darfur, made their way through Egypt and smuggled into Israel, the only country their Islamic government prohibits them to go. They fled across the border with nothing but the clothes on their backs. No food. No money. No papers. No possessions. Just thankful to be alive.

All of the author's proceeds from the sales of A People Tall and Smooth will go to projects for the Sudanese refugees.

Advance Praise for A People Tall and Smooth:

"Although much has been written about the Lost Boys of Sudan who resettled in large groups in the United States beginning in 2000, very little, if anything, has been written about the countless Sudanese who fled alone to neighboring countries. Judy Pex breaks the silence, unfolding the perilous journeys of Sudanese refugees. For many it was a choice that came at tremendous cost: imprisonment, separation from their children and spouses, hunger, brutal beatings and death. It's a story of resilience, determination and the choice for freedom--at all cost."
--Joan Hecht, award-winning author of The Journey of the Lost Boys

My Review:
A People Tall and Smooth "A People Tall and Smooth" is the combined autobiographies of 4 Christian Sudanese refugees from South Sudan, 1 Muslim Sudanese refugee from Darfur, and the Israeli author (who happens to be a Messianic Jew). The author explained how she ended up in Israel running The Shelter Hostel and how she and her husband first meet the Sudanese refugees.

After helping these refugees for a while, she asked several of the refugees to tell her their story for this book. (They spoke the story into a tape recorder, the author transcribed the material and edited the sometimes disjointed stories so that they were in chronological order, then she confirmed with the person that she'd written up their story correctly.) As the person tells his or her story, the author inserted some comments into the text (using another font so you could tell that the "speaker" had changed). These included her thoughts about how different their lives were from hers or brief stories about the other refugees that the main story reminded her about.

The stories were well-written and easily kept my attention. While the stories were vivid, they weren't graphic. I keep feeling that all Americans (and people from other 1st world countries) need to read stories like these so we can get a realistic perspective on our own lives. While the author did give an overview of the conflicts in Sudan, we mainly get an individual's personal view of the conflict and how it affected them. We also see the problems that refugees face after they survive the conflict and survive fleeing from it.

A black and white map showing the areas under discussion was included as well as some color photographs of the Sudanese refugees. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
People from over one hundred nations intermingle in Israel. Besides Jews from Kazakhstan and Kansas, Burma and Belgrade, Calcutta, Congo and places in between, over a million tourists every year add to the mosaic. Include in the mixture two hundred thousand legal and illegal workers from countries such as China, Thailand, Philippines, Nepal and Ghana, and it’s clear that the average Israeli is used to seeing faces of all colors and shapes.

In 2007, however, a new group appeared on the scene whose appearance and status was unlike any other till this time. We began to notice men, women, children and babies on the streets in our town of Eilat who were exceptionally black and strikingly tall.

“Where do they come from and who are they?” My husband John and I asked ourselves. “What language do they speak?” Having managed The Shelter Hostel in Eilat on the Red Sea since 1984, we are used to interacting with diverse people groups and were eager to meet these new arrivals.

Our questions were answered when a tall, dark man walked through our front gate one morning. “I’m Gabriel, a refugee from Sudan,” he introduced himself in perfect English.

Read more from chapter one.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: Rediscovering the Church Fathers

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Rediscovering the Church Fathers
by Michael A.G. Haykin

ISBN-13: 9781433510434
Trade Paperback: 172 pages
Publisher: Crossway Books
Released: March 31, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, modified from Goodreads:
An introduction to seven church fathers, outlining their roles in church history and their teaching on a number of topics.

The church today looks quite different than it did two thousand years ago, but it's still important to know how the teachings of various early church fathers shaped Christian doctrine. Evangelical readers will find this to be a helpful introductory volume.

Michael Haykin surveys the lives and teachings of seven men who lived from AD 100 to 500--Ignatius of Antioch, the writer of "Letter to Diognetus," Origen, Cyprian, Ambrose, Basil of Caesarea, and St. Patrick--and explains how their impact continues to shape the church today.

My Review:
Rediscovering the Church Fathers is an introduction to early church history which focused on seven men whose lives and teachings helped shape church doctrine. The writing is somewhat formal in tone, but it's a quick read and easy to follow. The author gave some historical background for each man, quoted from some of their writings, and commented on those writings. I'd recommend this book to those who'd like a quick overview of how some current Christian doctrines were formed.

The first chapter explained why we should care about what the early church fathers taught. Chapter 2 was about Ignatius of Antioch and mainly focused on his letter about martyrdom, it's historical context, and what it showed about his view of martyrdom and of Christ. Chapter 3 was about the contents of the Letter to Diognetus (a defense of the Christian faith against the pagan misrepresentations of it) plus what can be gleaned from it about how the writer viewed Christ.

Chapter 4 was about Origen's life and writings, what he taught about Christ (against heresy and in his Bible commentaries), and about his method of Bible interpretation. Chapter 5 was about the teachings of Cyprian and later of Ambrose about the Lord's Supper (and the rise of the Catholic doctrine about it). Chapter 6 was about Basil of Caesarea's life and writings with a focus on the monastic movement (why Christians became monks/nuns, etc.).

Chapter 7 was a brief history of how Christianity came to Britain and about the writings of St. Patrick on his life and in promotion of missionary work aimed at "barbarian" peoples. Chapter 8 was about how the author got interested in early church history. The appendix contained suggested books for further research on church history and information on the writings of Jaroslav Pelikan about church history.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Worth Watching: Reaching out to those in the sex industry

Monday, April 4, 2011

Book Review: Following Jesus, Servant King

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Following Jesus, Servant King:
A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship
by Jonathan Lunde

ISBN-13: 9780310286165
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: November 2010

Source: Review copy from publisher through the koinonia blog for blog tour.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Throughout the Old Testament and into the New, God not only demands righteousness from his people but also showers on grace that enables them to act. Jesus, of course, provides the ultimate fulfillment of these twin aspects of God's relationship to humanity. In biblical terms, Jesus is the King who demands righteous obedience from his followers, and Jesus is the Servant who provides the grace that enables this obedience.

So what does it mean to follow Jesus? What does God expect from his followers, and how can they be and do what is required?

Jonathan Lunde answers these and other questions in his sweeping biblical study on discipleship. He surveys God's interaction with his people from Eden to Jesus, paying special attention to the biblical covenants that illuminate the character and plans of God.

My Review:
Following Jesus, Servant King is a theology book that explores Scripture using cultural background information to help explain what Jesus expected from His followers. The author explained how the two types of covenants (grant, conditional) work. He then talked about the covenants found in the Old Testament, how God's grace was always involved, and how this provided insights into the grace/works aspects of the New Covenant.

He also explored the three ways in which Jesus brought the law to its fulfillment: by changing our need for it (like the sacrificial system), by explaining the original intent (like loving your neighbor), and by heightening it by getting at inner thought issues (like Jesus' anger/murder, lust/adultery commands). He also explored how Jesus intended for us to be able to met these high standards.

The author quoted verses from the Old and New Testament to make his points, but he also used cultural background information about the different types of covenants, the law, and discipleship to help clarify some seemingly difficult or confusing points in Scripture. He did an excellent job of explaining the tensions found in Scripture. The writing was formal in tone but not difficult to follow.

The author gave good illustrative examples and made thorough arguments (with excellent footnoting of his sources), but the writing in the first section sometimes seemed wordier than necessary. Overall, though, I found this book very interesting and informative. I would recommend it to those who want to better understand the role of grace and the law in the Christian life.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
"Follow me."

With these words, Jesus summarizes his call to discipleship. But what exactly does he mean by this command? What does following him involve? How we answer this question is crucially important, because the nature of our lives as disciples — what we actually do and how we live as Christians — will largely depend on our understanding of what Jesus means by these words.

Does following Jesus simply mean confessing him as our Savior, going to church on a regular basis, and giving to Christian causes? Does it entail leaving everything behind and going into full-time missionary work in some far-off land? Or does it mean committing ourselves to obey the Golden Rule throughout our lives, doing our best to love those people who come across our paths? As you know, people who identify themselves as followers of Jesus embrace these and a host of other interpretations, which leads to a wide diversity in Christian expressions, some of which are surely not what Jesus had in mind.

Read more of chapter one.