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Book Notes ~ October 2016

I rarely read fiction, but this past month I read two novels, one is famous political science fiction story and the other a fictional missionary auto-biography that critics evangelical missions.  The other book I read is both religious history and political history and is very relevant to today.  Check out my reviews, and I hope you find something that piques your interest :-)

Brave New World

I’ve known about this book since high school but never got around to reading it recently.  The premise is a dystopian future where the majority of people see the world as having reached a utopian state… except for our disgruntled protagonist and a few others.  In this future world of Aldous Huxley’s imagination, people are grown in laboratories, not born.  Children are raised without parents and conditioned to assume a certain class in society, looking down on lower classes, and feeling inferior to higher classes.  In order to maintain social stability, drugs and physical pleasure are promoted while art, science, individuality, and the search for truth and meaning are discouraged.  Written in the 1930s, this is a fascinating and disturbing novel which foreshadows modern American society’s desire for big government to create safety and security at the expense of freedom.  The world imagined by Huxley has similarities to George Orwell’s anti-communist book “1984", but whereas Orwell imagines an oppressive restrictive society from the top down, Huxley imagines an oppressive restrictive society from the bottom up, where people clamor for the security and comfort that their overlords provide.

 

 

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Book Notes ~ September 2016

I read 2 books this month, both of which were very good, but in very different ways.  One was a fascnating historical / theological read, and the other one very encouraging if you can get into Puritan turns of phrases.

The Diffusion of Global Evangelicalism

Covering post-WWII to the present, “The Diffusion of Global Evangelicalism” presents a panorama view of how evangelicalism has grown and changed from a largely Western, North Atlantic movement to a broader, more diverse global movement.  I greatly appreciated the scope of this book, providing balanced coverage of not only North American, but also British and Commonwealth evangelicalism, as well as other places in the world where English is used in Christian discourse.  This was a pleasant change from many books about evangelicalism that are American-centric. 
 
I learned in greater depth about later 20th century leaders and authors that I had only heard about in passing, and was not very familiar with.  I particularly enjoyed reading about 1) how evangelicalism developed differently in Britain compared to the United States, 2) the watershed significance of the 1974 Lausanne Conference on World Evangelism, and 3) the tension between evangelicals (largely from the U.S.) who sought a narrow focus on “soul-winning” and those (largely from Latin America) who sought a more holistic definition of mission as applied to other areas of life and society. 
 
An important theme which the author discusses at various points in the book, especially in relation to the hugely significant Pentecostal-charismatic movement, is the increasingly divergent streams of evangelicalism in the early 21st century that bring into question whether it is still possible (if it ever was) to identify a common core of beliefs which define evangelicals.   As regards evangelical identity, there is a big question mark as to whether or not the authority of the Bible (sola scriptura) will continue to be a hallmark of evangelicalism.  There are strong movements in many places around the world where following the leading of the Spirit as mediated through personal experience is prioritized over Scripture, and in many cases syncretized with an emphasis on this worldly health, wealth, and blessing as the core of the Christian life.  This is true particularly in areas of Asia and Africa where animism has an important role in the background and worldview of Christian adherents.  However, the author believes that reports of evangelicalism’s demise are premature and the movement as a whole has displayed an historical resilience and ability to redefine and refocus its center over the course of different eras.  It is difficult to say where evangelicalism is headed, but this book provides a good overview of where evangelicalism has been during the last 70 years. 
 
“The Diffusion of Global Evangelicalism” is book 5 in is a series on the "History of Evangelicalism: People, Movements and Ideas in the English-Speaking World"  

 

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Book Notes ~ August 2016

I read 3 books this past month, the first of which was a real page turner.  I couldn't put it down.  If you want a great biography, check out the "The Girl in the Picture".  The third book had lots of timely reminders so that I don't get too run down.  I had hoped to finish a fourth book but I was pre-occupied for most of August with writing and refining a research proposal in preparation for applying for a doctoral program.

The Girl in the Picture

"The Girl in the Picture” is about a girl and her family caught in the midst of the war in Vietnam. The girl, Kim Phuc, was the subject of the famous war-time photo of a young girl running naked out of a village that had been hit by napalm.  It is a riveting, page-turning, biography, and gives a good window into what life was like for a normal family before, during, and after the war in Vietnam (not to mention an interesting picture of life in Castro's Cuba). I learned many details about the Vietnam War that I had previously just heard in passing but not really understood (such as the significance of the Tet Offensive).  Interestingly, when Kim grows up she becomes a Christian through a church in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), although this part of her experience makes up only a minor part of the narrative.  This book is a biography as well as a cultural and political history, and author Denise Chong gives a sympathetic and well-written account of Kim Phuc’s life and the global events in which she became an unexpected participant.  You definitely learn about Cold War politics in this book, but the author seems to do a good job of telling the facts without turning the book into a political statement.  It is Kim’s story, rather than a political agenda, that drives the narrative. 

 

 

 

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เหตุที่มิชชันนารีไม่อาจกลับบ้านได้อีก (Why Missionaries Can Never Go Home Again)

เขียนโดย Karl Dahlfred

แปล & เรียบเรียงโดย วัลลภาอรุโรทยานนท์

 

เมื่อมิชชันนารีใหม่ออกจากบ้านเดินทางไปทำพันธกิจของพระเจ้าครั้งแรกในต่างแดนคุณก็ยังรู้ชัดเจนว่าบ้านของตนนั้นอยู่ที่ไหนนั่นก็คือบ้านที่คุณเพิ่งจากมา เป็นบ้านที่คุณได้เติบโตขึ้นเป็นที่ ที่คุณได้รับการศึกษาและได้สร้างสัมพันธภาพแน่นแฟ้นกับพี่น้องในคริสตจักร

หากแต่เมื่อคุณไปอยู่ต่างแดนนานพอควรแล้วความรู้สึกแปลกแยกก็เกิดขึ้น

คุณจะเริ่มรู้สึกว่าบ้านของคุณนั้นไม่เหมือน “บ้าน” ที่เคยรู้จักอีกต่อไป  เมื่อ “กลับบ้าน” แล้ว แม้จะพบผู้คนและได้เห็นสถานที่ที่คุ้นเคยมาก่อน แต่ทุกอย่างได้เปลี่ยนแปลงไประหว่างที่คุณไม่อยู่  ดังนั้นในช่วง “พักงานกลับบ้าน” คุณจึงไม่สามารถประติดประต่อช่วงเวลาให้เข้าสนิทกับช่วงเดิมที่คุณจากไปได้ เพราะเวลานี้ คุณได้กลายเป็นคนนอกเป็นเพียงแขกผู้มาเยือนเท่านั้น และคุณก็ไม่มีบทบาทหน้าที่อะไรชัดเจนด้วยบรรดาเพื่อนสนิททั้งหลายของคุณต่างก็ได้ผูกมิตรกับเพื่อนใหม่ๆพี่น้องมากกว่าครึ่งในคริสตจักรรู้จักคุณเพียงผ่านทางระบบการสื่อสารที่รับรู้ได้ว่าคุณต้องการให้อธิษฐานเผื่อเรื่องอะไรบ้างเท่านั้น ขณะที่คนอื่นๆคุ้นเคยกับเทคโนโลยีใหม่ๆแต่คุณต้องคลำหาทางทำความเข้าใจคนอื่นพูดคุยกันสนุกสนานด้วยศัพท์แสลงแต่คุณกลับรู้สึกแปลกหูและไม่แน่ใจในความหมาย  แล้วคุณอาจสงสัยว่าแนวโน้มการเปลี่ยนแปลงทางวัฒนธรรมกำลังวิ่งไปทางไหนกัน?  ผู้คนที่บ้านเคยชินกับการเปลี่ยนแปลงตลอดเวลาจนกลายเป็นเรื่องปกติแต่คุณกลับมึนงงสับสน ที่เป็นเช่นนี้ก็เพราะว่าคุณได้เดินสวนทางกับสิ่งเหล่านี้ไป ตั้งแต่การออกเดินทางครั้งแรกแล้ว