The lessons of the natural world seen engagingly, but narrow-mindedly, through a scriptural lens.


A book of insights about finding Christian inspiration in nature.

Baker’s (Natural Conclusions from the Big Thicket, 2015) latest book, geared for students and adults and pitched in an easy, accessible prose style, finds spiritual teaching situations in the contemplation of the animal and plant life of the Rockies. Each of the book’s many short chapters begins with a natural fact, provides the “natural conclusion” and a bit of the underlying science about that fact, and then gives Baker’s view of the spiritual parallels of those facts. In this sense, the book joins a very long Christian tradition of teaching by allegory, and Baker early on signals his Christian target readership not only by including regular urgings to discuss concerns with God, but also with fundamentalist insults to the nonreligious, calling their worldview self-centered and noting their “shades-of-gray morality” and “situational ethical system.” But Baker’s Christian readers, even the citified ones who’ve never so much as hiked a trail in their lives, will find a great deal of inviting faith advice in these pages, all of it using natural facts like the protectiveness of moose for their calves, the seed-hoarding of chipmunks, and the needle-casting of pine trees. In the process of his pastoral instruction, Baker manages to impart a good deal of scientific information. The natural fact that “during hyperphagia in the fall, brown bears may eat up to ninety pounds of animal and vegetable material per day!” is followed up with the “natural conclusion” that “Christians need to feed on both the easy and difficult portions of scripture.” The follow-up projects suggested to bring home the practical side of the lessons are often hands-on and interesting—Christian instructors will find them heaven-sent.

The lessons of the natural world seen engagingly, but narrow-mindedly, through a scriptural lens.

Pub Date: May 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5127-8532-6

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2017

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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 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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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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