Category Archives: Christian

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor
By Chuck Black

Synopsis: Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor is book five of The Knights of Arrethtrae series. In this part of the series a young man, Quinlan, feels called to become a knight of the King and follow the Prince. He first trains with a skilled knight and later a Silent Warrior who teach him to fight and overcome his self doubt and fear. After his training is complete he returns to his hometown to fight the hidden Shadow Warriors. When the enemy leader, Lucius finds out that Sir Quinlan has returned he launches an all out attack on the city. The small band of knights under the leadership of Quinlan must lead the charge in the battle against Lucius’ Shadow Warriors.

My Opinion: So Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor is an allegory and full of various Christian truths and life lessons. I think that Black does a mediocre job at presenting this allegory in an interesting and engaging way.

I would say that the good thing about the allegorical element is that many of the truths that he alludes to in the story are important, i.e. trust in the Prince and not ourselves, The King choosing the weak of the world, following the Prince requires complete surrender and a sacrifice of everything but is rewarded greatly when you one day cross the Great Sea, and many others.

The thing that I thought was sub par about the allegory was the totally transparent way that it was presented. Many times Black would almost quote the Bible verbatim through some character’s speech or he would add elements that really didn’t make sense in the story, but fed the allegory. He discusses how the King sent the Prince from across the Great Sea to bring the Kings people back to him and how they rejected him and he died “on a tree” (what does that even mean?) but the King brought him back to life using the Life Spice. Black tries to explain how this death and resurrection enabled the knights to follow the Prince, but it never really makes much sense. I felt like a lot of the more obvious “Christian” themes seemed overly forced into the story.

Aside from the failures in the allegory I thought the book was pretty good. I think that younger kids, probably boys in their tweens mostly, would really enjoy reading this book and would get a lot out of it. The battles are pretty engaging and exciting, and the characters are dynamic enough that you grow to like (or dislike) them. There is a little humor tossed into the mix to keep the dramatic elements from being too overwhelming for younger readers. It certainly isn’t C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia or J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but it is another series that could be worth picking up if you have a young avid reader.

FYI: the land Arrethtrae, where the story takes place, is a backward combination of the words Earth and Terra.

Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor at amazon.com

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as part of their Blogging for Books program.


Radical

Radical
By David Platt

Synopsis: The basic premise of this book is that American Christians have distorted the message of Christianity to fit into the ideals of the “American Dream.” This essentially means that American Christians are overly materialistic and selfish with their time and money. It also means that they view Christianity as a consumer product, thus rendering church services to be professional entertainment and Christianity to be a product that is consumed, not a life-changing truth. Platt offers explanation to how these views do not agree with the real message of Christianity and finally gives a “challenge” which will aid the American Christian in overcoming these American distortions of the faith.

My Opinion: I have been putting off writing this (and honestly if writing it was not part of the agreement for receiving it I probably would not be writing this) because I have to say that something early in the book put a bad taste in my mouth so I feel like possibly that skewed my opinion of the rest of the book, so take that as a sort of disclaimer. What was that thing at the beginning of the book? Platt tells a story of a group of believers in his Alabama mega-church who hear about some Christians in Asia facing persecution who must meet in secret to study the Bible. These believers in Platt’s church are inspired by these Asian Christians so they start a regular evening Bible Study and call it “Secret Church.” To me this seems to trivialize and make light of the very real persecution of fellow Christians in these dangerous regions. Platt seems to agree with this criticism but never applies it to his church’s “Secret Church.” Toward the end of the book he explains about the ichthus (Jesus Fish):

How far we have come when we paste this symbol identified with martyred brothers and sisters in the first century onto the backs of our SUVs and luxury sedans in the twenty-first century.

Beyond this I felt that the book seemed to say a lot of the “right things” but never really got to the heart of the problem. Platt tries to offer advice in correcting these American distortions of Christianity, but he does so within the very system that has created and fostered these ideas. This seems to miss the very heart of the issue. He tries to encourage people to give generously to those in need, yet he pastors a mega-church which is a resource black-hole. He tries to encourage people to minister to each other, yet says nothing about the false distinction between clergy and laity. He encourages people to be sold out to Christ and never look back, yet he offers a “Challenge” or program to try out and see how it feels. Something in me has a hard time with a book titled “Radical” which opposes the American Dream, yet culminates in a one year program. Maybe I’m just being too critical. That is quite possible.

This book exposes a lot of real problems within the American Church, what I feel it does not do is offer valuable solutions to those problems, and this is mostly because it never gets to the heart of those problems. I see two major oversights in Radical. The first is that he never asks the reader if they are truly even Christians. I think that would be the place to start. If you have a lack of passion for the things you say you believe, and if you believe a distortion of the real thing it would certainly be worthwhile to initially ask “do I believe the real thing?” The second oversight, in my opinion, is that he completely ignores the negative effect of the clergy/laity distinction. Why don’t people live out their faith? Because they pay someone else to do that for them. Give money to missionaries and pastors and ministries. They are the professionals and that’s what they get paid for. This is how Americans view everything and the clergy/laity distinction brings that belief into the church.

FYI: Platt has also released The Radical Question and Radical Together.

Radical at amazon.com

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as part of their Blogging for Books program.


Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
By Eric Metaxas

Synopsis: A biography covering the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Starts with a history of his family going back a few generations where we learn that Bonhoeffer comes from a long line of (at least somewhat) important intellectuals and theologians. Dietrich’s childhood and development as a theologian are discussed. The bulk of the book covers his resistance to the Reich Church and work as a conspirator against Hitler.

My Opinion: I really enjoyed this book and learning more about Bonhoeffer, Nazi Germany, and the world’s response to the Third Reich’s activities both political and religious. The author clearly likes Bonhoeffer and presents him in a particular light which may lead one to be cautious since the book is obviously not unbiased, but nonetheless it was written well enough to hold my attention throughout. It may not be the most balanced or scholarly work on Bonhoeffer out there, but I had honestly never read anything about him so it was all new information to me and it was delivered in a very accessible manner. It may not be a book for scholars, but it certainly is a book that will help the everyday person, like myself, learn about a really amazing theologian who lived out his beliefs to the very end.

FYI: Metaxas wrote another very-well received biography, Amazing Grace, on William Wilberforce (which I have not read or reviewed yet).

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy at amazon.com


Imaginary Jesus

Imaginary JesusImaginary Jesus
By Matt Mikalatos

Synopsis: Matt lives in Portland, OR where he hangs out at coffee shops and vegan restaurants. He spends a lot of time with this guy that he thinks is Jesus. One day a guy name Pete beats up Matt’s Jesus friend and informs him that he is the Apostle Peter and that guy was not the real Jesus. From that point on Matt attempts to find the real Jesus but runs into some complications along the way, as his imaginary Jesus is not so eager to be left behind.

My Opinion: I got this book because it was free on my reader. It is also free for the Amazon Kindle. I didn’t have really high expectations for it since a) it was free and b) it was written by a guy in Portland, OR where all the liberal hippie Christians hang out, and write annoying ’emergent’ type books that generally feel a little too universalist and watery for my taste. Well, I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The book is pretty funny and super easy to read and actually has some really important stuff to say, albeit in an silly and irreverent way that may offend some people who are too closely connected with the Legalistic Jesus character from the book. Not only do we learn about Matt’s Imaginary Jesus, but several others as well like Health Nut Jesus who wears running shorts and a sweat band, Testosterone Jesus who has the manners and intelligence of a caveman and is quite popular at men’s retreats, Liberal Jesus, Portland Jesus, King James Jesus, and lots and lots more! If you don’t find a Jesus that you connect with in this book I would be really surprised. Matt helps us to laugh at our misperceptions of Jesus, but at the same time see the danger in following anyone but the real thing. As Matt struggles to understand his wife’s miscarriage we see that no one but the real Jesus has an answer that makes any sense of the suffering in the world. This is a great read.

FYI: Being from Maine I feel it is important to note that Portland, Maine (settled in 1623), while not as popular or populated as Portland, OR (settled 1851), is the original Portland and actually the namesake for the West Coast city. Francis W. Pettygrove of Portland, Maine owned a partial claim to the city in Oregon and won a coin toss thus giving him the right to name the city after his home city.

Imaginary Jesus at amazon.com


Read and Learn Bible

Read and Learn BibleRead and Learn Bible
By The American Bible Society
Illustrated by Duendes Del Sur

Synopsis: This is a series of Bible stories, put in canonical order, that uses the CEV paraphrased translation and has color illustrations on each page. It contains most major stories from Creation and the Fall, to Noah, Moses, David, Daniel and Esther, to Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, and even a brief explanation of Revelation and a lot of stuff in-between (over 500 pages worth of stuff!). It also contains a parents section in the back which helps apply the Bible stories to things like serving and loving others, sharing the good news, trusting God and several other topics.

My Opinion: OK, so this books is a little odd for this blog, and I haven’t read it yet, but I still wanted to let people know about it. We just got this to read with our kids (they are one, two and three) during our little devotional time we do at night. It has lots of great illustrations and is translated into something that is understandable and appropriate for young kids. It also has helps for parents in the back which are always good. It gives some tips on how to apply the Bible stories and teach things like sharing and loving others and trusting God. We have been trying to teach our kids Bible stories on our own and sometimes it is hard to come up with something they understand and isn’t too scary or confusing for them. Now we have the help of the American Bible Society. Thanks American Bible Society! Anyway, if you have young kids, or if you know someone with young kids, this would make a great gift and teaching aid to help them start to get acquainted with the God of the Bible.

FYI: The CEV translation is the only Bible to win the Plain English Society Crystal Award for crystal clear English.

Read and Learn Bible at amazon.com