Mailbox Review: The Sin of Forgiveness

I received a copy of Edward F. Mrkvicka’s  The Sin of Forgiveness gratis from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review. Here are my thoughts on the book.

What is the “sin of forgiveness”? Specifically, it is Ed Mrkvicka’s name for granting forgiveness without encouraging the fruit of repentance in the forgiven. Generally, it is the author’s way of framing the more general issue of the objectivity of God’s Word. Though he doesn’t always deal with them directly, it is clear that the author has in mind social issues like homosexuality and takes aim at them with a more unilateral defense of Biblical objectivity. Edward F. Mrkvicka cover art crossfocused books

This book’s defining quality is almost certainly earnestness. Unfortunately, that earnestness usually comes at the expense of focus and organization. The author makes clear his righteous anger over the contempt many have shown for Scripture by twisting or ignoring it in order to justify sinful and unrepentant lifestyles: “There are few left willing to take the abuse they must endure if they speak God’s truth unabridged.” However his main project—comparing and contrasting righteous forgiveness with what he calls “secular” or “sinful” forgiveness—is hampered by a failure to clearly define the terms until late in the book. The early and middle stages of his argument revolve around repeated condemnations of common practices of sinful forgiveness, but remain largely unmoored without any working definitions of good and bad forgiveness to work as points of reference. In addition, the movement of the book suffers from Continue reading

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Mailbox Review: Seven Men

A mailbox review of Eric Metaxas’ Seven Men

Metaxas consciously places his Seven Men in the tradition of Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans or Foxe’s Book of Martyrs—biographical works intended chiefly to hold up the conduct and character of certain men as examples for readers to emulate (or avoid). He has sketched the lives of seven famed Christian men in order to commend their exemplarySevenMenCoverArt behavior to all readers, but especially to young men, who “especially need role models. If we can’t point to anyone in history or in our culture whom they should emulate, then they will emulate whomever.” With that in mind, he has selected seven figures who share the distinction of “Christian manliness,” and recounted their amazing lives in elegant and natural prose.

The lives Metaxas has chosen are remarkable and the men who lived them deserve to be talked about and lifted up as examples of Godly obedience: William Wilberforce and his lifelong crusade to end slavery, George Washington’s refusal to become a tyrant after the war, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s outspoken opposition to religious apathy in Nazi Germany, Eric Liddell’s refusal to run his best Olympic event on the Sabbath and his death as a humble missionary to China, Jackie Robinson’s victorious example of Christic submission in the face of slander and violence, Pope John Paul II’s vigor Continue reading

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

“Everywhere I go, I’m asked if the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”Flannery O'Connor cover art Occassional prose

-Flannery O’Connor,  Mystery and Manners

Those words are as true today (probably truer) as when Miss O’Connor first said them half a century ago. I am reminded of them whenever I pause to take stock of the publishing world: the proliferation of wildly successful pulp-fictions (or poorly disguised pornographies) due to undiscerning readers and financially motivated publishers, the hyper-proliferation of less successful pulp-fictions (and undisguised pornographies) due to the increasing ease of self-publication, etc. Surely some of the myriad of bad books are the result of greed, but I think you can see, especially in the crops of self-published work, that most of them are the result of something else, something that, for me, was not as easily definable…until now.

Dunning-KrugerO’Connor’s words came to mind again recently when I was introduced to the Dunning-Kruger Effect: “a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer Continue reading

Mailbox Review: Desiring God

A mailbox review of John Piper’s Desiring God (Revised 25th Anniversary Edition):

Desiring God, for those not already familiar, is a treatise on the deep joy and delight found in the life of the Church. Since the time and writing of Immanuel Kant, believers have consistently struggled with the concern that taking pleasure in the worship and service of God may devalue those things as acts of obedience—that duty and delight are somehow Desiring GodL Meditations of a Christian Hedonism John Piper cover art freeincompatible. Piper assures us that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, says Piper, the Heidelberg Catechism’s formulation of “the chief end of man” (“to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”) could be restated as “to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.”

In this revised edition of Desiring God, I encountered the writings of John Piper for the first time, even as he was revisiting his successful book after twenty-five years in print. Happily, I found it as earnest, approachable, and salient as the first readers must have a quarter of a century ago. Regarding that happy phenomenon, Piper has this to say Continue reading