Archive - December, 2010

Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics, New Edition

The fourth edition of Thomas Sowell’s magisterial text on economics, Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economywas released 48 hours ago (December 28). If you want to make sense of what you hear on the news, of what is supposedly the #1 issue on the mind of the voting populace, this is the book.
The fourth edition has a new chapter on the history of the development of economics itself and the issues raised by that history. It also has a new, extensive section on the economics of corporations in the chapter on big business and government. Other chapters have also been updated, and the book has gotten quite a bit beefier, now totaling 689 pages (including the index).
A few editorial reviews:
Clear and concise…among economists of the past thirty years, Sowell stands very proud indeed.”—Wall Street Journal
Basic Economics is not only valuable for a general lay-person audience; it would also benefit lawyers, politicians, and yes, economists, as well.”—Washington Times
Basic Economics is a healthy main course disguised as a rich dessert. The expanded Fourth Edition now weighs in at well over 600 pages. Readers will celebrate the girth. Tom Sowell’s smooth writing, irresistible logic, deep knowledge and flawless economics make each page an explanatory treat to experts and novices alike.” —Thomas Hazlett, Professor of Law & Economics and Director, Information Economy Project, George Mason University
“Badly needed…. Anyone who has been subjected to biased and dreary economics textbooks should read Basic Economics as a bracing corrective.”—Claremont Review of Books
Basic Economics demonstrates in every chapter why Thomas Sowell is one of America’s greatest thinkers. It is must-reading for anyone who wants the truth about how the laws of economics govern so many of the events in our daily lives.”—Arthur C. Brooks, President, American Enterprise Institute and author of The Battle: How the Fight between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future
“Alchian said the true test of whether one understands his subject is whether he can explain it to someone who doesn’t know a darn thing about it. Mr. Sowell wasn’t Alchian’s student, but Basic Economics demonstrates his ability to make economics understandable to a person who hasn’t set foot in an economics class. It’s a book rich with explanations and examples of everyday economics issues.”—Walter Williams, George Mason University
“The unyielding truths of economics befuddle social engineers of all stripes. Sowell, in exemplary fashion, strips the mystery from those truths, making them intuitive—even obvious.” —David Boaz, Executive Vice President, Cato Institute and author of Libertarianism: A Primer

Top Ten Theology and Church Stories from 2010

Collin Hansen has compiled what constitute, in his mind, the top ten theology and church stories from 2010:
10. Crystal Cathedral Files for Bankruptcy
9. BioLogos Stirs Debate Over Evolution
8. Philip Ryken Becomes President of Wheaton College
7. Liberty Removes Ergun Caner as Seminary President
6. Matt Chandler Fights Malignant Brain Tumor
5. Glenn Beck Grabs the Religious Right’s Megaphone
4. David Platt Pricks the Evangelical Conscience with ‘Radical
3. John Piper Takes Leave of Absence
2. Wright Clarifies Justification Views in ETS Debate
1. Francis Chan Steps Down from Cornerstone
Read Hansen’s post for a helpful explanation of each, with useful links to more content.
Incidentally, Hansen is the co-author (with John Woodbridge) of a new book entitled A God Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir. Here’s a one-minute introduction to the book by Hansen:

The College Debt Crisis

Scott Cohn, senior correspondent with CNBC, reports:

In 2009, the most recent data available, 67 percent of graduates had debt, averaging $24,000 per student, up 6 percent from the previous year, according to the non-profit Project on Student Debt. The numbers are even higher at private institutions.
The figures do not include the growing number of loans taken out by parents, and only limited data on for-profit colleges, where student debt is typically much higher, but relatively few institutions report it.
Americans now owe more on their student loans than they do on their credit cards—a first, according to FinAid.org, which has created what it calls the Student Loan Debt Clock.
The organization figures America’s student loan debt is growing at a rate of $2,853.88 per second. At this pace, it will surpass $1 trillion in 2012. And there is no sign of the pace letting up. On the contrary.

Read the whole thing.
The explosion of student debt is investigated in a CNBC Original documentary, “Price of Admission: America’s Student Debt Crisis,” premiering Tuesday, December 21 at 9pm ET/PT, but can now be viewed here:

HT: Derek Melleby

Homeschool Domination?

This is a pretty interesting infographic. I think it goes against the idea that homeschooled students are necessarily backward, or anti-intellectual.
homeschooling-infographic.jpg
HT: Chris Larson

Meet Ligonier Ministries

Tim Challies has a very informative interview with Chris Larson, Ligonier’s Executive Vice President. It’s been my privilege to get to know Chris through a variety of Ligonier Ministries projects in which I’ve participated. Challies asks:
How and when did Ligonier Ministries begin?
Why does Ligonier exist? What are its chief goals and key emphases?
How can Ligonier serve the readers of this web site?
Who are the key leaders within the ministry?
How many employees does Ligonier have?
What is Ligonier’s annual budget? How is the ministry financed and how do you ensure financial integrity?
How do you expect Ligonier will be different in ten years? Twenty years?
How does Ligonier work with other Christian ministries?
What are some of the ways Ligonier Ministries has seen evidence of God’s hand of blessing?
How can the readers of this website serve Ligonier Ministries?

On a related note, I recently interviewed Keith Mathison about the Ligonier Academy Undergraduate Bible College, which is slated to take in its first class of undergraduate students in Fall 2011.

The Stay at Home Daughter Movement

Karen Swallow Prior offers an assessment of what she calls the “stay at home daughter movement” (SAHD). The idea (roughly) is that women should forgo traditional college and paid work outside the home so as to be maximally available to their families and churches prior to marriage. The concept seems to be propagated within the family integrated church movement and groups like Vision Forum.
Prior’s brief post strikes me as both insightful and fair.

Christianity Today Interviews Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice is a fascinating figure. Having previously reviewed Leslie Montgomery’s book about the faith of Secretary Rice, I was glad to see Sarah Pulliam Bailey of Christianity Today post a good interview with Ms. Rice on her recent book, Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family. From Mongomery’s book, I already knew that Rice had an extraordinary family. She was raised in the deep south during the days of segregation, and saw the hostilities erupt first-hand on more than one occasion. Yet she never seems to have succumbed to bitterness or to lose her faith in God.
Here’s an excerpt of the CT Interview:
How does your understanding of religion help you deal with the interplay between religion and foreign policy?
RICE: “It helps to have both a historical and theological understanding of the children of Abraham and the relationships between Muslims, Jews, and Christians. I personally think that Israel is remarkable. It would not exist but for the toughness of the people and the grace of God. Yet Jerusalem is a place where the great religions don’t so much come together; they clash there. You suddenly realize the extent to which man will go to use God for his own purposes rather than the other way around. That for me is the most terrifying thing about the combination of religion and politics, because that is really when man is trying to use God for his own purposes. That’s why I don’t see any conflict with being Christian and wanting to see a Jewish state, being Christian and believing there can be a Palestinian state, because the state is the state. When you start to try to infuse it with God’s purpose you almost always get in trouble.”
To her credit, Bailey doesn’t shy away from the issue of abortion in her interview — an issue on which I find Ms. Rice to be sadly incoherent. Rice says:

“I cannot imagine why one would be in favor of partial birth abortion. I also can’t imagine why one would take these decisions out of the hands of the family. We all understand that this is not something to be taken lightly.”

The first two sentences seem mutually contradictory: If partial birth abortion ought to be opposed by all, then how can the decision be “left with the family”? If a man regularly beat his wife, would anyone think the propriety of such actions are better “left with the family”? In my view, the libertarian pro-choice position such as Rice’s is fatally flawed.
Read the whole interview.

David Powlison on Receiving Criticism

The good folks at CCEF have graciously published David Powlison’s article Does the Shoe Fit? The essay is about the ways in which receiving criticism reveals our true nature. The opening:

Critics are God’s instruments. I don’t like to be criticized. You don’t like to be criticized. Nobody likes to be criticized. But, critics keep us sane—or, by our reactions, prove us temporarily or permanently insane. Whether a critic’s manner is gracious or malicious, whether
the timing is good or bad, whether the intention is constructive or destructive, whether the content is accurate, half-true, or utterly false, in any case the very experience of being criticized reveals you. To what madnesses are
you prone?

Read the whole thing.
HT: Don Aranda

Ross Douthat on Christianity, Christians and Culture

Ross Douthat has just posted an excellent NYT article on the status of Christianity in our day, as we approach Christmas. Of course, Christmas has religious significance for some, and economic or merely cultural significance for others. Douthat refers to two books, both of which sound excellent (and only one of which I’ve cracked): American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert Putnam and David Campbell, and To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter. Douthat’s conclusion:

Putnam and Campbell are quantitative, liberal, and upbeat; Hunter is qualitative, conservative and conflicted. But both books come around to a similar argument: this month’s ubiquitous carols and crèches notwithstanding, believing Christians are no longer what they once were — an overwhelming majority in a self-consciously Christian nation. The question is whether they can become a creative and attractive minority in a different sort of culture, where they’re competing not only with rival faiths but with a host of pseudo-Christian spiritualities, and where the idea of a single religious truth seems increasingly passé.
Or to put it another way, Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom — and more and more like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week.

On balance, I agree. Read the whole thing. Douthat’s article reminds me of Mark Dever’s great sermon about Jesus paying taxes to a corrupt, anti-God government.

The Spiritual Disciplines of a Book Release

George Guthrie has some good words for me as I await the release of my “baby.” An excerpt:

The book arrives in the mail. Elation. You like the feel of the book, the dream having become waking reality. The freebies sent by the publisher are distributed; friends and family celebrate. They assure you that your book will change the world (but will they really read it?). And now, now in this moment of the deep breath, you wait. You wait to see if anyone in the wider world will take up and hold this baby you have birthed and thrown out into the world, vulnerable; will anyone at all be drawn to it with affection? Will they share that affection with others (say, on Amazon, blessing your baby with 5 stars)?

And later:

So the Christian author is confronted with a spiritual challenge in this war, a clarion call to come over the ravine and face Goliath; for in the quiet of this moment before the plunge or plummet, a still small voice reminds you that this work cannot be summed up with numbers but rather has to do with individuals and ministry and integrity, has to do with gifts given and gifts opened with joy, and a different set of measurements altogether. Hopefully, you followed the Lord into the pages of this book, and the Lord is with you here in this moment of crossing the ravine, in the gibbering insecurity you feel. The angst of rising and falling rank on Amazon, of the number of twitter followers and blog posts read, must be crucified with Christ, must be resurrected in a clear-eyed, authentic living, day by day, moment by moment focused on the advancement of the Kingdom that lasts.

Read the whole thing.
HT: JT

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