Culture > Books

Mid-winter roundup

Books | Keeping warm on the treadmill with a flurry of good reads

Issue: "Maximum insecurity," Feb. 23, 2013

Robert Wuthnow’s The God Problem (University of California, 2012) examines atheists’ writing and concludes, “The critics of religion are absolutely correct about one thing: There is a God problem. Belief in God is a dubious conviction. There is no getting around it.” But the Princeton professor has it completely backward. God problem? No, atheist problem. We find ourselves in an existence we didn’t ask for on a world made for human beings. Atheists who think there’s nothing supernatural about this hugely unnatural situation are the ones with a problem.

Samuel Gregg’s Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future (Encounter, 2013) is a lucid account of the Europeanization of America’s political culture not only through quasi-socialistic programs but through personnel. Gregg shows how European leaders typically attend indoctrinating universities and then spend their whole lives in “public service.” With no understanding of how business works (and how hard it is to run a business), they adopt policies that lead to no or low growth and a lack of full-time, long-term jobs. Gregg notes that “at the beginning of 2012, an incredible 40 percent of workers aged 19 to 39 in most European Union countries were on temporary contracts.”

Books about Islam are now a torrent, but Andrew McCarthy’s Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy (Encounter, 2012) is important reading for anyone taken away by media myths of “Arab Spring.” William Kilpatrick’s Christianity, Islam, and Atheism (Ignatius, 2012) is a good introduction to the whole problem of Christian reticence to criticize Islam, sometimes out of fear and sometimes because of over-politeness. Kilpatrick sees Islam’s warrior code overwhelming a Christianity weakened by morale sappers like The Da Vinci Code, but it’s not too late for a Christian rally.

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If that rally doesn’t come, we’ll learn what Andrew Bostom’s Sharia versus Freedom: The Legacy of Islamic Totalitarianism (Prometheus, 2012) shows us: Under Quranic rule it will always be winter and never Christmas. Paul Williams’ Crescent Moon Rising (Prometheus, 2013) has an overblown subtitle—The Islamic Transformation of America—but useful information on Islam’s small steps domestically during the past three decades.

Jeff Shaara’s new novel, A Blaze of Glory (Ballantine, 2012), does for the Civil War battle of Shiloh what books by him and his dad did for Gettysburg and other eastern battles. Russell K. Nieli’s Wounds That Will Not Heal: Affirmative Action and our Continuing Racial Divide (Encounter, 2012) is an authoritative look at why affirmative action not only creates a new civil war but hurts many of those it’s designed to help.

Michael Milton’s Finding a Vision for Your Church: Assembly Required (P&R, 2012) shows the importance of assembling for worship, prayer, and teaching about grace and compassion. Greg Dutcher’s Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside (Cruciform, 2012) shows the problems that grow when some Calvinists style themselves theologians rather than disciples, tidy up the Bible’s “loose ends,” and arrogantly scoff at those who haven’t figured it out. What’s vital to know: God is sovereign; He saves people; He wants to use us to make that happen.

Lela Gilbert’s Saturday People, Sunday People (Encounter, 2012) is a well-written account of one Christian’s sojourn in Jerusalem. Christian’s Quest by Jacqueline Busch and Melvin Patterson (Moody, 2012) is a sprightly urban adaptation of The Pilgrim’s Progress that I wanted to dislike—oh, here’s another jive-talking junket into faux-coolness—but found charming. I also enjoyed the best novel I’ve read by a PCA pastor recently: Dave Swavely’s Silhouette (St. Martin’s, 2012). The page-turning political murder mystery set in a futuristic, post-earthquake San Francisco includes intimations of what’s truly important.

Finally, a stream of books showing a Christian worldview of work has headed my way, and I particularly like two that are short, salty, and Reformed in sensibility: Hugh Whelchel’s How Then Should We Work (Westbow, 2012) and Lester DeKoster’s Work: The Meaning of Your Life (Christian’s Library Press, 2012; orig. pub. 1982).

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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