Archive for the ‘Religious Studies’ Category

Review: Finding Unauthorized Faith in Harry Potter – Nicole L. Rivera

Thursday, April 21st, 2016
Finding Unauthorized Faith in Harry Potter
Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Hickey’s Books (July 13, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0996524207
ISBN-13: 978-0996524209
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A look into all seven books in the Harry Potter series and how you can draw parallels between them and the Christian religion.


Harry Potter, a world of Magic and dark forces. The idea of their children being exposed to it, is a big drawback to parents. Due to their religious beliefs, they object to their children reading about Wizards and witchcraft. The same argument has been used since I was a teenager playing Dungeons and Dragons. However, parents have the right to be concerned. No one wants to tell them what they can and can’t believe. But Nicole Rivera was a big Harry Potter fan and also a woman of faith. She set out to see how the two compare, and Finding Unauthorized Faith in Harry Potter is the result.

Each section of the book details one of the books in the Harry Potter series. I liked it being divided like this, because it can be used as a kind of reader’s guide. Read Harry Potter and the Sorcer’s Stone, then read about how various bible passages parallel the lessons that can be drawn from it.

I found the book very interesting, although a bit spoiler filled as I’ve only read the first book in Harry Potter. That fact aside though, it was well written, and well researched, and was obvious to me that it was a product of Ms. Rivera’s love for both the Bible and Harry Potter. I’d recommend this for all ages, and especially those who might be intersted in Harry Potter, but a bit reluctant. It’d be a good opportunity for both parent and child to read the books together, and discuss them.

About the Author

Nicole RiveraThere is a quote that says, “If you can quit, quit. If you can’t, you’re a writer.” Ever since I could write, I loved to write, especially stories. Stories are my passion which is why I wrote “The Parable of Harry Potter” series (book 1 released), to explore one of my favorite stories of all time!

My goal is to write the books I would want to read. I believe that in writing what I want to read, I will write what others want to read.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes the Author for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

Review: The Book – Alan W. Watts

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
Paperback: 163 pages
Publisher: Vintage Books; Later Printing Used edition (August 28, 1989)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0679723005
ISBN-13: 978-0679723004
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This book presents a Western version of the Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism.


I found this book to be quite fascinating, and mind opening. The author challenges the reader to question everything they believe. Through different passages, he for instances explains how existence is merely an illusion. I found the book to be very deep, inspiring, and leaving me thinking. If you are one who likes to contemplate the meaning of life, if you enjoy philosophical discussions, or just like to be challenged in your thinking, then you should definitely check out The Book. While it’s been 47 years since it was published, it still has a lot of value to teach us in how to look at the world differently.

About the Author

Alan Watts, born in Britain in 1915 became an author, philosopher, and speaker on subjects such as Buddhism and Vedanta. He died in 1973.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to at for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

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Review: Fight: A Christian Case for non violence – Preston Sprinkle

Saturday, October 19th, 2013
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (August 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434704920
ISBN-13: 978-1434704924
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An Evangelical Christian looks at Violence from a Christian perspective and according to biblical scripture.


While I don’t typically follow the Evangelical model of religion, a dear friend purchased a copy of this book for me, so I decided to read it. I found myself agreeing with the author on almost every issue he brought up. He begins with the Old testament and follows through co erring topics such as whether Hitler should have been killed, whether or not it’s right to join the military, and mostly about the American Christian view of militarism.

I found the book very informative, and wasn’t able to put it down. While I may disagree with Mr. Sprinkle on the political level, on this level I find myself in complete agreement with him. Regardless of which side of the Christian spectrum you fall on, you should read this book. I think you would find it very eye opening and informative and it may cause you to think about some of your own beliefs.

I highly recommend it. I’d rate it PG-13 for biblical violence.

About the Author

I’m married to a beautiful wife and we have four kids (3 girls and a boy). I’ve been teaching college level Bible and Theology classes for a few years now (since 2007), and currently teach Old Testament and Bible Backgrounds at Eternity Bible College in Simi Valley, CA.

I enjoy hanging out with my family, running, surfing, and life in SoCal. Before I became a teacher, I was in school. Lots and lots of school. I did a B.A. and M.Div here in SoCal, and then did a Ph.D. in Scotland in NT studies.

Before coming to EBC, I taught at Nottingham University for a semester, and Cedarville University for a couple of years. Along with surfing, I also love to research and write, and I’ve written a few things on Paul, Early Judaism, Hell, Violence, and Grace.

You can discuss this book here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

Review: The Seraph Seal – Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
Paperback: 560 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (June 7, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0849920779
ISBN-13: 978-0849920776
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The Seraph Seal by Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner is a very unique take on the end of the world based on the four horsemen of the Apocalypse found in the Book of Revelation in the Bible. The book is a combination of religious fiction and sci/fi set in the future in the year 2049. The Seraph Seal contains many religious and historical references. While some readers my find the constant introduction of characters, religious and historical references confusing, I found it an enjoyable challenge to keep the straight and make connections between each. One of my favorite genres is religious fiction due to the fact that I teach religion.

I loved the combination of historical and religious facts intertwined. Religion is best understood in conjunction with the historical facts of the era. I felt that Sweet and Wagner did a wonderful of blending the two. The Seraph Seal is a much for detailed version of a Dan Brown book – which I loved. While I personally love The Seraph Seal, I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is religiously conservative or sensitive to new takes on Scripture. I will say that I believe it is an example of religious fiction at it’s best.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Booksneeze for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join our facebook page and discuss it there.

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Review: Finding Our Way Again – Brian D. McLaren

Saturday, May 21st, 2011


Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (December 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0849946026
ISBN-13: 978-0849946028
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I’ve loved other books by Brian D. McLaren. He’s always had a way of bring religious issues into an area where they made sense to me. On some levels, we have similar beliefs and values, and I think that’s why he’s appealed to me. In this book, Mr. McLaren describes some of the old practices that have fallen out of use in Christianity. He goes into great detail on what these practices were, and how they are valuable. The practices are broken up into Contemplative, Communal, and Missional. These practices he says are ways to become aware and stay awake to God.

Contemplative practices are broken down into solitude, Spiritual reading, spiritual friendships, learning to be aware of God, prayer, journaling, and contemplation.

Communal Practices are joining together with others in a community such as churches, volunteering, etc.

Missional is going out to help others and minister to others.

Mr. McLaren did do a good job from the Judeo-Christian standpoint of showing common areas in belief between Christians, Jews, and Muslim’s. At the end of each chapter, he also includes practices, etc. to help you develop those particular areas a little more.

I think this book for someone already posessing a strong faith, would be help greatly in allowing them to focus more deeply on it. As the first book in a series called The Ancient Practices Series, it left me a little flat. But I think it’s because it was an introductory volume. I’d love to read the others in the series to see if they go deeper into his ideas.

If you like different looks at spirituality, then I’d say you might find this book interesting. If you are looking for a training guide to show you how to tap into these practices, then you may want to look at one of the other books in the series. It’s not an awful book, I managed to learn a great deal, I just didn’t learn what I expected from it.

Here are the other books in the series:

In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson
Sabbath by Dan Allender
Fasting by Scot McKnight
Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher
Sacred Journey by Diana Butler Bass
The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister
Tithing by Douglas LeBlanc

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Booksneeze for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review. You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

Article: From Original Sinners author John R. Coats

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

What’s Real About Reconstructionism?
By John R. Coats,
Author of Original Sinners: Why Genesis Still Matters

Think of it as the New American Dream, a vision carried by an increasing number of our fellow citizens. Followers of “Christian Reconstructionism,” the uber-right Dominionist sect started by Rousas John Rushdoony, author of The Institutes of Biblical Law, they are quietly, though energetically, working toward an American future in which the Constitution of the United States has been replaced by “600 or so Mosaic laws . . . the inflexible guide for the society [envisioned by Rushdoony’s disciple Gary] DeMar and other Reconstructionists.” 

Don’t look for them in the news. Too bright a light on their advocacy, say, of public stonings as “community projects” would, no doubt, prove awkward. (Imagine one of those oh-so-reasonable talking-head debates on the evening news: “Community Stonings: Good for America? Yes or No? With us tonight are . . . “) Mostly, though, it’s because they are simply not in a hurry. As with the Nazis, for whom they’ve expressed admiration, whose crimes, their founder said, were overstated, whose 1923 Beer Hall Putsch suggested that winning through the ballot box was the superior strategy to open revolution, Christian Reconstructionism (in sync with others on the Christian Right) has been busy with a bottom up, and quite legal, deconstruction/reconstruction of the American Republic, and at so measured a pace that we hardly notice, beginning with grassroots control at the level of school boards, city councils, and such. 

A case in point is the religious-right dominated Texas Education Commission’s rewriting of the classroom texts for the teaching of Texas and American history. State legislatures, too, with Texas, again, the example. In 2005, the Republican (read “religious right”) dominated legislature gerrymandered the districts in such a way that it is a near impossibility for Democrats to gain a majority. Yes, I know, Democrats have a history of this sort of behavior, as well. Then again, their efforts were driven merely by old-timey greed and power-happy politicians. History suggests that control in the hands of religious fanatics is another matter.

Still, an American theocracy? Seriously? How? You’d be surprised how easy it can be in a culture as distracted as ours. Owning the language is a must – – that is, the steady, purposeful shifting of meaning of the words by which we, as citizens, define ourselves. In his book, American Fascists, The Christian Right And The War On America, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges writes about the control of language, what he calls “‘logocide,’ the killing of words [in which] Code words of the old [secular] belief system [freedom, patriotism, liberty] are deconstructed and assigned diametrically opposed meanings.” He goes on to quote Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister and master of the tactic: “The best propaganda is that which . . . works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative.” 

To be sure, Christian Reconstructionists hardly fit the cliché of backwoods religious cult. They are smart, educated, well-funded, and growing in numbers, power, and influence. What they want, and diligently are working toward, is ridding America, then the world, of “the blasphemy of democracy.” Along with replacing the Constitution of the United States with biblical law, their agenda includes the return of “biblical” slavery, the closure of public schools, and the return of women to their proper, biblical place-what Rushdoony calls the man’s “help-meet.” Among those to be stoned as “community projects” (note how the horror is hidden beneath the familiarity of the term) are disrespectful teenagers, young women who lie about their virginity, adulterers, witches, blasphemers, and gay men. 

It couldn’t happen here? In 2008, one of the primary litmus tests for Republican candidates for the Presidency of The United States was a public declaration of belief in the Bible’s literal truth. We can scoff all we like, but while American progressives, disappointed by Obama’s and the Democratic Party’s record, register their protest by not voting, Christian Reconstructionists and the rest of the Christian Right plan to go on electing to local, state, and national office men and women who believe-and intend that our children and grandchildren will believe-that democracy is blasphemy, that the earth and the universe are 6,000 years old, and that human children once rode dinosaurs. 

What we too readily forget is that elections rarely reflect the overall will of the people, but are, instead, the result of which supporters of this or that candidate or cause show up and vote in the greatest numbers. Which is what the advocates of that New American Vision never forget, what they have been doing for most of the past three decades, and are ready to do again, and again . . . and again.

 © 2010 John R. Coats, author of Original Sinners: Why Genesis Still Matters

Author Bio
John R. Coats, author of Original Sinners: Why Genesis Still Matters, holds his master’s degrees from Virginia Theological Seminary (Episcopal) and Bennington College Writing Seminars. A former parish priest, he was a principal speaker and seminar leader for the More To Life training program. He lives with his wife, Pamela, in Houston, Texas.

For more information please visit and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Review: Walking through Illusion – Betsy Thompson

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: O Books (January 16, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1846942926
ISBN-13: 978-1846942921
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I wasn’t sure at first what to think of this book. It seemed to not have a pre-arranged purpose. As I got into it, I discovered, that it was, best described, as an inward, discussion with Jesus, using people within his life to explain different issues. Some examples:

Forgiveness: Saying I forgive you for the awful things you did to me, is still blaming the person, and you were still wrong, but I’m good enough to overlook it.

Conditional Love: Using John as an example, of how conditional loving, is using the person.

Death: Helping Thomas overcome the death of his wife, it’s explained as if you imagined she were on a journey, would he be happy if he knew that a reunion was inevitable.

Respect: You should give people what they need, not expect them to give you what you need.

Abuse: What you put out is what you get back. Lazarus is used, to illustrate an abusive father. Because he was abusive, he only got abuse back. To overcome it, Lazarus had to be the person he wished his father were.

Another story involves a Rabbi and Lazarus. Lazarus left the Rabbi, because the Rabbi was intent on being right, and if he could prove Lazarus’s beliefs wrong, his own beliefs would be justified.

Politics: “To the government, heaven on Earth, meant control of the Earth. Control of the Earth meant power. Power to the people meant less power to the government. To the government, less was unacceptable”.

Many of these thoughts, I could apply to situations in my own life, and I think that’s where the value in this book lies. I think it would be a good gift book for people who are struggling through some of the many hardships we face in life, divorce, handicaps, etc.

About the Author:

Betsy’s work has always gravitated toward the media. A native Philadelphian with a B.F.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, Betsy worked as an account executive for WFIL radio in Philadelphia, and from there went to radio stations WPEN and WFLN. After that, she became a commercial print model and acted in television commercials in New York and Philadelphia. For seventeen years, she worked in Los Angeles at the motion picture and television company Castle Rock Entertainment as the Assistant to the Chairman and CEO. In August ’99, she followed her boss to Warner Bros. as he took a new position there as President and COO, and became his Executive Assistant. She is now writing full time. Betsy’s writing began unexpectedly while going through an especially difficult time in her life. She believes that her books were the answer to her prayers.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Ms. Thompson for an electronic copy of this book for a review. It in no way influenced my review.

You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

Heaven Speaks – Pamela Bloom & Carla Flack

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Paperback: 156 pages
Publisher: Soul Connections (March 4, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1885499000
ISBN-13: 978-1885499004
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This book contains interviews of many famous celebrities. Among them are Walter Cronkite, Albert Einstein, Paul Newman, Michael Jackson, Amelia Earhart, Walt Disney, Abe Lincoln, and John Lennon. The catch is each of these celebrites were talked to after they’d died. Pamela Bloom and Carla Flack have the ability to channel the dead. In this situation they’ve channeled many celebrities. Things such as how the person’s passing was, and what lessons the person learned while on Earth are discussed.

I was a little skeptic at first, and still am to some extent. I keep an open mind though on all issues, and would like to explore this issue further. I thought each vision of the passing over was as unique as the person speaking. For example, Michael Jackson’s experience was one of Music. Albert Einstein seemed to regret that he had no real emotional connections. My favorite ones were Abraham Lincoln, and John Lennon who gave his views on world peace.

Some great quotes from the book:

Walt Disney: “Even in the worst of times, don’t let the children lose their sense of awe and wonder. It is that which keeps the human spirit alive.”

John Lennon: “Dark must become white. There is no other way to say it. What is hidden must be revealed. What is closed must be opened. What is rejected must be embraced. A starving child must become beautiful in our eyes so that we will embrace it. An abused mother calls for us to put our arm around her, not shun her, not walk away. A homeless person must call out to our compassion, not our ignorance. We must open our eyes and see in a new way.”

I found the book very interesting, and it presented very beautiful, alternative views of the tunnel with the bright light at the end. Anyone interested in beliefs that are outside the box, I think would probably like this book. I know I’m looking forward to seeing the next volume and who shows up for it.

About the Authors:

PAMELA BLOOM is an award-winning writer, intuitive spiritual counselor and the author of 7 books, including Buddhist Acts of Compassion and On the Wings of Angels. A former music critic and travel writer, she twice won the prestigious Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for her guidebooks on Brazil and the Amazon. As a healer and intuitive, she has worked closely with all kinds of people, especially those with lifethreatening diseases, and was on the counseling staff of Marianne Williamson’s Manhattan Center for Living. Her newest book is The Power of Compassion: Stories that Open the Heart, Heal the Soul, and Change the World (Hampton Roads, May 2010). She lives in New York City.

CARLA FLACK has been an intuitive counselor and spiritual coach for over 35 years. Her client list includes celebrities, artists, authors, executives and ordinary people from all walks of life. Curiosity set her on a course of study through various esoteric arts such as astrology, numerology, meditation and expanding consciousness until she eventually settled into a focus on the two disciplines that held her interest the most: tarot and angels. For years, Carla was a featured reader in AOL’s Crystal Ball Room, which led toher being CEO of an independent internet website of highly praised intuitive counselors from around the world. Over the past 20 years, Carla has been a published author of numerous articles, newsletters and books on a variety of metaphysical topics and continues her passionate journey into understanding consciousness and the soul’s evolution.

You can visit there website at and download a sample chapter, order the book, and read more about the whole thing.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Pamela for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review.

You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

God and Sex – Michael Coogan

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Twelve (October 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446545252
ISBN-13: 978-0446545259
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Have you ever thought about all the sex that goes on in the Bible. Have you wondered what The bible actually had to say on topics such as adultery, incest, and other taboo topics. In God & Sex, Michael Coogan attempts to explain those things. Mr. Coogan is a professor of Religious Studies at Stonehill College, and has taught Hebrew Scriptures at Harvard, Wellesley College, Boston College, and Stonehill. The basic premise for this book is taken from some of those lectures.

He puts some interesting, and some might consider blasphemous spins on some of the taboos spelled out in Leviticus. One example is on the subject of Incest. The Bible says not to have intercourse with your sister, aunt, father’s wife (not necessarily mother), etc. He points out some facts regarding this issue. One, It doesn’t tell women not to have sexual relations with the corresponding family members. In fact, he points out, the bible is full of cases of sisters and brothers marrying. Two, he argues that one of the primary reasons, is that women were property. A man sleeping with his sister, deprives his father of the income that she would bring as a virgin bride.

A lot of the hangups towards sex we seem to have actually tie back to the male dominance within the bible according to this book. He points out areas where there are contradictions in things, and where some times a sexual connotation is being given, but we aren’t aware of it, such as mentioning of uncovering feet, wherein feet is a euphemism for genitalia. I’d never considered that, but his explanation does make sense, in the situations he brings up.

While I’m not 100% certain he’s correct in his interpretations, they do seem to make sense and fit his overall logic. I’m not sure I’d recommend this book for those who read the bible literally, but for those who tend to read things, and want to see things in their historical context, I think you’d find Mr. Coogan’s spin on these issues to be quite though provoking.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Valerie at Hachette Book Group for a review copy of this book. It in no way influenced my review.

You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.

Jesus Outside the Box – Mark Townsend

Saturday, September 25th, 2010



Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: O Books; Reprint edition (September 16, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1846943264
ISBN-13: 978-1846943263
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This is my second time being able to review one of Rev. Townsend’s books. And I wasn’t disappointed. While the book was rather short, it was effective. The basic premise of the book is to take many of the Jesus stories and present them from a different angle. For example, there is the story of the 5 loaves and fishes, presented from the view of the young boy who provided the food.

It reminded me of books such as 1001 Arabian Nights, or books I’ve read where they take a particular event, and show it through the eyes/emotions of those around the event.

I think anyone who has heard thes stories will like this book. I don’t think you necessarily have to be Christian to appreciate it. There are a few strong words, so it might not be for the younger children, but for older teens and adults I think it would be appropriate.

*Disclaimer* A special thanks goes out to Mark for a review copy of this book, it in no way influenced my review.

You can discuss it here or join my facebook page and discuss it there.