The Great Assumption

If you’re looking to write a book on one of the toughest possible topics, you can’t find one much tougher than the often discussed and debated question: How can God be good, loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing since evil and suffering exist?

In a book that’s remarkable for its readability and clarity but also its scholarship and depth, Randy Alcorn tackles this whammy in If God Is Good.

In a work that constantly weaves in pertinent Scriptures, Alcorn addresses the question in a way that covers apologetics, philosophy, theology, and evangelism.  Loaded with interesting stories and packed with fantastic one-liners, Alcorn’s effort at addressing this huge question is surprisingly satisfying.

For me, the most important section comes on page 41 (where Alcorn is really just getting warmed up in this 500-page volume!).  Here, Alcorn points out that this whole question rests on the premise that God cannot have good reasons for allowing evil and suffering.  Alcorn challenges this assumption: “We may not understand why a good God would allow terrible suffering.  But this merely establishes that if there is a God, we do not know everything he knows.  Why should this surprise us?  Suppose we add only one premise to the argument that God is all powerful, all knowing, and all loving, and yet evil exists: God has a morally sufficient reason for permitting evil.”  In a book that is very well-organized and extremely thorough, this one point stood out above everything else.  If God has a reason for allowing evil and suffering, a reason that makes sense from an eternal perspective, then it’s perfectly consistent with His being good, all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving!

Even for its size, If God Is Good is highly readable from beginning to end.  It’s also so well organized that I’ll keep it on the shelf as a reference tool.

If you’re going to buy one book to help you wrestle with this big question, this is definitely the one I would recommend.

Note: I received a free copy of this book for review from Waterbrook Multnomah.  But they didn’t tell me what to say.  That would’ve been a lot easier, though, since this book was almost as long as the Old Testament.

Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 4:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Where the Wild Things Are

Last night Carolyn and I watched Where the Wild Things Are, a movie based on the popular children’s book.

I enjoyed watching it, but only after it was over did I realize how much I like it.  The kid who plays Max, the main character, did an incredible job.  Much of his acting is done without dialogue, using mostly facial expressions.  This is especially well done at the end of the movie.

Whereas most movies go for the happily-ever-after ending, this one goes more for a reality-ever-after ending, which made me appreciate it that much more.  One of the “wild things” in the movie says something like, “Being in a family is hard.”  That seems to be the main theme–something that is barely hinted at it in the book, but is richly explored in the movie.  The film never gives the impression that being part of a family ever gets easier, only that it’s worth it to stick together no matter what, hard as it may be.

The ending is one of my favorite parts.  After having a huge blowout with his mother and then going on a crazy adventure, Max is reunited with his mom.  No words are spoken.  They look at each other, share in a meaningful silence, and simply continue being a family.

While the characters, costumes, and general story line come straight from the book, a good portion of the movie seems to take place between a couple pages in the book.  It’s almost like commentary to help us understand the book.  The land that Max goes to operates on the level of a kid’s thinking.  Since it’s easy for me to instantly transport myself back to the way I thought when I was eight (as I think most men probably can!), I really found myself relating to the society of the wild things.

The more I think about it, the more I like this movie.  The subtlety is one of its greatest strengths.  Definitely worth a second viewing.

After watching the movie, Carolyn and I read the book.  It was then that I was really struck by how accurate the costumes (and CGI/animatronics) in the film are.

Published in: on April 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm  Comments (2)  

My New Favorite Paragraph

I have a new favorite paragraph.

It’s from page 115 of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.  The narrator is an old dying country preacher writing about dancing the waltz alone in his study:

“I plan to do all my waltzing here in the study.  I have thought I might have a book ready at hand to clutch if I began to experience unusual pain, so that it would have an especial recommendation from being found in my hands.  That seemed theatrical, on consideration, and it might have the perverse effect of burdening the book with unpleasant associations.  The ones I considered, by the way, were Donne and Herbert and Barth’s Epistle to the Romans and Volume II of Calvin’s Institutes.  Which is by no means to slight Volume I.”

Now that’s rich.  What an amazing writing gift.  And what a lovable character!

Published in: on December 13, 2008 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  

The Glory of Their Times

Last year I was in Cooperstown, New York with my dad and two brothers.  My younger brother, Dylan, suggested I read The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence S. Ritter.  He said it was the best baseball book he’d ever read.

It took me awhile to get to it, but I finally finished reading it yesterday, and I must say that Dylan was right.

In researching The Glory of Their Times, Ritter traveled all over the country in the mid-1960s interviewing former major leaguers who’d played as long ago as the late 1800s.  The story that these men share in their own words is fascinating!  As a baseball fan I was captivated, but equally interesting was the fact that these are first-hand accounts of a historical era whose witnesses have all but died out.  One player, Smokey Joe Wood, even shares his recollection of growing up in a wild west town!

The players who tell their stories in The Glory in Their Times bear names that filled headlines 80 to 100 years ago, but would be unfamiliar to most people today–even though several of them are Hall of Famers, such as Edd Roush, Stan Coveleski, Goose Goslin, Rube Marquard, and Sam Crawford.  Even so, they tell story after story of names that are still known even by non-fans, names like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Ty Cobb.

If you have even a casual interest in baseball, history, or just biography in general, this book is definitely one I’d highly recommend.

Published in: on September 30, 2008 at 5:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Parents All Over the Place

This past weekend was fun but went by in a blur.  My parents finally made it to our house after driving five hours through heavy rain.  When they finally got here, we stopped by the Training Station so they could meet the teachers there and some of the kids, then we went to Carolyn’s classroom.

The kids loved my parents.  It was so cute!  The children just swarmed around them and played with them the whole time.

For dinner on Friday night we went to Cottage Cafe in Bethany Beach, Delaware with all four of my parents.  The food was really good and it was nice having a chance to hang out with all of them.

We capped off the night at our house with ice cream and coffee.

On Saturday we had a late breakfast/early lunch at the General’s Kitchen in Ocean City.  Their cream chipped beef is insanely good!  And the waitress kept the coffee flowing, which was especially nice on a chilly, windy, drizzly morning.

Then we headed south to the Inlet and visited the Life-Saving Station Museum.  It was really interesting!  I’d never been before.  Definitely worth the four bucks for admission.

The museum was followed by a cherry & mango Misto Shake at Rita’s.  We headed back to the house, where everyone except Carolyn took a nap.  We had dinner at Station 7 in Pittsville, then my parents headed back home.  It was a really quick visit, but a really good one too.

On Sunday, Mother’s Day, we had a quick meeting after church to talk about Vacation Bible School.  Then we went to Fratelli’s in Salisbury with Carolyn’s parents, Michael & Kristen, and Michael’s parents.  Their stuffed shells are so good!  Even better than their baked manicotti, which is one of my favorite dishes there.  After lunch we went to the Dohertys’ house where we hung out and had a really delicious cake.

I think I put on about eight pounds last weekend.

Published in: on May 13, 2008 at 5:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Ben Stein’s “Expelled”

Yesterday I watched Ben Stein’s Expelled.  It was pretty interesting, although I have to admit it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped and expected.

There wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about the debate between subscribers to Intelligent Design and believers in evolution.  Instead, it was a discussion about the discussion about the debate between subscribers to Intelligent Design and believers in evolution.

Not to knock the film, but the camera work drove me crazy.  It seems like one of the trendy things in cinema these days is to intentionally have shoddy camera work.  I understand that YouTube is in and reality TV is all the rage, but Hollywood, please take note: When we watch a movie, we don’t want to get motion sick.  We expect homemade quality from YouTube.  We expect professional quality when we go to a movie theater.  I think I missed about 15 minutes of Expelled from having to look away from the screen so I wouldn’t puke.

Some of the old movie clips that were spliced in were really well done.  Honestly, though, I think they were thrown in there as much to keep the film from being too boring as much as to create an effect.

The best part of the work, in my opinion, is the part where devout atheist Richard Dawkins suggests that life on earth originated from seeds left here by aliens from outer space.  That was the most entertaining moment.  (At least he doesn’t believe in anything weird, like, for example, God.)  I only wish Stein had asked Dawkins where those aliens came from.  But maybe he’s saving that for the sequel.

Expelled is worth watching, but you’d be just as well off waiting for it to come out on DVD.  It’s different, amusing, and even informative; however, be aware that it’s not about the discussion between proponents of ID and evolution–it’s about the politics of that discussion.

Published in: on April 30, 2008 at 12:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Weekend Recap

A recap of this fun and busy weekend:

  •  On Friday we went to Oxford, Pennsylvania to spend the night at Michael & Kristen’s house (Carolyn’s sister & her husband).  We hung out with them for awhile that night and ate some totally delicious cake that Kristen had made.
  • On Saturday we went to Sight & Sound Theater to see Daniel.  It was so awesome!  Every production they do is great.  The script for this one wasn’t as good as the others, but the staging and special effects were by far the best.  Unbelievable.  I don’t know how they do that stuff!  Carolyn’s parents gave her the tickets for Christmas, and the seats were some of the best in the house.  They were so good that we bought the same seats for an August showing of In the Beginning.

  • Before going to the show we stopped at BB’s in Quarryville.  They were out of coffee, but I stocked up on seltzer water that was discounted big time.  They even had some Perrier.  Nice.
  • For dinner on Saturday we stopped at Grotto Pizza in Seaford.  Grotto’s has the second-best pizza on the Atlantic coast.  It totally hit the spot.
  • Yesterday at CrossWay was week two of “Hollywood God.”  We used clips from Ratatouille to see how the Holy Spirit works in our lives.  In this way it was very different from The Pursuit of Happyness last week.  With Ratatouille what mattered was not so much the storyline; instead, it served as an illustration of how the Spirit works in our lives.  In a nutshell: Remy the rat could cook, but Linguini could not.  So they figured out a way for Remy to guide and control Linguini so that could cook together as a team.  Nobody could see Remy at work, but they saw the amazing results.  Our cooperation with the Spirit of God works in a very similar way.  The podcast will be up tomorrow.  (But, like last week, we’re editing out the video clips for copyright reasons.)  Next week: Rocky Balboa!
  • After church yesterday, Carolyn and I ate lunch with her parents, then headed to their house to paint.  I’ve gotten to a very frustrating point in my painting pursuit.  I’m at the place where it’s time to add finishing details, and I just can’t seem to do it.  When Linda explains how to do it, it makes sense.  And I’ll even watch her do it.  But it just doesn’t seem to work for me.  Frustrating as it is, I’m going to keep trying because I really enjoy it.  Meanwhile, Carolyn is nearly finished with two beautiful paintings.  (She’s got the artistic genes!)  Both are from photographs she took in Tennessee.  One is a close up of a butterfly, the other is a scene from Cades Cove, with mountains, a meadow, and a deer.  (When she’s finished, I’ll see if she’ll let me post pictures of them.)
  • Today is a day off for both of us (except for a meeting I have to go to).  Hopefully we’ll get to do some more painting.  I’m starting a third picture.  Yesterday I did the initial sketch.  It’s a close up from a Sports Illustrated cover, showing that amazing midfield fourth-quarter catch that the Giants made in the closing minutes of the Super Bowl.  (Carolyn’s dad, a big Pats fan, suggested that maybe in my painting the guy could drop the ball!)
Published in: on February 18, 2008 at 10:21 am  Comments (5)  

The Hobbit

Until recently I had never read anything by J.R.R. Tolkien.  So finally, at long last, I read The Hobbit.  Coming into it, I had no idea what to expect.  That’s a good thing, because it was very different from anything I’d ever read before.  Definitely a good book.  It seems to fit into a weird genre that’s only written by English people.  It was written for kids, but at an adult reading level.

Anyway, I don’t know what else to say about it.  It took me forever to read it–about six weeks!  Kind of makes me timid about tackling the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Published in: on February 16, 2008 at 5:23 am  Comments (2)  

10 Random Things

10 Random Things:

(1) Today is when voters here in Maryland, along with Virginia and D.C., get a shot at the national spotlight. I’m registered Independent, so I can’t vote. In my 14 years of voting eligibility, I’ve been registered as a Democrat, Republican, and now Independent. I’m thinking about switching back to Democrat so I can vote in the early rounds. Might as well. As you can see, I’m not exactly a strict party guy. (Good thing, since I don’t have a party.)

(2) Carolyn and I recently finished watching the complete series of Voyagers. That’s “complete series” as in the whole one season it ran. Too bad it didn’t go longer! Great ’80s show, complete with hokey one-liners such as, “I work alone, kid,” and those fantastic corny ’80’s not-so-special effects. And of course Phineas Bogg, with his open shirt, falls in love with a different woman in every episode. But it’s still a classic–I definitely recommend the show!

(3) Recently I’ve been getting hits on this blog from people researching Babe Ruth’s infamous called shot. Let there be no doubt about it–the Babe called it. In the third game of the 1932 World Series, the New York Yankees were playing the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Cubs were heckling Ruth, and finally he’d had enough: he’d let his bat talk for him. So he pointed to center field and knocked the next pitch over the wall–exactly where he’d pointed. I know of at least two sources which confirm the truth of this story. First of all, I’ve heard a recording of that at-bat, and the announcers themselves mention the Babe calling his shot. Second, a friend of my dad’s who passed away in the mid-1980s was there at the game, and he confirmed the story. Below is a picture of Ruth pointing, right before he homered.

(4) Speaking of blog traffic, there are two topics that repeatedly bring more hits to this blog than anything else: searches for surfing, and searches for chapstick–more specifically, chapstick conspiracy theories and chapstick expiration dates. In fact, if you Google “chapstick conspiracy theory,” this blog is the first listing that comes up. Weird.

(5) Last night I cleaned the house because we were going to have a church meeting here. The meeting ended up getting rescheduled, but at least the house is clean now.

(6) Carolyn is off from work today because of the election, so she’s going to visit the Training Station with me. She hasn’t yet met the Tuesday/Thursday kids. She’ll love ’em!

(7) Butch Marvin, whose ministry has had a significant impact at CrossWay the past couple years or so, is doing a two-week series at CrossWay in May. (If you’re reading this and you’re on our Worship Planning Team, I’m not holding out on you–I just got the email confirming the plan!) His messages are about “Becoming a Hope Dealer.”

(8) Today a group of ministry leaders in the Berlin area are meeting to plan a special event called “Celebration of the King.” It will be held on Friday, April 4th, which marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s an attempt at bringing together the black and white communities in this area, which is the most segregated place I’ve ever lived. We’re going to honor Dr. King and worship his King, King Jesus, who is also our King!

(9) Next week I’m getting to meet with some pastors from the Ocean City area. I’m really looking forward to it, because I’ve been wanting to meet these guys and get to know them.

(10) CNN.com is the dumbest news website on the Internet. I need to find a good source for up-to-the-minute news. They used to be a great news source, but now they mostly just have stories about people doing horrific things to children. Whatever happened to real news coverage?

Published in: on February 12, 2008 at 5:45 am  Comments (2)  

Enchanted

Yesterday Carolyn and I took Pastor Daryl’s daughters (ages 8 and 5) to see the new movie Enchanted.  It was very clever and creative!  It was princessy enough for the girls, but also had enough dialog and subplots geared toward adults to keep me entertained.  Carolyn is already looking forward to it coming out on DVD!  It’ll never make my list of favorite movies, but it’s definitely a good movie worth watching.  (And I’m pretty sure it’s made Carolyn’s list!)

Published in: on November 24, 2007 at 1:09 pm  Leave a Comment