So here is What I Have Been Reading in the second quarter of 2012.

The Bible

A staple to my daily diet is the New American Standard Bible – MacArthur Study Bible.  In the second quarter of this year I had the opportunity to read through all four gospels and study through the pastoral epistles.  As MacArthur explains in How to Study the Bible, the Bible is our source of truth, our source of happiness, our source of victory, our source of growth, our source of power, and our source of guidance.  There is simply no substitute.

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek

This academic guide to apologetics truly dismantles the atheistic worldview.  Geisler and Turek do a very good job in taking an Intelligent Design position to prove truth, beliefs, the existence of God, and man’s origins.  They also use logic, reason, and historical evidence to prove the Biblical accounts of Jesus, the reliability of the New Testament, and the who Jesus really was.

The main problem with this book is the main problem with the Intelligent Design proponents.  It proves there is a God, it just does not prove who this God is.  They seem at times to put man’s word on par with God’s Word. They even seem to tout this approach as a positive thing.  As they state, “Intelligent Design beliefs may be consistent with the Bible, but they are not based on the Bible” (p. 159).  They go on to state:

Intelligent Design is not “creation science” either.  Intelligent Design scientists don’t make claims that so-called “creation scientists” make.  They don’t say that the data unambiguously supports the six-twenty-four-hour-day view of Genesis, or a worldwide flood.  Instead, they acknowledge that the data for Intelligent Design is not based on a specific age or geological history of the earth.  ID scientists study the same objects in nature that the Darwinists study – life and the universe itself – but they come to a more reasonable conclusion about the cause of those objects.  In short, regardless of what the Bible may say on the topic, Darwinism is rejected because it doesn’t fit the scientific data, and Intelligent Design is accepted because it does. (p. 160)

So what about the virgin birth?  What about Lazarus being raised from the dead when he was rotting in his grave?  What about Jesus’ divinity?  When does Geisler and Turek actually believe the Bible over proven science?  What they are saying is that a six-24-hour creation and a worldwide flood which are clearly and plainly written in Scripture is not reasonable.  Last time I checked, blind men seeing, lame men walking, dead men rising, and virgin giving birth are not reasonable either.  They have not applied their own “self-defeating” logic to their theological reasoning.

The Battle for the Beginning by John MacArthur

What a much more complete and Biblical approach to the issue of creation/evolution than the previous book. Although not as versed in apologetics and not as scientific, you know the starting point of John MacArthur’s worldview and he does not flip and flop from science to history to the Bible and back.  As he states on page 61, “Scripture is a sufficient revelation; nature is not.  Scripture is clear and complete; nature is not.  Scripture therefore speaks with more authority than nature and should be used to assess scientific opinion, not vice versa.”

Our entire view of creation is absolutely vital and is the starting point for our entire worldview.  As stated on page 43:

In fact, so vital is the issue that Francis Schaeffer once remarked that if he only had an hour to spend with an unbeliever, he would spend the first fifty-five minutes talking about creation and what it means for humanity to bear the image of God – and then he would use the last five minutes to explain the way of salvation.

MacArthur explains through a Biblical exegetical approach that the battle for the beginning is not a battle between the Bible and science but ultimately a battle between two mutually exclusive faiths – faith in God’s Word versus faith in anti-theistic and anti-Biblical hypotheses.  A must read for those who are willing to take a stand upon God’s Word.

The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? by R.C. Sproul

One of the most misused and misunderstood feel-good verses in the Bible is Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  R.C. Sproul does an absolutely great job in giving prime examples of God’s providence and both His visible and invisible Hand through the Old Testament for His Glory alone.  While moralists use this verse to try to give them comfort that God will give them a good marriage, a good job, and a comfy life; Sproul shows that God’s intentions are always good, His purpose is altogether holy, and God’s sovereignty carried out in His decretive will is always for His glory.

The three chapters that are outstanding and worthwhile for every Christian to read are Chapter 4: The Cry Heard ‘Round the World, Chapter 8: The Mystery of Providence and Concurrence, and Chapter 15: Train Wreck (along with about five other great chapters).  An excerpt from Chapter 4 is as follows (p. 44):

We play with the “what ifs?” and speculate on the course of history had the baby not cried.  We could surmise that if the baby had not cried there would have been no Moses.  Had there been no Moses there would have been no incident at the burning bush.  No burning bush, no Exodus.  No Exodus, no giving of the Law at Sinai.  No Law, no prophets.  No prophets, no Jesus.  No Jesus, no cross.  No cross, no redemption.  No redemption, no Christianity.  No Christianity, no Western civilization as we know it.  All of this if a baby in a homemade ark had failed to cry at precisely the right moment.

But there is no “what if?” in God.  He is a God whose providence is in the details.

Teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen

Jensen makes his case to educators that they have more influence on students’ brains than they realize.  And they have an obligation to take advantage of the incredible revelations science has provided us in this area of research.  He gave a thorough exploration of topics such as motivation, critical thinking skills, environmental factors, the “social brain,” emotions, and memory.

I thought this book overall was a great resource for educators to understand in simple language the operating processes of the brain (which are absolutely amazing by the way – see my post on The Complex Machine), how to prepare a child’s brain for school, and how to maximize higher-order thinking and recall skills.  “The human brain has a great deal of uncommitted postnatal “real estate.”  Whatever is first, whatever activities are more frequent, and whatever actions are more coherent will “win” the competition for network wiring and signal the brain to allocate space and resources to that set of behaviors” (p. 15).  Think about that next time you turn on the television or video games for your child as opposed to opening up a Bible or another great piece of literature.

What is it About Me You Can’t Teach? by Eleanor Rodriguez and James Bellanca

Believe it or not, the two quotes I hear most from teachers at school are as follows:

  • “I just can’t teach these kids – they’re hopeless.”
  • “I’ll just teach the ones who want to learn.”

The first two chapters this book attacks those two statements right away.  Rodriguez and Bellanca show that “most effective teachers and most effective students are made, not born” (p. 2) while “instruction that is connected to meaningful curriculum and sound assessment is the most essential ingredient” (p. 3) to student learning.  These two statements that permeate throughout the faculty of a public school create a culture of low expectations.

Through research these two authors have found that there are 15 main behaviors that have the greatest impact on low-performing children in classrooms and I would argue that they are present in every great teachers classroom.  They are “Equitable Distribution, Affirming/Correcting, Proximity, Individual Help, Praise, Wait Time, Courtesy, Reasons for Praise, Personal Regard, Delving, Listening, Touching, Higher-Level Questions, Accepting Feelings, and Desisting” (p. 13-15).

After reading these incredible first two chapters I was hoping that the next 200 pages would be as ground-breaking, but the rest of the text was very disappointing.  It gave various lesson-plans which were lacking substance or the meaningful curriculum and assessment that they previously stated was an essential ingredient.  So if you are an educator, I would try to download a free chapter view for 1 and 2 and save your money.