Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Peasant Girl's Dream

Connoisseurs of the Scottish accent sometimes hold quite lively debates over the proper way to portray it in written form. While British accents aren't very difficult to picture, (just don't put in 'jolly',  for goodness' sake) the Scottish requires a little visual help to get in the swing of it.

While we sit arguing over 'didna' vs. 'didnae' and 'canna' vs. 'cannae', those people who don't love all things Scottish sit and scratch their heads, wondering what could possibly be the attraction in learning these tongue twisters.

Well, there isn't much--unless you have the Celtic blood in your veins, in which case it's not merely an attraction. It's an out and out passionate love.

Now when I was first learning how to read it, I started easy and built up because it can be quite confusing. Douglas Bond is a great beginning for that sort of thing, as long as you don't stop there. His Crown and Covenant books have enough for a good taste, even if his readers debate on how well he portrayed it. After that, Kidnapped makes an excellent continuation, as Stevenson does a decent job incorporating the Scottish. The next step up would be the Bethany House re-publications of George MacDonald's works. The Baronet's Song is on the lighter side; The Fisherman's Lady and The Marquis' Secret are even better. But The Peasant Girl's Dream, in my findings, has the best Scottish dialogue next to reading the real thing.

Someday I'm going to crack out the real MacDonalds. Did you know that, as glorious as Phillips' reprints are, the originals are even richer on a cursory glance through? I had no idea, but the beauty of them almost made my soul hurt as I read MacDonald's original prose for the first time this morning. It's breathtaking. And the dialogue is quite thick.

Today's review, The Peasant Girl's Dream, is one I promised to my readers back in the second post ever posted in this blog. (Yes, I've been keeping track!) Note that this book was originally titled Heather and Snow in MacDonald's original.

And much as I want to read MacDonald's originals, I dearly love the re-prints as well.

The Book
Kirsty Barclay lives in the heather hills with her childhood friend, Francie Gordon. At sixteen she's a sensible young lass, mindful of her God, a good reader, and a stout truth-teller when Francie gets a little too vain of his own accomplishments. She lives with her parents and her brother Steenie, who some folks call crazy. In today's world he would have been diagnosed with some sort of mental ailment, but at that time he had not the benefit of such medical consultations, and his family let him roam the hills looking for "the Father o' lichts".
Francie Gordon wants to marry Kirsty (surprise, surprise!) though she'll have none of him. Not that she wouldn't mind, if he were a little less fond of himself.
After an unfortunate incident with Francie and a young woman, during which Kirsty takes it upon herself to give him a crack across the head, he sets off to prove his manhood in the army, and Kirsty bides quietly at home taking care of her loved ones--waiting, hoping that he will come to himself someday.
It's not a dramatic tale--though it has its moments of drama, certainly-- and it doesn't really have a main plot; more relationship plots between Kirsty and Francie, Francie and his mother, Kirsty and Steenie, and Francie and the pretty young lass Phemy. But it's an excellent portrayal of a young woman's struggle to encourage her brother-figure into his manhood, and an excellent Scottish tale of love in all different forms.

I wouldna like ye to gang away thinkin' I doubted yer word, Francie. I believe anything ye tell me, as far as I think ye ken, but maybe no sae far as ye think ye ken. I believe ye, but I confess I dinna believe in ye--yet. What hae ye ever done to gie a body any right to believe in ye? Ye're a good rider, and a good shot for a laddie, and ye run middlin' fast--I canna say like a deer, for I reckon I could lick ye mysel'! ~The Peasant Girl's Dream, Chapter One

My Thoughts

The Peasant Girl's Dream has mild language here and there.

Throughout MacDonald's works you'll find the idea of universal reconciliation, the theology that all men--even if they have to go to hell temporarily--will be reconciled to God in the end. He believed in hell, but he did not believe in Divine Judgment. Jesus Christ came to save us from sin, yes, but not from eternal damnation. Keep this in mind as you read his books. They are enjoyable novels, but faulty at some points.
MacDonald's works influenced C.S. Lewis, though I don't know how far Lewis followed him in his beliefs. What's more disturbing is MacDonald's influence on his editor, Michael Phillips. Phillips' novels originally started out as sound and enjoyable stories; now they drip with universal theology, and the stories themselves are so entwined that his latter works are no longer redeemable.

But MacDonald's original works don't carry the idea nearly so far or so blatantly as Phillips, and I still find enjoyment in them, coupled with a discerning mindset. The Peasant Girl's Dream ranks next to the Malcolm novels amongst my favorites; and I look forward to reading it again sometime soon.

Up in the top right-hand corner of this page you'll find a new poll, with the next topic selections up for popular vote! If you would like your voice to be heard, by all means select your favorite choice. It's unlimited voting so more than one person can vote from the same device, but I would dearly appreciate it if you narrowed down your vote to one option per person. :)

Blessings on your reading adventures this week!

~Lady Bibliophile

Friday, April 26, 2013

Humble Orthodoxy

 When the book first arrived in the mail, I was slightly disappointed. Here was an opportunity to read a new book by  Josh Harris, author of Dug Down Deep and I Kissed Dating Goodbye; son of Greg Harris, one of the founders of homeschooling; and brother to Alex and Brett, the founders of the Rebelution movement. Nice.

I didn't realize when I requested it that it maxed out at 61 pages.

However, determining to make the best of it,  I started in yesterday afternoon. And in spite of my reluctance it was more than worth it.

The Book 
Joshua's premise starts with the idea that many Christians who know their orthodoxy can be quite arrogant in their presentation style. This isn't a book encouraging Christians to be unsure of themselves; on the contrary. Harris says "But we don't have the luxury or the biblical permission to be uncertain about those things God has been clear on." He does want us, however, to be a little more gracious, even while we're uncompromising.

So how do we strike a balance between a humble attitude and orthodox beliefs?

I know that humble orthodoxy sounds hard. In fact, it is hard. But ask yourself, what are the alternatives to humble orthodoxy?
I can think of two that are quite popular today. 
To begin with, there's arrogant orthodoxy. It's possible to be right in our doctrine but be unkind and unloving, self-righteous and spiteful in our words and behavior...
Another popular option is humble heterodoxy. Heterodoxy is a departure from orthodoxy. So a person who is humbly heterodox...can't bear to offend unbelievers or the general culture and seems open to almost any teaching in the name of inclusion, kindness, and open-mindedness. ~Humble Orthodoxy, by Josh Harris. Chapter One.

The first chapter defines what humble orthodoxy is, and why it matters. Chapter two hits hard on those who promote their beliefs with arrogance. Chapter three discusses repentance from arrogance, and chapter four ends with a look at what humble orthodoxy is both on a practical and an eternal level.

My Thoughts 

 Yes, some of it struck hard. It's so, so easy to be arrogant, perhaps not always in presentation, but in the heart attitude. We're so great because we've discovered this wonderful truth about God. And those poor people who haven't gotten it yet? Well, we'll explain it to them, and that will clear it all up.
The fact is, God gives us all different levels of understanding at different times. It's not the explaining and helping others that's wrong. It's not even recognizing what we've learned. What's wrong is when we think we're so great for understanding it, when we should be praising God for granting us the understanding.

I would err more on the side of arrogant orthodoxy than humble heterodoxy. I like answers. They're secure things, absolutes in a life that has so many unknowns. And it's not wrong to like answers, nor to believe that we can know our doctrine for sure. It would be wrong not to believe in absolutes. But it's wrong to bludgeon other people until they're bloody in our attempts to share it. Truth offends; truth divides; but we must be very sure that it is the principle from God that offends darkness, and not our presentation of that principle.

When I began the book, I expected it to encourage the reader to focus more on humility than orthodoxy. But Harris strikes a balance right down the middle. He does not say that orthodoxy should be thrown out for the sake of humility. He's not preaching against the idea of sound doctrine. He's rebuking both sides equally and lovingly, and his call needs to spread across the body of Christ.

We must be sure of our beliefs. Rock-solid, unshakably sure. And we must be humble in presenting them, realizing that it's only through God that we were brought out of darkness and into His glorious light.

A good little book; applicable to all Christians, and definitely an essential read.

*I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to post a favorable review.*

Lady Bibliophile

P.S. Been doing some heavy theological thinking lately, as I'm sure you've noticed! :) We'll break the trend next week, and bring on the fiction. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reasons For Belief

This week on My Lady Bibliophile I have some apologetics books on the queue. Since enjoying a delightful Sunday evening of reading I managed to finish a very nice little book with ten tough questions people ask about the Christian faith--questions every Christian should be qualified to answer. And if all goes well, I hope to finish up another short theological book to review on Friday.

After steady application, the Bible study group I attend has finished 36 weeks of a 43 week series on apologetics. Yes, that's quite a lengthy course, but it's been worth it, and every single topic is essential to our understanding of why we believe the Bible. Questions like "How do We Know the Bible is True?" "Did the Resurrection Really Happen?" and "How do we know the Old and New Testaments are Reliable?" We've looked at formal and informal logic, and why it's important to understand these concepts in evangelism. We looked at how to address different religions--Atheism, Mormonism, Islam, and others. We're ending the study by looking at biblical responses to gay marriage, abortion, statism, and other hot-button issues in today's society.

We've come a long way.

And as this topic of apologetics drew to a close, I was very excited to find two books that packed everything that we had learned in written form. (Not nearly as much detail, but enough to help me recall the studies themselves to mind.) One of them was Daniel Shayesteh's Christ Above All. The other came from a much more surprising source, and one to be honest, I'm not entirely sure about.

The Review
This year, Norman Geisler and Patti Tunnicliffe partnered to produce an excellent book Reasons For Belief. Addressing ten essential questions of the Christian faith, the easy-to-read style made finshing this a breeze, without compromising on the content. Geisler and Tunnicliffe have the  capability to say what they need to say while putting the cookies on the bottom shelf, easily grasped by their readers. The challenges they answer are as follows:

Challenge #1: "Real Truth Does Not Exist. 'Truth' is Just Truth to You"
Challenge #2: "God Does Not Exist"
Challenge #3: "If God Exists, He Isn't Necessarily the God of the Bible"
Challenge #4: "Miracles Don't Happen"
Challenge #5:  "The New Testament's Many Errors Make It Unreliable. It's More Like a Collection of Myths and Legends"
Challenge #6: "Jesus Never Claimed to be God"
Challenge #7: "Jesus Didn't Prove He is God"
Challenge #8: "Jesus Did Not Rise From the Dead"
Challenge #9: The Bible isn't the Only True Religious Book"
Challenge #10: "Christianity is Too Narrow. There Are Many Ways to God Besides Jesus."

These authors use sound logic (such as the law of non-contradiction), numerous examples of prophecy and archaeology, and Scripture itself to soundly prove each of their premises. The face is, if Christianity falls at any one point, then it is not a true religion. But Christianity has never been proven false by any discovery throughout history. Not any of its facts, not any of its prophecies. God exists, and Jesus Christ exists, and they are both inextricably linked to one another. We Christians must learn to stand on every detail of the Christian faith. Granted, there may be some concepts that are not yet clear to our understanding; but the abundant evidence that has proved the Bible true thus far shows us that the rest of the concepts we need to know will be proven true as well, as God reveals them to us.

Certainly the author of this book must have raised a few eyebrows at the beginning of my article. Norm Geisler, while well known for his stellar work on proving the Bible true, takes a very disappointing old-earth stance on creation. While this concept does not come up very often in the text itself (once, maybe twice) it's obvious that he's trying very hard to avoid a hot-button issue. Because of this, his weakest chapters are right at the beginning of the book when he addresses the challenge "God does Not Exist". His proof is reasonable--but anyone who's aware of the old earth/young earth debate can read between the lines, and the elephant in the room distracts from the proof of his premise. He makes a good start, but it's not enough. Please note, however, that though Geisler uses the term "Big Bang", he's not referring to the macro-evolutionary theory of it...I don't think. But that whole section on pages 36-39 can be taken to mean the evolutionary Big Bang, or the single point in time where God brought the earth into existence. You choose, because Geisler won't make it clear to you. Geisler spends the whole book proving that the Christian faith is something we can depend on. But he doesn't depend on a literal interpretation of Genesis 1, and therefore I couldn't give his book to someone who I was trying to convince that the Bible was real. I can take what he says and give it verbally to someone, and everything he says is sound Biblically. But because of his Genesis stance, and the deplorable resources section in the back directing readers to Hugh Ross and John Ankerberg for more help, his foundation is compromised. And that's very disappointing.

Geisler and Tunnicliffe don't give as detailed a look into other religions as Shayesteh does in Christ Above All, but they touch on some interesting points, including Mormonism and Seventh Day Adventists, which Shayesteh never mentions. First they break down the religions into four groups: Atheism, Pantheism, Deism, and Theism. After narrowing it down to Theism (All the groups contradict each other, and there cannot be two contradictory beliefs that are both true) they then separate Theism into Islam, Judaism, and Christianity and further narrow it down from there.

The best thing about this book aside from its easy to read format are the charts and graphs included. Graphs about who the different religions say Jesus was, graphs comparing Jesus to leaders of other religions, and graphs about what God must be compared to who Jesus was, clearly summarize the information with accompanying Scripture verses.

Reasons for Belief covers some very important questions in a sound and understandable format. Due to Norman Geisler's stance on creation, I wouldn't give this book out to a non-believer. But I will use some of his sounder answers to equip me in my discussions, and I think it's a handy book to have on any seasoned apologetic's shelf.

*Bethany House provided this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to give a favorable review.*


Can you defend the faith? If someone were to challenge you with any of the statements listed above, could you answer them? We live in an increasingly antagonistic culture, and God has called us to be ready for their attacks and questions.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. ~1 Peter 3:15-16

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tall Tales: Books and Movies Are Different or The Best and Worst of Movie Adaptations

The tension between book and movie lovers generally runs pretty high whenever a new adaptation releases. From the purists who simply desire  a respect for the authors original intent, to the fans who simply love seeing their stories come alive, how in the world is Hollywood to keep their patrons happy?

But this blog, after all, is Lady Bibliophile, which means the books win hands-down pretty much every time. So far in my life there has been one exception, which is coming below. After all, as Jordan says on Messy Mondays, "Hmm, let me see if this natural-flavored banana baby food tastes as good as real bananas." The same is true with movies and books. The real thing just wins out every time--if the movie was made first, and the novel was written after, it generally isn't as good. (Kendrick's brothers movies are best in their movie form.) And if the novel was written first, and the movie came after, generally the book holds the edge.

But hey, I don't want to come across as a movie kill-joy. I love a good movie, probably more than most people would think, and I watch most book-to-movie adaptations numerous times. So to make up for all my mutterings and mumblings about movie adaptations in general, I'm making a list of the best and worst book-to-movie adaptations below. Strictly in my opinion, of course. Worst does not necessarily mean un-watchable. I watch all but one of the movies below with varying degrees of enjoyment.  

The Best and Worst of Movie Adaptations

Let's start out with a good one, because good is always so much more fun.

Best: 2009 Emma
What a respectful and truly stunning adaptation of Jane Austen's witty satire. Because of it's accuracy, careful costuming and makeup, and attention to detail, as well as taking the time and money to add in the necessary plots, this one wins the award for Best Emma Ever.
Why: The directors took the time to make this more than a movie. It's a piece of art, with the carefully chosen sets and actors. They add bits of conversation, little looks, and even entire scenes here and there. But even the additions are in keeping with the general message of the story: a young woman ministering to her father and community, and learning that there is more to life than spit and polish. It is not wrong for directors and screenwriters to add scenes, or even characters to an adaptation. But the key to a successful film is a respect for the story's worldview and intentions.
Worst 2007 Mansfield Park
Second only to the infamous 1999 version, this movie fell far short as Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, and it shouldn't even be considered a cute love story separate from the book.
Why: If they choose to take liberties with the book's themes of redemption, it's necessary that they have a solid reason for replacing them. The plot was rushed, and they changed Fanny's character from that of a young woman willing to humbly serve those around her to--well, I'm not sure what. A blond quirking her eyebrows at all the suspenseful spots? Like she's supposed to be observant? But the problem here is not merely the poor production quality. The producers took out Austen's worldview and morals, and replaced it with nothing of substance. Except for women with extremely low necklines trying to seduce eligible young clergymen into changing their careers. Much more--shall we say--simmering physical attraction to spice things up. As well as the fact the producers take out the redemption of Tom's character. He ends in the book a steadier and better man, but in the movie he's the same happy-go-lucky, swearing, horse-racing gambler as before. What does this teach? That sin gets off scott-free. I will say, to be just, that it had one good scene, when Sir Thomas Bertram asks Maria if she really, truly wants to marry Mr. Rushworth, and offers to help her out of the engagement if she finds it distasteful. But Fanny and Edmond are very immature.
Best: 2005 North and South
*You may sound a drum roll if you wish.*
This was better than the book.
Excellent pacing, brilliant sets and casting, the screenwriters and producers absolutely caught the conflict arch and character development of John Thornton and Margaret Hale. A delight to the eyes, a delight to the mind, a delight to the book-loving soul of me.
Why: Elizabeth Gaskell's book portrayed a certain period of thought in history. Fortunately the producers and actors were not only passionate about adapting a book; they realized that they were portraying a vital time of the cotton industry in England. Taking the time to do it right was important to them, and they cared enough about the effort the author had put forth in creating it to do a very good job. With the exception of some language.
Worst: BBC Cadfael's The Rose Rent/The Pilgrim of Hate
BBC filmed these extremely high-quality productions, and there are no complaints to make with the shooting of the film, the casting, or the characters. For instance, three different actors played Hugh Beringar, the sheriff, all of them completely different in looks and height. But they all looked exactly like Hugh.
Why: It's a worldview switch in these particular episodes. In The Rose Rent, they twist the plot so that Cadfael and the main character advocate euthanasia, something he never did in that particular novel, and a shameful addition that no Christian should overlook. In The Pilgrim of Hate we have the same issue. Ellis Peters' portrayal of miracles through the crippled boy in the original novel changes to a spoiled wretch who faked the healing for his own ends. Also, the absolutely genius theme of justice was subverted with the changing of the identity of the murderer--leaving Ellis's beautiful teachings about the power of God, and when to seek justice and when to love mercy, flat in the dust.
Best: 1983 Mansfield Park
(Please note that the character of Fanny's father, Mr. Price includes some language, which would be best edited out in episodes 5 and 6)
Why: This isn't a flashy movie. The camera angles aren't very advanced. There isn't a lot of music. The microphones could be a little better. But it is truly the best. The production crew kept the moral lessons and worldview beautifully intact. Characters behave with propriety and the manners of the times, not the wild romping and messy hair-dos found in the 2007 version. This is also the only version that "gets" Fanny. She's a meek servant, and her portrayal honors that. Tom's coming to a greater maturity, Maria's wrongdoing, Fanny's love for her brother, Edmond's staunch commitment to principles, and Sir Thomas Bertram's coming to realize the importance of his role as a father all find their place here. Flashy effects are not always necessary to produce an excellent and edifying film.
Worst: 2005 Pride and Prejudice
Why: Again, it's not the plot changes so much as a worldview switch. Granted, P&P suffers after the brilliant Colin Firth adaptation, but the actors and actresses were not so ill-chosen, with the exception of Lizzy, and I still maintain the Matthew MacFadyen could have rivaled Firth himself with a better script and supporting actress. But it's the worldview switch. Two people fall madly in love against the odds of society and the humiliating family members around them. Lizzy says in the end: "He was a fool. But then, I was too."
That's not what Jane Austen was trying to teach. That's a feminist saying, "Oh, I'm not above admitting that I'm wrong, so long as he's equally wrong."
She sasses and back-talks and gets the better of him and jabs at his personality. He's effeminate, and she's a power woman. And while we may choose to enjoy the redeemable portions of this film, we should not be excusing worldview shifts.
Best: 2010 Little Dorrit
(Please note that in spite of it's high production quality, this film contains some mature thematic elements and a couple of pieces of objectionable statuary. Review available, if you wish to know what to avoid and where.)
Why: Andrew Davies in his screenplay stayed very close to the moral of the tale. The worldview remained intact. There were a couple of shaky scenes where Amy said things that were not in character with her mindset, but on the whole they stayed the same. And as for adding that confrontation between Rigaud and Clennam? Well, that was never in the book, but I think it's top-notch. This production is excellent because it conforms to the biblical underpinnings of children honoring parents.  And it deserves high praise.
Two Reasons I Have a High Movie Bar

1. Worldview

"It's just a movie."

"Movies and books are two different things."

This has always disturbed me for a long time. Respectfully and good-naturedly, but very earnestly, I would disagree. It's a fundamental worldview switch begin excused in the name of entertainment. Somehow, when we walk into the theatre or pop the DVD into the player, we excuse any changes from the original because evaluating them takes too much work. When a movie removes the original edifying themes--maybe replacing them with something mindless, but not intentionally harmless--someone needs to call the bluff. We are thinking, reasoning, intelligent human beings, and we should ask why. Why does the director do it this way? Why do the screenwriters choose to use this plot form? Why does the movie shift this relationship, or add that one? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

And does it comply with God's standards for what is good and right and pure entertainment?

It is not my wish to be overly critical, or even dogmatic about book-to-movie adaptations. My problems stem when an author writes a solidly biblical story, and the movie shifts that. This is when I call it out for a poor adaptation.

2. Respect for the Author

When an author spends years of their life sweating and polishing and undergoing the trauma  of rejection, to have their work watered down to suit the standards of modern entertainment is more than an insult. It ought to be a crime. There are people who spent years of research to make sure that they were respecting history, and in the case of Christians, hours of prayer to make sure that they weren't transgressing the laws of morality. That doesn't mean that changes should never be made, for authors are fallible, and there are legitimate reasons to add or subtract from their work. But make a major worldview switch and you've only done them and their work a disservice. And we should be careful about disrespecting someone's work. Artists' work is respected. Decorators don't get questioned. movie directors are applauded. Why should faithfulness to a writer's original work be considered negotiable?

Two Questions to Ask any Movie

1. Does the change involve worldview?

2. Is it small enough to overlook?

3. Does the change compromise excellency in story-telling?

There are some cases where it's a minor character, and a minor change. But in the case of the 2007 Mansfield Park or Cadfael's The Rose Rent, the removal of the worldview takes away any redeeming qualities and introduces some very questionable and disturbing elements. However, in the case of Emma and Little Dorrit, the producers combined the original tale with tasteful effects and additions to enhance it. Like putting on makeup to enhance natural beauty.

So now I would love to hear from you. Do you agree? Disagree? What are your best and worst book-to-movie adaptations?

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Christ Above All

By the age of 9, Daniel Shayesteh could recite the entire Qur'an in Arabic. A practicing Muslim whom parents held up as an example to their children, he was for a time skeptical of the idea of a God. But his interest in Iranian poetry led him to reconsider, and after going to university, he not only believed that a God existed; he threw himself passionately into the advancement of the  Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement and Ayatollah Khomeini's grab for power. After Khomeini successfully established himself, Shayesteh became the chief executive officer in a government office, and even ran successfully for a seat in the Islamic Parliament.

Then the new government turned against him.

It was just a little comment.  "If the leader makes a mistake, we need to remind him for the well-being of our country." These words caused him to be watched. Soon the people realized that Khomeini was not delivering the freedom he had promised, and after four men spoke against him and were tortured and executed, Shayesteh realized that something was very wrong. He started his own political party, their candidate receiving 98% of the vote. But Ayatollah found a loophole in the Qur'an; the political party was destroyed, and Daniel and four others were put in the same cell on Death Row. All four of his friends died. Shayesteh, with the help of friends escaped to Turkey.

After arriving in Turkey, Shayesteh considered turning to Zoroastrianism. He made good friends with a business partner, and invested a large portion of money in the man's business. Unfortunately, the man was a fraud, and made off to Germany with all of Shayesteh's money, the equivalent of $62,220 in American currency. Desperate to get his money back, Shayesteh found the church the man attended, and asked the people to help. Willingly, they reached out to him, and it was there that he realized that Christ was above all gods.

Since then, he has worked tirelessly to educate others about Islam, and show what a logical foundation Christianity stands on.

The Book
My brother was so good as to give me Shayesteh's book, Christ Above All, for Christmas. :) In this scholarly work, Shayesteh addresses common questions many people have about various religions. He divides his work into four sections. The first section addresses the importance of beliefs, and the importance of evangelism. The second looks at nine religions, mostly Middle Eastern/Asian ones: Communism, New Age, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, and others. The third section details practical examples of evangelizing, using three correspondences Shayesteh conducted with people of different religions. And finally, the fourth section discusses the nature of the trinity and a call to all Christians to share their beliefs with others.

My Thoughts
Chapter 17 discussed dialoguing with a Muslim, and this chapter was by far my favorite. Explaining some revealing aspects if Islam--Allah created sin, and everyone in Islam goes to hell until the final judgment--really showed that there is no way an educated Muslim or and educated Christian can say that they both worship the same God. In the Qur'an, Allah created Satan; therefore Allah created sin. Sin cannot come from complete goodness; therefore Allah is not good.
Shayesteh ends each chapter with a question and answer format. There were a few times I wanted to know the answer and he seemed to go off on a rabbit-trail instead. But his rabbit-trails were biblically sound, and most of the time he stayed on track.
Christ Above All is a scholarly work. It's only about 230 pages, but it's not an easy read or a fast one. Take your time to drink it in and process it, and don't pick it up when you're under a deadline crunch. I really wanted to finish it last week so I read over half of it in two days, but that was information overload and I haven't read anything since. The other half, which I read at a more sane pace, took me much longer, and I could only read a chapter at a time before I had to stop and think about what he was saying.
The overarching theme that shines through this book, and indeed, any in-depth study of apologetics, is the nature of evangelizing. Certainly it is necessary to study a religion somewhat before trying to convert one of its followers, but with wise questions it's not necessary to know everything. There are about four points in which every religion contradicts Christianity, and these points are the same for all the religions: the origin of sin--did it come from God or from man? the nature of God--is He a personal being or an impersonal? the nature of eternity--can we be sure of our fate before we die or after? And the nature of salvation--do we save ourselves or does God save us? Time after time, in every single religion, it came down to two choices. And Christianity held the only logical  conclusion. Sin came from man. God is a personal being. We can be sure of our fate before we die. And only God can save us from our sin. All the other religions contradicted these points. If we can remember them when we're discussing religions with others, then we're already over half-way to all the knowledge we need to be equipped.

Daniel Shayesteh's book is an essential read for every Christian who wishes to be in tune to the prevailing beliefs of our times, and how to deal with them.

Daniel Shayesteh's Testimony and Teachings
If you wish to learn more about Islam and Daniel Shayesteh, YouTube provides several interviews and sermons that look to bring more light on Islam and Christianity. Note that Islam can have some mature aspects, and I haven't been able to listen to all of these, so proceed with discretion.

His testimony: "Dedicated Muslim converts to Christianity" (29:37) (I've listened to this one, and it's great for all ages.)
"What is Islam?" (28:37)
"The Truth of Christianity" (27:24)
"The Compelling Figure of Jesus" (27:52)
"Is Jesus God?" (29:22)
"The Integrity of the Bible" (25:19)
"The Difficulties in the Qur'an" (29:05)
"Our Relationship with God" (29:35)
"The Uniqueness of Jesus" (26:29)

Mr. Shayesteh blogs an average of once a month here. Some of his content on the blog about the treatment of women in Islam is mature and graphic, and I don't recommend it for anyone under 17 or 18. He also runs a ministry to help others understand Islam called Escape From Darkness.

It is imperative that we understand Islam. It's a religion that doesn't show any signs of disappearing, and as Christians, we need to know that our faith has a foundation.

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, April 12, 2013

The 39 Steps

Some readers may have noticed that I repeated a book in my 2011 and 2012 reading list: The Thirty-Nine Steps, by John Buchan. It has never been my tradition to read this book once a year (however enjoyable it may be) but it just so happened that both years I needed a book I could get through in a single day, preferably a morning.

And The Thirty-Nine Steps is the perfect short novel to spend an enjoyable morning with.

The Story
I returned from the City about three o' clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life. I had been three months in the Old Country, and was fed up with it. If anyone had told me a year ago that I would have been feeling like that I should have laughed at him; but there was the fact. The weather made me liverish, the talk of the ordinary English-man made me sick, I couldn't get enough exercise, and the amusements of London seemed as flat as soda-water that has been standing in the Sun. 'Richard Hannay,' I kept telling myself, 'you have got into the wrong ditch, my friend, ad you had better climb out.'
At Oxford Circus I looked up into the spring sky and I made a vow. I would give the Old Country another day to fit me into something; if nothing happened, I would take the next boat for the Cape.

Luckily for England, Richard Hannay never took that boat to the Cape. Upon returning home, he finds a man in his room, Scudder, who needs a quiet place to hide away in. Apparently he's on to something big--and he needs Hannay's help. Scudder has stumbled on a plot to assassinate Constantine Karolides on June 15th, igniting war in the powder keg of Europe. But now his enemies know that he's on to them, and where he is. Thus, he arranged his room to give the impression that he had committed suicide.

Richard agrees to help by putting him up, until he returns home one evening to find Scudder pinned with a dagger to his apartment floor, and realizes everything points to him as the murderer. Taking on the double purpose of saving Scudder's mission and his own skin, he takes the little fellow's black notebook and flees to Scotland, there to avoid both the Germans and the British police until June 15th. While fleeing across the moors, he finds that Scudder's purpose is much bigger than he let on in the beginning. In his last extremity, fleeing from wrongful capture by the British police, he is rescued by the ringleader of the German spies.


The Movie

I have seen several clips of this adaptation and read the Wikipedia recap synopsis, and without ranting, will simply say that it leaves much to be desired. Richard Hannay (Rupert Penry-Jones) is coupled with a rip-roaring female intelligence agent with a photographic memory, who spoils pretty much all the shining moments he had. This isn't merely a quibble about a book-movie adaptation. Masterpiece Theatre changes the entire worldview of the characters, and the theme of the conflict from a man defending his country to a petty squabble about women being just as capable as men. Not to mention that the real Richard Hannay would never ever make his companion wear a ring on her wedding finger so he can get a room for a good night's sleep.

According to the Wikipedia article:

The adaptation received mostly negative reviews from the press, believing it did not match up to Hitchcock's 1935 film version (as predicted by Mickery). Sam Wollaston of The Guardian felt that the romance scene between Hannay and Victoria (when they stay overnight in an inn) was "one of the silliest ever" and felt that after the final scene at the loch and the concluding scene: "It's all very silly .... It doesn't have the pace, the moodiness or the wit." ....Mick Hume of The Times said "The overall effect was to turn Buchan's blood and thunder tale into a pallid politically correct Enid Blyton story" and The Independent's Robert Hanks concluded his review by saying that "By the end, my impression was that several pages of the plot must have been eaten by a dog, or a bored actor, and the director had decided, [why bother], nobody's going to keep watching this long. Which I wouldn't have if I wasn't being paid."

My Thoughts
I first heard of Hannay at the age of 13 or 14 through the Bluedorn family's recommended book list, which also introduced me to Howard Pyle's Men of Iron and Alfred Ollivant's Bob, Son of Battle. (Now that brought back memories!) What a pleasure it was to find the Richard Hannay WWI books at my local library, and then a couple of years later to discover the often-unknown fifth book and continue his adventures. After a long hiatus, I came back to The Thirty-Nine Steps in the summer of 2012,  relieved to find that his story's delightful adventure is timeless.
The Thirty-Nine Steps contains it's fair share of language, mostly mild swearing and using the name of the Lord in vain, which I white-out. Other than that, this plot is remarkably clean, without skimping on the drama and excitement. Hannay's adventure may not be a long tale, but I think many authors would count their work well-done if they could produce such a tight and engaging plot.
It's amusing that there are almost no women. Maybe one in total, and she merely gave the hero a meal on his way across the moors. Kudos! I love a book without any females in it on occasion.
Not only is the book a pleasure, but the time period is a lovely one to have a story in as well. I could count the books I've read on one hand that are set in World War One. An overlooked time period of history that holds many fascinations.
The Thirty-Nine Steps is the first of five Hannay chronicles. The other four are: Greenmantle, Mr. Standfast, The Three Hostages, and The Island of Sheep.

Buchan wrote this book to amuse himself during a period of ill-health. Actually, I should have said "Sir" John Buchan. He did stellar work for England during the war, writing propaganda, collaborating on a detailed history of the war, and working in the Intelligence Corps. Due to his practical knowledge and talented writing he has given us many stories to enjoy.

I look forward to delving into his works more deeply on the blog sometime in the future.

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chasing Jupiter

Rachel Coker, publishing phenomenon and homeschool author, wrote her first book at the age of fourteen. Shortly after that, Zondervan gave her a contract and Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words hit the shelves of our local Christian bookstores. I enjoyed reading that offering last summer, and since then I've been following the release of Chasing Jupiter, hoping eagerly that our library would order a copy so I could read it. Shortly into the year they did, and this last Sunday I had the pleasure of finishing it. Of course I wondered as I picked it up--would Rachel improve on her last book?

And I found, once again, that she had the power to surprise me.

The Book

Cliff Blaine, 1969
My sister Scarlett is going to build me a rocket to Jupiter. When she reads Peter and Wendy it makes me think sometimes about flying to Jupiter and being in my rocket ship. Peter Pan didn't want to grow up, but I think I do because then I can go to space for real, which is something I can't do as a kid. Scarlett doesn't want to grow up. I think because she seems sad sometimes when she talks about grown-ups. But I think that she will make a great grown-up some day because she is the best sister already in the world.

Scarlet Blaine faces the biggest life challenges she's ever met in the summer of 1969. Her little brother is different from the other children his age, and no one knows why. He has an obsession with lining up tin cans according to size in perfect rows, and learning Spanish out of the dictionary Scarlett gave him. And when he makes a birthday list, he puts on things like "Eight moons in the sky instead of one" and "Fifteen Spanish battles".

Doctors didn't know how to diagnose Cliff in 1969, but today we know that he would have had autism.

Scarlett's father works in Farmer Leggett' peach farm--during the summer at least--and her mother waits on tables at a bed and breakfast. Thus, Scarlett spends the most time with Cliff, along with cooking for meals and trying not to listen to her parents' late night conversations. Grandpop Barley lives upstairs spreading peanut butter on everything he eats, and her hippie older sister Juli keeps the family on their toes with dying her hair blue and talking of divine inner peace.

But Cliff's real dream goes beyond Spanish matadors and lining up cans. After watching America launch the first rocket to the moon, the ten-year-old boy determines that he will be the first astronaut to reach Jupiter. His sister Scarlett determines to make his dream come true--as far as launching a rocket, that is.

So they spend the summer chasing Jupiter.

Farmer Leggett's nice son agrees to give them all the peaches they need for their peach pie stand. After he gets to know Scarlett and Cliff, he agrees to help them build their stand if Scarlett will put in a good word for him with her older sister Juli. Scarlett tells him that Juli prefers her boyfriend Ziggy, and Frank good-naturedly agrees to help them regardless. He'll take pie for his payment instead.

Throughout that glorious summer, Cliff, Frank, and Scarlett bake pies, rescue animals, and watch men land on the moon. Then Juli runs away, and Scarlett's parents decide to send Grandpop Barley to a care facility. Their late night conversations are sounding more and more desperate, and they keep attending political meetings.

The golden glory of summer ends in the blink of an eye--just a few days after Cliff decides to sacrifice his dream, and only moments before they put Grandpop Barley in the car to take him away. And through the tragedy, Scarlett Blaine must come to grips  with the fact that she can't hold her family together any more.

My Thoughts

My sincere congratulations to Rachel on plotting of this story. The darkest moment which I've just described was far from the cliché one I rather expected. She knew how far to take the sorrow without taking it too far, and I am beyond pleased with the effect her restraint managed to produce. Well done indeed.
Chasing Jupiter appealed very strongly to the five senses. Hot Georgia breezes, baking pies, and the smell of peaches and gravel while they sit with their pie stand combine to produce a very pleasurable sensory experience.
No kissing and no dates, for those who like to avoid that sort of thing. The romance was a little on the strong side--I get the idea that Frank's hair blowing across his forehead is really mesmerizing, but it's not the most edifying thing to be thinking about. However, I will say that Frank and Scarlett's friendship was founded through mutual help, loving in actions and in truth. The amount of time Coker spent focusing in the feelings could drop just a little bit, and I would be even happier, but their love did not focus on selfish emotional fulfillment, and that's a good thing.
Chasing Jupiter focuses on Scarlett's need for Christ. The conflict is a gospel-centered one. Along with that Coker weaves in themes of family dysfunction and growing into adulthood that are very relatable. I think her character arc with her family drew me to the book more than the side of romance. Scarlett's story is a real one, and I found many things that I could identify with. In fact, I was crying a lot during the Sunday afternoon I curled up to finish it, and when I actually cry over a book, I know that it's worth finishing.

Rachel Coker's books are not historical fiction. They are inspirational literature. You won't know much more about Georgia, though you may learn a fact or two about 1969. But I do hope that those of you who are able to get a copy read Cliff and Scarlett's story. Rachel Coker represents a cause and a dream worth supporting. Because she is a young woman rising above the expectations of her times, and I applaud her for that.

You can find her on her blog here.

Lady Bibliophile

P.S. North and South is now available on the movie reviews page!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Jane Austen and Vampires: A Review

Throughout the ages, both men and women have had numerous problems with physical eating disorders, though probably the women have the majority of the issues. We can make the case quite logically that they have the most mental eating disorders as well, and due to the fact the women read more than men do, (or so I hear) it is very necessary that someone come up with a cure. Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin address some very common literary disorders in their recent offering "Jane Austen and Vampires" which is the subject of today's review. Even though it's not a book, it's about books, so I say fair game. :)

Now I know that those of you who haven't heard this message really want to know what the Botkin sisters think about Jane Austen. Do they like her books? Do they disapprove of them? All in good time, and please don't scroll ahead, as we have some very necessary ground to cover first. And by the way, this article has a lot of spoilers on their talk, (though not in a bad way) so if you want to listen to it pure and uncritiqued before reading this article, I completely understand.
The Message
In this 54 minute presentation, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin range from Twilight to Tangled to Pride and Prejudice as they examine the culture's most loved stories and heroines, and why we find them so special. With passing references to such works as Daddy Long-Legs and Anne of Green Gables, they cover the whole realm of fiction: from Christian to nonfiction, from fantasy to historical. And they come with surgeon's instruments in hand. The first half of the message discusses the disorders themselves, such as loving handsome heroes, fantasizing about worlds where everything glamorous happens to the main character (who is really us) and letting the rest of the world run to ruin while we indulge our thirst to live in our favorite character's lives. The second half discusses how to deal with them: how to approach a book (with two questions to ask) how to recognize the dangers of romance novels, and how to battle against false reality.

What I Loved
This timely message hits so many of the things I feebly try to find the words for. By far, the best line is this:  "As we read, we're coming into contact with another mind. We must be the dominant mind." This is so, so true. And that is why I read so widely: whether it's Susan Cain's Quiet, or Martha Finley's Elsie Dinsmore, I make sure that mine is the dominant mind as I read. This is a protection measure, to keep us from being swallowed up in yearning for the Edward Cullen or Mr. Darcy--naughty boy dark and handsome or angelic rich gentleman. But it's more than romance. When we come into contact with another author, we're coming into contact with another mindset, and we need to know what that mindset is, so that our Christianity isn't subverted by false ideas. Louisa May Alcott was a transcendentalist, Frances Hodgeson Burnett dabbled in Christian Science and Spritiualism, and when we read Little Women and A Little Princess, we need to know this.
Another good point they made addressed false realities. "It's just a book" we say. "It's not real." But as the Botkin sisters pointed out, "How many 'pretend' hours did we spend reading it? And how many 'pretend' thoughts did it put in our head?" Stories are either generated by God's standards or by man's standards--and if they're not by God's standards, then they're a false reality. If we're using these books as escapism, to glory in the perfect boyfriend or life or family these characters have, then we're replacing God's reality with man's reality.

The Proper Mindset
The first time I listened to this message, I had an inkling suspicion on what Anna Sofia and Elizabeth would say regarding Jane Austen (no proof, mind, just a hunch). But before I started, I took the time to pray. "Lord," I said "You know that I enjoy Jane Austen. And I suspect that the Botkin sisters don't. But if there's something wrong with these books that I have missed, then I want to know. Even if it's hard. Make me willing to hear what they have to say with an open heart, because Jane Austen, however much I enjoy her, can't stand in the way of my relationship with you."

All very good. So I listened to what they had to say on Twilight, Tangled, Jane Austen, and Animal Farm, as well as many other well-known titles, and gave myself a breather to think about it. By the time I had finished my evaluation I really wasn't sure I could recommend it. Not until this week could I lay my finger on why.

Let's take Jane Austen. If Anna Sofia and Elizabeth disapproved of her, and we had solid biblical reasons for why we liked her works, would it cause us to doubt our conviction on the matter? And on the flip side, if we didn't approve of Jane Austen, and they did, would we think that we were being too harsh with our standards? When we listen to this message, are we asking "What Would Botkins Do?" or are we being like the Bereans who listened to one of the greatest apostles, and still compared his messages with Scripture? I highly respect the Botkins, and their messages have had great impact on my life. But they are here to point me to the Lord's standards, not to theirs.

After a couple of months I pulled it out again for this blog post, and found to my surprise that I not only enjoyed it much more, but got much more out of it. Some of their tips are really very sound and biblical, and I appreciated them. Some of the things simply didn't apply to my situation (I don't allow myself to fantasize about Mr. Darcy and wish I was in another world); the principles are there for those who do struggle with such things. After the second time through I came to the conclusion that I do recommend this message. But only if we use it as a tool to help, and not a law to obey.

Before we pick this message up, it is essential that we make sure we are listening to it in the fear of the Lord, not of the Botkin sisters.

 Botkin sisters on Austen
Since most of Jane's letters were destroyed after her death, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth evaluate her works based on the prevailing ideas of her times. She was a clergyman's daughter, a lover of novels, and living in a time when good morals were more important than Christian holiness. In other words, they said "We can evaluate her based on the culture that created her." The good things in her books are merely the externals of Christian society, marriage was an end unto itself, and on top of this, are we wasting our lives with vain imaginings about her handsome heroes? Also, the class system of the time operated on the idea that work was considered dishonorable, and the Bennet sisters contribute in no positive way to society--even if they are daughters living at home.

I have to admit, Pride and Prejudice bogged down a little after that.

Judging an author simply based upon the culture surrounding them is not the strongest of foundations to base a critique on. It's a valid point to make, but should not be the foundation of the proof. For instance, when I critiqued Victor Hugo's work Les Miserables, I mentioned in passing the godlessness of the French society at the time. But that wasn't my sole point. I also researched his praise of thinkers like Voltaire, written in his own words, and the merit of his work itself. And in the end, I still know and love people who have a different opinion than mine on Les Miserables, and I don't fault them for that. Anna and Elizabeth simply didn't have time to cover all of the necessary material in a talk which contained other books and authors. The points they make about Jane Austen are good ones, but I found them (in this instance) to be more directed to those who fantasize over books than those who don't. And when it came down to it, God didn't given me a conviction that I should stop Jane Austen at this time. Convictions change down the road sometimes, and if He ever does, I may come to a different understanding than I have at present. And I am content with that.

I highly recommend Jane Austen and Vampires as yet another resource to help us learn to think critically about the books we read. There is much more that it contains which I've left out of this review, simply to save you a few surprises when you listen to it. :) However, you may apply the principles themselves a little differently than the Botkin sisters do, and that's okay. They're not trying to get you to take up the "Botkin diet"; they're trying to help you think through what you choose to read. A timely message. To purchase it, click on this link to go to the Western Conservatory official website. The CD is $10.00 and the MP3 download is $6.00.

Lady Bibliophile

P.S. For a couple of articles written by the Botkin sisters about their CD, check out "A Little Learning a Dangerous Thing?" and "What Will You Read This Year?"

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Are Authors a Product of Their Times?

This may seem like a simple question to answer. Of course they are.

Take for instance, Charles Dickens. A well-known author whose works spanned in setting from the 1770s to the 1860s, he used biting satire and hilarious wit to indict the British with their poor social justice. The themes of class snobbery, factory workers,  and government ethics pervade his stories, showing that they are very much addressed to the time in which he lived.

Take Isabella Alden. A woman who lived during the Second and Third Temperance Movement in the United States, her works clearly show her as a product of her times. Strongly anti-alcohol and extremely moralistic in tone (reminiscent of the Victorian literary standards) such stories as Esther Ried, Tip Lewis and His Lamp, and Three People teach the lesson that drinking alcohol sets you down the path of destruction, and good children who love Sunday School are blessed beyond measure.

Take Victor Hugo. An enlightened Freethinker who saw the prostitution and evil around him and was grieved by it; his views of the church came after an era of agnosticism on the part of the majority of the French population. And so his works spoke against the biblical doctrine of original sin and used instead the main tenants of secular humanism. His ideas were very much affected by this era of French history, a godless era that they have never recovered from.

Lastly, take George MacDonald. A pastor in the Church of England, he live in an era when Calvinism focused more on the idea that no-one could really know if they were saved--that predestination was a great mystery, and you could only hope for the best in your Christian walk. This of course was a very faulty explanation of predestination, and it's heavy legalism and uncertainty caused MacDonald to turn away from Calvinism (though certainly not from Christianity). Leaving his pastorate, he instead wrote numerous Scottish novels and fantasies to preach to his flock about God's love. (Though he may have succumbed to the idea of universalism, the idea that everyone goes to heaven, his works still hold great value in guarding against the wrong interpretation of Calvin's doctrines.)

Why is it important to discuss this question? Well, when we talk about an author being a product of the times, we're basically saying that their beliefs are shaped by the events and ideas surrounding them. Their worldview is affected by the era of history in which they live. When we  choose to read a book, we're choosing to enter a world through the eyes of the author. That means when we read The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, we're reading a social critique from the perspective of an agnostic free-thinker who doesn't hold basic foundational tenants of Christianity. It is vitally important to understand the foundational worldview of the books we read, because books have great power to shape our theology and course of life. If we don't know the author's perspective going into the book, then we won't know a wrong idea when it appears, especially disguised as a sympathetic character. An author's worldview pervades every single book they write, with no exceptions.

On the surface the answer to this question is simple, but dig a little deeper and you'll find that an author's worldview, and thus the book itself are shaped on much more than prevailing ideologies. Today, I wanted to discuss six factors of an author's worldview, many of which will be familiar to you. We've already discussed the first factor (the times they live in) above.

2. The Times They Came After
Many authors are a product of the time they came after. For instance, if I were to write a book, it would not merely be a product of the rampant wickedness in today's church and society. It would start back a generation with the little compromises and the indifference of the evangelical community. That is part of my national heritage, and much of my life will be spent dealing with the long-term results of a previous generation's weaknesses. The same will be true for my children; they will be facing the problems of their times, but their times will be shaped by my times. So if you have difficulty discerning where an author is coming from, start with the ideologies from a generation before them, and that will help form the picture of why they think the way they do today. For example: Why do we see so many social justice novels in today's Christian fiction? Stories of rape, prostitution, orphans, abuse and government intrigue have over-saturated the market. But the fault of that lies a generation back, when Christian publishers refused to look at manuscripts with anything controversial in nature, and social justice stories were frowned upon by the general public. Because people refused to deal with these horrible issues openly then, we have an over-abundance of them now.

3. Their Religious Beliefs
Taking the positive side of the coin, an author's religious beliefs help them to transcend the weaknesses of the time they live in. If you have good solid biblical beliefs, then this will only help you to overcome, to use the themes of this generation as a launching board for advancing the Kingdom of Christ. We are not hopelessly trapped in others' compromise, and that is why I say an author is a product of their times, but they are not a victim. A rising generation of writers is proving that they are bringing reform to the giant dragon of the publishing industry, refusing to be at the mercy of past precedent and popular opinions. This is a glorious thing.
Religious beliefs (at least, Christian religious beliefs) do not change. When we trust in Biblical standards and abide by them, we do not have to be concerned that we are hopelessly lost in worldwide compromise. Through Christ's grace we can overcome our present and prove that we have the ability to shape our times. 

4. The Prevailing Sins and Virtues of the Times
Sins and virtues are transcendent of the culture. No sin is new sin, even if it seems new to us, and
the cure for sin is an unchanging one. However, different sins come to the forefront. Take Charles Dickens. The prevailing sin of his time was class snobbery and cumbersome government red tape (somehow things haven't changed as much as we thought) therefore his whole literary career addressed these issues, to try to show his generation where they needed to change.
Gene Stratton-Porter, on the other hand, used her writing to appeal to the virtue of her era. In an age of industrial expansion she showed people through stories and example about the beauties to be found in nature. The biblical roles of men and women, and positive examples of bravery, family, and stewardship of our natural resources, encourage her readers to explore an area that was in jeopardy with the rise of technology.

5. Their Fears
Authors' works are also affected by their fears. Some show more clearly than others, as in the case of George MacDonald's works and his terror of man's eternal fate. Trying to rationalize fears is oftentimes a large factor in shaping an author's worldview, and therefore their theology.

6.The Books They Read
It would be unfair to leave out the last and perhaps most important factor of an author's worldview. The fact is, mankind has never been limited to a certain era of history. At least, literate mankind. We live in a time where the world is open to us and all of history as well. Even in the last year I have learned to think more globally, to understand different cultures, and to think with more grace towards different applications of God's truth. Truth is rock-solid and can't change, but how it applies allows room for variation. Much of this has been shaped through the books I read. In my literary journeys, I have discovered that the same sins and virtues, the same truth and falsehood, the same fear and faith has affected all cultures throughout all time. And the books I've read have had a profound impact, in some aspects even more than real-life people, on my theology.

Authors have different factors that affect their worldview: personal struggles, societal struggles, agendas and eras of history. They are not locked into a few decades, for many of the factors transcend time and root back to the struggle between good and evil in the garden of Eden.

This concept is an important foundation for Friday when I review Jane Austen and Vampires, the audio message produced by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin.

Lady Bibliophile

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