Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez


An excerpt of a review recently posted on Schaeffer's Ghost:
García Márquez contrasts the unexciting and monotonous familiarity of Fermina’s relationship with Dr. Urbino with the vibrant passion of her affair with Florentino. Neither relationship is portrayed as ideal, per se; there are certainly positive qualities in Fermina’s marriage to Dr. Urbino, and it’s clear that Florentino is no saint. Still, I couldn’t help feeling that there was a false dichotomy being subtly forced upon the reader: a choice between loveless and emotionally lifeless security and commitment; or tumultuous, impractical passion (with, apparently, no moral boundaries). These are the two faces of love. Which will you choose? 
The choice is a misleading one, not least because I suspect younger readers (if the novel comes their way) may come to believe that Florentino, with all his nonstop womanizing, somehow loves Fermina more than the reliable Dr. Urbino does. [...] This either/or idea fits right in with the modern romantic narrative being pitched today: Passion matters more than pragmatism; passion is what draws lovers together and keeps them there. True love is entirely free of restrictions, and any attempt to bind love with commitment or promises will do nothing but strangle that love. 
We know from Scripture that this is not the case. In the created order, commitment is the foundation of love. We see it in the first marriage, when Adam claims Eve as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh (a clear implication of lifelong union and commitment, as nothing short of death would cause him to forsake or be severed from his own body). We see it in Song of Solomon, when the Beloved expresses ardent sexual love for her Lover, while proclaiming that ‘love is strong as death.’ We see it in God’s covenant relationship with Abraham and eventually Israel; because He loves Israel, because He has chosen Israel, He commits to Israel—and keeps that commitment even in the face of continued infidelity. We see it most of all in the Gospel, where Christ sacrificed Himself on behalf of His bride the church, in order to ensure an eternal marriage with His chosen people. Christian love has passion aplenty—passion that is only enhanced and matured by commitment.
Full review available here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God’s Promises, by Renee Swope


An excerpt of a review recently posted on Schaeffer's Ghost:
But the biggest reason for my disconnect with A Confident Heart is rooted not in Swope’s tone or style, but in the very problem she attempts to address. At the end of the day, I don’t know if I believe ‘self-confidence’ is actually something Christians need in the first place. Swope occasionally calls it ‘God-confidence’ in order to distinguish it from sinful pride, but she still essentially means ‘the way we think about ourselves.’ The promises she highlights talk a lot about who we are, what we will receive from God, etc. These are biblical promises, but the end goal still seems to be the change how we think about ourselves. And I’m not sure that’s helpful or necessary. Meditating on God’s promises does tell us about ourselves, but first and foremost, those promises tell us about God. And when we’re full up with faith in the character of God, I don’t think we’ll actually spend all that much mental energy on ourselves at all. I don’t think self-confidence will enter into it. Which makes sense—when I experience low ‘self-confidence’, it is not myself I am doubting, but God. I am questioning His sovereignty, His ability to work through a sinful vessel, His finished work on the cross, His goodness, His faithfulness. I don’t think there’s actually a Christian category for ‘self-doubt.’ We’re either experiencing appropriate humility about our fallen nature and our weakness apart from Christ, or we’re doubting God Himself. 
As a result, I tend to eye with skepticism any scheme with the ultimate goal of me thinking about me. Even if I’m doing it in a more biblical way, I’m still thinking about me. And I just can’t bring myself to think that should be our goal. I sincerely doubt that Paul gave himself pep-talks about self-confidence. You see a lack of self-confidence in Bible heroes when they struggle—Gideon, say, or Moses, who doubted that God could use them. They might claim to suffer from self-doubt, but really, they doubted God—doubted that He would (or could) do what He said He would. Since their doubts are not really about themselves at all, God addresses those doubts by telling them who He is. And once those doubts are assuaged, you don’t see Gideon or Moses bursting into a rousing chorus of “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music. They’re too busy talking about God. Once these folks see God aright, once they have confidence in God, their self-confidence is a non-issue. It’s beyond irrelevant. Like a cow’s opinion, it’s moo.
Full review available here.