Sunday, June 29, 2008

Two books

Usually I prefer to finish books before writing about them. Usually. But then these books aren't usual. Jesus of Nazareth is the first book our group, Benedict's Book club is reading. Overachiever that I am, when it comes to reading anyway, I've read ahead to the sixth chapter, even though we're currently discussing Chapter 2. Still Chapter 2 is my favorite of the six . . . so far.

The second book, My Visit to Hell, I’m reading on my own, for ‘fun’. A friend recommended it and quite frankly it didn’t sound too appealing when she suggested it. A novel about hell? I have read Dante’s Divine Comedy, and C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, nevertheless, a fictional account of a journey into the nether world does not fill me with eager anticipation. Let’s be honest, who wants to even think about hell, much less read about it? I read Dante only because it was a ‘classic’ I wanted my daughters to read. I started The Great Divorce without realizing what it was about; I finished it because it was so fascinating. But look for books about fire and brimstone, suffering and misery? No. I am not interested. In fact, the thought quite repulses me.

Why put these two books together? Surely Our Lord, Jesus Christ and a trip to hell don’t belong in the same blog post?

Ah but they do! To paraphrase the Catholic apologist and scriptural exegete, Scott Hahn, "Sweet and gentle Jesus?! You only know half of Him!" The reason Chapter 2 of JoN is my favorite is because it’s about the Temptation of Jesus in the desert. Pope Benedict writes a penetrating exploration of each of the three attempts on the part of the enemy to waylay Our Lord. There are depths of meaning in the Holy Father’s explanations like you have never heard before. Most telling of all, it’s possible for the discerning reader to see how each of these efforts on the part of the enemy is only superficially directed at Jesus; the real target is us! We are really the ones in the desert doing battle with the devil; Jesus is there to show us how to parry the thrust and to assist us, so long as we let Him.

My Visit to Hell is a modern Inferno. It updates Dante’s classic journey into the realms of hell before Judgement Day. The visitor is a young agnostic who doesn’t believe where he is at first; his guide is an 18th century slave woman. As I said, I haven’t finished it yet—but I will. So far we have traveled deeper and deeper into an abyss which grows more hideous by the level. The ‘updating’ of Dante will help those unable to penetrate the Italian poet’s description or relate to unfamiliar people, places and events contained in Dante's long-forgotten world. Professor Thigpen’s terms and descriptions, on the contrary, will be all too familiar; indeed you will find yourself wishing they were less so.

Sometimes two very different texts can – and should – be read in conjunction. Although I recommend these books, I don't presume to assign ratings to either. But someone much higher, greater and mightier than I will determine how our lives reflect the teachings contained therein and I tremble at His judgments.

Blessings on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul!

And I say to thee, That Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 18:16

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Remains of the Day

by Kazuo Ishiguro

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 2 Peter 3:8

For most of June I have been taking Holy Communion to a woman from our parish who is dying of cancer. She only has a few more hours in this world as I write. It’s been the privilege of a lifetime for me to share this experience with her and her family. I have watched, prayed and shared a sacred moment with all of them; they took me in as if I were family. Each time I left her bedside, was another chance for me to consider how to spend the rest of my life . . . hopefully just a little bit better for the reminder of its ultimate destiny.

The Remains of the Day is not a book about dying but it is a reflective book. The title is a conceptual metaphor referring to what’s left near the end of one’s lifetime.

Remains is a deeply moving story and one which will haunt you. It’s primarily about three people: Lord Darlington, his extraordinary butler, Stevens, and the housekeeper, Miss Kenton. The book begins in 1956 and is told through flashbacks and even though I usually don’t like that technique in stories, our author, Kazuo Ishiguro, uses it to perfection in the present instance.

From the vantage of the 1950s we look back to a pre-war 1930s England with our knowledge of the outcome of events. Given our Monday morning quarterback position, it is easy for us to sit in judgment of our characters’ choices. What is harder – but more necessary – is to let go of those judgments. That is what our author asks us to do. He asks us to let go of our smug, self-satisfied prejudices and re-enter that time period and the lives of his characters. As we watch them stumble and almost make what we would call the ‘right’ choices, we need to remember that we too will someday be left at 'the remains of our day'. Will we have made all the ‘right’ choices?

Or, like the characters in this story, will we have made a few ‘wrong’ choices, but for the ‘right’ reasons? Something to ponder at high noon as we approach what remains of the day . . .

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

Mr. Golding’s book is one of the most deeply disturbing books I’ve read in a long time. Here is a brief synopsis of the plot:

A group of young boys find themselves castaways on an uncharted tropical island either after or during a major war. Although initially the boys set up an orderly British society with rules and a just system of organization, Fear of the Unknown, turns into fear of an unknown beast and this quickly spreads and infects the group’s mindset. Eventually it takes on a symbolic as well as figurative "head", that of the decapitated head of a wild boar, slain by the boys and posted on a pike. Covered with flies, it becomes known as “The Lord of the Flies”, which is a literal translation of the name of the Hebrew Ba’ alzevuv (Beelzebub in Greek) a powerful demon in hell sometimes thought to be the devil himself.

As order breaks down, violence escalates and inevitably death ensues. How the boys deal with the decay of civilization and evolution of a true Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ form of existence is the remainder of the book. It’s a story of the Garden of Eden without any of the niceties of Scripture. Satan is there alright, but one wonders—where is the Lord God? And as the sins multiply, Eden just gets dirtier and yet there seems no escape but death.

So where was God on this non-Paradise island?

He was in the boy's original and pervading sense of order and decency.

He was in their undying desire to be rescued from themselves.

He was in the developing relationship of support and mutual affection which sprang up between Ralph and Piggy, but also extended to others in the original group; an unlikely, even impossible, friendship under circumstances less extreme than these.

He was in the moral outrage (and even the denial) after things began to break down.

He was in the loyalty of the twins, Samneric, or Sam 'n' Eric--so devoted to each other they were usually referred to by one name.

And ultimately, He was in the voluntary nature of the forces of Good.

Altruism can never be coerced, or it loses its very essence; the forces of tyranny which oppose it eventually have to resort to oppression and coercion tactics or lose their adherents.

In other words, God was everywhere and ever present . . . whereas the Lord of the Flies . . . well, you need to read the book to find out what happens to him.

Mr. Golding’s view of mankind is bleak—depressing even, but not unduly so. And yet in today’s world—where the concept of sin seems to have all but disappeared—maybe it’s not such a bad thing to be reminded of our inescapable, inexplicable darker side . . . and where real Good truly lies . . . in and through God alone.

The Church of Oprah Exposed is an eye-opener.

Thanks Mr. Golding! We need your book now as much as ever—maybe even more!


Sunday, June 22, 2008


by Jerry Spinelli

She doesn’t wear make-up and takes her pet rat with her wherever she goes. She wears floor-length dresses or overall shorts. She carries a large canvas bag with a life-size sunflower on it. She plays her ukulele and sings in the middle of the high school lunch room! She calls herself ‘Stargirl’ and she distributes candy, cheers for anyone for any reason and reads newspapers looking for people she can help. She’s in 10th grade but she’s been homeschooled until now. As the kids say, “maybe that explains it.” But does it?

In Jerry Spinelli’s young adult story, Stargirl, this whirlwind of a Christlike-catalyst descends on Mica Area High School and Leo Borlock one year and neither will ever be the same again. Stargirl burns brightly but like all stars—and stories—she has a life-span. Leo has to make a very important decision before the end of the year. It’s a haunting story about group-think, and agape-love, growing-up, and porcupine ties. Treat yourself to a wonderful experience: read Stargirl!


Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel I really wanted to like this book. It was about a reclusive author who, at the end of her life, tells her 'tale' to a young person. It is a book about lovers of books, a booklady's dream, right?! It's a mystery which has all the makings of a great gothic novel, but it just didn't work for me. I kept trying to get swept up in it and then wondered if I wasn't too old for such stories. I'm still not sure that isn't the case, but I don't think so. I know that I still enjoy a good mystery, so it isn't that. I just think something is missing from Setterfield's book but couldn't put my finger on it. And it isn't worth a reread.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Exposing Darwinism's Weakest Link: Why Evolution Can't Explain Human Existence

It's June 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 15th, we will featuring an author and his/her latest non~fiction book's FIRST chapter!

The feature author is:

and his book:

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2008)


A career biology instructor, Kenneth Poppe holds a doctorate in education and taught in secondary schools for more than 25 years. He is now senior consultant with the International Foundation for Science Education by Design ( In addition to working in teacher education and assisting in DNA research of stream ecology, he has authored Reclaiming Science from Darwinism.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736921257
ISBN-13: 978-0736921251


The majority is not trying to establish a religion or to teach it—it is trying to protect itself from the effort of an insolent minority to force irreligion upon the children under the guise of teaching science.





A Monkey for an Uncle?

Consider your biological father. He is responsible for half of the genetic codes that shaped your body, and probably some of your personality as well. Now consider his father, your grandfather. If typical, I would guess at least a couple of your body traits are more grandpa’s than dad’s—having somehow skipped a generation. And how about your great-grandfather? Were you lucky enough to know him, even if just like me, through those vague and shifting memories as a very
small boy? Dare I throw in a great-great-grandfather—in my case known only through legend and those grainy black-and-white photos of a roughly dressed man beside a horse and buggy?

Consider that when your great-great-grandfather was your age, for surely he once was, he could try to reconstruct his lineage just as you have done. What names and faces would he have recalled? And if you could piece great-great-granddad’s and your recollections together, that would create a timeline taking you back eight generations—perhaps 250 years or so! Where would you find your ancestors then? In my case, I’m told, the Hamburg, Germany, area. And would my ancestors then be traced to the nomadic Gaelic stock that inhabited Western Europe before formal countries were established there? And then to where? Ancient Phoenicians, Sumerians, Egyptians? And how about yours?

Now to get to the main point. If you kept traveling back in time in this manner, generation after generation, where would you end up? Where would your dad’s ancestors have been living 1000 years ago? 2500 to 5000 years ago? And so on? Those who believe in strict Darwinism would say an extended family schematic would show your ancestors going back several million years ago where they first evolved on the African continent. And on this reverse journey you would see slowly reappearing total body hair, steadily shrinking brains, increasingly sloping foreheads and jaw protrusions, and extending arms whose knuckles would eventually be dragging the ground, assisting a clumsy, bent-over gait. In other words, strict evolutionists say if you could backtrack your family tree for, say, 5 million years, your ancestors would now be closer in appearance to a chimp than a human. And if you continued farther back in time, the coccyx bone at the bottom of your pelvis would extend into a prehensile tail, and the reappearing grasping toes on your feet would send you back to swinging in the trees from whence you came some 10 to 15 million years ago.

Stop and ponder your supposed family tree in this way—a videotape in rewind. Is this really how it went down? Did humans come from monkeys? (Often a Darwinist will answer no to this question by saying it wasn’t a direct path of evolution. But monkeys have to be on the path before apes, right? And apes would have to be on the path before humanoids, right? So it most absolutely is, in theory, “monkey to man”—no matter how crooked the line.) Now if this isn’t the truth, what’s the alternative? Unless you consult primitive worship superstitions, I’ve stated before that the world’s five major religions give you one origin—Genesis—and it includes a tantalizing tale of an innocent man Adam and his companion woman, Eve, in a pristine garden. But for so many, that’s a fairy tale of bigger proportions than monkeys becoming humans. So what is the truth?

Here’s my response. Regardless of which religious view(s) might supply the answer(s), I will stand firmly on this:

There is absolutely no scientific support for the
monkey-to-man scenario—absolutely none.

On the contrary, science, and even philosophy, validate the title of this book and its overriding message as stated a few pages ago.


If there is an alternative answer to the totally unscientific view that monkeys slowly turned into people, ostensibly it is one of the religious variety. But before we tackle the idea, let me first share the concept I find continually bubbling up from the origins cauldron: Almost every major issue concludes with just two choices—either it could have happened this way, or it couldn’t. So grab a writing instrument and check your choice of one of two for each of the ten statements below.

It Could It Couldn’t
Happen Happen

_______ ______ 1. The most violent accidental explosion ever, the big bang, was sufficiently self-appointed to create the largest and most fine-tuned object ever known, the universe.

_______ ______ 2. The sheer number of planets in the universe, and the number of years these planets have existed, give us a mathematical chance that at least one would become a fully interactive biological world—ours—by accident.

_______ ______ 3. Blind luck had the ability to construct the approximately 80,000 different life-required protein chains of specifically sequenced amino acids (from an “alphabet” of 20 different amino-acid choices)—even those proteins 10,000 amino acids long.

_______ ______ 4. The RNA/DNA molecules, containing information equivalent to all the books in 20 standard libraries, suddenly appeared by chance in the “primordial soup” before the first cell was a reality.

_______ ______ 5. Almost as soon as Earth’s conditions permitted, a functional cell appeared, selfprepared with a wide array of metabolizing and reproductive mechanisms.

_______ ______ 6. A half billion years ago, in the blink of an evolutionary eye, the Cambrian explosion self-generated the completely interactive gene pool of all 32 animal phyla with complex organ systems. Once complex life didn’t exist, then it was all there.

_______ ______ 7. After the Cambrian explosion, random scramblings of genetic information kept producing improved genetic codes. This allowed life to surge forward as animals kept giving rise to improved offspring with which, suddenly
or eventually, they could not mate.

_______ ______ 8. These accidental genetic surges adequately explain a whole host of large-scale advances— for example, straight bones in fins turning into jointed bones in legs, reptile scales turning into bird feathers, photosensitive cells turning into eyes, births from amniotic eggs turning into births from a placenta, and chordates like cows or hippos going back into the ocean to become whales.

_______ ______ 9. While animals randomly surged forward within 32 phyla from sponges to mammals, plants accomplished a similar advance in complexity from moss to cacti, but did it in only 8 steps, often called divisions instead of phyla.

And central to this book:

_______ ______ 10. Primates like monkeys left the trees and kept getting bigger, stronger, and smarter. About 5 million years of natural selection was sufficient time for hominids to adapt to walking on their hind legs, learn to use tools,
fashion clothes to wear, master fire, develop first spoken and then written communication, and finally organize societies in cave homes among maple groves that eventually became cottage homes on Maple Street.

So how did you score on this checklist? The two most extreme scores would be to have all ten checks in the right column of “it couldn’t happen”—like me—or all ten checks on the left column of “it could happen.” Of course, you realize that one single check in the right column dooms Darwinism to immediate failure. All it takes is one legitimate “couldn’t” check in this either-or set-up and natural evolution has no chance to produce me the writer, or you the reader. If you can, actually imagine trying to agree with all ten statements as checked on the left, and I’ll wager you’ll feel the full weight of the folly of “self-made” life. Therefore, if you find evolution insufficient in even one instance, you need to consider a bigger-than-science connection— unless, of course, you want to remain apathetic. So, if evolution or apathy is not the answer, I suggest you begin a quest to come to grips with the “God” who engineered this miracle.

Rejecting statement #10 above reflects this chapter’s opening rejection of the idea that all our ancestral lines slowly become more stooped and stupider as we observe the reverse of totally natural processes. If the world generally rejected that notion and stood on the “God alternative” with confidence, it would dramatically change the debate on the other nine statements. And yet if monkeys are not our uncles then how do you explain human origin? How do you explain the master plan of God the Designer?