Category Archives: Books

Physician, Heal Thyself – an excerpt from And The Dead Shall Rise First

In case you are interested in And the Dead Shall Rise First, the zombie novel I am working on, today, in the spirit of Friday the 13th, at zombietheology.com I have posted “Physician, Heal Thyself,” a working excerpt from the book. This excerpt, as well as the rest of the book, is far from polished, and I would love to get some feedback on it.

And the Dead Shall Rise First is a novel about the church’s response to a virus that has turned the majority of humanity into zombies.

It is the year 2020 and civilization died one year ago. A virus and horror like never before imagined has gripped our world. EPV (Evolved Photoplasm Virus) is infecting and killing the majority of humanity. It isn’t stopping there. The dead are reanimating and have one single drive: consume all life. Is this the End, Armageddon, the Apocalypse, those things foretold in prophecy throughout Scripture and history? Will the church be able to overcome her division to help bring relief and hope to the world in the midst of all this devastation, or will she simply wither and die in a fractured irrelevant self-induced coma? What hope can she bring to the few remaining survivors of the pandemic? What relief can she bring to so many people who find themselves widowed, orphaned, tired, starving, sick, homeless, and utterly hopeless? And, ultimately, where is God in the midst of all this mess? These are the questions that the Final Council must ask, and the answers are not only crucial to the survival of the faith, but to the survival of humanity.

Also make sure you get back to zombietheology.com next Saturday, May 21st. There will be another surprise in honor of Harold Camping’s “Judgement Day” prediction.



Not Reactionary: a response to people thinking christians are reactionary

This morning I read a tweet announcing that this individual was about to read a book by the name of Christ Alone. Sounded like a boring old Christian book to me, but it was better than that.  Only a few weeks after the release of Love Wins there is ALREADY a “response” book out there against it. That is impressive. Do you remember the Da Vinci Code? Here are just a few of the “response” books to that:

  • The Da Vinci Code Controversy
  • Breaking the Da Vinci Code
  • The Da Vinci Hoax
  • Exploring the Da Vinci Code
  • Da Vinci Code Decoded
  • The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code
  • Cracking Da Vinci’s Code
  • Cracking the Da Vinci Code (not to be confused with Cracking Da Vinci’s Code)

Seriously, I did not just make that up. So what is the point? I’m not sure that I have a point but I just found this interesting. Are Christians overly reactionary? Or are “Christian” publishing companies just really good marketers who know how to ride the coat tales of the success of others? Do Christians worry too much about people being tricked into abandoning the faith by every popular book or movie that questions Christian beliefs? Do Christians not have enough of a foundation in Christ not to be washed around by every contradictory belief out there?

Those are some of the concerns that are raised in my mind when I see this trend of books in “response” or offering a “Christian perspective” on certain popular subjects. Why bother responding? Why not just teach the truth from a positive angle (i.e. this is the truth) as opposed to the negative angle (i.e. this is not true, this is not true …)? It seems much more effective to teach one truth thus opposing ALL beliefs that contradict that truth than to go out and try to disprove every particular opposing belief out there.


Sir Quinlan and the Swords of Valor – book review

The following book review is copied from my reading blog, Reading in Southern Maine where I write brief thoughts on the books I am reading.

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.


The Bible – A review

The Bible is never really treated like other books. Since The Bible is a major source for how we understand God we usually shy away from criticizing it, at least out loud for fear of being sacrilegious, but the truth is that sometimes we, or at least I, think things in the Bible are weird or confusing. Would I be ok with that in any other book? I don’t know, but I thought it would be interesting to look at the Bible as a book and review it like I would other books, just for fun… I apologize if my thoughts offend you; please know that I believe the Bible is true and this is just an attempt to humorously share my struggles with understanding it. 

The Bible
By God (sorta)

Synopsis: Well this book starts out with some really bizarre stuff about talking snakes, girls trying to get their father to impregnate them, a dude killing his kid to thank God for helping him win a battle, the sun standing still in the sky, people blowing trumpets to knock down walls, some kids getting eaten by a bear because they called a prophet bald, and a bunch of other really weird stuff.

The story is mostly about this guy, God, and the people that he created. For a big part of the book it focuses almost exclusively on God dealing with a certain racial group, the Jews. They are special to him for some reason, but they keep doing things he doesn’t want them to do, so he punishes them but makes all these promises that he will make things good for them again someday.

The major shifting point in the book is when this guy Jesus is born. Apparently he is God’s son who is planted in Mary without the, umm, normal means of seed planting, so to speak. Not a lot of people really seem to get who he is or what he is supposed to be doing, but they are all pretty interested in him because he can heal sick and handicapped people, he talks like he has God’s authority, and he just seems to get what’s going on better than anyone else. Some people think he is going to be the Jews’ new king and overthrow the Romans who are oppressing them, but he says that he is supposed to be a “spiritual” king which I can only imagine some people saw as a cop-out. So, he seems to want people to change and not be so comfortable and they don’t really like that so they have him killed, but then he comes back to life after being dead for three days.

Some of his followers go on to other places to tell other people about him and now it seems like the focus of the book largely shifts from God caring about just the Jews to him caring about everyone again. The book ends with some really weird stuff about lamps and bowls and Jesus coming back to earth again and making everything all better finally.

My Opinion: So, this is like God’s autobiography. I don’t think he casts himself in a very good light. First of all he seems racist when he is so preoccupied with the Jews and trying to get them to kill everyone else. Why should all those other people die? Just because they aren’t Jews? Seems kinda messed up to me. Another thing is that God seems to be all about himself. I mean the book is full of really awesome things that he does, but he always seems to do them so people will think he is great.

Another problem I had with The Bible is that there are so many confusing parts like the prophecies and the stuff about Jesus coming back and all the stuff that was going on with the Jews. It just seems to me like the book lacked focus and clear direction. The reader was left to infer a bunch of meaning and connections in the plot. Seems like a novice mistake by the author. There also seem to be a lot of contradictory facts, like how God chooses people he wants to follow him, but at the same time people choose to follow God. If he could have ironed all that out a little better I think it would have made more sense.

Some of the characters were confusing too. You weren’t sure if they were supposed to be good guys or bad guys. Like this one guy David who seems like he is all about following God and then he sleeps with another guy’s wife and kills the guy! What is that about?!?! Or David’s son Solomon who is supposedly super wise (like Mr Miyagi or something) yet he marries a bunch of women, and turns away from God to impress certain chicks? Doesn’t seem even slightly intelligent to me.

So much of this book’s plot, characters, and morals are confusing. You get a general idea that people are bad, that God loves them but he’s upset with them, that Jesus loves them and that him and God made a way for them to follow him. Love seems like a big deal. Humility seems like a big deal. God seems pretty interested in everyone knowing how awesome he is. Beyond that I just didn’t get much else.

FYI: there are several unofficial sequels and bonus materials to go along with The Bible like The Book of Mormon, The Apocrypha, and several additional gospel sections

The Bible at amazon.com
Or read it free lots of places online. I like reading it at blb.org


Radical – book review

The following book review is copied from my reading blog, Reading in Southern Maine where I write brief thoughts on the books I am reading.

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.


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