Saturday, November 28, 2015

Book: Dinosaurs: Marvels of God’s Design

Dinosaurs: Marvels of God's Design

Dinosaurs: Marvels of God’s Design is the latest book on my shelf that works to harmonize the fossil evidence of dinosaurs with a Creationist view of the earth and its age. The challenge for Dr. Tim Clarey is that he approaches the issue from a perspective that is outside of the normal scientific view. Given the publisher of this book is Master Books, Dr. Cleary works with the Institute for Creation Research, these presuppositions are clearly on the table.

Knowing the purpose of this book, let us evaluate it from there. Clarey (who I keep mistyping as “Clearly,” and the spell-check doesn’t catch that) aims to provide the “science of the Biblical account.” The fundamental problem with this aim is found in the definition I learned of science. There is, and will be, great difficulty in finding either replicated results from Clarey’s work or other scientists from outside his circle. The trust factor is strong here, as is the confirmation or dis-confirmation bias.

On to the material: we are looking at a full-color printing in a hardcover book. It feels durable and will hold up well to repeated readings and leafing-through. The print quality is good, the colors are vibrant. It looks good and feels good as a book, except for the presence of endnotes rather than footnotes. If it’s a science book, then the research aspect should be considered alongside design. Not being able to easily look up the notes is a problem.

Contents: Clarey begins with a look at the Biblical account and how dinosaurs can fit within the scope of the Old Testament. This includes a look at the Ark and other aspects of historical investigation into dinosaurs. For example, how were dinosaurs understood initially? What are some of the historical finds that suggest dinosaurs living at the same time as humanity?

From this, Clarey then builds his case for dinosaur life fitting into a timeline using only thousands of years rather than millions. This is, of course, the most controversial aspect for the book. If you approach it with a theistic view, that God makes it all work, then you’ll have no problem with this conclusion. If your view is atheistic, or that God does not make it work (either one), then you’ll disagree. I’d be surprised if those in the non-creationist views found Clarey’s view persuasive. It supports those who hold the idea in the beginning, but I don’t see it working well to change minds.

As is frequently the case, the strength of the Creationist argument is the holes in the evolutionist argument. For example, Clarey points out the difficulty with soft tissue finds in dinosaur fossils. This is a still-debated point, but is a problem for the view that those fossils are 65 million years old. Does that overcome the other evidence? That is the question you’ll need to answer from what you’re able to assess.

In all, Clarey presents his case clearly. I find it well-stated and informative. Overall, I like it and will put it on the shelf with the other dinosaur books that come from the non-creationist perspective. It’s useful to put the two philosophical views together, because that’s where the difference truly is. It’s not just about the bone in the ground, it’s about the lenses through which it’s viewed.

So grab a copy and put this on the shelf with your dino stuff. It’s not perfect, but it’s worth having.

I did receive a free book in exchange for the review.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Book: What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About

We’re into the Christmas gift-giving shopping season. Here’s a book for the budding Biblical student in your life.

What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About, Second Edition

One should always be wary of someone who claims to know what another person cares about…but editors Berding and Williams have a good presentation of the methodology here. The goal is to examine what each author wrote as a body of work and analyze it. Obviously, we won’t find here that the Apostle Paul really cared about pizza, but that’s not really an area of New Testament study anyway.

So what is What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About? In a nutshell, it’s a survey of the New Testament like you’d find in either an undergraduate introduction course or a deeper study at church. You have the basic breakdown of authorship, date, and location of writing for each New Testament book. These follow the conservative end of the spectrum, without dealing greatly with the extreme end of the other view—you won’t find a lot of effort to correct ideas like placing authorship of Pauline epistles in the second century.

I like the approach. I was a fan of the first edition, which was a softcover, and greatly enjoyed the Old Testament companion volume. The full-color approach is also great for engaging attention and the charts help make some information clear. I remember having to hand-draw charts of where Paul was when he wrote what…or which Old Testament book was quoted most often.

Writing style is easily accessible. Rather than aiming for the ceiling or the highly academic, the collection of authors have aimed for the general public. The learning here is not out of reach—it’s not easy level, but it’s not impossible level.

Conclusions? As always, there’s a theological bent to everything in the Biblical Studies world. The writers here come down more toward the Reformed theological side, but the facts are not warped to meet that point. The leaning is clear, but that does not detract from the value of the book.

I especially like the presentation of the New Testament out of the normal sequence. This challenges the reader to think a little more deeply. All in all, a great book for the growing New Testament student.


Free book received in exchange for the review.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


If you went into aviation, one thing you would learn to use is called an altimeter. It's the instrument that tells you how high your aircraft is--usually above sea level, but some of the really fancy ones can tell you both above the ground and above sea level. It's been a long time since I even read a basic aviation textbook, considering it made no mention of GPS and computer navigation back in those days. So I may not be exactly right.

What I do know is that you need help in keeping up with where you are while in flight. "Looks like it" is just not good enough and often leads to disaster. What does that mean for us?

Simply this: if you're flying, watch your altitude.

If you're not flying, you're good. Wait, that seems like a pointless blog post, doesn't it?

How about this instead: just as altitude checks are important for flight, gratitude checks are important for life. They keep us up from crashing, even if just barely.

And like the two forms of altimeter--above sea level and above ground level--there are perhaps two main forms of gratitude. Let us explore them and express.

Above sea level, or absolute, or standard, or fixed-point gratitude would be the gratitude we feel toward the immovable realities of life. This starts, as a Christian, with my gratitude to God for all that He has done. For making a world in the first place. For not scrubbing the whole thing when humanity brought sin into it. For not scrubbing the whole thing every time humanity mucks it up again.

For salvation through Jesus and the reality that He died for sinners--and I'm a sinner, so He died for me. For the blessed truth that He was greater than all my sin and rose again, that the gift of God is salvation by grace through faith. And that God has not left us alone on this earth.

Then there are the smaller realities. I'm thankful for those who founded an imperfect country and left us with the means to make it better. I'm thankful for those who have laid their lives on the line to keep us in that country.

I'm thankful that Carl Hibbard, Sr., decided he wanted a different life than the Kentucky/W. Virginia coal mining life.That Harry Rose decided Pennsylvania was too cold and moved to Florida. That the Army let Dad out a year early, For all the things that came before, setting the stage for the blessings of life I started with.

Then, there's the other form of gratitude. Like the above ground level altimeter, this one reflects on what is going on right here, right now. In that department, we find the gratitude for how we are where we are, and how we make it any further.

Like having a very gracious and loving wife. Being grateful that we all get choices about what to eat, rather than not having enough food at all. For 3 kids who are, generally, pleasant to be around. And for all the little things that are underneath that concept.

For a church family that loves us and prays for us. For a job. For clothing to wear.

On down to the finer details, like being thankful for good coffee.

The key is this: how much do I have that is beyond what I deserve? Or, truthfully, beyond what I could do for myself? The more we realize just how much we need each other, the more we express gratitude, the better our lives work in community.

So take time and work on that idea for a little while. What are you grateful for?