Monday, December 20, 2010


The Measure of a Man is a 1974 book on Christian living by Gene A. Getz. Here, Getz briefly explores twenty criteria for godly character listed by Paul in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Paul was writing with respect to church leaders, and Getz is specifically addressing men, but the principles here are for all Christians.

In The Measure of a Man, Getz has devoted one chapter to each of Paul’s twenty criteria. These are short chapters: three to six pages discussing the characteristic followed by a couple pages of self-evaluation questions and ways to improve. What Getz has to say is generally good, but brief; it’s enough to make the open-minded reader consider his behavior, but for serious growth in most any of these areas, the reader will want to move on to other, more in-depth resources, and perhaps, in some cases, counseling.

Theologically, The Measure of a Man is has no major red flags. Getz has obvious fundamentalist/Pentecostal beliefs, but there’s nothing discussed here that should turn off  Christians of other flavors. And since nothing here is explored in terribly great depth, the book’s ecumenical appeal is undamaged.

The Measure of a Man is a short, fast read that should, at the least, inspire some self-reflection in any Christian who’s honest with himself.


Monday, December 13, 2010

ALAS, BABYLON by Pat Frank

Alas, Babylon is a 1959 novel by Pat Frank. Centering on the inhabitants of a small Florida town, it chronicles the events leading up to, during and following a full-scale nuclear war.

In this, one of the original nuclear apocalypse stories, Frank does a good job working through the premise, and while the novel gets off to something of a slow start, Frank keeps the pages turning. He’s primarily concerned with the requirements for immediate survival, and he does an adequate job on this front.

The biggest knock on Alas, Babylon is Frank’s writing, which often feels amateurish. Showing a distinct distrust of the reader, he regularly belabors his audience with overly-detailed descriptions of people and things, and constantly puts artificial, expository dialogue in the mouths of his characters. Frank also skips or rushes through a number of important scenes. That the 2005 Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition of this novel is riddled with typos doesn’t help matters.

The second-biggest knock on Alas, Babylon is the severe degree to which Frank underestimates the effect of radiation, both in regard to population survival and post-nuclear ecology. This creates both an unusually large number of survivors and a sound reliance on fishing and agriculture only months after the war. It doesn’t ruin the book, but it’s rather jarring.

With his focus on immediate survival, Frank tends to avoid looking at the long-term ramifications altogether – his characters aren’t particularly interested in them, either. Instead he implies that over time, humanity in general and the United States in particular will recover, and even restore themselves to where they were. Frank suggests a purely secular hope for humanity that feels extremely shallow.

On the whole, Frank does a solid job of working through the apocalypse, and the story overcomes its flaws enough that Alas, Babylon is a thoroughly readable if not particularly wonderful novel.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

MIRACLES by C. S. Lewis

Miracles, originally published in 1947 and revised in 1960, is a book on Christian apologetics by C. S. Lewis. Using philosophical and logical arguments, Lewis asserts that man’s ability to reason proves that something (God) exists beyond Nature. From here he goes on to argue that this God (he assumes it’s the Christian God) can and has in fact done miracles.

This is a short book, but it can be tough. Readers without logical or philosophical training, no matter how intelligent, may quickly become lost, especially early. The reader may at this point decide to either give up or just take Lewis’s word for it.

Lewis’s arguments aren’t always airtight – he’s always been prone to let his arguments come down to “A versus B” without allowing for the possibility of  “C” – but he always talks a good game and is usually able to get through the weak spots on wit and readability. And so, for the most part, it is here, the more inscrutable parts of the work notwithstanding.

Miracles is hardly Lewis’s most accessible work, and it seems unlikely to persuade too many atheists, but it’s worth a read for anyone interested in a logical or philosophical approach to Christian apologetics.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Star Wars Art: Visions is a 2010 collection of Star Wars-themed art. George Lucas asked a “select group of great contemporary artists, of many different genres and styles, to create interpretations of Star Wars” (p. 9), and this is the result.

In short, Star Wars Art: Visions is a diverse collection of fan art (mostly paintings) by an impressive collection of artists that includes Alex Ross, H. R. Giger, Moebius, Gene Colan, and Julie Bell and Boris Vallejo. There’s a nice range of styles here, too, from traditional dramatic paintings to anime to art deco. In total, there’s about 140 pages of art.

As this collection is really just glorified fan art, rather than concept art, it isn’t quite as interesting as it might otherwise have been. For Star Wars devotees, though, it’s a must, and it’s certainly worth a look from casual fans as well.