January 28, 2015
The history of evangelicalism and the life of the mind is both well-chronicled and checkered. While Jonathan Edwards is hailed by some as the greatest intellect (not just evangelical intellect) in American history, suspicion and anger has often boiled over from within evangelicalism against the university world. The 1925 Scopes Trial, for example, set off decades of distrust that affected generations of Bible-believing Christians.
Richard Mouw, former president of Fuller Seminary, is one such believer. He admired those who voiced simple faith in the face of intellectual challenges. Today Mouw is still sympathetic to those who think that being educated can draw one away from being holy. But he knows too that this is a false choice. One can also be a godly thinker or a sinful dimwit.
In the winsome reflections found in Called to the Life of the Mind, Mouw chronicles the influences which helped him--Frank Gaebelein, Houghton College, mentors on the faculty at Calvin College and more. They helped him see that our minds are gifts from God, and we disparage the Giver if we disparage the gift. The issue is not a choice between faith or reason. It is one of embracing faith infused reason and reason infused faith.
This brief and gentle book offers wise and supportive counsel to anyone affected by certain strains of Christian anti-intellectualism. It is well worth its modest price.
January 13, 2015
"The movie is never as good as the book," so the saying goes. As always, there are exceptions; for example The Hunger Games and Tuesdays with Morrie were both better on the screen. Having read Unbroken when it first came out and now having seen the movie, I feel that the question is somewhat irrelevant. Both are excellent--and different.
Laura Hillenbrand's book tells an astonishing true tale. Louie Zamperini had a half dozen amazing episodes in his life--and if only one had happened, the book would have been a remarkable account of perseverance and strength in the midst of adversity. But all six episodes happened--to one man.
To cover everything the book does, a screen version would take a twelve-part mini series. So to quibble about what is left out in the movie, is just that, I think. To quibble. The movie does a excellent job of portraying part of Zamperini's story, and does so in a way that is true to the book and true to Zamperini.
Sure, the movie left out Zamperini's encounter with Hitler at the 1936 Olympics, the Japanese spy Zamperini met at USC before the war (and then during the war in Japan!), as well as Louie's titanic struggle with post-traumatic stress syndrome and alcoholism after the war, and how he ultimately served God with the last sixty years of his life. The religious themes are hinted at appropriately at the beginning, middle and end of the movie. After all, the movie begins in a church.
It would have been easy for both Hillenbrand and director Jolie to go way over the top with both the horror and the triumph of the story. But the story is incredible enough that they both made the wise decision to not embellish unnecessarily.
Each genre has its own advantages. Movies allow for compactness of expression and a rich visual and auditory experience. In the case of Unbroken, the book genre allows for a richness of detail about the larger war effort, the individuals Louie encountered, The Bird's back story and much more. The movie is definitely worth seeing on its own merits. At the same time Hillenbrands's unmatched research and story-telling skills make her book a must read.
January 9, 2015
Full Disclosure: Our rights manager pointed out to me this article by Tom Chalmers in Digital Book World on the value of a publisher's rights department. But that doesn't make the point any less valid.
Authors, publishers and the general public all benefit from making sure a book gets the widest use in other languages, in various digital formats, in periodicals (yes, they still exist), permissions of various kinds, and so forth. Even if your books don't lend themselves to movie adaptations, there is plenty of exposure to be had and revenue to be generated.
Every week it seems someone approaches us with a new way to get the content of our books out, either electronically or in print. And some translated editions of our books have even sold better than the original English. As I've said before, a publisher's rights department provides a service that few authors can effectively take advantage of or manage on their own.
For a mission-driven publisher or author, cultivating rights is just not optional. The point is to get the word out as widely as possible to as many as possible. A rights department can greatly multiply the reach of a book.
December 17, 2014
The Christmas story always bothered me.
It just never made sense. No, not the virgin birth. Not the angels singing to shepherds. Not the star in the sky. Not the wise men.
December 2, 2014
Consistently when I have taught the Gospel of Mark to college students over the last ten years, the "Aha" reaction comes when I ask them to look up Old Testament passages related to a puzzling verse.
Why does Mark describe what John the Baptist eats and wears but not anyone else? Not Peter. Not Pilate. Not even Jesus.
When Jesus is walking on the water, why does Mark say Jesus intends to pass by the disciples struggling to row against the wind? Doesn't he see them? Doesn't he care?Continue reading "Reading Backwards"
November 17, 2014
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by David Haddon has sold millions of copies, and is now a Broadway play. The book takes us into the mind of Christopher, a high-functioning autistic fifteen-year-old in contemporary Britain. Inside that mind, behavior that seems so odd if not down-right crazy actually begins to make sense.Continue reading "The Curious Incident"