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Scott Smith is the author of A Simple Plan, which was both an excellent novel and an excellent movie (directed, by the way, by Sam Raimi, of Spiderman and Armies of Darkness fame). In case you never saw or read it, it was about three men who discover millions of dollars in cash inside a plane that has crashed in the Minnesota words. Their “simple plan” is to wait a few months and see if the money is claimed before they spend it. Of course, it doesn’t work out quite that way. The story was effective in demonstrating the snowballing effects of deceit, particularly within the context of material wealth. A good read – I recommend it.

Until this year, A Simple Plan was Smith’s only novel. I eagerly anticipated his follow-up this summer, called The Ruins. If you liked the first book, let me spare you the second. The Ruins is abysmal. It is no better than a B horror movie, but even Haven wouldn’t like it. There is no humor. Six tourists venture into the jungles of Mexico where they run across a vine (yes, a vine) that kills them all. And that is it. It would have been a little more fun if they had figured out how to kill it, but they don’t. It would have been a little more fun if it was scary, but it wasn’t. It would even have been more fun if they had tried to fight back, but they don’t really. The book ends with their friends following them into the jungle, to the same vine, about to suffer the same fate.

If I go the rest of my life without reading that book, I will die happy.

Ok, so I picked up Ms. Rice’s book last night at Barnes and Noble. I wasn’t really interested in buying it, but I wanted to see the NT Wright thing for myself.

I ended up reading the entire “Author’s Note” at the end. I’d reccomend it to you, even if you don’t want to read the book (which I have no interest in reading). Here’s what stood out to me in the note:

1) Ms. Rice argues for an early date for the gospels based on the horrific nature of the Fall of Jerusalem. She finds it hard to believe that anyone could live after 70 A.D. and not write about the Jewish wars. For inspiration for her thinking on the issue, she points to Ken Gentry and his book Before Jerusalem Fell. She also claims (rightly, I think) that a close examination of the Jewish wars in contemporary Biblical studies would significantly change the way that they are done.

2) Along with NT Wright, Ms. Rice cites Gentry and other conservative Protestant authors as being influential in her thinking.

3) Ms. Rice clearly expresses her belief that Jesus was the Son of God, as explained in the Council of Chalcedon, which she references.

Read it if you get a chance. The amount of reading and thought that she’s done is impressive, even if the book may not be.

What are those two doing in a post together? That’s what I said. And then I saw this quote from Anne Rice’s new novel.

‘The scholar who has given me perhaps some of my most important insights and who continues to do so through his enormous output is N.T. Wright. N.T. Wright is one of the most brilliant writers I’ve ever read, and his generosity in embracing the skeptics and commenting on their arguments is an inspiration. His faith is immense, and his knowledge vast.’ Pg. 320

This just multiplied my interest in her book like tenfold.

Some people post playlists, I am going to post a booklist. That is, a number of the books I have managed to begin but am far from completing. Enjoy.


The Educated Imagination
by Northrop Frye
This work of literary criticism is quite interesting. It asks and answers questions about the place and value of literature in culture among other things.

Windows to the World
by Leland Ryken
As the subtitle suggests, this book puts ‘Literature in Christian Perspective’. One of the most interesting and better understandings I have developed from this book comes from his section on the lie that tells the truth talking about metaphors and the way we frame stories.

The Philosophers Tooklit
by Baggini & Fosl
This book is simply great becuase it offers a crash course in philosophical terminology and gives clear explanations of it. One of the greatest elements of it is the fact that it is completely cross-referenced with all the other portions of the book that cover part of the same subject and it also lists suggested further reading for each particualr category.

Faith & Rationality
Edited by Alvin Plantinga & Nicholas Wolterstorff
This book lays out much of Alvin Plantinga’s arguements in favor of theism. I could get into more detail but then this would get way too long.

I finished my latest book of interest yesterday. Flannery O’Connor: A Proper Scaring by Jill Baumgaertner was a great read and sent me away with a host of things to ponder. It came up in my post about movies and it will come up again…I think that Christian movie makers could stand to learn a lot from Flannery’s method. Right now I am reading her Mystery & Manners books which is also invaluable. I’ll post some snippets of wisdom she has regarding the craft of writing. They are interesting and insightful…


I just finished this book yesterday called Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll, the pastor of the infamous Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. I was strangely surprised by what I thought of it for a number of reasons. First, what he is suggesting doesn’t seem to fit nicely into a tidy denominational box. They are credo baptist but not traditional baptists because they encourage drinking, feasting, and condone smoking. They don’t fit into a presbyterian box because of the worship style and the baptism thing. They don’t fit into the traditional style of church because of their views on “being in the world and not of it”, causes them to avoid disapproval of the goth, pierced, tatooed, etc and while you’d think this is more of a characteristic of the postmodern egalitarian”emerging” churches, Driscoll very boldly lays the smackdown on such churches and their pandering to postmodernism. I think I might define him as perhaps a Seattle hip John Piper. He talks in his book about the avoidance of most churches from association with the less enticing portions and groups of society and reminds the reader of Jesus’ regular associating with the protitutes, tax collecters, and other unacceptable ‘gentile’ folk. He doesn’t soften the gospel to argue that it needs to not call sin sin, but he does seem to understand better than a lot of traditional Christians, that what Paul was doing on Mars Hill was using his knowledge of Athens’ popular culture to position Christ as the fulfillment and answer to all of the futile questioning of Greek philosophy. He recognizes that all cultures have their answers to why things are the way they are, but Christianity only answers them perfectly. Thus, he suggests in his book, our method for spreading the gospel is to take people seriously in their current context but also show them how their current answers will eventually leave them empty handed. While more is covered, this is the general emphasis of his book. While I expected to find a plethora of things I disagreed with, I was strangely disappointed. I did come away with a number of questions I will have to think abou more, but generally speaking, he seems to be on track to doing great things.

As I sidenote, I was surprised to discover a number of strange connections to church here. Ben Merkle is footnoted for a Credenda Article on Beer and while I attended Mars Hill last Sunday, I noticed that about a tenth of their bookstore was devoted to Doug Wilson’s Christian family books.
If you want to hear more about their ministries, search for Acts 29 Network (church planting), the Agathos Foundation (African Missions incl. AIDS relief), and the Paradox Theatre.