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Mind stretchers

Books that provide seven good innings on the treadmill

Issue: "George W. Bush: Gut check," April 24, 2004

AS THE NEW BASEBALL SEASON BEGINS, I'VE grouped some of the books read over the past four months into-what else?-innings. The creation/evolution debate of course comes first. Species of Origins: America's Search for a Creation Story, by Karl W. Gilberson and Donald Z. Yerxa (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), provides a sensible overview of the debate. Thomas Woodward's Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design (Baker, 2003) is a cleverly written history of the ID movement's rise. William Dembski's The Design Revolution (Intervarsity, 2004) answers tough questions about the theory that is blasting a hole in Darwinism.

On to the second inning: How is that creation/evolution debate faring right now in the schools and universities? Mr. Dembski is also the editor of Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing (ISI Books, 2004), 15 essays that display the academic firepower that the ID movement is beginning to bring to bear. With the hardest fighting going on in public schools, John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer have produced a handy guidebook to the major flashpoints: Darwinism, Design, and Public Education (Michigan State University Press, 2003).

Third inning: What happens after the Creation? I've found the Bible and classic commentaries by Matthew Henry and John Calvin most useful, but sometimes dipping into a different theological tradition can help make new what has grown overly familiar. David Klinghoffer's Abraham and the Birth of Monotheism (Doubleday, 2003) provides an interesting Talmudic perspective on the Genesis account, and Leon Kass's The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis (Free Press, 2003) shows how a leading neoconservative interacts with the text. Their sometimes fanciful interpretations need to be read skeptically.

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Fourth inning: Given mankind's desperate need for Christ, what's the best way to evangelize? Intervarsity Press covers the evangelism spectrum in three books: Going Public with the Gospel, by Lon Allison and Mark Anderson (2003), offers a tough approach. Finding God in the Questions, by ABC News medical editor Timothy Johnson (2004), provides an inoffensive way of starting discussions. One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus (2004), by J.I. Packer and Thomas Oden, is a compilation of the creeds arrived at by a host of conferences over the past three decades.

Fifth inning: Now we're in the middle of the game and looking for advice on how to get through it. Hugh Hewitt's In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World (Thomas Nelson, 2003) makes an excellent gift to a new college graduate. Armey's Axioms (Wiley, 2003), by former House majority leader Dick Armey, pithily presents modern proverbs and stories behind them, including "You can't stand on principle with feet of clay," "You can't get ahead while you're getting even," and "You can't get your finger on the problem if you've got it to the wind."

(OK, at the risk of not completing the game, here are some more good ones: "If you make a deal with the devil, you are the junior partner.... The wise hen doesn't cackle until the egg is laid.... You can't hunt with the big dogs dressed as a bone.... Don't go back and check on a dead skunk.... There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule.")

Sixth inning: We do get kicked by mules all the time, and it's called war. For a human-interest story within an inhumane war that led to 600,000 American deaths, check out Gordon C. Rhea's Carrying the Flag (Basic, 2004), which effectively focuses on one 40-year-old South Carolina soldier during the horrific Virginia fighting of May 1864, which reached its low point at the Bloody Angle. For a moving contemporary account of what U.S. parents go through when their children are in danger in Afghanistan or Iraq, see Frank Schaeffer's Faith of Our Sons: A Father's Wartime Diary (Carroll & Fraf, 2004).

Seventh inning: The worst fighting in our culture war now concerns homosexuality, and some liberal denominations are leading the retreat. That's too bad, because Robert A.J. Gagnon's The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon, 2001) shows how firmly and emphatically the Bible condemns homosexuality. So, for that matter, does considerable social-science research, as co-editors Peter Sprigg and Timothy Dailey show in Getting It Straight: What the Research Shows about Homosexuality (Family Research Council, 2004).

We'll complete this game on another day.

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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