Carl Schmuland. Parables of the Deer: A Journey Towards Christian Maturity. Apopka: New Book Publishing (a division of Reliance Media), 2012. See here to buy the book.
In Parables of the Deer, Carl Schmuland shares photographs of deer that he has taken and ties them with a theological point. He has 124 reflections, and each reflection is two pages. Schmuland writes from a Protestant Reformed perspective. That means that he believes that God chose who would be saved before the foundation of the world, that Christ died to pay the penalty of sin for the chosen ones, and that God unilaterally changes the hearts of the chosen so that they believe in Christ and live a holy life.
The book covered a variety of topics. Some of the discussions were fairer than others. The discussions about the Lord’s supper (i.e., transubstantiation and consubstantiation) and baptism (i.e., infant vs. believers’ baptism) were fair and helpful, according to my understanding of the different views about these issues. Schmuland tended to portray Arminians and Catholics as thinking that one can believe in God by free will, as if (in their minds) God’s grace were not part of the equation in enabling a person to believe, and I did not find that characterization to be particularly fair. To quote section 154 of the Catholic Catechism, “Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit.” On occasion, at least when it came to Arminianism, Schmuland gave some indications that he knew better. His discussion on evolution asked good questions, yet Schmuland said that, just because humans and chimpanzees share 98 percent of their DNA, that does not mean that humans evolved from chimpanzees. But evolutionists do not claim that humans evolved from chimpanzees, but rather that humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor. At times, Schmuland dismissed scientists who do not believe in a creator as rebellious sinners who do not want to believe in God, and that approach, in my opinion, is not as impressive as actually trying to engage their arguments.
There were aspects of the book that lightened it up. The deer pictures and stories were endearing, as was Schmuland’s honesty about his spiritual journey. Schmuland says that he himself used to be skeptical about the Bible. That humanized him more.
The book can serve as a helpful resource on differences within Christianity and philosophy; I particularly liked Schmuland’s discussion of Kant, who dismissed the cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of God, yet said that God’s existence does provide a necessary justice to the universe. If anything, Schmuland’s book does encourage me to read more: to learn more about the evidence for evolution and how Arminians interpret the biblical passages that Calvinists cite in favor of Calvinism. The book can also be a good devotional: its chapters are only two pages, and they are both deep and lighthearted. While I personally have difficulty finding the God of Calvinism to be all that loving or attractive, there is a certain order, rhyme, and reason to Calvinism that do intrigue me.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash, in exchange for an honest review.