Book Review – “Star Struck” by Dr. David Bradstreet and Steve Rabey

star-struck

Now that I am teaching middle school science, I am realizing just how broad of a field it truly is.  There is so much to try to learn and know, and this knowledge covers multiple branches.  Right now, I am reading anything I can to try to help increase my knowledge base for science.

As a result, I jumped at the chance to read and review Star Struck by Dr. David Bradstreet and Steve Rabey, published by Zondervan.  I was not disappointed.

The book focuses on astronomy and trying to help increase believers’ sense of wonder at the cosmos that our Creator has made.  I believe the book succeeds at that goal.

It starts with a history of astronomy, starting as far back as the Egyptians and Babylonians.  It continues to trace astronomy to modern times, digging in to the lives of Kepler, Galileo, and others.

Bradstreet is not afraid to let his faith shine through, as he has Scripture references throughout, makes an argument for design, and even tackles the age of the universe (Bradstreet is not a Young-Earth Creationist, but seems to lean to Evolutionary Creationism, I believe).

In addition, Bradstreet discusses everything from binary suns (which fascinated me) to extraterrestrial life, and the ongoing “space race.”

There is a section of photographs in the book to illustrate what he discusses throughout, and he includes notes and resources in the back for those wanting to read and study further.

I think Bradstreet did a great job at taking a broad and potentially challenging topic and making it easy to understand for those, like me, without much background in the field.  At the same time, I think everyone would benefit from reading the book, regardless of how much knowledge of astronomy they may have.  It really will leave you “seeing the Creator in the wonders of our cosmos,” to borrow the subtitle of the book.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Update on the ESV (No Longer) Permanent Text Edition

copyright

In an interesting decision, Crossway has decided against their former plan to have a permanent text edition of the ESV.  You can read about their decision here.

I must say that the response to their original decision to establish a permanent text has been interesting.  I was not aware of just how many negative responses there were.  I read at least one that questioned one of their changes in terms of the impact it had on understanding the meaning, but that is to be expected in just about any translation, in my opinion.  I am not aware of a translation that perfectly captures the original Greek and Hebrew with no parts that are questionable.

It appears that all of the negative feedback caused Crossway to reconsider.  They have decided to follow after other translations in occasionally making minor updates as new linguistic and manuscript evidence leads, or to keep current with English usage.

I understand the reasoning behind it.  We will always make more headway in our understanding of the original languages, and I am sure there are more manuscript variants waiting to be discovered.  Sure, we need to take those into account.

But I have to say that in an other way, I am a little disappointed.  As someone who has worked on committing Scripture to memory, and since the ESV was my translation of choice for doing that, I was excited to think that translation, at least, had reached a point where I would not have to worry about future changes.  I could rest assured that what I had memorized would stay the same for the rest of my life.

My saving grace is that I have obtained permission from Crossway to continue to memorize and present the 2011 text edition, regardless of future changes.  Knowing myself, however, the draw of keeping up with the most current edition may override my desire to stick with one edition.

The other problem with changes is that even if I were to stick with a 2011 text edition, online editions and audio editions will always be changing to keep up with current editions.  Unless I have a dedicated back up of the audio, I will eventually no longer be able to find the 2011 edition, and whenever I look something up online, it will be the newest edition, not my usual.

We have seen this with the NIV.  If you still prefer the 1984 NIV (as I tend to) over the 2011 edition, you will be hard pressed if you want to find it digitally.  Biblica no longer promotes or supports the 1984, so any online or digital Bible will use the 2011, to the best of my knowledge.  The print editions are getting more scarce, and I imagine the audio editions may be as well.  If not now, they will eventually.  The hardest part is that the digital changes are often not signaled clearly, so digital editions can change without one’s realizing it until he or she starts to study deeper.

Is it a huge deal?  I suppose not.  But I still prefer to think I can have a text I can use for life with no changes that is easily accessible across all platforms.  Honestly, it is one reason I considered moving to the KJV.  The KJV has not changed since 1769, I believe, so it is a safe bet it will remain unchanged for at least the rest of my life.  Granted, there is still a question over the Oxford or Cambridge edition of the KJV, but most, I think lean one way predominantly.

So, while it is not unusual for a Bible publisher to decide to continue to update their translation rather than leaving it unchanged, a part of me is sad that Crossway has followed the same pattern, even though they had previously announced they would not.  I don’t hold it against them in any way; it is just my personal preference.

What are your thoughts?

Book Review – “How I Changed My Mind about Evolution”

evolution

Anyone who knows me knows that I do not shy away from tough topics or from potentially controversial ones, even if that means reading things that go against what I have always thought.

Just this year, I switched to teaching science instead of English language arts.  As a result, I have been diving deeper into scientific topics than I have in the past.  Obviously, this leads to questions on things such as evolution and the age of the earth.

I was raised with a Young-Earth Creationist view, and have only slightly studied outside of that view, including Old-Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, and to a lesser degree, a Literary Framework view.  One view I had not really read on was a Christian view of evolution.  Yes, you read that right.  A view of evolution in support of the idea from a Christian viewpoint.  I like reading about all sides of an issue, and I prefer to read about them from proponents of the view, as opposed to just reading about it based on critiques from its opponents.

I heard that InterVarsity Press had a newer book called How I Changed My Mind about Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science, and I thought it would be a good place to start learning about a Christian view of evolution.  IVP was kind enough to send me a copy, and I am glad they did.

The book is not so much an explanation of evolution as it is an attempt by various contributors to explain why they came to believe in evolution, even as Christians, and why they don’t believe it contradicts their evangelical faith.  Let me state up front that as far as I can tell, none of the contributors are what we would think of as liberal; they all embrace evangelicalism, and they hold the Bible in high regard.  But they also hold science in high regard, and they feel that God would have the Bible and science read in light of each other.  It is viewed as a “two-book” model of Scripture and nature, based on Psalm 19, I believe.

The contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds and positions, including scientists, pastors, seminary professors, and so on, as well as from a decent range of denominations.  Some of the more well-known contributors are James K. A. Smith, Scot McKnight, Tremper Longman III, Franic Collins, N. T. Wright, and John Ortberg. One thing that is insisted on is that they don’t refer to themselves as theistic evolutionists (as the older name would have it); rather they call themselves evolutionary creationists, with an emphasis on the idea that evolution was the way they believe God chose to create the world and bring it to the point it is currently at.

What really struck me was how many had been raised to believe in and defend a young earth who ended up switching their viewpoints in light of the evidence of science, as they put it.  I was raised primarily hearing stories that went in the other direction.  In at least one case, the contributor went into a scientific field with the sole purpose of proving evolution and an old earth wrong, only to be totally convinced by the evidence.

I was also struck by a reoccurring theme of people (either the contributors or people they knew) going through major struggles out of a sheer fear of science as a result of their upbringing.  Honestly, I can sympathize with those people.  After all, Young Earth views are often pushed in such a way that all of science (biology, astronomy, geology, etc.) is part of one big conspiracy theory to try to brainwash people away from God’s word, so we must be ever vigilant and remember that Christians must interpret science in a completely different way than most people might.  Is that really the case?  Honestly, everyone has to decide that for themselves.  But it saddens me to think about how something so majestic as all of God’s creation could become a point of tension for so many, as it has for me in the past.

One thing I really liked was how frequently the contributors would admit that they don’t have all the answers.  To be honest, reading Young Earth literature growing up, there never seemed to be room for lack of knowledge; there was an answer for everything, even if it didn’t seem to make much sense.  It was refreshing to see people honestly admit that they may not always know all the answers, but they are willing to continue to study and hold on to faith in the mean time.

Again, this book is not an all-out defense of evolution, although there are parts of the book that provide some reasoning for that view.  Rather, it is an attempt to open doors of communication and to show that contrary to many Young-Earth arguments, people don’t just come to believe in evolution as a way of doubting Scripture or moving away from God.  These contributors all stand firm in their love and devotion to their Creator, even though their understanding of His word regarding creation is different from others.

Regardless of where you stand on the question of evolution and the age of the earth, you should read this book to gain a sympathetic understanding of where evolutionary creationists are coming from.  While it may not change everyone’s mind on how old the earth is and whether evolution in any form is a viable mechanism for creation, it will at least allow a discussion to occur with a proper understanding of where one side is coming from, as opposed to setting up false caricatures of those people.

*Note: I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Bible Review – ESV Journaling Bible Interleaved Edition

esv interleaved

Ever since I heard about Jonathan Edwards’ blank Bible he used for taking notes, I have been fascinated with interleaved Bibles.  In my experience, there have been very few of them.  When I found out that Crossway was releasing one for the ESV, I was very excited!  As always, Crossway has gone above and beyond in delivering a great Bible.

For the basics, the ESV Journaling Bible Interleaved Edition comes in several editions.  I received the tan cloth over board edition, and it arrived in a sturdy slipcase.

box

spine

cover

 

The layout on them all is a double-column text in a smyth-sewn binding.  The type size is smaller than most at 7.5 font, but it has to be for the size of the Bible.  In terms of thickness, it is about as thick as the ESV Study Bible.  This is due to a couple of factors.  One is that there is a blank page inserted between every page of text (more on this later). The other is that the paper itself is thicker than traditional Bible paper, which is great for taking notes without bleed through or ghosting. For most people, this will be a Bible that stays at home instead of being carried around to church and Bible studies.  The paper is cream colored, which I am appreciating more and more in Bibles. It does come with one brown ribbon bookmark.

Inside text

Inside and blank

One of the first things I noticed when checking this Bible is the text edition change.  I expected to see that it was the 2011 text edition.  Instead, I saw that it is the “ESV Permanent Text Edition (2016).”

copyright

A few weeks later a Web page was created on the Crossway site that explains the edition.  You can read the page here.  There were changes to 29 verses (52 words total).  This will be the definitive edition of the ESV, with no more forthcoming changes from Crossway.  As someone who tries to commit large passages to memory, I am actually pleased with this decision, although I can understand the need for further revisions with new manuscript discoveries and/or insights into Greek and Hebrew.

The selling point of this Bible is that it includes one blank page for every page of Scripture. For those who like to take notes, make cross references, or draw in the Bible, this space should be more than enough for a lifetime of note taking.

At this point, it has not been decided whether this Bible will be mine or my wife’s.  She tends to write in her Bibles more than I do, so it will probably become hers.  In order to keep from writing notes she may  not want later, I tested the writing on the Introduction page of the Bible and the reverse of that page.

What I really like about the format of this note-taking Bible is that it is not text on one side and blank on the other, but each page either has text on both sides or is blank on both sides.  I think this was a great decision on Crossway’s part.  When you write over the text (underlining, circling, etc.), the text on the other side helps hide it from show through or ghosting.  The writing in the blank parts show through more, but it will only occur in the margins and on the blank pages of notes, so it won’t distract from reading the text of Scripture itself.  I tested three different pens and a highlighter, which you can see below. There is some ghosting, but I noticed no bleed through.  (At least with the pens that I tested.  Other pens may have different results.)  The pictures below are how the two sides of one page looked for me.  The circle on the blank page was drawn so I could see if I could spot it on the text side on the reverse; I really couldn’t.

writing sample

writing blank

If you love writing in your Bible, but don’t like the bleeding and ghosting that appears with most of them, or if you feel like there isn’t enough space in traditional Bibles for the notes you want to make, the ESV Journaling Bible Interleaved Edition would be perfect for you!

*I received a complimentary copy of this Bible from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Questions

questions

This Lord’s day, I am finding myself asking many questions.  Hard questions.  Questions for myself primarily, but questions that may help spur others on to deeper reflection as well.  Questions like these:

Why does our church life not seem to look like what we see in the book of Acts?  A church that is thriving, growing exponentially, and confronting the world because of how different the love of believers was for each other and for the world?  What are we doing wrong?  Is church just a social club for us; somewhere we go out of duty or because our friends and family go there and that is where we click?

When we sit down to read the Bible, what are we doing?  Are we reading it as God’s revelation to us of Himself and how to have a relationship with Him that reaches out to help others?  Or are we reading it merely out of obligation, to check off a box on our daily spiritual to-do list?  Do we really believe that as we know the mind of God we will be transformed more into His image?  Do we even read closely enough to remember what we read an hour after we finish?  Do we hunger and thirst for the word of God, or do we just coast by, reading when we are able?

When we pray, do we really believe we are communing with the God of the universe?  Do we really believe that the Spirit who rose Jesus from the dead dwells within us, and that we have access to the very throne of God by the grace of God which is ours in Jesus Christ?  Do we truly believe that prayer makes any difference, or do we merely pray as another part of our to-do list?  Do we stay in constant communion with God throughout the day (praying continually), or do we just set aside a set amount, no more and no less, to pray?  If the latter, how would our spouse feel if we did the same thing?  Do we believe that God loves us and wants to guide us through our lives as any loving parent would?

Do we really believe that Jesus’ death not only set us free from the wages of sin but also offered us a new life that begins now, an eternal kind of life that is being made stronger in us as we follow Him?  Do we really believe that Jesus came not just to forgive our sins but to take away our sins, increasing our level of holiness and purity day by day?  Do we believe that God actually wants to change us to be more like Christ, not just in totality when we die but in stages now as we live?  Or do we make excuses for ourselves when we give in to temptation to anger, lust, gossip, jealousy, worry, etc?

Do we really believe we are called not just to make converts, but to make disciples, people who will learn to follow Jesus in their lives, walking and talking as He would if He were living their lives in their place?  Do we realize that this is not just a command for us to reach out to strangers, but to disciple everyone we are able, especially those closest to us, such as our spouses and children?  Do we realize that to do this, we need to do more than just teach doctrine; we need to demonstrate a lifestyle of following Christ so that others may follow our example as we follow the example of Christ?  Are we allowing the seriousness of this expectation to influence our daily lives?

I could go on with questions, but that is quite a list as it is.  These are personal questions, so no one person can give an answer for someone else, as it will be different for each of us.  These are questions I am pondering in my own life, and they are hard hitting to me.  I hope that reflecting on them will help you in your walk as well.

Book Review – ESV The Psalms

psalm cover

One thing I have to say for Crossway, they know Bibles, and they know how to produce some beautiful editions.

I requested a copy of their standalone edition of the Psalms to review, and Crossway was kind enough to oblige.  I am very glad they did.

The ESV Psalms contains nothing in it but the Psalms from a traditional Bible.  Each psalm is a standalone section, unlike most Bibles where one psalm immediately follows another on a page.  The paper is a thicker, more book-like paper as opposed to a traditional thinner Bible paper.  The overall size is 4.5 inches by 6.5 inches.  It comes with a smyth-sewn binding and a ribbon bookmark.

I received the top grain leather edition, and it is wonderful to hold.  It comes in a clamshell box to protect the book. When you take it out, the leather has a matte finish, and it is very soft.  If this were a traditional Bible with thin pages, I have no doubt it would lay flat on every page.  Because of the thicker pages, however, it will not really lay flat.  This is in no way a defect of the Psalms, as the thick pages were intentional. The leather cover is also wrapped around the edges of the front and back cover.

psalm 1

psalm 2

psalm 3

psalm 5

As with all of Crossway’s genuine leather Bibles, it comes with a lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects with normal use.  I can personally attest that Crossway honors this guarantee, going above and beyond what they have to.  Their promise is to replace a defective Bible with a Bible of “equal or greater value,” and they stand by their promise.

psalm 4

The text itself is 11 point font, and it is presented in a single-column format (which is quickly becoming my favorite Bible layout).  The text color is black, except for the psalm heading, the verse numbers, and the book dividers (the psalms are actually a collection of five books).

At the bottom of each page is the psalm number, a one-line title/summary of the psalm, and the page number.

psalm 6

psalm 7

This edition of the psalms is a wonderful edition to any library.  It is a nice break to sit and read the psalms with this edition since it causes the reader to focus on each unit rather than getting lost in multiple psalms per page.  I could see this being used as part of a prayer time, praying through various psalms as Donald Whitney recommends.

If you are looking for a unique presentation of the psalms, look no further.  This edition from Crossway is both useful for devotions and elegant in its artistic design.  You will not regret purchasing one for yourself.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – “The Spiritual Warfare Answer Book” by David Jeremiah

spiritual warfare

If you are looking for a quick reference guide for the basics of spiritual warfare, The Spiritual Warfare Answer Book by David Jeremiah and published by Thomas Nelson may be what you are looking for.

It is a small hardcover book.  The front cover feels like it is padded.  It has a presentation page in case it is purchased as a gift for someone.

The book is broken down into about 5 topics (terms of engagement, behind enemy lines, God’s armory, the warfare of prayer) in the table of contents.  Under each topic are a list of questions, and the answers to those questions make up the contents of the book.  Sample questions are “Why study spiritual warfare?”, “Are we really in a war?”, “How powerful is Satan?”, “How do I arm myself with the girdle of truth?”, and “What does it mean to be ‘watchful’ in prayer?” After the questions and answers the book contains a warrior’s prayer, and two Scripture reference guides: a spiritual warfare reference guide and a prayer reference guide.  There is also a topical index.

The book is a quick read that covers the basics of spiritual warfare.  If you are looking for something that delves down deeper into spiritual warfare, you will want to look elsewhere. But for a quick guide to familiarize someone with the topic, it is a good read.

*Note: I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.