Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Archive for December 2009

Thoughts on Economics and Investment, Part 1: Prolegomena

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So, the subtitle of this blog says: “Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics.” I figured it was time to address some economic matters. We are fast approaching 2010 and so I will write some (very much in-process) thoughts concerning the U.S. economy and globalization, as well as, challenge many entrenched investment maxims.

Initial Caveats

1. I am not an expert in economics, just an interested observer.

2. The content of these posts are not to constitute investment advice.

3. I make no money off of this site, am not paid to write here, and have no form of advertisement here.

4. Despite my leanings towards the Austrian School of Economics (see links below), I am not a libertarian. I am most closely a paleoconservative. I am sympathetic to the libertarians (in an era of silly neo-conservativism) as I feel they are some of the few who stick to any of the classical conservative ideologies.

Stated Goals

My hope is that these posts would:

1. Create substantive dialogue

2. Discuss sound economic principles

3. Insight some forward-thinking analysis

Suggested Initial Reading

Before going forward, I would strongly commend reading some of these summaries of the technical terms, various schools of economics, and notable figures:

Key Ideas to understand: Supply and Demand, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Invisible Hand, Globalization, Fiat Money, Central Banking, and Value Theory.

General Schools of Economic Thought

Austrian School of Economics

Primer on Austrian School of Economics

Notable figures in the Austrian school: Carl Menger, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Ludwig von Mises, and F. A. Hayek

Monetarism

Keynesian School of Economics

Up first is challenging the underlying assumptions of the buy and hold philosophy of investment.

Some Excellent Puritan Works on Sale…

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…from Reformation Heritage Books.

Written by Michael Graham

December 22, 2009 at 9:20 am

3 Month Introspective

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Introspective

So, I’ve been blogging consistently for three months.  This is the week of Christmas and I’ll be all over the place.  I thought I would briefly summarize the 3 months of blog series on here:

Blaise Pascal:  We took a look at Blaise Pascal’s thinking, its use of aphorism and its relationship to both tri-perspectivalism and presuppositionalism.  We also looked at his use of aphorism and his warnings against deism and atheism.

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Past, Present, and Future, Parts 1-7:  We defined the term evangelical.  We looked at its historical roots in the First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, and its ties to celebrity culture, democritization of knowledge, and modernism.  Then we looked at the roots of liberalism, the Protestant split and suburbanization, and defined and outlined evangelical populism and their game plan for reaching America.  Finally we assessed the current status of American evangelicalism and then made some predictions of future trends.

Introduction to Apologetics, Parts 1-7:  We looked in broad strokes at the various schools of apologetics.  We then took a more in-depth look at:  Classical Apologetics, Evidentialist Apologetics, Presuppositional Apologetics, and the specific apologetics of Blaise Pascal and Alvin Plantinga.  Finally, we employed the three phases football as an analogy for the different apologetic schools and I likened Tim Tebow to the presuppositionalists.

Thoughts on Evangelicalism Moving Forward, Parts 1-10:  We looked at some analysis of some shifts evangelicalism will need to make moving forward:  Doctrine, Worldview, Urbanization, Globality/Mobility, “Post-Modernism,” American Culture(s), Contextualization, Balance, and Final Analysis.

Top ~10 Books by Topic:

Top 10 Systematic Theology Texts

Top 10 Devotional Classics

Top 10 Books on the Church

Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

Top 10 Books on Christian Biography

Top 10 Books on Culture

Top 10 Books on Eschatology

Top 5 Books on Worldview

Top 15 Books on Status of American Evangelicalism

Top 10 Books on Church History

Top 40 Books to Read While in College

Top 10 Books on Missions, Discipleship, and Evangelism

The 25 Most Destructive Books Ever Written…

Top 10 Apologetic Works

Top 10 Books on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

Top 10 Books by John Piper

Top 5 Children’s Books

Best Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms of the Christian Church

A Comprehensive List of Top 10 Book Lists of 2009

Up Next:  We will be looking at some thoughts on the economy and investment and then delve into the mind of Friedrich Nietzsche…

Written by Michael Graham

December 19, 2009 at 11:29 am

A Comprehensive List of Top 10 Book Lists of 2009

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Let me know if I have missed anyone (or yours) in the comments section.

Kevin DeYoung

Russell Moore

Keith Mathison

Tim Challies

Trevin Wax

Derek Thomas

Thabiti Anyabwile

Sam Storms

Best Creeds, Confessions and Catechisms of the Christian Church

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Trinity Shield from Athanasian Creed

Our faith is 2000 years old.  We have a long obedience in the same direction, affirming the same truths.  We are wise to be familiar with the many wonderful orthodox creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the Christian church.

Apostles Creed (~2nd century)

Nicene Creed (325)

Athanasian Creed (5th century)

Definition of the Council of Chalcedon (451)

The Canons of the Council of Orange (529)

London Baptist Confession (1689)

Westminster Standards:  Westminster Confession of Faith, Westminster Shorter Catechism, and Westminster Larger Catechism (1646)

Heidelberg Catechism (1563) – Note:  Kevin DeYoung has a book coming out on the HC next year entitled The Good News We Almost Forgot.  I would be surprised if it was not excellent.  CJ Mahaney says, “Doubtless this will be the finest book I will have ever read on the Heidelberg Catechism. It will certainly be the first.”

Belgic Confession (1618)

Canons of Dordt (1618)

Second Helvetic Confession (1536)

Genevan Catechism (1536)

The Thirty Nine Articles (Anglican, 1572) and Augsburg Confession (Lutheran) are not bad and worth familiarizing oneself.

Also of note is the Westminster Shorter Catechism for kids – the entire list of questions and answers can be found here for free.

Top 5 Childrens Books

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The Jesus Storybook Bible

Someone asked for this list.  I have no children and am not very knowledgeable here.  Hence, someone who has children and better resources please post books that should be listed here.

1.  The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

This book is a monumental achievement.  I really don’t know what parents did for their children before this book.  I have heard that The Big Picture Story Bible is also good.

2.  Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

These are classic books and solid Christian allegory.  When they get older, have them read the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien

3.  The Poison Cup by R.C. Sproul

Yes, R.C. Sproul has written some children’s books.  The Poison Cup is the only one I am familiar with, but I have heard that The Lightlings and The King Without a Shadow are also good.

4.  Window on the World by Daphne Spraggett and Jill Johnstone

This is like Operation World for kids.  It will introduce them to world missions and prayer for other people groups.

5.  First Catechism

This is the Westminster Shorter Catechism for Children.  Also, the entire list of questions and answers can be found here for free.

Top 10 Books by John Piper

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Desiring God by John Piper

This list is what I think are the 10 best books that I have read from John Piper.  I haven’t read some of the more recent ones, but have heard good things about This Momentary Marriage (a book on marriage apparently).

1.  Desiring God [y, l, e, p, s]

This classic is what introduced me to a sovereign God and the doctrines of grace.  It also taught me that my pursuit of joy and my pursuit of God were one and the same pursuit.  If you cannot get through it or are intimidated by its size, try The Dangerous Duty of Delight, he essentially says the same things, just more concisely.

2.  Don’t Waste Your Life [y, l, e, p, s]

Quite simply this book needs to be read (and can be) by everyone.  The title says it all.  His passion for living a worthy life is infectious.

3.  Let the Nations Be Glad [y, l, e, p, s]

This is his book on missions.  It is excellent.  Reading this book is what compelled me to spend time overseas investing the Gospel into people.

4.  Brothers We are NOT Professionals [l, e, p, s]

Just as relevant in 2009 than it was in 2002.  I agree with my friend James W. that this book ought to be read by every seminarian before and after seminary.  Piper takes aim at the professionalization of the ministry.  We are not professionals, we are shepherds.

5.  The 5 Book Biography Set [y, l, e, p, s]

Each book has three or so vignette-length biographies.  They are all good and the link above takes you to DG’s Christmas sale.

6.  Finally Alive [l, e, p, s]

This book may prove to be one of Piper’s most important contributions.  The book concerns the rarely written on, doctrine of regeneration.  Definitely one of the best books of 2009.

7.  Battling Unbelief [y, l, e, p, s]

This book gives you tools to fight for your joy in Christ when you don’t feel it.  Also, I am told that, When I Don’t Desire God, and When the Darkness Will not Lift are both quite good and in the same vein.

8.  The Supremacy of God in Preaching [e, p, s]

One of the best books on preaching.  Period.

9.  Future Grace [l, e, p, s]

The superior pleasure of Christ and the hope of future grace are our tools in fighting against sin.

10.  God’s Passion for His Glory [y, l, e, p, s]

This books is Piper channeling Jonathan Edwards thoughts (which is much of what Piper has done his entire ministry… and that is a good thing).  We would be wise to listen to Edwards and his vision for a God who is passionate for His own glory.

Honorable Mentions:

What’s the Difference – book on Biblical manhood and womanhood.

Counted Righteous in Christ – book defending the doctrine of Christ’s imputed righteousness.  A critical doctrine and a solid book on the matter.

The Justification of God – rock solid exegesis of Romans 9.  If you have ever had questions about Romans 9, this book will answer them.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

Top 10 Books on Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility

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1754 Edition of Freedom of the Will. 255 years... still unanswered.

This subject can be one of the most difficult, confusing, and disconcerting theological discussions.  The books below (at various reading levels) bring clarity and cognitive rest to the matter.

1.  Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards  [e, p, s]

This is the most difficult read on the list but it is by far the best.  In my view, Edwards has accurately described blow-by-blow how divine sovereignty and human responsibility work by accurately describing all aspects.  This book has never been answered.  Every book on human freedom conveniently ignores this work.  If you get stuck, message me in the comments and I’ll email you a book review which includes a summary of his argumentation.

2.  The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination by Lorraine Boettner  [e, p, s]

3.  Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin  [e, p, s]

It bothers me how many “Calvinists” haven’t read the Institutes of Christian Religion.

4.  Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer  [y, l, e, p, s]

This book is the most accessible and has been helpful to many.  I disagree with its central thesis that the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility is antinomy.  But most find this book to be the most helpful on the subject.  Also, Will Metzger’s, Tell the Truth and Mark Dever’s, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism are both excellent and in the same vein.

5.  Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther  [e, p, s]

Excellent book on how our will is bound.

6.  The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen  [e, p, s]

Excellent defense of the doctrine of limited atonement.  J.I. Packer’s introductory essay to this book is probably the best thing Packer has ever written.  That essay is helpful and worth the price of the book.  I refuse to talk to anyone about “Calvinism” until they have read that essay.  It can be read online here.

7.  Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul  [y, l, e, p, s]

Sproul outlines the doctrine of election cogently.  Also, Willing to Believe is solid.

8a.  Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper  [y, l, e, p, s]

Although not explicitly on the subject, Piper does a great job disarming the lie that the sovereignty of God in salvation destroys the impetus to evangelize.  Further and rightly, he makes the case that the sovereignty of God is the soil where fruitful evangelism grows.  If you want more on this, I have a paper defending this position theologically and from the history of missions (most of the big names in missions affirmed the doctrines of grace).

8b.  Finally Alive by John Piper  [y, l, e, p, s]

This is a much needed book on the doctrine of regeneration.  Piper explains clearly how regeneration precedes repentance and faith.  Critical.  In my view, this was one of the finest books of 2009.

9.  The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink  [y, l, e, p, s]

Classic book on the sovereignty of God.

10.  The Potter’s Freedom:  A Defense of the Reformation and the Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Choosen But Free by James White  [l, e, p, s]

White takes on Geisler and Molinism in a needed rebuttal of his Chosen But Free.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

Top 10 Apologetic Works

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Apologetics to the Glory of God

This is a highly selective list of what I think are both good and useful apologetic works.

1.  Apologetics to the Glory of God by John Frame  [y, l, e, p, s]

At the end of the day, I think the presuppositionalists have the most Biblical and best defense of Christianity.  This is the best of the presuppositional works.

2.  Pensees by Blaise Pascal  [y, l, e, p, s]

This book should come as no surprise considering the title of this blog.  Pascal speaks to the heart and the mind.  His analysis of man’s greatness/wretchedness, propensity towards boredom, and love of diversions make so much sense of the human experience in light of the Christian story.

3.  Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga  [p, s]

This is Plantinga’s magnum opus.  He presents his epistemology.  It is not an easy read, a background in philosophy would be very helpful.

4.  Tactics:  A Gameplan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl  [y, l, e, p, s]

While not necessarily an apologetic work, this is a helpful book for creating discussion about your faith.  I included it here because it is so helpful and practical.

5.  Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe  [l, e, p, s]

See write-up here.

6.  The Reason for God by Tim Keller  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

Keller presents a third way between pure science/reason and pure faith.

7.  Cornelius Van Til:  An Analysis of His Thought by John Frame  [e, p, s]

If you are seriously interested in presuppositional thought, then this is a good place to dig deeper.

8.  Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul  [y, l, e, p, s]

R.C. has put together a very solid and readable introduction to apologetics.  A good first book on the subject.

9.  God and Other Minds by Alvin Plantinga  [p, s]

Here, Plantinga discusses the classical arguments for/against God.  Also, his God, Freedom, and Evil is pretty good.  It is not an easy read.  A background in philosophy and/or logic is very helpful.

10.  Every Thought Captive by Richard Pratt  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

This brief book is an accessible and good read for everyone.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

The 25 Most Destructive Books Ever Written…

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Darwin: Origin of Species

…and why you should read them (or at least be familiar with them).

These are books that have had a deleterious affect on humanity (almost exclusively Western in their thinking).  Some of them had “good intentions”* but fell flat on their face with horrible unintended consequences.  The Christian has the responsibility to defend the truth of the Gospel.  One part of defending the truth is refuting all untruth.  We need to be reading primary sources of the things we are seeking to deconstruct – not summaries, the wikipedia article, or a blog post about it.

*1.  The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin
I do not think Darwin would agree with half of Neo-Darwinianism or macroevolution.  He makes massive concessions that geology and microbiology would need to corroborate his thesis.  He was a good scientist who followed the evidence, I think he would be in the intelligent design camp (perhaps this is a controversial statement, but read Origin for yourself).  I have listed this as #1 as this work was critical in pretty much all of the destructive thoughts of the past 150 years:  Eugenics, Scientific Naturalism, Nietzschean atheism, New Atheism, Liberal Protestantism, and Communism.

2.  Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

This book is probably the most influential book in philosophy since the ancient Greeks.  Kant seeks to synthesize the great debate of the history of philosophy:  Being vs. Becoming aka Plato vs. Aristotle.  In the process, Kant comes to the conclusion that our minds cannot have knowledge of things that are not physical – ie. God and many other absolute truths.  In defense of Kant, his thinking did begin to change in his third work as he makes some wiggle room for faith as being a legitimate pathway for knowledge (but almost no one reads his third volume).

3.  The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

20,000,000 dead under Stalin, 6-8,000,000 dead under Lenin, 40,000,000 dead under Mao Zedong, 1,700,000 dead under Pol Pot… case and point.

4.  On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers by Friedrich Schleiermacher

This guy birthed liberal Protestantism.  His ideas split Protestantism and millions think they know Jesus when they don’t.

5.  Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche decries how humanity has killed God through our apathy.  He then espouses why humanity needs to move beyond God, morality, truth, and the good, in favor of embracing exerting power and control over the weak.

*6.  Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes

Descartes had every intention of proving through pure axiomatic reasoning that God existed.  In short, his arguments for God’s existence were awful and his arguments for doubting everything were excellent.  His legacy is solid argumentation for skepticism.  Epic Fail.

7.  Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

11-17,000,000 dead.  Hitler sees Judaism, capitalism, and communism as the three major threats to Germany.  The Final Solution means purging all associated with these things and the result is the Holocaust.  Awful.

8.  Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty

In my view, this is the most important book to be read today for the Christian.  For an explanation why, read my previous blog post on post-modern-pragmatism.

9.  The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

In order to be successful in life you must exercise control through power and manipulation.  Morality hurts your ability to exert your will.

10.  Origins of the History of Christianity by Ernest Renan

The New Testament is essentially myth.  This revisionist history was seminal in classic liberalism and influential in the later Jesus Seminar.

11.  Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men by Jean Jacques Rousseau

Society is corrupt, man is good.

12.  The Pivot of Civilization by Margaret Sanger

Sanger promoted sexual liberation and then birth control, abortion, and eugenics.  39,000,000+ babies dead worldwide… this year from abortion.

13.  Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

Humans are immoral, therefore only Leviathan is the solution… Leviathan is a strong and aggressive central government.

14.  The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig von Feuerbach

Christianity is superstition that will soon be replaced by humanism.

15.  The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

Humanity has invented God and this delusion is a kind of mental illness.

16.  Various Writings by Pelagius

Denial of the doctrine of original sin, denial of efficacious grace, and the denial of the sovereignty of God.  1600 years later his teachings still plague the church.

17.  Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey

This was just painful to read (and I was unable to finish) and I am not endorsing actually getting a copy (hence no link).  Kinsey basically says that no sexual behavior or orientation is immoral.  All is permissible.

18.  The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

Some bit of gnosticism had to make this list.  I wrestled with what to choose here.  Pagels is your run of the mill critic who says that the gnostic “gospels” are the real story and history.  These ideas are ridiculous due to their pseudepigraphic nature, date of writing, and mutually exclusive theologies.

19.  Prolegomena to the History of Israel by Julius Wellhausen

Wellhausen espouses that the first five books of the Old Testament were not written by Moses but by editors from four schools of thought.  A flood of Bible criticism followed Wellhausen.

20.  Why I am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell

Russell is one of the few atheists other than Nietzsche that I respect.  His thoughts are well ordered and argued.  The New Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens…) wish they could hold a candle to Russell.

21.  Process and Reality by A.N. Whitehead

Whitehead argues for Process Theology.  Read about Process Theology here.

22.  The Council of Trent

Justification by faith alone is anathematized.  Veneration of Mary and saints upheld.  Transubstantiation upheld.  I love my brothers and sisters who are Christians in the Catholic church despite the Catholic church.  Trent had the opportunity to listen to the Reformation and return to God’s Word for truth.  It did not and left in its wake countless eternal casualties.

23.  His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

Pullman sought to write the opposite of Milton’s Paradise Lost.  He seeks to commend humanism and ultimately atheism as the commendable life path.  His Dark Materials is aimed at young adults and has been recently popularized by the Golden Compass film.

24.  Protagoras by Plato

For clarity sake, these are sayings ascribed to Protagoras and not Platonic thoughts.  The famous quote is “Man is the measure of all things.”  Protagoras is the first person to espouse a kind of moral relativism.

25.  Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead

The logical consequences of naturalism and Darwinianism applied to anthropology and sociology.  What is primitive is good, therefore the sexual inhibition she evidenced in primitive Samoa ought to be writ large.

Some thinkers who nearly made this list:

Leon Trotsky, Mao Zedong, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Victor Gollancz, Lillian Hellman, Cyril Connolly, Norman Mailer, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertolt Brecht, Johann Fichte, Georg Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, John Dewey, Joseph Smith, Percy Shelley, Henrik Ibsen, Edmund Wilson, James Baldwin, Kenneth Tynan, Jean-François Lyotard, Claude Levi-Strauss and Noam Chomsky.

What did I miss?

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