Review of A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay

A Head Full of Ghosts. By Paul Tremblay. New York: William Morrow, 2015. 286pp. ISBN 978-0062363237 $25.99

A good horror novel is hard to find. Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts was the winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Novel, presented by the Horror Writers Association for superior achievement in horror writing for novels. One would expect, on this basis that A Head Full of Ghosts would deliver a significant fright to its readers, and on that point you would be quite correct.

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Review of Blackwater, by Michael McDowell

Blackwater. By Michael McDowell. 1983. Reprint, Richmond, Va.: Valancourt, 2017. 800pp. ISBN 9781943910816 $27.99 (paper).

There are certain fiction writers that get overlooked primarily because the literati have decided, for reasons inscrutable to the rest of us, that what these authors have produced is popular and therefore not literature—not real literature at any rate. With a B.A. and M.A. from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University, the literati should have stood in awe of Michael McDowell; yet because he wrote popular books—worse yet, genre books—McDowell’s work has most been forgotten except in the darkest corners of the horror community.

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On Academic Credentials and Self-Policing

When I read this article at The Aquila Report, I’m sad to say that I wasn’t shocked. As a matter of fact the first thing I did was send a Facebook message to a friend with whom I attended seminary and asked, “Didn’t you and I talk about this a few years ago?”

For at least four years, I have had gnawing questions about Ravi Zacharias’ academic credentials. It seems that my private doubts were shared by another man, whom I’ve never met nor contacted in any way, and that he has taken his concerns public.

As things stand now, there are a number of accusations that are being leveled at Ravi Zacharias; all of these, however, can be reduced to two over-arching categories. Today I want to look at the first category, which I’ll call résumé padding, for lack of a better term. From a procedure standpoint, I’ll offer a summary statement of the accusation which will be followed by my own observations.

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A Tribute to Dr. Morton H. Smith (1923–2017)

The Reverend Doctor Morton Howison Smith is dead.

Word reached me of his death last night; I was saddened by the news, though I was not surprised by it. Dr. Smith had recently suffered a stroke, which in turn lead to the discovery of a brain tumor. Due to his advanced age, it was decided to forego treatment of the tumor.

He was, in my opinion, a giant of a man.

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Virtue Ethics, the Billy Graham Rule, and Mike Pence: A Response to Karen Swallow Prior

In the past week there has been much ado about Mike Pence and the “Billy Graham Rule.” The criticisms aimed at the Vice President for refusing to dine alone with a woman other than his wife have been all over the map; from accusations of “old-school sexism” to claiming that Pence’s refusal is “rape culture at work,” it’s been a rough go of things for Vice President Pence. The most recent article that I’ve seen is from Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, professor of English at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and it is to that article that I wish to respond.

What sets Dr. Prior’s article apart from the others—apart from the fact that it is entirely lacking the hysterical tone found (in varying degrees) in the articles I’ve linked to above—is that hers addresses the issue from the standpoint of virtue ethics. In this Dr. Prior is to be commended; she seeks to address the controversy at its most crucial point: What are the ethics of Vice President Pence’s decision, and is there a better way than the method he has chosen? The question that her article raises is worth considering and considering closely.

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The Grammar of Mark’s Gospel (Introduction)

Greek Manuscript Beginning today I’ll be starting a series of posts that will function as something of a grammatical guide to the Gospel of Mark. I have a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that I will be examined on Mark by the candidates and credentials committee of my presbytery at some ill-defined point in the future.

The Gospel of Mark has a well-established reputation for being relatively simple to read in Greek; speaking only for myself, I’m not sure that this reputation is deserved. It certainly lacks some of the linguistic polish and stylistic niceties that one finds in, say, Hebrews (an example that’s on the other end of the New Testament’s literary spectrum); Mark’s use of Greek is certainly more plain—often bordering on rough—when compared to John or Luke, yet his message comes through quite clearly.

My goal is (obviously, I should think) not to produce anything like a commentary on Mark’s gospel. Such an attempt is better left to those who are far more qualified than I am. Instead, I hope to produce what will be (at absolute best) a grammatical guide to Mark’s gospel. It is only fair to admit upfront that I will be very dependent on a number of sources in doing so (e.g., Dan Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics), however, the grammatical comments are mine, and mine alone; Dr. Wallace and the others upon whom I will depend shouldn’t be held responsible for my decisions—decisions which may very well be erroneous, but which are made in a good-faith effort to better understand Mark’s grammar for the purposes of exegesis and exposition.

I sincerely hope that the material I post will be helpful to someone other than myself. If so, I’m grateful. We’ll start tomorrow with Mark 1:1–11.


Forthcoming Reviews

I am juggling reading several books at the moment, all of which I will be reviewing in the next two weeks. Here’s what you can look forward to coming up at Reformed Reviews:

  • Executing the Rosenburgs: Death and Diplomacy in a Cold War World. By Lori Clune. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. 280pp. ISBN 9780190265885 $29.95 (hardcover).
  • Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization. By Os Guinness. Downer’s Grove, Ill.: IVP Books, 2016. 224pp. ISBN 9780830844654 $20.00 (hardcover).
  • Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate. By Michelle Lee-Barnewall. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic & Brazos Press, 2016. 240pp. ISBN 9780801039577 $22.99 (paper).
  • So Pastor, What’s Your Point? By Dennis J. Prutow. Philadelphia: Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, 2010. 418pp. ISBN 9780981553054. Price Unknown (hardback).

This last work, So Pastor, What’s Your Point? will be the subject of a two-part review that I hope pastors and seminarians will find helpful and that I’m really looking forward to posting!

Review of Christian Theistic Evidences, by Cornelius Van Til

Cornelius Van Til, Christian Theistic Evidences. Edited by K. Scott Oliphant. 2nd edition. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Publishing, 2016. 288pp. ISBN 9781596389236 $19.99 (paper).

I have posted before about the importance of Van Til’s Christian Theistic Evidencesso I’ll not belabor all of the things I’ve already said. Allow me, however, to offer this in the spirit of a review of this work.

Van Til (as I’ve mentioned) is a difficult author for most to read; however excellent one might find his lectures (and they are excellent, indeed) his writing lacks that pungency and humor that characterized his lectures. Thus he has had a number of men step forward as his interpreters to a more popular audience; chief among them are John Frame and the late Greg Bahnsen. Sadly, it seems that Bahnsen often overlooked the intensely theological nature of Van Til’s apologetic (presenting it in more traditional philosophical categories), and Frame dismisses some of his mentors most cogent insights. Thankfully, Van Til has a current interpreter that combines the best of Bahnsen’s philosophical acumen with a thorough grasp of the theological underpinnings of Van Til’s thought. That man is Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, professor of apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Dr. Oliphint has taken it upon himself to see many of Van Til’s works re-typset and reprinted, and has added extraordinarily helpful explanatory notes to the new editions of classic works of Van Tillian presuppositionalism. This title is no different, and deserves to be on the shelf of any Christian interested in defending their faith in a way that doesn’t give up any supposedly “neutral” ground to the unbeliever.

Buy this book!