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
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.