2018: New Year, New Platform.

Friends and those I’ve met only through mutual subscription,

For 2018 I have ventured onto a new platform (with squarespace, so don’t tell wordpress…!): http://www.sooholee.com.

All book reviews will be now posted there. Plus, there might be some of my musings.

Please check it out!



Ready Player One // Ernest Cline.


(The above picture is not the book’s cover but an [awesome] illustration found on Google images.)

Ready Player One is an exciting sci-fi book that both honors the past (specifically 1980s) and entertains the future (or the near-future with virtual reality technology spiking). If you like 1980s video games or pop culture, you will most likely love this book. I, for one, did not grow up in the 80s nor played many of the “classic” video games, so there were more than a handful of references that were just empty to me. Nevertheless, this is worth the read, especially since there’s a movie version coming out very soon.

The Gift of Asher Lev // Chaim Potak.


The Gift of Asher Lev is a fitting sequel to My Name is Asher Lev.

Nearly 20 years after My Name, Asher Lev, exiled Hasid artist, thrives in France. His name is among contemporary greats, listed with Picasso and Jacob Kahn. He is married to Devorah and has two beautiful kids, Rochelah and Avrumel. His exile is home. But two events in sharp succession throw Asher into Ambiguity: vicious criticism of his most recent exhibition and the death of his beloved Uncle Yitzchok. In one swoop, his critics — especially the good ones — struck down Asher: “He is repeating himself.” An artist entrapped in a loop is an artist in Ambiguity: he is repeating himself because he cannot see clearly. If My Name is about Asher’s undeniable gifted perception, The Gift is about its curse and burden.

Asher and his family fly to Brooklyn for the ritual mourning: a mixed array of emotions with ironic results. The death of Uncle Yitzchok pulled Devorah out of her grave and connected grandparents with grandkids. The family that Asher’s parents had and lost is now found after mourning. A family in exile is now in a community of a people — except for Asher. He is the original exile — exiled because of his gift.

The Gift is a riddle. But it is Asher’s wrestling with riddles, truths in ambiguous forms, that pulls him out of Ambiguity. He sees clearly once he reckons that he cannot see clearly. And what he sees is not always satisfying. Sometimes, seeing with clarity is more painful than seeing with Ambiguity. The gift of The Gift is to see the pain; the curse of The Gift is to see that pain; and the burden of The Gift is to live with that pain.

The Great Divorce // C.S. Lewis


The first time I read The Great Divorce I was pleasantly surprised by its fresh approach to the problem of Hell (Did God really create a place of excruciating torment for those who reject Jesus?). Instead of burning sulfur, it is a place of cold isolation — a preference for those who ultimately reject Love. This second time around, however, a different emphasis unraveled itself: the shocking power of minuscule bitterness.

Many of the bus-riders, leaving the “safety” and “security” of Gray Town, are met with past coworkers, neighbors, friends or family members. They are urged to shed the bitterness — bitterness so small in its inception yet so cancerous in its long-term effects — and to embrace — or, more correctly, be embraced by — Love. Not love, but Love. Not self-redemption or self-vindication, but Love. Not even forgiveness, but Love. But, oh, how difficult it is to allow oneself to be embraced! How painful are many of these appointed encounters! The finality of rejection only hurts those who reject (not the rejected) in the afterlife.

Perhaps, it is because I read The Great Divorce fresh from finishing The Screwtape Letters that I’m obsessed with the idea of the surprising power of small and minute things. Grand and monstrous evils are, thankfully, not as common as little vanities here and there. But how powerful still are the accumulated effects of a lifetime investment of small vices! We must not underestimate them.

The Screwtape Letters // C.S. Lewis.


C.S. Lewis is one of those few authors who get better on the third and fourth read. Personally, this is a timely read. Though I have read this particular Lewis work before, it was recommended to me this time because of the insurmountable worries, anxiety, doubts, and fears I tend to face in this season. Lewis is, oddly enough, encouraging by means of an unorthodox voice: the veteran devil named Screwtape.

Sure, Screwtape is a senior in the British field during a very different era. Yet, he is still illuminating. Hearing from Screwtape this time around impressed on me the power of small maneuvers. Small sins and distractions are preferred over extravagant and gaudy ones. Precisely, small sins and distractions at the opportune time. For example, it is not just thinking about food at any time but right when one crawls toward a deeper personal issue: thinking about food becomes a tangent that prevents possibly much-needed introspection. Another, it is not just judging some mannerisms a nuisance at any time, but when one is not around the person of annoyance. In other words, while one is with the person of annoyance all is glee, but as soon as one leaves that person’s presence judgments pour forth. What these timed judgments cause is the fiction that all is well with the relationship: no need to deepen it; actually, it is best kept at arm’s length.

This time around, I think, was my first time reading “Screwtape Proposes a Toast.” What a delightful read at the end! What a punchy piece towards the current state of affairs regarding education.

Compendium of Theology // St. Thomas Aquinas (trans. by Richard J. Regan).


Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Doctor Angelicus, is most known for his magisterial magnum opus: Summa Theologiae (ST). But what about Compendium of Theology (CT)? Rarely mentioned. CT is arguably the least known and least studied of Aquinas texts, which is, really, unfortunate. Sure, CT is an incomplete work, abruptly ending mid-sentence, but its condensed content and simplicity are just praiseworthy. CT was planned to be a three-part work (modeled after faith, hope, and charity) as a manual for non-academics. But Aquinas’ unforeseen death quickly halted CT’s progress: he barely started on part II, Hope, and did not even get to part III, Charity. Thus, an overwhelming percentage of CT is on faith, the contents of Christian doctrine. Part I can be broken down into two unequal halves: (1) Doctrine of God, §3-184, and (2) Christology, §185-246. Each can be further divided into subcategories.

It is undeniable that the Doctor Angelicus lived and breathed during a very different cultural and intellectual environment than, say, California 2017. Aquinas’ High Scholasticism might be perceived as a sore and a bore. For example, ST’s prompt, initial answers, elaboration, possible objections, and counterarguments format could easily dissuade today’s readers to read any further. Might I then offer CT as the ideal place to start? CT is one of Aquinas latest works, therefore one of his most mature. Plus, CT does not have ST’s format.

Caveat Lector: This is the only Aquinas text I have actually finished in its entirety. I have read here and there from ST, and it is one of my theological dreams to finish it, but that thing is seriously massive.

Atonement, Law, and Justice // Adonis Vidu.


Atonement, Law, and Justice is both an ambitious attempt and a bit of a quandary: Did Adonis Vidu write two books in one? Here’s what I mean.

The first five chapters brief over two thousand years to postulate that it is possible that atonement theories are formed in dialectical engagement with philosophies of law and justice. Greco-Roman philosophers with patristic fathers, the medieval wedding of natural and divine law, the reformation reaction to the medieval wedding, the modern reaction to the reformation’s reaction, and the postmodern reaction to all things prior. Though not exhaustive, Vidu makes a compelling case that certain atonement theories of certain periods tend to agree with the general sentiments about law and justice in said periods. These chapters alone are worth reading for an interesting historical reconstruction of Western atonement, law, and justice.

The last chapter, however, seems to take a dramatic turn. It is here Vidu proposes something more “constructive” (though, really, it is “defensive”). Vidu argues that a robust Doctrine of Simplicity can assuage harsh criticisms against penal substitutionary atonement (PSA). In short, the Doctrine of Simplicity claims that God is ontologically basic. God’s essence is his existing; his essence is to will and act one thing. The divine attributes are not collapsed into one conglomerate but unified distinctly and simply in God. For example, God is, at once, fully loving and just; there is not a moment where God is “more loving” and then the next moment “more just.” God is, at all times, fully both because he is Love and is Justice.

Confused? Well, perhaps reading Vidu’s take will help. Or not.

So, if God is simple, as Vidu strongly claims, then God is not “more wrathful and less loving” at the cross then, say, at the resurrection and Pentecost. Additionally, God the Father cannot be punishing God the Son, because that would assume God is comprised of, at least, two parts (Father and Son).

Surely, Vidu’s last chapter is a strong defensive proposal for PSA, but I cannot seem to make its connection with the previous five chapters. Is Vidu arguing that the Doctrine of Simplicity should be in the driver seat for atonement theories rather than philosophies of law and justice? Perhaps that would be the more “just” reading.