A Picture of Sin with No Hope of Grace

In the process of adding Albert Camus’ final novel, The Fall, to the literature website, I was struck by the clarity of his perception of the universal sinfulness of man, and in particular his understanding that “all our righteousness is as filthy rags.”  While most humanists view man as essentially good and argue that his problems are the fault of society or some other external influence, Camus discerned that even the most noble acts of man are motivated by a deeply-ingrained selfishness.  Sadly, though, Camus saw the disease, but not the cure.  He leaves the reader with no hope because he refuses to accept the Gospel.  In my opinion, the book could provide a useful jumping-off point for a discussion of the human dilemma and its solution in Christ with a secularist.

Entering the Electronic Age

After queries from many people over the last few years, I’ve finally updated the site so all materials can be purchased electronically through Paypal using credit cards.  The books published by Planters Press can be placed in a shopping cart and will be shipped as soon as I receive your order (no cost for postage); if you prefer, you can order them from CreateSpace or Amazon and pay the shipping charges.  As far as the Sunday School curriculum is concerned, you can pay for it by Paypal and download the files from the website immediately after payment.  I only ask that you send me your church information for my records.  I trust this will make purchases from the website more convenient in this increasingly electronic age.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

When Jane Austen wrote Emma, she remarked that she had created “a character whom no one but me will much like.”  Unlike heroines such as Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, and Anne Elliot, Emma Woodhouse is not an immediately likable character; she is self-absorbed, manipulative, and convinced that she is able to run the lives of her friends better than they can themselves.  What this does, of course, is give the author an opportunity to show real, substantial change in her protagonist, and the Emma Woodhouse at the end of the novel, having learned the value of repentance, forgiveness, and humility, is very different from the prideful young woman at the beginning.  Critics over the years have disagreed with the author in her assessment of her own creation, and you can now judge for yourself with this latest addition to the literature study guides.

Familiar Stories and Puzzling Prophecies

The book of Daniel contains some of the most familiar stories in the Old Testament, ones learned by children in Sunday School in their earliest years – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the Fiery Furnace, Belshazzar and the Handwriting on the Wall, and Daniel and the Lion’s Den.  Few people give much attention to the second half of the book, however, because it consists of four prophetic visions that are both confusing and controversial and have puzzled interpreters since the early years of the Church.  Eschatological speculation is not healthy, yet the prophetic passages at the end of the book have much to encourage us when we consider the basic principles God is trying to communicate to His people.  I have now added an adult Sunday School course on the book in which the fundamental themes that unite it are emphasized, along with the ways in which it points to Christ and can be applied to our own lives today.

Love, War, and the Meaning of Life

Ernest Hemingway incorporated much of his personal experience into his writing, including the time he spent as a volunteer ambulance driver in Italy during the First World War.  He built on his experience to craft a novel, A Farewell to Arms, that asks serious questions about the meaning of life in the context of a brutal war and a brief love affair that grew out of it.  If there is no God and death is the end of everything, how should we deal with the joys and pains of everyday life, especially as they are intensified under the pressures of slaughter and devastation on every side?  Hemingway, sadly, has no answers, but this entry in the Classic Literature website asks the student to consider the questions in the light of God’s Word.

The First Historical Novel

Sir Walter Scott was one of the most popular writers of the nineteenth century.  Some critics of the day even dared to compare him with Shakespeare.  Though his popularity waned in the twentieth century and few of his works are read today, he has the distinction of being the first writer to pen an historical novel – a genre that became very popular, not only in Britain and America, but in France and Russia as well.  The first of the many historical novels Scott wrote was Waverley, the tale of a naive English soldier who becomes enmeshed in the rebellion of the Scottish Highlands led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 (the setting is similar to that found in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped).  This novel is the most recent book added to the Notes on Classic Literature found on this website.

The Latest from Planters Press

Have you ever had trouble understanding how the books of the Old Testament fit together?  You may be familiar with the traditional divisions of Law, History, Wisdom Literature, and Prophecy, but these are arranged largely by genre rather than by chronology.  Most Old Testament surveys, Bible handbooks, and commentaries treat the text in canonical order, making it difficult to see what fits where in terms of time sequence.  In order to remedy that difficulty, I have put together a book called The Road to Redemption – A Chronological Overview of the Old Testament.  It deals with the books in chronological order, weaving the non-historical books into the books of history in a way that helps the reader see where they fit.  It also emphasizes the ways in which the literature of the Old Testament presents God’s plan of redemption and points to the work of Christ.

Guidance for Pastors and Their Churches

The most recent addition to the adult Sunday School courses offered on the website is a study of the Pastoral Epistles.  By the time Paul wrote I and II Timothy and Titus near the end of his earthly ministry, Christianity was spreading very rapidly throughout the Roman Empire.  As a result, organization was essential in order for these young congregations to grow, prosper, and propagate the Gospel.  Paul provides instructions, not only for organization of the churches, but also for sound teaching and the means of dealing with those who were energetically spreading false doctrine and encouraging ungodly practice.  The guidance he gives was not just relevant to the infant churches of the first century, however; it is also valuable to us as we seek to live faithfully in a culture that is every bit as alien to the message of the Gospel as was that of ancient Rome.

If Man Has a Sinful Nature, Must One Be a Misanthrope?

Often great writers who are not Christians nonetheless show tremendous insight into human nature.  Those insights, however, rarely lead to biblical conclusions about how to deal with man’s sins and society’s ills.  Moliere, a playwright subject to the censorship of Louis XIV and the Catholic Church in seventeenth-century France, was a keen observer of human nature and society’s problems, but he was no social reformer.  His plays, however, can be helpful in shedding light on man’s hypocrisy – a problem for which only the Gospel provides a real and lasting solution.  The latest addition to the literature website is Moliere’s The Misanthrope, which humorously points out the wrongness of taking the speck out of your brother’s eye without first removing the log from your own, but fails to suggest how that log ought to be removed.

Getting Old

After the ordeal of preparing a study guide for War and Peace, I decided to tackle a shorter work.  A play would be nice, I thought.  While in college I had acted in Jean Anouilh’s Becket, and I thought it would be a worthwhile addition to the website.  Not until I was halfway through the play did I realize that I had already written it up nine years ago.  Well, that’s what comes with advancing age, I suppose.  In any case, the new study guide is somewhat expanded from the original, so hopefully readers of the website will find it helpful.