To Muslims, it’s a horror. To many Christians, it’s confusing. To Michael Reeves, author of Delighting in the Trinity (IVP, 2012), it—the Trinity—is the greatest thing about Christianity. Reeves writes, “If God was a single person, salvation would look entirely different. He might allow us to live under his rule and protection, but at an infinite distance, approached, perhaps, through intermediaries. He might even offer forgiveness, but he would not offer closeness.”
Reeves draws the contrast with Islam: “The Quran is a perfect example of a solitary God’s word. Allah is a single-person God who has an eternal word beside him in heaven, the Quran. At a glance, that seems to make Allah look less eternally lonely. But what is so significant is the fact that Allah’s word is a book, not a true companion for him.” Writers have an adage saying, show, don’t tell: The Quran is all about telling, but God the Father showed by sending His Son.
Reeves also notes that the Holy Spirit is hard to understand: He is sometimes seen as a force rather than a person, but that “gives the impression of God up in heaven lobbing down tokens of his blessing (‘the force’) while himself remaining all distant.” But the Holy Spirit gives us hope to do what’s right: Original sin makes both Jesus and the Spirit essential, because without them our natural urges will dominate us. We need the personal touch and the experience of tasting and seeing that the Lord is good—and the Holy Spirit gives us both.
This summary doesn’t do justice to the tight and witty writing that Reeves provides: He’s theological adviser for Britain’s Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, and his style reminds me of C.S. Lewis.
J. Budziszewski’s On the Meaning of Sex (ISI, 2012) brilliantly examines sexual powers, differences, and love, along with beauty and purity. He hits home by describing (for example) “a few of all the things men report experiencing in the presence of a lovely woman. … The feeling that the air has become fresher, delight in what meets eye and ear, enjoyment of her differentness … a feeling of clumsiness, a feeling of the clumsiness of the male sex as a whole, amusement over the two previous thoughts, embarrassment over the two previous thoughts.”
Sorrow & Blood (William Carey Library, 2012) collects 69 chapters by a variety of writers on persecution and martyrdom. Some of the articles are abstract, but others give good specific detail on Christian suffering in the Middle East, Russia, Africa, China, India, and other lands and regions. One chapter—“How Saintly Should Biographies Be?”—notes that “good biographies include sin and failure,” and a chapter by Mindy Belz, “Prayer Without Ceasing,” shows how those in the persecuted church turn to God for help.
Daniel Silva’s The Fallen Angel (HarperCollins, 2012) is his 12th novel with Gabriel Allon, masterful art restorer and Israeli spy, as the central character. This one is again wonderfully written and deeply sympathetic to how Israelis who love life must kill or be killed by terrorists who embrace death. If you want to understand the mindset that may lead Israel, against high odds, to try to take out Iran’s genocidal nuclear capability, this series will help, but be prepared to read about violence.
George Yancey and David Williamson’s What Motivates Cultural Progressives? Understanding Opposition to the Political Right (Baylor) is academically written but unconventional in its recognition that progressives are often irrational in their critique of what they see as irrational.
Donald T. Critchlow and W.J. Rorabaugh’s Takeoever (ISI) unconventionally criticizes “social justice” by explaining that it has corrupted liberalism.
Karen Handel’s Planned Bullyhood (Howard) shows what really happened earlier this year when Planned Parenthood ambushed the anti-breast-cancer group, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and made her the scapegoat; see WORLD’s March 24, 2012 interview with Handel. —M.O.