Archive for March 2005
Hofstadter, Douglas. Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. New York: Basic Books, 1999.
This book is an excellent and fun, if lengthy, romp through art (visual, literary, and musical), mathematics, logic, provability and computability, linguistics, cognitive science and artificial intelligence, and more. Hofstadter cleverly explores a myriad of amazing connections between all these fields. And while he ends up drawing no substantive conclusions about his final hypothesis of emergent intelligence, the journey is no less exciting.
I disagree with Hofstadter’s opinion of the nature of intelligence. But I thoroughly enjoyed this book for a number of reasons. First, despite its imposing size, it is accessible; Hofstadter presents mathematical proofs in an easily understood way, using examples, analogies, and much explanatory prose. Second, despite its imposing size, it is delightfully fun; this book is brimming with humor, wit, cleverness, and exciting coincidences. Lastly, it is an excellent introduction to a broad variety of topics.
I first read this book in eighth grade and deeply enjoyed it. In part this book served as my introduction to the exciting fields of logic, mathematics, and computer science.
Vos, Geerhardus. Biblical Theology. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1996.
In this book Vos presents an expansive summary of Biblical theology. In this case, Biblical theology is a technical term that means the study of the history of theological development in Scripture. Biblical theology as a discipline seeks to understand what Israel understood about God throughout Biblical history, and what God was intending to teach Israel as He progressively revealed himself to them.
Vos is reformed, and he presents a compelling view not simply of a sovereign and glorious Creator and Redeemer, but of a Creator who has had one plan for all of history. Vos demonstrates the continuity of God’s revelation and covenants, showing how each progressive stage fits into God’s revealed eternal plan. I had never seen this demonstrated so powerfully before; this was very encouraging for me to read.
In particular, I was struck by Vos’s presentation of God’s law. Vos reminds us that God has always intended to save by grace alone, and that even in the Old Testament it was not obedience to the law that brought salvation, but rather obedience filled with faith in a God of grace. In Romans Paul discusses his pre-conversion understanding of God’s law. Forgetting Paul’s reminder that Abraham was saved by faith, not works, I sometimes think that Paul’s legalistic pre-conversion understanding of the law was right! But Vos reminds us that law and grace are not at odds; that the law is good and gracious; and that as much as we are now freed from bondage to the law, God never intended to save by anything other than grace.
I understand that Vos had not fully completed this book by the time of his death, and so his treatment of the New Testament is somewhat less extensive than his treatment of the Old Testament. But this book is still a tremendously valuable survey of God’s self-revelation and dealings with man throughout scripture.