Showing posts with label #BookPile. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #BookPile. Show all posts

Portable bibles.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 April

For convenience, we Christians oughta always have a bible on us, or near us. And now we technically do: We have phones. Our phones have web browsers. And those web browsers can easily call up Bible Gateway, or one of the other bible websites—and voilá, we got bible.

But before phones with internet access became so ubiquitous, I encouraged Christians to get a portable analog bible. One they could always have on them, or carry with them. Not just stash extra bibles everywhere we usually go—like an extra bible at work, in the car, in one’s gym locker, and so forth. I’m talking about a convenient portable bible. I tend to get ’em pocket-size, and call ’em “tiny bibles.” But they don’t need to be tiny. Just portable.

Yes, bible apps have kinda made the portable bible moot. Our phones are already portable, and they’re usually on our person. Plenty of women keep their phones in their pockets, not their purses (assuming they’re wearing pants, and their pants have decent phone-size pockets), so for many people our bibles are always on us. Always immediately accessible. More so than a portable bible.

Still, I’m kinda partial to tiny bibles. Even though I read my bible app way more often than that tiny bible, I still stash a tiny bible in my duffel bag.

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

by K.W. Leslie, 10 September

Years ago my mom was taking a college course in bible, and one of her texts was The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Full 13-volume set; they didn’t want people getting the two-volume abridged edition. I don’t remember how much it was at the time, but it was way more than she was willing to spend. So she figured, “Well my son’s a big bible nerd,” and asked me, “Wanna go halves on a commentary set?” It was easy to talk her into the Accordance version, which was a lot cheaper, a lot easier to search… and I could stash it on a laptop instead of having it hog a whole shelf.

I’ve known pastors who had the whole 13-volume set in their offices. I don’t know how regularly they flipped through it for their sermon prep. From the many out-of-context scriptures they used, sounds like they really didn’t. But displaying full commentary sets in your office, preferably without a thick layer of dust on top, certainly makes you look like you study the bible in depth.

The EBC began as The Expositor’s Bible, produced in 1903 in Scotland by Sir William Robertson Nicoll of the Scottish Free Church. Many Scottish churches at the time were big on expository sermons and writing—in which you go through a passage and analyze each individual verse, one at a time. (And hopefully don’t go on wild tangents, or use them as jumping-off points for your own rants, like some “expositors” I could mention.) Bible commentaries usually do this very same thing, but not always; Nicholl’s commentary certainly did. Many of the volume authors are the same guys who helped produce the Scottish volumes of the Early Church Fathers.

Did you want a copy? StudyLight.org hosts the entire thing on their site. And here are links to every volume on Project Gutenberg. Yeah, they lack the past century of archaeological discoveries, and redevelopments in Christian thought, but they still have plenty to chew on. So here you go.

The “Early Church Fathers”: Ancient Christians. Who wrote stuff.

by K.W. Leslie, 21 June

Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament ends with Paul of Tarsus in Rome, awaiting his trial before Nero Claudius Caesar, and encouraging the Christians of Rome. And that’s it. Its author Luke never tells us what came next; most scholars figure Luke didn’t know what came next, ’cause he wrote the book while Paul awaited trial. That’s likely so.

But when I was a kid, I wanted to know what happened next. How’d the trial go? And there, my Sunday school teacher was no help; nobody had told her how it went, and she hadn’t bothered to investigate.

So I did. Turns out it went well. Paul was released, and went back to traveling the Roman Empire and founding churches. But about a decade later he got arrested during the Neronian persecution (and possibly wrote 2 Timothy while awaiting trial), stood before Nero Caesar again, and this time things didn’t go his way. He was condemned and beheaded.

I shared this info with one of my youth pastors, who told me, “Well that probably happened. But we don’t know whether it happened.”

Why don’t we know?

“Because Catholics wrote it.”

This pastor believed as soon as the New Testament was finalized, Roman Catholics swooped in and took over Christianity big time. Everyone in the church, and everything they did after that, was “Catholic”—and therefore, to his mind, heretic—until Martin Luther gave ’em the finger in 1517. And while he was a huge fan of Luther doing that, he wasn’t so sure about Lutherans either. Dude had a lot of prejudices. So the stories of Paul after Acts were “Catholic,” and therefore not to be trusted. And the stories of the ancient church, the teachings of ancient and medieval Christians, and really all of Christianity’s first 15 centuries: “Catholic,” and not to be trusted.

Thanks to him, and most of the folks in that church, I was pretty much ignorant of Christian history—and okay with that, ’cause I imagined it was unreliable, ’cause heretics. I had a lot of gaps in my knowledge which my bible college had to fill in. By which point I had changed churches, had learned enough about Catholics to know better than to think them heretic, and most importantly had learned there were no “Roman Catholics” until the Orthodox/Catholic schism developed. All those ancient Christians who recorded the church’s earliest ideas, history, teachings, and testimonies: They were a fairly loose network of people who were trying to follow Jesus as best they could in the predominantly pagan, and occasionally murderous, culture of the Roman Empire.

The guy with the dorm room next to mine was an Orthodox Christian, and he had splurged on a 38-volume set of the ante-Nicene, Nicene, and post-Nicene fathers. This was before ebooks were a thing, and the print edition set him back at least a thousand dollars. (Which is why I was so jazzed when a CD-ROM version came out five years later, and was only $39.95!) “Borrow whatever you like,” he told me. “The school library isn’t always that accessible, so it’s good to have your own library.” True that. I borrowed his volumes regularly till he graduated at the end of my sophomore year.

The books of a Christian’s library.

by K.W. Leslie, 27 December

Birthdays and Christmas frequently mean gift cards, and if you got one you might be thinking, “Hmm, what books ought I buy?” But probably not. People don’t read.

Okay you clearly do, if you read TXAB. But most don’t. Christians might read the bible, though many of us consider it a massive struggle; a New Year’s resolution we never get round to completing, and peter out in March along with our gym memberships. We’ll read little else. We don’t want any more books, and figure most Christian books are either poorly-written fiction, repackaged sermons, or light devotional stuff which are no deeper than the stuff we hear Sunday morning. (Which largely ain’t wrong.)

So I rarely get asked, “What books should I own?” Most Christians figure if their Christian library contains a bible alone, they’re good.

Sometimes more than one bible. Maybe a study bible; maybe a concordance, exhaustive or not; maybe an inexpensive one-volume bible commentary, like Matthew Henry’s. Maybe a prayer book or devotional.

The rest will be the odd Christian book they were given as gifts, or bought when a traveling preacher visited the church and had a book table, or bought because they heard it was really good… so they read it, and likely won’t read it twice.

Ought we own more than that? Well, it won’t hurt.

The Word-for-Word Bible Comic: The Gospel of Matthew.

by K.W. Leslie, 03 September

When I was a kid our Sunday school classes had a take-home comic book called Bible-in-Life Pix. (Now it’s just called Pix.) As I recall it’d usually contain three stories each week:

  • Something about some missionary or preacher or saint who did something of interest.
  • “Tullus,” a fictional series about the adventures of an ancient Roman Christian who’d share Jesus with pagans. I found it so boring, so I’d skip it.
  • Excerpts from The Picture Bible, which is the only part I really cared about—and collected. ’Cause it’s bible. But a comic book!

My only beef with The Picture Bible was it wasn’t the whole bible. Stories were abbreviated. Some stories were skipped altogether. Sometimes for very good reason; most of Judges really isn’t for children! But you know how literalist children can be: If you present ’em a comic-book bible, they want the whole bible. All of it. Genesis to maps.

My other beef with The Picture Bible came much later, once I majored in biblical history in school and found its pictures weren’t all that historically accurate. Yeah, some of this is my usual rant about White Jesus in a toga. To be fair, the illustrators were trying to create images which 20th century American Christians were already familiar with through western art, instead of startling them with reality. The unfortunate side effect is whenever the Holy Spirit himself tries to wake us up to reality, too many of us figure it can’t be the Spirit, suspect it’s some other spirit, and embrace our favorite fictions all the tighter. But that’s another rant.

The Word for Word Bible Comic: The Gospel of Matthew by Simon Amadeus Pillario. Word for Word Bible Comic.

Clearly English graphic designer Simon Amadeus Pillario had the same issues. So he did something about it! In 2014 he began a Kickstarter campaign to finance the first book of his Word for Word Bible Comic, in which he was gonna illustrate the full text of Judges. (Yeah, Judges, which I just said isn’t for children. Gotta get the rough stuff out of the way, I guess.) And he was aiming for historical accuracy: Ancient middle eastern Hebrews which look like ancient Hebrews instead of white Europeans; buildings and landscapes which are accurate to ancient Canaan instead of looking like 20th century Jesus movies; angels which don’t generically look like Anglos.

He completed Judges; then did Joshua, Ruth, Esther, and Mark, and this weekend he’s releasing Matthew—hence this article. He sent me an advance copy of Matthew to read. It’s good stuff. You might want it; along with the other books, all of which are on his website.

Before you go book shopping…

by K.W. Leslie, 20 December

This Christmas, some of you are getting gift cards or gift certificates. I regularly get Starbucks cards—which is great, ’cause that’s exactly what I want. I’ll definitely use ’em. Yes, I’m at Starbucks as I write this.

Anyway, some of these gift cards will be for bookstores. Maybe Amazon, maybe not. And as Christians who wanna get religious about our relationships with Jesus, some of us are likely thinking of buying Christian books and resources, and stuff that’ll help us get better at Christianity. I know I do.

And, when I was newly devout, I wasted a bunch of money on stuff that really didn’t do any of those things. Likely so will you. We all do. Our zealousness overtakes our wallets. But hold on there, little buckaroo: Don’t get all fired up to ride off an’ lasso some steer, ’cause you might just wind up with some bull.

If you go to a brick ’n mortar Christian bookstore, first thing you’re gonna notice is they sell an awful lot of “Jesus junk.” And bibles; most of their money comes from bibles. But they also sell art, T-shirts, CDs, devotionals, romance novels without any sex in ’em (with Amish girls on the cover, just to tell everyone who catches you reading one, “Nope, the clothes are staying on”), inferior Christian fiction, bestselling Christian books by famous authors, and classic Christian books by famous dead Christians.

There are some actually useful books in there. But more of them are junk. Even among the classics. They’re nice sentiments, disguised as God-inspired wisdom. They’ll make you feel good, like they’re expected to. But you won’t grow any closer to Jesus, won’t get any more spiritually mature, won’t grow in the Spirit’s fruit, won’t anything. I used to own bookshelves of that rubbish.

How d’you tell the difference? Which of them should you buy? Well maybe this article’ll help get you started.

My favorite End Times novel.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 September

And no, you’re never gonna find it on ChristianBook.com.

Years ago, I was complaining about one of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s Left Behind novels. Don‘t remember which one, but I do remember my complaint—for once—wasn’t about the terrible Darbyist theology, but about the poorly-developed characters. Caricatures of characters, really.

The fellow I was ranting to was a bit of a Left Behind fan, so he didn’t appreciate my critique… although he admitted the writing “felt rushed.” There, I don’t agree. My beef wasn’t with how fast the Left Behind novels were cranked out. Some authors only need a month, start to finish, to produce a book. But they produce three-dimensional characters, whereas the Left Behind books produced melodramatic heroes and villains.

“Well fine,” he said, “what’s your favorite End Times book?”

“Easy,” I said, The Stand.”


Yep, this book.

When I realized I meant the Stephen King novel, he was outraged. Which I get. After all, King uses swears in his novels. And some Christians have never forgiven King for his depictions of manic dark Christians in his previous novels Carrie and The Dead Zone. (His Christian characters are way better in The Stand and The Green Mile. But I digress.)

Yes, I have read other End Times novels, books, and so forth. I may as well tell you about a few of ’em, so you’ll know why I picked The Stand over the others.

The “Wild at Heart” kind of guy.

by K.W. Leslie, 30 June

Nine years ago a friend, who should’ve known better, gave me a copy of John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart as a Christmas gift. The book was all the rage among Christian men five years before. At the time (’cause I tried to get rid of it on Amazon) it was going for 20 cents. Betcha she found it on sale.

People buy books like Wild at Heart to inspire the men in their lives. That’d include men who don’t read. Consequently there are a lot of men who own a dusty copy of Wild at Heart, and mine’s pretty dusty too, ’cause I refuse to read it again.

I’d read it years before. It wasn’t my copy, which is the only reason I didn’t throw it across the room in disgust. Nope, I don’t care for it. Here’s why.

Eldredge’s profoundly misguided thesis is constructed around certain Happy Premises. (I stole this term from Bowfinger, which I watched again recently. Loony self-help ideas tend to gravitate together in my mind, whether fictional or not.)

  • HAPPY PREMISE #1. Man needs to be wild, free, and undomesticated; he needs to pick fights and conquer stuff.
  • HAPPY PREMISE #2. Man needs to pursue Woman, see her as his Beauty, and take her to be part of his grand adventure.
  • HAPPY PREMISE #3. This was how God made men to be, and even Jesus was like this.
  • HAPPY PREMISE #4. You must never, ever show it to the Laker Girls.

No wait; that last one’s from Bowfinger.

In Wild at Heart, Eldredge explains why humanity doesn’t know his Happy Premises, despite them being buried deep in every man’s heart (where Eldredge found them, though others hadn’t), despite them being buried deep in the scriptures (where Eldredge found them, and where millennia of other Christians hadn’t). Men aren’t proper, masculine males; their fathers never taught them to be one. Instead, their mothers teach boys to be girly, and domesticate and figuratively castrate them.

Hence women are wholly unfit to raise men. Seriously; that’s what Eldredge teaches. Something ladies better bear in mind, next time someone recommends this book for your husband.

If a mother will not allow her son to become dangerous, if she does not let the father take him away, she will emasculate him. I just read a story of a mother, divorced from her husband, who was furious that he wanted to take the boy hunting. She tried to get a restraining order to prevent him from teaching the boy about guns. That is emasculation. “My mom wouldn’t let me play with GI Joe,” a young man told me. Another said, “We lived back east, near an amusement park. It had a roller coaster—the old wooden kind. But my mom would never let me go.” That is emasculation, and the boy needs to be rescued from it by the active intervention of the father, or another man. Eldredge 64-65  

Another man? Any other man? Say you’re a single mom, and you’ve forbidden your son from playing with matches, ’cause you know your little firebug will wind up in the burn ward. Is Eldredge actually suggesting some unrelated stranger should be able to overrule you and supply your boy with a box of matches, because you don’t get it?

Yes. Yes he does. To make his case, Eldredge references the Clint Eastwood movie A Perfect World. Kevin Costner plays an escaped convict who kidnaps an 8-year-old boy. He lets the boy ride the roller coaster his mother wouldn’t. He compliments the boy on his penis. Yeah, there are other instances in the movie of bonding between the criminal and his victim, but Eldredge picked those two. Wild rides and genitalia. The two things in this book he upholds most.

Back to the Book Pile.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 November

I know; books aren’t everyone’s thing. That’s why, according to Christ Almighty’s stats, last month’s Book Pile article was the least-read thing last month. The public has spoken, and it’s a resounding, “Good Lord, Leslie, you write 1,000-word essays and you expect me to throw books on that? What’re you trying to do, kill me?” Followed by a quick Netflix binge, just to get the foul taste out of their system. (Shudder.) Reading. Ugh.

But for the tiny minority who wants to know what literature I’m plowing through, ’cause they figure it’ll give them some insight into my odd little mind, here y’go. Glean what you can from it. This month:

Next month, more books. ’Cause I’m gonna keep reading… and gonna keep ranting about the stuff I read, whether it’s the obligatory book-review stuff, or the things I read for fun. Yeah, I read theology books for fun. It’s how I roll.

Introducing the Book Pile.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 October

There’s this well-known pastor in my denomination. I’ve heard him preach, and found it impressive. When I found out he had a blog, I decided to subscribe to it. At the time it was mostly things he’d discovered in the process of writing his sermons, and the occasional rant about his politics. But two years ago it turned into nothing but book reviews.

Y’see, once your blog starts racking up the viewers, book publishers find out about it, and start offering you books for review. They hope your readers might wanna become their readers. And they’re not wrong; I’ve come across some really interesting books through some of my favorite blogs. So when they contacted me, I figured why not.

But lest you worry, Christ Almighty! is not gonna turn into a book blog, like that pastor’s site did. He began with books on Christian discipleship, branched into novels (and his novels aren’t my cup of tea), and doesn’t bother to write about Jesus anymore. I really need to unsubscribe from his blog sometime.

I’ll keep it to once a month. (Less often, if I haven’t found anything good.) No, not every book was sent to me for review, ’cause I’m gonna include the books I get on my own, and liked enough to let you know about. And no, not every book is gonna get a four-star review, ’cause if publishers send me something I don’t care for, I’ll say so. Too many bloggers seem to take the attitude of, “If you can’t say anything nice, be really vague or they’ll stop sending you books”—forgetting that if they send you nothing but crap, maybe you kinda want them to stop sending you books.