A book to give a student finishing high school and heading to a liberal college: Letters to a Young Progressive by Mike Adams (Regnery, 2013). Four decades ago I could have used a professor like Adams who cared enough to challenge the Marxist thinking into which I fell. The book is also good for college graduates who have sat through four years of propaganda: Its subtitle is, How to avoid wasting your life protesting things you don’t understand.
(Another option: Economic Growth—AEI Press, 2013—is a good, short paperback to give students taught to think that growth-oriented enterprise hurts the poor. Three Christian college professors—Edd Noell, Stephen Smith, and Bruce Webb—show how economic growth is the way to lift countries from poverty to prosperity: The result is greater global equality, environmental improvement, and human flourishing.)
A book to give a theologically wandering student: Ellis Potter’s Three Theories of Everything (Destinee Media, 2012), a brief, brilliant look at the three basic theological choices we have—Monism, Dualism, Trinitarianism. He describes what students and the rest of us need: “Being saved is like being remade from a dead, self-centered creature into a living, other-centered creature.” He notes that many born-again Christians think the peace God gives us is “lack of conflict. But that isn’t what the Bible says when it says peace. It means shalom, which is the foundation of well-being and understanding of reality. … Many Christians are passive and complacent in their faith, forgetting that the word Israel means the one who wrestles with God.”
(Another option: Tim Keller’s punchy pamphlet The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy, put out last year by Ten Publishing. Keller points out that “gospel humility is not thinking more of myself or less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.” Christians are not on trial every day because “God imputes Christ’s perfect performance to us as if it were our own, and adopts us into His family.”)
A book to give a student who wants to fight poverty: Dave Donaldson and Terry Glaspey’s Relentless: Pursuing a Life that Matters (Influence, 2013). They describe ways to help the poor through means as different as foster care and water filtration systems. They show how relational justice—people helping others, one to one—is the key to developing social justice, and note that relentless Christians “avoid compassion fatigue because they are plugged into an unlimited power source.” They also point out that relentless Christians work to strengthen churches instead of abandoning them, hold charities accountable for the funds they raise to help the needy, and refuse to assume someone else will take care of problems.
Jim Holt’s Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story came out in hardback last year and emerged in paperback on April 8 (Liveright). Holt writes about Adolf Grunbaum, “arguably the greatest living philosopher of science,” and one who finds “the existence of the world utterly unastonishing.” Holt praises Grunbaum for being “utterly convinced that it is rational for him to be unastonished.”
Grunbaum’s 90th birthday arrives this summer: Many people by that age are thinking of what (if anything) comes next, but “even today,” according to Holt, Grunbaum insists that “when we ask why there is something rather than nothing, we are, unwittingly or not, heirs to a way of thinking that is a vestige of early Judeo-Christianity.” That’s dumb, in Grunbaum’s opinion. That’s astounding, in my opinion: Holt calls Grunbaum “the Great Rejectionist,” since he finds no wonder in the existence of the Universe, but how can a philosopher not want to deal with the most basic question: Why we exist?
Recommended reading for Grunbaum: What Happens After I Die by Michael Rogers (Crossway, 2013) cogently summarizes the biblical view of what happens. A 90th birthday present? —M.O.