Monday, July 18, 2022

"Covering" the Latest Reading

It's been a terrific couple of months on the reading front and all of those pictured below make my "heartiest recommendation" status. 


Thursday, July 07, 2022

For the Next Book Brunch, It's Clarence Thomas

Here's giving you plenty of time to get ready...

The next Vital Signs Ministries Book Brunch discussion will be on Saturday, September 10 at 9 AM. And in celebration of the Roe v Wade reversal, we will honor one of the paramount heroes of the struggle by reading and discussing together Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words, edited by Michael Pack and Mark Paoletta. Let us know if you're interested.

By the way, here's a bit of what Christian Book Distributors say about the book:

“Who is Justice Clarence Thomas, in his own words? 

In the follow-up to the wildly successful documentary by the same name, Created Equal builds on dozens of hours of groundbreaking, one-on-one interviews with Thomas to share a new, expanded account of his powerful story for the first time. 

Producer Michael Pack and Mark Paoletta, a lawyer who worked alongside Thomas during his confirmation, dive deep into the Justice’s story. Drawing on a rich array of historical documents and unreleased conversations with Thomas, his wife, and those who knew him best, Created Equal is a timeless account of faith, race, power, and personal resilience.”

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

"Like a Set of Beggars" -- Revolutionary War Veterans Disrespected by Congress

My generation remembers (with great shame) how American soldiers returning from brave and sacrificial service to their country in the Vietnam War met with despicably unjust and ungrateful attitudes from liberal politicians and a snobbish minority of the public.

But it wasn’t the first time that such selfish and shallow irresponsibility had been shown to American soldiers. Joseph J. Ellis, writing in The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-9 (page 60) describes the response of a majority of low-minded politicians to veterans of the Revolutionary War.

“Congress eventually voted to provide full pay for five years for officers in lieu of half pay for life, but doing so was a purely rhetorical exercise, since there was no money in the federal coffers to pay anyone. Even that meaningless commitment generated widespread criticism, especially in New England, where returning officers were greeted with newspaper editorials describing them as blood-beaked vultures feeding at the public trough.

At least in retrospect, the dissolution of the Continental Army in the spring of 1783 was one of the most poignant scenes in American history, as the men had stayed the course and won the war were ushered off without pay, with paper pensions and only grudging recognition of their service. Washington could only weep: “To be disbanded… like a set of beggars, needy, distressed, and without prospect…will drive every man of Honor and Sensibility to the extreme Horrors of Despair.’”

Excellence in Historiography: Morison's Two-Ocean War

Among the many pleasures of my 4th re-reading of Samuel Eliot Morison's Two Ocean War: A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War (Atlantic, Little & Brown, 1963, 610 pages.) are the wide breadth (and depth) of his research; his willingness to see the long view of historical developments; and a pronounced willingness to positively applaud democratic principles, idealism, and heroic personages instead of skulking behind the oh-so-modern pose of moral neutrality.

And Morison is not only educational, he is frequently entertaining and inspirational. His doesn't try to hide his opinions as most modern historians do. He is honest enough to state them...but wise and responsible enough to back them up with facts and a balanced perspective.

Most modern historians, however, have a bucketful of "progressive" assumptions, biases, and presuppositions with which they drench their historiography, all the while insisting that they alone are the indifferent and objective spectators. 


Give me an honest and candidly involved historian every time. Give me Shelby Foote, Walter Lord, John Toland, David McCullough, Antonia Fraser, Roland Bainton, Paul Johnson, Stephen Ambrose, Bruce Catton, William Prescott, Basil Liddell Hart, Alexander Solzhenitsyn...

And yes, give me Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison too.

I couldn't recommend Two-Ocean War more highly.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

William Tyndale & the English Bible

Erasmus, the great humanist scholar of the late Middle Ages performed one of the most important projects of his time when he published an entire Greek New Testament in a lucid translation which was true to the original manuscripts. Though himself a quiet and moderate man, a Catholic who had desires for only modest changes in the Church, his new translation would become a key spark for the Reformation throughout Europe.

In particular, a young priest and language scholar in England took Erasmus’ New Testament to his very heart. He was William Tyndale, a man who would later testify that he found Jesus Christ in that Greek New Testament and, depending upon Christ's mercy, Tyndale dedicated his life to producing the Holy Scriptures in the English language.

However, Tyndale’s great vision was opposed by strictly and ruthlessly applied laws prohibiting the translation of the Bible into the language of the people. Indeed, parents had been burned at the stake simply for teaching their children the English version of the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments.

But God honored William Tyndale’s noble desires and the brave, diligent, prayerful work it required to bring them to pass. The Bible was translated into English and disseminated throughout the country. And though Tyndale paid the ultimate price, being martyred by strangulation and burning in October 1536, he considered his life's work a wonderful investment for his eternity.

The Bible in our own language, my oh, my.  We have heroes to thank for this awesome blessing and a heroic heritage to treasure. And, of course, a Bible in our own language that we should be reading (and obeying) much more than we do.

Extra note: The bronze statue shown here was created by J.E. Boehm in 1883. This bronze statue was placed in Whitehall Gardens on May 7th 1884 as part of the 80th anniversary of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

The Inscription on the front of the plinth reads...

William Tyndale 

First translator of the New Testament into English from the Greek. Born A.D. 1484, died a martyr at Vilvorde in Belgium, A.D. 1536. 

“Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path” - “the entrance of thy words giveth light.” Psalm CXIX. 105.130. 

“And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his son.” I. John V.II. 

The last words of William Tyndale were “Lord! Open the King of England's eyes”. Within a year afterwards, a Bible was placed in every parish church by the King's command.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Reading Together

Reading quality books is a very good thing.  Indeed, as almost everyone would agree, such a practice makes a person smarter, more interesting, and more appreciative.  And discussing those books with others only increases those values.  This is why Claire and I started the Notting Hill Napoleons book club way back in 1992 – a book fellowship involving Christian friends who read a classic novel every month and then get together to talk about it.  That group, by the way, is still going strong for we see how important it has been in not only stimulating us to read more, but also in sharpening our skills in literary criticism, meaningful conversation, and the application of a book’s lessons to practical life.

It was for the same reasons that Vital Signs Ministries began hosting book discussions way back in the 1990s and our current practice includes both small and large group book discussions.  The former is usually an agreement of 1-4 people to read the same book and discuss it over lunch at a coffee shop or cafe, while the latter takes the form of an evening party or Saturday morning brunch which we host at our home. Either way, we're encouraged (and made accountable) to read.

And to waste less time in more trivial pursuits.

The books we choose for these discussions cover a wide range – history, the culture wars, literature, and Christian living.  But they are all selected for the purpose of making us more informed, effective, and consistent servants of Christ’s kingdom. Want a few examples? Sure, let me list a few of the more memorable titles and authors from over the years: 

Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan; 
Heaven by Randy Alcorn; 
Judging Thomas: The Life and Times of Clarence Thomas by Ken Foskett; 
Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali; 
A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer; 
A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte; 
Eugenics and Other Evils by G.K. Chesterton; 
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame; 
Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas; 
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis:
Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America by Mark Levin; 
Check with Chip on Stem Cell Research by Chip Maxwell; 
Enemies and Allies by Joel Rosenberg; 
Heaven: Your Real Home by Joni Eareckson Tada; 
Everlasting: God’s Faithfulness to Israel by Stuart Cunliffe; 
The Rush Revere books by Rush Limbaugh; 
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. 
And the latest?  The Apostate by Dr. Mark Christian. 

If you are interested in joining us for these Vital Signs book discussions, please let us know.  And we will, of course, continue to promote them beforehand in our monthly letters and Vital Signs Blog.

A Remarkable New (Yet Very Old) Christian Adventure

 If you loved Pilgrim’s Progress, now you need to read what inspired it. Labyrinth of the World was written 55 years prior to Pilgrim’s Progress yet it remains virtually unknown to English readers. Now, thanks to Timothy Price, this work has been made more available in a beautiful new edition.

Friday, June 03, 2022

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from Sherlock Holmes! -- Volume Four (of Four)

Let's see, Volume 4 of this series makes it a “Top Forty” of sage conclusions about life from the greatest of all detectives. 

Perhaps these quotations will take you in a hansom cab back through the fogs of London to the 21B Baker Street digs of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson where the game is always afoot.

And, for handy reference, here are the previous posts: Volume 1; Volume 2; and Volume 3.

1) “Crime is common. Logic is rare.”

2) “Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.”

3) “It is fortunate for this community that I am not a criminal.”

4) “As a rule, the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be.”

5) “Woman's heart and mind are insoluble puzzles to the male.”

6) “We can but try - the motto of the firm.”

7) “Idleness exhausts me completely.”

8) “An Eley's No. 2 [pistol] is an excellent argument with gentlemen who can twist steel pokers into knots.”

9) “There are always some lunatics about.”

10) “These are much deeper waters than I had thought.”

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned From Sherlock Holmes! -- Volume Three (of Four)

No, don’t worry. For those Baker Street Irregulars among you who haven’t yet had your fill of the great detective’s “points to ponder,” here are ten more from my catalog of Holmesian profundities. 

(By the way, the first two volumes are, respectively, here and here.)

1) “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius.”

2) “It's a wicked thing to tell fibs.”

3) “Chloroform vapour does not help the palate.”

4) “Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.”

5) “Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.”

6) “When one tries to rise above Nature, one is liable to fall below it.”

7) “To a great mind, nothing is little.”

8) “All knowledge comes useful to the detective.”

9) “If a herd of buffaloes had passed along, there could not be a greater mess.”

10) “What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable.”

Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from Sherlock Holmes! -- Volume Two (of Four)

Here’s the next installment of this series, being important “words to live by” from the greatest detective of all time.

(Oh yes; here’s Volume 1.)

1) “It is my business to know what other people don't know.”

2) “Work is the best antidote to sorrow.”

3) “Evil indeed is the man who has not one woman to mourn him.”

4) “It is better to learn wisdom late than never to learn it at all.”

5) “You can't play with edged tools forever without cutting those dainty hands.”

6) “Any truth is better than indefinite doubt.”

7) “Jealousy is a strange transformer of characters.”

8) “Dogs don't make mistakes.”

9) “I have investigated many crimes, but I have never yet seen one which was committed by a flying creature.”

10) “Our highest assurance of the goodness of providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”