This is a list of the books I read in 2014. All the reviews were written in 2014 and are archived on this site in (roughly) the order I read them in.

Book Reviews 2014
September 25, 20192014 / Book ReviewsKevin DeYoung is an interesting character in evangelical Christianity. Coming from a strong reformed tradition, he is turning heads by becoming involved in big projects with the Gospel Coalition. He considers himself “Young, Restless, and Reformed,” a movement that stems from millennial’s coming into the Church holding onto important tenants such as expository preaching and election. Interestingly enough, the early 2000’s produced a movement of evangelical Christians that tried to appeal to millennials by producing hip pastors with soul patches, fancy coffee drinks, and contemporary music. Most importantly, they embraced existentialism and shy away from strict doctrinal stances that seem to them an anachronism. This movement was called the “Emergent Church,” and for awhile they posed a great threat to Christian Orthodoxy. DeYoung partners with Ted Kluck to investigate this movement, what they believe (or don’t believe) and how it is effecting Evangelical Christianity. They admit it is a hard task to undertake. Perhaps this is because emergents are unequivocally mysterious about what they claim to believe in particularly on doctrinal issues. For example, no where can you read Brian McLaren’s stance on homosexuality. Is it right or is it wrong? Emergents thrive on ambiguity and embrace spirituality, not religion. They are big proponents of the social gospel: the thought that making a change in the world by doing is better than sitting in coffee shops debating theology. Theology and doctrine are the enemies to the emergent. What does it matter if you deny the trinity? What does it matter you deny the virgin birth? Shouldn’t Christians be getting out and showing the love of Jesus instead of sitting on their knowledge, their fat, obese intellect, and doing nothing for the world?   DeYoung provides an interesting look at the Church at the very end of the book. He comments on the Churches from Revelation. These Churches were real at one time and had these problems he lists, but the metaphorical nature of the Church can help diagnose problems in our Churches today. He essentially breaks down a swing which is too extreme in both cases: in the first, churches are too intellectual and have little emotion, like the church at Ephesus who “lost first love.” On the other side, there are churches that are seemingly alive with emotion, but are dead in the way of knowledge, to which Christ responds, “I know all the things you do, and you have a reputation for being alive – but you are dead!” Both of these examples contribute to the widening divide between the stuffy churches of yesterday who are content with taking but not giving and the charismatic upheaval seen in recent years, particularly influenced by churches attempting to please millennials in a convoluted way to lull them back to the church,  from the opposite spectrum.    Fortunately, the most attended churches today are those who have: 1) a strong position on what truth is, and 2) doctrine and not emotionalism in the sermons. This is encouraging because remember, DeYoung wrote this book in the hay-day of the emergent church. What we have seen since then is a rapid disintegration of the threat of emergents. This is good news, but not all is good: complacency kills, as the Marine Corps preaches, and we need to be on guard and on the lookout for dangers that threaten the truthfulness of Christianity and seek to displace the authority of the Bible in exchange for popular belief. [...]
September 25, 20192014 / Book Reviews1984 is a book about a near-future dystopian world where nothing is secret from the government. The theme of book is an illustration of what can happen in a totalitarian system of government, much like North Korea today. My impressions from this book are numerous so I will shed some insight onto a few areas that impacted me most. A large part of the book is dedicated to the travails of censorship. Winston Smith, the main protagonist, works in the “Ministry of Truth” which edits newspaper articles whenever the government changes it’s mind. For example, the nation Oceania has been at war with Eurasia for years, until the government decided that it was at war with Eastasia. Winston’s job is to go through all the previous articles written about the war with Eurasia and change it to Eastasia. I particularly enjoyed the ending (so if you haven’t read the book and would not like a spoiler.. stop reading!). Winston gets captured by the thought police and gets taken in for “retraining.” Here, the antagonist of the story tells Winston that in previous generations, the way to deal with people who did not conform to the government were just imprisoned. Ideologically, this did not correct the thinking of those people, but rather made it fester for years. Under the government in 1984, those who think counter to the government are subjected to torture until they relinquish to thinking that is aligned with the reigning powers. So Winston under goes a torture experience that is an allegory for the Soviet methods. One popular one was the phrase “2+2=5.” Apparently, the Soviets used this tactic to convince people that if the government said that 2+2=5, then that is how it is. Orwell also discusses the importance of the “war” efforts that were inherently fictitious. This is interesting because nationalism is a large theme in 1984. The purpose of the war efforts were to convince subjects to rally around an opposing force and thus propagate the reputation of the government. Lastly, the turning point at the end of the book was the denunciation of his love for Julia, an intimate mate whom he met. He was faced with a torture of facing his worst fear (rats) and betrayed her. This was the final straw in his re-education, showing that the one thing that he believed in was no longer important. Overall, Orwell’s book brings about several topics that are applicable in our society today: that of censorship, nationalism, etc. These reappear throughout history and will continue to impact our thoughts into the future. [...]
September 25, 20192014 / Book ReviewsIn a dystopia-like future, Lowry presents a scenario where everything is regulated from what you can say to what you can do: everything must be proper and no one can lie or know much of anything that concerns morality. In fact, we are told later on that this bland, politically-correct community is seen through the lens of a grainy black and white world that is isolated from our polychromatic view. No one is informed of the history behind the community, no disease or war exist, and love is not a “correct” word for use because it is undeniably subjective: there is only one man that has inherited the lush coloration of various types of experiences that we often take for granted. This man is the giver. Jonas, a boy in the community, is chosen as the next “receiver” of these experiences which he will use to help the council mitigate problems in the community. While no one can lie, he is informed that his new duties will enable him to lie and not talk about his work. He also takes liberal abuse of his status as receiver and gets into some trouble along the way. He receives memories from the giver that in turn shape his morality. He see’s what war is for the first time, like a child who touches a hot stove to find out that it has burnt his finger. While not all the realities of what the giver shows Jonas are positive, they help him cognitively conjecture a different worldview that is a more informed than those around him. He begins to experience new emotions like love and sexually oriented feelings that are mostly forbidden, culminating in the development a “crush” on one of his former classmates. Things go very awry when a baby in the care of his father is going to be “released” because he does not meet the standard weight requirements for newborns. The giver shows Jonas what the “release” really is: murder. Because of his new perspective, he sees what was always accepted (and perhaps encouraged) as a blatant, morally-reprehensible conundrum that enrages him. He jettisons his place in the community with the little babe and to search out a safe place. Really the ending is the most awkward and mystifying part of the book. I’m not even sure what it means or how to interpret it. But this book gives us an idea of several important lessons we can learn from. The book touches on controversial subjects such as moral relativity and the removal of free will in an otherwise “perfect” society. While the society functions well enough on it’s own, the strict consternations of always watching for “big brother” removes the beauty in making mistakes and learning from them. I do wonder if Lowry had in mind a particular society in today’s world (perhaps Soviet Russia or communist China) from which she drew inspiration from. While this book is recommended for 8-12 year olds, everyone can think critically about this short story and enjoy the tale. Lowry has crafted a masterpiece that is still selling well and enables young people to consider all the good things they have in America compared to the restrictions in other, more hostile, environments. [...]
September 25, 20192014 / Book ReviewsJames Webb is a retired: Marine Captain, journalist, producer, Secretary of the Navy, and most recently, United States Senator from Virginia. He is also a prospective United States Presidential Canidate for the Democratic Party. From this brief list of his accolades, James Webb has a lot to say about his interesting life. From the many moves of his early childhood as a military brat to the rice paddies of Vietnam, this was certainly an entertaining reflection of a life well spent. For my readers who follow this blog, you all know that I am pretty into military history and, more importantly, Marines. Webb had a lifelong passion to join the military in the footsteps of his father who retired as an Air Force Colonel and who also served in the last days of WWII. Webb details his life with unrelenting detail, illustrating his childhood and the conditions that led up to his decision to join the Naval Academy. He was a semi-professional boxer, excellent student, an avid reader, and really an intellectual from an early age. During his time at the academy, he details the harsh realities of “Pleb” year and how that benefitted him during his combat tours in Vietnam. Webb joined the Marine Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant and shortly after “the Basic School” in Quantico, Virginia, the Marine Corps training school for fresh Lieutenants to become a platoon commander, he was shipped out to Vietnam. He received two purple hearts during his time there and wrote a famous book entitled, “Fields of Fire,” which I plan to read soon. After his time in Vietnam, he ceases to be as detailed about his life. Perhaps he thought his book was running too long to carefully notate everything as he did earlier. I would have loved to hear about his experience as Secretary of the Navy and about his time in the Senate. Instead, he leaves us with a moving passage about being true to the people he represented instead of following money on Capitol Hill. This is a very well-written account by James Webb and his life. What I find a little annoying is all the political jargon amidst the careful anecdotes of his life. Early on he dictates the conditions his mother lived through during the Great Depression, but sidesteps the facts to detail a long diatribe on how the South has always been more poor and more taken advantage of then the North. While this may be true, it really is irrelevant to the story. All the detail in this several-page rant could be boiled down to something that would have been more significant than a politically driven agenda. But I suppose what can we expect from someone who just retired from the Senate? He has another sort of rant that speaks about the change in our military (which I found more interesting). Back in the day, he explains, the military was a single man’s game. After the Korean War, money was diverted to programs that are geared more towards families such as base housing and food chains on base. He mentions Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, where I just came from, and says that one could live their entire deployment on the base without having to leave. This is largely true and a by-product of these innovations in the 1950’s and 60’s. Overall, James Webb is an incredibly interesting man, and although I may disagree with some of his politics, he chose to lay his life on the line for his country as a servant, from the many moves that comes with being in a military family, to being a platoon commander in Vietnam, to eventually becoming a United States Senator. I believe that this, not politics, is the heart of the book. [...]
September 25, 20192014 / Book ReviewsIn August, I started a list of summer reading books by Al Mohler of Southern Seminary found here: To date, I’ve read 5 of them (“Strange Glory,” which I’ve already written a book review for was the first) but I’m pressing through it. According to Mohler, he says of the list: “There is also an unapologetic tilt toward a reading list for men in this list.” And the story of Henry Gerecke and his role in the Nuremberg trials defiantly fits into this category. At the conclusion of WWII, there were multiple concessions made to amend the atrocities during the course of the long war. The Nazi regime that was in place was dismantled and it’s leadership was taken into prison to wait for their trial. This was the beginning of what has become known as the “Nuremberg trials.” Henry Gerecke, a Lutheran United States Army Chaplain, was assigned to the prisoners because he knew German. Throughout the book, it details his life before, during and after his service in the Chaplancy with most of the attention on his role at the Nuremberg trials. During this unique ministry, Gerecke came into contact with some of the biggest murderers of the war, which presents an interesting theme that surrounds the book. How could these men receive forgiveness for their actions? One such man was Rudolf Hoss, the camp commander for the Auschwitz concentration camp. According to Hoss’ testimony, he thought that perhaps 3 million people (Jews, Soviets, invalids, and minorities) lost their lives. But Gerecke’s ministry there did not go unnoticed. Four days before his death, he said this: “My conscience compels me to make the following declaration. In the solitude of my prison cell I have come to the bitter recognition that I have sinned gravely against humanity. As Commandant of Auschwitz I was responsible for carrying out part of the cruel plans of the ‘Third Reich’ for human destruction. In so doing I have inflicted terrible wounds on humanity. I caused unspeakable suffering for the Polish people in particular. I am to pay for this with my life. May the Lord God forgive one day what I have done.” After the trials, Gerecke was labeled as a “Nazi lover” back in America. But the lack of sympathy escapes one of the biggest theological reasons we, as Christians, have an obligation to men such as these: in basic anthropological theology, the Bible states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” What makes Hoss better than the next guy according to the mandates of a Holy God? Not much. Please do not take this as an excuse for his actions: the murder of millions of people is never condoned according to the Christian worldview (in fact, just the opposite). But rather, Gerecke had a spirit of helping those who were not able to understand spiritual things come to terms with them no matter what condition they were in. This empathy is one which Christians should universally adopt even in the circumstances that clouded the trials at Nuremberg. This was the main point of the book I think, and a delightful read that stimulated and challenged by own perception of the Christians duty in todays world. [...]


Black Hawk Down

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Daniel Commentary

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 

A Christmas Carol 

The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight

The Hobbit 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning

Site Footer