This is my catch-up report on worthwhile reads from January to May.
First in war and peace and on my list: Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State, by Tara Ross and Joseph C. Smith Jr. (Spence, 2008), is a thoughtful look at Washington's view that biblical faith was vital in war and in peace: If God were not first in the hearts of his countrymen, the American republic would not long survive.
Amy-Jill Levine's The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus (HarperOne, 2006) irenically acknowledges "the grace and friendship that are at the heart of the church" and recognizes reality: "It is sometimes said that Judaism is the mother religion and Christianity the daughter, but church and synagogue are better seen as siblings fighting over the parents' legacy."
Never Surrender (FaithWords, 2008), by retired general William Boykin and WORLD's Lynn Vincent, tells the story of Boykin's battle against external opponents-he was a founding member of Delta Force and commanded Special Forces units-and domestic demoralizers who criticized Boykin's speeches as a Christian.
Boykin's evangelicalism was more common in the 18th and 19th centuries, as a recent InterVarsity series on evangelical history shows. Among the well-researched books of the series are Mark Noll's The Rise of Evangelicalism (Edwards, Whitefield, the Wesleys), John Wolffe's The Expansion of Evangelicalism (Wilberforce, More, Chalmers, Finney), and David Bebbington's The Dominance of Evangelicalism (Spurgeon and Moody).
Evangelicals were not always politically united, but the gap is probably as wide now as it ever has been. Red-Letter Christians by Tony Campolo (Regal, 2008) is stalwartly liberal. How Would Jesus Vote? (Waterbrook, 2008) is a stalwartly conservative book by the late D. James Kennedy and co-author Jerry Newcombe.
Robert Spencer, a gutsy author, delivers on his title: Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't (Regnery, 2007). Joshua David Hawley's Theodore Roosevelt: Preacher of Righteousness (Yale University Press, 2008) shows concisely that Roosevelt wanted to do God's will but frequently confused that with his own.
Thoughtful books by top theologians include John Stott's The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor (IVP, 2007) and N.T. Wright's Evil and the Justice of God (IVP, 2006). Sinclair Ferguson's In Christ Alone (Reformation Trust, 2007) is a collection of his magazine articles, and The Collected Works of John M. Frame: Theology is available on a DVD from P&R Publishing.
David Marshall's The Truth Behind the New Atheism (Harvest House, 2007) points out errors and lies pushed by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and others. Bryan A. Follis' Truth with Love: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer (Crossway, 2006) is a good introduction to the influential thinker.
Stewart Gordon's When Asia Was the World (Da Capo, 2008) is a light overview of major historical figures largely unknown in the West. Amy Chua's Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance-and Why They Fall (Doubleday, 2007) argues that racial and religious tolerance helps nations rise, but as ties that bind loosen, nations also fall.
Neal P. McCluskey's Feds in the Classroom (Rowman & Littlefied, 2007) shows that Washington programs, including No Child Left Behind, have left many children behind. Jeff Myers' Handoff: The Only Way to Win the Race of Life (Passing the Baton International) exhorts older readers to communicate what they've learned to an often-apathetic younger generation.