The Gift of Books

The Gift of Books

So thankful for the gifts I received this Christmas!

1. Peter Brown’s Augustine of Hippo
2. Diarmaid McCulloch’s Reformation
3. N.T. Wright’s The New Testament for Everyone (18 volumes)

What came to mind as I write this is the verse which says, “To him who has more shall be given!” It seems I’ll have to add to my reading projects list for 2014.


Nos. 1 & 2 were given to me by my sister-in-law and her husband together with a brand new Surface 2!. The N.T. Wright commentaries were given by a former classmate in college who now has 4 master’s degrees as well as a PhD! Thank you so much!

Calvin Study Group in Bacolod

Last night I attended a study group started by some friends who are members of a local Christian Reformed Church (Ebenezer Christian Reformed Church). Atty. Jerry Basiao was the study group leader. They were studying John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I thought to myself, “Isn’t this something? Who would have thought that in such a small country as the Philippines, and in a relatively small city like Bacolod City, there would be a study group on John Calvin’s Institutes!” Someone stepped to the front and began reading a portion of ch. 1 of the Institutes on the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self. Then Atty. Basiao took over, explained a bit, and began addressing questions to the other members. Then came the fun part: We began sharing inputs, asking questions, offering our interpretations of what Calvin probably meant – it was fun! There were serious moments too, as when Elder Godfrey Serfino (an elder of Ebenezer) asked the group, How do we apply the things we’ve learned to the life of the church? (We were a mixed group actually: some Reformed, some Baptist; we even had a walk-in visitor from Pontevedra whose denominational affiliation we knew nothing about). The session lasted around 2 hours, after which we closed in prayer. Atty. Basiao encouraged each one of us to get our own copy of the Institutes. A couple of members began inspecting the books of John Calvin which the group reader (Bryan I think his name was) brought with him.  We all had an enjoyable time. What a way to spend Phlippine Independence Day!

The Intellectual Life

I’m presently reading A.D. Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life. I first came to know about this book while reading James Sire’s Habits of the Mind. Yesterday I found a secondhand copy of this book at a local secondhand bookstore. I was so happy with my discovery I felt like kissing the book! I’ve just finished the first chapter –  “The Intellectual Vocation” –  and I found it really inspiring. Here are a few quotes I liked:

If you are designated as a light bearer, do not go hide under the bushel the gleam or the flame expected from you in the house of the Father of all. Love truth and its fruits of life, for yourself and for others; devote to study and to the profitable use of study the best part of your time and heart.

Do not prove faithless to God, to your brethren and to yourself by rejecting a sacred call.

Every truth is practical; the most apparently abstract, the loftiest, is also the most practical. Every truth is life, direction, a way leading to the end of man.

Work always then with the idea of some utilization… Listen to the murmur of the human race all about you; pick out certain individuals of certain groups whose need you know, find out what may bring them out of their night and ennoble them; what in any measure may save them.

Willing to Believe

I’ve just finished R.C. Sproul’s Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will, a clear and balanced presentation of the different views that Christians hold on Free Will. Sproul, of course, prefers the Reformed view, and at a number of places he tries to answer the objections posed by other views. But his critique of other views is I think fair and courteous. A good and enlightening book, whichever side of the divide you belong. Here’s his conclusion:

How we view our fallen condition, then, has radical implications for how we understand both the nature and necessity of regeneration as it relates to faith. This in turn greatly influences how we understand the biblical doctrine of election… [Those] who believe that the fallen sinner retains the capacity to choose what he desires but is enslaved by these desires, rest their confidence in the knowledge that salvation is of the Lord and those whom the Son makes free are free indeed.

Culture: Its Theological Justification

Colin Gunton in The One, the Three and the Many offers this  theological justification for culture:

The distinctive feature of created persons is their mediating function in the achievement of perfection by the rest of creation. They are called to the forms of action, in science, ethics and art – in a word, to culture – which enable to take place the sacrifice of praise, which is the free offering of all things, perfected, to their creator. Theologically put: the created world becomes truly itself – moves towards its completion – when through Christ, and the Spirit, it is presented perfect before the throne of the Father. The sacrifice of praise which is the due human response to both creation and redemption that takes the form of that culture which enables both personal and non-personal worlds to realize their true being.

To my mind, the foregoing is at the end of the day simply an exposition – albeit a brilliant one – of Ephesians 2:10:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Built to Last

I’m almost halfway into Collins and Porras’ business book: Built to Last. I like their idea about the “Genius of the AND,” as opposed to the “Tyranny of the Or.” So, for example, in the matter of profits – profit is not everything, but “a reasonable profit is right, but not too much.” So a visionary company is one which can embrace both idealogy AND profit.

Profit is not the proper end and aim of management – it is what makes all of the proper ends and aims possible.

— David Packard

Here’s another quote:

Profit maximization does not rule, but the visionary companies pursue their aims profitably. They do both.

Profitability is a necessary condition for existence and a means to more important ends, but it is not the end in itself for many of the visionary companies. Profit is like oxygen, food, water, and blood for the body; they are not the point of life, but without them, there is no life.

This is sound and sane business advice, and not greedy at all.

Click HERE to learn more about the book

Democracy on Trial

Just a few more pages and I’m through with Bethke Elshtain’s Democracy on Trial. I guess the long and short of what I’ve learned from this books is that –

… human beings will always fall short of an absolute ideal… “the only reasonable hope for salvation from evil and wickedness at which men might arrive even in this world and even by themselves, without any divine assistance,” must be the imperfect workings of government, the flawed actions of citizens among citizens.

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton’s really something. Yesterday I started reading his The Sign of Jonas and I found gems scattered all round!

I have only one desire and that is the desire for solitude – to disappear into God, to be submerged in His peace, to be lost in the secret of His Face.

Let me keep silence in this world, except in so far as God wills and in the way He wills it. Let me at least disappear into the writing I do.

God’s love takes care of everything I do. He guides me in my work and in my reading…

Reading Merton makes me want to leave the law profession and become a monk! Maybe it’s not too late.