Friday, January 28, 2011

The Best of Father Brown

by G.K Chesterton
Various editions

To talk about the "best" of Father Brown suggests that somewhere there's a "worst" of Father Brown, or at least that there's some stories about this character that really aren't that good. If those stories exist, I have yet to find them.

Father Brown is the hero of G.K. Chesteron's mystery stories. He is a small, unassuming Roman Catholic priest who seems to be so innocuous that he's ready to fade into the background and disappear. Yet what makes Brown unique is that he has an unusually clear insight into the depths of human depravity. If I didn't know that Father Brown was a Catholic, I would've assumed he was a Calvinist.

Each mystery in this collection story has a seemingly unsolvable crime as its starting point. The local justice officials are stumped, yet somehow this overlooked little priest jumps to the right conclusion. He is embarrassed to explain this unique talent, but you finally learn that Father Brown puts himself into the mind of the criminal, imagining what base desires motivate him and how that conforms to the known facts. With this information, he deduces who the culprit must be.

While it's fascinating to see who Father Brown fingers as the culprit, it's also intriguing to see what he does with the villain once he learns who that is. He doesn't always turn the culprit in. As a priest, Father Brown's first concern is with the sinner's eternal soul and not with temporal punishment. When he can he extracts a confession and repentance from the criminal. As a priest, he's then obligated to keep this confession confidential according to Catholic church rules. While I'd have to take issue with this approach - repentance doesn't necessarily mean that there's no penalty - I do have to admire the overwhelming concern shown for the spiritual well being of even the most vile offenders. There's a lesson that we could all learn better.

The Father Brown stories are great mysteries full of interesting characters told by a master writer. The best part about it is that if you like these stories, there's plenty more Father Brown books to read after this one.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Fallacy Detective

Thirty-Eighy Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning

by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn
Christian Logic, 2015, 214 pages

reviewed by Adolph Dykstra

Two young fellows, brothers Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn wrote this book as a course in logic for the Christian home-schooling adherents. Why? Let them tell you:
“We see a need for Christians to strive for a higher standard of reasoning. We believe God wants his people to become aware of their lack of discernment, and logic is an important part of the science of discernment. For instance, many Christians adopt beliefs and practice without properly evaluating the arguments which are used to support them. We need to rediscover the way of the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily to see if the apostles’ teachings were true (Acts 17:10-11). 
“As we grow older, we become more aware of how poor many people’s reasoning is. But we also need to realize how poor our own reasoning is. This is a humbling thought, and with it we embark on a journey towards higher standards of reasoning. We will never be as logical as the Lord Jesus Christ was, but we must work at it. 
“Besides just learning logic, we also see a need for a truly Christian logic. We want to take logic back from the unbelievers. Our challenge is to define good reasoning in a truly biblical way. Logic was not invented by a pagan philosopher named Aristotle. Logic is the science of thinking the way God thinks (more correctly, the way God wants us to think) – the way Jesus taught us to think…”
This book is…

This book is for all Christians… It is important that we learn our reasoning skills from a genuinely Christian worldview.

This book focuses on practical logic… It teaches you to recognize the everyday fallacies you are confronted with in your work, in the newspaper, in advertisements, in listening to politicians, and also in our discussions with brothers and sisters in Christ.

This book is self teaching. It is written in an easy-to-read style that reminds me a bit of the best of the for Dummies books, but I can assure you, you’ll learn a lot and enjoy it while doing so.

Two thumbs way up

Supposedly this book was written for children and parents to use together, and there is no doubt that it could be an effective teaching tool that way. But it is much more than that. The first few lessons are easy enough and might lull you into thinking the book is just for children, but as you progress, you’ll enjoy the challenges of recognizing and refuting many more difficult fallacies. So the book is truly for all ages.

Most of the lessons deal with a single fallacy, give an example or two, and end with varied exercises that sharpen your thinking processes so that you can solve them as they become progressively more difficult.

The fallacies covered include many that are readily recognized by most of us, such as loaded questions, red herrings, weak analogies, and generalizations. But many are new to almost all of us. How many times haven’t you listened to a speech or read a newspaper article and thought to yourself, “there’s something wrong with that scenario, but I just can’t put my finger on it.” Learning to recognize a fallacy is also the beginning of being able to respond to it.

In short, I heartily recommend this book on the Christian view of logic. It is suitable for anyone from teens to senior citizens; all that it requires is a desire to learn practical logic skills. It would also be a valuable addition to the curriculum of our Christian schools.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A lightbulb moment

This is from my (Jon) comic blog I figured it was about a book - the Book, in fact - so a little cross-pollination was appropriate.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Meaning and Mode of Baptism

by Jay E. Adams
1975 / 56 pages

Immersion or Sprinkling? And does it really matter?

The answer Jay Adams gives to the second question is an emphatic yes, first because baptism itself matters – it is one of only two sacraments God gave us – and second, because, as a sacrament, baptism is symbolic, and the mode by which it is performed is part of the symbolism. So if baptism should be done by immersion, then we would see in the descent into the water and emerging from it, our sharing in Christ’s burial and resurrection. But if sprinkling is the proper mode, then we would see something very different being symbolized: the descent of the Holy Spirit upon us, and His purification of our lives.

The rest of this 56-page booklet is spent answering the first question. Adams defends the traditional Reformed practice of baptism by sprinkling and argues that not only is this permissible, it is the only proper way to do baptism. He makes his case by showing the link between baptism and Old Testament purifications, which were done via sprinkling. He also dissects the texts used by immersionists to make their case, and shows how these texts actually assume sprinkling, rather than immersion.

Best studied with an open Bible at hand, this tiny tome requires, but also rewards a reader’s effort.