• Books •
June 11, 2005
Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, continues to sell in record numbers. The suspense thriller is actually an undisguised attack upon Christianity. In my initial review, Deciphering the Da Vinci Code (written just as the book was published), I explained: “The human characters take a back seat to the grand conspiracy that gives the book its plot, and in that conspiracy is the heresy. The Da Vinci Code’s driving claim is nothing less than that Christianity is based upon a Big Lie (the deity of Christ) used by patriarchal oppressors to deny the true worship of the Divine Feminine. Still hanging in there? If you thought The Last Temptation of Christ was explosive, The Da Vinci Code is thermonuclear. The book claims that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, that a child was born of this marriage, and that Mary and her child fled after the crucifixion to Gaul, where they established the Merovingian line of European royalty.”
In other words, “Brown has crossed the line between a suspense novel and a book promoting a barely hidden agenda, to attack the Christian church and the Gospel.”
Now, faculty members at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have responded to the book with a two-day workshop that is available on-line in audio form. Professors consider the novel in terms of its central charges, its impact, and the Christian challenge of responding to this publishing phenomenon. [To access the audio files, go here.]
These helpful materials are especially timely as the summer reading season is upon us — and as the film adaptation of the novel is in development.
June 2, 2005
Paul Ruditis’ new book, Rainbow Party, is establishing a new low point for the sexual exploitation of young people. The book is about teenagers who plan an oral-sex party and ask each of the girls to wear a different color of lipstick. Welcome to the hormonally charged and morally debased world of “young adult” publishing.
As for Simon & Schuster, the book’s proud publisher, this is what is posted on the company’s Web site: “Rainbow Party is a cautionary tale about a group of teens faced with the prospect of attending a party involving oral sex. The novel spotlights each of their diverse viewpoints in the hours leading up to the party. It explores what each teen has — and has not — been up to sexually, and why. And ultimately, why they would consider going to a party like this in the first place. This book addresses important and timeless issues relevant to teens, including self-esteem, peer pressure, awareness about STD protection, and making an informed and educated decision about readiness for sexual activity. It was inspired by numerous news reports about the prevalence and attitudes among teens towards certain types of sexual behavior, and is intended to engage readers in this real-life issue in a responsible and constructive fashion.”
Well, then. So it’s “responsible and constructive” to present a story about young teenagers who are “friends with benefits” and engage in sexual escapades with multiple partners? The story’s inclusion of rather explicit information about sexually-transmitted diseases is hardly a sign of taking the high road. After all, there is always a condom. Such is the logic of the “safe sex” regime.
Ruditis told Publishers Weekly: “Part of me doesn’t understand why people don’t want to talk about [oral sex]. . . . Kids are having sex and they are actively engaged in oral sex and think it’s not really sex. I raised questions in my book and I hope that parents and children or teachers and students can open a topic of conversation through it. Rainbow parties are such an interesting topic. It’s such a childlike way to look at such an adult subject — with rainbow colors.” Ruditis’ comments are reflective of the perverted moral logic that inverts reality and considers teenagers holding “rainbow parties” to represent nothing more than “a childlike way to look at such an adult subject.” Parents, know your enemy.
Meanwhile, Simon & Schuster is also set to release a new set of books in The Hardy Boys series. The Hardy Boys books were a big part of my young reading life. I was introduced to the books by Mrs. Lewis in the third grade, who read The Tower Treasure to our class after lunch period. The first book was so popular that she read through several of the books over the course of the year. Nancy Drew never stood a chance.
I sometimes snuck a flashlight into bed in order to read the books under cover. We boys all wanted to be Frank or Joe Hardy, or at least to solve mysteries, drive fast cars and boats, and experience various adventures. The books were safe, wholesome, and interesting.
It looks like the series will stay that way. Harper’s Magazine published a leaked excerpt from the writers’ guidelines for the new series in its June 2005 issue [this document is not available on-line]. Nothing objectionable here. The boys are brave and true–and unemotional. “There’s nothing that could drive Frank or Joe to tears because they’re too gutsy and determined to behave that way.” No sniveling cry-babies here.
Look carefully at these instructions: “Dialogue no-no’s include long speeches, cursing, vulgar references, and taking the Lord’s name in vain (including the term ‘jeez’). For example: Positive, upbeat: ‘Wow!’ ‘All right!’ ‘Great!’ ‘Believe it!’ Negative, sarcastic: ‘Rats!’ ;’Yeah, right’ ‘Yeah, yeah’ ‘Yuck!’ ‘Oh, boy.” The guidelines also suggest grunts in the place of expletives in the case of stress or pain.
There’s more: “As mentioned previously, this is a modernized series, with a healthy dose of realism. This has to carry over into the types of crimes that the Hardys tackle. Without exception, these should be major, modern, and filled with action. . . . Murder is acceptable, as long as you restrain yourself from passing along all the gory details. In other words, someone can be shot and killed, but the reader’s eyes must be averted from the resulting puddles of blood.”
As for sex: “There isn’t any, not even in the Hardys stories of today. Bayport’s teenagers do display a healthy interest in the opposite sex. Romantic situations, however, can never be allowed to develop beyond the kissing and hugging stage.” The writers were further instructed to avoid all sexual references, off-color remarks, and references to drugs. The boys are allowed to eat fast food and hang out at the mall.
Finally, “End your penultimate chapter with a major cliffhanger. The final chapter then features the villain being foiled, killed, and/or captured, as our heroes bask in glory.”
This little corner of civilization has been saved, earthlings. But how can the same publisher release both Rainbow Party and The Hardy Boys? Here we certainly face a bizarre concept of market segmentation.
This much is clear–the Hardy Boys will not be attending any rainbow parties. You can count on that.
PRESS COVERAGE ON RAINBOW PARTY: National Ledger, USA Today, Kirkus Reviews.
June 1, 2005
The continent of Europe is now experiencing a civilizational crisis. Once the cradle of Western civilization, Europe is transforming itself into a hyper-modern culture of nearly undiluted secularism. Once constituted by a sense of Christian identity, Europe is now attempting a vast experiment in secularism, and this experiment shows no signs of ending anytime soon.
May 23, 2005
Leland Ryken, Professor of English at Wheaton College, has written an excellent and important introduction to the issue of Bible translation. Without ducking the hard questions, Ryken compares the dynamic-equivalence and formal-equivalence approaches. In Bible Translation Differences, he argues that the formal-equivalence method [based in an attempt at an 'essentially literal' rendering] produces a more accurate translation.
May 16, 2005
The bookstores love the summer season and tables are filled with books targeted for summer vacation. For women, the big development in publishing has been the development of a new form of pornography disguised as a “romance novel.” These ripping romantic tales feature detailed sex scenes in the text and airbrushed eroticism on the cover. Now, publishers have developed pornography for the younger generation of women, targeting teen girls with tales of romance, sexual exploration, and empowerment. The sex is front and center, with some books offering what amounts to advice on sexual technique for teens. Most parents know that teenage boys are tempted by visual pornography. How many parents are paying attention to what their daughters are reading? Consider two books by author Hailey Abbott. In Summer Boys and Next Summer, Abbott introduces a cast of beautiful, wealthy, fashionable, and over-sexed teenagers. The sex scenes are far too explicit to be quoted here, but just consider this run-up to the real steam, taken from Summer Boys: “Ella walked into the dunes, not knowing what else to do. She climbed the first mound of loose sand, her feet sinking with each step. She descended to a small valley, then climbed again. She reached top and froze. Down the hill in front of her, Peter was lying on his back, his body propped up against the next rise. He’d taken his shirt off and tucked it behind his head. He looked incredible, sprawled against the sand, his bronze skin glinting in the moonlight. Ella looked at his flat stomach and noticed that the top button of his shorts was undone.” The boy’s greeting was rather direct. “No one is allowed to talk until they’ve taken their shirt off.” Very little is left to the imagination. Next Summer is even more explicit, with scenes and story lines that will send parents into cardiac arrest. The girls are presented as sexually-driven, while the boys are described in terms of physical attractiveness–something of a role reversal. The characters, especially the girls, wear the latest fashions from Abercrombie and Anthropologie (items carefully chosen for maximum erotic effect in order to attract boys) and carry Kate Spade purses. Popularity, attractiveness, consumerism, and sexual adventures are packaged as the avenues to an idealized adolescent adventure. And note this–the books are published by Scholastic, Inc. through its Alloy Entertainment division. Many parents will remember Scholastic from school book fairs. As they say, times have changed. Parents–look in those book bags.
May 15, 2005
Henri Blocher, Professor of Systematic Theology at the Faculty Libre de Theologie Evangelique in France, argues that the persistent question of evil finds resolution only in the cross of Christ. Blocher’s cross-centered theodicy is well summarized in this remarkable paragraph: “Evil is conquered as evil because God turns it back upon itself. He makes the supreme crime, the murder of the only righteous person, the very operation that abolishes sin. The maneuver is utterly unprecedented. No more complete victory could be imagined. God responds in the indirect way that is perfectly suited to the ambiguity of evil. He entraps the deceiver in his own wiles. Evil, like a judoist, takes advantage of the power of good, which it perverts; the Lord, like a supreme champion, replies by using the very grip of the opponent. So is fulfilled the surprising verse; ‘With the pure you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you show yourself perverse.’” The verse cited is Psalm 18:26. Blocher’s book, Evil and the Cross, has been recently republished by Kregel Academic & Professional.
May 10, 2005
Richard Dawkins wants to be the devil’s chaplain. As the world’s most visible and articulate atheist, Dawkins declared war on religious belief many years ago. In his latest salvo, he leaves no doubt about his antipathy towards all forms of theistic belief.
May 1, 2005
Philip Pullman, author of the best-selling “His Dark Materials” trilogy, makes some rather incredible statements in an opinion piece published in today’s edition of the Los Angeles Times. Pullman is something of a C. S. Lewis in reverse–an author who uses literature to attack and subvert Christianity. Given that his primary audience is young teenage readers, this should be of concern to parents. In his article publshed today, “A Subtle School of Morals,” Pullman bares his teeth at Christianity, claiming that secular literature is a sounder teacher of morality for the young. “I don’t profess any religion. I don’t think it’s possible that there is a God; I have the greatest difficulty understanding what is meant by the words ‘spiritual’ or ‘spirituality.’ But I think I can say something about moral education.” He argues that literature and the theater should be the teachers of morality to the young. Christianity is to be avoided at all costs, since it inevitably leads to “theocratic absolutism.” He attacks the Bible and any concept of heresy, apostasy, etc. Where, we might ask, would he find the morals he is so ready to teach the young? In stories, which “show us human beings like ourselves acting in recognizable human ways, and they affect our emotions and our intelligence as life itself affects us.” Well, no risk of absolutism there. It is all relative to which stories you read, after all. This article reveals a great deal about Philip Pullman. Its presence in the opinion section of the Los Angeles Times tells us a great deal about that newspaper. More on this later.
April 29, 2005
The rise of strict separationism in church-state relations came at the urging of American Protestants afraid of Catholic power. Now, many evangelicals are unaware of how we contributed to this crisis of secularism.
April 28, 2005
The last century has witnessed some of the most divisive and confrontational debates in human history–and many of these have focused on the institution of the family. Now, two generations after the contraceptive revolution, the very right of parents to bear and raise children is under renewed attack. The implications of this debate will range far beyond the question of parental fitness. Inevitably, the real issue is whether the state can or should exert a totalitarian power and influence over the reproductive decisions of its citizens.
April 27, 2005
Has the message of Jesus been lost? That is the claim made by Steve Chalke and Alan Mann in their now-controversial book, The Lost Message of Jesus. Chalke is a well-known figure among British evangelicals. He founded the Oasis Trust and Faithworks and established his reputation through his broadcast ministry and publishing. Mann is his researcher and collaborator. Together, they have produced a book that has ignited a firestorm in Great Britain that is almost certain to spread to the United States. Put simply, these authors claim that evangelicals have misunderstood, misconstrued, and mispresented the meaning of the cross and the doctrine of atonement.
April 21, 2005
D. A. Carson’s new book on the Emergent Church has been released earlier than expected. The book, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and its Implications, should be required reading for evangelical pastors and church leaders. I’ll offer a full review in coming days.