Batting .333

Brief notes on 14 recently published books

Issue: "Nifty 50 Books," July 1, 2000

Some readers believe that if they start a book they must finish it, lest they display a deficiency in character. But books outside of school should not be forced reading: If we start one and find it neither challenging nor endearing, we should always feel free to move on to the next. With the books that pile up by my treadmill I'm delighted to bat .333, finding one of three worth reading past the first chapter or two. Here are some brief notes on those that have been at least singles (and sometimes home runs) over the past few months, starting with five readable ones from evangelical publishers: Paul Marshall with Lela Gilbert, Heaven Is Not My Home (Word, 1998). An elegantly written book that shows why work in this world is significant and why evangelism is not the only important work in which believers should be engaged. John Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy (Crossway Books, 2000). Well-written, succinct biographical accounts of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, showing that loving God means being so satisfied in God and delighted in what He does for us that the Bible's commandments cease to be burdensome: God gets the glory and we get the grace. Kris Lundgaard, The Enemy Within: Straight Talk About the Power and Defeat of Sin (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1998). A valuable reminder that sin is always crouching at our door, with good advice on how to install some bolt locks. John Blanchard, Does God Believe in Atheists? (Evangelical Press, 2000). An everything-including-the-kitchen-sink book that could interest a bright student who's curious about major philosophers, world religions, cults, and lots of other stuff. John Perry, Unshakable Faith (Multnomah, 1999). This biography of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver will be particularly valuable for Christian teachers who approach Black History Month in a way both truth-seeking and sensitive. Scholarly books don't tend to get much publicity, and here are three good ones: Herbert Schlossberg, The Silent Revolution and the Making of Victorian England (Ohio State University Press, 2000). This thorough history shows how religious revival formed the basis of Victorian culture, from which we have much to learn. David Beito, From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967 (University of North Carolina Press, 2000). Fraternal societies created vast social networks among the poor and made available life and health insurance, hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the elderly. Charles Glenn, The Ambiguous Embrace: Government and Faith-Based Schools and Social Agencies (Princeton University Press, 2000). A comprehensive guide to the ins and outs of relations between religion-based social-service organizations and the often Christophobic officials who claim to be public servants. Here are four more books with little in common except the likelihood of their leaving readers uncomfortable: Joshua W. Greene and Shiva Kumar, Witness: Voices from the Holocaust (Free Press, 2000). The interwoven firsthand accounts of 27 witnesses give a sense of the horror of having death or slavery as the only two choices-and usually there was no choice. Particularly worth reading if you are involved in petty dispute. Paul R. Harris, Why Is Feminism So Hard to Resist? (Repristination Press, 1998). A tough-minded assault on feminist theology and practice, and on those (including some within the church) who surrender to it as they murmur, "Peace in our times." Daniel Lapin, America's Real War: An Orthodox Rabbi Insists that Judeo-Christian Values Are Vital for Our Nation's Survival (Multnomah, 1999). Jews who are hostile to Christianity should realize that they (and others) are much safer when conservative Christians rather than secular liberals are society's chief value-setters. Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross (Basic Books, 2000). When I read this during the days before Easter, the fine writing, powerful analysis, and moving images more than compensated for some theological emphases that I would question. And the last two are for kids: Robert C. Newman & John L. Wiester, with Janet & Jonathan Moneymaker, What's Darwin Got to Do With It? A Friendly Conversation About Evolution (InterVarsity Press, 2000). Darwinism's flaws and Intelligent Design's strengths, in a comic-strip form perfect for giving to middle- or high-school students getting their first whiff of evolutionist propaganda. Brian Jacques, The Legend of Luke (Philomel Books, 1999). No. 12 in the Redwall series, this and the others should be read not on a treadmill but by the bed of a 9-year-old, two chapters a night. The two problems of the series-prayers to nature rather than God, and unisex soldiery-can be fixed during oral transmission.

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Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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