A History of God The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by Karen Armstrong

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Is the Universe wholly apart from God, or is Creation in some sense, a part of God? Is God solely One in nature, or is there a Threeness, or a Manyness, or an Infinitude to God? Is God knowable or beyond knowledge? Is God personal or impersonal? Does God have feelings? Billions of people have had an opinion on these matters, and that’s the subject of this groundbreaking book. Those who depend upon the unshakeableness of their beliefs may find this book upsetting or worse, but to those who consider and question their faith, Karen Armstrong’s A History of God will be challenging and illuminating, and perhaps, as I found it, even thrilling.

The title goes for brevity over accuracy. Perhaps it could have been titled “A History of the Idea of God in Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” but that would have lacked panáche, to say the least. Armstrong concentrates on the changes in the concept of God, particularly the unique aspects of monotheistic theology, for instance, God as separate from Creation, God having a “personal” nature, and so forth.

religious cultures in conflict

Armstrong makes theological history simply fascinating. Beginning with the evidence for near-universal worship of a Sky God in prehistory, Armstrong traces the shift from the Sky God to the Earth Mother to polytheism, and then focuses on the revolutionary development of Abraham’s faith in one God which would clash with Canaanite, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian paganism for the next 1500 years. Many Christians interested in objective Biblical scholarship are familiar with the “Documentary Hypothesis” of the Pentateuch stemming from sources J, E, P, and D. Yet never have I seen an attempt to reconstruct the history and interplay of these perspectives throughout ancient Israel and the surrounding regions, and not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined it would be so illuminating…

For instance, Armstrong shows the revolutionary effect of the prophets in Judaism, beginning with Isaiah, at the time when the J and E material was still being written. She shows that prophetic Judaism was an “Axial religion,” a development of the Axial age when cities became the centers of culture in Asia and the Mediterranean. Other Axial religious developments included the teachings of Socrates, Plato, Zoroaster, the Upanishadic sages, the Buddha, Lao-tse, and Confucius. These all taught a universal ethic, insisting that God or the Absolute needed no temple, transcended all, was accessible to or within everyone, and that compassion was the highest virtue.

The prophets’ teaching that “God desires mercy, and not sacrifice,” was in sharp contrast to the priestly, Temple-based establishment, which insisted the Temple was the ultimate dwelling on God on Earth, having chosen the Israel out of all the nations. (This was the beginning of a clash which would endure until John the Baptist and the ministry of Jesus.)

But this is just the beginning. Instead of specializing on a single religion or period in time, Armstrong boldly takes up all the threads of theology throughout the four millennia of the monotheistic religions. With them, she weaves a tapestry of our collective religious experience which can help us understand our faith and ourselves better. Subsequent chapters focus on the life of Christ, early Christian theologies, understandings (and misunderstandings) of Trinity, the influence of Greek philosophy upon Christianity and Islam, mysticism, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and Fundamentalism.

three persons or three personae?

A special treat is her insight on Trinitarian thought. It was a surprise to learn that the term “persons” in “One God in three Persons” came from the Latin word personae, referring to the masks of characters in a drama. Personae was the Latin translation of the Greek word hypostases, “expressions.”  The different words used in Greek and Latin to describe the Trinity reflected (and influenced) very different understandings of God’s nature. For the Eastern bishops, the Trinity described how One God, whose essence (ousia) is mysterious, ineffable, utterly beyond and above being known or described in any way, imparts his energies (energeia) to Creation through the expressions (hypostases) of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In other words, the Eastern view of the Trinity reconciled knowledge of God as both personal and beyond personal, knowing and loving in his expressions, and yet beyond any human conception at all in essence. Have you ever heard it like that before?

world-wide paradigm shifts

Brilliant also is her ability to relate the historic phenomena of mysticism, reformation, rationalism, and fundamentalism beyond just the Christian perspective, into a world-wide perspective simultaneously developing in all “the religions of God.” Her revelation that the Reformation was not just a Protestant reformation, but a universal one is a brilliant example. As the printing press spread, the authority of the written word took on unprecedented dimensions. Galileo, she points out, was condemned by the Catholic Church not because his heliocentric universe conflicted with any doctrine or dogma, but because it contradicted an extremely literal reading of the Bible.

Especially helpful is her knowledge about Islamic history with revealing treatments on philosophical and mystical eras in Islam, before the relatively recent phenomenon of Islamic Fundamentalism. It was fascinating to learn that some Sufi schools were so devoted to Jesus that they adapted the Shahada to “there is no God but God, and Jesus is His Prophet.”

Despite five well-earned frims, A History of God has minor but significant flaws: Awkward sentences abound, and her lack of direct experience with conservative American Protestantism makes her disdain for it seem less than objective. Furthermore, errors like “Maurice Cerullo” (i.e. Morris Cerullo) make it feel insufficiently edited, particularly in the age of the Internet. However, none of these are fatal flaws by any means; Armstrong has created a landmark work, undoubtedly unique in its combination of depth and scope. What can I say, but read it!

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This was a worthy read, though I felt I could not pin down precisely where the author’s beliefs lie. There was a great amount of philosophical input (both pro & con), also there was a good amount of information as it related to several differing sects of Christianity, and information concerning the Islamic faith. However, I felt that she was a bit disingenuous with respect to the information presented about the Islamic faith. She had mentioned that Islam was, in essence, a successful coalescing religion which brought together and united the many clans (never once mentioning the warfare onslaught in order to do so, nor any mention of the believe in Allah or die ultimatum.) She touted that there was no compulsion in religion, yet time and again the Quran states (emphatically) or infers that there would be death to the non-believers.

Over all, I thought it was a decent-good read with much unknown information, philosophies, and other religious input. Worthy of the time it took to read. I feel a bit wiser as I understand a few things better, I have been made aware of a few things I didn’t know before, and I understand how others can be misguided as they do not do enough adequate research into their fields of study. They take what is written as truth and leave it there.

Godspeed & Good Reads!

Doc Murf

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Adopting The Minimalist Mindset: How To Live With Less, Downsize, And Get More Fulfillment From Life by Brian Night

LivingLess

A new revolution is currently taking place, one that looks set to change how we view ourselves and the objects around us. This new, groundbreaking revolution is the practice of minimalism. In a society consumed by debt, greed, and envy, this new trend looks to change the way we think about everything in our lives. We spend our entire lives chasing happiness by chasing our peers, consuming, and collecting goods. But with depression and anxiety at all time highs, this trend is clearly not working.

This Book Will Discuss:

The benefits of minimalism
How to practice minimalism
How to organize your home and your life
How to remove your ego from purchasing decisions
The habits of highly effective minamalists
How to cut your bills
Over 50 tips saving money, cutting bills, and spending time on your true passions
Much, much, more!
This has led to the rapid rise of a new age of living: living simply. The minimalist focuses more on time and presence then on objects. Happiness, helping others, and self-fulfillment are at the top of minimalists’ priorities. They realize that happiness does not come from consumption, but that true happiness comes from within. Spending time creating memorable moments is a much better experience then spending time on a new object.

A very quick read and informative. Just chock full of ideas to minimalize one’s life. A valuable read if you are looking to go minimal in your life.

Godspeed & Good Reads!

Doc Murf

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Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World! by Andrew Breitbart

RighteousIndignation

Known for his network of conservative websites that draws millions of readers everyday, Andrew Breitbart has one main goal: to make sure the “liberally biased” major news outlets in this country cover all aspects of a story fairly. Breitbart is convinced that too many national stories are slanted by the news media in an unfair way.

In RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION, Breitbart talks about how one needs to deal with the liberal news world head on. Along the way, he details his early years, working with Matt Drudge, the Huffington Post, and how Breitbart developed his unique style of launching key websites to help get the word out to conservatives all over.

A rollicking and controversial read, Breitbart will certainly raise your blood pressure, one way or another.

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I found this book to be extraordinarily written, in that it was aimed toward those people who need every possible aid in defending their view with respect to the Liberal Progressive mind set. If you are looking to get into the game, not necessarily politics or television or the media, but you are seeking a way to get your point across without giving up your ethics or moral standards. Many see themselves having to compromise in their morals or ethics, but you don’t.

Sadly, instead of having a discussion with some people actually becomes hard work when they have a Liberal, Progressive, Socialistic, or Communistic position. You do have to be a bit brash in order to get your point across, but do you actually think you will change their minds? Probably not, all you can hope for (from my experiences in evangelizing or witnessing to non-Christians) is to plant a seed in their minds.

Andrew Breitbart was a Liberal minded progressive person, by his own admission and by the indoctrination that he had gone throughout his schooling. But he was steered away from it through the ideas of others and began to think for himself. In his first chapter he showed that he repeated much of what he had been told and his mind was on autopilot…then he learned what he was doing and began to relearn things and became the man he was destined to be!

Godspeed & Good Reads!

Doc Murf

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Fred 2.0: New Ideas on How to Keep Delivering Extraordinary Results by Mark Sanborn

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Nine years ago, bestselling author and business consultant Mark Sanborn introduced the world to Fred, his postman, who delivered extraordinary service in simple but remarkable ways. Fred’s story inspired millions. Companies–even, cities–were inspired to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary each day.

Today, with stiff competition from the networked global economy, delivering extraordinary results is more important than ever. With Fred 2.0, Mark not only revisits the original Fred to gain new insights, but also equips all of us with new strategies to achieve more. You’ll not only be inspired by Fred 2.0, you’ll also have the tools and strategies to aim higher and achieve the extraordinary.

This was the follow-up to THE FRED FACTOR. While I have not read that book, yet; this one does give you insights as to how you can be a better Fred, Fred Shea that is. But, in a nutshell, the Fred Factor and Fred 2.0 are about the Biblical mind of the Golden Rule, loving your neighbor as yourself…but is more of a business use, not just a personal life venture. Although, by treating everyone as you would like to be treated, regardless of business or personal life will make your life a whole lot easier! No discerning is necessary as to who must be treated how…treat everyone you meet and come in contact with with love and respect! Go that extra mile with each person. THAT is the Biblical mindset!

Godspeed & Good Reads!

Doc Murf

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Victory at Any Cost: The Genius of Viet Nam’s Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap by Cecil B. Currey

Victory

Tells the full story of the man who fought three of the world’s great powers—and won. Cecil B. Currey makes clear one primary reason why America lost the Vietnam War: Vo Nguyen Giap. He has written the definitive biography of one of history’s greatest generals.

Unlike Generals throughout history, believing they must occupy the high ground, Giap grasped the hearts of the people. This was an extraordinary story of one of the most prolific Generals in the history of mankind. Starting with nothing he built up an army of citizens who focused on the people.

An excellent read and one of those books yous should place on the back-burner to read. I, personally, found it to be a true page turner.

Godspeed & Good Reads!

Doc Murf

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Living with Purpose: Devotions for Discovering Your God-Given Potential Kindle Edition by Myles Munroe

living

Inspiration That Will Unlock Your Potential and Release Your Destiny!

You were made for greatness, not mediocrity.

Every human being was formed in the image and likeness of the Creator—a God of purpose and destiny. In turn, it is Heaven’s perfect plan for you to maximize your life, fulfill your destiny and live with a sense of divine purpose!

In the Living With Purpose devotional, you will receive access to Biblical wisdom and spiritual insights that will help you face your day with increased vision and live your life with a greater sense of destiny.

Dr. Myles Munroe was more than a revolutionary ministry leader and bestselling author; he was a prophetic voice who called forth potential in the lives of those to whom he ministered. Through this collection of his timeless teachings on purpose and potential, Dr. Munroe encourages you to dream bigger, inspires your vision, and empowers your potential!

It’s time for you to live with divine purpose!

An inspiring book that will lead you through a biblical journey to search for your specific purpose in this life, in order to glorify God! A worthy and fast read, for certain.

Godspeed & Good Reads!

Doc Murf

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Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary by Marcus J. Borg

Jesus Uncovering the Life.png

From top Jesus expert Marcus Borg, a completely updated and revised version of his vision of Jesus—as charismatic healer, sage, and prophet, a man living in the power of the spirit and dedicated to radical social change.

Fully revised and updated, this is Borg’s major book on the historical Jesus. He shows how the Gospel portraits of Jesus, historically seen, make sense. Borg takes into account all the recent developments in historical Jesus scholarship, as well as new theories on who Jesus was and how the Gospels reflect that.

The original version of this book was published well before popular fascination with the historical Jesus. Now this new version takes advantage of all the research that has gone on since the 80s. The revisions establish it as Borg’s big but popular book on Jesus.

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In my opinion, this book is attempting to redefine who Jesus was and what the bible itself, is. Simply put I believe Mr. Borg believes in God, just not the way God is described in the biblical text. I also believe, based upon what I’ve read, that the bible is simply the words of men, metaphorical and not necessarily factual. I was a little disappointed in this book. I do not believe he ever took into account the oral tradition of the Israelites concerning the passing down history from one generation to another. Nor did he seem to take into account the fact that the ancient Greek language does not use quotation marks. Passing on one’s history, culturally through the oral tradition, was, is and always has been that if you maintain the true sense of what your teacher has spoken, you have done your job with honor. Like all other witness accounts, not all will be perfectly matched. However, I believe this book gives one a new perspective on how some people, if not many people, think with respect to God, Jesus, and the Bible.

On a more positive note, I thought Mr. Borg had infused an excellent amount of historical information, culturally and factual, within the confines of these pages. This aided in understanding what was happening at the time, how things were done, the atmosphere of the aristocracy who were in charge at the time (i.e., the Herods of the time.) Well done and worth the read, but be careful what you accept as explanations. By the end of the book I did not know what to think of Mr. Borg on his position about either the bible or Jesus. Although this book was worth the time spent gleaning information from it.

Godspeed & Good Reads!

Doc Murf

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Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law by J. Budziszewski

written-heart

Voted one of Christianity Today’s 1998 Books of the Year! With uninterrupted clarity, frequent eloquence and occasional humor, J. Budziszewski presents and defends the natural law tradition in what is at once a primer for students and a vigorous argument for scholars. Written on the Heart expounds the work of the leading architects of theory on natural law, including Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and John Locke. It also takes up contemporary philosophy, theology and political science, colorfully running against the intimidating tide of advanced pluralism that finds natural law so difficult to tolerate. Throughout the volume, Budziszewski sure-footedly achieves his self-confessed aim of displaying the “subtlety, richness and intellectual surprise” of the natural law tradition.

A bit of a tough read, but well worth it! It is quite an aid in understanding the Natural Law in order to apply it toward the laws of God, as well as, biblical precepts. Natural law is as important, in that, it is but another way to discuss Christian Design to another not of our faith.

Godspeed & Good Reads!

Doc Murf

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Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society by John Horvat

return-order

In times of crisis, we are forced to reexamine our ways and ponder our future. It is in this framework that we need to consider our present economic plight and the charting of our path forward.


In his penetrating analysis of contemporary society, author John Horvat focuses on the present crisis with great insight and clarity. He claims modern economy has become cold, impersonal, and out of balance. Gone are the human elements of honor and trust so essential to our daily lives. Society has discarded the natural restraining influence of the human institutions and values that should temper our economic activities.

Return to Order is a clarion call that invites us to reconnect with those institutions and values by applying the timeless principles of an organic Christian order. Horvat presents a refreshing picture of this order, so wonderfully adapted to our human nature. He describes the calming influence of those natural regulating institutions such as custom, family, community, the Christian State, and the Church.

A return to order is not only possible but crucial. Horvat shows us how to make it happen.

Based on nearly twenty years of ground-breaking research, this book is being recognized as one of the most important and influential on the subject to be published in the past ten years. Its original insight into both the present crisis and remedies for the future thrust Return to Order into the center of the raging debate over how to restore America to prominence as a proud and great nation.

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In my opinion, I thought this an interesting read. However, it seemed as though it were a rendition of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia with the Catholic Church at the center of power. While I thought many ideas were interesting and others were off the handle, so-to-say. While I am a Christian and believe that Jesus IS the head of the church, I have a problem placing the Catholic Church at the seat of power over the people. As such, historically, did not fair very well for the people during the middle ages, as well as, at other times throughout history. Unfortunately, those were “men” who bastardized the words of God and fulfilled such heinous commands.

Godspeed & Good Reads!

Doc Murf

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The Templars: The History and the Myth: From Solomon’s Temple to the Freemasons by Michael Haag

templars

Arguably one of the most provocative, puzzling, and misunderstood organizations of medieval times, the legendary Knights Templar have always been shrouded in a veil of mystery, while inspiring popular culture from Indiana Jones to Dan Brown. In The Templars, author Michael Haag offers a definitive history of these loyal Christian soldiers of the Crusades—sworn to defend the Holy Land and Jerusalem, but ultimately damned and destroyed by the Pope and his church. A bestseller in the United Kingdom—the first history of the enigmatic warriors to include findings from the Chinon Parchment, the long-lost Vatican document absolving the Knights of heresy—The Templars by Michael Haag is fascinating reading.

A great read of history and intrigue! Worthy of one’s time to learn how lies and power can be the death of  a people and of an institution. We can learn from our history…if we would only pay attention. Discovery of the Chinon Parchment in 2001 hidden in the Vatican Archives proved beyond a doubt that the Templar Knights (institution and the men) were innocent of all the charges brought against them. It was a fight for power between King and Pope.

Godspeed & Good Reads!

Doc Murf

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