My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Review: Discipleship for Every Stage of Life: Understanding Christian Formation in Light of Human Development

Discipleship for Every Stage of Life: Understanding Christian Formation in Light of Human Development Discipleship for Every Stage of Life: Understanding Christian Formation in Light of Human Development by Chris A. Kiesling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fantastic survey of how we develop as a human being … and how that development intersects with our faith formation. Each chapter takes up a particular development stage, first introducing the current secular/psychological characteristics before illustrating how such understanding could be used to influence faith formation at that stage followed by a few very generic recommendations on how to implement that knowledge. Over all I though it was well done; although I found some chapters better done than others … and there is certainly the potential of conflict for those who come to this work with either a “progressive/secular” or “conservative/religious” perspective (especially within the chapter on adolescence and identity that seems to promote nature or nurture). In addition, I found a lot of the practical advice to be too generic to be easily adapted and used, so there is some effort and experimentation needed to find what might work for the reader. All of that said, over all this book worked for me despite any minor disputes with the material so long as you approach it with an open mind and willingness to entertain questions.

The chapters and sections in this work are …


1. Womb and Infancy: Origins of Faith and Belief
2. Early Childhood: Parenting as Image Bearing
3. Middle Childhood: New Settings, Skills, and Social Pressure
4. Adolescence: Sharing the Power of Creation
5. Young Adulthood: The Script to Narrate One’s Life
6. Middle Adulthood: Finding Practices Sufficient to Sustain
7. Late Adulthood: Retirement, Relinquishment, and the Spirituality of Losing Life


Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

The implications of attachment for faith formation are extensive, as research has linked the quality of one’s attachment bond to (1) the formation of conscience; (2) the capacity one develops to cope with frustration and stress; (3) the response one makes to fear and perceived threats; and (4) how easily one finds self-reliance.

Recognition occurs when an experience is repeated and regarded as having been encountered before (such recognition may be assumed in the pacifier examples above). By contrast, scientists see a more advanced process of retrieval in the concept of recall—namely, the capacity to bring to mind a mental representation that is not repeated but is already stored in one’s memory.

Stories, Garland contends, tell us who we are in relation to one another and tell us what we value and give meaning to in our lives. Families remember what they want to remember. Theologically, by telling a story, a family makes the event happen again.

Mirror neurons have been discovered that fire equally whether an individual observes another person performing an act or they perform the act themselves. Such motor mirroring is activated first in a child’s observance of the parent, and later via others in the faith community, engaging in liturgical acts and the telling of sacred stories.

Children of authoritarian parents are more prone to problems with self-esteem and may be more susceptible to peer pressure because they rely on external standards rather than having a developed internal source of self-control.

Children and youth of permissive parents report feeling sadness, are likely to struggle in school, and exhibit behavioral problems because they don’t appreciate rules or authority.

Boys, for example, often perform near the top in certain math tasks, such as complex problem-solving and using spatially based strategies, especially when the cultural context supports their involvement in the subject.

Furthermore, females outperform boys in other mathematical areas, such as computation.

Girls appear to demonstrate slightly more positive expressive emotions but also on the whole experience more internalizing emotions, such as anxiety and sadness; boys demonstrate more externalizing emotions, such as anger.

Boys tend to use power-assertive or domineering speech in which commands, threats, and restrictions are common, with occasional interruptions or the ignoring of another’s remarks (e.g., “Give me that ball!” “Don’t move that!”). Girls’ discourse strategies are more commonly conflict mitigating, collaborative, and affiliative in nature.

Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore notes the emerging capacity a child has for (1) acquisition of reason, (2) verbal confession, and (3) formation of moral conscience, all of which likely factor into the historic practice, in both Catholic and mainline churches, of confirmation being positioned during these years in the life course.

We build scaffolds around structures that are too unstable to stand on their own, adding necessary reinforcements until they can support themselves. It is not hard to draw an inference to the human domain and imagine the problems that can occur when a child is over-or under-scaffolded.

At about age nine to eleven, Piaget observed a change occurring in most children from unilateral respect to mutual respect.  Instead of rules being handed down arbitrarily from powerful authority figures, the relinquishment of adult constraint allowed a child to begin to see that rules serve to protect and enhance the social bonds in which we live. Rules can be changed if people together determine that there are better ways to play a game or to serve societal interests.

In Western culture, sexual debut (first intercourse) is regarded as early at age fifteen, normal between age fifteen and nineteen, and late after age nineteen.

Rapprochement—learning how to make amends, repair relationships, and promote a harmonious state of affairs—is an important competency to acquire during the adolescent years but one that is likely only caught if it is demonstrated by significant others during one’s adolescent journey.

In studying the influence of peers, scholars sometimes make a distinction between cliques—small, cohesive social groups of three to twelve people who share common interests and know each other well—and crowds, which are larger groups that include those not regarded as friends but who nonetheless give definition to one’s identity via social location.

Developmentally young adults acquire the ability to author their own lives, reconstructing their past and imagining a future. Often this occurs by identifying with characters in social media or seeing something favorable in someone they have met, and trying to emulate characteristics and outcomes associated with their lives.

Love stories seek to explain how we develop a personal sense of what or who we love based on the needs we have (e.g., to care for others or to be cared for, to be strong for another or to let them lead, to be socially engaged or to live quietly) and the stories we encounter in entertainment venues or by observing others.

On the one hand, a person has lived long enough to experience stability. Most crises in life have been encountered in some form and lived through, building confidence and resilience. Yet on the other hand, midlifers often shoulder responsibilities and occupy senior leadership positions of significant consequence in work and family.

Though some might shun the contemplation of their own death, Johnson found evidence that in other eras of the church, the art of dying well (ars moriendi) actually held a prominent place in the life of believers.

Ego integrity indicates the capacity to look across the chapters of one’s life, with all its successes and disappointments, and to conclude that on the whole one has lived life well and it was worthwhile.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#DiscipleshipforEveryStageofLife #NetGalley.

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Thursday, June 27, 2024

Review: Spawn

Spawn Spawn by Donald F. Glut
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book: **
Performance: ***

Pocahontas in Space … With Dinos

This is the third book in the Don Glut’s Pulp series; I have not read the first two of the series, but this installment does stand well on its own. That said, the story feels like is a nod to the 1960’s pulp sub-genre of SciFi (which should come as no surprise) … most especially with its overtly man’s man hero coming to the rescue of the helpless, and very beautiful, woman. From an art perspective I can appreciate the effort even as I have a hard time truly enjoying the cringe here. The basic idea is that, in a world where nobody ever watched any of the Jurassic Park movies, the people of earth want a Dinosaur park, and rather than just cloning DinoDNA, send a spaceship to a planet that has what they are looking for. While there, they rescue a sexy native woman from the jaws of death on two feet and hitch her to the expedition captain for a little play on the side.

So with a little bit of egg napping, the people get what they want … and more. There is actually a pretty interesting twist woven into he plot line that was fun to think about and probably would have worked better with a different first contact story, but it was still entertaining. At times there was a little too much focus on details (so if you are a dino loving geek add back a star).

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Spawn #FreeAudiobkFacebkGrp

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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Review: A Short Guide to Spiritual Formation: Finding Life in Truth, Goodness, Beauty, and Community

A Short Guide to Spiritual Formation: Finding Life in Truth, Goodness, Beauty, and Community A Short Guide to Spiritual Formation: Finding Life in Truth, Goodness, Beauty, and Community by Alex Sosler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a though provoking book, with concepts that I could agree with as well as a few where I could not and not a few that were original for me. It was well organized into four sections (truth, goodness, beauty and community aka transcendentals), that at times seemed a bit overly constrained or forced, but the language was clear and accessible to all audiences, although it obviously targets christians within the protestant tradition. Each part was further divided into three (3) chapters that covered: biblical antecedences with fairly orthodox interpretations; analysis of historical and/or philosophical influences; and a brief bio of an exemplar (saint) that lived out the ideal. The latter also includes a brief breakout of practical advice for how the read may live out that same concept). I found each of the thirds to be the most interesting where the analysis was more hit or miss … although it was mostly solid.

The chapters and sections in this work are


Part 1 Truth: The Theological Life
1. The Centrality of Biblical Truth: God Speaks
2. The Story-Shaped Life: From a Devotional Faith to a Deep Faith
3. Saint Augustine: Faith Seeking Understanding

Part 2 Goodness: The Virtuous Life
4. In Pursuit of the Good Life: Righteousness without Self-Righteousness
5. How Do We Become Virtuous? The Power of Habit
6. Dorothy Day: We Must Love One Another or Die

Part 3 Beauty: The Contemplative Life
7. The Beatific Vision: Becoming What You Behold
8. The Road to Transformation and Union: Attention Contemplation, and Detachment
9. Teresa of Avila: Exploring the Interior Castle

Part 4 The United Life: Living in Community
10. Belonging Together: Longing for Community
11. The Web of Existence: Cosmic Connections
12. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Neighbor Love and Life Together


Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

Tradition, as it turns out, creates social continuity and personal density. Social continuity comes through the establishment of a language that is common to the past and the present day. This language connects past moments to the present moment in a way that makes actions and thoughts intelligible. Tradition gives us a language to speak and practices to inherit.

All Christian maturity finds its root in being a beloved child of God. When we forget that, when we work for our salvation rather than from our salvation, things go haywire.

Real remembering, deep remembering, is a kind of return: a return to the cross, a return to forgiveness, a return to Eden, a return to God. If we do the hard work of rightly remembering, there we encounter a healing truth.

As gospel truths begin to take residence in our hearts, we move from selfish enjoyment to sacrificial love of one another. We turn from our egotistical pleasures and go out into the world, seeking to bring ultimate joy in God to our neighbors. This shift brings us to the secondary elements of renewal: mission, prayer, community, and theological integration.

Grace seems too simple, too accessible for someone as talented and smart as Augustine. Grace would mean Augustine wasn’t special or more capable than others in regard to salvation. For most of his early life, he couldn’t accept that.

Pelagians said that accountability required choice. God couldn’t hold people accountable if they were sinful by nature. If sin wasn’t a choice but was how humans were born, then God would be unjust to hold them accountable. For this reason they denied original sin, the doctrine that people are born in a state of sin.

The goal for the Christian life is not merely about getting to heaven through believing true things. Salvation is a broader concept. The central question is this: What does it mean to live a life aimed toward God? This question is answered not by assent to some intellectual propositions but by ways of being and by habits.

This American concept of freedom is known as “negative freedom.” It emphasizes freedom from. In Christianity we can say that we’re free from the curse of the law. We’re free from condemnation. We’re free from Mosaic stipulations.

Ascetic practices help us die. Asceticism is a way of curbing the false self and living into the true self. The goal, to borrow a statement from John the Baptist, is for us to decrease and for Jesus to increase (John 3:30). The monastics urge fellow believers to die to self for the sake of life with Christ.

I can’t say I’m spiritually formed by knowing a lot. If I am to grow, practices and habits must accompany what I say. Habits help us “put on” Christ to be slowly trained in becoming like him. In other words, habits are as formative as they are expressive. They are not merely actions we do; they do something to us.

Suffering also allows us to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:3–7) with a sense of deep gratitude. It is not that we are thankful for the suffering we have experienced; this reaction would trivialize suffering. Yet there’s a sense that the suffering shapes us to become deeper people, more whole and holy people.

In the schema of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the sacraments are inherently tied to what they are used for, which, he argues, is making human beings holy.

John McDermott describes the sacramental understanding as the realization that the “material world serves as a communicator of God to man and as a means of enabling him to attain the beautifying possession of God in His kingdom.”

There’s something in Ignatian spirituality called “holy detachment.” We are born with passionate desire, yet to experience God we must put to death selfish passion and self-centered desire. In essence, holy detachment invites us to care only about the things that help us love God and love neighbor.

As Rabbi Abraham Heschel commends, “The purpose of prayer is not the same as the purpose of speech. The purpose of speech is to inform; the purpose of prayer is to partake.”

“To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.” To become divine, like Jesus, we empty ourselves of the passions that wage war within us and become nothing, so that, like Jesus, we can rise to life with God.

We live mediated lives, gifted lives. We all came into being from two other people, and from our earliest beginnings we were dependent on parents who loved us into existence. We depend on others throughout our entire lives and will likely die in dependency on our children or on strangers. There’s no getting around it. We are relational beings.

We each contribute, positively or negatively, to a community of faith. We all make daily deposits, so to speak. Either our commitments and rhythm of life enrich a community, or our presence poisons it. Living in trivial, superficial, or restless ways poisons the stream of communal life. Commitment, by contrast, restores and nourishes a community.

Bonhoeffer also developed a rule of life, which he outlined in Life Together. The community had rhythms and habits of prayer, work, and study. They wanted to be good and Christlike, to care for and love “the least of these.” To be a certain kind of people, they needed the habits that formed virtue. It wasn’t legalistic, but it was formative.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#AShortGuidetoSpiritualFormation #NetGalley.

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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Review: Nanoverse

Nanoverse Nanoverse by Theophilus Monroe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Story: ***
Performance: ***

Fantasy with a SciFi Facade ...

This is a collection of four(4) quick (3+ hours ea) fantasy stories set in a fantasy world wearing the skin of a cyberpunk genre … because it’s all about uses the new buzzword nano as much as possible without any real knowledge of what they are are how they would actually work. Maybe that is just my inner geek chanting that is not how that works in my head for almost the entire book (IOW I know too much about the tech and had a hard time letting go). Regardless … while the story doesn’t work well within the generally accepted norms of SciFi, it was a fairly typical Fantasy that is build to leverage a virtual (fantasy) world concept along the lines of the matrix, upload or free guy where the bad guy mysteriously works toward the total destruction of the real world. It’s not a bad plot … however, it has been done much better else where.

The story begins with an example of unintended consequences despite good intentions when a vaccine is developed to introduce nanites into the human body that would be tasked with healing wounds and preventing disease. Patient Zero is a badly wounded soldier who would probably have died otherwise, so with that success story behind the program, the government mandates nanovax for everybody … and hidden within those nanites is the ability to network into the public cloud to spy on the host AND take over the human conscious … a la mind control (maybe I am reading the tealeaves wrong here, but this part of the story starts to read like covid antivax conspiracies that didn’t help with the whole suspension of disbelief needed to fully enjoy the story).

That is where the algorithm comes in … which works sorta like minority report in that it predicts aberrant behavior ahead of time and reports it to the authorities who controls the nanites which can then control the host. Of course, in this paranoid fantasy, our hero is a threat to the system because his PTSD has change his mind enough that he can’t be controlled and that makes him a terrorist … only before the government can take him out back and shoot him, he is rescued by the resistance so that he can eventually defeat the algorithm.

Of course that is not the end … in part 2 the nanites can now swarm (in say 500 in each cloud) externally and possess others in the physical world … and apparently host an uploaded consciousness and associated memories all in readable code with individual global network addresses … so the resistance moves from minority report into the matrix here … again with a lot less finesse. We also begin to see the hero’s daughter make her debut as the bad guys cats paw … something that didn’t really work for me. This actually becomes a central theme in Post Human as the action moves almost entirely into the virtual world and a race to avoid an apocalypse in the real world. This part of the story calls to mind elements of the bobiverse with all the consciousness cloning. It all wraps up with a redemption arc in the final installment, which for better or for worse can actually stand on its own with no significant inspiration from other stories, but which does get a little preachy with a hint of Judeo-Christian theology … for me, this was actually the best of the four (4)

Book 1: Algorithm (3:56)
Book 2: Nanoswarm (3:43)
Book 3: Posthuman (3:15)
Book 4: Nanowar (2:32)

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Nanoverse #StoryOrigin

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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Review: The Scandal of Leadership: Unmasking the Powers of Domination in the Church

The Scandal of Leadership: Unmasking the Powers of Domination in the Church The Scandal of Leadership: Unmasking the Powers of Domination in the Church by J.R. Woodward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a very thought provoking book for me. The initial draw was an examination of the fall of high-profile [christian] leaders with an eye toward identifying the primary or root cause. It was intriguing because I felt it should be fairly obvious … pride; however, this analysis took a different approach and dove more deeply into the human mechanisms that contribute to the fall. It was not, as I had expected, a screed about personal responsibility, and yet it does not totally let our leaders off the hook. The basic premise where is that our leaders, like all people, are tempted (or influenced) by various communal forces that are generally identified as powers and principalities … so if they imitate worldly values instead of the image of Christ, they will become trapped in the cycle that eventually spirals out of control. It makes a solid point there and would be worth a read just for how it defines what the author calls a memetic cycle which operates on the principle of imitating what we love or desire. Along with that are plenty of anecdotal and/or practical stories on how to recognize when we come under the influence of the memetic desire and scapegoating. Still, there really is no “silver bullet” solution, so the practical applications were less helpful if still good (it mostly boils down to an exhortation to imitate Jesus).

Still … the introduction to several (for me completely new) scholars in a multidisciplinary effort to explain what the mimetic cycle was, as well as what the powers and principalities and powers might be (was well as how they work in a fallen world) was extremely well down and accessible (especially considering this is really based upon an academic dissertation). The idea of Satan as an emergent power (as well as the impact of fallen, human systems) were absolutely thought provoking and deserve careful consideration. To support the foundation of the author’s imitation based framework, he progresses brings in the likes of Wink, Girard and Stringfellow as he fills in a table that maps expression of principalities & powers to fallen and redeemed leadership across the dimensions of identity, praxis and telos which was very helpful in understanding the general concept as a whole.

The chapters and sections in this work are

Section One: The Challenge of Missional Leadership.
1. A Deeper Diagnosis of Why Leaders Fall
2. The Need for Missional Leadership
3. Domineering Leadership in the First-Century Church

Section Two: Missional Leadership and the Powers
4. Comprehending the Powers
5. Interpreting the Powers

Section Three: Missional Leadership and Imitation
6. Mimetic Theory
7. The Power of Imitation

Section Four: Missional Leadership and Subversion
8. The Work of the Powers
9. The Subversion and Resistance of the Powers

Section Five: Missional Leadership Worthy of Imitation
10. Toward a Theological Remedy
11. A New Way of Being and Belonging
12. The Scandal of Imitating Christ

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

We can often be tempted to put guardrails around our leaders, try to keep them in line, or perhaps encourage a set of spiritual disciplines to keep their character in check. But there is no putting a Band-Aid over the problem of domineering leadership in the church.

High-profile “fallen” leaders often share common characteristics: pride, manipulation, seeking status, isolation, a lack of community to hold them accountable, using status to push an agenda, love of the crowds, an abuse of power and role, a push to “succeed,” and a sense of self-importance.

There is a growing resistance to institutions. But the church relies on people being a community, which requires organization, politics, systems, and structures. The answer, therefore, is not to demonize all forms of power and structure—for all living things have structure, power, and the capacity to cultivate a flourishing life.

And although the principalities and powers were designed to bring life, humanity experiences them in their fallen state, where they seek to master us. No longer do the principalities and powers bind us to God; they separate us from God, seeking to be gods themselves. The principalities and powers still fulfill half of their role, preserving society from utter chaos, but “by holding the world together, they hold it away from God.”

Roxburgh demonstrates how easily leaders tend to uncritically mimic the leadership style of the day, seemingly unaware that a leader’s telos and identity not based on Christ will ultimately lead to unfaithful praxis.

Collective Possession. The second manifestation of the demonic that Wink speaks of is collective demonization. He states, “In a highly individualistic society like ours it is rare to encounter single individuals who are possessed. Instead, the demonic has in our time taken the form of mass psychosis—what Rosen called ‘socially shared psychopathology.’”

The first word is thrones, which is more about the symbolic location of power, like the “county seat, the judge’s bench, the chairperson, the oval office,” more than it is about the person inhabiting that place of power.

Another key word is dominions (NKJV; kyiotétes), which refers to the sphere of influence over which the thrones hold sway. This sphere of influence could be “visible (the actual land or area ruled) or invisible (its capacity to influence other Powers by threat or persuasion).”

Principalities (NKJV; arché) specifies not so much the person themselves, but “the person-in-office, the agent-in-role.”92 In other words, it only applies to the person when they are in that office, like when a person is serving in Congress or the Senate.

Finally, there are authorities (exousiai), which Wink says refer to the way in which authority is maintained. “These are the invisible and visible authorizations and enforcements that undergird the chair. Legitimations would include the laws, rules, taboos, mores, codes, and constitutions by which power is licensed, and all the customs, traditions, rituals, manners, etiquette, and ideologies by which is it rationalized, justified, and made habitual.”

Mimetic desire pushes against the romantic notion that we are isolated individuals uninfluenced by others. Instead, it teaches us that we borrow our desires from our models.

When a mimetic crisis broke out in archaic (pre-state, nonlegal) societies, the scapegoat mechanism would be enacted as a way to establish and maintain social order. “When unappeased, violence seeks and always finds a surrogate victim. The creature that excited its fury is abruptly replaced by another, chosen only because it is vulnerable and close at hand.”

Croasmun considers these “superorganisms” social bodies, and he uses the category mythological to describe the social minds that emerge from these social bodies.

Girard deconstructs Satan as the mimetic cycle, while Matthew Croasmun reconstructs Satan as the “body of sin,” giving Satan cosmic personhood. Although Wink follows Jung and identifies Satan more psychologically as the inner spirituality of the domination system, Croasmun’s emergent view locates Satan as a cosmic entity, the mythical that emerges from the social and acts back upon it. In both cases, Satan is an emergent reality.

The relationships we form with others have profound effects on our lives, and because of mimetic desire, we will ultimately become like the people closest to us. This is why Scripture tells us that if we walk with the wise, we will become wise (Prov. 13:20) and that bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33).


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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Review: MAIDEN

MAIDEN MAIDEN by Charles Brass
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book: **
Performance: ***

Great Concept, Weak Execution

The premise is good if well worn. A post conflict dystopia where a group of scrappy exiles hold out against the collective/empire (aka The Brethren) where everyone mysteriously fights with archaic close combat melee weapons (aka swords/blades and electroprods) despite being part of an interstellar civilization. Enter the Last Jedi … er … Maiden who was specifically created to battle the evil Sith … er Brethren. So much potential that just didn’t hit home for me. To start, the world building was so extremely loose and haphazard that I still don’t know how it all holds together. Most confusing is how slip rings (star gates) appear to come if two sizes (person transporters and ship transit points). Then is is how the Brethren are actually organized and who (or what) is a Master, a Knight, a Drone, or a Minion. I think I figured it out towards the end, but it was pretty confusing until then. More problematic is the interaction between each estate was full of overly aggressive bluster and all around idiocy that they worn thin long before the end.

The quasi-good guys (aka Exiles) are even worse, with an irritating display of imperial arrogance and pod measuring in virtually every scene (at least among the leadership). I absolutely hated ever part they were in. Fortunately the main characters, Crystal Maiden (The title character), Builder Scrounger (who is somehow related to the Brethren) and the Smart Ship (AI) are refreshingly innocent (read juvenile) and somewhat likable. However, even that didn’t make up for the slow pacing and buildup (all the interesting action is almost at the end of the book). Unfortunately there was way too much incessant dialogue and unnecessary detail that the lack of action made the first half of the story painfully boring (where my difficulty concentrating on what was happening might be the reason I didn’t follow the world building very well). In addition, the narration, while featuring very good accents and character voices, only reinforced the issues that I had with the aggressive interactions of both the Brethren and Exiles (in most cases it felt unnatural and way over the top).

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Maiden #FreeAudiobookCodes #KindleUnlimited

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Sunday, June 9, 2024

Review: The Trojan Horse of Tithing: How Tithe Traditions Have Undermined A Pure Gospel Message

The Trojan Horse of Tithing: How Tithe Traditions Have Undermined A Pure Gospel Message The Trojan Horse of Tithing: How Tithe Traditions Have Undermined A Pure Gospel Message by Jonathan Paul Brenneman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book: ***
Performance: ***

Solid Foundation; Very Repetitive

This was an interesting treatment of the concept of tithing and how this idea for the foundation of doctrine within the charismatic/pentecostal wing of the Christian churches. While it appears to me that most of the scriptural interpretations are supportable, the author is mostly targeting fellow pentecostals … a community that I am not personally a part of. As such, there is a tremendous amount of virtue signaling and argumentation along with anecdotal characterization of current doctrine that didn’t really do much for me (you might say these are distracting segues or “rabbit holes’). In addition, that are several references to people/figures that are apparently well known to this community for which I have not exposure … so that does not really add much to the debate for me either. However, references to scripture always seemed appropriate for the topic and his interpretation appeared to be reasonable given what I know of the context (again … I already subscribe to spirit-led giving over tithing, so I don’t need to be convinced here). Then we get to the author’s own experiences within his community and the harm done by the teaching of a tithing doctrine and without any means to refute those specific examples was truly dismayed by them … which I think was the point … but makes the whole come across a lot more angry that I was comfortable with … which again … given the inclusion of the concept of the Trojan Horse … is probably the point … but which meant that I simply tuned out portions of the audible that seems repetitive and targeted for emotional manipulation. Over all this was an average book, but it was well researched and important enough of a topic that I am adding 1 to my overall rating.

The chapters and sections in this work are:

Ch. 1: Let’s Get Ready To Take On an Intense Topic! (36:34)
Ch. 2: My Tithe Story (41:36)
Ch. 3: Who’s Teaching Salvation by Tithing? (43:59)
Ch. 4: Subtle Deception Paves the Way for Blatant Error (39:02)
Ch. 5: Is the Tithe “Law?” (16:52)
Ch. 6: Dealing with bullying and teasing (60:43)
Ch. 7: The History of Tithing (41:33)
Ch. 8: You Break God’s Commandments for the Sake of Your Tithing Tradition (45:38)
Ch. 9. “But Tithing Works!” (31:33)
Ch. 10. Tithing Undermines Spirit-Led Giving (66:31)
Ch. 11. Spirit-Led Giving (34:00)
Ch. 12. Corrupted Wisdom and Jesus’ Temptation (34:00)
Ch. 13. What About Ministerial Support? (27:20)
Ch. 14. Good News for the Poor (22:52)
Ch. 15. When Not To Accept an Offering (17:54)
Ch. 16. Mothers Are Pleading for Someone To Tell Their Children the Truth (15:38)

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheTrojanHorseOfTithing #FreeAudiobookCodes #KindleUnlimited

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Thursday, June 6, 2024

Review: The Foundry: A Hard-Science Fiction Space Opera

The Foundry: A Hard-Science Fiction Space Opera The Foundry: A Hard-Science Fiction Space Opera by J. Fitzpatrick Mauldin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book: **** (3 1/2)
Performance: ***

A Typical Space Opera

This book was billed as a Hard SciFi Space Opera … which for most people would be an oxymoron … and in this specific case holds true; although there is an inconsistent attempt to keep the science good, the primary focus is on the drama at the expense of the science. Fortunately the story is still entertaining, once you get beyond the extremely boring and frustrating prospect of a very young child (age 5ish) stuck on a 40 year deep space mission (presumably because the original crew might not make it the whole way). Unfortunately … that takes up a good portion of the beginning of the book.

The mission is a response to an ET message saying come find us … so the earth, in a desperate attempt to find help that might save humanity from its poor stewardship of the earth, sends out a handful of ships (redundant missions show how desperate the situation is). There is a lot of juvenile drama on the trip out until the finally get to The Foundry … and everything falls apart. Not only are we not alone, there is a veritable menagerie of aliens and they are not all friendly. One one side are competing philosophies on how to protect ALL life and a few trippy parts exploring post humanism and genetic manipulation (just a little). It does get a little over the top and preachy at times … but you should expect that with a space opera … so set phasers to max and just bring it … and have a little fun.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheFoundry #FreeAudiobkFacebkGrp #KindleUnlimited

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Sunday, June 2, 2024

Review: Mere Apologetics: How To Help Seekers And Skeptics Find Faith

Mere Apologetics: How To Help Seekers And Skeptics Find Faith Mere Apologetics: How To Help Seekers And Skeptics Find Faith by Alister E. McGrath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book: ****
Performance: ****

An Excellent Discussion About Christian Apologetics

This was a very accessible book on what apologetics is, and more importantly how and with whom apologetics can be used (ref: Ch 2 & 4). The fact that the author identifies limitations to apologetics when used by itself was a new take for me and was a welcome addition to the discussion (ref: Ch 1 & 3) where we look at the need to combine this with evangelism. After that we get more of the traditional aspects and arguments of apologetics without much new (Ch 5 & 6), and this is the primary reason I didn’t give this a perfect score. That means this is more useful when addressing folks that are already believers, or at the very least open to belief. Finally, Chapter 7 provides four (4) methods for applying apologetics that was very helpful before it ends with basic challenges (questions) to faith in chapter 8 that were, once again, fairly standard in addressing suffering etc. Overall it was a solid effort with chapters 2, 4, and 7 making the whole worth the effort.

The chapters and sections in this work are:

1. Getting Started (29:56)
2. Apologetics and Contemporary Culture (27:25)
3. The Theological Basis of Apologetics (34:13)
4. The Importance of the Audience (31:13)
5. The Reasonableness of the Christian Faith (44:45)
6. Pointers to Faith [8 Clues] (76:17)
7. [4] Gateways for Apologetics (67:00)
8. Questions about Faith [2 Case Studies] (49:42)
9. Conclusion (8:53)

#MereApologetics #AudiblePlus

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.