Elder David A. Bednar – YSA Devotional @ Yale & Monaco Jan. 10, 2015

From Bishop McNevin of the Sand Creek YSA Ward:

“Young Single Adults in greater Denver and Colorado Springs have a remarkable opportunity coming to them on January 10, 2015. They are invited to a Devotional for YSA with ELDER DAVID A. BEDNAR, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The devotional will be be held at the Denver Colorado Stake Center (Yale and Monaco) at 7 pm, Saturday, January 10, 2015.

“There will be other General Authorities present as well. As the time before the Devotional is very short, we ask that you immediately use your networks of communication to invite all YSA in the stakes in the Denver North and South and Colorado Springs Missions to attend. Please assure maximum publicity for this event in your wards and branches in order to reach as many YSA as possible!”

More details to follow.

Resource: Alister McGrath – Apologetics through Literature

In recent discussion with a friend (thanks, Rachel!) regarding non-tradtional ways of helping people (e.g., music therapy), I was reminded of the following resources – “Apologetics through Literature” – by Alister McGrath, who is a remarkable lecturer and defender of Christianity. He illustrates how to strengthen the faith of others (or just help them find it) through literature, including two of my favorite authors, Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.

Professor McGrath earned a DPhil (in molecular biophysics) and a DD, so he’s equipped to teach both science and religious philosophy – and he does so in a skillful, entertaining, winsome manner. I hope you get the chance to listen to these lectures! (right click>save to save the files to your hard drive)

(Note: “Apologetics” is not saying you’re sorry about your religion; it’s actively commending and defending your beliefs to others)

1. What is apologetics? And using stories apologetically

2. More on using stories apologetically

3. Using poetry and detective novels apologetically

4. More on using poetry and detective novels apologetically

5. C. S. Lewis and Tolkien

6. More on C. S. Lewis and Tolkien

A Civil Dialogue

I just read a review of God Is No Delusion: A Refutation of Richard Dawkins by Thomas Crean, a Dominican Catholic. What really stood out to me was the reviewer’s intellectual honesty – followed by the friendly exchange in the Comments section.

Here’s a taste, from James E. Egolf:

“I liked the frank, honest, and polite exchange. There are people with serious religious religious convictions who are knowledgeable about advanced physics, astronomy, geology, etc. There are folks who are atheists who are kind, compassionate, and honest. I agree with both gentlemen in their comments.”

It’s a model worthy of our following, amongst those of faith and no faith, and of course among those of differing faiths. I’ll write more about this later.

Having had my fill recently of political and religious expediency, historical ignorance, and poor logic – if not downright dishonesty – in this year’s presidential race, the comments left by Bagpipe Player, P. Boire, and the rest served to curb the cynicism I had recently begun to feel. There is definitely a lot of good out there; it just takes perseverance on our part, and a little gem like this comes along. 🙂

Many thanks to those mentioned – you really made my evening.

(P.S. Here’s a review of an earlier version of Crean’s book.

On a related note, just today I was reading an interview with Thomas D. Williams, who is a theology professor in Rome, Vatican analyst for CBS News, and author of Greater Than You Think: A Theologian Answers the Atheists About God – which came out just today, actually. Williams takes on Dawkins and his peers, including Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens.

After reading the reviews, interview, and comments, I plan on reading both books eventually.)

CELTA, weeks one and two

I’m now at the halfway mark in the journey to earning my “CELTA,” which stands for “Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults.” The training is a rigorous as anything I’ve experienced; probably similar in intensity to the MTC (which explains the 2-week hiatus in blogging), but with a different focus. One of this generation’s wisest men said that “education is the key to opportunity,” and I think he would approve of such a course. It’s already changing how I teach and how I think about teaching. I recommend the course to anyone who would like to learn how to teach the English language. And while I won’t be able to go abroad to teach English until sometime next year due to a commitment to Big Brothers (which I also recommend), my plan is to teach free English classes locally so as to get some practice and not lose the valuable (and moderately pricey) skills I’m learning.

I’ll comment more on the CELTA experience later.

Note: I’m also reading A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century by Oliver Van DeMille. You really should read this book, and think about what it means for you, your children, and anyone else whose education matters to you.

The Best Books They Read in 2007…

If you’re looking for good books to read, here are a few suggestions from some folks whose taste I consider trustworthy (authors, editors, & staff of Ignatius Press):

The Best Books I Read in 2007…

Highlights from the article:

From Peter Kreeft‘s reviews:

Regarding Michael O’Brien’s new novel, Island of the World : “Michael’s book was predictably good, perhaps his best one yet, an intergenerational, long, yet exciting read about the Catholic heroes of Croatia. Michael is spinach.”

Anne Rice’s novel Jesus of Nazareth: Out of Egyptis a book supposedly written (or thought) by Jesus Himself as a kid! Yet it works, remarkably well. There is not an inauthentic note in it. I’d rank it third on the all-time list of Jesus fiction, only the third time anyone has successfully written a piece of fiction about Jesus (the first being Dostoyevski’s “The Grand Inquisitor” and the second being Lewis’s Narnia chronicles (they should be called the Aslan Chronicles).

(Note: the book’s title is actually Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.)

From Dale Ahlquist, president and co-founder of the American Chesterton Society:

Jesus of Nazareth, by Pope Benedict XVI. A lifetime of learning comes together in the most important subject of all. I savored each page.

Religion and the Rise of Western Culture, by Christopher Dawson. A glorious study of Medieval civilization. A book that should be read by everyone even remotely connected to education.

The Offbeat Radicals: The British Tradition of Alternative Dissent, by Geoffrey Ashe. Shows how Chesterton influenced Gandhi.

Mark Brumley is President of the Board of Directors of Guadalupe Associates and Chief Executive Officer for Ignatius Press.

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. I had never read it before. Loved it. Would read it again at the drop of a hat.

The Jesus Legend, by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd. Good rebuttal to the Jesus Seminar, and the other revisionists.

From journalist, author, and architect Moyra Doorly:

Story of a Soul, by St Therese of Lisieux. This was the first account of the spiritual life that had me laughing out loud with delight.

From Dr. Thomas Howard, a highly acclaimed writer and literary scholar noted for his studies of Inklings C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams:

The Lyttleton–Hart-David Letters. A 3-vol. collection of letters written between 1955 and 1962, between the publisher Rupert Hart-Davis, and his former Eton “beak” (master) George Lyttleton, of the gold-plated Lyttleton family. Gloriously literate, clever, urbane, flashing letters. The best sort of bedtime reading.

From Sandra Miesel, a Catholic journalist, medieval historian, and co-author of The Pied Piper of Atheism and the best-selling The Da Vinci Hoax:

An Experiment In Criticism, by C.S. Lewis. An admirable model for critics.

Preface to Paradise Lost, by C.S. Lewis. An excellent antidote to Philip Pullman.

Planet Narnia, by Michael Ward. An exciting and persuasive new interpretation of the Chronicles in terms of planetary symbolism.

Michael O’Brien, Canadian self-taught painter and writer, wrote:

The Bridge on the Drina, by Ivo Andric, a novel that chronicles the “life” of a bridge and a town in Bosnia, including its Serb, Croat, Muslim, Turkish, Jewish, and Austrian residents. First published in 1946, this book has become a classic, beloved by (amazingly) all peoples of former Yugoslavia–and throughout the world.

I wanted to include something from each of the article’s contributors, but this post is already quite long enough. So I opted for a few excerpts that I hope motivate you to read the article in its entirety – it doesn’t take as long as you might suspect, and you may find yourself planning to read nearly all of the books listed (as I did). My favorite comment is the reference to spinach (though I’m not sure what it means…).

Note: most of the descriptions above are taken directly from the article at Ignatius Insight.

Some More Thoughts on Reading…and Writing

One of my favorite evangelical intellectuals (though he might object to such a title) is Albert Mohler. It has been my experience, as I’ve listened to his excellent podcast and read some of the things he’s written, is that he’s as committed to the truth as he is insightful. Our doctrinal differences aside, we share many values, which in turn makes his commentary so valuable to me. I can honestly say that in our modern culture of spin and wishy-washiness, I truly admire Dr. Mohler.

One instance of how I’ve benefited from his ministry is a blog entry that he wrote that I’d read before, and found again tonight, called, “Some Thoughts on the Reading of Books” (the title of my post is a homage (/ə ˈhɒmɪdʒ/) to his). It’s a great complement to my post of a few days ago. Below is an excerpt, followed by my comments.

A few initial suggestions:

1. Maintain regular reading projects. I strategize my reading in six main categories: Theology, Biblical Studies, Church Life, History, Cultural Studies, and Literature. I have some project from each of these categories going at all times. I collect and gather books for each project, and read them over a determined period of time. This helps to discipline my reading, and also keeps me working across several disciplines.

I’m still in the organizing stage of this, but I can see how it will be beneficial. Ever since reading a post by a friend of mine, “Expanding literary horizons,” I’ve wanted to read a broader range of literature (in sense 5, not just sense 2), and to do so in a more organized fashion. Here’s a partial example: I’m concurrently reading a lot of LDS books, particularly those dealing with the Book of Mormon; a few fantasy books; one book of historical fiction; and I continue my long-held practice of enjoying the occasional short story or five. But two experiences in particular make me feel like I should read more biography. One was my reading last summer of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute‘s book on Wilhelm Röpke, which was much more engaging and entertaining – even motivating – than I had expected. It even birthed an interest in me in economics, “which thing I had never supposed.” (Note: the book on Röpke is part of a series entitled “The Library of Modern Thinkers” by ISI – I plan on reading each of these titles, and recommend them to you.) The second was a comment that I read (or heard?) from one of my long-time role models, Dr. Robert L. Millet of Brigham Young University, in which he related his experience of reading the biography of Billy Graham and finding it tremendously inspiring (I apologize if I’m putting words in Bro. Millet’s mouth – I admit to having a faulty memory, and hope to be nothing but faithful to his actual statement). Scripture is the most powerful literature for helping us become more Christ-like; and, while on a different level, biography and other literature can certainly help us do the same.

2. Work through major sections of Scripture. I am just completing an expository series, preaching verse by verse through the book of Romans. I have preached and taught several books of the Bible in recent years, and I plan my reading to stay ahead. I am turning next to Matthew, so I am gathering and reading ahead — not yet planning specific messages, but reading to gain as much as possible from worthy works on the first gospel. I am constantly reading works in biblical theology as well as exegetical studies.

My current calling as gospel doctrine teacher is quite motivating in this way. In another post, I’ll list some non-internet resources for studying the BM. (Dr. Mohler might take umbrage at my applying his post to the BM, but no offense is meant, of course. At the same time, I absolutely stand by my position that the Book of Mormon is a divinely inspired, historical record that contains the fullness of the gospel; it is a true book and is unique in its powerful witness of the divinity, mission, Atonement, grace, and doctrine of Christ, and is needed in the world more each day.)

3. Read all the titles written by some authors. Choose carefully here, but identify some authors whose books demand your attention. Read all they have written and watch their minds at work and their thought in development. No author can complete his thoughts in one book, no matter how large.

Among the admittedly few authors who fit in this category for me are these (I’m sure that at some point I’ll write posts discussing them individually):

C. S. Lewis – especially his space trilogy and Till We Have Faces. I recommend reading the books themselves before reading anything about them, including book descriptions; such material could very well spoil them for you. These works’ contributions to making me a better person have been significant, and will continue, I expect – which I’ll blog about another time.

Neal A. Maxwell – His Collected Works is a must-have for the serious disciple of Christ. (Not incidentally, in 2006 BYU’s Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts, or ISPART, was renamed the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship in honor of the deceased apostle.)

Robert Millet – I mentioned him above. Probably the most prolific LDS author today, he was Manager of Outreach and Interfaith Relations for Church Public Affairs the last I heard, which makes his writings particularly relevant to us right now. Some of his latest works include Claiming Christ: A Mormon-Evangelical Debate, with Gerald R. McDermott, published by Brazos Press; Bridging the Divide: The Continuing Conversation Between a Mormon and an Evangelical, with Gregory C. V. Johnson (whom I also greatly admire. This work is a sort of follow-up to Robinson and Blomberg’s How Wide the Divide?: A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation; Blomberg also provides the Foreword to Bridging…), from Monkfish Publishing; The Vision of Mormonism: Pressing the Boundaries of Christianity, published by Paragon House; the controversial (among some evangelicals) A Different Jesus?: The Christ of the Latter-day Saints, by well-known evangelical publisher Eerdmans; and a reprint of his Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, co-written with Joseph Fielding McConkie and Brent L. Top, from Deseret Book, which was difficult to find and expensive for years.

Peter Kreeft – I consider him to be the Catholic Neal A. Maxwell (as far as his insightfulness, commitment to the truth, and amazing power of expression, mind you; not in terms of apostolic calling). His books and other writings and his lectures have been at least as beneficial in my life as those of any other person outside the (LDS) Church. He is unabashedly Catholic, for which dedication I commend him. It’s thanks to him that I came to view the Catholic Church not as some leftover from centuries ago (I’m ashamed to admit that I once thought along those lines), but rather as a vibrant, dynamic force with an intellectual, philosophical, moral history worthy of the attention and respect of us Latter-day Saints. Dr. Kreeft’s books How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Society in Crisis and Ecumenical Jihad: Ecumenism and the Culture War, and the lectures that they are based on, offer poignant counsel in fighting for the culture of Christ. His Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings is proving to be not only a great way to understand LOTR, but also “an engaging introduction to philosophy,” as the description of the book claims. Some LDS may find getting past Kreeft’s pro-Catholic stance difficult in places, but there’s no question in my mind that it’s worth the time and effort. Listen to his lectures, and you’ll understand what I mean.

Yes, these ↑ are some of my heroes.

4. Get some big sets and read them through. Yes, invest in the works of Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and others. Set a project for yourself to read through the entire set, and give yourself time. You will be surprised how far you will get in less time than you think.

A few sets come to mind: Journal of Discourses, (which a friend gave me years ago after he got them on CD-ROM!); BYU’s series of Annual Book of Mormon Symposia books, which, in superb bit of news, are evidently being reprinted; and again Elder Maxwell’s Collected Works. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley are also highly recommended, though I haven’t made it that far yet.

5. Allow yourself some fun reading, and learn how to enjoy reading by reading enjoyable books. I like books across the fields of literature, but I really love to read historical biographies and historical works in general. In addition, I really enjoy quality fiction and worthy works of literature. As a boy, I probably discovered my love for reading in these categories of books. I allow some time each day, when possible, to such reading. It doesn’t have to be much. Stay in touch with the thrill.

Amen to that. I’ll post some other time on my own tastes in the areas of the classics and contemporary fiction…

6. Write in your books; mark them up and make them yours. Books are to be read and used, not collected and coddled. [Make an exception here for those rare antiquarian books that are treasured for their antiquity. Mark not thy pen on the ancient page, and highlight not upon the manuscript.] Invent your own system or borrow from another, but learn to have a conversation with the book, pen in hand.

I am a huge advocate of making a book your own by writing in it (with a few exceptions). It may be impossible to get the most out of your books without doing so.

I would write more for this post, but I must go read. More later. For now: Tolle! Lege

I consider Dr. Mohler’s engagement in both reading and writing praisewrothy. I read some time ago – I’m don’t recall where – that parents often focus on helping their children become good readers to the neglect of developing their writing skills – a mistake I plan on avoiding when I become a parent. Furthermore, one of my favorite teachers of all time said something about himself that I have found to be true for me. To paraphrase, “If I really want to learn something, I have to write about it.” Just as there’s no substitute for (the benefits of) reading, there’s no substitute for expressing oneself in writing. Or, to state it another way: It has truthfully been said that he who can read but doesn’t is little better off than he who cannot read; the same principle applies to the art of writing.

The blogosphere is a wonderful thing: it provides a forum to those of us who need to improve our writing and think we have something worth saying, and makes those writings available to others (hopefully for better and not for worse, overall). At the same time, it’s a little scary how long a post can get, almost without the author’s realizing it…

Any suggestions, further resources, or comments?

The Importance (Urgency?) of Reading

From a blog entry by Andy Farmer of Covenant Fellowship Church Family Life Ministry :

Reading quality Christian books will never replace the reading of God’s word or the preaching of your pastor, but it will help you hear and understand with greater maturity. A good book will challenge your thinking and motivate your heart. It will dislodge error and give you an appetite for truth. Good books humble us by reminding us that, to paraphrase an old Irish proverb, ‘good ideas often aren’t new, and new ideas often aren’t good’.

This excellent quote, which I found while searching for a good blog on Family Life Education (FLE for short), gives a superb answer to the question, “Why read?” Of course I agree with his idea that “quality Christian books” can be a tremendous force for good in our lives, and would extend the claim to all good literature. While the above quote is my favorite part of the entry – particularly where it talks about good books dislodging error, which has more and more often been my grateful experience – the author also offers what I consider valuable insights on determining whether something is worth our time. Andy’s entry is a short, worthwhile one; I heartily recommend it to you. And of course it is no surprise that Scripture passes all his criteria with flying colors.

He ends with a quote from C. S. Lewis: “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are. (C.S. Lewis, The Quotable Lewis p.233), which reminds me of one of Wayne Booth‘s most widely recognized contribution to the field of literary theory: the concept of “the company we keep.” From UC Press:

In The Company We Keep, Wayne C. Booth argues for the relocation of ethics to the center of our engagement with literature…While not ignoring the consequences for conduct of engaging with powerful stories, it will attend to that more immediate topic, What happens to us as we read? Who am I, during the hours of reading or listening? What is the quality of the life I lead in the company of these would-be friends?

The page also provides some comments by critics: “[An] almost indecently satisfying book,” from Anatole Broyard, New York Times Book Review. I’m somewhat familiar with Booth’s theory, and I like what I’ve learned about it, and by using it, so far. No matter how much teenagers (and those stuck in the teenager stage of life) protest, we are undoubtedly affected by “the company we keep,” whether speaking of individuals or groups, or of anything they may create.

So, we’ve gone full-circle: Andy Farmer reminds us of the primacy of Scripture, and Booth gives us another reason for that primacy – as we become more familiar with the life and teachings of Christ and those whom He has set apart to represent Him, we become more like Him. It has become clear to me (though nonetheless astounding) that this is by design.