31 July 2010

Book Notes-July 2010

This was a light month and a bit late in getting put out there, but nonetheless, here was my reading.  

1. Ambassador Basic Curriculum: Course One by Greg Koukl (2002).  Although technically not a "book", this CD series comes with book length notes, which I have read.  I want to highly recommend obtaining this series of you want to learn how to be warm, attractive, and inviting as a Christian.  Koukl is funny, captivating, and informative.  I also completed Ambassador Basic Curriculum (Course Two of Three) & Ambassador Basic Curriculum Course Three of Three By Gregory Koukl 5 stars. 

2. Refuting Compromise: A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of "Progressive Creationism" (Billions of Years) As Popularized by Astronomer Hugh Ross by Jonathan Sarfati (2004).  This book was recommended by one of my pastors as a response to the work of Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe.  Hugh Ross, a Christian astrophysicist, promotes old-earth creationism.  Sarfati wrote Refuting Compromise as rejection of Ross's work.  There were both positives and negatives about the book.  On the positive side, Sarfati presents a thorough defense of young earth creationism (a term he does not prefer, but which seems appropriate) and covers a broad range of topics. He is mostly readable, and certainly passionate.  On the negative side, he presents in such a way that he appears to have a score to settle.  He criticizes Ross (personally) at many turns, which is unfounded, in my opinion.  He also fails to apply the same criticisms to himself that he applies to Ross.  For example, he criticizes Ross for being a poor exegete, yet he himself is a scientist, not a Hebrew Scholar.  He happily cites Bruce Waltke's interpretation of certain Hebrew words (p. 92), yet does not acknowledge that Waltke is a professed theological evolutionist, contrary to Sarfati's own view.  He happily cites church fathers (e.g., Calvin), unless they disagree with him, then he is quick to reject them.  All in all, I was most bothered by his inconsistency.  If you want to understand the YEC position, this may be a good start if you can overlook the aggressive style.  3 stars.

3.  Bariatric Surgery: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals by James Mitchell and Martina de Zwaan (2005).  I took 4 days in July to catch up on professional reading.  In addition to several journals, I read this book about the psychology of bariatric surgery.  I conduct psychological evaluations of bariatric surgery candidates as a part of my job and this is a brief book that addresses some of the relevant issues.  Interestingly, despite its brevity, there remains a lot of redundancy.  Useful, but not profound.  3.5 stars.

4. Neuroscience, Psychology, and Religion: Illusions, Delusions, and Realities about Human Nature (Templeton Science and Religion Series) by Malcom Jeeves and Warren S Brown (2009). I respect Jeeves and Brown a great deal, though their approach to Christian psychology is much different from what you might expect from David Powlison, or even Stanton Jones.  Their starting point seems to be science, rather than their faith, in understanding human nature.  Unfortunately, this too often leads to scriptural compromise.  It is a worthwhile read to understand the current nature of neuroscience as it relates to religion and provides a review of non-reductive physicalism, their preferred understanding of the body/soul problem.  I am not sure that they are right, though they present their ideas well, albeit too briefly.  4 stars.

5. Confessions of St. Augustine, The: Modern English Version by Augustine of Hippo (398-400/2005) Augustine's Confessions were assigned reading when I was a freshman in college.  I slogged through, resenting every word.  Reading it again, 15 years later, I have a much deeper appreciation of the words within.  Reading The Confessions has reminded me why reading classics is, in many ways, preferable to reading contemporary writings.  They endure for a reason.  Augustine combines orthodox Christian faith, with philosophical knowledge, and personal revelation that enriches the story.  I particularly appreciated his essay "The Book of Memory", which resonated with me as a Christian, a psychologist, and a neuroscientist--it should be required reading for all folks in the neurosciences--to realize that Augustine was writing about things contemporary writers address 1600 years ago.  5 stars.

If you are going to read one, definitely read Augustine.  

29 July 2010

Feeling Dry

We have been contemplating a new home, in the country, away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  We found a far out place, though within walking distance to friends.  Exciting possibilities flood my mind.  Quiet evenings in the pitch black.  Days spent watching cabbage moths, illuminating the fields like fireflies.  Listening to the wind rustling the trees on the hill above the house. 

Set in opposition to these serene scenes imagined are stark practicalities.  How do we ready our home for sale?  How do we secure financing?  Are we making the right choice, for ourselves and for the great commission?  

These thoughts, good and bad, flood my consciousness and crowd out God.  I have been feeling dry.  My quiet times have lost their passion this week.  My prayers seem wooden.  Though I am disciplined in practicing spiritual disciplines, my emotional desire is fleeting.  I think tonight, finally, I recognized that it is a matter of misplaced priorities.  Though moving may be good and right, it does not...must not...replace what is truly good and right. 

We will continue to prepare for a move to God knows where, but I earnestly pray that I regain the passion for God that feels absent this week.    He alone is the living water that can water my dry and weary soul. 

24 July 2010

Troublesome words

Near the conclusion of the sermon on the mount, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" (Matthew 7:21-23).

Every time I read this set of verses, I am troubled by them.  In the previous paragraph, it is clear that Christians are recognized "by their fruit", but here people are claiming to have been fruitful, yet still are cast out from God. As Christians, I don't think we can (or should) easily cast this verse aside.  What do you think it means?  What do you do with it? 

13 July 2010

Psychological "Science" and the Art of Spin

There are three types of lies:  lies, damned lies, and statistics--Benjamin Disraeli

Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast of the White Horse Inn.  Michael Horton and friends were interviewing Os Guinness, who shared that when he was raising his children, he developed a game called "spot the lie."  He trained his children to spot non-sequitirs and lies as they consumed the media.  I made a mental note to incorporate this concept into my own parenting. 

Today, I was able to spot the lie.  On a listserv I frequent, someone asked about the American Psychological Association's policy regarding adolescents' ability to consent to abortion and I curiously wanted to know as well.  In 1990, the APA filed an amicus brief (Hodgson v. Minnesota) making clear their position that minors were developmentally mature enough to consent to abortion without parental consent.  As I read further, however, in 2005 the APA filed another amicus brief with the supreme court (Roper v. Simmons) stating that adolescents were developmentally immature and, therefore, should be exempt from the death penalty.  This drew swift criticism from Justice Scalia and many others as well who spotted the lie.  In October 2009, an article was published in the American Psychologist by Steinberg, Cauffman, Woolard, Graham, and Banich that attempted to scientifically reconcile these two apparently inconsistent viewpoints.  Despite their use of statistical methodology, they, like the APA, began with politically-biased assumptions--that the death penalty is wrong and abortion is right. 

I hope the publication of an article in the APAs flagship journal supporting inconsistent viewpoints with science disavows you of the notion that science can be objective and value free.  The stance that we should not kill kids who kill others but that we should allow kids to kill their own kids without parental consent is yet another reason why I am no longer a member of APA and why, on days like today, I struggle to even self-identify as a psychologist. 

03 July 2010

Living La Vida Loca

I last posted a family update on January 28th.  Since then, much has changed.  Heather finished her treatments well and finished chemotherapy about 3 months ago.  Her hair is growing in quicker than we both imagined.  This week, we had a scare as she found 3 more lumps in her other breast, but they turned out to be nothing of consequence.  Yet another demonstration of God's abundant mercy.

She has resumed her once chaotic life.  This week was a perfect example.  Monday was occupied with dog class for Grace.  Tuesday, Heather met with her oncologist, had a mammogram and ultrasound, visited our friend Gen in the hospital.  Wednesday, Heather and Grace each had morning doctor appointments followed by three of Aaron and Gen's children staying with Heather while their mother had surgery--Heather even brought them to Grace's dog-show. Thursday, she took our kids and Abby Downie to a frog show.  Later Gen came over with her children and then a friend called to ask if Heather could watch her two children while she ran to the hospital.  Heather takes all of these things in stride, finding joy in the company of others.  She is indeed a wife of noble character and a reminder to me that God has blessed me much more richly than I deserve. 

Our children march on.  Grace has increasingly lived up to her name.  She is growing in maturity and wisdom, if such a thing is possible for a 10 year old.  Her interests remain broad, and I remain thankful.  Ian is increasingly discovering what it means to be a boy.  He can either be found jumping off of something or hitting it with a stick.  Tessa is growing like a weed and it feels like she has always been with us. Every day, I feel blessed to be a dad (Psalm 127).

I don't know what the future holds for our family, but I know that it is in God's hands.  He has a grand purpose and somewhere in it, we figure in.