An extensive Christian study guide, written from an evangelical perspective.

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FUNDAMENTALS OF CHRISTIANITY

A BIBLE STUDY AND GUIDE

Debut author Barber, a therapist, defines and explores the essential tenets of Christianity in the third edition of this study guide.

Christianity is, of course, a popular and influential religion—according to the Pew Research Center, nearly a third of the world’s population adheres to a Christian denomination—but what do Christians actually believe? Barber, himself a practicing Christian, lays it all out in this study guide, which is meant to be used in conjunction with the Old and New Testaments as a resource for “anyone and everyone who seeks God’s knowledge and truth.” The book’s organization makes it an easily consultable reference, providing introductions to—and thorough investigations of—major topics such as God, Jesus Christ, living as a Christian, and the nature of evil and sin, as well as the Bible itself. The Old and New Testaments are not organized by subject, but Barber’s guide manages to bring together various passages, relating to concepts like the Trinity or the second coming, and compare them. As a result, the guide provides more digestible descriptions of these ideas than one would receive from reading the Bible alone. Each chapter concludes with a series of lessons that summarize the main points, allowing readers to review and internalize key concepts. Barber’s prose is accessible throughout, and he’s gifted at elucidating general principles of Christianity from a very conservative, millenarian perspective. The book does have passages with an Islamophobic bent, which many readers would argue is not fundamental to Christianity: “Recently, the nations of Islam are escalating their persecution and execution of Christians (and Jews) while Christians must endure increasing persecution and discrimination in the USA and Europe. These are signs that the end is near.” There are also homophobic passages, and the book devotes more time to the concept of Satanism than one would normally see in a serious Christian work. Most readers would likely be better served by a study guide that’s more reflective of the diversity of practice within the global Christian community.

An extensive Christian study guide, written from an evangelical perspective.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-973631-00-2

Page Count: 876

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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