The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White


Elements of Style

Originally written by William Strunk, once an English professor at Cornel University, “The Elements of Style” was later revised by E.B White. The latter took an English course from professor Strunk thirty-eight years before he revised tis small book.

The authors tell you the basics of proper writing, the do’s and don’ts, as well as some tips to on clarity and how to keep your writing constant. I particularly enjoyed the author’s style. Whenever they instructed the reader in certain areas, such as the do’s and don’ts, it was always followed by a written example. In my case, in order for my to learn best, I need an example to go on, otherwise I tend to forget part of the lesson. Also, they explained the reason some words were better than others, for clarity and conciseness.

The authors exhort their readers to be consistent in the use of their words; like if you have a character that has a Scottish accent, be sure to be consistent in that persons speech. If he says a word one way, do not write it another way the next time he says it.

Another example of inconsistency, is when two or more characters are speaking with one another and you do not clarify who is speaking. Such inconsistency can confuse the reader, and make him or her read back several paragraphs to find who is speaking. (I have had to do this in a few books I read, it was quite annoying.)

One more admirable aspect of this small book, is that it is small. I don’t know about you, but I can read a lot of little books on writing; if its long it tends to get tiring. This small book keeps itself humorous, instructive and concise.

Seeing my growing interest in writing, my mother gave this book to me to read for school. I found it very enlightening, and saw my writing improving every time I sat down to write. The two authors do an excellent job of instructing the reader on the elements of style; I did not find it at all boring. In fact it was quite amazing to read what they had to say, and all in a short ninety-five pages.

I highly recommend this book to any and all students who write for school, or aspiring authors.

Love, Liberty and Christian Conscience by Randy Jaeggli


Love, Liberty, and Christian Conscience

I grabbed this short (58 page) work because this is an issue that frames many of the struggles and divisions within American Christian society. For the amount of content, this should be a little cheaper (ahem, Suzette…), but still worth buying (even on impulse like I did).

For the record, I believe that few Christians are properly balanced on this difficult issue. Generally, two sides exist: those who proclaim (like Charles Swindoll) that no one may ever lay specific rules of conduct on a believer except where Scripture explicitly prohibits or demands certain actions. And then it is occasionally debatable…. Then there is the other side that argues for strict adherence to standards and codes of conduct that were common and culturally acceptable in the 1940’s and ’50’s. Any deviation is termed backsliding and a Christian is viewed as “sinful.”

I should probably moderate those statements a bit. I actually think that there are only a few people who hold to either extreme, they are just vocal and everyone around them generally espouses the same view publicly even if they hold a differing view in practice. This problem arises from many areas and Randy Jaeggli does a fantastic job of sidestepping the various causes as these “causes” really only lead to finger pointing. One side claims the other intolerant. The other shoots back that they are remaining “faithful” to the word of God. Who’s right? Well, at that point neither, but for different reasons.

Jaeggli begins by explaining the nature of the controversy and the redefinition of legalism. For the record, a legalist believes that their works will save them or at least incur favor with God. For some reason, those who wish more freedom to do whatever they please have redefined legalists as those who would place restrictions upon others.

Jaeggli then focuses on the role of conscience in the believer’s life. The conscience is not bad; rather, Paul exclaimed that the conscience was good and necessary (repeatedly…). Further, Jaeggli, beginning with a tremendous discussion of Genesis 3, traces the explicit and implicit teaching of the conscience throughout scripture. One point that he makes very coherently is this: a conscience is trained through the regular communication with God and the study of His word.

Finally, Jaeggli ends by proving that liberty and freedom require restrictions. In the US, freedom to own requires an injunction against theft. Freedom of speech has a corresponding injunction that prohibits the gagging of dissenters. For a freedom to exist, some form of restriction must also exist to protect and control the freedom; else, instead of orderliness we would have anarchy.

As a Christian you need to read this book. Come on, it’s only 58 pages and sells for $10 or so. It is a great foundation stone for this controversial and important topic. (The book is a great foundation, but it really was just that, there is so much more to this issue than what was covered in these few pages.) There are some other questions that I have.

* What do we do when two Christians have consciences that disagree?
* In 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (esp. 5), Paul writes that only the judgment of Christ matters. He ignores the judgments of other believers and non-believers. In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that judgments of believers should wait until the final judgment.
* How do we reconcile that with Paul’s judgment of sin in the Corinthian church? And with Christ’s command that we judge the fruit of people in Matthew 7?

I would postulate these answers, and I would enjoy hearing your responses.

* To the first question, we seek the needs of our brother first: see Philippians 2.
* With regards to the second and third questions, I notice that Christ told us not to judge unless we have properly cleaned our own life. We would be judged within the same manner that we judged others. Therefore, don’t rebuke someone for whining a bit when you whine and gripe incessantly. You get the idea.

Following that, Christ’s command to judge fruits was within the context of false teachers. Taking that to apply to everyone might be stretching it. Mind you, I am NOT saying that you can’t apply it to everyone, but one should moderate it with 1 Corinthians 4.

I would argue that we reconcile Paul’s actions and teaching this way: believers must rebuke other believers who are in clear violation of the explicit teaching of Scripture. For everything else, which are extrapolations and applications of biblical teaching, we don’t judge. How do I know that your definition of long hair on a guy is the correct interpretation? How do I know that mine is correct? How does one clearly define modesty? What one guy considers modest on a woman another guy considers immodest. So who is correct?

Here is my current understanding of this morass of entangling stuff. I will educate my conscience in the Word by studying the Bible and seeking to honor the Lord in all that I do. I won’t worry about other people who do things a little differently unless the Bible clearly and explicitly defines it as sin.

What do you think? And by all means, lets have plenty of believers weigh in on this one. You don’t have to agree with me to have a worthwhile opinion.

Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

By Arthur B. Robinson Ph.D., Noah E. Robinson, Ph.D., and Willie Soon, Ph.D.

Couple of notes. First this isn’t a review about a book, but about a paper published in the Journal of the American Physicians and Surgeons called Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. Second, while the authors of the paper have outstanding credentials, they aren’t climatologists by trade or training. (I don’t think that necessarily matters if the science is sound.) Third, I haven’t actually verified one of their foundational studies: determination of the global temperature over the last three thousand years based on core samples from the ocean. Not saying it isn’t so, just not convinced about the science until I actually verify the work done.

This paper makes the premise that Earth’s temperature has been significantly higher in the past (particularly in medieval ages). Then the temperature sunk a full three degrees Celsius in the 1700’s. According to Robinson and company the current global temperature has just reached the median for the last three millenniums. They also demonstrate that the shrinking of the glaciers began in the 1850’s, long before CO2 began to rise. The increase in sunspots also has coincided with the temperature increase.

Intriguingly, they quote studies that have shown that increased CO2 enhances plant life (obviously) but that it also decreases a plant’s need for water. So how hard would it be to cause the desert to bloom under increased CO2? Definitely some food for thought here.

Plenty of scientists have debunked the Global Warming Crisis. Not only does it not appear to be a crisis, but the current lack of sunspots and the very long La Nina effect have stopped, nay, reversed the temperature trends. Of course, Gore doesn’t typically mention that inconvenient truth. It is usually spun as predictable variations as the temperature trends upward. Which of course is true. That certainly happens, but when those fluctuations map almost perfectly to natural forces like the El Nino/La Nina effects and the presence of sun spots, why do we pretend that CO2 is the cause? Oh right, as the Czech president said, Global Warming Alarmism has replaced Communism. Its all about the control. That’d be power….

Yeah, I’m somewhat passionate about this, mostly because I enjoy my freedoms and I hate to see them taken over by some people who have created a false threat to gain power and control. Its almost as bad as labeling EVERYTHING a terrorist threat and using that to swipe freedoms. (No, I am not against the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan but I am against using the specter of terrorism to increasingly consolidate power amongst the few.)

This global warming scare is intriguing as it demonstrates the great power of the media. From Readers Digest to the 6 o’clock news, all assume that global warming is a threat and that radical action must be taken. I heard a caller on a radio show angrily proclaim that this debate is stupid. He stated emphatically that he didn’t need a GED to know that this is a real threat.

Right.

And its people like that who are well meaning but swallowing the party line that is fed to them that help keep this ball rolling.

This paper is the most scientific work I have read on the debate so far and when it comes to controversial subjects, I like academic. Especially when I agree with the premise, I want it in documentable and scientific format so that I can verify that what I believe isn’t screwy. 😉

Please read a few of these links and at least the highlights of the paper and let me know what you think. If you disagree, why? What scientific evidence do you have for your side? Let’s frame the debate in quantifiable terms instead of hyperbole and opinions.

Also read Senator Inhofe’s blog. And yeah, that is an official US government blog.

Again the paper: Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

DO HARD THINGS by Alex & Brett Harris


Do Hard Things

(disclaimer of relation: I was so encouraged by the message of this book, as described on their website, that I volunteered to run the Do Hard Things Portland conference tour. And, their father, Gregg Harris, is the founder of the group of churches that I and my family are members of).

This book is the print version of a vision that has been in place for many years in the Harris household. When Alex and Brett were 16, their father sat them down with a heaping stack of non-fiction books and told them to start reading. Most teenagers might see that as a summer of drudgery, but these twins took the book list as an opportunity to learn more about the world in which they (as the future generation) would live. Learning about all the issues in the world today (poverty, economics of scale, pollution, adult-essence, monetary systems, political processes), they began to wonder how other people in their generation (my generation) could cope with it all if we continued to do the stereotypical teenage thing; sleep in and ignore the world issues in favor of celebrity gossip. Then they started a little blog called “the rebelution”, combining the terms rebellion and revolution to get a new meaning; “rebelling against rebellion”. Then it became a website with 5,000 hits a day, then a movement that spawned conferences in multiple countries, then a modesty survey that crashed their internet server with 500,000 views in the first two hours, and now a book.

DO: The teen years are not a vacation from responsibility, but rather, a training ground for future leaders. For centuries, there was no middle ground between “child” and “adult”; once you started looking like an adult, you were expected to act like one. We need to act like the adults we want to become, because, newsflash fellow young adults: we’re adults. And if we want things to be different from the present we must make changes in the present. Young, yes: need to work on competence, yes; freed from responsibility because of the aforesaid, no. “To make changes in your life requires you to make changes in your life.”—Alex Harris.

HARD: Hard doesn’t mean “hard for other people” (i.e., unless you are recovering from alcoholism, staying sober isn’t an achievement. It’s a good thing, but not your hard thing), or “stupid” (jumping off a cliff) . Don’t, however, think that just because its hard (keeping your room clean every night) or big (starting a business) or both (fighting modern slavery) that you can’t. At the same time, there is a place for small hard things (like keeping your room clean, which is hard because you have to keep doing it every day for the rest of your life) and unseen hard things (not harboring anger, or giving in to lust). If God is calling you to do something, whatever it is, pray and do it.

THINGS: They give lots of examples about teenagers (throughout history and today) who used their teen years to the max and reaped the benefit. And of “typical teens” who need to be renewed in their vision for their own lives. What I loved about all the examples was how simple the concepts were, and yet, I could see a piece of myself in each teen they profiled (and they are all real people). Some were cause for rejoicing, others, for disappointment. But each chapter helped me get closer to finding my “hard thing” that God would have me do with my life.

Overall, this was a very easy read that has challenged my thinking on many levels. I honestly didn’t think this book applied to me when I picked it up. I’m a good young adult (not a teen), who is trying to be more Christ-like (not there yet, but trying), living in a Christian environment… so how does “Do Hard Things” apply to me? The answer lies in the question, “what is hard for you?” There will ALWAYS be something that God wants me to do that is hard. “If you always do what you’ve always done you will always get what you’ve always got.” – Brett Harris. God wants the best for us, which will always involve change in my life.