Book Reviews

Reading List for April, 2020: Adventures in Myth with C.S. Lewis, Jordan Peterson, and Homer (as well as some other stuff)

I thought I was going to finish more books this month. Still, I guess seven isn’t bad when one of them was The Iliad

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

In our lunchtime reading around the table we finally finished “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. I enjoyed it more this time around, although I got the impression that it was not my sons’ favorite of the series.

The Life of David by A.W. Pink

Pink’s “The Life of David” was alternately very frustrating and extremely valuable.

My frustration stemmed from the author’s tendency to jump directly to application without adequately dealing with the text, and his love of allegory, which causes him, in my opinion, to occasionally miss the main point of the narrative.

Having said this, may I hasten to say that the deep insights which pour from his pen reveal a person who has spent at least some time digging into textual matters – even if he does not always show his work. And his uber-allegorical interpretations can challenge one’s thinking, even if one doesn’t come to the same conclusion.

And I would be remiss if I neglected to mention that in my current study on the Life of David for our church Sunday School class, Pink is quoted in almost every lesson.

The Last Lion: Alone by William Manchester

One of the more agreeable aspects of these weeks of quarantine has been the time I have spent with the late William Manchester exploring the life of Winston Churchill. This second of three volumes catalogues the long, lonely road Churchill slogged in between the world wars – seeing clearly the threat posed by Hitler, warning of it repeatedly and vociferously, and not being heeded.

These books have been valuable to me on a personal and ministerial level. Not every aspect of Churchill’s character and actions can be applied to the life of a pastor or missionary – but a surprising amount can. I will save the details for a couple forthcoming articles.

The Iliad by Homer

When the professor of the Pre-Socratic Philosophy class I’m taking assigned me Homer’s Iliad, I was pretty enthused. I had never read this particular Greek classic, and I was eager to dive in. At the beginning I found the prose entertaining and the storyline engaging.

Then things started to drag. How many ways can a soldier be killed with a spear? Many, it turns out. How was it possible for a man to stop what he was doing and remove the armor from a slain foe? I don’t know, but they do that. A lot. And if you think all the slaying and armor-stealing is bad, it’s because you have skipped over the part where each warrior, upon meeting his foe, feels obligated to rehearse his lineage and accomplishments before coming to blows. After about the fifth time this happened I was like “Come on, Achilles, just kill the guy already!”

And that brings me to another important point: I’m not sure if Homer’s objective was to make me like Achilles, but if it was, he failed. I came away from the reading definitely in the pro-Hector camp.

And the gods. Don’t get me started on the gods. If this is an example of European polytheism, it’s no wonder the continent converted to Christianity. The amazing thing is that it didn’t happen faster.

But don’t let me discourage you. If interminable battles, childish heroes, and petty, devious deities are your thing, you’ll love this book.

Evangellyfish by Doug Wilson

After wading through Homer, I wanted something a little lighter with fewer stabbings. I decided to pick up Evangellyfish by Doug Wilson.

I know Wilson isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but if you enjoy – as I do – the way he turns a phrase while gleefully skewering the idols of the left and right, you will probably get a kick out of this book.

Wilson’s victims in this merry fictional romp through the world of modern American evangelicalism include (but are not limited to):

Mega churches
Mega church pastors
Sexual predators
The Media
Christian publishers
Secular education
Christian education
Overzealous prosecutors
Youth pastors
Grievance bloggers
Bloggers in general…

Now that I think about it I’m not sure which included more impalement. the Iliad or Evangellyfish.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

After finishing The Silver Chair with my boys, Puddleglum continues to be my all-time favorite Narnia character. Besides the obvious comic relief he provides, I see a hidden profundity in which his dogged fundamentalism confounds the sophisticated, deconstructive arguments of the evil queen.

Also, Lewis’ less than subtle barbs aimed at modern education are as relevant today as they were then.

Myth and Meaning in Jordan Peterson: A Christian Perspective compiled by Ron Dart

In one of my philosophy classes the professor has assigned us to write a paper on the importance of myth. Casting about for research material, I remembered that I had downloaded “Myth and Meaning in Jordan Peterson: A Christian Perspective” after finding it on sale on Amazon (Thanks, Tim Challies!).

This is a compilation of articles by several Christian writers, compiled by Ron Dart, who evaluate the works of the noteworthy (or notorious, depending on your viewpoint) Canadian psychologist.

While the content necessarily revolves around Peterson and his world view, I was pleased that several of the articles dealt at length with the subject of myth as it relates to culture, society, and philosophy. Though there were parts through which I found myself wading waste-deep, most of the book I found to be quite accessible.

If you are a Christian who is aware of Peterson (either through his books or videos), or are curious about how a Christian takes on the subject of myth, this is an excellent resource.

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