Saturday, November 30, 2019

Review: The Wandering Earth: Classic Science Fiction Collection

The Wandering Earth: Classic Science Fiction Collection The Wandering Earth: Classic Science Fiction Collection by Liu Cixin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very imaginative. But the author, being a man of his time, fails to transcend the already obsolete worries of global anthropogenic warming & deforestation; worse, he cavalierly dismisses transcendence as being an evolutionary result of our ‘surface’ civilisation.

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Monday, November 11, 2019

Review: The Remnant of Israel: The Theology, History, and Philosophy of the Messianic Jewish Community

The Remnant of Israel: The Theology, History, and Philosophy of the Messianic Jewish Community The Remnant of Israel: The Theology, History, and Philosophy of the Messianic Jewish Community by Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting book, but deeply flawed. Some flaws are more relevant than others. My guts & personal theological preferences would have me give only three stars, but for the questions it raised it gets four, even when I disagree with the answers.

The major flaw is that it pressuposes dispensationalism. It would be a oh-so-much better book if it dealt with different escathologies and covenantalisms. Specially fruitful would be explorations of new covenantalism, progressist covenantalism and Baptist 1689 federalism.

A minor irk is its use of Jewish forms of New testament names, such as Messiah instead of Christ. But that is understandable given both the Hebrew origins of the Greek names, and the propensity of Jews to use Hebrew names for religious concepts.

Another irk is the amount of text about legalism, which is relevant perhaps to US fundamentalism but feels like a surpassed issue already.

Perhaps it would need a third edition.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Review: The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very interesting alternate history, with a few oddities:

First, the victory of the Axis seems to hinge upon Roosevelt having died before the New Deal could recover the United States — but it seems today that the New deal delayed recovery instead of aiding it. Also, upon the whole Pacific fleet being destroyed in Pearl harbour, which is a near impossibility. Russia seems to have collapsed in 1941, which seems more credible. But all these are trifles.

Second, all religion seems to be centered on the I Ching. Even with Jews and reputedly Protestants. This seems a major flaw, specially as there is so much superstition and even extase around.

Third, in 1962 Nazis are both carrying out an African genocide and colonizing Mars. Both too soon after the war. And the Japanese crimes of war are altogether ignored, to the point of idealizing the Pacific coprosperity sphere.

Fourth, the language is very strange, sounds to me ungrammatical. For example, articles and pronouns are often absent. Not sure if it is supposed to reflect an evolution of language under Japanese influence or whatever, but again it would have been too soon.

Fifth, the ending is altogether obscure. It never becomes clear why after all the German and Japanese would have lost the war in winning it. Perhaps because they will destroy each other, but a bit of clarity would have been welcome, even if under the guise of a sequel.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Review: The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism

The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism by Jeffrey D. Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very clear take on a complicated subject. Forceful, yet irenic. I may be biased: I do not see how one cannot see the force of the evidence & arguments presented, even if I may disagree on his take on New covenant theology.

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Review: アンゴルモア 元寇合戦記 5

アンゴルモア 元寇合戦記 5 アンゴルモア 元寇合戦記 5 by Nanahiko Takagi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good art, interesting historical setting. Could be less explicit.

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Friday, September 27, 2019

Review: From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions

From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions by Ruth A. Tucker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Quite engrossing. I almost gave it four stars for its theological latitudinarianism, but it really brings the History of Christian (in quite a wide sense of ‘Christian’) missions alive.

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Monday, August 12, 2019

Review: The First Five Centuries

The First Five Centuries The First Five Centuries by Kenneth Scott Latourette
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Latourette, after the most part of a Century has passed, is still the standard work on Missions from the Protestant standpoint. Yet its age shows: while an Evangelical, he does concede too much to secular conceptions of Historiography that even in today’s secular environment would be perhaps outdated, showing that it is better to stick to your tradition & convictions than to try to be modern.

While bringing in a huge amount of facts, still much is summed up, since while the field of missions can be quite detailed nowadays, at the period covered by this first volume much information is missing; on the other side, he spends quite some space on a historiographical set of questions that may today sound quite speculative and outdated.

There are more recent works that must be consulted for the developments of the last Century, but none I found of this extension & ambition. Either they are useful but specialised in a short span of time, or they are equally useful but way too short. Anyway, a global History of Missions that would cover the situation until, say, the turn of the XXI Century would certainly colour the previous periods differently.

As a Reformed Baptist reader, to me he also does sound quite Latitudinarian in his attitudes, refraining from a proper Protestant Biblical evaluation of his subject. One hungers, thus, for a new History of Missions that will be not only up to date, but also more Reformed in character; perhaps something definetly Reformed Baptist such as Nicholas R. Needham’s 2 000 years of Christ’s power would be best, as his work shows Baptists can face old realities better, not being attached to mediæval survivals in the magisterial strand of Reformation.

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Review: Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom

Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom by Peter J. Leithart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating book. One of these I think merits actually half a star plus, but I cannot bring myself to give it five — please do not hold that against me, as I find my use itself of stars shifts with time and humour.

Essentially it is a probing critique of John Howard Yoder’s anti-Constantinanism. While I myself am a critic of what one could call Constantinianism, this book would seem to challenge me, and it did, but not as I expected. Which is an index of a good book, when it actually surprises one positively.

He has to spend quite some effort delineating what Yoder understood — yes, the man is dead, so it is a pity Leithart wasn’t quite around at the time to initiate a public debate — by Constantinism, which is not quite my concept. So Leithart’s critique of Yoder’s anti-Constantinianism did not constitute a direct challenge to my own convictions; yet the book retained my interest because it mainly exhonerates Constantine, or at least enables us to understand him better, by a very balanced picture of Constantine himself and his times, correcting Yoder’s partisan & partial reading, while leaving open the door for better, more focused criticism.

Where it really lost the fifth star was only in the last pages of the final chapter, tellingly called ‘Rome baptized’, where Leithart’s ‘Federal vision’ leanings appear as given, which may make sense for adepts of the new perspective on Paul, for Iconodulics and the so, but will be baffling for the Evangelical reader, even the Reformed one that happens to have had no interest in the Federal vision.

In a series of baffling references:

He never explains what he means by ‘every baptism is a infant baptism’, which while probably meaning that all neophytes are babies in the faith, just waves away the very serious Radical Reformation (Anabaptist &, later, Baptist) challenge to the late Antiquity innovation of baby sprinkling;

He seems to say we should avert apocalypse, which may be related to some version of Postmillenniarism (I don’t know his position actually) but on the face of it sounds quite anti-Biblical, as we are to expect Jesus’ return, the sooner the better;

He seems to endorse Augustine’s baptismal regeneration convictions, which is a really big red flag for Biblical Christians, being the most radical, even heretical, extreme of the wide range of ideas broadly identified as Federal vision.

A very minor quibble is when he never explains why, in modernity, ‘there is blood, more… than ever… than any ancient tyranny would… and all of it human.’ I assume it is a reference to abortion, but I am baffled none the less.

Finally, he avoids the elephant in the room: Yoder’s having being posthumely discredited for having been a molester. But that is another issue.

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