Book and Movie Reviews
Book reviews available
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Looking at the book reviews I have done thus far, it seems that this section was becoming more of an arena for releasing my frustrations with books I don't like, rather than a platform also for reviews of the books that I have found inspiring and helpful, so I've started to rectify that situation.
Other books I've thought were really good include The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey, The Quest by Eugene H Peterson (author of The Message commentary/paraphrase/version of the New Testament), Who Moved The Stone by Frank Morison, and possibly Putting Away Childish Things by David A Seamands.
Movie reviews available
By Charles (Chuck) Swindoll
Review by Ian Mander, 3 March 2001 of Chapter 1, American spelling used in quotes, as per the original.
In a book about grace I found it strange in the extreme that chapter one should start with such a scathing attack. After all, grace is not normally associated with such action. The only time that Jesus made an attack like this (calling the Pharisees things like "you brood of vipers"), He was addressing hypocrisy. This opens Mr Swindoll to a charge of hypocrisy himself, for (apparently) the point of the book is that people living under the Grace of God should themselves display graciousness (or grace as he calls it*) when dealing with the people around them. That is all very good and proper, but the people most lacking in showing graciousness he starts off by condemning as "killers" who "maneuver and manipulate others in the most insidious manner possible." It seems to me that these very "killers" are most in need of a book such as Mr Swindoll's, and yet they are alienated and offended in the first four pages, and are thus very unlikely to continue reading.
*The difference between grace and graciousness is not made clear in chapter one.
So who is this book for? In those first few pages I had the impression that Mr Swindoll was trying to influence his readers (and no offence intended, but I can more easily imagine a stereotypical American reader here) to agree with him simply because they would not want to appear like the "killers" he was describing – and fair enough, for his description was, as I mentioned, scathing. These readers would probably be people raised to already have a certain amount of graciousness toward those around them, and while they may gain a lot from the book, they do not necessarily need to read it; certainly not as much as the "killers" do.
Also, in the closing paragraphs of the chapter I found the description of the first gridiron game he went to rather gratuitous. What was he trying to convey with this? Why was the account here? Perhaps he wanted to include something that a typical American would be able to identify with, something undemanding and familiar that would encourage them to read the next chapter. Or perhaps he hopes that anyone reading his book will find it just as life changing as the game supposedly was for him. Whichever, it did not come across to me as a natural remembrance or a smooth insertion, such as the reflections I found in Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew.
"Deny it or debate it and we kill it." (Page 5.) Why not reword this to "Disagree with me and you prove my point, by blatant assertion." Where is the room for discussion? He defines grace on page 9 by using Donald Barnhouse's description, but goes on: "To show grace is to extend favor or kindness to one who doesn't deserve it and can never earn it." The trouble with a definition like that is that every human has the capacity to earn human graciousness. It is only God's grace that can never possibly be earned. From the Internet:
HEAVEN'S ENTRANCE EXAM
Perhaps I am too cynical to read a book that starts with a chapter like Mr Swindoll has given this book. Or too lacking in graciousness, perhaps. The first few pages rather offended me, and I never really "recovered" from that while reading the rest of the chapter.
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The Creator and the Cosmos
By Hugh Ross
Semi-random notes by Ian Mander, made before giving up on reading the book. (Because these are notes made while reading the first few chapters of The Creator and the Cosmos, having a copy of the book handy might help in understanding what I'm talking about here. I do not recommend spending any money on it, however.)
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The Puzzle of Ancient Man
By Donald Chittick, 1999.
Review by Ian Mander BSc, 12 March 2000.
Sadly, Dr Chittick spends most of the book drawing conclusions and comparing his evidence to the Bible, rather than actually presenting his evidence. I found this rather disappointing. He presents summary information rather than decent data (eg, doesn't explain how the forming techniques on page 118 are different).
He also misrepresents his sources on occasion, and this is very serious. For example, he refers to After the Flood by Bill Cooper and to Morley, The Ancient Maya. On page 121 Dr Chittick claims that the year zero on the Mayan calendar was the creation of the world, referring to Morley. However, Bill Cooper makes the claim that the Mayans knew their age started with a flood and that their Day One started after that. This may be just two sources disagreeing with each other, but it gets worse.
[I was intending to write more in this review but it never happened, sorry.]
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The Bible Code
By Michael Drosnin, 1999.
Review by Ian Mander BSc, 20 May 2000, updated 26 March 2018.
Last Saturday I went to see the movie The Omega Code, a movie I think partly inspired by The Bible Code. I say partly inspired because the "codes" involved are quite different. On my way home from the movie I stopped at a friend's house, and found she had an unread copy of The Bible Code. Liking to keep an open mind, I decided to read it, and after finding the first page interesting and the rest of the first chapter a real "bang my head against a brick wall" struggle, found the rest of the book quite interesting.
The codes the book talks about are words found in the Hebrew text of the first five books of the Bible by taking letters determined by a regular skip. For example, taking every 50th letter in Genesis (just the first few) spells out the Hebrew word Torah. Fine so far, but so what? If two discovered hidden words (with same or different skip steps) are reasonably close to each other, or even crossing, they allegedly form a code. The code may predict the future, or recount a past event (which was still a prediction 3000 years ago when he says those books were written).
Mr Drosnin claims that using these "codes", assassinations, calamities, moon-landings etc are all predicted.
Throughout my reading, however, I had a real problem with his claim that these sorts of codes are not found in any other book, Hebrew or otherwise. But he stated it emphatically: They were only to be found in the Bible.
So I went searching the Internet. One of the first things I found was a CNN interview with the author in which he claimed words to the effect of "These things don't occur in Moby Dick." That piqued my interest, so with advice from my brother I searched for "Bible code" and "Moby Dick." Bingo.
What Michael Drosnin doesn't point out in his book is that he omits all vowels from his Hebrew text. This alone makes his task of finding hidden words hugely easier, since whatever the desired vowels are can be added. Australian mathematition Brendon McKay took up Drosnin's challenge, and just to make it harder on himself, used the straight text of Moby Dick, vowels and all.
He found "codes" of assassinations and significant events in Moby Dick just like in Drosnin's Hebrew Bible. But my favourite one was a Moby Dick code that Dr McKay called The Demise of Drosnin. Yes, Moby Dick apparently predicts the violent death of The Bible Code author. What's more, the word LIAR appears in The Demise of Drosnin code no less than three times, and LIES once.
In conclusion: No code has been found in the Bible which could not also be found in any other book. If you're looking for divine revelation, just read the plain text of the Bible. If you're looking for hidden messages, give Moby Dick a try – it'll be as good as anything else.
Predictions made by Drosnin include:
In listing the above predictions, I note that earthquakes in LA aren't all that infrequent anyway. The city rests uneasily on multiple fault lines. There are also almost regular fires in the hills surrounding LA, which are often serious enough to destroy homes.
A review which deals more specifically with the end of the world predictions can be read here (broken link).
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