Hearts & Minds BookNotes

annotations, blurbs and ruminations

to enlarge the heart & stimulate the mind

and to happily generate mail order business for Hearts & Minds bookstore

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Location: Dallastown, PA

My lovely wife Beth and I own and operate--proprietors makes us sound more classy than we really are--a cluttered, diverse and independent bookstore in Central Pennsylvania. After well over 20 years, we are still not sure what to say when people ask if our shop is a "Christian bookstore." I do a monthly book review column over at our website; we hope that these new blogged bits will afford friends and customers the chance to see other books I happen to be reading, wishing to read, pretending that I read or at least believe that others should, if not read, know about. We have three children, attend a Presbyterian church in York, PA and have no hobbies.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Good Monsters

We've been out on the road selling books at events so much lately that the boxes we bring back have piled up in the garage and the store's stock room and even our dining and living room. We have stuff scattered here and there, too much of a lot, and yet we're missing things; general chaos rules around here, usually, and we're in a hard season. Beth has been sick with vertigo and hearing loss (thanks for praying, you faithful friends) and it has been tricky, with no small amount of anxiety from yours truly.

Now, I've got to pick, pull, pack, and lug boxes and boxes of books from these crazy overstock storage places, and the store itself, for an upcoming gig...been working, finally, for hours and hours at it.

And so, my old love for music comes back, cranking up the CD while in the stockroom. I listen to music less than I used to, although my favorites still mean a lot to me----VOL and Bill Mallonee, Bruce Cockburn, Brooks Williams, Nanci Griffith, Mark Heard, U2 (we carried 'em when we opened in 82!) The Band (order the new tribute album from us, for sheer fun and some very moving renditions) and, always, Jackson Browne (do you know the project he did, Some Bridges, with a very funky black gospel choir, Fred Martin and the Levite Camp? Wow!) I listen to mostly classical when I can. In the store we play baroque and Bach and Handel and Windham Hill and tons of Irish fiddle tunes, and solo acoustic guitar discs.

But the last few days, for my hours of work in the book cellar--that is supposed to sound like wine cellar, or maybe bookseller---I put the player on repeat, and listened to the same wonderful album over and over. It was acclaimed as extraordinary and historic by CCM magazine when it came out, but, to be honest, I'm a bit jaded about that whole scene, so not sure what that meant. I listened to it a few times this fall, liked it, but didn't get hooked, at first. I was still enjoying their fine acoustic hymns album, Redemption Songs and the last few by Patty Griffith. And Indeliable Grace.

Anyway, I respect, really, really respect, these guys for several important reasons----their thoughtful approach to culture, their humilty, their living into their social obligations, their artistry, their reading habits (and because they thank two of my best buds on the planet, Ken Heffner and Steve Garber, in the liner notes.) But there are artists I respect, but don't listen to much. I've enjoyed these fellas' work from the very first day the first album came out, and have promoted them in the store and have listened to all their stuff, often. For whatever reason, I'm just slow on the take on this one.

But, I have finally realized, Good Monsters, by Dove and Grammy award winners, Jars of Clay, is stunning. I can't stop listening to it, over and over. Every song is musically rich, grabbing me, now that I've allowed myself to pay attention. There is a progression to the songs, they move towards some kind of climax. The upbeat, driving reminder that I am dead, needing to be a new man, gets me every time; I repeated that song a dozen times. (Yes, I've been book unpacking, packing and repacking a lot.) And "Oh My God" ends up in a passionate and devestating crescendo.

The song "Light Makes Heat" with the African Children's Choir doing some moody background work is amazing; lyrically allusive, but surely emerging from Jars' important African blood:water mission work. What a song!

I am exhausted, from the book work, the choosing and studying and praying and thinking about the past book shows and the upcoming trips and set-ups---my own little bit of preformance art, but also from the carthatic experience of allowing this music to wash over me and shape me and move me. Thanks, Jar guys.

Here is an excellent piece, well written and insightful, about the band, written by Mark Joseph a few years back, at NRO. One of the great reviews of Good Monsters which says it is their best album yet, and which plumbs the universal themes of struggling with depravity and good intentions and the need for redemption which it musically presents, can be found here, written by Tony Shore at HM. Read the posted reply, too, by "Ryan" which has a clear understanding of the themes of the record. And, for a very intelligent review, from an outpost that doesn't suffer fools, or treat faith-filled albums with kid gloves, read here.

I offer these links because at this late hour, even after listening and enjoying and even crying through this remarkable pop album, I don't quite know how to say it any better than these good reviewers. Check 'em out. Or mess around the Jars website----the creative videos are pretty amazing, and the one for Work just won a prominent award last night.

Jars of Clay
$5.00 off
regularly $17.98
now $12.98
read@heartsandmindsbooks.com or 717.146.3333 or here

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Best Things in Life, The Brothers K and Christian poetry

A group of high school students meets here every week and over cookies and exotic teas we talk philosphy. A diverse range of worldviews and philosophical opinion are represented, and it isn't a group designed for Christians. Several of the students have taken an introduction to philosophy class at the local high school, and we get together to keep at it. It is informal and fun. We have been reading----sometimes out loud for effect---the great little book by Peter Kreeft, The Best Things in Life where a Socrates character comes to a modern college and asks good questions of Peter Pragmo and Felcia Flake. We don't know that much about Plato, and I get my digs at dualism in when I can, but, mostly, we've been impressed with Socrates willingness to ask everybody the question of why they do what they do, why they believe as they do, and what reality or truthfulness they base their views upon, and what "ends" they most hope for.

Any of Kreeft's books are well worth reading, and several are ideal for smart, young folks, so we commend them---The Journey is a walk through history where the seeker meets a variety of thinkers, each who offer him yet another piece of the puzzle of forming a coherent worldview. Between Heaven and Hell is a mythical, afterlife dialogue between three fellas that all died on the same day (yes, this part is true, as most BookNote readers will know): John F. Kennedy, Aldous Huxley, and C.S. Lewis. In Kreeft's fun, fair hands, the three---an American humanist, a new agey Pantheist, and a classical Christian--wonder, first off, where the, uh, heck, they are.

Last night, though, we had some special guests. A local philosophy prof and a well-loved English teacher from the high school came to help us through "The Grand Inquisitor" (here for Wikipedia) that intense chapter, a prose-poem, from Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamozov. We had a long and wide-ranging discussion, with many of us wishing we were better read, in philosophy, literature, and, yes, poetry. Although there was not a consensus on that, despite the passionate cheerleading for poetry voiced by the lit teacher.

And so, today, in my in-box (and I hope in some of yours) came the weekly Trinity Forum on-line e-zine, Implications. There was a marvelous, marvelous piece by T.M. Moore on why the followers of Jesus should care about the "second sight" we can nurture by being poetry-lovers. He makes a theological and practical case for reading poetry, and offers three lovely meditations on three good ones (by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Denise Levertov, and Wendell Berry.) Please click here to read this wonderful essay "The World in a Ray of Sun: Poetry as Spiritual Discipline" by T. M. Moore. The most recent book of his that I have read, by the way, published by Presbyterian & Reformed, is a great study of creation, Consider the Lilies: A Plea for Creational Theology.

Moore recommends a great, thick, paperback, Sacrifice of Praise: An Anthology of Christian Poetry from Caedmon to the Mid-Twentieth Century edited by James Trott (with a forward by Larry Woidode.) Published by Cumberland House; $26.95 Of course, we stock it. Here is a good review of it, published at Ransom Fellowship's website.

Place an order in verse, writing a poem to tell us what you want and get
25% off
any book mentioned in this post
Do it here by posting a comment for all to see, if you'd like, or email me at read@heartsandmindsbooks.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Wilberforce & the Reformation of Manners

My column appeared last week in the York Sunday News and I wasn't going to post about it here.

It isn't exactly about books----well, I do mentioned three, in passing---and I've already done several posts on the Amazing Grace film and the great batch of newly published Wilberforce books. But recent events made me want to share this essay with our broader Hearts & Minds circle of friends.

My new piece in the local paper used Wilberforce's second great goal (after the suppression of the slave trade) as a way into the conversation about manners and morals, culture and policy, popular entertainment and the arts, heart change and social change. I need not remind most BookNotes friends that my previous piece in that paper most likely appealed to human rights activists and liberal politicos while this new one might appeal more to those with more traditionally conservative cultural leanings. Please read it here at the York Sunday News website; not sure how long it will be up, so do check it out soon. Why not post your feedback---what do you think about the coursening of our public discourse, the obvious lack of modesty, the ways in which pop culture has become so vulgar?

I wrote this, by the way, before the Imus flap, and the recent debates about X-rated rap, before the horror at Virginia Tech, and the renewned discussions about violent computer games and the gunman's sexual violence. That I used Wilberforce is no cheap trick, as he indeed had a variety of concerns, saw deep relationships between the arts and politics, between the deepest matters of faith and the most arcane details of global economic justice. He was an advocate for Bible distribution and early spokesman for animal rights, was apparently kind and honest and good.

The original Dubya was a lover of books, a great singer, a man of deep faith and solid theology and a lovely host at the many good parties he threw. Walden Media did him right in their marvelous film and I'm glad for the recent biographies, such as the splendid one by Eric Metaxas which I celebrated a month ago (browse back to 2-4-09.) If only we all could, in our own places, nurture this kind of thoughtful, engaged, principled, prayerful activism.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rallying the Really Human Things

A few days ago we celebrated the long-awaited release of the first new Tolkien novel in thirty years, The Children of Hurin. I considered offering a reflection, a day or so later, on the campus shootings and how this epic adventure---with its power, violence, the ring, evil, redemption---might help us process the tragedy at Virginia Tech. As you know, I offered instead another piece of redemptive art, the lyric of a favorite Pierce Pettis song.

Still, I come back to the urgency of great literature, of reading, of stories and truths told in books. So I will offer just a few random suggestions, starting with a few about Tolkien's imaginary world, moving to some others more generally about the role of literature in our lives; nothing exhaustive, of course. Books about books are among our favorites, and there are plenty.

The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth Ralph Wood (Westminister/John Knox) $14.95 Many know Dr. Wood as a thoughtful Christian scholar (he teaches at Baylor), an engaging professor, and a passionate Middle Earth buff. Here, he offers his insights in a very readable, yet thoughtful book. It is the perfect, smart starter book in this whole area of pondering the theological vision of Tolkien and how we can see God's truth in these grand stories.

Following Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victory in The Lord of the Rings Matthew Dickerson (Brazos) $14.95 This serious book is very well-informed by the author's knowledge not only of the Tolkein tale, but other epic traditions and stories; Dickerson makes a good case for this views, and shows how knowing these classic tales can enhance our enjoyment of the literature and gain deep insights about morality and truth. Again, this Middlebury professor is beloved on campus and an active Christian thinker and leader.

The Battle for Middle-Earth: Tolkein's Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings Flemin Rutledge (Eerdmans) $22.00 One of the best Episcopal preachers around, an author who has published sermons preached in her New York city parish, Rutledge is greatly respected as a thoughtful theologian. Here, in Ralph Wood's words, she "writes about the moral and theological life of The Lord of the Rings with immense verve and insight." What grace!

Lord of the Elves & Eldils Richard Purtill (Ignatius) $15.95 The subtitle says it all: Fantasy and Philosophy in C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. An important Catholic author, Purtill is well-respected and gives us a very useful account.

From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy Matthew Dickerson & David O'Hara (Brazos) $19.99 The excellent author of Following Gandalf here gives us the best overview of the significance of myth and fantasy and fairy stories that I know of. Excellent examples, with chapters on everything from Beowulf to Back of the North Wind; from Authurian legends to the "dark matieral" of Philip Pullman. Fabulous.

Rallying the Really Human Things: The Moral Imagination in Politics, Literature and Everyday Life Vegen Guroian (ISI) $15.00 This thick paperback is weighty with ideas, thoughtful, richly wise, well-written by a writer and scholar of great renown. Do you know this Loyola Orthodox professor? He shows up, as most of the best of our day do, on Ken Meyer's Mars Hill Audio Journal from time to time, reflecting on all kinds of things (we love his little books on gardening!) Here, he uses great writers to illuminate important issues of our time. One critic calls him "a scholar of the Real." I think the title is from Chesterton.

There Before Us: Religion, Literature, and Culture from Emerson to Wendell Berry Edited by Roger Lundin (Eerdmans) $18.00 Again, this is a collection edited by a famed evangelical spokesperson for the life of the mind, a renowned public intellectual and respected scholar. Lundin edits, here, a host of writers--many whom I do not know--writing about various aspects of the history of the interplay between faith and culture in American literature. Mark Noll writes, "From the Puritans to the era of Updike, Morrison, and Walker Percy, American literature has always been obsessed with religion. But expert criticism on that obsession, while never entirely absent, has lagged far behind. This outstanding collection..." As Dale Brown (whose named appeared here a few weeks back as I was promoting his spectacular new book on Buechner) observes, "this has reminded me of the centricity of faith issues in the lives and works of iconic American authors like Thoreau, Twain, Dickinson, and Melville..." Heavy, good, stuff.

The Language of Grace: Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, and Iris Murdoch Peter S. Hawkins (Seabury) $13.00 Thank goodness the old Seabury imprint is back in business; Hawkins is the co-editor of the wonderful Augsburg-Fortress series of books Listening for God: Contemporary Literature and the Life of Faith. He he turns his good eye to these three twentieth century novelists.

The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age Sven Birkerts (Fawcett) $14.00 I used to say this was one of my favorite memoirs, ever, as this good author tells of his falling in love with books, his interest in the promotion of literature (he worked at a bookstore!) and his humane concerns about the impact of the role of computers and cyberspace upon our habits of reading and writing. I love this guy, and so enjoyed this elegiac story about why reading matters.

Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books Maureen Corrigan (Vintage) $13.95 Now out in paperback, this is a book-lover's treasure; as Bobbie Ann Mason says, "If you ever wonder about the secret life of a bookworm, this is the book that will open up the rich rewards of going around with your nose stuck n a book." More, this reflective memoir not only helps you understand her love for books and the act of reading---and how it shapes who we are---but you learn a whole lot about a whole lot of authors, titles, books and writers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Trying to Stand in a Fallen World

In light of the sad, sad news of the latest school shootings, and the concerns, generally, about helping students relate faith and life, living meaningfully in the face of the hard stuff of our damaged culture, I thought of this beloved song, a song I've played in collegiate workshops and faith-in-the-real-world kind of talks, especially with students. I think of my younger friends---like those at the Ocean City Beach Project, say, or the younger staff of the CCO, or my old confirmation class kids, most of whom are now away at school---and I just nearly cry. It is good to hear, not just in the news, but, here, "the bloody moon is on the rise" and yet "I swear you're not alone."

Have you ever felt this way? Longing for the light of day?

Pierce Pettis ©1993 Piercepettisongs (ASCAP)

Won't you take this down for me
Down to the highway and set it free
Where you can hear that rain slick sigh
Of the semis blowin' by

Do you ever feel this way
Like there is no escape
And you're out there all alone
In a place that's not your home

Trying to stand in a fallen world

Do you recall when we were released
Clutching diplomas and degrees
Bursting out like diver's breath
That hasn't hit the surface yet

Do you ever feel this way
Like somehow we have been betrayed
And you wanna' rail against the crowd
Conspicuous and loud

Trying to stand in a fallen world

A bloody moon is on the rise
Like a Jolly Roger in the sky
A silent witness with its light
To another night of crime

Do you ever feel this way
Longing for the light of day
Then I send to you my song
And I swear you're not alone

Trying to stand in a fallen world

I've been told that Pierce wrote this song for the
memorial service of songwriter and friend, Mark Heard.

Click here for the Pierce Pettis website.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

New Tolkien on Tuesday!

A stunning book annoucement was made quite a few months back, word that many of us had heard rumors about for years: faithful third son of J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher, had finished collating a manuscript of his fathers, creating, essentially, the first new Tolkien novel in thirty years. As he did with the very important, and by most accounts wonderful, Silmarillion, the junior Tolkein was faithful to the intent, story, Middle Earth worldview and prose of the story-in-progress. This, I would guess, will be the last real story from the pen of J.R.R. we shall see.

It hits stores this week, and we have it now. If you want us to send it, we can do so, asap. It is called, as those who care most likely know, The Children of Hurin. It is published, of course, by Houghton Mifflin, and sells, in hardback, for $26.00. It includes full color art by famed Middle-earth artist, Alan Lee.

If you say you saw it annouced here, we will give you
25% off,
this week only.

from the dust jacket:

Children of Hurin reminds us that there are tales of Middle-earth from times long before The Lord of the Rings, and the story told in this book is set in the great country that lay beyond the Grey Havens in the West: lands where Treebeard once walked, but that were drowned in the great cataclysm that ended the First Age of the World.

In that remote time Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, dwelt in the vast fortress of Angband, the Hells of Iron, in the North; and the tragedy of Turin and his sister Nienor unfolded within the shadow of the fear of Angband and the war waged by Morgoth against the lands and secret cities of the Elves.

Christopher Tolkien notes that, "The earliest versions of this story go back to the end of the First World War and the years that followed; but long afterward, when The Lord of the Rings was finished, he wrote it anew and greatly enlarged it in complexities of motive and character: it became the dominant story in his later work on Middle-earth. But he could not bring it to a final and finished form. In this book I have endeavored to construct, after long study of the manuscripts, a coherent narrative without any editorial invention."

Here is a site that has some good background information about the new book. Here is another important one, noting the dark nature of some of the story. And for all things Tolkien, visit The Tolkien Library.

And, while you're at it, listen to "All That Is Gold", a wonderful, wonderful folk song by Brooks Williams (from his Back To Mercy CD.) It is inspired by the poems sung by the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Eugene Peterson on resurrection life

One year ago, shortly after Easter, I noted this book, then new, about the daily newness brought by Christ's victory and the ways to refresh our understandings of discipleship by looking at the post-resurrection stories in the gospels.

I thought I'd run that post again. I'll tell ya'll about his spectacular brand new one, The Jesus Way, soon, but thought this wonderful one is truly worth re-launching. Happy Eastertide!

(Eugene) Peterson's Field Guide to the Resurrection

I couldn't resist the cheap pun, that I've used too many times for other of his rich books; Petersen's Field Guides to Pastoral Ministry or Petersen's Field Guide to the Psalms. I know, it makes you smile, maybe, but only once. Many know the original Peterson field guides---birds, bugs, rocks, flowers. Every family should have a couple, and Reverend Peterson, himself a hiker and birder, would say so too.

Living the Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life
isn't exactly a field guide. It isn't quick facts and figures, stats and pictures. But it does give the lay of the land, offering glimpses into a life lived with God, explained by a seasoned and discerning guide. I am teaching a Sunday school class on the book and find that nearly every single page is underlined, dog-earred; it looks shabby with coffee-stained and hand-torn napkin bookmarks and a couple post-it notes peaking out. So much of this is great stuff. It is rich, solid, provocative, elequant--in Peterson's rather slow, down-to-Earth, no-nonsense manner. Like The Message he uses common phrases, not at all purple. This is, as said the other day, sturdy. Just like the resurrection he describes.

I can't tell you how I've enjoyed this book---I've listened to the taped lectures from which the book was drawn several times and read the book twice, at least. Now, after Easter, would be an excellent time to use it in your devotional reading or in a small group.

Living the Resurrection makes a bold claim about how attentiveness to the bodily resurrection forms us in ways that help us live, really live---"before God in the land of the living" as the death-conscious, troubled Psalm 116 puts it. It is all about the spirituality of the ordinary, and how astonishment and amazement form the foundation for being open to the presence of God. There are three long chapters:

Resurrection Wonder
Resurrection Meals
Resurrection Friends

I do not criticize when I say that this book feels somewhat like a large and important parenthesis to Peterson's majesterial Christ Plays in 10,000 Places, a book we were happy to name an H&M Book of the Year last year. It is arranged somewhat similiarly, with good theological anyalsis, guidance for spirituality in ways that are not overly flamboyant or manuevered (let alone manufactured), and important attention to the cultural practices that erode or deconstruct Christian spirituality. Resurrection wonder, meals and friendship must be reclaimed from an inhospitable culture that, in its speed and mastery, slides us away from an awareness of good creation and Christ-bought redemption. It is a wise and helpful approach.

Take a good look at the cover, too. Nice touch, eh?

Living The Resurrection: The Risen Christ in Everyday Life Eugene H. Peterson (NavPress) $16.99

Friday, April 06, 2007

The resolution of the symphony of history: the death and resurrection of Jesus

I know there are various ways to think about the atonement, and this ugly Friday reminds us of many. And I am aware that there is something troubling about only ever emphasizing one particular model of justification, since the Bible offers several, from adoption and reconciliation to victory over death. But underneath them all, there is this strong Biblical theme of what is at the heart of the Cross, what theologians call "substitionary atonement."

Here, then, from a breath-taking chapter on Christ's sacrifice, from John Piper's The Pleasures of God.

Something troubling has emerged in these chapters.

We have seen that God has pleasure in His Son: he delights in the glory of his own perfections reflected back to him in the countenance of Christ. We have seen that God delights in his sovereign freedom: the Lord is in heaven and does all that he pleases. We have seen that he rejoices over the work of his hands: day by day they declare his glory. We have seen that God has pleasure in his fame: he aims to make a name for himself in all the world and win a reputation for the glory of his grace from every people and tribe and language and nation. And we have seen that, as a means to that end, God has had pleasure in election from before creation: he delights to reveal the glory of his Son to babes and to call out for himself an unlikely people who will make their boast only in the Lord.

Clearly God has a great passion to promote his glory. But the troubling thing that emerges is that God has chosen sinners. He is honoring and blessing and exalting a people who are sinners. And the essence of sin is the belittling of God's glory. Something is askew here. A god infinitely committed to promote the worth of his name and the greatness of his glory is engaging all his powers to bring the enemies of his name into everlasting joy and honor!

Make no mistake, sin is diametrically opposed to the glory of God....(in Romans 3:23) Paul means that sinners have fallen short of prizing the glory of God. We have exchanged the glory of God for something else: for images of glory, like a new home or car or VCR or vacation days or impressive resumes or whatever makes our ticker tick more than the wonder of God's glory...

...The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the resolution of the symphony of history. In the death of Jesus the two themes of God's love for his glory and his love for sinners are resolved. As in all good symphonies there had been hints and suggestions of the final resolution. That is what we have in Isaiah 53 seven hundred years before Jesus came...

John Piper
"The Pleasure of God in Bruising the Son"
The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God's Delight in Being God

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Understanding the Hard Texts of the Bible

I realize it is April and I never announced to you that the March monthly website article over at the Hearts & Minds website is available to read. It is a long one, a review essay where I list bunches of books and important authors about how to read the Bible. Actually, it is a bit more complicated than that, and I trust you will check it out. Please click here.

A month ago, a college student was chastised by a professor who appeared to be hostile to his traditional Christian convictions about the reliability and authority of the Bible. Whether this well-intended prof would challenge a Muslim or Jewish student I cannot say, but this young fellow felt a bit unsure how to respond, and he wrote to me. I was a bit frustrated---reading more into the situation than perhaps was warranted---that so many secular-minded professors feel at liberty to critique the Old or New Testament documents even if they may not have done serious study into the trustworthiness of these documents themselves. Further, it is commonplace that folks that are otherwise smart and nuanced blast away in the most simplistic way against the wars in the Bible or the mistreatment of women, as if no one has ever struggled with those questions within the church and as if there are simply no compelling arguments in favor of the traditional answers to these perplexing questions. So this student's questions got me thinking about all the books we have about hermeneutics and the ones that try to reply to the very legitimate questions about "the texts of terror" and the harder passages.

I wrote a long, long letter to this young man, and offer an edited version in the column. I hope you find it of interest, and, if you think it is balanced and thoughtful, offering some helpful titles and resources that sound interesting, pass it on to those who might enjoy it. I of course want folks to read this stuff, and hope a few even order books from us. But just knowing these books are out there, and reading my perky annotations, may be encouragement enough for some.

Here's a warning, though: those with a static view either way----the Bible is God's Word ( end of story), OR, the Bible is a man-made collection of biased writings that are violent and we've progressed beyond them---will be disappointed. I hope, though, that many will consider these kinds of titles, the approaches I recommend, and feel inspired to read a couple of books about the most important book in Western history. We owe it to ourselves, and to the Story itself, to learn as much as we can about it. I hope this helps.