Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Hyperinflation Devastation

by Connor Boyack

400 pages / 2019

Remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” kids loved back in the 1980s? Readers would be brought to a fork in the road, given two options to choose from and if they chose Option A, they would be told to go to one page, and if they chose Option B then they would be directed to another. Afterward, they would continue on their chosen track with the adventure continuing to branch repeatedly thereafter. In The Hyperinflation Devastation, author Connor Boyack has taken that concept and expanded on it, creating a 400+ page “Choose Your Consequence” adventure to teach teens various lessons about economics. 

In this, the first book in the series, Emily and Ethan Tuttle, a pair of 15-year-old twins, head out on their own to the small South American country of “Allqukilla.” If 15 strikes you as young to be out without parents, I’m with you. However, these two are a particular independent pair who have spent the last year planning and saving for this trip. They want to go to Allqukilla to check out the country’s ancient ruins. 

But is it to be? Right after their plane arrives, they see local news reports warning about an impending earthquake and it’s here that readers face their first choice. Are the Tuttle Twins going to have an incredibly short adventure and head back on the very next plane, or are they going to go on to their hotel? Of course, no reader is going to take the cautious route, so onward and forward the adventure continues. While exactly what happens depends on the choices a reader makes, the twins will encounter that earthquake, and then, with power disrupted, they’ll have to deal with roads in bad repair, hyperinflation, a lack of available food and water, and no cell phone service, as the two figure out their way home. 

The author’s economic outlook is a small government, libertarian one, which comes out in the lessons the twins learn. So, for example, in one story branch, they end up in a small village in the hills that still has power because they have never relied on the government to provide it. In another branch, they encounter some not-so warm-hearted help – entrepreneurial sorts who will do them good…for a price. The twins sometimes get entirely altruistic help, but the point is, they also get help from people who wouldn’t otherwise be helpful, except that it was in their own self-interest to do so. The lesson here is that the free market is important because it gives people a motive to provide things other people want. 

While this is intended as an educational story, Boyack doesn’t beat readers over the head with the lessons he’s trying to teach. Only once, in the 8 or so different story arcs does a character offer up a prolonged economics lecture. But even then, it isn’t too long. 

CAUTIONS

The one caution I would offer deals not with this book, but with the author. He writes from a generally Judeo-Christian, libertarian perspective. Often times those two perspectives can match up quite nicely since both Christians and libertarians recognize that the government shouldn’t try to be God. Thus we both believe in some form of smaller, limited government, and sets us both apart from the many who call on the government to solve whatever problems they face. 

But in some of Boyack’s other books, his libertarian perspective comes in conflict with his Judeo-Christian perspective. In The Tuttle Twins Learn About the Law (one of 10 Tuttle Twin picture books he’s written for younger readers) he teaches readers that governments gain their authority from people, and not God. Based on that assumption the author argues that governments should only be able to do what people are able to do, so just as it would be wrong for a person to forcibly take money, therefore the same must be true of government. But this simply isn’t true. God has empowered governments to do some things which individuals must not do, and taxation is one of them (Luke 20:25, 1 Peter 2:13-14). 

The libertarian perspective in Hyperinflation Devastation is more restrained, and thus in keeping with a Christian worldview that understands God as distributing powers and responsibilities not simply to the state, but to parents, and the church, and individuals too. 

CONCLUSION

I would recommend this for any kids from 10 to 15. The adventure is a solid one, and the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure component will grab their attention.

Yes, this is an economics lesson, but it is a generally subtle presentation that never gets in the way of the story. That allows most kids, whether they are politically-inclined or not, to enjoy this. But because the economics angle is so very different from what they are reading in other books, it may well spark an interest in learning more about money, inflation, politics, and more. 

It may interest parents to know there are two other titles in this “Choose Your Consequence” series so far, but as I haven’t read them, I can’t yet recommend them, though the series can only be purchased for now, as a 3-book set here

There is one mistake in the book, on page 388, where we are directed to Page 335 but should be directed to Page 111. I recommend some of the Tuttle Twin pictures books here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Two Books about Inspired Writing from Leland Ryken

Words of Delight:
A Literary Introduction to the Bible

by Leland Ryken
540 pages / 1992 (second edition)

The Soul in Paraphrase:
A Treasury of Classic Devotional Poems

by Leland Ryken
262 pages / 2018

Everything that I have read by Leland Ryken shows his submission to the "words of delight" in the Old and New Testament, and these two books are no exception.

Words of Delight is itself a delightful book, in which Ryken shows that the Bible is not only "breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16), but also "sweeter than honey" (Psalm 19:10a). What makes Ryken's analysis of Scripture so valuable is that he shows that Scripture is not only the finest literature ever written, but that its literary quality does not undermine its authority. Instead, Scripture's beauty only reinforces our conviction that behind it is its ultimate Author, God Himself. One of the ways that Ryken does this is to demonstrate that

  • Scripture's use of tragedy is very different from the pagan tragedies of the ancient world,
  • the heroes of Scripture are true to human nature, as opposed to the heroes of ancient epics, and
  • Scripture's satire works with different standards than other ancient literature.
As well, Ryken demonstrates that even the prose histories and epistles of the Old and New Testaments are as literary as the more obviously poetic passages of Scripture. I found many new insights that are as helpful in private reading the Bible as they will be in teaching it. Ryken's book was fascinating reading, and will bear repeated reference in the future.

The Soul in Paraphrase is more clearly a reference work, and could make a great textbook for a Christian teacher's English course, but would also make a unique way to structure devotions for several months, since it deals with 150 devotional poems. Ryken shows the Scriptural inspiration and/or Christian connections for these poems, including those written more generally about nature and human relationships without specific mention of spiritual issues, or even from poets not generally identified as Christian poets. Ryken makes the case that it is also the Christian reader's approach to poetry that determines whether it can be read devotionally, and demonstrates that in his analysis of various poems. In his appreciation for the poems, Ryken invites us to compare their themes to Scriptural wisdom, often citing specific Scriptural passages.

In these two works, Ryken demonstrates the literary excellence of God's inspired Word, and shows how His Word is the inspiration for much classic poetry. If you want to read about inspired writing, you can find Words of Delight here, and here in Canada. If you want to read some writing inspired by inspired writing, you can  find The Soul in Paraphrase here and here in Canada.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Animals by design

by ICR
illustrated by Susan Windsor
125 pages / 2018

Mexican walking fish, lantern fish, immortal jellyfish, and zorses – those are just some of the crazy creatures featured in this fun little book. Every two-page spread showcases another animal, and even when it’s one you’ve heard of before, there’s sure to be cool details that’ll surprise you.

Animals by Design is published by the Institute for Creation Research. That means that, in addition to all the fascinating facts, a clear Christian perspective is also included. The point of this book is to introduce our children to how awesome our God is: hey kids, just look at the amazing, bizarre, surprising, unique, and simply astonishing creatures He’s made!

This has been sitting on our coffee table, off and on, for a few months now, and it turns out I was the only one in the family who hadn’t been regularly reading it. My wife and girls had all been taking turns flipping through it. It’s an easy book to dip in and out of – it doesn’t require a big time commitment – because each animal can be read on its own. So, maybe this time I’ll learn a little about zorses, and the next time I sit down at the couch, I can always find out then what makes an immortal jellyfish immortal.

The colorful drawings will appeal to kids but it’s a kid's book that mom and dad and anyone interested in animals or science will love too. In the US you can find it at ICR.org and in Canada you can order it through the Creation Science Association of Alberta.

A couple of sample pages can be viewed below.



Saturday, December 21, 2019

God made Boys and Girls

by Marty Machowski 
32 pages / 2019

My not even six-year-old already knows that some people think girls can marry girls. And she knows God says that isn’t so. We haven’t had to talk – yet – about folks who think that girls can become boys, but when that time comes, this book will be a help.

The story begins with a fast little girl, Maya, outrunning the boys…so one of them teases her that this means she’s going to become a boy. And that gets her worried. Fortunately, this little girl has a great instructor, Mr. Ramirez, who teaches the class that gender is a “good gift from God.” He shares how, if you are a boy, then you are a boy right down to your DNA. And the same is true for girls too. Mr. Ramirez then brings things back to the very first boy and girl, Adam and Eve, and how their Fall into Sin happened because they wanted to do things their own way instead of God’s good way. Today some want to do try their own way – not God’s way – when it comes to their gender too. One of the many things I appreciated about this book was how clear kids were taught what’s right, and then encouraged to act kindly to those who are confused.

Finishing up the book are a couple of pages intended for parents, which, in small print, pack a lot of information on how to talk through gender with our kids. One caution: there is one depiction of Jesus, as a baby and with no real detail given, on a page noting that God the Son became a tiny speck inside a girl, Mary, and became a man. I don’t think this a violation of the Second Commandment, but maybe someone else might.

The only other caution is in regards to what isn’t tackled in this story: gender roles. God made us different, and He also gave the genders some different roles and also gave us some different general tendencies. So yes, as the book notes, some boys do like dancing, and some girls like car repair…but that’s not the general trend. And because the general trend is never noted in the book, this absence could, if left undiscussed, leave young readers with the impression that no such trends exist. Then they would fall for a different one of the world’s gender-related lies: that other than sexual biology, men and women aren’t different at all.

This is not a picture book you are going to read over and over with your children because it is more of a conversation starter than a story. But it is a wonderful help for parents in discussing an issue that none of us ever confronted when we were kids. It is a different world today, and we want to be the first to broach these topics with our kids. Reading and discussing a book with your little one is a fantastic way to do it.

For a peek at the first 7 pages, click here.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Mother Kirk

by Douglas Wilson
Canon Press, 2001, 283 pages

If "Listen to this" is one of your favorite phrases to say to others while you are reading a book, you know the book is worth not just listening to, but reading. Mother Kirk is that kind of book - a solidly Reformed look at, the front cover puts it, "Practical Ecclesiology."

In other words, Douglas Wilson tells us not just what the church is, but how to be the faithful people of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ according to His word - how to observe the Sabbath, issues of church music and liturgy (which was my "listen to this" chapter), church government and discipline, the character and call of God's shepherds in the church, and how to reach out to the world outside the church.

You can get a copy at Amazon.com by clicking here.

Monday, December 9, 2019

What's your worldview?

by James N. Anderson
112 pages 2014

If you’ve got fond memories of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books you’ll really enjoy this adult update. This time it’s a journey to discover our own worldview and, like the kids’ books, we keep coming to forks in the road. So, early on, we either agree there is objective truth and then go to page 22 or we say there isn’t and then go to page 91. A Christian reader flipping to page 22 will be asked to consider, “Is it possible to know the Truth?” The author James Anderson lays out the case for both options, after which we again have to choose which way we want to go. 

After a dozen or so steps, readers will eventually arrive at the worldview that matches their professed beliefs. Anderson is a Christian and his biases are acknowledged up front. So, even as he has challenging questions for anyone who lands on one of the other 20 worldviews, he also raises the problem of evil for Christians. He wants everyone to follow God, but he refuses to pretend as if Christians have it all figured out. 

Overall, I’d say the strength of the book is this really fun format and also it’s conciseness  – there is just so much packed in such a little space. I’d recommend it for teens as a graduation gift, and for college students and adults too. Maybe the best use of it is as a coffee table book, because it can be digested in chunks by choosing one “adventure” at a time.

To get a peek at the first 20 or so pages, you can find it here on the author’s website

And if you want to hear Dr. Anderson give an overview on worldviews, check out the 20-minute presentation below that he gave at the 2016 Ligonier Ministries National Conference.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Moon Is Always Round

by Jonathan Gibson; illustrated by Joe Hox
32 pages / 2019 / New Growth Press

The Moon Is Always Round is, I believe, the first picture book that put tears in my eyes. Jonathan Gibson tells the simple (true) story of how he, his wife. and his three-year-old son Benjamin waited excitedly for the arrival of a baby sister for Benjamin. The story is told in Benjamin's voice, with the persistent refrain from his Dad that "the moon is always round."

We do not learn until the end what that means. When Benjamin realizes that his sister will not be coming home, he is asked by his father at the funeral of the stillborn child, "What shape is the moon?" When Benjamin answers, "The moon is always round," Jonathan Gibson's further question - "What does that mean?" - is answered by Benjamin, "God is always good."

Gibson's story reminds us that God is always good, even when, as with the moon, we cannot see the full picture. This profound and poignant lesson is reason enough to read this book, on your own, and with your children, but Gibson uses the last three pages to

  • give children a clear understanding of the meaning of the moon's always being round;
  • show how Good Friday is the supreme example of God always being good (even when we can't see it);
  • give the detailed story of his use of the expression "The moon is always round" with his son, including where he first encountered those words; and
  • provide a "Catechism" for young readers or listeners about the meaning of the expression.

If you believe, as I do, that the moon is always round, and God is always good, and that Jonathan Gibson can help remind you and your loved ones of those facts, you can get his book here, and here in Canada.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Classical Me, Classical Thee: Squander Not Thine Education

by Rebekah Merkle
99 pages / 2017 / Canon Press

At first glance, the title rules this out for the general reader, but Classical Me, Classical Thee is a really good discussion of the basis for any Christian education. While Reformed Christian schools, for example, may not emphasize the Trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) of classical education, the justification for the subjects covered in classical Christian schools applies (or should apply) to Reformed education as well.

Rebekah Merkle uses several analogies to explain the "superpowers" that the classical curriculum gives to students (powers that a good Christian education will also provide). She stresses that such education is not only a "pizza with extra toppings" in comparison to public education but "a fundamentally different pizza." Why? Because the classical curriculum offers a more coherent view of life, the universe, and everything, since in addition to the seemingly miscellaneous puzzle pieces (facts and figures) of a secular worldview, classical education shows how to  comprehend and connnect those pieces by using the picture on the box (a Biblical foundation for students' varied studies).

So what are the superpowers bestowed by classical (and good Christian) education? For instance,

  • in Latin, we are given the basic structures of language that enable us to speak and write clearly (a good reminder of the importance of grammar studies in the English language as well);
  • literature teaches us to read for detail - something that reader-centered study of literature does not equip students for in post-secondary education or the real world;
  • logic prepares students to see through the false claims of our secular culture;
  • rhetoric, on the other hand, enables both classical and Christian students to defend the truth - and worldview study enables them to know what that truth is;
  • math and science show us not only the order in the universe, but also the divine source of that order - something hidden from public school students; and
  • history shows us how we got to the misunderstandings of secular culture, and therefore how to fruitfully address those misunderstandings.
Merkle's chapter on the Trivium is less relevant to the student or teacher of a general Christian school, but her conclusion is an urgent appeal to invest the superpowers (also known in Jesus' parable as talents) developed in Christian education to serve God in "faithful, creative ways."

If you think that Rebecca Merkle's book can help us in both classical and general Christian schools to "squander not thine education," you can get her book here, or here in Canada.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Amazing Dr. Ransom's Bestiary of Adorable Fallacies

A Field Guide for Clear Thinkers
by Douglas Wilson & N.D. Wilson
illustrated by Forrest Dickison
320 pages / 2015 / Canon Press


The authors of this guide to discovering and disarming logical fallacies have indeed revealed the adventures of an amazing globetrotting fallacy hunter, and their narrative will help us hunt down (and on occasion, kill) fallacies in our own interactions with fallacies and the people who love them.

That's exactly the problem (for all of us) with fallacies - they're so loveable. "The Amazing Dr. Ransom" (who claims to have been born in 1837 and have stayed healthy through the use of spider milk lotion) tells us how easily people allow fallacies into their lives and minds. Ransom deals with 50 fallacies in the following four categories: fallacies of distraction, of ambiguity, and of form; and millenial fallacies. Each of the fifty chapters

  • defines the fallacy and its dangers (showing it as a cuddly but vicious animal);
  • shows the fallacy, in Forrest Dickison's illustrations, in repose and on the attack;
  • explains how we, like Ransom, can defeat it;
  • gives the fallacy its other (sometimes better known) names; and
  • provides both discussion questions and exercises in recognizing examples of both fallacious and logical arguments.
The book also includes answers for all the questions in the back, as well as a schedule for teaching, reviewing and testing students' knowledge of logical fallacies, which helps make it ideal as a textbook for an English or philosophy course. But what makes the book fun is that both Ransom's adventures in confronting fallacies and the examples given are presented with satirical wit. I have never enjoyed reading about and puzzling out fallcies more.

Which brings me to the two cautions:
  1. On occasion the Wilsons, arguably, step over the line of discretion and good taste in the description of Dr. Ransom's confrontation with fallacious fools (always a peril in satire).
  2. The recognition exercises' answers in the back have no explanation. It helps if you share the Wilsons' Christian worldview and principled conservatism (as I generally do), but even then, I did not always agree with their answers. If I were to use this in my classroom, I would have to discuss every answer with the class as a whole (not in itself a bad thing).
Despite these considerations, I would love to see this as a textbook for my courses. If you agree that this book could help you defeat the fallacies that stalk us along all our mental trails, you can find it here, and here in Canada.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

If we survive

by Andrew Klavan
352 pages / 2013

This is a very different sort of story. When's the last time you've read Christian fiction that had someone dead by page 2?

Will Peterson is a 16-year-old visiting a small Central American village with his church's mission team, there to help rebuild the local cinder-block school. They've finished the work and are waiting in the cantina for the bus to take them back home when the room is suddenly filled with rebel soldiers and the pot-bellied, smiling waiter, who had been joking with them only moments before, is now on the floor, shot dead by the rebel leader.

What happens next is a not-so unusual chase-type adventure. The rebels have taken over the government and are executing anyone for any reason, and they don't want to let any American witnesses get out of the country alive. So now these church kids, along with an unexpected helper, are on the run, barely staying ahead of these murderous bandits.

What makes this something special is the characters in it. The most intriguing might be Jim Nolan, a 16-year-old intellectual who has read the biography and op-ed articles of the country's rebel leader...and who believes everything he's read. Even when the rebels start killing people, Jim is sure they're fighting for justice. Even when the guns are turned their direction, he's just as sure that it's all a horrible mistake, and if he can only talk to someone, things can straightened out. Jim steadfastly holds onto his rebel sympathies despite all the bloodshed around him. Author Andrew Klavan makes clear why Jim remains so loyal: because a lot of what he's being reading, about how the government was oppressing the country's poorest, is entirely true. Klavan isn't taking a cheap shot at the naivety of liberals here – this is a more nuanced look that admits the problems the Left points out might well be problems, even as the solutions they suggest are no solutions at all. Or, in the context of this story, just because the government is bad doesn't make the rebels good.

Will is also a well developed character. He came on the trip as a way of escaping his home life: mom and dad are always arguing and, he thinks, on the path to divorce. But now, unbelievably, things have gotten a whole lot worse, and as Will and the others bounce from one crisis to another, he has to battle a very understandable sense of panic. He does so by remembering two things:

  1. a Hemingway quote that cowardice is "a lack of ability to suspend the functioning of the imagination."
  2. advice from his youth pastor, who once told the group, "Don't worry about anything – pray about everything." 

CAUTIONS

While praying is always good advice, the way Will's prayers are depicted in the story makes it seems like it is more the act of praying, and not the God he is speaking to, that really helps Will.

Another caution worth noting is that while the church mission group is Protestant (and seemingly some sort of conservative Evangelical) there are postive, if brief, portrayals of other religions. This includes Roman Catholicism, in which a priest has a key role in saving them, and the villagers' ancient spirituality, when the missions group is invited to sit in on a pagan festival of lights. However, in both cases Will keeps to the facts, describing what they saw, but not digging into what it all means. A discerning reader would have reason to presume Klavan believes Roman Catholicism isn't importantly different from Protestantism, but that isn't a message the author is trying to hammer home here.

CONCLUSION

This is a gripping read that any teenage boy would really enjoy, and dad might not mind either. And if dad does join in, this could be a leap off point for some really good conversations about:
  • the American role as policeman of the world
  • one-sided news coverage, both from the Left and Right, and how that compares to what God tells us about the importance of hearing both sides in Prov. 18:17
  • courage and what it really involves
  • what prayer to God is actually
  • why we find nice people following other gods, or worshipping God in wrong ways
So, overall, I'd recommend this for teen guys with a little discernment, and a willingness to talk things through with their parents. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Tale of 61 Biographies

60 People Who Shaped the Church:
Learning from Sinners, Saints, Rogues, and Heroes
by Alton Gansky
316 pages / 2014
Baker Books

Jonathan Edwards: Lover of God
by Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney 
155 pages / 2010
Moody Publishers

They were the worst of times; they were the best of times. In church history, as in Charles Dickens'  view of the French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities, those statements could be applied simultaneously to any given era, since the church is both in the middle of fierce spiritual warfare, and yet she has already won in the victory of her Saviour over our sin and guilt. The two books shown in the titles above demonstrate how God uses saints, sinners, rogues, and a lover of God to spread the gospel, glorify Himself, and build up His church - and one of them is especially strong in applying that understanding to God's people today.

Alton Gansky shows us the lives of 60 "people" who shaped the church. The book could be called 60 Men Who Shaped the Church if it were not for the story of Fanny Crosby, the one woman profiled in the book. Her biography, like many of the men's, inspires us with both her attitude - not despairing in spite of being blind from infancy - and her contribution to the Christian church - over 9000 hymns, many still well known. In a collection of stories like this one, we could always name people who should have been dealt with, or quibble with the choice of some that were tackled, but Gansky deals with many figures who had impressive influence on the church.

The main caution that I would urge about Gansky's book is that he treads too lightly where the person discussed had a significant negative effect on the purity, doctrine, or practices of the church. For example, he does not mention the effect of Constantine's making Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire - the influx of many into the church whose profession of faith was likely not genuine. The same problem relates to the introduction of Arminian doctrine or Arminian methods of evangelism into the church. Gansky says nothing about the problems involved with these innovations.

Strachan and Sweeney have the advantage of dealing with a man who is well known for his solidly Reformed writing and preaching: Jonathan Edwards. What makes their biography particularly valuable is the application, at the end of each chapter, of Edwards' insights, virtues, and flaws to our own lives as "lovers of God." Their book is the first of five in The Essential Edwards Collection, and based on this one, the rest of the series promises to show us clearly how this prominent American theologian and preacher is both a source of insight and an example for our lives lived to the glory of God. My only caution would be that in urging our "duty to fight doubt" (as Edwards did), the authors recommend Tim Keller's The Reason for God - a book that indeed addresses many of the reasons for doubt, but also compromises with the theory of evolution. Other than that, this is an excellent introduction to an American whose work and life both have much to teach us.

If you think that you can learn from saints, sinners, and rogues about how God built up His church, you can find Gansky's book here, and here in Canada. And if you think that we can use the example and wisdom of Jonathan Edwards to grow in your love for God, you can find Strachan and Sweeney's book here, and here in Canada.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

You Who? Why you matter & how to deal with it

by Rachel Jankovic
235 pages / 2019

I began reading my wife’s copy of You Who? only after she shared comments from the online critics who were savaging it. A good encouraging review won’t necessarily sell me a book – I have too many others stacked up already competing for my attention – but when a certain sort of critic just hates a book then my curiosity is piqued and I want to know, “What could have gotten them that riled up?” So I owe Rachel Jankovic’s detractors thanks for getting me started on one of the best books I’ve read this year.

The author’s premise is simple: “Who am I?” is a question everyone asks and most of us answer badly. The most common answers involve our jobs: people will say “I’m a farmer” or “I am a small business owner.” But there’s a problem with identifying with our career: we can lose our job, or retire from it. And who are we then?

Others will identify themselves with their abilities or interests (“I am an artist,” or “I am a surfer”), or in their marital status (“I am single”), what groups they belong to (“I am Canadian”), or in not belonging to any groups (”I am a free spirit”). And many women look for their identity in the roles of wife and mother.

But here, too, problems exist because here, too, things can change: over time our abilities fade and our interests can shift. Over time the country we were once proud of may betray the values we thought it held. And over time even the most loving spouse will repeatedly let us down. Sure, our children can be a frequent source of pride and joy, one week sitting side by side in the church pew, hair combed, shoes polished, lovingly sharing the songbooks, but the next week it’s just as likely you’ll be taking two out at a time, their legs kicking and little lungs giving full vent to their protests in front of the whole congregation. If we find our identity in being the perfect parent, it doesn’t take any time at all for that bubble to burst.

So if those are all wrong answers to the "Who am I?" question, then what’s the right one? Jankovic wants to:

“encourage and equip believing women to see their identity in Christ as the most essential part of them, and to see all the ways that will work its way out in their lives, manifesting itself as strength, dignity, and clarity of purpose.”

Encouraging believers to make Christ our first and foremost shouldn’t be controversial. So why were critics upset? Because they were confused, mistaking Jankovic’s call to God-honoring obedience for some sort of legalistic works righteousness.

There’s a sense in which that’s understandable. Legalism (or works righteousness) and antinomianism (or lawlessness) are a set of paired theological errors. The legalist can’t believe God’s grace is really free, so he wants to earn it by obeying God’s law and, like the Pharisees of old, will even add to and expand on God’s laws. Meanwhile, antinomians recognize that the law can’t justify us and conclude that since we can’t measure up to God’s standard then Jesus must have come to abolish all those pesky Commandments.

These are huge, dangerous errors, but if you speak out against one, it’s inevitable someone will mistake your point and think you are a proponent of the opposite error. And that’s what’s happened here.

In the Reformed circles that this magazine serves we all know we can’t earn our way to heaven, but if we have a tendency to err in one direction or the other then we’re probably more likely to tip in the legalistic direction (just think of all the additional rules we once had for Sunday and how often we heard "dat niet op Zondag").

But in the evangelical world – Jankovic’s target audience – the error is on the other side. In those circles many believe sin is no big deal because, after all, the more we mess up, the more it just shows how gracious God is. Or as the current star of the Bachelorettereality TV show (a self-professing Christian) put it this past month, after she had sex with one contestant and went naked bungee jumping with another:

“I refuse to feel shame….I am standing firm in believing that maybe God wants to use a mess like me to point to his goodness and grace.”

What this neglects is the Apostle Paul’s answer to the question, “Shall we then continue in sin that grace may abound?” to which he gave a definitive, “By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2). Of course, we shouldn’t expect solid theology from reality TV. But this antinomianism – lawlessness – is working itself out in the audience of evangelical wives and moms that Jankovic is speaking to.

There we find that the false identities some Christian women are adopting, are giving them reasons to disobey God’s call to faithful, mundane, day-after-day obedience. A mom who finds her identity in her abilities will ignore her children in favor of her career aspirations. Or if she’s made herself the center of her world, then she’ll have every reason to skip the laundry folding and partake in a little “me time” instead. And if her kids become her identity, then neglecting her husband to give the little ones more attention can be spun as downright virtuous.

That’s what it can look like, but as much as these identities promise us meaning and fulfillment, they never deliver. Jankovic wants us to understand we were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Our identity is in Christ. We were made to worship. That’s our identity: God worshippers. And His people give Him glory by doing the good works that He has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10).

Does that mean folding laundry is the key to pleasing God? Well, God might be calling you to get at that pile of clothes and, if so, then you should obey. Then that is how you can glorify Him. But the kids' homework might be a more important priority, and then that unfolded pile can also glorify God as you, in loving obedience, help with homework instead.

I am not a mom or a wife, but this book was a help to me too. There wasn't all that much in here that I didn't already know but it served as a much-needed reminder that I am not what I do. I’m at that stage of life where joints are giving out, and it’s more obvious now than it has ever been that I am no athlete. Before I read You Who? that was getting me down. But there is joy to be found when, instead of finding my identity in my athletic ability (or lack thereof) I bow my knee and ask my God and King, “How can I honor You?” When I make Him my focus, then it turns out I’m still able to throw a ball far enough to play with the three kids God has given me to raise and nurture. I can't glorify myself anymore in my athletic endeavors, but in playing with the kids He's given me, it turns out I can glorify Him. I can still, in this way, do what I was made to do. And instead of being depressed at being able to do less, I can be content knowing God isn’t concerned with the declining volume of my output.

But, as Jankovic notes, He does demand everything I have to give. If that sounds like a lot, of course, it is. Jankovic emphasizes obeying God in the day-to-day grind, making every moment about Him. We're not going to succeed at that, but when we understand what Christ has done for us, and how we are His, then we will want to try. And in trying, we will glorify Him. In failing we will also glorify Him. And we can glorify him, too, in repenting and then, secure in what Christ has done for us on the cross, going to bed assured of forgiveness and getting ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

If I’m not making this sounds exciting, then that’s a good reason for you to pick up You Who? where Rachel Jankovic says it a lot better. And if you are excited, well, what are you waiting for? You're going to love You Who?

I’d recommend it for any study group, women or men, and if your group is interested, then be sure to check out the study group e-book that you can download for free here.