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Tim Challies

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March 12, 2010

Here we are at another Friday. This is a significant one around these parts because it’s the last day of school for our kids before they get a week off for March Break. This means that hundreds of thousands of Canadians are heading for the airports and, from there, to southern climes. And who can blame them, really. It has been a long winter.

But I digress. Now, to the business at hand. This week’s Free Stuff Fridays sponsor is Granted Ministries. About their ministry they say, “Our site consists primarily of sermons that are available for purchase or free download.  We refuse to profit in any way from this ministry and will give you the resources if you are in any way unable to pay for them. The messages you will find on this site are not necessarily unique to us.  Several of these messages can be found on other, more well-known websites.  It is not our aim to be anything special or unique.  We are simply endeavoring to serve the people of God with the teaching of His glorious Word.”

They are offering five prize packages, each of which will contain two books they’ve published: Justification & Regeneration by Charles Leiter (which I’ve reviewed here) and The One True God by Paul Washer (which I’ve also reviewed, as it happens).

March 05, 2010

With a new Friday comes a new edition of Free Stuff Fridays. This week’s sponsor is ChristianAudio, a company you must know by now for their monthly free downloads. If you visit their site just once per month and you’ll be well on your way to building a solid library of audio books. This week they have put together a great prize package for you. Five winners will each receive the following three audio books:

December 07, 2009

Every year, sometime in December, I begin to think about all the books I read that year, trying to determine which ones I liked the best and always wondering just how many I actually read. Every year I’m disappointed to find that I haven’t kept very good records so I really do not know how many books passed through my hands (my estimate this year would be between 100 and 150). Fortunately, because I review many of the books I read, I can at least generate a list of favorites.

Note that these are my favorite books. That is an admission that this is a subjective list of the books that I most enjoyed this year, not the books that were necessarily objectively best or most important (though hopefully there is some degree of correlation). Also, I’ve only included Christian books here. Except for the final book, the one I’ve determined is my absolute favorite, these come in no particular order.

November 13, 2009

Free Stuff Fridays

This week’s sponsor of Free Stuff Fridays is Shepherd Press. Shepherd Press is a ministry dedicated to publishing solid, biblical books and material. They are likely best-known for publishing material by Ted Tripp (including Shepherding a Child’s Heart) but they also publish material by a variety of other authors. I have yet to find a Shepherd Press book that was not worth reading.

One of the more unique products they offer is a series of commentaries designed for children (titled Herein Is Love). These are written by Nancy Ganz and are based on Sunday School material she has taught for many years at Ottawa Reformed Presbyterian Church where her husband, Richard, serves as pastor. I have been to that church many times and count both Rich and Nancy as friends. In fact, I remember sitting in Nancy’s classes when I was just a boy.

Today Shepherd Press is offering as a prize five sets of these commentaries. Each of five winners will receive Genesis (in a brand new second edition), Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers.

D.A. Carson (who knows a thing or two about commentaries) says these volumes are “Interesting and very competent … a major contribution!” Here is an introduction to Genesis:

This book is truly wonderful. It has captured parents and children with creative, gripping, and beautiful portrayals of what truly happened in the beginning. The beginning books of the Bible are essential to our understanding of God’s redemptive story. The author of Herein Is Love creatively focuses our attention on the events that bring this story to life. The series has the richness of well-written literature and the depth of understanding inherent in a commentary. The result is a series of books whose details live and sing. They help parent and child understand the Christ-centered Word, and they are enjoyable reading for both. Your own faith will be strengthened while reading to your children, and your children will be encouraged, lesson by lesson, to believe in the Lord Jesus.

These books are an ideal addition for any library—personal, home or school. They are great for reading to your children and I’m willing to guarantee you will learn a few things yourself along the way.

Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.

Enter here:

October 23, 2009

If you were one of the four million people to read the bestselling book Freakonomics, you will pretty well know what to expect from the long-awaited sequel SuperFreakonomics. It has five chapters, each of which stands on its own and each of which ties varied economic data into some kind of a cohesive whole. It is just as interesting as its predecessor and sticks very closely to the formula that made the first book such an unlikely hit.

The first chapter is titled “How Is a Street Prostitute Like a Department-Store Santa?” and this chapter is a lengthy look at the economics of prostitution. The authors draw out all kinds of interesting conclusions about prostitution and especially about how prostitution has changed over the years. For example, they show that the wages for prostitutes have fallen drastically over the past hundred years. The reason is pure economics and goes back to the law of competition. “Who poses the greatest competition to a prostitute? Simple: any woman who is willing to have sex with a man for free. It is no secret that sexual mores have evolved substantially in recent decades. The phrase ‘casual sex’ didn’t exist a century ago (to say nothing of ‘friends with benefits’). Sex outside of marriage was much harder to come by and carried significantly higher penalties than it does today.” In other words, in decades past women held closely to their virginity and were unlikely to give it away to anyone but their husbands. Today a man has, in the words of the authors, “a much greater supply of unpaid sex.” According to the laws of supply and demand, prices must then fall. In our generation only 5% of men lose their virginity to a prostitute; in days past it ran as high as 20%. Today more than 70% of men have sex before marriage; in days past it was just 33%. Premarital sex has proven a free substitute for prostitution. Once the domain of the professional (at one time one in every fifty American women in their twenties was a prostitute!) premarital sex is now the realm of any woman. This has driven down wages through a strange but sad kind of free market force. I guess this gives us something to think about the next time we hear about the falling levels of prostitution. Though we rejoice when prostitutes find another line of work, it does not necessarily mean that we have cured one of society’s ills. It may point to changing market forces based in turn on declining morality.

There was something else in this chapter that gave me a lot to think about. In their research the authors found that certain sexual acts have always commanded a premium; some are more costly than others. That is no surprise. Acts that are taboo in society are going to cost more than acts that are considered “normal.” What is interesting, though, is to see that this is a moving standard. As society has become increasingly sexualized, acts that were once taboo are now considered bland or boring. What once commanded a premium is now considered barely worth thinking about. This got me thinking about sin and about the very nature of sin. Have you ever had one of those moments where you found that sin was suddenly taking charge of you? If you think about it I’m sure you can come up with a moment when you realized that it was no longer you who was in charge, but sin. Sin had taken over; sin was taking the lead and you were just following along. It is a terrifying place to be! Sin always wants more, always demands more. It is progressive, beginning with something small but always demanding more and greater. Give it an inch and it will take a mile. The economics of prostitution shows the progressive nature of sin. Just in a brief look at rates and wages we can see how society has changed as women have become more willing to give their bodies away and as the vulgar and invasive and degrading has become mainstream.

This book illustrates why I love reading and why I always seek to read widely. I rarely regret reading Christian books and have benefited from such books immeasurably. But I would be impoverishing myself, I think, if I were to read only Christian books. Here in a book that is not in any way “Christian” I found all sorts of interesting facts, interesting ideas, that I can grapple with. They are issues that I can think about within my Christian worldview and use them to uncover great truths about people and about the God who created them.

October 15, 2009

While I write many book reviews, the majority of these reviews cover titles that are written on a popular level. Rarely do I look at reference material or commentaries. Yet I do receive many such books and today I want to mention some of the more notable ones that have come across my desk recently.

The Acts of the Apostles by David G. Peterson (The Pillar New Testament Commentary) - With this huge addition to the series, the Pillar New Testament Commentary series now has eleven volumes. Though readers may not be familiar with the author, David Peterson, they will know of the series editor, D.A. Carson. In his Preface, Carson describes some of the challenges anyone will face when writing a commentary on Acts and then declares, “All of these challenges David Peterson has met superbly. His commentary focuses on what the text actually says, and his judgments are invariably sane, even-handed, judicious.” Acts is not a book that lacks strong commentaries but even then it sounds like this is a welcome addition to what is fast becoming a very valuable series. Carson’s endorsement pretty much seals the deal.

The First and Second Letter to the Thessalonians by Gordon D. Fee (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) - The NICNT has been underway forever, it seems (1946 is pretty close to forever). In fact, some of the volumes have already been replaced even while other books have yet to receive a first commentary. New to the series is this volume by Gordon Fee, now the editor of the NICNT and the author of the volumes on Philippians and 1 Corinthians. It is good to see this series grow one volume closer to completion.

Luke 1-5 by John MacArthur (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary) - With over one million volumes sold, the MacArthur Commentary series hardly needs an introduction. One the cover of this edition are accolades from Mark Dever, Al Mohler, C.J. Mahaney and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, all of whom affirm this as a valuable and understandable commentary useful for either pastors or lay persons. Can you believe it is currently the only MacArthur Commentary in my entire library (not including the ones in Libronix which I do refer to often)? I am glad to have it and hope to add the rest of the set as soon as I’m able.

Ephesians by Bryan Chapell (Reformed Expository Commentary) - I have often lauded this series, the Reformed Expository Commentary. I have read many of the volumes from cover-to-cover and look forward to reading through the latest, Ephesians by Bryan Chapell. Like its predecessors, it is based on a sermon series and is thus suitable for pastoral study or for personal study. I often use these commentaries in my personal devotions and have benefited from them a great deal.

1 & 2 Timothy and Titus by Samuel M. Ngewa (Africa Bible Commentary Series) - I know next to nothing about this new commentary series published by Zondervan (under their Hippo Books imprint—Hippo in honor of Augustine of Hippo, not in honor of the animal). The series is edited by Ngewa who teaches at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology in Kenya. In this case I am not recommending the commentary as much as I am letting you know that it exists and hoping that someone can tell me more about it. I would love to hear from anyone who has had opportunity to read it through.

Tracts and Letters by John Calvin - Banner of Truth has recently published this huge 7-volume set of the tracts and letters of Calvin. Having just finished an engaging biography of Calvin I can attest to the value of those tracts and letters! The series comes in at 3488 pages but costs just $80.

The Whole Counsel of God by Richard C. Gamble - The Whole Counsel of God is a book, the first in a series of three volumes, dedicated to recounting God’s acts in the Old Testament. This first volume “discloses the theology of the Old Testament within the organic, progressive, historical development of the Bible.” It is more than an Old Testament survey as it includes discussion of a wide variety of topics such as ecclesiology, the nature of God, justification, and so on. It comes highly recommended by scholars such as Richard Pratt and John Frame. I suspect it will appeal primarily to scholars but pastors, students of theology and other thoughtful readers will undoubtedly find great value in reading it.

October 08, 2009

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately—an near-obnoxious amount, really. Quite a few of the books have just not been that interesting, but there have been a few exceptions. Here are reviews of three of the more notable books I’ve read. Each of these titles is currently on the New York Times list of bestsellers.

End the Fed

End the FedLove him or hate him, you probably have an opinion about Ron Paul. He’s a guy on the fringe, a guy who does not quite seem to fit into any camp but his own. And a time when the economy is undergoing a severe test, he is one of the few politicians who actually sounds like he knows what he is talking about when it comes to economics. Firmly rooted in the Austrian school of economics, Paul advocates pretty much the opposite of all America has done in the past few years: Where Washington has continually bailed out those corporations it deems too big to fail, he advocates allowing them to go bankrupt; where Washington remains firmly committed to fiat currency, he is eager to return to the gold standard; where Washington looks increasingly to socialize health care (and those companies that would fall apart but for federal aid) he has implicit confidence in the free market and its consequences; and where Washington continues to grant far-reaching power to the Fed, Paul advocates eliminating it altogether.

Few people understand macro-scale economics (heck, judging by the debt loads of most Americans I’d suggest that few people can wrap their minds around household economics) and fewer still understand the role of the Federal Reserve in economics and politics and the sometimes-fine line between them. Among the immensely important organizations in Washington, the Fed has one power that is unique: the ability to create money out of thin air. You do not need a graduate degree in economics to understand the magnitude, the potential ramifications, of this kind of power. When you consider that the Fed operates without any real congressional oversight, that it is protected from audits and that its leaders are appointed rather than elected, it becomes more shocking still. Ultimately, if you want to understand money in America, you need to understand the Fed. As Paul says, “It is irresponsible, ineffective, and ultimately useless to have a serious economic debate without considering fundamental issues about money and its quality, as well as the Fed’s massive role in manipulating money to our economic ruin.” Paul has spoken endlessly about the Fed for decades now and in this book he advocates his solution: get rid of it.

Paul minces few words. He says, “We need to take away the government’s money power. The banking industry needs its welfare check ended. The dollar’s soundness depends on its being untied from the machine that can make an infinite number of copies of dollars and reduce their value to zero.” Later he says, “The Federal Reserve System must be challenged. Ultimately, it needs to be eliminated. The government cannot and should not be entrusted with a monopoly on money. No single institution in society should have power this immense. In fact, I believe that freedom itself is at stake in this struggle.”

While clearly targeted at a general audience, End the Fed is stock full of “economese”—the lexicon of economics—and this may make for difficult reading for those not well-versed in such matters. I often found myself confused, reading back a few lines or pages and, on occasion, just giving up and moving on. In several areas Paul assumes just a little bit more knowledge than I’ve got. Inflation is a relatively simple concept to understand from my perspective, but when it comes to understanding its causes and effects on a national or international level, my head begins to spin. Nevertheless, I read on and largely enjoyed his arguments. He argues from three perspectives: the philosophical, the constitutional and the economic. In each case he makes a compelling case that the Fed is harming America far more than it is helping and that its very existence is contrary to the U.S. Constitution. Of course the book is inherently one-sided and one must assume that the Fed’s supporters can make arguments of their own as to why it can and should remain; they will undoubtedly also argue for increasing rather than decreasing its mandate. I must have Libertarian leanings (or perhaps just common sense leanings) because I tend to agree with Paul. There has to be a better way and one that is more consistent with American ideals. “The Federal Reserve should be abolished because it is immoral, unconstitutional, impractical, promotes bad economics, and undermines liberty. Its destructive nature makes it a tool of tyrannical government. Nothing good can come from the Federal Reserve.” At least he does not leave us wondering what he really believes.

Created in time of crisis, it is ironic that the Fed is responsible for many of the nation’s subsequent economic crises, at least according to Paul. Constantly manipulating the markets, responsible for bubbles created and bubbles burst, and forever cranking out more real and virtual greenbacks, the Fed is at the center of American economics and politics. Its power is immense, its accountability near non-existent. Should not this, alone, call for abolition or, at the very least, radical modification?


Where Men Win Glory

Where Men Win GloryIn 2002 Pat Tillman walked away from a multi-million dollar NFL contract to join the U.S. Army. Just coming into his own after a career year as safety for the Arizona Cardinals, Tillman had all the opportunity in the world. Young, ridiculously good-looking, sporting the squarest chin in all of human history and with all sorts of people waving millions of dollars in his face, he could have taken any number of offers and set himself up for a long and comfortable life. Instead, he walked away from it all to became a soldier and, in so doing, an icon of post-9/11 patriotism. He was a reluctant hero who lost his life in a tragic friendly-fire in the mountains of Afghanistan. The events surrounding his death were quickly covered up and seemingly uncovered almost as quickly, bringing with them both horror and scandal. Already the subject of several books, Tillman appears again in Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory.

Tillman is a fascinating, multi-faceted character and one who is very difficult to pin down. Though he was no supporter of President Bush, he still felt that it was his duty as an American to answer the call to arms. Though an extraordinary athlete, he was a deep thinker and far from the stereotypical football jock. The excerpts from his journals show a man who drank hard and played hard, yet was fiercely loyal to his girlfriend (who became his wife shortly before his death) and reluctant to be the center of media attention. He read widely, thought deeply and wrestled constantly with the moral implications of what he was called on to do as a soldier. Eager to fight in Afghanistan, he was perturbed, disgusted even, by much of what he witnessed in Iraq. An atheist, Tillman’s last words mocked a comrade who, with Tillman, was pinned down with fire from their own men. This soldier, terrified and facing an imminent death, cried out to God. Tillman asked why he was acting this way and what possible good it could do him. Seconds later he died when three American bullets tore into his head. The most famous man in the Army lay dead at the hands of his friends.

His superiors reacted swiftly, muzzling the men who knew the circumstances of Tillman’s death. A friendly-fire accident would be a media catastrophe and this at a time when the war was not going well and when support for it was falling fast. Soon, however, the truth began to leak out and Tillman’s family reacted with outrage. He was again on the front pages. Subsequent investigations proved that poor leadership, poor organization and inadequate fire control had led to Tillman’s death, though some conspiracy theorists have tried to show that he was, in fact, deliberately murdered. The consequences for those involved were minor, shockingly minor, really, with most simply being removed from the Special Forces and busted back to the regular Army.

Krakauer cannot contain his utter disregard for President Bush and jumps on every opportunity to take swipes at him and at his administration. In the end there is almost nowhere he will not go, short of having George Bush light a fuse at the base of the Twin Towers. He almost makes it sound as if from the very moment of Tillman’s death that a massive conspiracy was instantly put in place, from President on down the chain of command to Tillman’s direct superior. Krakauer goes so far as to tacitly suggest that a member of the military should have told Tillman’s parents at the funeral that he had been killed in a friendly fire incident. As horrible as it is that Tillman died in a friendly-fire incident, such things are known to happen and happen today far more often than they did in the past. It is a tragic and unavoidable consequence of the fog of war. Krakauer’s outrage stems more from the cover-up, the deception and the lack of consequences for those involved.

Where Men Win Glory raises important issues about the nature of modern warfare, though it does so only between the lines and not as a core objective. Krakauer is outraged that the U.S. government covered up Tillman’s death. But are we to be surprised that the government relies on propaganda in times of war? This is as it has always been (and always will be!). The expectation today seems to be that reporters will travel with troops and provide moment-by-moment Twitter updates as to the whereabouts of troops. Deception is viewed as evil. But since when has war ever been fought under the same kind of rules that govern court rooms? The propaganda efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are nothing when compared to the all-out campaigns during the First and Second World Wars. But that was an era of total war. War today is meant to be surgical, touching only the most guilty military targets and avoiding altogether any peripheral damage. It is a near-impossible mandate. Every time a soldier touches a trigger he must have court martials in mind. Of course there must be some kind of oversight and some kind of consequences for those who go beyond the bounds of morality. It leads me to wonder: if you cannot fight a war in which you believe in so much that you are willing to regard peripheral damage as an unfortunate, tragic even, necessity of war, is it a war worth fighting? More than ever it seems that wars are won and lost on the home front far more than in the trenches. None of this is meant to defend what happened; rather, I simply suggest that the issues are deeper than they may appear and really ought to be less surprising than they seem.

Read for its portrayal of its protagonist, Where Men Win Glory is very interesting. Tillman truly is a fascinating subject and one who is very difficult to categorize, to solve. But read as history, I would urge caution. The author seems unable to separate his outrage toward Bush from his account of what happened. There appears to be little emphasis on objectivity here. Thus the facts appear tainted by a thinly-veiled agenda that comes perilously close to the propaganda that so disgusted the author.


Arguing with Idiots

Arguing with IdiotsI can’t deny it—I kind of like Glenn Beck. Sure you can argue that he’s just another outrageous radio windbag who will do nearly anything to fight his way to the top of the charts. That’s probably true. Yes he is annoying and occasionally obnoxious and, for all appearances, ridiculously self-assured. All true. But this does not necessarily mean that he is not correct about a lot of things. Through all the bluster I hear a lot that sounds to me like just plain common sense—the kind of sense that seems a rare commodity today. Maybe it is a sign of the times that common sense can sound radical and can be labeled as such.

In Arguing with Idiots Beck takes on small minds and big governments. In a question and answer format he answers the objections of “idiots” on a series of hot-button issues: capitalism, the second amendment, education, energy, unions, illegal immigration, the nanny state, home ownership, and economics. He also looks to the long history of progressive Presidents (focusing on Wilson and Roosevelt and showing how contemporary Presidents are little different) and offers a refresher course on the U.S. Constitution. You probably know exactly the kinds of things he stands for and the kinds of things he hates, so I will not recount them all for you. If you don’t know, just imagine what Rush Limbaugh would say and you’re on the right track.

The book is assembled in a kind of scrapbook format that features endless sidebars and callouts and cartoons and other visual distractions. There are even bits of colored text labeled “ADD Moments” woven almost right into the main body of the book. It makes for a rather distracting read and perhaps adds just a bit too much levity to what is really a series of very serious topics. Or maybe I just prefer the straight dope. Regardless, Beck does a very good job of taking a wrecking ball to countless idiotic objections to common sense solutions. From beginning to end he relies on his trademark sarcastic humor and offers plenty of moments when the reader will laugh or roll his eyes or, more likely, both.

Strangely, the book has a very, very abrupt ending. One moment you’re reading through the flow of text. The next moment you flip the page and are surprised to see that the book is over and that you are into the end notes. Just like that. Call this one of my pet peeves. Couldn’t Beck have tacked on at least a couple of pages just to wrap things up? You and I both know that he certainly didn’t run out of words.

Despite an abrupt ending and despite all the distraction, Arguing with Idiots does its job in standing up for common sense against the relentless, idiotic attacks against it. It’s quite an enjoyable read.

False Reverence
September 12, 2009

Here is a great (and famous) quote from Mortimer Adler’s classic How To Read a Book.

There are two ways in which one can own a book. The first is the property right you establish by paying for it, just as you pay for clothes and furniture. But this act of purchase is only the prelude to possession. Full ownership comes only when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it is by writing in it. An illustration may make the point clear. You buy a beefsteak and transfer it from the butcher’s icebox to your own. But you do not own the beefsteak in the most important sense until you consume it and get it into your bloodstream. I am arguing that books, too, must be absorbed in your blood stream to do you any good.

Confusion about what it means to “own” a book leads people to a false reverence for paper, binding, and type — a respect for the physical thing — the craft of the printer rather than the genius of the author. They forget that it is possible for a man to acquire the idea, to possess the beauty, which a great book contains, without staking his claim by pasting his bookplate inside the cover. Having a fine library doesn’t prove that its owner has a mind enriched by books; it proves nothing more than that he, his father, or his wife, was rich enough to buy them.

There are three kinds of book owners. The first has all the standard sets and best sellers — unread, untouched. (This deluded individual owns woodpulp and ink, not books.) The second has a great many books — a few of them read through, most of them dipped into, but all of them as clean and shiny as the day they were bought. (This person would probably like to make books his own, but is restrained by a false respect for their physical appearance.) The third has a few books or many — every one of them dog-eared and dilapidated, shaken and loosened by continual use, marked and scribbled in from front to back. (This man owns books.) …

But the soul of a book “can” be separate from its body. A book is more like the score of a piece of music than it is like a painting. No great musician confuses a symphony with the printed sheets of music. Arturo Toscanini reveres Brahms, but Toscanini’s score of the G minor Symphony is so thoroughly marked up that no one but the maestro himself can read it. The reason why a great conductor makes notations on his musical scores — marks them up again and again each time he returns to study them—is the reason why you should mark your books. If your respect for magnificent binding or typography gets in the way, buy yourself a cheap edition and pay your respects to the author.

September 05, 2009

You’ll have to bear with me today as I ramble a little bit on the subject of book reviews. Because reviews are such an important part of what I do here, I thought it would be worth covering just a little bit of how and why I do reviews.

I generally try to review at least one book per week and, in general, I try to choose a book that you, the readers, are likely to enjoy. Now obviously there are times that I think a book will be good but it turns out to be less than stellar. It happens. But most of the time, when I choose a book based on its subject, author, endorsements or description, it turns out to be a book I can recommend for one reason or another. Most weeks I post these reviews on Tuesday. My purpose with these reviews is to make you aware of some of the books that are coming available and to give you a sense of what you stand to gain by reading them. Since I enjoy reading so much, since I can do it quickly and since I have access to the books, I see this as a way of helping others find books that will appeal to them. If the guy who loves reading a hundred books per year can help the guy who reads ten choose the best ten, then I figure we’ve got a proverbial win-win.

Of course, and as you know, I read more books than these. In recent months I’ve begun writing the occasional “Books I Didn’t Review” article to make you aware of some of the other reading I’ve been doing. These are books I tend not to review either because they do not merit a full review or because I determine that the readers of this site are not likely to be interested in them. In such cases I tend to post just a short overview of the book with a sentence or two of my own take on it.

I also read the occasional book that I am quite sure I will dislike or that I will be ambivalent toward. I often do this when the book is a megaseller or when it seems primed to become a megaseller. So, for example, I have suffered through both of Joel Osteen’s books. I’ve done this primarily so there is at least one (hopefully) discerning review of the book somewhere on the Internet. I always post these reviews at Amazon, trusting that the reviews will at least help a person or two find a better alternative to Osteen’s mindless puffery. I have done the same with books like The Secret, The Shack and so on. Osteen’s third book is set to release next month; I am undecided about whether or not I can bear to read yet another one. And I mean that—just because of their sheer stupidity I find them grueling to get through.

Now, let me share a couple of things by way of disclosure. I’ve mentioned this in the past, but wanted to do so again just to be sure that everything is above-board. When you read one of my reviews and see a link to buy it at Amazon or Monergism Books, those are affiliate links which means that there is typically some financial compensation that goes to me should you choose to purchase something after clicking the link. I think most people assume this, but I do reiterate it from time-to-time. These funds go to the purchase of books (the ones that are not provided gratis by publishers), to the support of the web site and, in a good month, to the support of the Challies family!

Also, you have probably (hopefully!) noticed the ads on my site. There occasionally seems to be a bit of a conflict of interest in that I will review a book while also running an ad for it (which most often happens when I review a book the same week it releases which is also, of course, when the publisher is most likely to advertise it). You may wonder how I could fairly criticize a book deserving of critique when I am being paid to run an ad for that very book. Well, thankfully that has not happened, at least to this point. But do know that advertisers have no expectation that the mere fact that they place an ad on my site will in any way impact my reviews. They expect fair reviews. Plus, I would consider it an assault on my conscience to review a bad book positively in order not to risk advertising compensation. So do know that I consider fair reviews a high calling and I will not deviate from that. I am committed to fair and objective reviews.

I will have more to say about this in the future, but do know that next year I intend to continue my once-weekly reviews of the latest Christian books. But I also hope to devote a bit more attention to the latest and greatest mainstream books. Stay tuned for details on that.

If you have further suggestions about book reviews, about the types of book I review, and so on, I would be glad to hear them!

September 04, 2009

Free Stuff Fridays

Free Stuff Fridays is an opportunity to give away some great resources and today I’ve got some I think you’ll love. This week’s sponsor is Moody Publishers. Moody has offered up five prizes, each of which will contain three brand new books: Words From the Fire by Al Mohler, The Reason for Sports by Ted Kluck and Undefiled by Harry Schaumburg.


Here is a brief description of each of the books:

Undefiled: “Amid the chaos of cybersex, impersonal sex, adultery, homosexuality, and sexual dissatisfaction in marriage, Undefiled calls readers toward a new kind of sexual revolution. Sexual impurity creates a vicious circle, one that springs from misconceptions about Christ and further taints our understanding of Him. Yet another circle is available to men and women trapped in sin, a circle of sexual redemption.”

Words from the Fire: “Whether you suspect they’re in the Bible or recite them in church, you’ll find this eye-opening look at the Ten Commandments pivotal in your relationship with God. Why? Because His commandments reveal life’s meaning and clarify the importance of our relations with others. When God spoke from the fire on Mt. Sinai, He showed His love and mercy by steering us from self-destruction. He also prepared our hearts to live for his glory.”

The Reason for Sports: ” Written in the vein of Rick Reilly (Sports Illustrated), Chuck Klosterman (Spin, Esquire), and David Foster Wallace (A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again), The Reason for Sports will both entertain and shed light on some of today’s most pertinent sports issues: race, drugs, hero worship, and more - all through a biblical lens.”

Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.