I was directed to The Bible Project recently by my friend and mentor Daniel Viezbicke. It’s an attempt by a Bible teacher and a graphic designer to explain the Bible in a simple and unified way, using 5-10 minute animated videos. Their conviction is that “The Bible is a unified narrative that leads to Jesus and has profound wisdom for the modern world.”
Hey, Since I took such a long break from posting, I need to do a bit of back-writing. It’s been a while since I recommended a book, and I read some humdingers in the last year. One sticks out particularly in my mind: A Higher Call by Adam Makos.
2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown and his crew were aboard their B-17 bomber (“Ye Olde Pub”) in their first bomb run to destroy an aircraft production facility in Bremen on December 20th, 1943. Before the plane could release its payload, flak from anti-aircraft fire hit the plane and took out two of its engines, forcing it to throttle down and drop behind the formation of B-17s, making it a target for the enemy fighters which were mobilizing to repel the attack.
Those enemy fighters, over a dozen German 109 fighter jets, swarmed the crippled B-17 and attacked in a series of manuevers for about ten minutes before disengaging, during which a third engine was lost, the tail gunner was killed, the planes systems thrown into complete disarray, and Charlie passed out. He awoke to find the plane in a dive and managed to right it at 100o ft.
Charlie now had a choice to make: he could try to make it back to base by flying over the northern coast of Germany out over the sea and toward England, or he and his remaining men could parachute out of their severely damaged plane and hope that the Luftwaffe would find them, rather than the SS. Given that some of his men were too badly wounded to survive a parachute drop, he decided on the much more risky flight home, knowing the odds of their survival were slim flying over Germany’s coast with its anti-aircraft defenses.
Shortly before reaching the heavily fortified coast, another German 109 came upon the limping bomber. With 8 of her 11 guns taken out, the crew of Ye Olde Pub were defenseless against the smaller craft, and could not even perform evasive maneuvers. Charlie Brown was desperate, and sure that death had come to them at last. Strangely, then, the German pilot did not fire. He instead flew in formation with the American vessel, ensuring safe passage past the ground defenses who saw the outline of the German plane and did not fire on either aircraft. The German pilot flew wingtip to wingtip with the B-17 until they were safely out over the sea before saluting a mystified Charlie Brown and peeling away back toward Germany.
Well-written and compelling from start to finish, this book may be one of the best I’ve ever read. The events I’ve just described form the crux of the book (It’s all on the back cover, so I haven’t given anything away), but the backgrounds of both the German and the American pilot are what make this story so engaging. A friend complained to me not long ago that we’re now being inundated with WW2 stories, but if they’re all as heroic and selfless as this one, then there is a reason for the wealth of novels, biographies, and movies coming to us from that era. I highly recommend this book to anyone. It’ll inspire you and even encourage your faith, if you’ve eyes to see it.
A Higher Call is definitely a must-read. Let me know what you think.
Sitting down to write just now, I popped in my headphones and went to my favorite site for this sort of thing, called Rainy Mood. It’s a site which provides white noise while you work, but with Youtube sort of stuck in so you can mash the soothing sound of a thunderstorm with tunes or lectures or whatever it is you listen to whilst you work. One of my favorites is Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie, and you can access it on Rainy Mood here. Or you can opt out of Youtube and play your own music. Right now I’m going withTobias Hume’s Musical Humors. I highly recommend it for background music, and I highly recommend Rainy Mood for background noise. It beats the sound of the highway outside my window, anyway. Check it out.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly repent.
I have maintained in the past that reading D.A. Carson is like dragging a cheese-grater across my eyeballs. I had a bad experience.
In my adult life, I have rarely been so entranced by a (respectable) book that I’m unable to put it down, finishing it in one day. I think the last one was Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen. But Exegetical Fallacies is one such book. So here it is: Don, I’m so sorry I said that reading your books is like dragging a cheese-grater across my eyeballs. You’re a wonderful man.
Not only is this book concise, easy to understand, full of clear examples, and extremely helpful to all those called to the ministry of the Word; it’s also incredibly funny, in a dry, Don Carson-like way. Here are some quotes which I thought were just funnier taken out of context:
“Perhaps we should play a laugh-track while the offering plate is being circulated” (p. 34).
“Who is going to bear the babies? Or do I know get my turn?” (p. 92).
“Unfortunately, the letter writer was unable to understand this point” (p. 101).
“…our cross becomes… (God forgive us!) a joke” (p. 103).
What a gem.
Seriously, this book is full of Carson gold. Because he uses so many examples of bad exegesis from so many different debates and issues, one bonus in this book is just being able to see Carson weigh in on everything from gender relations to dispensationalism to historical criticism, offering a sentence or two here, a paragraph there. Very enlightening and engaging.
I have some questions about some concepts he introduces in the beginning, and there are some fallacies I would like to have seen fleshed out more, but I would heartily recommend this book to anyone serious about reading the Bible and discerning its meaning rightly.
Dr. Carson, I hope you read this post someday, and accept both my apologies for ever doubting you as well as my suggestion to write a part deux to your book, covering all the headings you raised in the last chapter. You’re my hero.
Ha- in writing that title, I can visualize the disbelief on the faces of some of my more doctrinally minded friends. Before I read Blue Like Jazz, it occupied the same space in my mind as books like The Shack, Your Best Life Now, and anything by Joyce Meyer (by the way, I haven’t read Osteen or Meyer. I’m not making a claim about the books per se, but about my preconceived notions of those books. Please don’t be angry with me).
But I just finished Blue Like Jazz a few days ago, and I do think it’s worth reading. Don Miller has a very heartfelt and loving way of pointing out some weaknesses he has seen in American Evangelical churches, and he tries to correct these weaknesses with humility.
I think there are some questions Blue Like Jazz doesn’t answer, but I’m not sure Don Miller was intending to answer questions as much as cast a vision. And I think he did a pretty good job of that. I was edified and challenged through the book (and I didn’t even have to take off my theologian’s hat to do it, although sometimes I had to raise my eyebrows dangerously), and I honestly can recommend it to anyone who has grown up in the church and sometimes feels like the 10-dollar words don’t carry the same weight they used to.
Just a few days ago I finished a killer little book, called A Little Exercise For Young Theologians, by Helmut Thielicke. I would highly recommend it to anyone who goes to Bible school, anyone who identifies as a theologian, anyone involved in Christian teaching. Incredibly insightful, and incredibly convicting.
Thielicke spends 41 short pages highlighting some dangers that young theologians can fall into, and gives wise advice as how to avoid the worst of these dangers. I think it’s the sort of book theologians (especially young ones) should read perennially. Here’s a word from Thielicke that sums up the book well, and should serve as a caution to all us students of theology:
There is a hiatus between the arena of the young theologians’s actual spiritual growth and what he already knows intellectually about this arena. So to speak, he has been fitted, like a country boy, with breeches that are too big, into which he must still grow up in the same way that one who is to be confirmed must also still grow into the long trousers of the Catechism. Meanwhile, they hang loosely around his body, and this ludicrous sight of course is not beautiful. (p. 10)
If you’re a student of theology, I recommend you buy a copy and read it at the beginning of each semester. It’s what I intend to do for the remainder of my schooling.
Remember when I recommended DailyLit? Well, I just finished my first book using that service: The Autobiography of Ben Franklin. I thought I would read it because I had seen it listed in a few “Books Everyone Should Read” lists. It was… interesting.
When Franklin described his early years in the first part of his memoirs, I got the definite sense that I would not have liked him, had I known him. Though it seems he mellowed some toward his later years, I still get the impression that he was one of those people who annoys the daylights out of everybody, only they can’t exactly pinpoint why. Perhaps it’s just me (It’s not).
In the last three sections of his account, however, I really began to see the man’s genius. He had a hand in practically every pie: commerce, religion, politics (on multiple levels), war- he really was quite talented. And he invented electricity, as we all know, so there’s a plus.
It really was interesting to get a glimpse into the mind of the man that shaped so much of our national history and identity. So subscribe to DailyLit or pick up a paper copy of Ben Franklin’s Autobiography- I hope you will enjoy it.