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History lessons

Books | Authors delve into the past, from creation forward

Issue: "Dating and courtship confusion," June 4, 2011

Let's look at some history books, starting with the beginning of history. C. John Collins' Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care (Crossway, 2011) shows that theistic evolutionists who deviate from clear biblical teaching undercut the entire Bible. Fazale Rana's Creating Life in the Lab (Baker, 2011) shows how discoveries in synthetic biology are producing evidence of a Creator. Andrew Snelling's two-volume Earth's Catastrophic Past (Institute for Creation Research, 2009) documents geological evidence for a young earth.

David Flusser's The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus' Genius (Eerdmans revised edition, 2007) acknowledges Christ's supernatural authority, praises the three synoptic gospels, suggests that the Transfiguration really happened, is "convinced" that sightings of the resurrected Jesus are "reliable," and notes that "Jesus' acute self-awareness cannot be denied." Nevertheless, the Orthodox Jewish scholar at his death had apparently not acknowledged Christ's divinity.

Peter Leithart does well what he set out to do in Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom (IVP, 2010). He knows how to tell a story through most of the chapters, and in the last chapter eviscerates the politics of John Howard Yoder. Leithart says leaders should not abdicate or be pacifists, but should love their enemies in a way that sometimes means war: "A ruler would have to stand firm against the antics of tyrants, not out of hatred but out of love, to prevent the tyrant from doing great evil to himself and others. If the tyrant attacked, the ruler would have to defend his people out of love for them and out of love for his enemy."

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With so many Westerners tearing down Western civilization and its Christian base, it's good to see Vishal Mangalwadi, a leading Christian intellectual from India, recognizing the virtues of the West, and what we all owe to The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization (Thomas Nelson, 2011).

Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom's Clouds of Witnesses (IVP, 2011) has good chapter biographies of Christian leaders who glorified Christ in Africa and Asia from the 1880s to the end of the last century. Among them: Albert Luthuli, who led peaceful resistance to South African apartheid, and Wang Mingdao, the "dean of Chinese house churches," who spent 20 years in prison for refusing to join the government-run Three Self Movement.

The book is extraordinarily flat in one of its notes, a chapter on Yao-Tsung Wu titled "Communist and Christian." How can that be when Communism is based on hatred of Christ, and Wu (specifically, as the authors admit) "condoned and even led the brutal denunciations of Christian brothers and then watched many languish in prison, or worse"-all the while still claiming to be a Christian?

This is not to say that to be Christian we must have our heads screwed on straight politically. We all mess up in lots of ways, and some people proceed out of ignorance for a time-but, logically, it's no more possible to be both a Christian and a Communist than it is to be a Christian and a Nazi. And yet, some still have a soft spot for the left: I doubt if any Christian publisher today would put out a generally positive chapter titled "Nazi and Christian."

Just for fun

Two histories published by Basic Books last year reveal minor but colorful interludes: Nancy Marie Brown's The Abacus and the Cross tells of Pope Sylvester II, who lived 1,000 years ago and became known as "The Scientist Pope." Philipp Blom's A Wicked Company describes the radicals who were the talk of Paris 250 years ago. In The Siege of Washington (Oxford, 2011), John and Charles Lockwood answer well the question of why the South didn't seize the capital during the first few days of the Civil War: It was a very close call.

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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