Category Archives: Book Review

Prophet by R. J. Larson

I read one of the free books I received from the International Christian Retail Show.  I didn’t mean to read it yet.  I was packing my things from my old apartment to move to my new one, and I had every intention of just reading the first chapter or two to see if I wanted to temporarily store it or bring it to my new place.  But this book was so good, and I was so desperate to escape from reality that I read half the book in one night.  Escape I did, into an colorful world in an Old Testament-era time period with fictional kingdoms, prophets, and kings.

The book is entitled, Prophet (Books of the Infinite), by R. J. Larson.  A young woman of 17 is called by the Infinite to become a Prophet and save the nearby kingdoms from the Infinite’s just wrath.  Ela is a likable character with honest feelings that any person could relate to.  The Infinite is obviously an allegory to God, but the god of this book is only ever referred to as “Infinite” and “Creator”.  I found it interesting that Larson never used “God” or “Lord” within the book.  Even though this book is infused with religious-inspired stories and perspectives, it seems to make it more accessible to non-Christians.  I read an Amazon review of a self-identifying atheist who said she was shocked by how much she enjoyed the book.  Initially I was surprised she valued it so highly, as my new-found love for this book comes from the many spiritual realizations I had while reading it.  However, it became clear in retrospection that this is a great book for an open-minded atheist or a struggling Christian.

This book does a wonderful job of portraying a just and merciful God, a concept that many have a difficult time reconciling.  What this books reveals is the perfect heart of God — a completely loving, generous Creator who wants nothing more than his creation to repent and return to a relationship with him.  But when his creation refuses time and time again in their own pride, He does not hesitate to do what is just and destroys them and their evils ways.  It’s clear in the book that he takes no pleasure from it, and his prophet, Ela, has a compassionate heart despite her role as the Infinite’s doomsayer.  The thoughtful questions Ela has for her Creator is matched by wise responses that appear to be entirely Scripture inspired.  It was a blessing to read responses that made logical sense and fit with God’s character.

Ela is a strong female character, but unlike the modern day version of a “strong” female, Ela is humble, submissive to God, and compassionate.  Too often I see female leads attempting to overcompensate for society’s expectations and they end up being horrible role models for young women who desire to seek God.   I found Ela’s intelligence, her strength in character, her honest recognition of her weaknesses, and her love for her family and friends very inspiring.  Her relationship with her sister, her captors, and her friends will touch you.  The book does not shy away from the fact that she is a female Prophet.  I am sure there will be good character development in the next two books.  I only wish there was more back story about Ela’s past.

Some readers will be displeased with the lack of scenic detail in this book.  I do not find those sorts of things distracting because I typically spend all of my time concentrating on dialogue and relationship building between characters.  I’d say her style of writing reminds me a bit of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  I should mention that if you’re wary of authors inserting words into God’s mouth, then you might have a difficult time warming up to this book.  Of course, it’s important to realize that the author never claims her story is a factual depiction of God.  It’s really just a story to inspire you to seek God in all you do and listen to His every word.  I highly recommend it, especially to young women, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!  I look forward to the next books in the series.

 

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Geeking out on books!

I totally geeked out today by attending the International Christian Retail Show for a few hours. My father-in-law and sister-in-law, Bryan and Amanda Davis, are published authors with AMG Publishers. (Check out their books, they are awesome!)

It was really awesome to meet so many authors while I was at ICRS. If you’re in St. Louis next year, I encourage you to attend!  Many of them told me that it took years for them to publish their books. I was struck by their dedication and touched by their willingness to let God use their journeys to impact so many lives. This really ties in to the message God’s placed on my heart, which is using our gifts and careers to glorify God. I look forward to reading all of the news books I’ve received, and hopefully soon I’ll have a few new blog posts for you!

Eugene Peterson’s The Message

Hello all!

I’m attempting to research The Message by Eugene Peterson (The Bible in Contemporary Language).  I know I’m a few years behind, but I have yet to research The Message for myself and see if it is really a trustworthy translation of Scripture or if it’s something a little more sinister.  My friends, mentors, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are all torn on this issue, so I feel it’s important to discuss.

It’s become clear to me that The Message is becoming a standard part of the Christian experience.  Many churches and Bible studies quote The Message and call it God’s Word.  The effective marketing around The Message aims it toward young adults and “the average person”, presumably one who is not familiar with Christian lingo.  This means that this version has permeated popular culture.  The Message is not going away any time soon.  

Despite Eugene Peterson’s personal statement that The Message should be considered a “reading Bible” and not a “study Bible”, people seem to be treating this version as THE Bible, and claiming that those who don’t trust it are at best close-minded and at worst legalistic.

Now, I’ve seen great teachers argue over the slightest word change in the more standard Bible versions.  It seems that those who have studied the ancient text know the subtleties of the language and the danger a misrepresentation could pose.  Most of the Bible versions I have read have an entire committee of scholars, pastors, and editors that have spent endless hours pouring over every individual word of the text so that these discrepancies do not occur.  These scholars have a reverence about their work; they are accountable for their translation.  They seem to believe that there is no difference between a “reading Bible” and a “study Bible”.  God’s Word is life or death and is not to be taken lightly.

So the most nagging question in my mind is, why does Eugene Peterson claim to have the education and skills to translate the entire Bible on his own, and dramatically different from everyone else?  But the most important question is: can believers and unbelievers alike take from The Message and know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior?

There are three main arguments I can see about The Message, and they are mutually exclusive.  If one is true, the others cannot be true simultaneously:
1) The Message is a trustworthy and divinely-appointed translation of Scripture.  The paraphrases do not take away from essential doctrine.
2) The Message is at best a human book inspired by Scripture.  Its purpose is to lead people to Truth, and encourage them to read the real Bible.
3) The Message is a deceptive version of Scripture that is infesting our youth and our churches.  It will eventually be accepted as a standard Biblical version, and doctrine will be based on it because it is accepted as a Bible by publishers and pastors alike.

I intend to research these questions and arguments to the best of my ability.  I imagine I will learn a lot about other versions of the Bible along the way.  During my initial stages of research, I have seen some pretty severe claims against The Message.  What disappoints me is that most of the propaganda against The Message appears to be wildly biased and some claims against the character of Eugene Peterson are unsubstantiated.  The propaganda I’ve seen so far supporting The Message is based on Peterson’s accurate translation of the ancient text, quotes from popular and trusted Christian superstars supporting this version, and some very clever marketing.

At this point in time, I do not fall into any of these 3 camps above.  I am researching, and I pray that my quest will be untainted by bias.  I have no agenda; I simply seek truth.   I hope that what I find can help others as well.

If you have questions or arguments as well, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or email me at thegodfiles@gmail.com.