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Stardust | Neil Gaiman

The cover of Gaiman's StardustThe town of Wall has an eponymous stone wall to the East. There is only one six foot break in the wall that separates Wall, the city, from the realm of the fairy. For thousands of years the town had posted two guards at the entrance to prevent traffic between the two worlds. This arrangement worked well until a certain Tristran Thorn decided to chase a falling star.

Stardust is fairy-tale at its finest. Although first published in 1999, it feels like something far older—something George MacDonald might pen. The classic themes of love and adventure, mystery and sacrifice, are woven into a tale that will linger in the reader’s mind.

I read Stardust in one evening. It has that sort of compelling power. It’s the perfect companion for a candlelit evening when the power goes out and the world seems strange. Read it and you’ll never look at a shooting star the same way again!


Gaiman, Neil. Stardust. New York: William Morrow, 2016.

Christian Ethics | D. Stephen Long

The cover of Long's Christian EthicsChristian ethics, for some, is an oxymoron. “For some modern persons, the term ‘Christian’ conjures up images of past immoral activities: crusades, the Inquisition, the conquest of the Americas, religious wars, the Galileo affair, defences of slavery and patriarchy” (1). D. Stephen Long argues otherwise. In this very short introduction (135 small pages), Long covers the history of Christian ethics from its pre-Christian roots through two millennia and into the postmodern era.

Long understands Christian ethics in terms of Abraham’s call in Genesis 12. Abraham was called to be different from the world for the sake of the world. Christians are different from the world in that “the community of faith … seeks to embody the life to which God calls” (70). The second part—for the sake of the world—is the more controversial element which has led to all sorts of difficulty. Indeed, “[t]he failure to fulfil this mission was a central cause in Christ’s crucifixion” (70).

There are a number of black marks on Christianity’s ethical history. Still, Long’s brief historical survey demonstrates that the issues were not as black-and-white as some suspect. Indeed, it was mainly Christians who, against fellow Christians, recognized the injustices listed in the first paragraph and sought to change them.

Long completes his short introduction with an application of Christian ethics to some of the major issues of our day, categorized by money, sex, and power.

So what is Christian ethics? It is the pursuit of God’s goodness by people ‘on the way’ to a city not built by human hands. It is not a precise science but the cultivation of practical wisdom that comes from diverse sources. (121)

Christian ethics is a call to develop the sort of wisdom needed to navigate postmodern waters in a Christlike way.


Long, D. Stephen. Christian Ethics: A Very Short Introduction. London: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Norse Mythology | Neil Gaiman

The cover of Gaiman's Norse MythologyOdin, Thor, and Loki are literally the stuff of legends. Their exploits, recorded by Snorri Sturluson in his Edda have been reinterpreted for English readers by many people—from J. R. R. Tolkien to Stan Lee! Neil Gaiman dove deeply into Norse Mythology to ground his American Gods, so it seems fitting that he has offered his own rewritten version of the ancient myths.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman tells the story of the Norse gods from creation to their eschaton: Ragnarok. These are stories of Elves and Giants, of war and betrayal. Gaiman’s prose is as rustic and direct, suitable for the gods of a harsh land. It’s clear that he’s sipped deeply from Odin’s gift.

One sentence in the introduction has stuck with me. We know relatively little about Norse Mythology and what we do know hints at many more stories. “We have lost so much” (14). Fortunately, in Gaiman’s hands, what we do have comes alive a millennium after it was first penned.


Gaiman, Neil. Norse Mythology. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2017.

The Road | Cormac McCarthy

The cover of McCarthy's The RoadThe Road is dystopian fiction like none other—lean and brutal.

The hook in dystopian fiction—and I’ve read more than my fair share—varies. Sometimes it’s a mystery novel in which the reader tries to figure out just how society arrived at its current misery. Other times it’s a constructive story of learning to transform the dystopia into something positive. None of this matters for McCarthy. In The Road there are only three ontological realities:

  1. Father
  2. Son
  3. Threats

The Road is a story of a father and son barely surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Everything extemporaneous to the survival of this relationship is stripped from the narrative. The father and son are unnamed. Even their dialogue reflects this minimalism, quotation marks absent from the text:

You walk too fast.
I’ll go slower.

You’re not talking again.
I’m talking.
You want to stop?
I always want to stop.

I know.
We’ll stop. Okay?
Okay.
We just have to find a place.
Okay. (93)

How do you find a place where no place exists? How do you stop when to stop means to give up? These are the questions that propel McCormac’s desolate vision.


McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Vintage Books, 2006.

Wanderers of Time | John Wyndham

The cover of Wyndham's Wanderers of TimeGolden Age science fiction science fiction is fascinating. Imagine the challenge of writing about space travel when no human had yet escaped our planet’s atmosphere!

In “Derelict of Space,” one of five short stories in Wanderers of Time, Wyndham describes just what it’s like to match velocity and trajectory in an atmosphere-free environment. You can forgive Wyndham for imagining an almost-breathable oxygen level in the bottom of some of the moon’s craters (“The Last Lunarians”).

In “Child of Power” and “The Puff-ball Menace,” Wyndham first writes in short-story form about the ideas which would form his full length novels, Chocky and The Day of the Triffids. The title story, “Wanderers of Time,” takes cues from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine in portraying a world no longer governed by homo sapiens.

Like much Golden Age science fiction, Wyndham doesn’t develop his characters (although he does attempt a secondary love story in “Wanderers of Time”). What these stories lack in character development, they repay in nineteen-thirties novelty.


Wyndham, John. Wanderers of Time. London: Coronet Books, 1973.

Jesus the Christ | Thomas G. Weinandy

The cover of Weinandy's Jesus the ChristAnalogies, when the subject is God, always fall short.

One of the most common analogies for the Trinity is H20. Just as H20 can be a solid (ice), liquid (water), or gas (steam), God is Father, Son and Spirit. The analogy seems like an apt way to throw light on the inconceivable theological arithmetic where 1+1+1=1 (another analogy)! Weinandy, having thought through the details of the H20 analogy, simply states that “[i]t perfectly illustrates Modalism” (60)! This example demonstrates Weinandy’s clear-sightedness when it comes to the Christology and Soteriology.

Jesus the Christ is a refreshingly straightforward look at who Jesus is and what he accomplished. Weinandy begins with scripture before tracing the thought of the church through the patristic and medieval eras, and into the present. His chronological method is particularly helpful in explaining the multitude of heresies that confronted the church in its formative years.

In approaching this book from a pentecostal perspective, I was struck by the way in which the Spirit preserved and revealed truth throughout the centuries. The Spirit inspired people like Ignatius, Origen, and Athanasius to write, using their limited amount of light, to bring about a more complete picture of the truth.

In a field of systematic theology notorious for its difficulty, Weinandy’s book is a breath of fresh air suitable for a new theological students or thoughtful laity.


Weinandy, Thomas G. Jesus the Christ. Middletown, DE: Ex Fontibus Company, 2017.

Deliverance to the Captives | Karl Barth

The cover of Barth's Deliverance to the CaptivesKarl Barth is a theological giant of the Twentieth Century. His fourteen volume, 9,200 page Church Dogmatics has cemented his legacy. This background is what makes Deliverance to the Captives so interesting. It’s a collection of sermons Barth delivered to “avowedly critical and ‘un-Christian'” (Schwarz in Barth 12) prisoners. Is it possible for Barth to simplify his theology to connect with the every-man?

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” For each message, Barth takes a short snippet of scripture and simply reflects on it. “You Shall Be My People” (60-66) is a good example. In preaching on Leviticus 26:12, “I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people,” he simply breaks the passage down into its three statements and shares his thoughts on them.

I was impressed by Barth’s bold humility. He didn’t shy away from the fact that he was preaching to prisoners. In fact, he specifically chose passages like Romans 11:32, “For God has made all men prisoners, that he may have mercy upon all.” He didn’t hesitate to include himself as “prisoner.”

Barth’s messages in Deliverance to the Captives have the power to speak to spiritual and physical captives even today.


Barth, Karl. Deliverance to the Captivesds. Translated by Marguerite Wieser. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961.

The Way of Discernment | Elizabeth Liebert

The cover of Liebert's The Way of Discernment“What’s God’s will for my life?” might be the single most common question asked of any pastor. The question usually comes from a person at the crossroads of a major life-decision. Should I change career or stay safe? Should I commit to that mission trip or stay at home? Should I marry him or move on? Elizabeth Liebert provides a holistic way to bring the decisions of life to God.

Three elements set this book apart from the rest.

  1. Grounded. Liebert grounds her discernment practice in the writings of Ignatius of Loyola. From the initial prayer of examen to reflections on consolation and desolation, Ignatius’ fingerprints are all throughout this book. From those Ignatian roots, Liebert moves out to glean wisdom from a variety of other sources, from Jonathan Edwards to the practices of the Quakers.
  2. Practical. Liebert is not only interested in providing a theology of discernment. She invites readers to “begin [their] own discernment process, rather than just thinking about discernment” (xi). To facilitate discernment, Liebert has included a series of exercises throughout the text which will give the reader the practical tools necessary to develop their own discernment practice. The book is so practical, I suspect it will become one of my most lent-out volumes (and re-purchased when my book isn’t returned)!
  3. God-Oriented. While some of the discernment practices included would find a welcome reception in a corporate boardroom, the overall thrust of the book is to determine God’s will (or to use Liebert’s preferred word, “call”). To retain this focus she emphasizes spiritual freedom through indifference. By this, Liebert stresses indifference to anything other than God’s fundamental call.

The Way of Discernment is theologically rich yet easy to follow. I will be sharing it with anyone who is seriously concerned with determining God’s next steps for their life.


Liebert, Elizabeth. The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008.

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