This readable discussion on sin, faith, and salvation offers an inventive, informed take on Eden and the nature of faith.

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Who Told You That You Were Naked?

A REFRESHING REEXAMINATION OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN

This exegetical work scrutinizes what happened in the Garden of Eden to better clarify the concepts of sin and redemption.

Like many Christians, debut author Combs—a retired Presbyterian minister—came to understand sin, salvation, and faith through the New Testament. With this book, he focuses on these concepts as introduced in the Old Testament and the Garden of Eden episode so as to “delve into the events through which sin and death entered the world.” Combs begins by considering the joys of Eden, the circumstances that forced Adam and Eve out of it, and the results of leaving Eden, including the murder of Abel by Cain. He explores the nature of faith, the difference between faith and works, challenges to faith, and what it truly means to follow Christ. He also considers the true nature of sin, which he argues should be seen as relational, not as something that lies in wait to trip us up; for example, it wasn’t lurking Satan but Cain’s “perception of his relationship with his brother” that drove him to murder. Adam and Eve’s shame for their nakedness didn’t derive from disobedience, a common interpretation. What the apple truly disclosed, according to the author, was an inner conviction of not measuring up, especially to God. Combs cautions readers to remember difficulties of translation but doesn’t otherwise historicize Eden or interpret it metaphorically as some writers have done (for example, by seeing it as a story of the agricultural revolution, which introduced social inequality). Throughout, Combs lightens his discussion with vivid retellings of biblical events and stories of personal encounters with the divine, the straightforward accounting of which may startle some. Believers are likely to find fresh ways to understand well-known texts, while readers who disagree may not be persuaded but can engage fruitfully with Combs’ carefully made points, supported through biblical and scholarly references, study questions, and endnotes.

This readable discussion on sin, faith, and salvation offers an inventive, informed take on Eden and the nature of faith.

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-942587-68-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Carpenter's Son Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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 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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