Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Theological Anthropology - A Guide for the Perplexed by Marc Cortez

"Theological anthropology can be defined briefly as theological reflection on the human person." This was part of the compelling introduction that opened a most fascinating book. 

I chanced upon this title while browsing through Wheaton College's website and was intrigued as I read its description. It looked kinda like a "Idiot's Guide" (no offense to the author) and I thought I should take a look.

What a book it proved to be!

The author attempted to give the reader an overview of the classical and contemporary theological arguments for the following questions:

  • What is the relationship between human persons and the rest of creation? How "unique" are humans in creation? How does this affect our appreciation for the "dignity" of the human person?
  • Why were humans created male and female? What is the significance of human sexuality for understanding humanity? How should this play out in our understanding of marriage, family, and sexual ethics?
  • Of what are human persons comprised? Are we basically physical beings, spiritual beings, some combination of the two, or something else entirely? In what ways does our answer to this question affect how humans should live in the world?
  • Do human persons have "free will"? What exactly does this mean and what is its significance for understanding, among other things, salvation, moral responsibility, and relationality?

I liked how the author guided the reader in the complex discussion and tried to make things as jargon-free as possible, although some technical terms would invariably pop up. 

At the end of introducing the current debates on the imago dei, sexuality, mind and body and free will (as the chapters are so titled) we are given a framework in which to view these arguments in a coherent fashion. This I appreciated very much.

I most enjoyed the chapter on sexuality, perhaps partly because of my interest in it. I felt the author dealt very well with the intricacies of the topic and kudos to him for featuring the intersex. I'd just read a book on them and am thankful the author included them in the chapter because their very presence raises various theological questions.

The author rightly points out that "the number of discrete disciplines involved in the discussion can complicate matters and to do justice to our questions, it would seem that we need to be well versed in (at least) the fields of exegesis, theology, philosophy, psychology, biology, physics, and the neuroscience."

However, I felt that this book did an excellent job in addressing the various disciplines involved and I was pleasantly surprised that I understood perhaps 80% of the material save the parts that were overly technical.

I would recommend this book to all who are interested in the questions posed above as it gives a clear and comprehensive explanation. I would also like to thank the author for recommending me another book on the same topic by a different author, and perhaps you'll see another review up real soon. For my first foray into theological anthropology, I must say that this book has made it an enjoyable one.

You can order this book here on Book Depository or Amazon.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

This is a beautifully written book about losing one's faith in the Christian God and finding it back again. In Rachel Held Evans' third book, she has truly blossomed as a writer and out of her three books, this is the one I enjoyed the most.

The book revolves around various sacraments of the church in the following order:

1. Baptism
2. Confession
3. Holy Orders
4. Communion 
5. Confirmation
6. Anointing of the Sick
7. Marriage 

I loved how she used these themes and related her personal encounters with them while weaving in how these sacraments feature in the church and in the lives of others.

Although I've not left my faith, I could empathise with her and I sometimes lament the various shortcomings of the Church.

However, this book helped me realise that although humans are inherently flawed, God isn't, and redemption can be found even in the midst of imperfection.

Now that I've finished it, I know exactly who to loan this book to: a friend who is jaded with the church and tired of the messages coming from the pulpit every Sunday. I pray this book will ignite a tiny flame of hope within her weary heart and encourage her to continue in her Christian walk.

Find out more about Searching for Sunday here or order your very own copy from Book Depository or Amazon today. I promise you, you won't be disappointed.

This is Awkward by Sammy Rhodes

This book easily makes to the TOP 3 books I've read this year (and I've read many) because of the sensitive topics mentioned and because it is so easy to read I finished it in two days flat. 

I first encountered Sammy Rhodes on Twitter after someone mentioned how he was one of those who made serious Christianity a lot funnier with his hilarious tweets. I've not been laughing very hard at any of his recent tweets but his active promotion of his book made me really curious and I preordered it after reading a compelling introduction he put up online. 

Even after a week, this book sticks out on how it bravely deals with topics like how even Christians consume porn, how weight can be a consuming topic and on depression which can consume one so totally there seems to be no way out. 

Out of the three, the first really hits home not because I watch porn, but because in a recent Sunday service in my rather progressive church, as my senior pastor was addressing the topic of porn, he asked the congregation that "if 1 in 3 men consume porn, how many people here did", and then told them not to raise their hands because "nobody wants to know". While this might be a polite Asian gesture - to keep dirty linen to oneself - I think it promotes an unhealthy culture of being unable to freely confess our sins to acquire support that one desperately needs

Check out the following extract which I posted on Instagram:

It is so sad. 

On a happier note, the chapter on weight resonated with me and being the digital millennial that I am, I happily snapped another memorable passage to share my revelation:

Finally, the chapter on depression really got me. Sometimes because of a lack of knowledge on how to deal with depression, Christians just sweep it under the carpet instead of addressing it with grace and sensitivity - at least that's what I've experienced. The author talks candidly about seeing a therapist and I related to that, as I'm seeing one myself, and it really helped to know that I'm not alone in this. 

I would recommend this book to all Christians, especially leaders, in an effort to deal with the difficult topics because if the church is not your refuge and a place where you find support, then where is?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Adventures of Squirky the Alien #5: How do you get to the GardenGalaxy?

In this penultimate book of the Squirky series, we find the blue protagonist very close to finding his parents. 

He'd landed on Planet P and the inhabitants have explained how to get to them - enter the portal to the Garden Galaxy. But once through, there was no turning back. Would Squirky take that fateful step?

*Spoiler alert*

I was stunned to find out that he didn't. I guess we'll find out more in the last book. 

I must say I've quite enjoyed reading this series, much to my surprise. The books really hold valuable lessons for all children, adopted or otherwise. And they really provide good fodder for conversation for adoptees. 

Well done, Melanie and I look forward to the very last book in this amazing series!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Strong and Weak: Embracing a life of love, risk and true flourishing by Andy Crouch

I've read too many Christian books on living and on leadership that I don't like, so this was a refreshing change.

The author's objective was to empower the reader with the right thinking in order to live "a life of love, risk & true flourishing".

He makes use of this 2 by 2 chart to illustrate his understanding of true flourishing. It's a pretty simple chart comprising 4 quadrants:

I: Authority with Vulnerability = Flourishing
II: Vulnerability with no Authority = Suffering
III: No authority and no Vulnerability = Withdrawing
IV: Authority with no Vulnerability = Exploiting

Simple as it is, I loved how the author made use of examples from the world around us to elaborate on the finer points of his argument.

This is an easy-to-read book that captured my attention from its very first paragraph: "Two questions haunt every human life and every human community. The first: What are we meant to be? The second: Why are we so far from what we're meant to be?" The rest of the book attempts to answer these two questions.

I have learnt how to be a better person, and a better leader by reading this book. I liked how he based his core ideas on the life of Jesus Christ, yet is accessible enough for even the average non-Christian to read and also gain from it.

I would recommend this book to all Christians, especially those tired of "self-help" type of books that are flooding the market. Check it out on Amazon and Book Depository today!

Disclaimer: The publisher sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Adventures of Squirky the Alien #4: Where is my Mama?

Book 4 of the Squirky series centers around Squirky helping a big purple alien Crystal, to find her mother.

For the uninitiated, Squirky the blue alien, his sister Emma, and Mr Quentin had travelled to Planet S on a spaceship in a quest to search for Squirky's birth parents. You can read more about Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3 too.

Planet S is freezing and as they were looking around, they found a huge monster bounding towards them and ran for their lives. Unfortunately Emma tripped, and while Squirky stayed back to help her up, the purple monster got close to them. They were scared stiff, but it turned out that she was only searching for her mom. They eventually found her and as a lovely surprise, she showed Squirky a hologram of his parents, giving him another clue on where to find them.

This is possibly my favourite book yet in the series. It's a charming and heartwarming tale that would teach children that sometimes, we need to put the needs of others before ourselves.

I guess the only thing I have to whine about is that sometimes I didn't quite understand how the pictures embedded within the text (an elf on one page and a guinea pig on another) had to do with the story itself. One day I shall meet the author and illustrator to ask them. But the full page graphics on every page were pretty good as usual, so no complaints there.

Can't wait to read Book 5!

Disclaimer: The author sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.