Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Then comes marriage

by Angela Hunt and Bill Myers
2001 / 137 pages

This is a great book. It’s funny and serious, goofy and intellectual all at the same time.

Then Comes Marriage is the story of Heather and Kurt Stone as they celebrate their first anniversary. While Heather and Kurt are madly in love, you’ve likely never met two more clueless individuals. As an anniversary present he gives her a four-wheel drive truck, and she gives him a collage of photos and ticket stubs from the months of their courtship. What neither seems to understand is that the present they give the other person is really what they wanted themselves.

Fireworks result, and this short novel or “novella” is spent sorting out the mess, and trying to figure out just what it is that God wants Heather and Kurt to bring to their marriage.

The story is definitely funny, and it makes some wonderfully serious points in a light-hearted way. It’s rarely preachy yet manages to provoke thought. This would be a wonderful book to stir discussion in a marriage preparation course or perhaps in a high school life skills course. Of course, it’s also great to read just because you want to dig into a good book.

The only real problem I had with the book is the price. At nearly $20 Canadian new, it’s a lot of money for such a tiny book. On the bright side, the book comes very solidly bound in a nice hardcover edition. And there are lots of used copies going for just a few bucks.

This is the kind of book that’s meant for sharing because of it’s lively story and important message, and with it’s rugged construction, it’s the kind of book you should be able to share for years to come. Then Comes Marriage is not only a book worth buying, but a book worth keeping.

You can buy a copy at Amazon.com here and Amazon.ca here.

Reviewed by James Dykstra

Friday, November 24, 2017

Eric says...thanks, sorry, and please

Dai Hankey has a great voice, and has paired up with a fantastic illustrator for his three books about Eric, and how this little fellow learns to say thanks, please, and sorry. Usually an author's voice isn't all that relevant, but in the three videos below we get to listen in as he reads his books (which can all be found at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca). Fun stuff!

Eric Says Thanks
32 pages / 2016

In Eric Says Thanks this little boy models some fantastic enthusiasm as he learns Who to give credit to for the goodness he's been giving in his "brecky."

Eric Says Sorry
32 pages / 2016

When Eric messes up he tries all sorts of way to get out of trouble, but lying, shifting blame, and coming up with excuses don't get him anywhere. But when his dad gives him grace - epic grace! - and pays for the broken pot, Eric gets a glimpse at the grace God gives us. We can't earn forgiveness. But we can ask for it.

Parents with highly developed "arminian sniff detectors" might detect a hint of this theology in the author's commentary after the book concludes. But if it's there (and I don't know if it is) it certainly isn't anything that children will notice or be impacted by. And, more to the point, it doesn't come up in the book.

Eric Says Please
32 pages / 2017

Eric wants to show he can do it all himself, but the little fellow soon learns that pride goeth before a fall...right out of a tree!  When Eric finally realizes he can't do it on his own, his grandfather points Eric to Who he can go to, to ask for help.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Literature Through the Eyes of Faith

by Susan V. Gallagher and Roger Lundin
192 pages / 1989

I am not the only person I know who considers this a really good read. At a teachers' convention I attended recently, a university professor quoted paragraphs from this book several times, and this presenter also referred to it as a "trusty guide" (or words to that effect).

So why is this nearly 30-year-old textbook still worth reading? Well, as the Foreword (by Nicholas Wolterstorff, himself a generally trusty Christian guide to philosophy) shows, Literature Through the Eyes of Faith carries out two important tasks in responding to literature. It both maps out a more than merely Romantic way of looking at literature and outlines how to respond to (fairly) recent critical approaches to literature.

So... what does that mean? Well, let's start with the "Romantic" view of literature. The authors show how as the Enlightenment undermined Western cultures' trust in Biblical revelation, writers and critics began to justify the writing and study of literature as a search for wisdom and self-improvement. The problem with that approach is that it treated literature as almost inspired. It also ultimately left no room to evaluate literature by outside standards (like the Bible).

At the same time, the authors stress "that the reading and writing of literature are forms of human action and... have the same potential for good or evil as any of our actions." In other words, the same piece of literature can indeed point to the truth (as the Romantics emphasized) - but can also be used to glamorize or justify evil. Of course, if literature is truly capable of promoting both good and evil, the interpretation of literature becomes very important. The authors show the problems with both many secular methods of interpreting literature and naive approaches to literature by well-meaning Christians who fail to account for the contexts and purposes of the stories, poems, and plays they read. They show both that not just "anything goes" in evaluating a work of literature, but that we must be willing to give time and careful reading and study to given works, authors, and forms of literature before we label any of them as being not worth a Christian's time and energy. The same is true when we consider what works are worthy of being included in "the canon" - the literature that everyone should study.

What makes all this more than dry definition is the range of people drawn into their discussion - from church fathers and classic Christian writers to scientists to writers promoting the American mythos: Augustine, William Bradford, Emily Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Irenaeus, Stephen King, C. S. Lewis, John Milton, Sir Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare, and Mark Twain (to name only the more obvious ones that are dealt with over several pages each).

My only quibble with the book might demonstrate my ignorance, rather than their mistake. The authors make a different distinction between form and genre than I typically use with my students. I have called form the description of HOW a story is told - for example, in poetry, in a novel, in a short story, or in a play. Genre, in my use of the term, refers to WHAT the story is about - a romance, a western, a fantasy, an adventure story, a war story, a comedy, a tragedy, or many, many others. As for the authors' use of these two words, you will have to read the book to see whether it is more accurate or useful than mine.

If you think that Gallagher and Lundin can help you see Literature Through the Eyes of Faith, you can order it at Amazon.com here and Amazon.ca here.