Wednesday, 19 August 2015

SOUL MATES by John R Little

Soul MatesSoul Mates by John R. Little
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Identical twins share a connection that even modern science doesn’t fully understand. Closer than mere blood can bind, deeper than any sibling bond, one cell, one mind, one beginning.

Alannah Clark has found the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. A magician – but magicians have secrets – secrets that might outweigh Alannah’s own dark corners. But nothing remains hidden forever.

Magic, thrills, romance, suspense, and sorrow are the emotions of John R. Little’s newest and darkest thoughts. Fans are sure to get a thrill ride as he unleashes his newest adventure.

MY REVIEW: I have just realised that the author of SOUL MATES is also the author of another book I have read - DARKNET - which was excellent! SOUL MATES is also a great read with an intriguing plot - although I worked out what was going on pretty early on in the story. The story is concise, fast-paced, twists and turns and is a great read if you want something light and entertaining. And, if you want to, you can have a bit of a think about some of the ethical questions - which I can't tell you without giving the plot away. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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Thursday, 13 August 2015

GUNNING FOR GOD by John C Lennox

Gunning for GodGunning for God by John C. Lennox
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Atheism is on the march in the western world, and its enemy is God. Religion, the "New Atheists" claim, "is dangerous", it "kills" or "poisons everything". And if religion is the problem with the world, their answer is simple: get rid of it. But are things really so straightforward? Tackling the likes of Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett head on, John Lennox highlights the fallacies in the their approach, arguing that their irrational and unscientific methodology leaves them guilty of the same obstinate foolishness of which they accuse dogmatic religious folks. Erudite and wide-ranging, Gunning for God packs some debilitating punches. It also puts forward new ideas about the nature of God and Christianity that will give the New Atheists' best friends and worst enemies alike some stimulating food for thought.

MY REVIEW: There is much to like about this book. But there are also some significant problems which means it doesn't really pack the 'debilitating punches' that the description on the book suggests. Firstly, I love a fiery debate. And, while GUNNING FOR GOD does not contain contributions by the so-called "New Atheists", John Lennox has been involved in debates with a number of them. And Lennox's rhetoric in the book is fiery and witty. I enjoyed that aspect of the book. Secondly, many of the points the author makes about the arguments of some of the atheists he is responding to are good. Polemicists like Richard Dawkins and (the late) Christopher Hitchens often offer arguments that are not evidence-based and, particularly in Dawkins' case, appear ignorant of some of the nuances, range and complexity of some Christian beliefs.

There are areas, however, where the book is inadequate. One of these is in the chapter entitled "Can we be good without God?". The answer is obviously "yes". Millions of people live ethical lives without believing in the Christian god (which is what Lennox is debating). The problem with Lennox's approach is that he argues over whether it is possible to have ABSOLUTE moral standards without God. The focus on absolute morality is really a straw man argument because no atheist I know of wants to argue for absolute morality. Most atheist arguments around morality promote the idea of a more pragmatic approach to morality, suggesting that ethical guidelines are required for humanity to live together in ways that promote their well being. So, in some ways, Lennox's focus on absolute moral standards misses the point.

The last third or so of the book becomes an apologetic for miracles and Christ's resurrection. The best part of this section is Lennox's critique of Hume's arguments against miracles. Very insightful and worthy of consideration. The chapter on the reliability of the New Testament text, the historical reliability of the New Testament Gospels, and the evidence for the resurrection of Christ are pretty much traditional arguments offered by most Christian apologetics and not entirely convincing.

So GUNNING FOR GOD is uneven in its quality from my perspective. It's worth reading for those interested in the contemporary debates going on between high-profile atheists and high-profile Christian apologetics. But the average reader who is unaware of, or doesn't much care for this debate, probably won't find it of much value.

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Friday, 7 August 2015


Shunning Within the Seventh-day Adventist ChurchShunning Within the Seventh-day Adventist Church by Nikki Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Do Seventh-day Adventists, when leaving the religion, encounter shunning? Unfortunately yes, many do. These compelling true stories of women relate their leaving and what happened in the aftermath.

MY REVIEW: More of an essay than a book. Shunning is overtly required in many sects. Obviously, at times, it can be more subtle and informal. These few anecdotes point to the need for a more rigorous piece of research to be carried out within Seventh-day Adventism.

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Thursday, 6 August 2015

THE VAMPIRE DEFANGED by Susannah Clements

Vampire Defanged, The: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic HeroVampire Defanged, The: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero by Susannah Clements
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Vampires first entered the pop culture arena with Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, Dracula. Today, vampires are everywhere. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the Twilight Saga to HBO's True Blood series, pop culture can't get enough of the vampire phenomenon.

Bringing her literary expertise to this timely subject, Susannah Clements reveals the roots of the vampire myth and shows how it was originally immersed in Christian values and symbolism. Over time, however, vampires have been "defanged" as their spiritual significance has waned, and what was once the embodiment of evil has turned into a teen idol and the ultimate romantic hero. Clements offers a close reading of selected vampire texts, explaining how this transformation occurred and helping readers discern between the variety of vampire stories presented in movies, TV shows, and novels. Her probing engagement of the vampire metaphor enables readers to make Christian sense of this popular obsession.

MY REVIEW: As the book description indicates, Susannah Clements is writing from a Christian perspective. However, apart from the conclusion, where the author writes explicitly to Christians, the book is a scholarly analysis of the vampire literature from Bram Stoker to Twilight. The religious themes of the book are rooted in the fact that Bram Stoker's 1897 novel was written by a Christian and saturated in Christian themes. The argument that the vampire myth has become increasingly secularised in each of its reworking is a fascinating and persuasive perspective. However, it would have been good if Clements could have discussed alternative views of the vampire literature and responded to any criticisms of her perspective.

The book reads like a scholarly essay and doesn't have the features of what might be called a popular book. It is written with an objective voice with little (if any) rhetorical strategies that modern lay readers might expect to make the read an enjoyable one. The author, however, writes very clearly and articulately. The analysis is intriguing and, for those familiar with any of the vampire literature (book or film), the subject matter will be fascinating. For those who have not read or watched vampire stories, the book may not hold the same interest.

One explicit aim of the author is to convince Christians to be more comfortable with the vampire myth rather than avoid it. That may or may not be worth it if the author's thesis is correct - that the myth has become entirely secularised.

Christian or not, this book is a fascinating perspective worthy of the attention of anyone interested in the contemporary fascination with vampire mythology. THE VAMPIRE DEFANGED is a good introduction to the role the mythology has played, and continues to play, in society and culture.

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