A busier than normal schedule and longer than normal books made for a shorter than normal list this month. Still, there were couple really great reads.
Empires of the Sea by Roger Crowley
Empires of the Sea is the second Roger Crowley book I’ve read. It won’t be the last. After reading his breathtaking description of the siege of Malta, I thought it couldn’t get any better. Then came his account of the battle of Lepanto, which had me literally at the edge of my seat.
If you are at all interested in history, don’t miss this book. Roger Crowley has a special gift for making the past come alive.
Dominion by Tom Holland
There is a popular narrative that casts the rise of Christianity as a major step backward for civilization, the negative effects of which only began to be negated with the coming of the Enlightenment.
Many, if not most, serious scholars reject this simplistic view of history. In his book “Dominion”, Tom Holland (not THAT Tom Holland) goes a step further, and demonstrates how most of the positive developments of the last two thousand years have their roots in Christian theology and the practical outworking thereof.
Holland sees many developments as positive which I do not, but it is helpful to see that even social movements which are openly hostile to Christianity owe their success to the existence of a Christian worldview.
Despite a smattering of strong language (mostly in the context of discussing the sexual revolution) I highly recommend this book.
The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
This was my favorite of all the Narnia books, and it remains so after having read it to my boys. I must admit, however, that I was not nearly as successful at making horse-like noises as was my Dad when he read it to us.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
The reading of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” was part of an ongoing project of mine to read the philosophers in their own words. Seldom have I been so happy to finish a book.
Beginning with the famous twin assertions on the death of God and the rise of the “super man”, the book (much like it’s author) descends steadily into madness. The result is a grotesque caricature of the Gospels with Zarathustra (in whom one cannot help seeing the person of Nietzsche himself) playing the role of a warped version of Christ.
This is not to say that there is no value in a Christian reading this book. If, for example, you are looking for a profound, albeit unwitting, illustration of Romans 1, Zarathustra is your man. The section where Zarathustra returns to his cave to find the “higher men” bowed down before a donkey is a clear parable of Romans 1:25 – just to cite one instance.
There is also the principle that the parody gives testimony to the original. No matter how hard he tries, Nietzsche cannot escape the teachings of Christ.
When all is said and done there is comfort in knowing that, given the disastrous effects of his philosophy over a century of Western history, not to mention the cautionary tale that was his own life, we won’t need to worry about anybody taking Nietzsche seriously ever again. Right?
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