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Worldview Study: Understanding the Times (review)

December 18, 2018 Leave a comment

Nearing the end of the 2018 Challies Reading Challenge, I recently read a lengthy worldview book (from a frequent Kindle deal), Jeff Noebels’ “Understanding the Times:  A Survey of Competing Worldviews.”

The writing style is for laypeople, straightforward, though at over 500 pages it requires commitment to stick with it.  The first chapters seem to cover more general material common to any discussion about apologetics and other worldviews, as the book gets into describing several of the major worldviews:  Secularism, Marxism, post-modernism, Islam, New Spiritualism – and Christianity.  Of the non-Christian views, I have been most familiar with Secularism and New Spiritualism (which is a catch-all label for Hinduism, “New Age” and transcendental meditation), plus acquaintance with post-modernism and Islam.  Understanding the Times does not attempt an exhaustive look at all the different religious ideas or various cults, but interacts with the major ideas that Christians are likely to come across; modern-day Judaism is a smaller worldview; Buddhism and Hinduism have their differences, and have their differences from westernized “New Age,” but that would be the topic for other books – such as Marvin Olasky’s The Religions Next Door.  Marxism seems an odd choice to include, as an idea that enjoyed more popularity up through the mid-20th century, but the authors make the case for including this worldview which, unfortunately, has contributed in far greater measure to overall human misery and death in the last century, than other ideologies.

Where this book gets interesting is the chapters that consider several basic disciplines that are at the foundation of life in this world, and each of the worldview’s viewpoint (if any) at each of these points: theology, philosophy, ethics, biology, psychology, sociology, law, politics, economics, and history.  I particularly liked the chapters on ethics, politics, economics, and history, as well as the overall use of illustrations and quotes from popular literature (such as Les Miserables and Lord of the Rings, among others) as examples to help compare and contrast different worldviews on specific issues.

As an introduction to ethics, Understanding the Times notes the types of ethical theories:

  • Theories about ends (teleology): judging actions as right or wrong, based on the end goals desired. What is the good life?  How might the good life be secured for as many people as possible?  This is the ever-pragmatic “the ends justifies the means” approach.  This was the view of, for example, Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, Nietzsche, and John Dewey.
  • Theories about duty (deontology): What ought we to do? Whether we like it or not, we “ought” to do what is right merely because right is right.  Philosophers of this view include Immanuel Kant and Rene Descartes.

Christianity does not fit neatly into either of these categories, but resolves the limitations of each view.  Addressing the problem of secularism (atheism) and morality, this book observes:

Christians can applaud that biblical morality is being upheld, and it is to (their) credit that they know a good idea when they see one.  What Secularists fail to address, however, is why these values are worth defending as moral declarations.  Cornelius Van Til’s assessment is apt:  they are sitting in God’s lap in order to slap him in the face.  In other words, secularists draw on truths explained only by God’s existence and form them into arguments to deny His existence altogether.

A (brief) summary of five Christian views regarding political involvement:

  1. Christians shouldn’t be involved. – religion and the intellect occupy different domains. An example here is Henry Ward Beecher,
  2. Society isn’t worth redeeming – late 1800s, early 1900s. The view of D.L. Moody.
  3. Political structures can’t change the human heart
  4. Christianity is only about the institution of the church and is not relevant to civil government: “Two-kingdoms theology.”  Michael Horton is noted as an example of this view.
  5. Christians should be involved, and they should try to take over

Overall this is another interesting book on the basics of worldview study, with a good survey overview of many of the common non-Christian views–and what the Christian worldview proclaims, by contrast.  It has often been a Kindle sale deal, and is worth reading.

Online Free Resources: David Baron and Adolph Saphir

July 3, 2012 12 comments

David Baron

Following up on past reader recommendations, I recently looked up further details concerning authors David Baron and Adolph Saphir.  Both men were Jewish Christians, Jews who converted to Christianity as young adults, and authors of several Christian books, which are now available in print and other media formats.  See brief biographies here:  Adolph Saphir (1831-1891) and David Baron (1855 – 1926)

Amazon currently lists David Baron’s The History of the Ten “Lost” Tribes: Anglo-Israelism Examined, Kindle version at no charge.  Note that the Kindle for PC (free software download from Amazon) as well as the Amazon Cloud Reader (web-browser Kindle) can be used for any Amazon Kindle title.

Another new online reader I just discovered is Google-Play, a browser program used with your Google account, with some functionality similar to Kindle for PC: viewing page by page, and search feature.  Like Amazon, Google Play has many books available, some free and others for purchase.  The pages are images from actual print books, and so you cannot select and copy-paste actual text.  However, Google Play offers a few free books not available in Kindle format, including David Baron’s “The Scattered nation, nos. 13-28: occasional record of the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel,” as well as nos. 45-42 of the same book, and “Types, Psalms and Prophecies: Being a Series of Old Testament Studies.”  Google Play also has a few titles from Saphir.

Archive.org has the largest collection of Saphir books, available in several formats including PDF, web-view, full text file, and Kindle reader format. The Kindle format has its own link, which prompts to save the file or open in the Kindle for PC (already installed on the PC).  It’s possible that the saved file could be transferred to a Kindle device, so if anyone has a Kindle feel free to try and let me know if and how that works.  I have downloaded a few of the Saphir books, now in my “Kindle for PC” library, to begin reading.

Adolph Saphir

Adolph Saphir books from Archive.org:

David Baron books from Archive.org (available in several formats):

Addendum: free online writings of Alfred Edersheim, at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.  Available in several formats including PDF, browser and plain text.

Another update (7/27):  David Baron Book in Online web format, at Precept Austin site:  The Jewish Problem: Its Solution, or Israel’s Present and Future (1891).