Friday, May 25, 2007

Book Review: Mozi, Basic Writings, translated by Burton Watson

I had to read this one for my Ancient Chinese History class. Mozi was one of the first philosophers in China, this work being perhaps the oldest piece of Chinese philosophy we have (sections of The Analects may be older).

I choose Mozi out of the other ancient Chinese philosophers because he is the most Christian. His ideas of universal love and the justice of Heaven echo a lot of later Christian ideals. When I actually wrote my essay on him though, the differences between him and traditional Christian thought grew more apparent. For Mozi, universal love is done out of pure utility. You love others without partiality because if everyone did that then the world would be a better place. It is a command of Heaven only because Heaven is interested in utility.

However, Heaven in Mozi’s conception cares about justice in the way that God does in Christianity. Mozi says that murdering a man anywhere brings up the wrath of Heaven who cannot ignore that innocent blood has been shed. “Heaven” for Mozi just denotes the highest standard of order, rather than the Christian conception of a personal God.

Basically, while Mozi’s methodology and reasoning is quite distinctive, his main ideas are very Christian, especially in his conception of universal love. I think this work shows that God is bigger than just the Christian church and has shown bits of his truth to all cultures. In Christ we have the perfect revelation of God, but that does not mean that God left everyone else in the world completely without some sort of witness to Himself.

Book Review: Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge

This was a good book that tries to get at the core psychological issues facing men today. Men aren’t acting like men as God created them to be. God is wild and free but much of the church today preaches a tame view of God and thus men in the church tend to be bored since being a Really Nice Guy is not very exciting.

Every man (and woman) is made in the image of God. When God created Adam, He bestowed upon him the divine image. Any honest reading of the Bible shows that God is far from tame. From cover to cover He is a dangerous God. Almost the entire Bible is about God fighting the forces of darkness. From the flight out of Egypt, the conquest of Canaan all the way up to the ministry of Jesus and the mission he gives the apostles, God is clearly contending against evil. In each of us is that innate desire for a battle to fight. We are called to fight with God against the forces of evil in “this present darkness.”

Eldredge speaks about the wound that most men receive that makes them internalize that they are not really men. Usually this wound to a man’s pride is dealt by his father whom the boy looks towards for confirmation of his masculinity. A lot of the time the father gives a negative or equivocal response the shatters the world of the boy. Personally, I think Eldredge might be going too far in this generalization. I think ultimately the responsibility lies with the individual because only with the individual and God can the situation change. I wholeheartedly agree with Eldredge that bestowal of masculinity ought to reside fully with God.

By asking the right questions to God and seeking after Him can we find out our true name. Our false self is built around the fears that we’ve accumulated through the old wound that we’ve received. Only through God, who sees into a man’s heart, can one be saved. Eventually the false self is found out and exposed. Like a man who has cheated on his taxes for years finally got caught one day, our lives eventually force us to face the truth. C.S. Lewis said that, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts at us in our pain. It is his blow horn to rouse a deaf world.”

Later in the book, Eldredge speaks about spiritual warfare. Like Jesus who rebutted the temptations of the devil with Scripture, we are called to do the same. By following the guidance of God revealed in the Scriptures, we are able to overcome the Enemy. I think the danger of “spiritual warfare” talk is in the words of one of my friends the speaker could start thinking of himself as God’s “power ranger.” I think we ought to take our cues from Scripture on this subject without overly dramatizing it. Scripture is sparse on details instead speaking about spiritual realities. Let’s take the latter to heart and avoid the former.

After the spiritual warfare section, the book got more boring but I did get some good advice about choosing a career/life path that may prove quite invaluable. Since this book is psychological in nature, I endeavor to journal about it when I get the time. Overall, I recommend this book, although I wish Eldredge went a little lighter on the movie references.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Book Review: The Horse and His Boy, by C.S. Lewis

This is a children’s book but I wouldn’t read it to my children. While I liked The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, this book was not as original as either of those. The plot was plodding and there was a lot of hidden racism/ethnocentrism throughout the novel. For example, the turban-wearing darker skinned desert people to Narnia’s south were always derided as being “slavish” and generally ugly while the fair skinned Northern people were “noble” and “free.” While I could expect the story to be more sympathetic to people of lighter skin color, Lewis’ habit of constantly telling the reader this was annoying.

The main theme of the book is fate and while it was merely okay, it did not really pay off for reading the book. If you are going to read the Chronicles of Narnia, I’d recommend avoiding this book.