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Books Read: April 2020

Dear Reader,

Quarantine is quite a productive time for reading, isn’t it? I find it helps to have a lot of books going at once, especially now. Here is what I finished in April:

Books Read April 2020

The Christian, The Arts, and Truth by Frank Gaebelein, edited by D. Bruce Lockerbie — I have appreciated Gaebelien’s thoughts on education and so was eager to read this book on the arts. Again, he has great ideas and while I don’t agree with everything he says, this book is well worth reading. It is a series of essays and the topics are somewhat varied. Beyond the arts, he also discusses education and Christian involvement in social justice issues. See my full review here

The Virginian by Owen Wister — I seem to have gotten into reading books about particular areas of the US recently (last month was Indiana). The Virginian is another regional novel. I believe it was Montana (definitely some then barely settled western state) in the late 1800s. This was an okay book, not great. Parts were exciting, some parts dragged. Characters’ dialogue was written with their accents and I found some of it hard to understand though I didn’t mind that too much. There is definitely a message the author is trying to get across about easter versus western values. I thought it fell a little flat at the end, And the whole thing is fairly anti-religion. One minister’s character is very badly portrayed. Another more minor one is not poorly portrayed but his thoughts are still deemed irrelevant. It is more about man and his ability. Not an awful book but I wasn’t crazy about it.   

The Liturgy of Creation by Michael LeFebvre — This is a book by a man from my denomination who is a biblical scholar. His thesis is that Genesis 1 is written as a calendar narrative and that its time table and other details should not be taken literally or scientifically. It was definitely an interesting read. I did not find it hard but my educational background is in biblical Hebrew. It is meant to be accessible to the lay reader but might be a bit of a tougher read. I am still processing what I think of his arguments and will do a longer post on the book so check back soon.

Introducing Evangelical Theology by Daniel Treier — This book is not meant to be read cover-to-cover but I did so. It is an introductory guide to evangelical theology and as such is very good and useful. I plan to have my high schoolers read selections in homeschool next year. Some subjects or viewpoints are covered fairly briefly but if you are looking to get just a fly-over of the views on a particular topic and the major controversies, this is a good resource.  Treier does often give his own opinions; I did not think the book was without a slant, but it is a resource I am glad to now have at my disposal. 

What have you been reading?


Book Review: The Christian, The Arts and Truth

Dear Reader,

Frank Gaebelein is one of my favorite writers on Christian education (see previous reviews of his work here and here) so I was eager to read this volume on the arts. The Christian, The Arts, and Truth [ed. D. Bruce Lockerbie (Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1985)] is a collection of essays which fit together fairly well. Gaebelein argues for a Christian understanding of and approach to the arts and the humanities in general.

A common theme of the book is that genius, including artistic genius, is a gift of God, falling under the heading of common grace, and that when we despise the work of non-Christians we reject what God has given (pp. 54, 64, 66, 76, 252). He urges us to judge art based on its quality and the truth it conveys, not based on the character of the artist (p. 67).

Christians should not abandon the field of art to secular society. They must engage in the arts (p. 71) and they must do so with discrimination. Gaebelein is quite critical of Christian art which finds its only justification in being Christian and ignores standards of beauty and taste. “[I]inferior art,” he tells us, “doesn’t become true and good art because it is baptized by religious usage” (p. 65).

What then are the standards by which art –both Christian and non-Christian — should be judged? Gaebelein holds up the Scriptures, themselves a piece of art, as the standard of excellence (p. 70) and looks to them for answers. It is important to note, however, that while truth is always truth, beauty is not inherently true but can be used to communicate lies (p. 47). Those fields which are most subjective, including the arts, are most prone to corruption (pp. 74-5, 127). What Gaebeleien most looks for in art, then, is truth. He goes on to delineate four marks of truth in art: durability (ability to speak to other eras), unity (of form and structure with meaning), integrity, and inevitability (pp. 86-93). Integrity demands that each part of the work contribute to the whole and inevitability is that quality that makes you hear or see a new piece of art and say, “ah, this is how it should be.”

Gaebelein goes on to discuss various specific topics related to his overall theme: education, music (with a chapter in Beethoven particularly), literature (with a chapter on Pilgrim’s Progress), and social justice. I cannot relate all of this (and you should read the book yourself), but here are some of the points which most struck me:

In the context of his discussion of the arts and education, Gaebelein makes a plea for high standards, the highest standards in fact. His call is for excellence, a standard which cannot be measured by human means:

“There is a kind of comparison of one person with another, a considering of student achievement through marks, rating scales, and objective test results, that is essential to education. But necessary as all of this is, it falls far short of the ultimate concept of excellence.” (p. 143)

Though Gaebelein here does not explicitly argue against classical models of education, he does point us again and again to God and His Word as the proper models of excellence. It is these he identifies with the “vision of greatness” which Alfred North Whitehead called for in his oft-repeated: “‘Moral education is impossible apart from the habitual vision of greatness'” (p. 189).

I have argued for a fairly non-standardized form of education and I was happy to see theological arguments for this. In addition to arguing for high standards by which to measure knowledge, Gaebelien, following Pascal, also argues that we must allow independent, unique thought:

“In other words, one of the great marks of man’s uniqueness is his God-given capacity to think. Consequently, anything that diminishes our thinking tends to dehumanize us through making us less than what God created us to be.” (p. 152)

In his section on literature, Gaebelein shows how even non-believing authors used to be quite immersed in biblical language which infiltrated their writing, both through direct references and in terms of style. This is actually quite a convicting section. Most of us today, I fear, just don’t have this deep familiarity with the Scriptures.

Of course, Christian writers (hopefully) have something more as well. Gaebelien uses a German word Weltanschauung which roughly translates to “worldview” to describe it.  It is “a God-centered view of life and the world” which “will color all of his work and all of his thinking”  (p. 186). Such a pervasive perspective is not limited to writers but should be held by all Christians no matter their field. This is an idea we have seen in a number of writers (and I have argued for something similar in education). Gaebelein here sums it up well. I have struggled to find just the right word to encapsulate the idea and I like the appeal to a German term as it takes it beyond our usual vocabulary (“worldview” etc.) which has a tendency to get quite trite and overused.

The Christian, The Arts, and Truth has a lot to recommend it. Gaebelein presents a vision that is quite compelling. It is hard not to be inspired and humbled by his devotion to the Word of God. The book itself comes in manageable chunks and is easy to read. Overall, this is a book well worth one’s time.







Worship and Epistemology

Dear Reader,

This is part of an ongoing series in search of a reformed philosophy theology of education. You can find all the posts here.

I am going to do a longer post (or two) on Poetic Knowledge by James S. Taylor (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998), but I wanted to take a minute to touch on one issue he raises: how our worship reflects our epistemology.

Epistemology is a fancy word for the theory of knowing and asks questions like: What is knowledge? and How do we know? The overall thesis of Taylor’s book is that there is a way of knowing, which he calls poetic knowledge, which we have lost. I will do a longer post to explain it more fully, but, briefly put, poetic knowledge is intuitive knowledge that is obtained through one’s senses and emotions. It is distinct from scientific knowledge, the hallmark of our age, which uses experimentation and tends toward  deconstruction (breaking things down into their parts). Poetic knowledge is neither rational nor intellectual. It is pre-rational (p. 26), sensory-emotional (p. 5), passive (p. 10), and non-analytical (p. 5).  

Keeping this in the back of your mind, consider with me two worship experiences. In the first, you begin by entering a dimly lit sanctuary. The carpet is a deep red, the pews are dark brown. Up front is an altar above which hangs an ever-burning candle encased in gold. The lighting comes almost entirely from candles and the sunlight which filters through stained glass windows, casting weird colored bands on that red rug. The worship service involves all one’s senses. There is incense which both perfumes the air and creates some smoke in the sanctuary, giving it even more of an other-worldly feel. The Lord’s Supper is always celebrated. While the sanctuary is quiet when you first enter, the service itself has lots of sounds — people read or recite in unison; there are different kinds of music, some sung by a choir, some chanting; and there are even parts of the service in another language wich you don’t understand. Throughout the service, you do what those around you do — you recite in unison, you sing together, you stand and sit and kneel. Perhaps you even have some beads on a chain which you manipulate as you go through a series of pre-set prayers. The service takes about an hour and a half of which fifteen minutes are devoted to the sermon.

Now come with me to the second kind of service. This one takes place not in a sanctuary as such but in a hall which also serves other purposes (in fact you were there Wednesday night for a town meeting). There is no carpet here and no stained glass. The seating is not too comforatble — hard but serviceable wooden benches. Nothing is gold, there are no pictures on the walls, almost no decoration of any kind.  The service is in many ways less paticipatory. You sit and stand and sing with the congregation, but you do not kneel or recite. There is no choir and no incense. Everything is done in your native language. There might be some big words used but in theory at least you could understand it all. Here too the service is 1.5 hours but the sermon takes 45 to 60 minutes of that time. Unlike in the other service which began with a procession and has readers in one location and the choir in another, you notice that you don’t turn your head much during this service (except to bow it in prayer). Everything that happens happens up front at or near the pulpit.

These are extreme examples. I can tell you that I grew up in a Roman Catholic Church and now attend a Reformed Presbyterian one and neither exactly fits these descriptions.  Like caricatures I have drawn these pictures to highlight their features. The first service appeals to all one’s senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Even one’s vestibular sense is involved when one sits and stands and kneels. But this experience is not just ssnsory; it is also emotional. The combination of stimuli — the lighting, the smell and smoke of the incense, etc. — give it all an other-worldly aura. You are meant to feel that you have been temporarily transported to another kind of world. Like Isaiah before the throne of God (Isa. 6:1-7), you are meant to have a sense of the divine and holy.

In the second service, one’s senses do not come into play. In fact, it almost seems there is a deliberate effort to minimize sensory stimulation. The exception is hearing. The communication that happens here comes through prayer, singing, and especially the sermon.  Not only is only auditory; it happens through words. There were words in the first service but there were also other sounds as well including music without words, different kinds of singing, and languages you didn’t understand. The appeal in this service is to the intellect, not the emotions. You come out of the service being able to complete the sentence: “Today I learned that . . . ”

I hope you can see that there are different kinds of knowing at work here. The first service gives one a sensory-emotional experience. The second is rational and intellectual. In both there is a kind of knowing that happens. In the second you are able to put what you have learned into words more easily but there is still a kind of knowledge that is conveyed through the first. It aims to give an experience of the divine and you are meant to walk away feeling that you have experienced something beyond this physical world.

If you are like me, there is probably one of these services that appeals to you more than the other. As reformed people, we tend to like to live on the level of the rational. It may be easy for us to criticize the sensory-emotional service as being content-less and even manipulative in how it plays upon one’s emotions. It gives a sense of the divine, but is it a true sense?  We are made to feel something, but have we actually experienced something true? Because what one feels can’t easily be put into words, it is very hard to evaluate for truth-value.

On the other hand, if we prefer the very word-driven appeal to the intellect, we need to be careful that we are not exalting the intellect above the other parts of our nature. We remember that our emotions are fallen and easily manipulated, but do we think that our rational nature is also affected by the Fall? When we walk out of the second service, we have been given something to think about but we may not feel or do anything different. Much error has come into the church through the separating of our physical aspect from our rational or spiritual side. There is a principle behind the sensory-emotional approach which we may have forgotten: that beauty is akin to truth and that beautiful things can teach us (cf. Phil. 4:8). There is no doubt that Old Testament worship was much more like the first service than the second. Today we sing about beauty (Ps. 45) but we do not often incorporate it.

My goal today us not to argue for a particular approach to worship but to show how what we believe about knowledge — how our epistemology — has practical implications for the things we do. When the subject is worship, it is perhaps more natural to say that we need to return to the Scriptures to find principles which will guide what we do. I hope in the coming weeks to make a similar argument with regard to education. Our philosophy of education is also quite dependent on our epistemology so one of the building blocks of such a philosophy is going to be a solid, biblical theory of knowing.

I will leave you with a phrase from Taylor’s book which highlights the balance that is perhaps needed; he speaks of:

“the ability of beautiful things to ‘teach’ the observer religious truths through the sensory powers illuminated by the intellect” (p. 106).



Book Review: Landscape with Dragons (updated)

Dear Reader,

It was pointed out to me that I made a pretty grievous error in the earlier version of this post (got the author’s name wrong — whoops!). Fpr some reason wordpress won’t let me edit that particular post, so here it is revised. The original post is from 2014. 

I have heard  a few times over the years about the book Landscape with Dragons by  Michael O’Brien. Most recently it was recommended at the Story-Formed Conference. My expectation going into this book, based on who I had heard about it from, was that it would be great. Having just finished reading it, I am not only disappointed but rather surprised as well (in a bad way)that it has such a good reputation. There is useful material in this book and it did make me think which is the main thing I like in a book, but I can’t say I agreed with it overall.

The author, Michael O’Brien, has some assumptions that are really pretty central to what he has to say. These include:

  • We are in the midst of a spiritual battleground:

“Christian parents must keep in mind that their child is an eternal soul, called by God into a world that is a spiritual battleground.” (p. 19)

  • Children are affected by what he calls “impressionism” (p. 168). By this he means that they are profoundly affected by the books they read (and even more so by the movies they see).
  • Given these two facts, parents have a big job before them:

“The absolutely essential task of parents is to give their children a true culture, a sure foundation on which to stand.” (p. 168)

In essence, I do not disagree with any of these points, and I did initially like the book and think that it would be all I had imagined. My problem comes when O’Brien gets down to the specifics of what he means.

O’Brien gives a list of questions one must ask oneself when evaluating a book:

“A simple rule of thumb is to ask the following questions when assessing a book, video, or film: Does the story reinforce my child’s understanding of the moral order of the universe? Or does it undermine it? Does it do some of both? Do I want that? What precisely is the author saying about the nature of evil? What does he tell the reader (or viewer) about the nature of the war between good and evil?” (p. 104)

These again are good questions, but it the application where we would begin to disagree. As I have said many times before in this blog, I am not generally bothered by fantastical or magical elements in books. While I do think books and stories have a great deal of power, I also think that we are capable of setting aside the world as we know it for a bit and accepting the world of the story without ultimately giving up our own values. There is a fine line here and I want to be careful how I say this. It is not that I would like or want my children to read a story which rejects the moral world I know completely. But I am willing to put up with a fair amount of magic and even things that might be labeled occult in our own world in a story-world. For instance, in our world if a wise old woman laid her hands on a hero to heal him of his wounds, I might scream “occult!” and say that the real power was from Satan. But I see no problem with reading a story in which this is part of the plot and is even portrayed in a positive light. Similarly, characters in a story might be able to read one another’s minds, but in real life I would not allow for such a thing to happen without demonic influence. I guess for me there is a distinction between the story’s natural laws and its moral laws. I am perfectly willing for the natural laws to change and for there to be magic which allows healing or mind-communication or other such things, but I would probably not like a story in which adultery and murder are acceptable and treated without disdain or consequences. I think my children also are able to distinguish between things which can happen in the real world and what can happen in  stories. This is why for the most part I am a lot more bothered by books set in this world in which siblings are always snarping at each other than by books with fantastical elements.

O’Brien also allows for some magic and fantastical elements in stories:

“The sun may be green and the fish may fly through the air, but however fantastical the imagined world, there is retained in it a faithfulness to the moral order of the actual universe.” (p. 28)

But, while not opposed to all magical elements, he takes a much harder line than I would in rejecting any story with what he deems occult elements. O’Brien is a big proponent of the works of C.S. lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and George MacDonald (as are many other Christians of all stripes). Though their works are often fantastical and contain magic, he sees a very different use of it in their writing:

“But there is an important difference: the neopagan sub-creation is very unlike Tolkien’s or Lewis’, for they portrayed original worlds in which the use of magic and clairvoyance is revealed as fraught with extreme danger. They demonstrate clearly the hidden seduction in the very powers that the neopagan proposes as instruments for the salvation of mankind.” (p. 106)

He distinguishes also between good and bad magic:

“Good magic and bad magic in truthful stories correspond to true religion and false religion in our real world . . . False religion . . . makes a god out of oneself; it makes one’s own will supreme; it attempts to reshape reality to fit one’s own desires. True religion is about surrender, while false religion is about control.” (p. 29)

I will admit I am a bit lost at this point as to how he would distinguish appropriate and inappropriate magic in stories. All I can say is that O’Brien clearly is willing to accept magic in some forms but not others.

Thus far, there are a number of points we might agree on: Stories have power. Not all stories are wholesome and good and we should exercise some discrimination in what we allow our children to read. Magic or fantastical elements in and of themselves are not enough to disqualify a story. Where we would disagree is on where to draw the lines. I think O’Brien also gives a lot more power to stories than I do. There are reasons for this will I will get into in a few minutes.

Now I would like to address another major point O’Brien makes with which I cannot accept. A major thesis of his book is that traditional Christian symbols have been inverted in more modern literature and that this is always bad. The biggest such symbol is the snake or dragon. These, O’Brien says, have always been evil symbols in Christianity, and indeed in most cultures, and to use them in positive ways is anathema to him. O’Brien himself acknowledges that the dragon as evil is not quite universal (see p. 31), nonetheless he maintains not just that the dragon or serpent is a symbol of Satan, but that he is identified with Satan:

“Actual dragons may or may not have existed, but that is not our main concern here. What is important is that the Christian ‘myth’ of the dragon refers to a being who actually exists and who becomes very much more dangerous to us the less we believe he exists.” (p. 32)

And then he cautions against ever changing these representations:

“I pointed out that the meaning of symbols are not merely the capricious choices of a limited culture. We cannot arbitrarily rearrange them like so much furniture in the living room of the psyche. To tamper with these fundamental types is spiritually and psychologically dangerous  because they are keystones in the very structure of the mind.”(p. 55)

In other words, there is something very primal and basic about the snake or dragon as evil and it is wrong and even dangerous to portray them otherwise. He would not even allow snakes a pets it seems (see p. 58).

The changing of the dragon image he links with the occult in books, saying that both blur or invert the line between good and evil. He prefers a much more traditional world in which “dragons looked and acted like dragons” (p. 65). O’Brien laments any mixing up of these clear-cut lines. He laments the rise of children’s movies in which:

“‘Bad guys’ were at times presented as complex souls, inviting pity if not sympathy. ‘Good guys’ were a little more tarnished than they once had been and, indeed, were frequently portrayed a foolish simpletons.” (p. 72)

O’Brien also rails against stories (particularly Disney films here) in which the bad guys are attractive. He sees this an another inversion of the classic fairytales and prefers that a character’s outer appearance should reflect his or her inner character. He seems to be saying here that God receives greater glory when attractive people praise Him:

“Similarly, when worship of God is done poorly, it is not necessarily invalid if the intention of the worshipper is sincere. But when it is done well, its is a greater sign of the coming glory when all things will be restored to Christ.” (p. 35)

I think part of the difference I have with O’Brien may come from our underlying theological beliefs. It becomes pretty clear as one reads through his book that he is a Roman Catholic. This comes out in a  number of ways. In his instructions to parents on how to choose good books for their children, he urges them to pray for wisdom not only to God but also to the saints and especially to Mary (p. 116). He also clearly believes in man’s free will and ability to choose good (p. 49, 113). These beliefs alone need not influence how we accept and evaluate books, but O’Brien also attributes much greater power to literature than I am comfortable with:

” . . . we must trust that over time the works of truth and beauty created from authentic spiritual sources will help to bring about a reorientation of man.” (p. 119)

And again:

“That restoration will necessarily entail a regaining of our courage and a willingness to respond to the promptings of the Spirit, regardless of the odds that are stacked against us.” (p. 118)

Here is what I think is really the crux of the issue: Catholics like O’Brien sacrifice God’s sovereignty and emphasize man’s free will and ability to choose good or evil. In my (reformed) world, stories can have a big influence on us, yes, but any power they have is bounded by the immutable will of God. No story is going to save my child, but no story will cause him to lose his chance at salvation either. In the above two quotes, O’Brien makes it sound as if not only individual salvation but even the ultimate salvation of the world can be impacted by the books we read and the movies we see. With such beliefs, I can understand why he feels so passionately about his subject, but I disagree with his fundamental principles.

On the topic of Christian symbolism, we also disagree. I am just not bothered by dragons being good characters. O’Brien thinks stories are more interesting if the symbols are used “appropriately” (p. 65), but I would say stories are both more interesting and more realistic if they are not used in the expected ways. O’Brien doesn’t like when the traditional image of evil is used to portray good. He thinks this will affect the reader’s own ability to distinguish good and evil. I would say the opposite. In our world, evil is often disguised as good and to show attractive bad guys or dragons who are good only helps us to understand that we cannot judge by appearances or first impressions. He laments the complex character attributed to bad guys; I would say that people are complex and few are evil through and through (thanks to common grace). What we learn from stories is not just about good and evil but also about ourselves and our fellow men. Those are pretty complicated subjects.

To sum up, then, I find that I would say many of the things O’Brien says when it comes to generalizations about stories and their power. But when it comes down to specifics, we have a fair number of differences. I find his work somewhat alarmist and his standards too limiting. I would say that I trust more to the grace of God to help us extract good ideas even from imperfect stories (and apart from the Bible, they are all imperfect anyway). This book has some long discussions of specific books and movies including many Disney movies, the Star Wars saga, the works of Madeleine L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and others. Keeping in mind O’Brien’s starting point, it is still interesting to read his interpretations of these works though I think he often takes things too far. but this book could be useful as a starting point for forming one’s own opinions on these works.



High School Biology Labs

Dear Reader,

Our modus operandi for high school science is to continue with living books but to add in labs (see my booklist for biology here and all my lists of living books here). With my oldest two, I had use a certain company which did all the labs for biology or chemistry in a two-day “lab intensive.” This company has since gone out of business and though the owner is offering labs again, none are near me (I know some of his teachers, who were wonderful, had gone out on their own as well, but if they are in business today I can’t find information on them). Lacking someone to do the work for me, I got a few local families together and we did labs on our own.

The idea behind these is that the child does not have to have done biology get to do them. My 9th grader did them at the end of his year of biology but my 8th grader will be doing biology next year. The other kids in our group were also in the 13-15 year old range and most have not had biology yet.

There are some notes in the document on what we did and how it worked, including links to supplies and instructions when I got them from other sources. We did one 3 hour session and then one 5 hour session the next week. This was due to particular time constraints and was not ideal. The osmosis and bacteria labs do need to be started the first day so they can react for a few days to a week. The blood sugar lab needs to be done on an empty stomach so is best done first thing in the morning. The fetal pig was a bit of a disaapointment to me. I know my son dissected a cat when he did labs with that company I alluded to. I did not have access to cats (at least not ones intended for dissection), but it might be worth substituting something else if you can find another animal.

Last note: we did these labs for $75 per student with one dissection animal for every 2-3 kids (we had an odd number so one group was of 3).

Here then is the lab packet we used (opens a google doc):

Happy dissecting!


April Reading

Dear Reader,

Here once again are the books I finished last month:

Miss MacKenzie by Anthony Trollope — I liked last month’s Trollope so much I reda another one right away. This one is less humorous but also less predictable so overall I think it is the better book. These would be great for Jane Austen fans.

Voices from the Past: Reformed Educators (Lanham: University Press of America, Inc., 1997) by Donald Oppewal — This book is a collection of essays by various reformed thinkers on education. I have posted about 99% of it in my current series so I will not recap it all here.

Green Tea by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu — I have actually been reading a lot of short stories this school year becase my dughter is doing them for her literature class. Most I have not bothered to list because they are short. This one approaches book length at about 50 pages. It was an interesting little story and easy to read (unlike another Le Fanu book I started but didn’t get far with). It doesn’t really provide answers but it makes you think about the relationship between physical illness and spiritual oppression.

Clara Hopgood by Mark Rutherford — Rutherford was mentioned favorably by another author I like so I tried both this book of his and his autobiography. It turns out he was basically a godless humanist, having started out studying for the ministry. The best I can say for this book is that it was short and I didn’t see the ending coming. On the other hand, neither was the ending that plausible and it espoused values I don’t agree with. There’s not a lot to redeem this one or make it worthwhile.

Autobiography of Mark Rutherford, edited by Reuben Shapcott — See above; Rutherford’s story is more sad than inspiring and because if the materials available to the author, edns rather abruptly and unsatisfyingly. I cannot say he lost his faith as it seems clear he never had it and only saw glimpses of it in others that he did not truly understand. The saddest part is that the church seems to have failed completely to communicate to him what true faith means.

What are you reading?


March Reading

Dear Reader,

I only finished three books in March partly because I have been reading a lot of shorter articles on education (see this series).  Here they are:

All That’s Good by Hannah Anderson — I heard about this book through a podcast that interviewed the author. I was impressed by what she said so decided to read her book. Basically she explicates Philippians 4:8 and discusses how we cultivate discernment. I think that we would largely be on the same page on a lot of things. There were a couple of small points I could quibble about — I am uncomfortable with her talk of discernment as a gift some people have and other don’t, for example. And stylistically, I was not crazy about the book. I think it is like much contemporary Christian lit though. It uses a lot of long examples and stories that aren’t always well tied to the content. But the basics of her ideas are solid and biblical. I particularly liked her point about the power of art to draw us to God (and I quoted it in this post).

Dr. Thorne by Anthony Trollope — I had never read any Trollope before but if all his books are like this one, I am hooked. This is a very predictable story but it is done with humor. Characters have names like Dr. Fillgrave. The author is often self-referential and talks about his story and how he writes it. It was an easy read and thoroughly enjoyable.

The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun and Paul Hattaway — I did a lot of driving this month so I did this one as an audiobook. A group of ladies from my church are getting together to discuss it. It turns out there is some controversy about this book; the house churches in China are split over it. It is quite a moving book. Pretty much everything that could happen to Brother Yun did. It is a powerful story and he seems to give all the glory to God. He seems quite biblical if not overly theological if that makes sense. I found the issues the book raises (perhaps tangentially)m about how the church grows and what it’s needs are as it grows interesting. In light of recent persecutions in China, it is a good book to read.

What are you reading?


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A Homeschooling/Unschooling Adventure from Bahrain to Dubai that's a story for anyone, anywhere who's interested in offering their kids an educational alternative. Please have fun visiting and have even more fun commenting! We have now moved to Granada, Spain and I will write again once we've settled down!!

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Charlotte Mason Institute

Supporting an international conversation toward an authentic Charlotte Mason education - awakening to delightful living