MisterJoshuaRay’s Top 5 Posts of 2015


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2015 is almost over and 2016 is speedily approaching. As we look forward to the coming year it’s natural that we also look back and reflect on what this current year has brought.

I’d like to take a second to say thank you: thanks for reading this blog, commenting, and liking or retweeting any links I sent out. This blog isn’t much more than a journal if there’s no one out there reading and engaging, so thanks for helping be a part (note: not apart…pet peeve of mine!) of it.

As a personal reflection here on the blog, here are the top 5 posts I wrote/shared this year. It’s an eclectic bunch encompassing everything from politics to religion to entertainment to books old and new. (You can click on each title to read the original post)

1. 5 Quotes Worth Sharing from “Go Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee

The top post on my blog in 2015 is both a short review and a collection of quotes from Harper Lee’s second-released novel and proved to be popular just as much because of the book’s controversy and lack of quality as its positive qualities.

2. Book Review: “God and the Gay Christian” by Matthew Vines

After hearing a good amount (both positive and critical) about Matthew Vines’ book from other sources I decided to read it myself and share what I found in a post that went on to be the second most popular post of 2015. While I found Vines’ arguments about reinterpreting the Biblical texts concerning homosexuality to be well-articulated on the whole, I did not find them convincing or well-founded. However, reading the book DID change my mind about another issue! I’m glad to have read it both for the ways it challenged me and changed me.

3. C.S. Lewis on Homosexuality

Coming in at third in 2015 is a post similar to #2. While reading Surprised by Joy I came across a quote explaining Lewis’ relative paucity of quotes concerning homosexuality even in works like his autobiography that described conditions in the English boarding school system that included pederasty. His reasoning and restraint are a lesson for us all, and not just on this issue!

4. 40? More like *5* The Force Awakens Plot Holes

Though this is currently the most recent post on the blog, it rocketed into the top 5 posts in just a short amount of time. Seems Star Wars is dominating not just the box office but everything that it touches. Here I respond to an article listing a list of 40 alleged plot-holes in The Force Awakens and only find a handful to be actual objections.

5. Christian, Are You Celebrating SCOTUS’ Marriage Decision?

In the weeks following Obergefell v. Hodges I put up this short blog linking to two other articles responding to the decision. Despite its short length, the subject matter boosted the post into the top 5 here on the blog.

Honorable Mention: FREEsources-The Kneeling Christian
Although this post was written last year in 2014, it was STILL the most popular post on my blog in 2015 and (combined with last year) also of the whole blog! I’m pretty surprised by this and can only explain it by conjecturing that since the image I chose is now in the top page of results when you do a google image search for “kneeling prayer” or similar terms it must be people just looking for a picture to use that stumble upon my blog. Random!

 

Well that’s all, folks! Wishing that the rest of 2015 and also 2016 are full of blessing, growth, and God’s sustaining and loving presence through every circumstance for all of you!

40? More like *5* The Force Awakens Plot Holes


 

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This past week I’ve seen an article pop up a few times listing 40 Plot Holes from The Force Awakens. The list really is not very good, partially because I enjoyed The Force Awakens immensely but mainly because it’s just a low-quality article written by someone who seems not to understand how movies work in general or who wasn’t paying attention to this movie specifically. To demonstrate this, I will go through each proffered “plot hole” and assign it to one of four categories. These categories are:

Coincidence: The Star Wars universe is one where things are sometimes guided by the Force. The proton torpedoes sometimes just make it into that two-meter exhaust port. Sometimes the droid lands exactly where it needs to on the planet right near the very people who will help it get to where it needs to go. Scoundrels like Han might call it “luck,” but others know it to be the workings of a higher power. These aren’t plot holes–they’re how Star Wars movies work.

Future: The Force Awakens is the first movie in a planned trilogy, just like A New Hope. Yes, there are some unanswered questions, but that’s how trilogies work. Some things are intentionally left out and would have made the movie incredibly unwieldy and plodding. If these are unanswered after Episodes VIII and IX then maybe it’s a problem, but for the present let’s chill, shall we?

Not a plot hole: Some of these are just pouty reactions by someone looking for other problems to pad out a list of 40 plot holes. Let’s call them like they are, shall we?

Plot hole: The rarest of the categories (as we shall see), this is just something that can’t be readily explained or is an actual problem that better writing could have fixed/anticipated.

Finally, MAJOR SPOILERS in the rest of the article. With that warning, let’s have a blow-by-blow account of the list, shall we? (I’ve reproduced the questions in italics before my answers so you don’t need to go back and forth between articles, but I’ve left off the elaborations each question has in the original article unless they’re part of my response or relevant)

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C.S. Lewis on the Value of History


All cultures at all times have had central tenets or values they hold to be fundamentally true and that are so integral to the culture’s beliefs and systems that most people in said culture are not even aware that they are holding these “beliefs that seem to not be beliefs but unchallengable, self-evident common sense” (Keller, Preaching, 125).

Our culture is no different. One such example is our culture’s general acceptance that “we are products of an impersonal universe yet [must] be committed to human rights” (Ibid.). These are not two assumptions that naturally stand side-by-side, yet our Western society has lashed them together with the dual cords of “scientific” and “enlightened” thought.

How do we become aware of such patterns of thought in our own worldview and even begin to evaluate whether or not they are indeed true? The first step is to become aware of them, and an excellent place to begin here is to be an avid student of the past. As C.S. Lewis explains:

…we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in  many places in not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.

-C.S. Lewis, from “Learning in War-Time”

Study the past, then, because of its value in helping to illuminate the blind spots we have today in the present.

Top 7 Books I Read in 2015


As of yesterday I’m all finished with my final exams and papers for the semester, so what better way to celebrate then look back on the best books I read this year?

As the title suggests, these are not books published in 2015 but rather the best that I personally read this year. So without any further ado…..The Top 7 Books of 2015!

_240_360_Book.1491.cover1. Scary Close by Donald Miller

From my earlier review of the book: “Scary Close is a book of truth spoken in grace. It’s refreshing and encouraging and a must-read for any fan of Don’s, anyone seeking insight on intimacy, or anyone simply hungry for authenticity in a world where it’s far too uncommon.”

2. Home by Marilynne Robinsonhome

The central theme of this novel may very well be summed up with the following quote from the book: “It expresses the will of God to sustain us in this flesh, in this life. Weary or bitter or bewildered as we may be, God is faithful. He lets us wander so we will know what it means to come home.” p. 102.

Marilynne Robinson has been a favorite author of mine ever since I read Gilead and this follow-up was a treat start to finish. Can’t wait to dig into Lila (her latest novel set in the same town as Gilead and Home) soon!

 

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3. S. (Or Ship of Theseus) by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

An incredibly ambitious meta-novel that works on every level. The book within the book, “The Ship of Theseus,” is a novel in the style and tradition of Coleridges’ “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and would be an excellent work in its own right. The history of its fictional author, V.M. Straka, and the question of his identity and potential involvement with a shadowy cadre of writer/secret agents is similarly intriguing and well-conceived. And the story of Jen and Eric’s in-the-margins relationship adds yet another compelling and exciting layer to it all.

S. is a one-of-a-kind story of identity, change, struggle, and love. The most fun I’ve had reading a book in a long time.

4. Preaching by Timothy Kellerpreaching

It wouldn’t be a list of Josh Ray’s favorite books if there wasn’t a book by Keller on it, right?

Tim Keller’s Preaching is another home-run. While perhaps not as life-changing or spectacular as Prayer, this volume is filled with insights and wisdom from cover to cover. The chapter on “Preaching and the (Late) Modern Mind” and the bibliography of the best other books on preaching are each worth the price of the book alone!

And you don’t need to be a preacher to read it. “This book,” says Keller in the introduction, “aims to be a resource for all those who communicate their Christian faith in any way.” (P.S. Here’s a post I did with some of my favorite quotes from it!)

baxter reformed5. The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter

An indispensable guide and exhortation to not just preach to the crowd but teach to the individuals and families. It’s earned a place on my reference shelf for the future!

Baxter has written a book that doesn’t shy away from leaving you like you just got punched in the teeth with some good old gospel truth but that also leaves you encouraged and exhorted to minister faithfully. A keeper for sure.

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6. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis

There’s a reason that this book is perhaps the most widely-read book aside from the Bible in history. A collection of insights and meditations on Christ’s example and our proper response to it, the Imitation has much to teach us today about the Way of Christ.

orthodoxy7. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

I was blown away by how relevant and insightful Chesterton’s testimony of how and why he found Christianity convincing was over 100 years after he wrote it. It seems our world is not so different than it was then. Orthodoxy is a refreshing and revealing diagnosis of some of the ills of modernity and powerfully communicated defense of the faith. (It’s also intriguing for a fan of C.S. Lewis to see the ways he was influenced by and came to resemble Chesteron).

 

What about you? What were the highlights of your reading this year? Any on this list that you read too? Or any that now have piqued your interest?