The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

2010 Reading

I didn’t get as much reading done in 2010 as I did in 2009, but that reflects the stage of life I’m in. Here are the books I finished this year:

  • The Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton — Walton makes the case for a “cosmic temple inauguration” view of Genesis one. A lot of interesting material, but he doesn’t make a convincing case, and not too many Old Testament scholars seem to accept his hypothesis. The greatest value of this book was the reinforcement of how very different the Old Testament Hebrew culture and world view was from our own.
  • Luther for Armchair Theologians by Steven Paulson — I have described myself for several years as an Evangelical Christian who leans more toward Luther than Calvin. Paulson gives a good overview of Lutheran theology.
  • The Reason for God by Timothy Keller — A better book on apologetics for our time than Mere Christianity. I’m teaching through this book in adult Sunday School right now.
  • The Gods of War by Meic Pearce — The subtitle is “Is religion the primary cause of violent conflict?” Pearce argues that the two main causes of war are greed and culture (I would have said greed and fear). Religion often intensifies the cultural causes of war, but is only part of a complex picture, and can have a positive influence as well. This book counters the secularist argument that religion is the main cause of war, but also is sobering to me as a Christian as I reflect on our own less-than-perfect history.
  • The New Atheists by Greg Koukl — Short, but a good introduction to the logical fallacies that plague the new atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens.
  • Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer — This was my second time through this classic on how to live as the body of Christ.
  • A Declaration of Energy Independence by Jay Hakes — Our dependence on overseas oil is a grave threat to our national security, economy, and the environment. As a nation, we’ve had our heads buried in the sand for the past 30 years.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis — This is probably my fourth or fifth time through The Chronicles of Narnia. It is just as good each time, and always better than the movie versions.
  • Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis — I haven’t seen the movie yet.
  • The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein

I have a number of books that I read significant portions of, but didn’t finish:

  • Science & Faith: Friends or Foes? by C. John Collins —  He makes a good case for the “analogical days” interpretation of Genesis One.
  • The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns — Stearns is president of World Vision, an Evangelical Christian relief and development organization. I have some hesitations about the title, but this is an excellent book about global poverty and what we as Christians should and could do about it.
  • The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
  • Biblical Eldership by Strauch — A good book on being a church elder, but it could have been about a third the length and said the same thing.
  • The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright — A big book. I might not finish it in 2011 either.
  • The Green Bible — NRSV with introductory essays and green letters for verses relating to the creation and environment (some of them are a bit of a stretch). I won’t use the NRSV on a regular basis, but read the introductory essays.
  • The Spirituality of the Cross by Gene Edward Veith
  • The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
  • Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher — This book comes close to defining where I am at politically. I had two posts about Crunchy Cons this year:  A Crunchy Con Manifesto and Crunchy Con Environmentalism.
  • Understanding Non-Christian Religions by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart
  • The Devil We Know by Robert Baer — Subtitle: “Dealing with the new Iranian superpower.”
  • Mapping Forestry edited by Peter Eredics — Using GIS for forestry applications.
  • ARC Hydro by David Maidment — GIS for surface water resources.

Grace and Peace

December 30, 2010 Posted by | Reading | 1 Comment

Top apologetics books

Throughout the centuries, there have been a number of very able defenders of the truthfulness of the Bible and Christianity. C. Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen lists Top Fifteen Must Have Books on Apologetics. His top five are:

  1. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  2. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Habermas and Licona
  3. The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright
  4. Faith Has its Reasons by Rob Bowman and Kenneth Boa
  5. The God Who is There by Francis Schaeffer

He has a poll, where readers of his blog currently have a different top five:

  1. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  2. The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright
  3. Reasonable Faith by William Craig
  4. The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
  5. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

I’ve read Mere Christianity, The God Who is There, The Reason for God, and parts of The Case for Christ and Reasonable Faith, and recommend all of them. I have The Resurrection of the Son of God in my Amazon shopping cart, but am not making book purchases right now.

Grace and Peace

October 4, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Reading | Leave a comment

Reading — August 2009

My friend Glenn has advice on Disciplined Reading. Check out his 75 books that have powerfully influenced him.

Here are the books I’ve been working on in August:

  • Beyond Creation Science — by Timothy Martin and Jeffery Vaughn. A good Biblical analysis of young-Earth creationism mixed with a “Jesus has already returned” eschatology (full preterism).
  • The History of the Ancient World — by Susan Wise Bauer. I’ve been in this book all summer, and am up to the Assyrian conquest of Egypt.
  • Dune — science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. The book is interesting for its perspectives on ecology as well as its plot and imagination. “You cannot go on forever stealing what you need without regard to those who come after.” (Kynes having a delusion of his father lecturing him as Kynes is dying in the desert)
  • The Apocrypha — Though not considered to be Scripture by Protestants, these Jewish writings fill in the historical gap between Old and New Testaments. These books were included in Luther’s German Bible and in the 1611 King James Version. This month, I read the additions to the Biblical book of Daniel, which are valuable stories even if they are not part of Scripture:
    • The Song of the Three — Contains the supposed prayer of Abednego in the furnace, as well as a psalm of praise sung by the three when they were delivered.
    • Susanna — Daniel’s wisdom rescues a “very beautiful and devout woman” named Susanna from her lustful, false accusers. This story is chapter 13 of Daniel in Catholic and Orthodox Bibles.
    • Bel and the Dragon — Daniel shows the king that it is the priests of the Babylonian god Bel, not Bel himself, who dine on offerings placed before Bel’s idol. This story is added as chapter 14 of Daniel.

Grace and Peace

P.S. There is an edition of The English Standard Version (ESV) with Apocrypha. In this edition, the Apocrypha is after Revelation, rather than between the two Testaments where it is usually inserted. I have never seen a New International Version  (NIV) Bible with the Apocrypha. I’ve been reading the New English Bible with Apocrypha, which I picked up at a book fair for really cheap.

August 31, 2009 Posted by | Reading | , | 2 Comments

Reading — July 2009

I didn’t get as much reading done in July as I would have liked, but here’s the one book I did finish:

  • The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller. The chapters address:
    • The idea that there cannot be only one true religion
    • The problem of evil — how can a good God allow suffering?
    • The proposition that Christianity makes one narrow and restricts one’s freedom
    • The accusation that Christianity is the source of many injustices
    • Hell
    • Science and Christianity (I have a quote from the author here)
    • The historical reliability of the Bible
    • The clues of God
    • Moral obligation
    • Sin and its consequences
    • Grace
    • The cross
    • The resurrection
    • The Trinity

I highly recommend this book for skeptics and doubters, as well as for Christians who want to add some tools to their apologetics toolbox.

Here are some additional books I worked on in July:

  • The History of the Ancient World, by Susan Wise Bauer. I’ve been plugging away at this for several months now.
  • Beyond Creation Science, by Timothy Martin and Jeffery Vaughn. This book is as much an argument for strong full preterism (the idea that Jesus already came back in 70 AD) as it is for old-Earth creationism. The authors do seem to be making a good case that the Bible doesn’t teach a young Earth or global flood, with some insights I hadn’t seen before. So far, this book is strengthening both my old-Earth creationism and my Premillenialism. So I guess the authors are being half successful.

Grace and Peace

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Apologetics, Old-Earth creationism, Reading, Young-Earth creationism | , , , | 7 Comments

Reading — June 2009

“When my sons complain that a good book is hard to read, I say, ‘Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.'” — John Piper, Future Grace, p. 16.

Books I finished in June:

  • Thousands… Not Billions, by Donald DeYoung. This is the latest on radiometric dating from the young-Earth creationists. I’ll say something positive: they have actually come a long ways from twenty years ago. They now acknowledge that we can have a pretty good idea of initial concentrations of isotopes in minerals, that we can often tell whether or not the minerals have been closed systems, that various radiometric methods often give concordant dates, and that a considerable amount of decay has occurred in minerals. But there are still a number of problems with their reasoning, the chief of which is the idea of accelerated nuclear decay during Noah’s flood. Their evidence that this has occurred is sometimes based on circular reasoning, and this decay would have created enough heat to melt and perhaps vaporize the entire Earth.
  • Elements of Petroleum Geology, by Richard Selley. I re-read this to be better prepared for a four-hour essay test I took as part of the application process for a potential job. Plus I find sedimentary geology to be simply fascinating.

Here are some additional books I worked on in June:

  • The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller. This book is fantastic. If I had a job, I’d buy a stack and give copies to doubters and skeptics.
  • The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel. We’re slowly going through this book as a family. Right now we are in the chapter on New Testament manuscripts.
  • The History of the Ancient World, by Susan Wise Bauer. This is strengthening my knowledge of the cultural and historical background of the Old Testament.
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, fiction by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn.

Grace and Peace

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Reading | 8 Comments

Reading — May 2009

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” — Erasmus (Roman Catholic theologian of the Reformation era).

Books I finished in May:

  • A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, by David Snoke. The best chapter in the book was the one on animal death before the fall. Overall, I would give the book four stars out of five. Snoke is a physicist, and his statements regarding geology (which was not central to the book) could have used some refining.
  • Ringworld, science fiction novel by Larry Niven.

Here are some additional books I worked on in May:

  • Physical and Chemical Hydrogeology, by Domenico and Schwartz, and Elements of Petroleum Geology by Selley. Just for fun. Plus I’m looking for a job, and this stuff is fascinating.
  • ESV Study Bible. I don’t ordinarily list my Bible reading in my monthly reading update, but I got this Bible with my birthday money. This is certainly the best study Bible on the market, and perhaps the heftiest as well. It has 2752 pages, contains over two million words (Bible text, 20,000 notes, 50 articles), and weighs 4.2 pounds (1.9 kg). I have been thoroughly blessed through the insights of the notes (I am currently reading in Isaiah, Mark, and 2 Corinthians).
  • The History of the Ancient World, by Susan Wise Bauer. This is strengthening my knowledge of the cultural and historical background of the Old Testament.

Grace and Peace

Thanks to Matt for the Erasmus quote.

May 31, 2009 Posted by | Reading | Leave a comment

Reading — April 2009

I only finished one book in April:

  • Three Views on Creation and Evolution, edited by philosophers J.P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds, with contributions by eight other authors. The three Christian viewpoints presented are young-Earth creationism, old-Earth creationism (or progressive creationism), and theistic evolution (or the fully-gifted creation). The contributors are mostly philosophers and theologians, but they had many valuable things to say. I’m hoping to write more on this book soon.

Here are some additional books I worked on in April:

  • Genesis, by Derek Kidner. From the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series.
  • Life’s solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, by Christian paleontologist Simon Conway Morris. I’ve been working on this for over a month now; it is not fast reading.
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey.
  • Ringworld, a science fiction novel by Larry Niven.

Grace and Peace

May 2, 2009 Posted by | Reading | Leave a comment

Reading suggestions

Last month I wrote about my friend Glenn, who reads over 100 books a year. I don’t think I’ll ever hit that level, but I have been encouraged to be more disciplined and intentional in my reading habits. This week Glenn pointed to a challenging reading list from Monergism books. I have about 20% of these books in my library, though I haven’t read all of them yet. The list comes from a Calvinist perspective (and I’m mostly Calvinist in my theology) but draws from non-Calvinist writers as well, such as Martin Luther.

HT: Be Bold, Be Gentle

Grace and Peace

April 25, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Reading | Leave a comment

Reading — March 2009

Here are the books I finished in March:

  • The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll. Noll examines Evangelical thinking (or the lack thereof), and comes down really hard on two specific realms of Evangelical intellectual activity: politics and science.
  • The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. Would the world really be better off without us? I don’t think so—we are part of the biosphere, not a cancer on the biosphere—but this book certainly opens one’s eyes to the increasing impact of human activities.
  • 2010: Odyssey Two, by Arthur C. Clarke. This is the science fiction sequel to 2001: A Space Odessey. In 2010 a joint Soviet-American expedition brings HAL back to life, we find out more about what happened to astronaut Dave Bowman, and something very interesting happens to Jupiter.

Here are some additional books I’ve been working on this month:

  • A History of the American People, by Paul Johnson. This one might take me a couple more months to get through.
  • Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, by Christian paleontologist Simon Conway Morris. A famous statement by Stephen Jay Gould was that if one were to rewind the tape of evolution and play it over again, chance events would result in a very different world, probably without humans. Conway Morris argues the opposite, that convergence (e.g. multiple evolutionary pathways that lead over and over to similar structures) dictates that once evolution gets going in multicellular animals, something like human beings will inevitably occur.
  • Economic Mineral Deposits, by Jensen and Bateman. Right now I’m in the chapter on hydrothermal alteration. I’ve done a lot of re-reading in my geology textbooks in the past six months. Depending on the employment prospects that looked most promising at the time, I have re-read substantial portions of textbooks on sedimentary petrology, geochemistry, igneous petrology, petroleum geology, and groundwater hydrology. This hasn’t led to a job yet, but I’ve had fun, as well as learned (re-learned) a lot.

Grace and Peace

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Reading | Leave a comment

A man who reads

My friend Glenn is one of the smartest people I know. With ACT, SAT, GRE percentiles in the upper 90s (some portions in the 99th percentile), I am an intelligent person. When I am with Glenn, I am reminded that I am only down at the bottom of the 99th percentile, because he outsmarts me by a bunch. Glenn says that he knows plenty of people who are smarter than him, and I suppose they all know smarter people too, until you get up to the Albert Einsteins and Henry Kissingers up at the top.

Glenn, a PhD biochemist, plans on reading the Bible cover to cover four times this year. I suspect that he is able to do this with a high level of focus and understanding. In addition, Glenn read 131 other books last year, with a goal of reading 110 this year. Because of this, Glenn can talk intelligently about a wide range of topics: the Bible, teaching the Bible, politics, the family, or feeding the world.

Glenn doesn’t read just to boost his ego. He reads for the glory of God, the building up of the body of Christ, and to excel in the workplace.

He wrote about his reading habits today on his excellent blog, Be Bold, Be Gentle: Learning Faster — The Great Need. Here are a few quotes:

In addition to regular, deep time in the Word of God, teachers, pastors, and leaders need to be students of life.

Now I strongly believe that Christians should be the best learners and thinkers on the planet — we have the Mind of Christ!  But it is often not so.

Are these extraordinary, superhuman accomplishments?  Absolutely not!  They are well within the range of most adults.
What sets great teachers, pastors, and leaders apart on the learning scale is
* they know what they need to learn, and why
* they understand what learning really is, and have mastered the practices of learning
* they apply what they learn (because the point of learning is not knowing, it’s doing)

Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Not all of us will read the Bible four times in one year, but I suspect that most Christians don’t even read the New Testament once in a year.
  • We don’t all have to read 131 books per year, but I suspect that most of us could read more than we do.
  • Glenn has reading goals: “they know what they need to learn, and why.” I have some reading goals, but I think I could strengthen them.
  • Glenn knows what works for him. What works for you or I might be different than what works for Glenn. Do you know the best ways for you to learn?
  • Glenn is a doer. He takes what he reads and applies it.
  • Selectivity is important. I have 86 books in my Amazon shopping cart “to buy later” section. I have unread books here at home (I can’t say on the bookshelves; we’re still living out of boxes after our move from Romania last year). What are the most important books for me to be reading, in terms of ministry, family, work, and knowing God better?
  • Not everyone is called to an intellectual vocation (though again, I suspect most of us need to be readers with clear objectives). Romans 12:3-10 applies to all in the church:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (NIV)

And let him who studies, do it diligently for the glory of God and the good of people.

Thanks, Glenn. I’m inspired.

Grace and Peace

March 16, 2009 Posted by | Reading | 1 Comment

Required reading for science majors

The geoblogosphere (as well as the broader world of science blogs) has a meme going around:

Imagine: YOU are asked to assign a half-dozen-or-so books as required reading for ALL science majors at a college as part of their 4-year degree; NOT technical or text books, but other works, old or new, touching upon the nature of science, philosophy, thought, or methodology in a way that a practicing scientist might gain from. [This is the wording from Highly Allochthonous, but there are many other blogs which are doing the same]

Here’s my list of a book collection that would be beneficial for an undergraduate in any science major. I have included a couple books by Christian authors, as these would help both Christian and non-Christian students to have a fuller understanding of the relationship between science and faith than they would get from reading Dawkins or Sagan.

  • Geology: The Bible, Rocks, and Time by Young and Stearley. This is not only a polemic against young-Earth creationism, but an excellent introduction to the science of geology, with sections on the historical development, philosophy, and major subdivisions of the science.
  • Environment: Pollution and the Death of Man by Francis Schaeffer. Christianity is not the enemy of the environment, but Christians sometimes are. Schaeffer saw clearly that we are in a massive ecological crisis, and pointed to a Christian world view as the solution rather than the source of the problem.
  • Biology: The Creation by E.O. Wilson. The author is a skeptic, but recognizes the need to have religious people involved in the fight to preserve biodiversity, which is the theme of the book. This book opened my eyes to the wonder of Genesis 1:20-25, where the waters, skies, and land swarmed with swarms of living creatures, and it was good. We now live in an impoverished world.
  • Physics: Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman. This physics professor was able to explain foundational physics topics like no other.
  • Chemistry: Radar, Hula Hoops, and Playful Pigs by Joe Schwarcz (or another book by him; this is the one I’ve read). This book is proof that even chemists can have fun and a sense of humor.
  • Philosophy of Science: What is This Thing Called Science? by Alan Chalmers. Every science undergraduate should read a philosophy of science book, and this one is a good overview of the various philosophies of science, such as those of Popper, Kuhn, and others. My one critique: like most other philosophers of science, Chalmers focuses on the experimental sciences. Geology doesn’t operate by all of the same rules as do chemistry and physics.
  • Plus anything by Stephen Jay Gould, just to read some really good science writing.

Grace and Peace

February 26, 2009 Posted by | Reading | 1 Comment

Reading — February 2009

Here are a couple books I finished in February:

  • The Bible, Rocks, and Time, by Young and Stearley. This is the best book I’ve read on the relationship between geology and Christian faith. It is much more than a Biblical and scientific polemic against young-Earth creationism, though that is certainly a big part of the book.
  • Living the Cross Centered Life, by C. J. Mahaney. I had a post with a few quotes from this book a couple weeks ago.

Here are some additional books I’ve been working on this month:

  • The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll. The first sentence of this indictment of Evangelical thinking reads, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” Ouch.
  • The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. What would happen to Earth if we humans suddenly all disappeared?
  • A History of the American People, by Paul Johnson.

Grace and Peace

February 26, 2009 Posted by | Reading | 1 Comment

Reading – January 2009

Here are the books I’ve been working on in January:

  • The Bible, Rocks, and Time, by Young and Stearley
  • The Oceans, by Prager
  • The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Noll
  • Living the Cross Centered Life, by Mahaney

I didn’t finish any books.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Reading | Leave a comment