From Dust and Ashes - Tricia Goyer (Reviewed for Blether)
The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (book club)
Full House - Janet Evanovich
Full Tilt - Janet Evanovich
Where the Heart Is - Billie Letts
The King of Torts - John Grisham
There is an old joke my father used to tell, that if you asked people of six different Christian denominations what one particular Bible passage meant, you would get seven different answers. Name a topic related to Christianity, and more than likely it has been supported and refuted in the same books, if not the same passages, of the Old or New Testaments.
No joke, Ira Benjamin Hezekiah of the non-denominational BibleCommentator.com website tackles one such topic of debate - the question of depravity - in Total Depravity and Free Will; more specifically, is man doomed to be deprived of salvation because of the inability to come to God on his own? Did God create us specifically to have us come to Him at His leisure, as Hezekiah says is a belief held by many Christians?
Hezekiah, a supporter of the concept of free will, says no, turning directly to the Bible to support his thesis. In Total Depravity, the question of the existence of total depravity is dissected into four parts: man's nature after the Fall; man's role in his own salvation; God role in man's salvation; and man's will as it interacts with God's. Using examples from Genesis (in particular the stories of Abraham, Enoch, and the Great Flood), Hezekiah succintly illustrates the ability of man to control his own destiny with regards not only to sin, but to seeking God's mercy and love. New Testament passages cited serve to bolster Hezekiah's arguement for free will. In preparation for detractors, Hezekiah devotes a section of Total Depravity to refuting proponents of this theory, explaining in particular Paul's letter to the Ephesians (when he speaks of people "dead in their sins") in a chapter that may please those who do not hold belief in sola scriptura.
Regardless of your beliefs in total depravity, Hezekiah's work offers a thought-provoking, straightforward study of the subject, suitable for scholarly discussion or friendly Biblical debate.
For Europe, the war is over. Prison camps are being liberated, and SS guards are rounded up for punishment as their families are forced to leave their homes - a much lesser fate than was received by the people imprisoned. One such wife is Helene, heavily pregnant with her second child and coping with her husband Friedrich's abandonment, who faces her eviction alone.
An emotional reunion with her estranged father presents Helene with a new home, yet it is not enough to ease the guilt brought on from her years in a tense, perhaps abusive marriage. With no thought to her own welfare and the concern of her peers, Helene volunteers to take in two prisoners - Michaela, a Christian arrested for harboring Jews, and Lelia, a Jewish teenager barely clinging to life. The gesture indeed attracts attention, not the least from an American GI named Peter Scott.
Hoping to take advantage of his presence in the war to further the Word of God, Peter's own faith is shattered by the devestation encountered in its aftermath, particularly after the liberation of the concentration camps. He finds strength and solace in his visits to the three ladies harbored at Helene's father's house, feelings felt also by Helene as her charges gradually help to alleviate her guilt by association through their example of faith.
From Dust and Ashes is billed as "story of liberation," yet the meaning is twofold. There is the setting of the fallen camps, the fallen Third Reich, and the liberation of the Jewish people. Author Goyer, in a rich, engrossing narrative, offers the reader a view of characters set free of their emotional traumas by forgiveness, faith, and love. Dust is also a love story, not in the traditional romance novel sense (though elements are visible), as evidenced in the gentle tensions between Peter and Michaela, as well as Peter and Helene. Written with remarkable, thoughtful accuracy, From Dust and Ashes is a story of hope set in a time where such a thing appeared to be lacking, a story for the mainstream.