I've had about fifteen mostly-trivial things floating in my brain that I want to blog about but no time to write much, so I'm going to deal with as many items as possible from my "To Blog About" list today in one post, if you'll bear with me.
I've been traveling more than usual this summer. I was supposed to be on sabbatical, and before those plans got rearranged, I had accepted several invitations I simply couldn't back out of, thinking I would be free to travel because I wouldn't be juggling deadlines and whatnot. But the publishers who govern my deadlines refused to let me take any extended time off this summer, and now I have to meet the deadlines plus fulfill most of those other commitments I made. (The sabbatical will have to wait till next year. Or the next.)
That, plus a spate of odd and unusual computer problems (mostly network issues, surely related somehow to the activities of demons), have kept me from putting much serious time into the blog lately. Sorry.
Anyway, last week I was at Cornerstone Seminary in Vallejo, CA, teaching a week-long summerim session on the life and ministry of Spurgeon, with special emphasis on his preaching and the controversies he provoked. While preparing for those sessions, I read all at once through all the past weekly doses of Spurgeon, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for Spurgeon's courage and steadfastness. I recommend the exercise.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a church in the Atlanta area. My reputation for eating odd delicacies has got around, and when I travel, people frequently offer me challenging, barely-edible tidbits to see how far I will go with it. In Atlanta a dear woman (Marie, if I recall her name correctly), gave me a package of squid jerky (yes, I'm serious) plus a bag of freeze-dried anchovies. Great salad toppers. Thanks.
Also, during one of my recent trips I had the inestimable pleasure of meeting (for the first time in person) our long-time friend and honorary PyroManiac Todd "Freakishly Tall" Friel. In the picture there, we're both standing on a level floor. He really is tall. He's the same in person as you hear on the radio, and irrepressibly funny. I wish we'd had a few more days to talk, but one of us would probably have got the other one in trouble somehow. If you've never heard Todd on Way of the Master Radio, you're missing the best daily live show on Christian radio. Get the podcast. Also, if your cable company carries Familynet, check out Todd's daily television program, Wretched. That's the name of the show, not an evaluation of it.
Speaking of evaluations, my next item for today is a brief book review. I got my copy of The Last Men's Book You'll Ever Need from David Moore, the book's author, who kindly sent me an autographed copy with a courageous invitation to review the book candidly.
I would have loved to give the book my unqualified endorsement. Indeed, there is much positive to say about it, and Justin Taylor has covered most of that ground. In addition to what Justin wrote, I would add that I appreciate Dave Moore's resistance to the therapeutic approach to human relationships that dominates so much of evangelical discourse nowadays. Moore points out that everyone is "wounded" and we don't really deserve merit badges or undue sympathy for our personal hurts when we ourselves are guilty of waging war against righteousness. Also, while we're carefully nursing our personal wounds, "we need to remember that we inflict our fair share of them" (p. 118). That's wise advice, especially in our culture where so many men (and women) "focus on the hurt they've received [and] tend to discount or diminish the hurt they inflict on others" (p. 114)not to mention the sins against Almighty God we're guilty of. Moore calls us back to a more biblical (and manly) view of our own sin.
Moore makes a number of helpful, insightful, and thought-provoking points like that. The book definitely has its fair share of high points.
As much as I'd like to stop with that, however, the manly candor Dave Moore rightly solicits compels me to say that I think the book also has too many shortcomings to fulfill the promise of its own title (which title, David Moore assures me, is supposed to be tongue in cheek). If I were looking for just one standalone book to recommend to your men's fellowship for group study, I'm sorry to say this would not be it.
Let me keep my remarks about the book's shortcomings as brief as possible by simply saying that in one way or another, all my criticisms are related to the fact that Moore brings up some very serious topics without handling them very seriously. Several of the topics that are especially crucial for men in these post-modern times warrant much more thoughtful and sober-minded analysis than Moore gives them.
In a section on the struggle with sexual lust, for example, Moore leaves the impression that prudery and sexual addiction are equally serious dangers. He describes them as "both deadly extremes" (p. 104). Now, I have counseled a lot of men who are struggling in areas related to sex, the thought life, single-mindedness, and relationships, and I can't honestly say that I have ever met one man who fell into trouble spiritually because he succumbed to the deadly danger of prudery. Virtually every man I know who is seeking to live a godly life in the Internet age actually wishes he could recover some of his pre-adolescent innocence. Prudery of the right sort is actually a virtue (Romans 16:19).
At that point in the book, where many men would be most eager for Moore to give truly practical help, he has surprisingly little to say. And he quotes without attribution from "one very wise writer" (I Googled and discovered he was quoting Doug Jones), with some intriguing lines about how porn divorces beauty from goodness and therefore turns true beauty on its head, peddling a concept of beauty that is really ugly in the extreme (pp. 106-7). But despite Moore's confident assertion, I don't think that brief thought from Doug Jones is going to "change" many struggling readers' lives.
Moore clearly knows the lives of sinners are changed only when the Holy Spirit applies the Word of God to hearts, and I wish he had followed the ramifications of that truth when dealing with (of all things) men's battle against lust. He could haveand should havehandled such topic a lot more seriously.
I won't belabor the point further, but this book would be much better if it were twice as long and ten times more serious. For my money, Justin Taylor's edition of John Owen's Overcoming Sin and Temptation is a better, richer summary of what the Bible says about "Guy Stuff." Not as funny, perhaps, but much better for men who are seeking help with the problems of being men.
Still, there's help to be gleaned and good thoughts to be found in David Moore's book, and for some men (if taken with a dose of biblical discernment) this might be a good starting point if they are seeking to understand their manhood in a spiritual and biblical light. But by no means is it the last book on manhood any man will need. (In all seriousness, as someone who has been involved in Christian publishing for more than 30 years, if I had been on the titling committee during the concept phase of this book, I would have lobbied hard for a different title, no matter how much marketing appeal this title might have.)
Thanks again to David Moore for his kindness and courage in submitting his book to PyroManiacs for review. To other authors out there: feel free to send any of us your books, but we can't promise to review any particular books, and we especially refuse to try to coordinate our reviews with any publisher's promotional timeline. Generally, we review books we either really like or truly, absolutely hateand we leave the tepid reviews to Justin Taylor and Tim Challies. Book reviews are relatively rare at our blog anyway, but don't let that discourage anyone from sending us free books.
Enough about book reviews. I've run out of time and space in what was supposed to be a short post.
One last thing: Whatever else you do today, don't neglect to read about the importance of being "missional," succinctly explained by the enigmatic Dissidens.
Have a great weekend, and remember to spend the Lord's Day with the Lord's people.