"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why "Drop-Dead Gorgeous"?

My previous post, a CFBA review of Ariel Allison's eye of the god, brought a pet peeve of mine to the forefront of my limited attention span. That being: Why does genre fiction invariably ... as in, most always ... portray the protagonists as drop-dead gorgeous. Take eye of the god, for instance: Dr. Abigail Mitchell is so striking that reluctant jewel thief Alex Weld can't help falling in love with her. And Alex's athletic physique and rakish grin make him irresistible as well.         Of course, the story wouldn't have worked if Alex had sported a beer-guzzler's gut and thinning hair, balanced out by a five-day, grayish shadow on his triple chins. But what if Dr. Mitchell had been too tall--even in sensible shoes--too thin, and constantly battling psoriasis and unruly, ratty-brown hair. What if her years of scholarly pursuit in dimly lit library aisles had forced her to wear Coke-bottle-bottom glasses. And what if she was painfully shy because she was always the smartest person in the room?         What if Dr. Abby Mitchell, despite her obvious appearance shortfalls, possessed a quirky sense of humor, a disarming smile, and without the glasses, eyes in which a guy could get lost. What if her apparent vulnerability had shaken hard-as-nails jewel thief Alex Weld's resolve? And what if his worming himself into her life--and her bed--had revealed a carefully hidden personality and caused her belated blooming into a beautiful "swan." Without changing the story's plot, that would have transformed a pretty good story into a truly memorable one.

eye of the god by Ariel Allison

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
eye of the god
Abingdon Press (October 1, 2009)
Ariel Allison
Two things struck me about this book: First ... how can I say it gently? The author would have done well to expend more time and/or resources on editing the manuscript. Tragically for this gifted story-teller, the reader/blogger notices typographic and stylistic errors before he or she has read enough to appreciate an exceptional story. And second, eye of the god is an exceptional story.
Ariel Allison's edgy novel succeeded by integrating the whodunit's misdirection and intrigue with the perpetrator's perspective typical of a study in criminal motivation; fascinating stuff that kept me reading to the last page. And speaking of the last page ... the last sentence, really ... why did you do it, Ariel? I was with you right to the end, but you threw in a twist that goes nowhere, except perhaps, to a sequel. We can only hope.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Allison is a published author who lives in a small Texas town with her husband and three young sons. She is the co-author of Daddy Do You Love Me: a Daughter’s Journey of Faith and Restoration (New Leaf Press, 2006). Justin Case, the first of three children’s books will be published by Harvest House in June 2009. Ariel is a weekly contributor towww.ChristianDevotions.usand has written for Today’s Christian Woman. She ponders on life as a mother of all boys atwww.themoabclub.blogspot.comand on her thoughts as a redeemed dreamer atwww.arielallison.blogspot.com. From Ariel: I am the daughter of an acclaimed and eccentric artist, and given my “unconventional” childhood, had ample time to explore the intricacies of story telling. I was raised at the top of the Rocky Mountains with no running water or electricity (think Laura Ingles meets the Hippie Movement), and lived out the books I read while running barefoot through the sagebrush. My mother read to me by the light of a kerosene lantern for well over a decade, long after I could devour an entire novel in the course of a day. Authors such as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, George MacDonald, and L.M. Montgomery were the first to capture my heart and I have grown to love many others since. ABOUT THE BOOK eye of the god takes the fascinating history surrounding the Hope Diamond and weaves it together with a present-day plot to steal the jewel from the Smithsonian Institute. We follow Alex and Isaac Weld, the most lucrative jewel thieves in the world, in their quest to steal the gem, which according to legend was once the eye of a Hindu idol named Rama Sita. When it was stolen in the 17th century, it is said that the idol cursed all those who would possess it. That won’t stop the brilliant and ruthless Weld brothers. However, they are not prepared for Dr. Abigail Mitchell, the beautiful Smithsonian Director, who has her own connection to the Hope Diamond and a deadly secret to keep. Abby committed long ago that she would not serve a god made with human hands, and the “eye of the god” is no exception. Her desire is not for wealth, but for wisdom. She seeks not power, but restoration. When the dust settles over the last great adventure of the Hope Diamond, readers will understand the “curse” that has haunted its legacy is nothing more than the greed of evil men who bring destruction upon themselves. No god chiseled from stone can direct the fates of humankind, nor can it change the course of God’s story. If you would like to read the prologue and first chapter ofeye of the god, go HERE

Monday, October 19, 2009

Absence Does What?

If by saying, "... makes the heart grow fonder," they mean, "... makes the heart grow more achy, then they're right. When I'm longing for someone's presence, especially when it will likely never be restored, thoughts of that person don't leave me feeling more fond, it leaves me with an aching, even painful, lump in my chest. Could that be my heart?         Something about longing for another isn't quite right, at least for a Christ-believer. For such longing says volumes about my priorities, where my affections lie. By saying, "I long for you in your absence; not being with you breaks my heart," am I not esteeming you too highly, with a love that belongs only to God? My excuse is, "I can't help missing you. After all, I'm only human."         Yes, Jesus died for such adulterous humans because of his longing for intimacy with us. That longing cost far more than his earthly life. The way he died, his divine glory forsaken, his divine life abandoned, his divine gift scorned, taught us what love really means. Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Mat 28:18-20)         Though we can't see Jesus' literal body, his promise means we needn't long for his presence, even if we long for his return. "If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, so that He may be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him nor know Him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you and shall be in you." (Joh 14:15-17)         Sometimes we believers fall into the trap of worldly observations, and forsake knowing him simply because we think we can't see him. And why can't we see him? We aren't looking correctly. Knowing Christ opens our eyes to his manifestations throughout his creation. The art collector who loves the work of a certain artist sees the artist in his work, and loves the artist for his creation. And seeing the artist by carefully observing his work produces the intimacy of the artist's presence.         What art collector fails to see the artist in his work? Only those who collect his work for speculation, hoping its monetary value will increase so they can resell it for a tidy profit. There is no love for the artist or his work. In the same way, "Christians" who see nothing more in Christ than his possibilities love nothing more than what he can do for them. And such false believers will eventually discover disillusionment over false expectations. Most, if not all, militant unbelievers are simply bitter because they've "tried that Christianity stuff and it didn't do anything" for them. Wrong priorities and wrong expectations prevented their experiencing Christ in all his glory.         Those who view Christ's physical absence as anything but the promise of his glorious return need new eyes, provided and empowered by his Holy Spirit to see him even now, in his church and his creation.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Standing-Room-Only Crowd"

In baseball, a "standing-room-only crowd" is a good thing, at least from the franchise's perspective. There is a situation, however, in which it will not be a good thing, especially if one is found within that crowd.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Mat 25:31-46 ESV)
With that crowd being packed to standing-room-only, one wouldn't be surprised to discover the admission price is absolutely zero. "You get what you pay for," is trite but, tragically, true. Tragic, because God had already paid the infinitely high price to admit each of those "goats" to a much smaller, exclusive crowd, but they had refused to accept his offer.         Even more tragic is humankind's penchant for crowd-following. Like so many lemmings, we thoughtlessly fall into lockstep with the majority, assuming they have some kind of corporate insight we individually lack, when in fact they have no sight at all. Jesus wisely advised his disciples concerning the religious leaders of the time, ""Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit." (Mat 15:14 NASB) In this case, the pit is bottomless and eternal. And when Jesus spoke of the Gentile, Roman Centurion whose simple faith he recognized for all time, "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Mat 8:11-12 NASB) Jesus' reference to "the sons of the kingdom" certainly included God's erstwhile chosen people who willingly gave up their prefered status by murdering their Messiah. Does today's church presume to think Jesus limited his reference to "the sons of the kingdom" only to the Jews? That, my crowd-following, church-going friend, is a dangerous assumption. As a matter of fact, God's Holy Spirit said in the letter to the Hebrews, For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Heb 6:4-6 ESV)         Once again, God presents the terrifying doom of those who ultimately presume upon his grace. If that were all God's word spoke on the matter, none of us would have a word to say in our defence at the judgment. But because of his love, he gave us the overarching promise of 1 John 1.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1Jn 1:5-9 ESV)
Finally, just a word about the process of confession. We've come to view confession as a simple act of grudging admission, calculated to get us off the hook for an offence; "copping a plea," if you will. The word God used, that we translate as confess, meant anything but. The Greek word used in the original manuscripts was a composite of two other words:same and say. This means that in confession, we say the same about our action and our selves that God, in his infinite insight, would say about us and what we did. Does our confession of sin shock God? Is he suddenly disillusioned about our presumed sainthood? On the contrary, our confession reveals nothing to God. Instead, it is our formal admission of what God already knows about us. Think of it as our filing a tax return with the IRS. Don't imagine for a moment Uncle Sam has no idea what we earned. Just try fudging on that return ...         Standing room only before God's court of judgment is infinitely worse than standing before Uncle Sam.

Sinning From The Beginning

It rhymes, but it's not pretty. I John 3:8-9 from the New International Version says:
He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
        Here is a passage that has plagued me from the first moment I read it many years ago, as it seems to negate my precious, evangelical Christian tradition. But tradition be hanged, the Bible says what it says ... right? Oh, great! Now I have to take off on a tangent to deal with Scripture inerrancy. Thought I had that one in the bag already. This won't take long, I promise ...
        In answer to your rather inconvenient question: Well, yes, the Bible sorta says what it says. The Bible says what the original manuscripts say in the language in which they were written. And God preserved those inerrant words for us with virtually perfect accuracy. I say virtually because some early copies differ from others in a very few passages, demonstrating humankind's ability to mess up even what's perfect.         Now that I've stated one of the most popular excuses for the Bible not saying what God originally meant, I have to insist that it does, in fact, say what God means, when approached prayerfully, in faith. God cannot speak falsehood, whether lying or self-contradiction. What he says is, by definition, Truth. Hebrews 14:12(ESV) states, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."         As Mary Shelley quoted Doctor Frankenstein's exultant statement, "It lives!" Though the words themselves may not change, as God's living, active Word, it conveys truth to those who in faith, seek his truth.
        So, as it is indeed God's living word, a second look at I John 3:8, a look from faith, is in order. An alternate rendering of the first few words would be, "He who does sin is from the devil." This verb is present tense and active voice, meaning now, deliberately, if only once. It does not mean, as some want to believe, "He who continually practices sin ...." So that still leaves the Evangelical Christian with a sour, doctrinal tummy.         True to religious practice, however, your faithful blogger continues searching for that Golden Excuse to make the word say what he wants. Let's take a look at the offending predicate of verse eight: " ... does sin ..." Other renderings might be commits, performs, or executes, all of which indicate the most deliberate, premeditated of actions. Whew, at least that eases some of the pressure. Now, we can safely say that we are of the accuser when we fully know the sinfulness and consequences of an action, but do it anyway.         "But, how can one simultaneously be a child of God and still, 'of the devil?'" Won't let it rest, eh? It's the same conundrum as recognizing the sinless condition of our first parents before they sinned; if they were sinless ... and God affirmed that fact by pronouncing his creation "good,"... how could they sin? The Greek preposition denotes the source or originator of the act which, in this case, is offending God by deliberately disobeying his known and understood will for us; an act whose source is the devil, or accuser.         Hey, when put that way, a picture falls into place: This is a portrait of a shyster plaintiff filing suit for an offense he set up. Yes, the enemy of our souls is quite clever enough to work us into a lose-lose, sting situation where we have no good options. It's "Sin if I do, sin if I don't." The practical reason it's still counted a sin is, without exception, such situations arise through our own cussed fault. If we had applied half the sense we were born with, we would have taken any number of escape routes before reaching that point.         Oh man, after all this explaining I've only proven why this problematic verse means what it says. But, I've only examined this one passage. Perhaps another passage will give us an excuse for sinning.         Sorry Charlie, there are no excuses for deliberately sinning.         Christ Jesus' New Covenant is many things, but simple isn't one of them. And the fact that every truth in that Covenant interrelates with every other Covenant truth, effectively preventing our isolating just one under a critical microscope, makes interpreting them even more problematic. There is a Scripture passage, however, that carefully examined and applied, gives us the reason faithful followers of Christ Jesus cannot sin.
It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. Romans 4:13-16 NIV
        As hard as it is to wrap one's noggin around that passage, bottom line is: By grace, through faith(Ephesians 2), God's law does not apply to Christ-followers. But in other passages the apostle Paul goes into vast detail explaining why we must, nevertheless, obey God even more perfectly than law-followers. But that's a discussion for another tome.         So, we hit yet another bottom line(yes, there will be one eventually). The great thing is, we have a remedy for our deliberate, premeditated sin.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1Jn 1:5-10 ESV)
        I can think of tons of stuff I'd rather do than make God out to be a liar. Might he take offense at that? Obviously, the answer is, "YES."         In this passage we deal with a couple of conditional "ifs," one potentially negating the other. Walking in "darkness" is stumbling about as if blindfolded, unable or unwilling to perceive and practice God's truth, which gives us all we need to find our way in this life. So, we make him out to be a liar "if" we say we have fellowship with him while morally stumbling about in spiritual darkness. Next, "But if" we in fact walk the straight path of God's truth, Jesus' blood "cleanses us from all sin." This continual cleansing not only produces spiritual righteousness, but rewards us with the corporate fellowship of friends that "sticketh closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24)         I John 1:9 gives us true encouragement by concisely stating the remedy for our sin: confession. I was raised Catholic, where confession is a sacrament that includes telling a priest what one did wrong and how many times he did it. Did that absolution require repentence? Not that I heard about. The Greek word, however, rendered confess is a compound of same and say, which tells us of the honesty and transparency with which our confession must be executed, inferring brokenness and repentence.         What a beautiful promise! With it in view, Christ-followers suffer no hopelessness and dispair, which would definitely be the case if God required Christ-likeness without providing us with a reverse gear for when we inevitabely put ourselves in the wrong driveway. What a beautiful salvation! What a beautiful Savior!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Just Don't Get It?

Proverbs 2: 1-10 is one of the big "If" passages of Scripture. "If," in case you hadn't thought of it, introduces conditions to a promise or proposition. Today, promises typically mean little, and the fewer conditions specified, the less they mean. When we hear such advertised promises as, "Nothing down and no payments for Ten Years!!!!" we know they're leaving out something vital; businesses do not survive on those terms. The New International Version of the Bible puts in these terms:
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair--every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
        All the "ifs" in this passage lead up to one promise, twice stated: Then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God, and Then you will understand what is right and just and fair--every good path.         The issue with these promises is we are naturally blind to how wonderful they are, "if" we fail to meet the conditions for obtaining them. That requires tenacious, blind obedience, which in turn requires some measure of faith in the One who issues the promises. No wonder so many contemporary people fail to understand the value of "every good path." In our unregenerate blindness we can't connect the dots. We just don't get it. And in or arrogance, what we don't get can't be true.         Most any thinking person will see the logical fallacy in that conclusion, as the end of the reasoning that says, "What I can't see must not exist."         That proverbial, thinking person, will, however, examine God's promises rather than dismissing them out-of-hat. He or she will seek out what possible advantage to a contemporary human being might be had by understanding the fear of the Lord and finding the knowledge of God. First, Man's fundamental dysfunctionality should be obvious. Even with religion thrown into the picture, we get life wrong far more often than we get it right. And what does "getting it right" look like? It is taking it on the chin, rather than risk hurting someone else. It is showing deference(preferring others' welfare to our own) when given the choice. It is truth-telling to our own hurt, and not necessarily truth-telling when it would hurt another. It is helping others even when it's inconvenient.         Those examples of right relation with others seem conspicuously rare, especially within the religious setting where one might expect to see them ... based on the religion's profession. Why would that be? Why wouldn't religion make more of a difference in our rightness of behavior, if God's promises are religious in nature? The answer is simple: they aren't essentially religious. But they are relational. By understanding the fear of the Lord and finding the knowledge of God, and by understanding every good path, we don't just change our behavior; we change our identity. We become transformed from rebels against God into children of God. And that's where Christ's new covenant makes all the difference in eternity.         But alas, that is a discussion for another time, and for more room.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Seek Peace and Pursue It

Who's kidding whom? Peace and love are the two most misunderstood and misapplied principles of life. Humanist thinkers easily take this post's title out of its Scriptural context in I Peter 3 and apply it to social and political peace, "pursuing it" against all wisdom. Here is the whole passage in its Scriptural context from the New International Version:
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.' 1 Peter 3:8-12
Peter began this postscript to his first letter with, "Finally, y'all." Putting it at the last elevates this teaching to one of primary importance, the thoughts he most wanted his audience to take with them. Following that, we find a series of instructions summarizing Peter's Spirit-led beliefs about how to be like minded, or live harmoniously with one another:         First, "be sympathetic." Regardless of the differences that will inevitably arise between faith-community-members, we must always try to consider circumstances and opinions from our brothers' perspectives. That means we must show deference to their motives, needs and views whether-or-not we ultimately agree with them.         "Love as brothers" does not mean modeling our relationships after Cain and Able, or any number of other dysfunctional sibling relationships recounted in the Bible. Oddly enough, the classic, "brotherly love" relationship from the Bible is between two men who weren't siblings: Pre-King David and King Saul's son Jonathan. Following their example, we must demonstrate our love, one for another, actively, tangibly, consistently. The old joke, "I love him as my brother; just can't stand the guy," in no way applies to true brotherly love. The Apostle John also had much to say about how and why we must show our love. Any "Christian" who has a problem showing godly love to even the most irritating brethren really needs to check what the Bible has to say about it. But if someone needs some extremely basic instructions in brotherly loving, just "be compassionate and humble."         Now comes the hard part: "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing." To master this, one must remember that only God is righteous, which automatically rules out "righteous indignation" as the sweeping excuse for holding a grudge. Nuff said on that score?         The Scripture even gives God's reason for this hard instruction. "Because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it." So there comes the rub. Pursuing peace is just part of the greater instruction to repay evil with blessing. The old "peace and love," flower child stereotype falls apart in this context, because the Scriptural mandate is entirely selfless, and selflessness is just plain foreign to us faulty humans.         And if needed, the last nail in our coffin of resistance follows at the end of the passage: "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." So why not just give in and obey? Sometimes, doing the right thing is just plain best.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

No Idea by Greg Garrett

Nancy and I don't read a lot of non-fiction, and when we set out to read No Idea by Greg Garrett, I suffered considerable misgivings. Half-way through the first chapter, however, I had already decided that Garrett was the real thing, and entertaining to boot.
        Speaking as a conservative Christian, I choked a bit at Garrett's progressive ideology, though the latent liberal within me gave several grudging nods at various points. Garrett speaks to the human condition on a foundational level, recognizing both man's innate evil and good. Yes, I said good. From that perspective, he frequently quotes the wisdom of other religious traditions, a habit that took some getting used to. Though my Evangelical brethren will choke at that, I've come to believe that human good, while certainly not guaranteeing eternal outcomes, is none-the-less beneficial.
        I regret not having first read his prequel to this book, Stories from the Edge: A Theology of Grief, as it frankly presents his journey through grief, despair and depression to the joyful redemption he found in Christ Jesus. Unlike many liberals I've encountered, Dr. Garrett(yes, he's a card-carrying academic) seems to spurn intellectual elitism, coming across as a humble man of God who only wants to love the world into submission to his Savior. Is that not, after all, the ambition that should unite all Christ-followers?