New Evidence That Demands A Verdict ★★★★★

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: New Evidence That Demands A Verdict
Series: ———-
Authors: Josh McDowell
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-fiction, Christian Apologetics
Pages: 800
Words: 400K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Forward

Preface

User’s Guide

Explanation of General Format

Acknowledgments

He Changed My Life

Introduction

PART ONE: THE CASE FOR THE BIBLE

1. The Uniqueness of the Bible

An intelligent person seeking truth would certainly read and consider a book that has the historical qualifications of the Bible. Unique qualifications that set the Scriptures apart from every other book ever written.

2. How We Got the Bible

Materials used. Bible divisions. Why just thirty-nine Old Testament books and twenty-seven New Testament books? What about the Apocrypha? Why not other books?

3. Is the New Testament Historically Reliable?

The tests applied to all ancient literature to determine reliability. How does the New Testament compare? Archaeological finds confirming the New Testament.

4. Is the Old Testament Historically Reliable?

Bibliographical test. Internal evidence test. Archaeological evidence demonstrating the trustworthiness of the Old Testament.

PART TWO: THE CASE FOR JESUS

5. Jesus, A Man of History

Documented sources of extrabiblical historical references to Jesus of Nazareth.

6. If Jesus Wasn’t God, He Deserves an Oscar

The character of Christ and His claims to deity, with emphasis on secular and Jewish sources.

7. Significance of Deity: The Trilemma–Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?

If the New Testament records about Jesus are historically accurate, there remain only three logical choices concerning His identity.

8. Support of Deity: Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled in Jesus Christ

Illustrations of the probabilities that all prophecies could be fulfilled in one man, in response to the critic who says, “It is all just a coincidence.” Emphasis on Jewish sources to answer the accusation, “That’s the way you Christians look at them, but what about the Jews?”

9. Support of Deity: The Resurrection–Hoax or History?

This heavily documented section of evidence for Christ’s resurrection refutes theories set forth to disclaim this miracle.

10. Support of Deity: The Great Proposition

The “if…then” argument applied to Christ: “If God became man, then what would He be like?” Quotations and observations of great Christians and non-Christians about the person, character, life, and death of Jesus of Nazareth, and His impact on the world for two thousand years.

PART THREE: THE CASE FOR AND AGAINST CHRISTIANITY

Section I. Introduction

This section deals with inspiration of the Bible, anti-supernaturalism, and archaeology. All three topics relate to the documentary hypothesis and form criticism. There they are treated at the beginning rather than under each of the following two sections.

11. Is the Bible from God?

Part 1 presents the case that the Bible is historically accurate. Here the case is made that the Bible is trustworthy in that it is inspired by a perfect God.

12. The Presupposition of Anti-supernaturalism

A presentation of the presuppositions of both documentarians and form critics. Often the alleged objective historical conclusions are molded by a subjective worldview.

Section II. Documentary Hypothesis

The discipline of literary criticism applied to the Pentateuch is examined along with evidence for Mosaic authorship.

14. Introduction to the Documentary Hypothesis

What is the documentary hypothesis? What are the JEDP documents?

15. Introduction to Biblical Criticism

Biblical criticism defined and the different critical schools explained.

16. Introduction to the Pentateuch

The purpose and importance of the first five biblical books.

17. Development of the Documentary Hypothesis

A description of the various documentary theories and their modern revisions.

18. Ground Rules

The ancient oriental environment provides various principles to apply to the Old Testament.

19. Documentary Presuppositions

An investigation of the four basic documentary assumptions: (1) The priority of source analysis over archaeology; (2) a natural view of Israel’s religion and history; (3) the theory that there was no writing in Israel at Moses’ time; and (4) the legendary view of the patriarchal narratives.

20. Consequences of Radical High Criticism

A discussion of the results of Israel’s history being viewed as unhistorical, fraudulent, and naturalistic.

21. Evidence for Mosaic Authorship

The internal and external testimony for Moses’ authorship of the Pentateuch.

22. The Phenomenon of Divine Names

The various uses of the divine names (Elohim, Yahweh, and others) are put in perspective.

23. The Repetition of Accounts and Alleged Contradictions

Certain stories in the Pentateuch are said to be repeated, and others to have contradictory details.

24. Incongruities

The writing in the third person and the record of Moses’ death are factors said to be incongruous with Mosaic authorship.

25. Internal Diversity

A discussion of the assumed difference of subject matter, style and diction.

26. Conclusion to the Documentary Hypothesis

Section III. Biblical Criticism and the New Testament

Basic tenets of form criticism examined. Practical answers to basic assumptions and conclusions. The modern quest for the historical Jesus.

27. Introduction to New Testament Form Criticism

Form criticism is defined and its purpose and proponents discussed.

28. Historical Skepticism

The reliability of the record of the historical Jesus is examined.

29. Jesus Under Fire

An examination of the historical quests for Jesus and their culmination in the Jesus Seminar.

30. Conclusion to Form Criticism

A look at the contribution and limitations of the form critical approach.

31. Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism

by C. S. Lewis

PART FOUR: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES

Personal Note from the Author

32. The Nature of Truth

33. The Knowability of Truth

34. Answering Postmodernism

35. Answering Skepticism

36. Answering Agnosticism

37. Answering Mysticism

38. Certainty vs. Certitude

39. Defending Miracles

40. Is History Knowable?

Bibliography

Biographical Sketches of Selected Authors

Author Index

Subject Index

The Four Spiritual Laws

My Thoughts:

This version of “Evidences” was published in 1999 and consisted of McDowell’s previous Evidences I & II with updates for a changing culture. Since this version there has been another version, updated by McDowell and his son Sean as our culture continues to change and the questions asked are different from even 20 years ago.

I read this mainly for the first part about whether we can trust the Bible or not. I feel that Part 2 and Part 3 flow from that answer and so am not nearly as concerned about that. The final and fourth part is for people who sit up at night worrying about whether there is a God and the consequences of deciding either way. Somebody needs to address those, but I’m not concerned with them.

McDowell himself recommends not reading this straight through but simply choosing an area that interests you or that you have questions about and diving in. This is setup in the way a scholarly paper would be, with main points and then sub-points drillling down so a chapter might look like 1, A, A1,A2,B,B1, 2,A, A1, A1a etc. Because of this, there is a lot of repetition as many of the same answers apply to different questions and challenges.

I started reading this in October of last year and used this for my work read. I’d read 5 or 10 minutes a day at work and have finally wrapped this up. The final part was hard for me to get through because it wasn’t what I was looking into, but as I knew that going in, it wasn’t a frustrating experience.

Thinking about this, I’d recommend it to Christians who feel a need to bolster their knowledge about how what they believe is based on more than Airy Fairy Nonsense. For non-Christians, I’d say it would help someone who is genuinely seeking an answer to “What is Truth?”. McDowell does address the fact that there are a lot of people who are asking questions but who either don’t want a genuine answer or who simply want what they already think confirmed. You can’t MAKE someone believe something, no matter how much evidence is presented to them.

Overall, this was a very strengthening read for me, a shot in the old arm, as it were. I am sure I will be revisiting various parts of this book as the years pass.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Wisdom of Father Brown (Father Brown #2) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Wisdom of Father Brown
Series: Father Brown #2
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 268
Words: 73K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

“The Absence of Mr Glass”, McClure’s Magazine, November 1912.

“The Paradise of Thieves”, McClure’s Magazine, March 1913.

“The Duel of Dr Hirsch”

“The Man in the Passage”, McClure’s Magazine, April 1913.

“The Mistake of the Machine”

“The Head of Caesar”, The Pall Mall Magazine, June 1913.

“The Purple Wig”, The Pall Mall Magazine, May 1913.

“The Perishing of the Pendragons”, The Pall Mall Magazine, June 1914.

“The God of the Gongs”

“The Salad of Colonel Cray”

“The Strange Crime of John Boulnois”, McClure’s Magazine, February 1913.

“The Fairy Tale of Father Brown”

My Thoughts:

Another fine collection of short stories where Father Brown at least makes an appearance. I know I said it in the first book but to call these “mysteries” is rather misleading. At least in the sense of a detective sussing out the facts and figuring it out. Father Brown just kind of makes pronouncements based on what he thinks about the fallen nature of humanity and goes from there.

I feel like my schedule of alternating these with books by the Bronte sisters is working out well. If I were to read the Father Brown books too close together I suspect I’d get annoyed. While Chesterton and I both share the Christian Faith, his way of viewing the world, expressed through the character of Father Brown are very different. Personally, I’d box Father Brown’s ears and tell him to stop being so clueless. But since he’s not real and Chesterton is dead, that simply isn’t an option. Probably just as well as Chesterton could roll over me like a steamship both physically and mentally. Unless I got him with a surprise kidney punch first 😉

I chose this cover from the Librarything collection because it perfectly represents Father Brown. I think it is from the tv show (of which I’ve heard nothing good) and man did they choose someone just as Chesterton described. A brown shapeless potato. And that actor is the most potato’y that I’ve ever seen. Kudo’s to him for being such a potato! And the short story format is just like a baked potato too. Just enough to keep you full and happy but not so much that you become a glutton.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Screwtape Proposes a Toast and Other Pieces ★★★✬☆

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Title: Screwtape Proposes a Toast and Other Pieces
Series: ———-
Author: C.S. Lewis
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Allegory
Pages: 128
Words: 35K



Synopsis:

A collection of short stories consisting of:

MINISTERING ANGELS

SCREWTAPE PROPOSES A TOAST

THE SHODDY LANDS

THE MAN BORN BLIND

My Thoughts:

Man, Lewis could write some really WEIRD stuff. As peculiar as it may sound, a demon proposing a toast and going off about the general blandness of evil in the world was the most normal of these stories. The Man Born Blind almost reminded me of a Roald Dahl story with it’s twisted ending.

I am glad I read these and I think the points Lewis was trying to get across WERE conveyed but man, I just didn’t expect that level of weirdness from him.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A Sabbath Letter

The following is an email that I received last night. I don’t know that it will be of any interest to any of you. Mrs B and I both grew up keeping the Sabbath and it has been a balm and source of comfort and delight to us over the years. This email is just a reminder that others find it a delight and joy too.

If you are hurting right now, if you are tired (of your job, your life, of everything), if you are worn out, if you are confused and don’t know where to turn or what to do or if you are seeking something greater than what you have, then turn to Jesus Christ, the fulfillment and embodiment of the Sabbath. He is knocking at the door of your heart today.

Sitting here with my grandson on my lap, the words of a song came floating into my soul, a song often sung on Sabbath evenings. It’s No. 210 in Warrior Songs, written by Rose Tiedeman: “The Sabbath Steals Upon Us.” The words I especially liked were in verse two: “Dear holy day, when God, our Heavenly Father gathers so close His children to His heart….”

Isn’t it wonderful that God describes Himself as a Father?  In the godly norm, fathers are the strength and defense of the Christian home, and it often falls to their lot to gather the family together for prayer or devotion or simply to organize a little clean-up detail out in the yard. At best, the father establishes a special relationship with each of the children, such that each one has his or her own kind of love that’s unique, and each feels at home with him.

And so with our heavenly Father: now and then we feel a special need for security, and He has provided that for each of us in our own individual need. No two of us knows our Father the same way; and conversely, He knows each of us uniquely. That’s a wonderful truth to return to as often as we need it.

“The Name of Jehovah is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe,” says the Proverb (18:10). That’s one picture, and thank God for it! But I love the idea of running to my Father’s lap and finding safety there, too. The Bible doesn’t actually say that, but it does reveal what the opposite would look like. The returned exiles heard it in Jerusalem, straight from their governor, Nehemiah, when he gave them a characteristically vigorous object lesson: “Also I shook out my lap, and said, ‘So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labor, that performeth not this promise; even thus be he shaken out, and emptied.’ And all the assembly said, ‘Amen,’ and praised Jehovah. (Nehemiah 5:13).

To be shaken out of God’s lap would be a disaster, wouldn’t it? No matter what happened with my grandson, I wouldn’t be inclined to shake him off and onto the floor! (Well, hardly ever….) And we need not ever fear this from our Father who is in Heaven. He is a God of love, and He cares for His children beyond anything an earthly father (or grandfather) could demonstrate.

It occurs to me that perhaps we all need this, right now, in the midst of political and cultural upheavals the like of which we’ve never seen before. Sometimes we could almost get frantic, wondering what’s coming next. But as someone shared in our Friday meeting this morning at Fairwood, there are two constants that we need never lose sight of: God is Good. And God is Sovereign. Now let’s add a couple more: God ordained the Sabbath, with all its blessings. And God’s lap is always open for His children! Putting all these together, we have a wonderful prospect: there’s a good God, who sovereignly ordained a Day of Rest and saw to it that the Seventh Day would be restored as that Day, and finally He has provided Himself a place of refuge. In fact, He is that place of refuge.

So this evening, or whenever you read this, how about turning off the news, turning our back on the ‘cares of this life,’ turning off our overactive imaginations, and just climb up into that unshaken and unshakable LAP, reveling in that Refuge. His arms are open to us. Why wait?

I love my Father, don’t you?

Amen, and Amen—

The Exorcist (The Exorcist #1) ★★☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Exorcist
Series: The Exorcist #1
Author: William Blatty
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Horror
Pages: 282
Words: 101K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

An elderly Jesuit priest named Father Lankester Merrin is leading an archaeological dig in northern Iraq and is studying ancient relics. After discovering a small statue of the demon Pazuzu (an actual ancient Assyrian demon), a series of omens alerts him to a pending confrontation with a powerful evil, which, unknown to the reader at this point, he has battled before in an exorcism in Africa.

Meanwhile, in Georgetown, a young girl named Regan MacNeil is living with her famous mother, actress Chris MacNeil, who is in Georgetown filming a movie. As Chris finishes her work on the film, Regan begins to become inexplicably ill. After a gradual series of poltergeist-like disturbances in their rented house, for which Chris attempts to find rational explanations, Regan begins to rapidly undergo disturbing psychological and physical changes: she refuses to eat or sleep, becomes withdrawn and frenetic, and increasingly aggressive and violent. Chris initially mistakes Regan’s behavior as a result of repressed anger over her parents’ divorce and absent father.

After several unsuccessful psychiatric and medical treatments, Regan’s mother, an atheist, turns to a local Jesuit priest for help as Regan’s personality becomes increasingly disturbed. Father Damien Karras, who is currently going through a crisis of faith coupled with the loss of his mother, agrees to see Regan as a psychiatrist, but initially resists the notion that it is an actual demonic possession. After a few meetings with the child, now completely inhabited by a diabolical personality, he turns to the local bishop for permission to perform an exorcism on the child.

The bishop with whom he consults does not believe Karras is qualified to perform the rites, and appoints the experienced Merrin—who has recently returned to the United States—to perform the exorcism, although he does allow the doubt-ridden Karras to assist him. The lengthy exorcism tests the priests both physically and spiritually. When Merrin, who had previously suffered cardiac arrhythmia, dies during the process, completion of the exorcism ultimately falls upon Father Karras. When he demands that the demonic spirit inhabit him instead of the innocent Regan, the demon seizes the opportunity to possess the priest. Karras heroically surrenders his own life in exchange for Regan’s by jumping out of her bedroom window and falling to his death, regaining his faith in God as his last rites are read.

My Thoughts:

I think this book would have been much easier to read as fictional horror if I didn’t believe that demons are real, that possessions are real or that exorcisms are real. That being said, Blatty is no Christian. He grew up catholic and this story deeply reflects that but he was what you’d call a “nominal” catholic. A “nominal” X is someone who likes to say he is X but only believes or practices select bits of X while criticizing and trying to change every other bit of X. It is kind of like saying you love pizza and then only eating the cheese and throwing the rest away.

My main issues with this book weren’t about the demon possession or the nature of evil. Unfortunately, it was all with the nature of God. The older priest, Merrin, believes that God is an Omega Point (from what I understand that is extremely similar to the hindu idea of Nirvana, where everyone becomes part of one gigantic thingamajig and loses their individuality). That is extremely problematic for me as it denies what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible as a personal God. It also makes Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection meaningless as we’re all going to reach perfection naturally on our own through evolution.

My other issue is that Jesus, as God, is barely mentioned. In the Bible, in the New Testament, the disciples of Jesus and then later others, cast out demons in Jesus name. They didn’t use complicated rituals and perform mystical ceremonies. The name of Jesus has power for those who believe in Him. It really felt like the author believed in the power of evil and demons but wasn’t quite so sure about the power of God.

With these issues in mind, I think this is going to be the first and last book by Blatty that I read. There’s a sequel to this called Legion that I had on my TBR but that’s not going to happen now.

On a final note, ouija boards are dangerous. They open the user up to the supernatural and unfortunately, only the evil side of that. Don’t play around with them folks, they are not a game.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Innocence of Father Brown (Father Brown #1) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Innocence of Father Brown
Series: Father Brown #1
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 269
Words: 78K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

“The Blue Cross”, The Story-Teller, September 1910; first published as “Valentin Follows a Curious Trail”, The Saturday Evening Post, 23 July 1910

“The Secret Garden”, The Story-Teller, October 1910. (The Saturday Evening Post, Sep 3, 1910

“The Queer Feet”, The Story-Teller, November 1910. (The Saturday Evening Post, Oct 1, 1910)

“The Flying Stars”, The Saturday Evening Post, 20 May 1911.

“The Invisible Man”, The Saturday Evening Post, 28 January 1911. (Cassell’s Magazine, Feb 1911)

The Honour of Israel Gow (as “The Strange Justice”, The Saturday Evening Post, 25 March 1911.

“The Wrong Shape”, The Saturday Evening Post, 10 December 1910.

“The Sins of Prince Saradine”, The Saturday Evening Post, 22 April 1911.

The Hammer of God (as “The Bolt from the Blue”, The Saturday Evening Post, 5 November 1910.

“The Eye of Apollo”, The Saturday Evening Post, 25 February 1911.

“The Sign of the Broken Sword”, The Saturday Evening Post, 7 January 1911.

“The Three Tools of Death”, The Saturday Evening Post, 24 June 1911.

My Thoughts:

While this series is categorized as a mystery, it’s not Sherlock or Wimsey or even Wolfe. Father Brown doesn’t go around looking at a thread caught on a bush and extrapolate the life story of the perp and then reveal him to the authorities. No, Father Brown studies the nature of fallen humanity, discovers the culprit and tries to get them to do the right thing, whether repentance or turning themselves in.

Chesterton was a converted Catholic and as such, Father Brown is pretty strong on his catholic doctrine. At the same time, it really didn’t come across as Chesterton trying to preach or convert his readers. He was trying to tell a great story first and for me, it worked.

The main thing that worked best for me though was the short story aspect. Chesterton wrote each story for a magazine back in the day and then had them collected later. I didn’t have to power through a whole novel and I could stop between stories without losing anything. I appreciate that simplicity and lack of tangled complexity that a lot of modern books seem to deliberately aim for.

One interesting aspect that stood out to me was that in several of the stories the villain of the piece took poison rather than face public justice. That happened in one of the Lord Peter Wimsey books too and I wonder if it was a “sensibility of the times” thing? I don’t think of the bad guys of today taking poison but either fighting or flight’ing or of readers caring one way or the other. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if it happens in any more stories.

A good addition to my reading rotation. Since I am also reading several other mystery series, I am going to be switch hitting the Complete Works of Chesterton with the Complete Works of the Sisters’ Bronte. That way I don’t Mystery myself out 🙂

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Crusade (Saint Tommy, NYPD #5) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Crusade
Series: Saint Tommy, NYPD #5
Author: Declan Finn
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 171
Words: 53.5K



Synopsis:

From the Publishers & Me

Still working abroad, Detective Tommy Nolan has a hot tip that leads him to Germany. Women and children are disappearing from Catholic Bavaria. The local police have their hands tied. Tommy is the last hope for answers.

Yet again, Tommy is in over his head. What starts as a sex trafficking ring turns into a terrorist conspiracy to unleash Hell on Europe. To stop it, Tommy must fight Nazi vampires, terrorists, and a swarm of succubi who want him as their next meal.

With the help of a local german police officer, a jewish rabbi with the secret of the golem at his fingertips and a group of bavarian special forces armed with paintball guns filled with holy water, it’s up to Tommy to put a stop to the rite that will raise Asmodeous the demon. Unfortunately, Tommy doesn’t get there in time and a hell gate is opened. This allows Jade, the succubus who ran the sex trafficking ring to gain incredible amounts of power and become a low level demon herself. She and Tommy duke it out, Tommy wins and they find Asmodeous trapped within a circle. The battle exorcist from the previous book is left to deal with him.

Tommy adopts one of the girls rescued from the sex ring and it turns out she has some sort of psychic powers. With his wife just having given birth to his own biological daughter, Tommy’s family is growing by leaps and bounds,

My Thoughts:

I think the first thing I need to say is that this book doesn’t shy away from some very tough subjects. Sex trafficking is not only happening in Africa or the Middle East or South America. It is happening here in the United States and in all of Europe as well. It is pervasive and evil and Finn doesn’t sugar coat it. He’s not graphic nor describing the horrors in detail, but one woman is raped to death off page as an object lesson to the other prisoners. With that said, lets talk about the more pleasant aspects of the book.

Tommy gets to fight nazi vampire muslim terrorists. No joke. Vampires, unfortunately, play a very small part. They simply crumble to dust when touched by Saint Tommy. The author does go into speculation about pre-history, much as he did in the previous book about the stone and vampires are grouped into that era of lore. There are some seriously cool fight scenes but that leads into the one thing that made me knock half a star off the rating.

Finn is constantly making pop-culture references throughout this book. It was apropos and funny but those things have a very limited shelf life and I don’t like them in the books I read. I find it cheapens them. Most of it was John Wick related this time. I love the movie John Wick and got it all, but in several years, even if the movie has cult status sticking power, people simply aren’t going to know what Finn is referencing. Then there was the golem mecha vs the dragon succubi and I had to roll my eyes at that fight. It was just to over the top for my taste.

I’ve got one more book available to me in this series then I have to decide if I want to continue or not. Finn is up to book 8 and from the reviews I’ve seen he does have an end game plan, but it won’t be for several books after 8. Upon reflection it would seem that my best option is to stop after book 6 and let him finish the series. Good thing I had this little conversation with myself!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Till We Have Faces ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Till We Have Faces
Series: ———-
Author: C.S. Lewis
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Allegory
Pages: 309
Words: 84K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story tells the ancient Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, from the perspective of Orual, Psyche’s older sister.

It begins as the complaint of Orual as an old woman, who is bitter at the injustice of the gods. She has always been ugly, but after her mother dies and her father the King of Glome remarries, she gains a beautiful half-sister Istra, whom she loves as her own daughter, and who is known throughout the novel by the Greek version of her name, Psyche. Psyche is so beautiful that the people of Glome begin to offer sacrifices to her as to a goddess. The Priest of the goddess Ungit, a powerful figure in the kingdom, then informs the king that various plagues befalling the kingdom are a result of Ungit’s jealousy, so Psyche is sent as a human sacrifice to the unseen “God of the Mountain” at the command of Ungit, the mountain-god’s mother. Orual plans to rescue Psyche but falls ill and is unable to prevent anything.

When she is well again, Orual arranges to go to where Psyche was stranded on the mountain, either to rescue her or to bury what remains of her. She is stunned to find Psyche is alive, free from the shackles in which she had been bound, and furthermore says she does not need to be rescued in any way. Rather, Psyche relates that she lives in a beautiful castle that Orual cannot see, as the God of the Mountain has made her a bride rather than a victim. At one point in the narrative, Orual believes she has a brief vision of this castle, but then it vanishes like a mist. Hearing that Psyche has been commanded by her new god-husband not to look on his face (all their meetings are in the nighttime), Orual is immediately suspicious. She argues that the god must be a monster, or that Psyche has actually started to hallucinate after her abandonment and near-death on the mountain, that there is no such castle at all, and that her husband is actually an outlaw who was hiding on the mountain and takes advantage of her delusions in order to have his way with her. Orual says that because either possibility is one that she cannot abide by, she must disabuse her sister of this illusion.

She returns a second time, bringing Psyche a lamp for her to use while her “husband” sleeps, and when Psyche insists that she will not betray her husband by disobeying his command, Orual threatens both Psyche and herself, stabbing herself in the arm to show she is capable of following through on her threat. Ultimately, reluctantly, Psyche agrees because of the coercion and her love for her sister.

When Psyche disobeys her husband, she is immediately banished from her beautiful castle and forced to wander as an exile. The God of the Mountain appears to Orual, stating that Psyche must now endure hardship at the hand of a force he himself could not fight (likely his mother the goddess Ungit), and that “You too shall be Psyche,” which Orual attempts to interpret for the rest of her life, usually taking it to mean that as Psyche suffers, she must suffer also. She decries the injustice of the gods, saying that if they had shown her a picture of Psyche’s happiness that was easier to believe, she would not have ruined it. From this day forward she vows that she will keep her face veiled at all times.

Eventually, Orual becomes a Queen, and a warrior, diplomat, architect, reformer, politician, legislator, and judge, though all the while remaining alone. She drives herself, through work, to forget her grief and the love she has lost. Psyche is gone, her other family she never cared for, and her beloved tutor, “the Fox,” has died. Her main love interest throughout the novel, Bardia the captain of the royal guard, is married and forever faithful to his wife until his death. To her, the gods remain, as ever, silent, unseen, and merciless.

While Bardia is on his deathbed, Orual decides she can no longer stand the sight of her own kingdom and decides to leave it for the first time to visit neighboring kingdoms. While resting on her journey, she leaves her group at their camp and follows sounds from within a wood, which turn out to be coming from a temple to the goddess Istra (Psyche). There Orual hears a version of Psyche’s myth, which shows her as deliberately ruining her sister’s life out of envy. In response, she writes out her own story, as set forth in the book, to set the record straight. Her hope is that it will be brought to Greece, where she has heard that men are willing to question even the gods.

Part Two

Orual begins the second part of the book stating that her previous accusation that the gods are unjust is wrong. She does not have time to rewrite the whole book because she is very old and of ill health and will likely die before it can be redone, so instead she is adding on to the end.

She relates that since finishing part one of the book, she has experienced a number of dreams and visions, which at first she doubts the truth of except that they also start happening during daytime when she is fully awake. She sees herself being required to perform a number of impossible tasks, like sorting a giant mound of different seeds into separate piles, with no allowance for error, or collecting the golden wool from a flock of murderous rams, or fetching a bowl of water from a spring on a mountain which cannot be climbed and furthermore is covered with poisonous beasts. It is in the midst of this last vision that she is led to a huge chamber in the land of the dead and given the opportunity to read out her complaint in the gods’ hearing. She discovers, however, that instead of reading the book she has written, she reads off a paper that appears in her hand and contains her true feelings, which are indeed less noble than Part One of the book would suggest. Still, rather than being jealous of Psyche, as the story she heard in the temple suggested, she reveals that she was jealous of the gods because they were allowed to enjoy Psyche’s love while she herself was not.

The gods make no reply, but Orual is content, as she sees that the gods’ “answer” was really to make her understand the truth of her own feelings. Then she is led by the ghost of the Fox into a sunlit arena in which she learns the story of what Psyche has been up to: she has herself been assigned the impossible tasks from Orual’s dreams, but was able to complete them with supernatural help. Orual then leaves the arena to enter another verdant field with a clear pool of water and a brilliant sky. There she meets Psyche, who has just returned from her last errand: retrieving a box of beauty from the underworld, which she then gives to Orual, though Orual is hardly conscious of this because at that moment she begins to sense that something else is happening. The God of the Mountain is coming to be with Psyche and judge Orual, but the only thing he says is “You also are Psyche” before the vision ends. The reader is led to understand that this phrase has actually been one of mercy the entire time.

Orual, awoken from the vision, dies shortly thereafter but has just enough time to record her visions and to write that she no longer hates the gods but sees that their very presence is the answer she always needed.

My Thoughts:

When I read this for the first time 20 years ago I have to admit, I didn’t understand what Lewis was driving at or even trying to accomplish beyond retelling one of his favorite myths. And that is another reason Why I Re-Read Books. Therefore I stand before you today to announce that I completely understand this book now and every detailed nuance is as a flashing neon sign to my vast and experienced intellect.

Hahahahahahahaahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!

Oh man, yeah, right. * wipes tears of laughter away *

While I enjoyed this and thought Lewis did a masterful job of writing, I don’t understand what he was trying to get across any better than I did all those years ago.

Let me be clear though. That is completely on me. I have about one teaspoon’s worth of artistry in my 165lb frame (which is about a fingernail clipping’s worth) and I have used it up choosing black suspenders and a black bow tie to wear to church. When an author chooses to do something literary, it either passes right over my head (like this) or it comes across as pretentious and I rip the guy a new one. I need the obvious, the hammer over the head, the straight up statement. Allegory is not my thing and I feel like I’m color blind.

I still did enjoy this but I don’t think I’ll ever re-read it again. I will stick to Lewis’ other works where he simply spells out what he’s trying to say.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

City of Shadows (Saint Tommy, NYPD #3) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: City of Shadows
Series: Saint Tommy, NYPD #3
Author: Declan Finn
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 160
Words: 49K



Synopsis:

Tommy, now working for the Vatican as a spy for the New York Police Department, is assigned to go to London, as a new level of darkness seems to be hovering over the city. His “official” assignment is to help recover a lost jewel that was stolen from a museum. With known associates of an imam from the local mosque being shown on video as the ones committing the crime, Tommy thinks it’s going to be an easy peasy piece of cake.

Then the imam accuses him of racism. The cops take his guns away. The cops try to arrest him. He’s attacked by a group of young muslims with bottles of acid. He’s attacked by muslims with what appear to be super powers. He’s attacked by the shadows themselves. And the clients, a Power Couple of low royalty, who hired him to recover the jewel accuse him being in cahoots with whoever stole the jewel. Not a good time for Tommy.

This jewel, according to legend, was given to Pharoah by a god and is supposed to contain enough power, once properly charged with hatred, despair and death, to destroy a city, or control it. The imam wants to wipe London off the map, the Power Couple want to control England and Tommy wants the jewel destroyed. By the end of the book nobody gets what they want.

Tommy does save London, cleanses the jewel with a baptismal font’s worth of holy water and gives it over to be hidden away in the archives of the Vatican.

My Thoughts:

This was probably the most action packed book so far. There’s a riot scene where the muslims are out burning, looting and raping and Tommy bilocates many, many, many times to save anyone he can and ends up dying over and over and over in horribly gruesome ways. They don’t just fade away, they are him and he feels it.

The author also makes a lot of hay, with my FULL support, about the ridiculousness of the London “knife” laws they have on the books. The main point wasn’t that Authority had taken away the citizens right to defend themselves but that they had voluntarily given it up. It was depressing. At the same time Finn makes sure to focus on the fact that the real fight isn’t against people but against the powers and principalities of this world, ie, demons. Tommy never makes the mistake of making even the iman his enemy. Right up until they confront a trio of the angelic host he tries to give them the chance to repent and at the end, they simply reject it. And suffer the wrath of archangels in consequence.

I did get a good laugh when he takes a poke at Evangelicals as self-righteous know it alls, because you’re going to meet people like that and I’ve met them. The problem is, he ignores the fact that those same exact kind of people also are part of the roman catholic church. And I’d like to make one point here, while this is advertised as a “Catholic Adventure” series, it is really a “Roman Catholic Adventure” series. While Finn would say there is no difference, as a 7th Day Adventist, there is a world of difference.

I continue to enjoy this action packed series with a more realistic look at what urban fantasy would look like from a Christian perspective. It also makes me thankful for the relative peace and quiet that I enjoy where I live.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Descent Into Hell ★★✬☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Descent Into Hell
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Williams
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Christian Fiction
Pages: 178
Words: 73.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The action takes place in Battle Hill, outside London,[1] amidst the townspeople’s staging of a new play by Peter Stanhope. The hill seems to reside at the crux of time, as characters from the past appear, and perhaps at a doorway to the beyond, as characters are alternately summoned Heavenwards or descend into Hell.

Pauline Anstruther, the heroine of the novel, lives in fear of meeting her own doppelgänger, which has appeared to her throughout her life. But Stanhope, in an action central to the author’s own theology, takes the burden of her fears upon himself—Williams called this the Doctrine of Substituted Love—and enables Pauline, at long last, to face her true self. Williams drew this idea from the biblical verse, “Ye shall bear one another’s burdens”[2]

And so, Stanhope does take the weight, with no surreptitious motive, in the most affecting scene in the novel, and Pauline, liberated, is able to accept truth.

On the other hand, Lawrence Wentworth, a local historian, finding his desire for Adela Hunt to be unrequited, falls in love instead with a spirit form of Adela, which seems to represent a kind of extreme self-love on his part. As he isolates himself more and more with this insubstantial figure, and dreams of descending a silver rope into a dark pit, Wentworth begins the descent into Hell.

The book ends with Wentworth reaching the bottom of the rope and realizing all understanding has been taken from him and that he is truly alone. There is no way for him to climb the rope back up. He is lost.

My Thoughts:

I had to think long and hard about what to write about this book. Unlike the other Williams’ book I read, this came across as poetic, mystical bushwah. The closest thing I can accept for poetry is Patricia McKillip’s writing. Anything else, I toss it out the door as useless trash.

A poet and playwright forms the bones of this book and I should have known from the get go that it was going to be half-finished sentences, unspoken thoughts, all that kind of garbage that people seem to think is mystical and too wonderful for words.

It also didn’t help that I am strongly against some of the theology presented by Williams, namely that Hell is some sort of internalized thingamajig instead of a literal lake of flame and eternal fires and that people can affect events in the past or future directly from their timeline. While God may encompass all of time, we certainly don’t and while Hell might be described stylistically, it is most definitely a real place with real utter torment.

Overall, I just waded my through this, wondering if I should read any more by him. I’m hoping to do a buddy-read with one or two people from Librarything in a couple of months on one of Williams’ books, but after that, I’m done. Williams puts his mysticism on full display here and I won’t be bothering to look anymore. Tell me what you mean as plainly as possible, don’t dance around in circles and avoid the point.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.