Saturday, 18 February 2017

FOUNDATIONAL FALSEHOODS OF CREATIONISM by Aron Ra

Foundational Falsehoods of CreationismFoundational Falsehoods of Creationism by Aron Ra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Religious fundamentalists and biblical literalists present any number of arguments that attempt to disprove evolution. Those with a sympathetic ear often fail to critically examine these creationist claims, leading to an ill-informed public and, perhaps more troubling, ill-advised public policy. As Aron Ra makes clear, however, every single argument deployed by creationists in their attacks on evolution is founded on fundamental scientific, religious, and historical falsehoods–all of them. Among their most popular claims is that evolution is a religion, that there are no transitional species, that there are no beneficial mutations, and that supposedly sacred scripture is the infallible word of God. Yet, as the evidence and data plainly show, each of these claims is demonstrably and unequivocally false. There is simply no truth to creationism whatsoever, and the entire enterprise rests on a foundation of falsehoods. This book explains and exposes the worst of these lies, and should be read by all who honestly care about following the evidence no matter where it might lead in pursuit of the truth.

MY REVIEW: This book is a must read for anyone interested in the debate about evolution and creationism. Aron Ra has spent decades interacting with creationists, understanding their arguments, and developing responses to them. The book is a compelling read. It is one of the clearest articulations I have read of major creationist beliefs and assumptions and the reasons they fail when compared to the actual evidence from science. The discussions of each of the 15 falsehoods is rich and in depth. There are some beautifully incisive passages with delightfully pithy turns of phrases. I have a couple of criticisms. It’s a long book at 440 pages and there are times when Ra perhaps strays a bit away from the focus of a chapter. Ra’s passion for this topic is evident. Unfortunately, he sometimes becomes emotive and condescending when discussing creationists. Two things that would improve the book: some visuals would be great (the whole book is text) and there needs to be references for sources and a bibliography. A great book and well worth the investment of the time to read it.

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Saturday, 11 February 2017

WHY ISN'T GOD NICE? by Kurt Bruner

Why Isn't God Nice? Trusting His Awful GoodnessWhy Isn't God Nice? Trusting His Awful Goodness by Kurt Bruner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Long-time pastor and director of Open Doors, Kurt Bruner explores who God is, how He works in our lives, and how we can see Him at work. An Awful Goodness was written out of a desire to know God as He is rather than as we wish Him to be. Doing so requires confronting some unsettling questions like why a God of love sometimes seems so unloving. We celebrate a God who is nice: One who rescues, rewards, and redeems. But what about when He deserts, disciplines and damns? Is God schizophrenic, moving in and out of opposing personalities? One minute, gentle shepherd: the next, angry judge? How does that reconcile with the image of God popular in evangelical churches – loving, forgiving, and shepherding us? Below the surface – on the level of reality that goes deeper than sentimental feelings – we know that if God is only love, He isn’t enough. He must also be absolutely just, dreadfully mighty, and perfectly holy. He needs to reward what is right. But He also must punish what is wrong. He needs to redeem the lost. But He must also thwart the wicked. God never intended for every snapshot to be taken from His “best” side and when we worship only part of God we worship a false God. But we seem to prefer the partial phony to the awful reality. More importantly, how does a person going through hard times learn to embrace a God who can allow such difficult circumstances?

MY REVIEW: An inadequate treatment of the problem of evil. The argument is basically that God (the Christian god) is like a parent. If a parent truly loves their children, they'll often seem bad in the way they treat us - for the child's own good, of course. And God wants to bring justice to those who perpetrate evil. The logical conclusion is that, when bad things happen to Christians, it's because God is either causing them or allowing them. This explanation has never been satisfactory and this book doesn't improve the argument. Sure, the author writes well and he tells some nice stories to illustrate his point of view. But that doesn't mean the argument is any good. For anyone who appreciates the complexity of life and the incredible suffering experienced by people in the world, this explanation just doesn't cut it.

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Monday, 23 January 2017

ABSOLUTE POWER by David Baldacci

Absolute PowerAbsolute Power by David Baldacci
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: In a heavily guarded mansion in a posh Virginia suburb, a man and a woman start to make love, trapping Luther Whitney, a career break-in artist, behind a secret wall. Then the passion turns deadly, and Luther is running into the night. Because what he has just seen is a brutal murder involving Alan Richmond, the president of the United States, the man with...Absolute Power.

MY REVIEW: An enjoyable crime thriller. Moves along at a great pace with some some surprising twists and turns and a nice ending. Good one for holiday reading!

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Sunday, 1 January 2017

SCARED YET? by Jaye Ford

Scared Yet?Scared Yet? by Jaye Ford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: She fought back. She won. Now the nightmare begins...When Livia Prescott fights off a terrifying assault in a deserted car park, the media hail her bravery. And after a difficult year - watching her father fade away, her business struggle and her marriage fall apart - it feels good to strike back for once. But as the police widen their search for her attacker, menacing notes start arriving. And brave is not what she feels any longer ...Someone has decided to rip her life apart, then kick her when she's down. But is it a stranger or someone much closer to home? In fact, is there anyone she can now trust?When her family and friends are drawn into the stalker's focus - with terrifying consequences - the choice becomes simple. Fight back, or lose the people she loves the most...

MY REVIEW: A straightforward crime novel. It was good enough that I didn’t guess the perpetrator. Easy to read. Liked the fact that the main protagonist was a strong female. Some good suspense. A good, enjoyable holiday read that is light and undemanding. ***1/2

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Sunday, 25 December 2016

DEATH BEFORE THE FALL: BIBLICAL LITERALISM AND THE PROBLEM OF ANIMAL SUFFERING by Ronald E. Osborn

Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal SufferingDeath Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering by Ronald E. Osborn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: 2014 ECPA Top Shelf Book Cover Award Did animals have predatory natures before the fall? Did God punish innocent animals with a curse because of human sin? Is it possible for theistic evolution to be compatible with the Bible, even though animal death before the fall would contradict the teaching that death began after the first sin? In this eloquent and provocative "open letter" to evangelicals, Ronald Osborn wrestles with these pointed questions and with the problem of biblical literalism and animal suffering within an evolutionary understanding of the world. Considering the topic of animal suffering and predation as a theodicy dilemma, Osborn offers an open-minded exploration of the subject, specifically coming against the fundamentalist and literalist view of the book of Genesis and the creation account. He challenges one-dimensional reading of Scripture and shines a sobering light on the evangelical dogma responsible for advancing viewpoints long ago dismantled by science. Always acknowledging the traditionalist viewpoint, Osborn demonstrates with a wealth of exegetical and theological insight how orthodox Christianity can embrace evolutionary concepts without contradiction. Osborn forces us to ask hard questions, not only of the Bible and church tradition, but also and especially of ourselves.

MY REVIEW: Brilliant! Fundamentalist and literalistic readings of the biblical text are one of the banes of the Evangelical wing of Christianity. It has the loudest voice in Christendom, especially in the US, and many of those in this group believe their “truth” should be imposed on other Christians and, frequently, on others in secular and diversely religious or non-religious communities. The first half of the book alone is worth its price. Even non-believers in religion would benefit from reading the first half of the book, many of whom are just as literalistic in their reading of ancient texts as the Christian fundamentalists. Highly recommended.

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Friday, 23 December 2016

DOROTHEA GUTZEIT: BE TRUE AND SERVE by Dorothea Gutzeit

Dorothea Gutzeit: Be True and ServeDorothea Gutzeit: Be True and Serve by dorothea gutzeit
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: A fascinating view of the “other side” in World War II, on the domestic front. Born in Berlin, Dorothea Gutzeit spent her formative years in Nazi Germany and in her war-torn city. She then forged a new life in Canada.

MY REVIEW: Enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. Fascinating to read what it was like for a child growing up in Hitler's Germany. The author writes well and she has certainly lived an interesting life! Definitely worth a read if you like autobiography.

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Sunday, 4 December 2016

DRAW TO WIN: A CRASH COURSE ON HOW TO LEAD, SELL, AND INNOVATE WITH YOUR VISUAL MIND by Dan Roam

Draw to Win: A Crash Course on How to Lead, Sell, and Innovate With Your Visual MindDraw to Win: A Crash Course on How to Lead, Sell, and Innovate With Your Visual Mind by Dan Roam
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Dan Roam's brilliant strategies for creating images, sharing them and explaining them have finally been distilled into a "best of" handbook for busy readers who need to digest the takeaways, fast. Since his first book, The Back of the Napkin, Roam has argued that imagery is the most powerful tool for leadership, innovation, and sales. Even though we live in an era of big data, one great picture is worth a million numbers (not to mention a thousand words). A clever idea, visually expressed, can resonate with everyone from the CEO down to the newest intern. The best news is that you don't need to be an artist to create attention-grabbing images. Roam can teach anyone with a pen and paper to translate business ideas into engaging and clear images. He identifies the types of pictures that work best in various settings and shares the basic shapes that all business pictures can be built from. This is an indispensable handbook for business leaders struggling to communicate more effectively in a world that everyday becomes less verbal and more visual.

MY REVIEW: Great book! I found this wandering in a bookstore and it captured my attention. I learned so much reading this book. I have always been interested in mind mapping because of its visual element. Dan Roam broadened my horizons about the way in which simple drawing can be so powerful in communicating ideas of all sorts. I’ve started using the ideas in this book in my own professional life — and, while I am still learning, it has created a fresh shift in my thinking. I’m planning to use these ideas in my teaching of online classes next semester. If you are interested in expressing yourself clearly and creatively in professional life, check this book out. I’ll pursuing more of this author’s books in the future.

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