For those of you into

For those of you into “heavy lifting” on topics of religion, literature, philosophy etc. Check out the excellent book review in First Things this month. Edward Oakes discusses the ubiquitous Stanley Fish’s book “How Milton Works.” It is not necessarily a quick or easy read for the uninformed but it does deal with some fascinating and important issues surrounding faith, knowledge, and religion. For example: Can rationality and empiricism lead one to God’s existence or does a belief in God lead one to search for empirical or rational “proof” of that existence? Should one be obedient to God because he is good or because he is God? These and other fascinating theological, philosophical, and literary questions also relate back to a 1996 give and take in the pages of First Things between Fish and editor Richard John Neuhaus. It is articles like this that make me long for graduate school – where ideas seem to take on real meaning and debates on important questions can be had regularly.
If you haven’t checked out First Things you really should – reliably thought provoking and well written material every month.

A late entry to the

A late entry to the Harry Potter discussion: I must admit that for a long time I simply tried to ignore the Harry Potter phenomenon. I thought the books would be silly stories filled with typical post-modern gobbledygook – all about diversity and tolerance. (Isn’t that what everything seems to be about in today’s popular culture?) I was wrong. The books (I have now read the first three) are great fun and a good read.
My interest was peaked because my friends were reading them to their kids or were watching their kids spend hours reading(!) large tomes. Having devoured C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, etc. when I was younger I was interested to see what could hold kids attention today. Throw in the witchcraft = Satan worship angle and I felt compelled to investigate. Herewith a few observations:
1) Anyone who makes dramatic generalizations about something they haven’t read and know nothing about should not be taken seriously. It pains me but churches and Christians have been caught up in a fuss based largely on ignorance and intellectual laziness (admittedly some parents have/had genuine concerns about the book’s background and content). When Christians throw out terms like “satanic” and “devil worship” willy nilly, however, they look foolish and they diminish their ability to speak to real issues (Here is an example of a more troubling book marketed at young people.) I recommend anyone worried about the dangers of Harry Potter to at least read the first book.
2) I think the books are well written, entertaining, and morally positive. The plots kept me interested and involved in the character’s lives. I usually had an inkling of how things would unfold but I was often pleasantly surprised and caught off guard. The characters wrestle with right and wrong and how character is developed. At the same time, the issues of friendship, trust, fear, and loyalty are all dealt with intelligently.
3) Rowling succeeds in creating an alternate world that is plausible, interesting, and entertaining – no small accomplishment. Harry Potter may not be a character for the ages but nevertheless I heartily recommend them to children and adults alike.
I found this article a good overview.