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The Silence of God

SOCK IT TO ME!

Christian readers will find this a thought-provoking examination of an age-old question.

A pastor offers a personal exploration of the mystery of God’s hiddenness.

Russell opens his account by stating its central question directly: “Why is God so cruel? Why is heaven so silent?” And like many theologians and Christian thinkers before him, he characterizes God’s silence as a central problem of faith: “A silent heaven is the greatest mystery of our existence.” Russell brings a 25-year career as a pastor and religious counselor to bear on the question, and he seeks to understand God through his own experiences and the bedrock faith lessons he’s learned over time. He offers stories of his church service, his “burnout” and breakdown in his late 50s, and his slow recovery. He also talks about his charitable work for hospital-outreach programs, where he often saw examples of God’s seeming absence, including little children suffering horribly from burns and various illnesses. His book then broadens its view to look at plagues, natural disasters, and urban violence. When he turns to the underlying question of where God is while such things are happening, he tends to offer obscure phraseology that Christian thinkers have been offering on the subject for millennia, and he predicates his solutions on denying the existence of the problem: “Before one can think about the silence of God, he or she must really believe in the existence of God,” he writes, for example, or “Do I need to know God exists in order to understand his silence? Yes, you do.” Sentiments like these will narrow the appeal of Russell’s book to his fellow practicing Christians, who will agree with him that “Faith is the ability to see what isn’t” and who will nod at his conclusion that God is not, in fact, ever really silent. For this audience, though, his interpretation of Scripture will seem refreshingly direct, as when he reminds them that none of the prophets ever attempted to prove the existence of a caring God: “Enoch sought God by faith, found God by faith, walked with God by faith, escaped death by faith, and was rewarded by faith.”

Christian readers will find this a thought-provoking examination of an age-old question.

Pub Date: April 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5144-8065-6

Page Count: 166

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2016

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MASTERY

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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BRAVE ENOUGH

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

A lightweight collection of self-help snippets from the bestselling author.

What makes a quote a quote? Does it have to be quoted by someone other than the original author? Apparently not, if we take Strayed’s collection of truisms as an example. The well-known memoirist (Wild), novelist (Torch), and radio-show host (“Dear Sugar”) pulls lines from her previous pages and delivers them one at a time in this small, gift-sized book. No excerpt exceeds one page in length, and some are only one line long. Strayed doesn’t reference the books she’s drawing from, so the quotes stand without context and are strung together without apparent attention to structure or narrative flow. Thus, we move back and forth from first-person tales from the Pacific Crest Trail to conversational tidbits to meditations on grief. Some are astoundingly simple, such as Strayed’s declaration that “Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard.” Others call on the author’s unique observations—people who regret what they haven’t done, she writes, end up “mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions” of themselves—and offer a reward for wading through obvious advice like “Trust your gut.” Other quotes sound familiar—not necessarily because you’ve read Strayed’s other work, but likely due to the influence of other authors on her writing. When she writes about blooming into your own authenticity, for instance, one is immediately reminded of Anaïs Nin: "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Strayed’s true blossoming happens in her longer works; while this collection might brighten someone’s day—and is sure to sell plenty of copies during the holidays—it’s no substitute for the real thing.

These platitudes need perspective; better to buy the books they came from.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-946909

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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