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1.0 out of 5 stars Walter Mitty with a Mean Streak, December 19, 2011
The irony of the philosophy contained in these pages is that Nietzsche was an absolute failure in living his own thought out. He was a tiny little eccentric man in ill health who bounced from country to country in obscurity and penury. Is his Superman everything he is not or did he actually think he qualified? He neither raised a family (who could have a relationship with such a maniac), was economically self-sufficient, nor could retain his sanity (I assume he once had it). Without accomplishment in the terrestial world to even rival the common man he loathed he Quixotically waved his fist defiantly at God. It says a lot about a person who takes this thought seriously even after witnessing its practical fulfillment in Nazism. The antidote for all of those who read Nietzsche is to give an honest attempt to "love your neighbour as yourself". To this thought I say, "Caveat emptor."

Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don't Have to Do
Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don't Have to Do
by Phillip Cary
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.79
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evangelical Schleiermacher, May 23, 2011
Although Phillip Cary would be aghast being associated to the liberal theologian Schleiermacher, I think his book had a similar effect on me as did "On Religion: Speeches to its Cultural Despisers." After reading Schleiermacher I felt that he had decimated the opposition without providing a rally cry for his own position (granted he was a German Liberal who Cary would be diametrically opposed to). Cary likewise decimates the "new evangelical theology" (or repackaged old liberal theology) yet I felt left still wanting more from him. Cary always has a well thought out position - from his impressive educational background I expect nothing less - but to borrow thoughts from Jeremiah he seems to more thoroughly pull down than build up. At points in the book I was certain he had exposed error but did not feel he presented with the same deliberation building his own position. This is not a criticism of the book - I got its objective - it is rather an encouragement for Cary to continue writing. Now that he has masterfully exposed error I hope his next book will focus on what he has learned and believes from his time spent studying the Bible and the early church fathers.

Protestants these days need more leaders like Cary who are serious thinkers rather than the popular "pedlar of wares" who dominate the Christian airwaves. Carey is right, true Christians want to hear more about Jesus rather than self-help improvement lists!

The New Testament and the People of God/ Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol.1 (Christian Origins and the Question of God (Paperback))
The New Testament and the People of God/ Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol.1 (Christian Origins and the Question of God (Paperback))
by N. T. Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: $24.89
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Paul not Eloquent but Powerful, May 24, 2009
After reading the prose of N.T. Wright you will never confuse his eloquence with C.S. Lewis. That said, he is the first New Testament historian I have read that has his feet firmly planted in reality.

The reader quickly sees that Wright has an exceptionally broad and in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. What separates him from the herd is that when given the evidence he never overreaches conclusions that cannot be drawn, therefore avoiding the pitfall of creating mythic fantasy unlike his scholarly historical Jesus predecessors.

I have previously not read a book dealing with Christianity, Judaism and Paganism that gave each religion a fair hearing; this does. I write as a Christian and therefore my own bias I am sure has blinded me somewhat; it would be interesting to hear a Jewish opinion.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to study the origins of Christianity because of its masterful scholarship. Your ears will not be tickled with eloquence and at times the read is dry, but you will never feel you are not learning something of high value, regardless of the chapter you are in. I look forward to reading more from N.T. Wright.

Sextus Empiricus: Outlines of Scepticism (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy)
Sextus Empiricus: Outlines of Scepticism (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy)
by Jonathan Barnes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $115.00
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a Sceptical Review, February 24, 2009
Sextus Empiricus reveals the Sceptic m.o. of seeking opposing arguments with equal likelihood, resulting in tranquility of mind resting in indecision. Dogmatists, he states, are the ones who cannot live the blessed life; not finding equilibrium in indecision. Most readers will likely not buy that argument along with quite a few other opposing arguments presented as being equally likely. Empiricus still gives a lot of quality arguments from a unique perspective of thought. The book is a recommended read for its historical and novel thought process. The book is intellectually stimulating and at times even humorous - for example the time when a Cynic debates a Sceptic over motion:

"One of the Cynics, when the argument against motion was propounded [from a Sceptic], gave no answer but stood up and walked away, establishing by his action and evidently that motion is real."

Not being exposed previously to first hand Sceptic reasoning I was pleasantly surprised by its legitimate ideas and entertainment value. I believe those interested in history and philosophy will also feel the better for reading the book.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 25, 2009 6:05 PM PDT

The Sentences Book 1: The Mystery of the Trinity (Mediaeval Sources in Translation)
The Sentences Book 1: The Mystery of the Trinity (Mediaeval Sources in Translation)
by Peter Lombard
Edition: Paperback
Price: $40.95
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ignored Masterpiece, February 15, 2009
At last Peter Lombard, The Sentences is available to us in English, for those of us who cannot read Latin. Thank you for your labour of love Giulio Silano! Book One was a delightful read. Lombard's knowledge of church fathers, established orthodox theology and skilled commentary make Book One of the Sentences priceless. With Lombard, the reader soon accepts that the subject matter of the Divine Trinity is inexhaustible and will never be fully known by man. The pursuit of God however is the most fruitful enterprise that man can pursue. The Sentences is meant to be a theology textbook for all seminary students and was such throughout the Middle Ages. Alas today it is mostly ignored.

I do not think that I can overstate the point; any seminary that does not require full reading of the Sentences is doing the laity a disservice. Outside of the Bible I am not aware of a more worthwhile read than the Sentences. It is inexplicable to me why they have been entirely ignored in the modern era. The age of Laodicea might have something to do with it. To both Protestant and Catholic Book One of the Sentences should be completely accepted.

I would like to quote a few favourite excerpts.

1. Quoting Augustine Lombard writes, "How great a God is he who gives God [Holy Spirit]?"

2. The fact that El, which means God, is not used and Elohim, which can be translated as gods or judges, is used instead, is related to the plurality of persons. - It pertains to the same point that the devil said through the serpent: You shall be like gods, for which the Hebrew Elohim is used, as if to say: You shall be like divine persons.

3. In order that this may be taught more intelligently and perceived more fully, a certain premise must be made which is very necessary to this end. It has been said above, and it has been shown by sacred authorities, that the Holy Spirit is the love of the Father and the Son by which they love each other and us. It must be added to this that the very same Holy Spirit is the love or charity by which we love God and neighbour. When this charity is in us, so that it makes us love God and neighbour, then the Holy Spirit is said to be sent or given to us; and whoever loves the very love by which he loves his neighbour, in that very thing loves God, because that very love is God, that is, the Holy Spirit.

I strongly recommend reading the Sentences. You will not go unchanged.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 24, 2012 1:07 PM PST

The Courage to Be
The Courage to Be
by Paul Tillich
Edition: Paperback
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14 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No Exit, July 27, 2008
This review is from: The Courage to Be (Paperback)
Tillich believes that modern man's predominant anxiety is a sense of meaninglessness leading to despair. This is the Existentialist's plight. Tillich states that meaninglessness has not always been the predominant concern. In prior ages it had been death and later guilt.

In order to resolve the angst of modern man, Tillich imposes upon himself that "The answer must accept, as its precondition, the state of meaninglessness." This precondition creates the cul-de-sac for his rational argument.

Tillich himself, offers the naïve solution of "The faith which creates the courage to take [meaninglessness/anxiety] into itself has no special content. It is simply faith, undirected, absolute. It is undefinable, since everything defined is dissolved by doubt and meaninglessness."

In other words, Tillich suggests that to resolve meaninglessness and despair one should resort to having faith without subject matter.

Tillich further explains himself by stating the requisite courage/faith is not without subject matter but rather is in "pure being" or "the God above God". This is nonsense. The God of the Bible is the great "I AM", pure being. There is no God above God.

By giving the proposition "God above God" Tillich is either:

a) making a substitution identical to that which is being substituted, making the proposition gibberish

b) removing God from the equation, replacing Him with the power of being within ourselves as the basis for our courage (what an ersatz this exchange would be, a finite force within ourselves, leading to certain death, rather than a personal God who could be implored that held the power to gift eternity).


c) replacing the definition of God handed down through the ages and substituting it for one, more amenable to his existentialist philosophy. In so doing he is falling into the trap of creating god in his own image. One also would have to ask the question why he feels he should be trusted with elucidating to mankind who God is, using his reason alone? The credentials of Jesus and Moses are likely more qualified for this which is likely why their assertions are believed more than those of Tillich.

If you were not certain before reading this book that Existentialist philosophy has no real legitimate answers for meaning in life this book should provide another nail in the coffin towards that conclusion.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 11, 2015 6:02 AM PDT

What is Christianity?
What is Christianity?
by Adolf von Harnack
Edition: Paperback
Price: $21.33
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13 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What is Christianity if Jesus were merely a prophet, June 15, 2008
This review is from: What is Christianity? (Paperback)
Harnack considers himself an imitator of Jesus, the man who did nothing more than (as a mere man) manifest the way to the Father for his fellow man. His book quite eloquently walks through church history from this novel premise and perspective.

The book contains many astute points. To highlight a few:

He agrees with Goethe "Let intellectual and spiritual culture progress, and the human mind expand, as much as it will; beyond the grandeur and the moral elevation of Christianity, as it sparkles and shines in the Gospels, the human mind will not advance."

The Pharisees proclaimed God through commands and earthly trade in contrast to Jesus who proclaimed God through the soul's nobility and love.

Meanings given to life that are not eternal are merely trite sophisms.

The cross cannot be gainsaid by philosophical argument. It is too sublime for man to reason against.

The power of the nascent church demonstrated itself by keeping its integrity while conquering all the three entrenched powers of its time - nature worship, state religion and pagan philosophy

The Roman Catholic Church is merely the continuation of the Roman Empire and is the opposite of the early Christian church at Rome in many ways.

Reformation always applies Ockham's razor by purifying down to the essentials.

Now the problems:

Harnack denies miracle yet speaks of a God who can "compel Nature" and by this, speaks in riddles. If God is above nature why can't He overrule the Nature He has made? Furthermore, how does Harnack think he possesses the qualifications, as a creature within Nature, to explain on behalf of God His limitations within His creation? Remedial reading of Job chapter 38 could have erased Harnack's presumption.

Harnack states " The Gospel nowhere says that God's mercy is limited to Jesus' mission." Is Harnack aware of John 14:6 "Jesus saith unto him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.?"

Finally, Harnack's denial of the Divinity of Christ and consequently the Trinity define him as a Christian heretic. His castigation of Luther for stopping short of eradicating these dogmatic curses from the church is certainly shocking to orthodox Christian ears.

For doctrine (which Harnack does not have much use for) the book is a zero star. For historical insight subsequent to 200 A.D. the book is at least a three. I will give it a two with hesitation.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 27, 2008 7:03 PM PST

Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature
Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature
by Jan M. Ziolkowski
Edition: Paperback
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Productive Time Spent While in Exile, May 25, 2008
History often proves that good can come out of bad situations. The apostle Paul's imprisonment forcefully slowed him down and gave mankind priceless letters. Erich Auerbach's flight and exile gave him leisure to write this masterpiece of which the West is in his debt.

Every chapter is very rewarding and rich. I would like to selectively comment on my three favourites:

Odysseus Scar - Compares the truth in Old Testament biblical stories whose events force us to think of their meaning in our lives with Homeric literature and Epic that primarily concerns itself with entertainment allowing the reader to merely relax and enjoy its eloquence without threat or discomfort.

Fortunata - Explains how the New Testament introduced a new way of showing reality, capturing dialogue between regular people. It is also groundbreaking by consciously portraying a deeper spiritual truth within its text. Auerbach suggests the New Testament is clearly a development off of the Jewish style rather than the Greek or Roman. In making his points Auerbach coincidentally offers support to supporters of the traditional authorship of the New Testament and it's intended portrayal of reality rather than myth.

The Interrupted Supper - Auerbach's masterstroke in criticizing the thought of Voltaire, which depends on the oversimplification of the opposing point of view in order to discredit and smear it, opened my mind to the danger of the lovable decorous little old man whose eloquence and seemingly innocuous ideas can create a chain of nefarious events in its wake. The most dangerous evil can be that which is disguised. Auerbach who believed he paid the price of the consequences of Voltaire's technique should be treated in this chapter as a sage for 21st century man.

Before reading this book I had little interest in the topic of literary criticism. After reading the book I still have little interest in its study but for a different reason. Auerbach has given me the impression that he has touched on the point that matters most when trying to understand the classics of literature and for that I am grateful.

The Quest of the Historical Jesus
The Quest of the Historical Jesus
by Albert Schweitzer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.58
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65 of 129 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Orthodox Point of View, April 23, 2008
I am surprised the reviews are so one-sided over such a controversial subject matter. Let me provide an orthodox counterview.

Schweitzer spends 18 chapters going through various Germanic attempts at trying to remove all miracle and supernatural content within the Gospel texts while maintaining some coherent historical documentation that corrects the historical record.

The elimination of miracle and the requisite substitution of storyline from the imaginations of these men to fill the gaps leave Schweitzer to admit in more than one instance the ridiculousness of the "new history".

Schweitzer, however misses the starting point of what is at issue in his book. He presumes as axiomatic that neither miracles nor a theophany can happen in history. By definition this cannot be axiomatic because many great minds throughout history stedfastly believe both to be possible.

At a minimum Schweitzer should have presented the circular argument of Hume ("Miracles do not exist because I haven't witnessed any, therefore miracles cannot exist") before he began to present 18 meandering chapters of various theories from arm-chair historians postulated 19 centuries after the fact.

A tiring theme that Schweitzer harps on and on about is the sequence of events in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and John. However, the only Gospel that claims to record events in historical sequence is Luke and therefore Schweitzer is making an argument where there is none.

Opposed to the arm-chair theologians is the veracity of the text claimed to be told by eyewitnesses or close associates of eyewitnesses to the events and the price paid by them (death in over 90% of the cases) for the story they held to.

"The Quest of The Historical Jesus" will confirm, regardless of which side of the debate you are on, the following points:

1) The belief on Jesus Christ is a matter of Faith.
2) The Gospels stripped of miracles and the divinity of Christ become nonsense and incoherent.
3) The Christ of Schweitzer, who is merely a philosophical ideal of the early church rather than the God/Man in history, is no threat to the spirit of any age and does not get in the way of man being "the measure of all things."

It should not surprise that the Early Church and the power of its Miraculous Jesus of History, from a position of weakness, was able to transform the Roman Empire into the Holy Roman Empire, while the German Church of Schweitzer and his contemporaries with their philosophical ideal, from a position of strength and acceptance, could not withstand the forces of evil in Germany that would haunt mankind in the 20th century.
Comment Comments (37) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 6, 2015 9:56 AM PST

What I Believe
What I Believe
by Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.99
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3 of 37 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Apology for Pacifism, January 25, 2008
This review is from: What I Believe (Paperback)
Tolstoy complains theologians transformed the commands of Christ into meaning commands that could be practically followed by men in the world.

Out of respect for the same theologians he then goes on to downgrade Christ's command to "love one's enemies" into his practical doctrine of pacifism that man is able to follow.

Tolstoy confidently asserts that his liberating work, "What I Believe", has corrected eighteen centuries of misinterpretation of Christ's teachings by Christendom. His hubris knows no bounds by going on to deny the divinity of Christ. One gets the impression that Tolstoy thinks his book is a better Gospel of Christ than what is offered in the Cannon.

Practically speaking, Tolstoy would have been more productive to mankind completing War and Peace, leaving theology to those who study it.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 28, 2016 7:59 AM PST

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