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I. Book Reviews (1-50)

A Review by David Claerbaut


Nicholas Wolterstorff, edited by Mark R. Gornik and Gregory Thompson, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011)

Hearing the Call is a collection of nearly 40 essays by the famed Calvinist philosopher, Nicholas Wolterstorff.  Now in his 80’s, Wolterstorff could well be the greatest living Christian scholar.  A prolific writer, the world is much the better for his literary endeavors.  With his Harvard Ph.D. in hand at 24, Wolterstorff soon joined the Calvin College faculty in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He remained at Calvin until 1989.  What is so astonishing about Wolterstorff, however, is that despite teaching a full, undergraduate course load along with handling committee assignments at a teaching rather than research institution, he was able to produce such truly first class publications.  Nine excellent books came from the “pen” of Wolterstorff before 1989. 

He then—at 57–became the Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale University, remaining there until 2001. With more time to write at Yale, he was able to make more contributions to Christian thought, all the while receiving accolades from the Christian as well as mainstream research university communities.

Wolterstorff’s chief passion is Christian scholarship, and my friendship with him—a former professor of mine—is a major force in the creation and existence of this faith and learning website.  Within that Christian worldview framework, he has focused on an incredible variety of subjects, ever applying an insightful Christian perspective. 

In Hearing the Call the reader is given the privilege of seeing into the thinking of this great Christian mind as he comments on liturgy, justice, church, and the world.  Justice and suffering have been emerging topics with Wolterstorff.  There is an article on this site (in Political Science under the SocSci tab) entitled, “Religious Tolerance and the Wounds of God,” that illustrates his concern for peace and justice.  The essays in this book were written over a 50-year span and cover an immense waterfront.

Though among the greatest of scholars, Wolterstorff’s book is a series of popular and semi-popular reflections, all of which give voice to a call.  “I have repeatedly found myself confronted by a call to give voice to a call,” Wolterstorff writes in the preface.  The first essay, “The Grace that Shaped My Life,” provides a personal context for the essays that follow.  In “Justice as a Condition of Authentic Liturgy,” Wolterstorff calls believers to worship in truth, but once dispersed from the sanctuary, to seek justice and equity in the human community.  “Justice, Not Charity: Social Work Through the Eyes of Faith” is rich with insight and distinctions for the Christian in community.  There is also an essay entitled, “Is God Good and Sovereign, Why Lament?”  Wolterstorff is a reluctant expert on lament, losing his 25-year old son Eric to a mountain climbing accident in the middle ‘80’s—the suffering so great that for him the tragic event has divided his life into before and after phases.  His Lament for a Son (Eerdmans, 1987) has become a near classic for Christians facing grief.  

“Death in Gaza” and “An Evening in Amman” give the book an international flavor, while “The Political Ethic of the Reformers” provides a historical perspective. There are also essays on art, architecture, and music.  His “Theological Foundations for an Evangelical Political Philosophy” offers clear, cogent thinking and direction.  In this one, he offers 13 statements with which almost any genuine believer would agree.  Among them are that government is not merely a human construction, but a divinely ordained institution.  He states that its functions need to be justice and the common good and hence, Christians occupying positions in government need to make that their twin focus. 

Not every book has an “Afterword,” and when they do, they are usually brief.  Not so this one.  It runs 27 pages and includes two interviews with Wolterstorff, a bit of a biographical sketch, and how his mind has changed in his pilgrimage to understanding the role and nature of justice.

Readers do need to realize that Wolterstorff emanates from a Reformed, Calvinist tradition, and although that is evident in spots, the selections and editing for the book were aimed at the widest Christian audience possible. 

If you want to sit down and engage a brilliant Christian mind, you can do no better than to read Hearing the Call.

Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by David Claerbaut


Zev Chafets, (NY: Sentinel, 2013)

The subject is a worthy one.  Roger Ailes is one of those behind the scenes oligarchs who exerts profound influence on politicians in particular and political attitudes in general.  Because of his high influence yet low visibility, it is well to get an up-close look at this media Goliath.  Ailes has a long and impactful history.  He was a political architect for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Bush the Elder.  Beyond that he is the force behind Fox News, the most popular cable news network extant.  In a society that so often leans left, Ailes has fashioned right-of-center approaches with singular skill, dropping them into the mainstream with maximum effectiveness.  Ailes’ tactics include appealing to the emotions; staying on the offensive; and staying in rhythm with TV’s byte-sized, provocative, and instant nature.  Much of Ailes’ success resides in his eschewing the understated, colorless, style that has typified much of conservative political discourse.

It is the life and times of Roger Ailes that is the subject of this book by Zev Chafets.  Chafets has done a good bit of right-of-center writing, having also written Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One (2010).  In fact, Sentinel, a subdivision of Penguin, traffics in conservative subject matter.  Chafets, who makes no secret of being Jewish, is a gifted wordsmith in the Jewish literary tradition of clever and even sarcastic commentary and turns of phrase. 

This book, like his Cooperstown Confidential, an expose of the baseball Hall of Fame, however, is a bit of an underachievement.  It contains little in the way of fresh material.  Chafets did spend a good deal of time with Ailes, and hence, received an ample supply of horse’s-mouth anecdotes,  Nonetheless, rather than providing incisive commentary, Chafets too often allows his subject to speak through the author’s pen.  That Ailes has a colorful style is beyond debate, and that of course can make a biographer vulnerable to being more a microphone than an analyst.  In any case, the Ailes’ tome parallels Chafets’ efforts with the Cooperstown product—long on interesting writing but not abounding in fresh information or insight.

Ailes does come off as a bare-knuckles battler.  He scorns the intellect of Joe Biden, the manners of Newt Gringrich, and the laziness of the current president.  One wonders if this street fighting image is a compensatory tactic for a man who spent his youth dealing the hemophilia.  Chafets is a man of considerable intellect and very capable of some in-depth analysis of that sort or thing.  Perhaps his admiration of Ailes stood in the way. 

Any treatment of Ailes begs some serious faith-and-learning questions.  Why, for example, is Fox evangelical-friendly without really having a stable of evangelicals on the screen?  To what extent is Fox really influenced by evangelical Christian thinking?  Who are the evangelical influencers within Fox?  (Ailes’ wife was once the producer of Mission Media Ministries.)  Is “attack journalism” really necessary to generate ratings? 

The now 73-year-old Ailes has achieved singular success in transmitting the Republican message.  Other than the late Bill Buckley, no one matches Ailes’ impact in taking a conservative message to the masses.  As such, while he is still active, picking the brain of this cultural giant would seem very beneficial.  Chafets book offers some substance, but like his Hall of Fame book, leaves the reader wishing for a bit more.    

Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by Mark Eckel


Howard Mansfield, (Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013)

Clocks ruined time.  Such a declarative statement seems out of place, a complete contradiction. Yet, when people attempted to control time, plan time, co-opt time, yes, even tell time, time actually lost its place.  You see, time and place go together.  You cannot have one without the other.  “When” and “where” are uttered in the same breath.  Indeed, physicists tell us that matter, space, and time must exist together; one cannot be apart from the other two.  What difference does all this make?  Humans have unwittingly given jurisdiction of their lives to digital readouts; we are servants to the time-clock.  In so doing, place is torn from its moorings; time became a commodity, dragging space with it. Turn & Jump is a marvelous rollick through periods where place mattered.  Diarists mark their days with the distinctiveness of time wedded with place.  Pithy proverbs such as “clocks are a fiction we accept in order to get on with our day” and “once time was a river, now time was money” dot Mansfield’s pages.  Turn & Jump—a metaphor for the tempestuous life of vaudevillians hustling money within short stretches of time over the long haul of place—tells tale after tale of history which has lost its historical significance. Some will blame the loss of meaning on commerce with its pulsating press for time.  Others will ask, “Was the invention of the clock what forged the mills of commerce?”  One suspects both had their influence.  As the hurry-up of time pressed people, boundaries changed.  Railroads created time zones.  Instead of a worker bowing to the sun’s traverse across the sky, he now bows to a punch clock.  “Here was merging with there,” as Mansfield succinctly says.   “The more precise and uniform timekeeping became, the more time fragmented” (38).  Now each person was their own sovereign.  Time, now separated from place, allowed the division of past, present, and future.  People declared their own usurpation of time, making it do their bidding. Mansfield’s strength is how he tells about time and place with multiple stories.  Episodes of life cascade over the waterfall of our reading; a joy for which we simply gaze in wonder.  Note his description of the New England meeting house, a decorated shed.  “The worship mattered, not the church.”  So important is this idea that Mansfield concludes by saying, “We should look more closely at the life that flows through [the house].  The continuous show is inside” (100).  Time meets place and creates meaning.  People cannot live well without meaning.  We think we control time only to find that time now controls us.  Mansfield ends his story montage in the graveyard.  Time will ultimately prevail.  We cannot control what cannot be controlled.  Time will continue without us. “Our life,” says James, “lasts for a little time and then vanishes” (4:14; see also Proverbs 27:1).  Mansfield speaks true Truth for those committed to faith and learning.  God created time, matter, and place.  The perfection of creation bolsters Mansfield’s deepest desire for time and place to be one.  The incarnation brings a real person in time and space, Jesus, uniting the rising sun with the place where we witness each new dawn.  And then there is the consummation of time and place.  One day, there will not be a need for the sun, because we will have The Son.  Mansfield’s Turn & Jump reminds us that something is missing.  We yearn for a time and a place where we can rest and enjoy.   “Turn and jump” will no longer remind us of fast-paced life, but will be included in the eternal dance by The One who has given us New Time in a New Place. Dr. Eckel is a regular contributor to faithandlearningforum.com.  His creative website is www.warpandwoof.org.

A Review by David Claerbaut


Marc Eliot, (NY: Crown Archetype, 2012)

Eliot begins his book effectively, pulling the reader in by reciting one tragic tale after another involving the offspring of major celebrities.  Suicide and addiction abound among children of the rich and famous.  From there he rolls on, providing a brief but pointed mini-biography of Douglas’ father, Issur Danielovitch–a son of a cold Russian Jewish ragman—who later became Kirk Douglas.  While Kirk suffered from an emotionally dysfunctional upbringing, he acted out that malady through notorious womanizing. 

At 27, Kirk’s then wife, actress/model Diana Dill, gave birth to Michael.  Another son, Joel, was born in 1947.  Michael Douglas never really had a chance at normality, thrust as he was between an inadequate, adulterous father, and a rejected and disrespected mother.  There is much in the book about Michael crying as he witnessed vehement arguments between his parents, who would divorce by the time he was seven.

Out of this cauldron of dysfunction came an understandable love/hate relationship between Michael and his absent father.  It was Michael’s tenacity and twisted relationship with his father that drove Douglas to climb the difficult mountain of fame and make his own mark.  The early years were trying.  Bit parts in eminently forgettable films were his early destiny.  In 1972, however, Douglas was cast opposite Karl Malden—a man he came to revere–in the TV series, “The Streets of San Francisco,” which ran until 1976.     

Douglas’ breakthrough actually came off the stage, when he produced the blockbuster, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” in 1975.  Now on the Hollywood map, he parlayed that professional goldmine into on-stage success and eventual megastardom.

All the while, his personal life was in disarray.  An unsuccessful yet lengthy first marriage, dotted by infidelity and drug use and a son, Cameron, now 34 and incarcerated in New York on a drug rap, suggests a harvest of the pathological seeds of Douglas’ own origin.  In 2000, he married actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones.  The union has produced two additional children, but it also has endured a lengthy separation as Douglas tries to recover from cancer and Zeta-Jones copes with manic-depression.

The strength of Eliot’s book is his capturing the father-son relationship and chronicling Douglas’ rise to fame.  The knock is that there is little in genuinely new factual information on the life and career of Douglas.

From a Christian standpoint there is a selling of one’s soul to professional success and a visiting of the sins of the father upon the children theme here.  Kirk relinquished everything in his quest for success on the movie screen, living riotously, as scripture describes the lifestyle of the Prodigal Son.  He left in his wake massive collateral damage in the person and life of his now equally famous son, Michael.  

Some years ago, amid his battle with cancer and travails with his son, Douglas mockingly stated that he hadn’t “found God” yet.  God is not lost, but one can hardly say the same for Douglas. 

Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by David Claerbaut


James Schaap, (Westchester, Ill: Crossway Books, 1986)

James Schaap is a first-rate Christian writer and you will find much of his work on this faith and learning site.  Schaap understands Christian scholarship and has most certainly mastered it with his novels.  Home Free is almost 30 years old (1986 is the copyright).  It is, I believe, Schaap’s first published novel.  He wrote Romey’s Place later, also reviewed on this site.  For a rookie novel, Home Free is impressive.  It is a period piece, a generational one. To understand Schaap’s writings, it is important to understand his background.  He was raised in a small, Dutch Calvinist Wisconsin village, called Oostburg.  Oostburg, ostensibly named after the same town in the southeastern Netherlands, translates as “East Village” in English.  Much of Schaap’s fiction is based in a town he calls Easton, Wisconsin. In this story, Hank and Ila Pietenpol are on furlough from their missionary work in El Salvador.  Hank and Ila are conflicted as they return to Hank’s home, for while his parents are devout believers, his father (Wim) is forever unsatisfied with Hank.  He is critical, preachy, and annoying in his communication with his son.  Instead of rejoicing in his son’s missionary commitment he is concerned with Hank’s stance on liberation theology among other matters.  And as with so many such fathers, he is unaware of his destructive impact. I have known many men like Wim Pietenpol—men of their generation. Stoic in style, they clutch their emotions to their vest, giving out words of praise and expressions of healthy pride sparingly.  There is a spiritual perfection about many of them, coupled with a reactionary doctrinal stance, owing to the wars with “modernism” that split their churches and families in the 1920’s.   Schaap paints a sharp dualism in Hank’s life.  His mother is “angelic” while his father is righteous but overbearing.  Because both are believers, his father is a bit off limits for an angry confrontation initiated by Hank.  Moreover, his parents’ pious one-flesh bond makes any attack on his father an attack on his beloved mother by default. The book vibrates with tension.  Like Caleb in East of Eden, Hank longs for his father’s unconditional approval, something so freely given by his mother, while at the same time despising many of Wim’s qualities. For Wim, parenting was all about bringing up a child in the fear of the Lord.  For Hank, a taste of grace along the way would have been most welcome.  As the story develops, the reader sees two prisoners of the past, a father and son grappling for a sense of hope, while speaking very different emotional languages.  Amid the tension, there is high drama, there is tragedy, and there is an ultimate confrontation.  In peaceful Easton, there is a quest for peace and resolution.  Schaap has knack for capturing the dynamics of Christian families and displaying them in print.  Home Free is an excellent example.

Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by David Claerbaut


James Calvin Schaap, (Ada, MI: Revell Publishing, 2007)

Writing a powerful Christian novel is a difficult challenge.  The market is glutted with novels and the Christian writer has to compete for the attention of a rather narrow market of readers, most of whom do not restrict their literary appetites to things Christian. Jim Schaap pulled it off with Romey’s Place.  Published years ago, the book sits as much in my memory as on my bookshelf.  It has everything.  Characters, drama, fear, faith, family, darkness/faith dualism, and yes, even death.  From page one to the finish, the reader is hooked.  Set in church-driven small town USA (Easton, Wisconsin) during the ‘50’s, the protagonist (Lowell Prins)–the product of a solid, orderly and very devout home—has his sensibilities violated by observing the family life of his chum, Romey Guttner.  “What’s it like having an old man who’s a saint?” asks Romey Guttner of Lowell.  Romey’s mother is a struggling believer who happened to marry a man from outside Easton, and as it turns out, outside the faith.  And what a man Cyril Guttner was.  Cyril was anything but a saint, and his erratic personality stimulates an immobilizing fear in Lowell.  Lowell knows Cyril has contempt for the local Christian community evidenced by his open defiance of its ecclesiastical norms.  He also knows Cyril despises his own father (Pete) as the incarnate symbol of the community’s religious rectitude.  Romey is conflicted.  He admires Lowell’s faith while resenting it at the same time.  Similarly, Lowell is drawn to Romey’s worldliness yet cannot fully embrace it.  The book has a delightful yet innocent Summer of ’42 coming-of-age quality. Invading the girls’ barracks at Bible Camp, attending town dances, and stealing cigarettes are among the mischievous pastimes of Lowell and Romey as they explore the limits of Easton culture. What begins as a harmless prank, however, ultimately becomes a fateful collision course for Pete Prins and Romey Guttner.  From there the book seems to turn its own pages as the reader gulps down the story. Schaap provides the reader with rich detail, perhaps too much for some readers, but valuable for those unaccustomed to Easton culture.  He draws powerful characters and contrasts, ones that go far beyond good-guy/bad-guy simplicities.  Among them is how one views righteousness and grace, played out in the characters of his novel.  When the final curtain falls, Lowell—seemingly the role model is only due to his honorable upbringing, discovers he has learned as much about life and faith from Romey, as Romey might learn from Pete. What grabs the reader are both the plot and an effective push/pull operating throughout the book.  Romey’s Place is Christian novel writing at its best.  Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by David Claerbaut


David Nasaw, (NY: Penguin Press, 2012)

Yet another Kennedy book, and this one is a whopper—868 pages.  David Nasaw, a historian at City University in New York, is a veteran biographer, having written on the lives of Andrew Carnegie and William Randolph Hearst.  But Joseph P. Kennedy certainly looms as large as Carnegie and Hearst when one considers the length and breadth of his life.  Though most readers associate the elder Kennedy with his famous son(s), were it not for his own massive achievements it is unlikely that we would ever have heard the names, JFK, Bobby, and Ted.

The book is meticulously researched.  Rather than leaning on available literature available through electronic sources, Nasaw engaged in truly original research, never tiring of adding another factual item.  Kennedy comes off as a hyper-ambitious and tireless pursuer of success.  And success he did enjoy, scrambling his way up into the ranks of the banking elite.  Indicative of Nasaw’s exhaustive research is his confident debunking of the bootlegging rap that has been tied to Kennedy for generations.  From riches in high finance, Kennedy headed for Hollywood in the 1930’s, a venture that multiplied his wealth and supplied him with a famous bedmate, actress Gloria Swanson. 

Concerned about the potentially calamitous impact of the Depression, Kennedy moved away from his 1928 presidential choice, Herbert Hoover, and by 1932, became politically cozy with Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Having the powerful Kennedy in his camp was a plum for the savvy Roosevelt who eventually placed Kennedy in charge of the new Securities and Exchange Commission.  Despite voluminous outcries from those who quite understandably felt the mega-rich Kennedy was an incarnate conflict of interest, running the SEC, his performance proved exceptional.

Kennedy, now on the fast track, was thought by many to be in line for the Vice Presidency, but the facile Roosevelt sent his this rising star out of the country, appointing him the post of Ambassador to the Court of St. James.  Kennedy extracted all the political juice possible out of the ambassadorship, with speeches and liberal photo ops of his huge and very attractive family. 

It was in the ambassador role, however, that Kennedy engaged in some political self-destruction of epic proportions, something Nasaw chronicles in great detail.  Kennedy resisted the consensus view of Hitler, favoring an isolationist, let’s-keep-America-out-of-war position, with respect to the conflict in Europe. Worse for Kennedy was his display of anti-Semitism.  Not only did he abandon any efforts to aid Jewish refugees from Germany, he trafficked in conspiracy theories, suggesting the Jews in the media and Hollywood were painting unfairly dark portraits of Hitler and Germany as an enzyme to get the US into the WWII. Beyond that, Kennedy attributed his downward plunge in the Roosevelt political hierarchy to Jewish influence. 

Dismissed as an isolationist, a position his son Jack never shared, Kennedy was disgraced with the label of appeaser.  Ironically, the soft on the Soviet Union Ambassador sired a first-rate cold warrior in his soon-to-be president son. 

On the personal front, Kennedy shines as a father—nurturing, supportive, and involved.  Moreover, despite his infidelities, he was devoted to his wife, Rose, a less than warm and engaging life partner.  Bigger than life and emotionally expressive, Nasaw regularly reveals episodes of rage when Kennedy encountered matters not to his liking.

Above all, however, Kennedy was a Roman Catholic.  His Catholicism was much a part of his identity and evidently his faith was much more intrinsic and sincere than that of his son, Jack.  A faithful communicant and frequent visitor to the confessional, a Christian might wonder how Kennedy squared his Catholicism with his serial adulteries. Nasaw, in an interview, suggested that Kennedy apparently regarded the confessional as a place to wash his spiritual hands before his next sexual transgression. It was a matter of continued repentance.

A major theme in the book is Kennedy’s inside/outside dualism.  An Irish Catholic he began as the quintessential outsider, only to bungle badly his opportunities once on the inside. In Nasaw’s words, “Joseph P. Kennedy had battled all his life to become an insider, to get inside the Boston banking establishment, inside Hollywood, inside the Roosevelt circle of trusted advisers. But he had never been able to accept the reality that being an ‘insider’ meant sacrificing something to the team. His sense of his own wisdom and unique talents was so overblown that he truly believed he could stake out an independent position for himself and still remain a trusted and vital part of the Roose­velt team.”

Kennedy was not much of a faith and learner.  Bathed in Catholicism educationally, socially, culturally, and religiously, he did not look at life through a Roman Catholic lens.  His faith appeared to be compartmentalized—a very real and precious section of his life, but one he did not allow to inform or guide his actions outside the cathedral.  

Nasaw reveals a fascinating man, riddled with contradictions and dualities.  The author asserts that—apart from his famous sons–Kennedy’s own life was genuinely extraordinary.  His book makes a brilliant case in support of that assertion. 

Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by David Claerbaut


Marek Fuchs, (NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009)

This is the proverbial barn-burner.  The setting is Olathe, Kansas.  Sound familiar?  This town, not far from Kansas City, Missouri, was the base of operations for Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, the anti-heroes of Truman Capote’s chilling In Cold Blood.  This time Olathe is the scene of a murder.  But we get ahead of ourselves.  David Harmon is a committed-to-the-Lord-and-his-wife young man, a student at MidAmericaNazareneUniversity (then College).  Harmon and his wife, Melinda—a bank employee–befriend a fellow student, Mark Mangelsdorf.  Harmon is a good-natured, practical joking type, while Mangelsdorf a fast-track achiever.  The two, along with Harmon’s wife, Melinda, are very active in the local NazareneChurch.  All seems well until Mark and Melinda develop and “emotionally inappropriate” relationship.  There is no sign of physical adultery, but Mangelsdorf becomes enchanted by the somewhat older, attractive, and flirtatious Melinda, who in turn is flattered by his attention.  All the while David Harmon remains ignorant of this at least largely psychological tryst, enjoying the company of his friend, Mark, while showering his beloved wife with gifts he could scarcely afford. As time goes on, the once athletic Harmon heads toward obesity, while Melinda heads toward the 6-4, 200-plus pound, handsome Mangelsdorf.  Things heat up as the emotional intensity increases.  With divorce not really an option in the Nazarene culture, the only hope Mark and Melinda have of a life together lies in Melinda becoming a widow. In the early morning hours of February 28, 1982, she becomes exactly that.  Harmon is attacked with a crowbar as he sleeps, struck in the head at least a dozen times.  The attack leaves David beaten so savagely his face is unrecognizable.  One eyeball actually fell out of its socket and rolled on the floor. Melinda, scarcely injured, tells the police two masked African-Americans suddenly broke in, killed her husband, demanded a set of bank keys from her, and then knocked her unconscious.  The police see fewer holes in a slice of Swiss cheese than in Melinda’s story, but she has an ace in her deck—her father, who is a high-ranking official in the Nazarene Church.  Actively shielding Melinda from police questioning, and even verbally attacking the officers for having the temerity to suspect his daughter could be involved in such an unspeakable tragedy, he moves her back to their Ohio home immediately after Harmon’s hurry-up funeral.  With nothing to hold Melinda, the police have no way of building a case against Mark, who goes on to graduate near the top of his class. The case goes cold for 20 years, all the while simmering in the gut of Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison, a young assistant prosecutor back in 1982. What makes the story unforgettable is that both Melinda and Mark, though quickly discontinuing their relationship, go on to live very comfortable lives for the next two decades.  Melinda becomes a wife and mother, marrying a highly-regarded Christian dentist in Ohio.  Mark gets an MBA from Harvard and makes millions as he rises to the top of corporate America.  Mangelsdorf marries twice and has five children.  Melinda stays deeply involved in Christian work, while Mark drifts away during his second marriage, but is nevertheless renowned for his ethical and caring business conduct. The case comes out of cold storage in 2002, its solution the product of some very committed detective work by members of the Olathe Police Department. Author Fuchs takes the reader through the entire story, famous enough to be the subject of more than one TV true crime episode.  What looms particularly large is the capacity of the two murderers to commit such an incredibly vicious act, only to return to lives of seeming integrity, free of blemish.  It is as if this single act on a February night decades ago is a mere blip on their biographical radar screen.  The book really moves.  Although one does occasionally have to stop to reset the plot and characters, Fuchs covers the story comprehensively.  More than that, he is fair in his treatment of an evangelical culture in which this horrendous act, so contrary to the values of the faith, occurred. For those reading with faith and learning eyes, this book is rich in grist for thought and discussion.  The reader cannot help but be reminded how really nothing separates the sinful nature of the believer from the non-believer, once the former leaves her spiritual compass and yields to the flesh.  Moreover, the human capacity to deceive, and live a life of deception, is clearly without discernible boundary.   The story is powerful and Fuchs tells it in a balanced way.  As such, the Christian reader, free from a secular, mocking tone, has much to ponder.   Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by David Claerbaut


Martin A. Gosch and Richard Hammer, (Boston: Little Brown, 1975)

My wife and I live in a gated community in Las Vegas.  It has a “library” in which people place books they no longer want.  Most of the books are novels—more of a Danielle Steel than Leo Tolstoy level.  I find myself scanning the bulging bookcase periodically in hopes finding a gem.  “The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano” became a movie in 2011.  It is based on the 1975 book of the same name by Martin A. Grosch and Richard Hammer, one I found on the bookcase.  The book is a page-turner.  Unlike so many mob and mafia books, this one is presented as a horse’s mouth testimony by mafia kingpin, Salvatore Lucania, better known as Charles “Lucky” Luciano.

According to the authors, at 63 and in less than robust health, Luciano, summoned Gosch, whom he had just turned down for a movie deal and said, “Marty, would you be willin’ to take down my whole life story?”  Luciano clamed he had “reached the point where somebody has to know the truth about me.  I want somebody to know my life.”  He attached one condition: that the book would not surface publicly until he had been dead ten years. He also put a friend, Tommy Lucchese, off limits while Lucchese was living.

That was it and away we go.   The only concern the discerning reader will have is that because it is based on Luciano’s point of view, some of the book’s perspective may be tilted a tad in his favor.  That was of little concern to me, as the book is—if nothing else—candid.  It is a hefty 461-page tome, but one I devoured very quickly.  It is easy to read because it is chronologically presented, with the reader riding along with Luciano throughout.  Often mafia tales become terribly entangled, because the author is juggling multiple families and plots simultaneously.  I find myself tuning out of these movies and books simply because the traffic becomes too heavy and one has trouble knowing the players without a scorecard.   In fact, some mafia books come with graphs of family trees to help the reader sort through the compost heap of villains.

Not so here.  Born in Sicily in 1897, Luciano’s family came to the states when he was ten.  Not knowing English, he was quickly behind in school.  At odds with his father but the favorite of his mother, by 14 young Salvatore (a name he despised as it did not sound manly, hence opting for Charles) was working the streets.  As far as young Lucky was concerned, living the straight life was economically unrewarding.  He watched his stern father work long hours in the new world, receiving little more than survival wages.  He speaks of a well-known local gangster who dressed lavishly and could park his luxury automobile anywhere in the neighborhood.  The man became Luciano’s role model and soon Lucky worked for him.

There was no turning back.  Between 18 and 38 Luciano was arrested 25 times for a variety of serious misdeeds but was never incarcerated.  Though a “dese” and “dose” speaker and academic non-achiever, Luciano did not lack for intellectual acumen.  New York mafia kingpins recognized this and soon he was second in command under one and then another mogul. Through a series of plots and killings by associates, at 33 Luciano emerged as the top underworld figure in United States.

His was no small empire.  Other than being illegal, it was as organized and complex as many multinational corporations today.  He was a brilliant manager, able to expand the reach of his empire all the while keeping an eye out for competitors and government prosecutors.  According to Luciano, he became the target of government attempts to pin a felony on him, and in 1936 he was successfully prosecuted for trafficking in prostitution—ironically just about the only crime in which Luciano claims he never wished or actually participated.

Among the more fascinating aspects of the book is the degree to which Luciano’s “outfit,” as he called it, controlled state and local elections and therefore the governmental officeholders. Naming names, he describes how powerfully the mafia gripped New York politics.

One of the beneficiaries of his political skullduggery was one, Thomas Dewey, the man who ran against Truman in the legendary 1948 election.  In any case, due to some wartime assistance from the incarcerated Luciano, then Governor Dewey reluctantly commuted Luciano’s sentence in 1946, but with one string attached.  He was to be exiled to Sicily.  Amazingly, Luciano remained in command while in prison and after being dispatched to Italy. 

The book ranges widely, talking about mafia involvement in Havana, Cuba, Bugsy Siegel’s activities in Las Vegas, and Luciano’s lifelong business association with Meyer Lansky.

It is not a happy story.  Reading about Luciano’s life reminds one of the on-the-run tale of the fictional Fugitive of TV and movie fame.  He never married, believing that life in the “outfit” was not conducive to a wife and children.  The only real love of his life, the much younger Igea Lissoni, an Italian nightclub dancer, lived with Luciano from 1946 until her death from breast cancer in 1959. 

Ever philanthropic to those down and out, the faith and learning reader will find a curious dualism in Lucky’s life.  In 1947 Luciano—reared in the Catholic tradition—met Father Francesco Scarpato (aka Don Cheech).  Initially, Luciano bankrolled the acquisition of a new altar and religious pictures for his church.  “How can you turn down a guy like that who is dedicated to nothin’ but the best things in life for everybody else but who don’t ask nothin’ for himself?”  Luciano asks rhetorically.  The Don Cheech friendship continued for the rest of his life.  Luciano assisted the priest financially and especially in building a health facility for the poor as a part of Scarpato’s ministry. 

There was indeed a kind and caring side to Luciano, although he trafficked in a world of crime and violence.  What is striking to the reader is how easily—had he done better in school and had a more positive relationship with his father—this same underworld giant could just as well have been the able administrator of Catholic charitable institution.  Moreover, clearly the wages of sin were death to those in Luciano’s world.  Byzantine competition over territories brought violent death to myriad mafia members—top to bottom.   For Luciano, who escaped the murderer’s aim, the price was very high.  No marriage, ever on the run, and always at risk for assassination, he tried to prevent any of his relatives from embarking on a life in the outfit.

Luciano died in the Naples airport on June 26, 1962.  Chronic heart disease finally overtook him.  After a public funeral in Italy, he was permitted to return to the United States posthumously.  With no graveside service, his remains were buried in St. John’s Cemetery in Queens.  Someone asked Lucky’s younger brother, Bartolo Luciana, who the saint was in the stained glass part of the vault.  “I don’t know,” he said, “I’m not acquainted with saints.”

Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by David Claerbaut


Diana B. Henriques, (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2012)

There has been a spate of books on the life and times of one, Bernie Madoff.  Henriques’ effort is marketed as the “definitive” work.  In any case, people like Madoff seize the American psyche, as so many of us “Dateline/48 Hours” types are fascinated by those who “sin boldly.”  Indeed Madoff accomplished that.  Between 1987 and 1992, he began is infamous Ponzi scheme, one that surfaced in 2008 amid the financial meltdown.  Broke and without options to maneuver, “Dr. Ponzi” was turned in by his own sons, one of whom later committed suicide while the other has severed all ties with his father. Madoff was an equal opportunity swindler, bilking the rich and famous, as well as anonymous common folk, out of what turned out to be nearly $60 billion.  Fortunes and lives (via suicide) were lost as the surf of Madoff’s sins washed up on the beach of public awareness. Henriques, a senior financial writer for The New York Times, chronicles the Madoff story in voluminous detail.  All the stones are turned in this book, as we learn Madoff’s shenanigans in the ‘80’s had their genesis two decades earlier.  In brief, his Ponzi snookering was merely the harvest of one whose seeds of character had long been found wanting.  Moreover, Madoff played the role of baron to the hilt–spending lavishly, dressing elegantly, residing in opulence, hobnobbing with the beautiful people, and even gaining fame as a philanthropist and esteemed advisor for non-profit entities. His schemes were both elaborately deceptive and rather obvious to a skeptical observer.  He was well connected to Washington lawmakers and regulators, and had particularly strong alliances with the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), the nation’s major securities industry organization.  Henriques’ very valuable recitation of facts begs larger questions.  Who, outside of Madoff, knew of these hatched plots?  How many in the financial community knew or at least suspected that Madoff was a fraud?  There is every reason to believe that other financiers may or could have seen through the thinly disguised aspects of Madoff’s schemes.  How can this be prevented in the future, or does greed so blind people that P.T. Barnum’s assertion that a fool is born everyday applies to those in the financial community? Madoff was greatly aided in his efforts by the lengthy real estate bubble running from the mid-‘90’s into 2007.  Paper profits abounded and Madoff was not the only one who skimmed off the top.  But he skimmed the most boldly, and hence, has become a figure of great fascination among many Americans.  A Trump-like figure, the man born in Queens to Jewish parents—his father being a stockbroker–three quarters of a century ago (1938) maneuvered his way to Mount Everest heights of profitable financial fraud while enjoying his residential digs in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He now resides at the Butner Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina.  Currently alienated from his high school sweetheart wife Ruth–the latter reports that the couple attempted suicide on Christmas Eve of 2008, downing pills as part of a suicide pact.  For the faith and learning community, Madoff’s story is reminiscent of the story of the rich man in Luke 12, who in his affluence, decides to expand his agricultural empire by replacing his current storage facilities with larger ones, as he decides to live a consumptive lifestyle.  Though there is no evidence of fiscal corruption in the scriptural account, there is a sobering end.  The man is destined to die that evening, leaving all but his soul behind.  While still on earth, Bernie Madoff has had to leave almost everything behind.  He still has his soul.  One’s prayer may be that he takes good care of that.   Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by David Claerbaut


Erik Larson, (NY: Times Books/Henry Holt and Company, 2003

The Devil in the White City is one of those books I intended to read when it was first issued, but never quite got to it.  My daughter encouraged me to read it, lending me her copy, and it took but a few pages before I was hooked. It is no wonder this book won a slew of awards and was all but universally acclaimed as a masterpiece.  Larson is just brilliant in this tome as he juxtaposes the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago with the actions of a serial killer called Dr. H. H. Holmes. The book reads like a novel yet it is non-fiction.  In fact, one often has to remind oneself that this is not a piece of fiction, so riveting is the power of the writing.  Incredibly rich in detail, Larson takes the reader through the high drama of Chicago’s attempt to put together a world’s fair more than a century ago.  Given Chicago’s already Second City reputation, the challenge to make this truly a world event was daunting.  An architect, Daniel Burnham, is much the protagonist in this part of the plot, and the reader meets Burnham and all the other key players “up close and personal,” as the group tries to construct this monstrosity of entertainment in a yesteryear culture.  Everything is behind schedule, conflicts abound, the times are rife with labor wrangling, and the weather is atrocious.   While this south side of Chicago, Jackson Park endeavor is going on, so is the murder of an indeterminate number of people at the direction of Holmes.  The scene of the murders is a large multi-unit building, replete with apartments of course, but also carefully concealed—and away from the residences–vaults that function as human gas ovens for Holmes’ victims.  Most of those victims are attractive young women with whom the killer has diabolically lured into some tryst, given his good looks and singular charm. The book is a duality.  Chapters alternate between the highs and lows of the fair and the actions of the murderous Holmes.  The technique works well because the events are coterminous in time and place.  The book is long and some readers might pine for the days of the Reader’s Digest condensed books, given Larson’s devotion to descriptive detail.  Wading through a bit of minutiae, however, is a small price to pay in enjoying this truly absorbing page-turner.  In fact, so well does Larson lay out all aspects of both stories and characters that one is fascinated as one reads how the lives of the key players turn out at the finish of the book.  On the World’s Fair side of the drama, we encounter ingenuity and incredible achievement in this white-hued creation, but also depression, death, and insoluble conflicts.  We are introduced to the Ferris Wheel, as the crowning touch of the whole enterprise, one that enables it to trump the impact of the previous fair in Paris.  We also engage Chicago politics at its most typical, along with the murder of a mayor.  One might also take issue with Larson’s analytical sophistication as applied to the nature and motivation of Holmes in general and serial killers in particular., but then again, Larson is a brilliant and accurate storyteller, not a forensic psychologist, and part of the power of Holmes lies in his mysterious nature.    The strength of the book resides in its duality.  On one hand, we have an exciting story of humankind at its achieving best.  On the other, we are introduced to humankind at its most depraved.  That is much the impact of the book for the faith and learning adherent.  We see God’s creation at its best and worst.  We see how brilliantly—but a little lower than the angels–we are designed intellectually and creatively, and hence how capable we are of stunning and almost indescribable accomplishment and beauty.  Just as we glory in our created greatness, however, we are reminded of how flawed is the human soul, and how similarly accomplished we can become at doing evil.  This was Larson’s stated aim and he reached it well. Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by David Claerbaut


James Kavanaugh, (NY: Trident Press, 1969)

Why on earth would I publish a review of a book published in 1969?  Read on.  The Birth of God is the story of former priest, James Kavanaugh,and his renunciation of the Christian faith in general, and the Roman Catholic Church in particular.  Born in 1928 to an Irish Catholic Michigan family, Kavanaugh entered the priesthood, as did one of his brothers.  Early on he struggled with the tenets of his faith and hence, the validity of the church.  Rather than suffering in silent apostasy, as he suggests many other priests did, Kavanaugh went public in 1967 with A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church.  He followed that bestseller with The Birth of God.  The “rebel priest” became a national figure—from a guest on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight” show to an invited speaker at colleges and universities.  Kavanaugh hit the rebel-seeking-change button at just the right time—the middle and late ‘60’s.  Despite surrendering his collar publicly while speaking at Notre Dame, his goal was not fame.  It was to search.  And that search never ended. Along the way, Kavanaugh managed to divest himself of any and all orthodox Christian thinking.  No book is better in revealing that than The Birth of God.  I happened across the book in the “library” of the gated community in which we live in Las Vegas.  Kavanaugh begins by rendering a personal and spiritual autobiography and then goes to work on razing Christian doctrine, claiming its origins to be nothing other than ignorant ancient myth.  As for scripture, the Gospels are to be understood through the eyes of Jewish myth.  For the unenlightened, Kavanaugh’s singular intellectual gifts (he held two doctorates), command of history, and forceful writing style may be compelling. His was not mere liberalism.  His recanting is total.  He rejects the physical resurrection of Christ.  The Bible is not the word of God.  He dismisses miracles.  The writers of the New Testament “knew nothing of science, nothing of modern psychology, nothing of medicine or chemistry (83).”  “I do not want to be ‘saved’ or washed in anyone’s blood,” writes Kavanaugh.  “What am I to be saved from?” asks the rejecter of original sin (95-96).  “Man alone can save man; man alone will save man,” he writes defiantly (103). And so it goes.  The book is divided into “myths” related to the Bible, salvation, morality, sexuality, death, and manhood.  There is and are no answers.  For Kavanaugh it is all about traveling the road—the struggle for truth, the search for meaning, and the occasional discoveries along the way.  The search is an end in itself.  The road is the destination.  It leads nowhere but in Kavanaugh’s thinking it is what makes one authentic.  Religious doctrine is simply a form of selling out to myth and authority that has no basis in reality.  Belief is the coward’s way of letting myth do one’s thinking rather than claiming the captaincy of one’s soul and control of one’s spiritual journey. So where is God, given the title of the book?  It is in seeing the good in others, the African-American struggle for freedom, the brother and sisterhood of all humanity, and the universal exploration for meaning and truth.  As for the future, Kavanaugh says the person of the “global village” will be free “of the obstacles of religious frameworks…He will know that he is human and that will be enough (163).” Along the way, Kavanaugh married two times and wandered through life writing well-received books of poetry.  He was lauded by the likes of Wayne Dyer, Larry King, “Dear Abbie,” William Conrad, and Allan Watts.  He died in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 2009.  He left behind the wives, a loving caretaker, and a stepson, among others. Publicly, he held to his mystic, we-are-all-alone-and-must have-the-courage-to-reject-religious-teachings-and-search-for-meaning-on-our-own thinking to the end.  Privately, it seems he was not so sure of his rejection of Biblical truth as fact.  Truth is hard to shake. I hope you are sitting down.  You won’t see this on his website, or read it among his many obituaries, but before he died, the-I-don’t-need-Christ Kavanaugh sought an Apostolic Pardon from the Roman Catholic Church. Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by David Claerbaut


James D. Bratt and Ronald A. Wells, eds., (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011)

The Reformed Journal had a forty-year run (1951-1990).  Under the skilled editorship of the late Marlin Van Elderen and his successor, Jon Pott, the RJ attained a consistent excellence in its function of bringing a variety of brilliant minds together to comment on issues of the times.  Published by Eerdmans in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the home of Calvin College and Seminary, the journal provided a Calvinist Christian perspective on current events and theological subjects.  The key word in the previous sentence is Calvinist.  Hence, its frequent contributors were from the Reformed tradition, many affiliated with Calvin College. 

Despite the Calvinist scope, the journal did not come off as provincial or closed-minded.  On the contrary, for four decades, readers enjoyed intelligent commentary on a veritable buffet of topics.  The Best of the Reformed Journal is evidence of that as—for purposes of organization—the book is divided into topics running from education, to religion and society, to community, gender, the arts, and on to race and rights.  Not much missing here in terms of contemporary and theological commentary.

The RJ was blessed with some literary heavyweights among its stable of writers, including such luminaries as Nicholas Wolterstorff, Mark Noll, James Daane, Richard Mouw, and Lewis Smedes, to name only a few.  The writing was consistently first-rate and incisive.  Though the prose occasionally ran a tad heavy, it did not lack for substance.

Anthologies are difficult to review because most do not have a single unifying theme.  That would be the case here—nearly 90 articles by about 50 writers.  Edited by James D. Bratt and Ronald A. Wells of the Calvin College faculty, the work is truly excellent.  The best way to read this book is as a period piece.  The articles are dated and categorized.  The reader, in effect, takes a trip through most of the second half of the 20th century wearing a pair of (Calvinist) Christian lenses.  With articles running from 2-5 pages, the reader is wise to sip rather than gulp this book

The selections confront unvarnished reality head on.  Howard Rienstra writes about facing his own impending death. John J. Timmerman discusses the often irreverent author, Peter DeVries.  Nicholas Wolterstorff captures the religious and political tension in Jordan as he writes of “An Evening in Amman.” Lewis Smedes addresses abortion and Vietnam, Kathryn Lindskoop discusses sexism, and Henry Stob takes on academic freedom.  Edson Lewis, Jr. describes his participation in a Civil Rights march in 1965 Alabama.  Were that not enough, the works of Ingmar Bergman, T. S. Eliot, Frederick Buechner, J. Gresham Machen, Francis Schaeffer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Paul Schrader are reviewed. 

This anthology is one of an all-star cast of Christian thinker/writers plying their singular gifts to the issues of the time.  The RJ was, in Wolterstorff’s words, “astoundingly omnivorous” in its focus.  It was “…always perceptive, often surprising, now and then whimsical, often sharply critical but never mean-spirited…”  And this is the best of the RJ.

Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by Mark Eckel


Andrew Piper, (Chicago: University of Press, 2012)

My son actually writes letters by hand. He includes on pages and envelopes freehand pictures, drawings, and flourishes which both decorate and drive attention. I can only imagine the post-person’s double take. Similarly, Andrew Piper’s children allow him to connect page to person. Anecdotal connections to his offspring bring us face-to-face from a page-to-page perspective in Piper’s important  Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times. Each chapter ends with Piper’s children, and their inclusion in Book Was There show the future of reading. In the Piper household, both books and screens are given their rightful place. Physicality, personableness, and ‘thereness’ (ix) give reason for reading, and for reading books: In taking hold of the book, we are taken hold of by books” (2). Tangible, tactile touch plays a role to prompt reflection. Piper writes as he tells us to read; with care, openness, gentleness, and vulnerability. “In holding books, we are held together” (5), so the reciprocity of reading is a sign of community, what Piper calls “the ambiguous sociability of reading” (22). “Books cross time and space; they transcend the individual’s grasp; books are how we speak with the distant and the dead” (12, 13). On the other hand, screens have little sense, a physical sense, that is. Words disappear. Swiping screens eliminates context. Skimming words reduces meaning. Rhythms of awareness are lost. Skype shows an image without the weight of the image bearer. Fatigue is one of the basic conditions of the digital (36). If reading is a physical exercise, the corollary need would be rest. Yet Piper explains If we believe in the value of rest, and the kind of conversational thinking that it makes possible, then we will want to preserve books and their spaces of readerly rest (23).  The physicality of books lends itself to physical human needs. Incarnation—in fleshness—is inexorably bound up in the binding of books. Piper’s opening chapters (hand, face, turning) suggest as much; Piper sees beyond what we see. He looks at what we glace at, what we take for granted, holds it up, allowing us to consider what we assume. The atomic nature of the page, importance of quotation marks, even the spaces between words, and the weaving of pages are full of significance. Handwriting and manuscripts go hand-in-hand (pun intended). There is a “mutuality, an interdependence between handwriting and print” (67).  Piper returns consistently to a subtle theme: we have seen critique of technological advances before. If we complain about crowded screens we must acknowledge the history of crowded pages (46). Instead, we might consider that pages in both book and screen provide windows to our world, frames by which we build our thinking, pieces which form a whole, mirrors which reflect our nature and folds which show our development. Piper uses both books and laptops. “I want my children to accept that there is a before and after in life” (61). Yet, to Piper the process connects beginning and end. The physical act of handwriting encourages the synthesis of composition, what Steven Graham in an endnote calls planning and revising and the exertion of considerable processing demands (177). Writing encourages drawing. Drawing creates connections linked with other dimensions. Matter, space, and time take on new meaning: “Complex visual structures and relations emerge” (77). Some consider handwriting to be outmoded. Somehow technology has changed what is both fairer and faster. But Piper is clear. Handwriting is important because it is “embodied” (75-76), a labor. The incarnation of writing allows the internalization of reading. When we encourage children to become physical with their learning, learning expands. Pieces and parts become whole. Observation leads to analysis leading to application. Electronic collection of material reduces the importance of a document whereas pushing a pen (as I was did writing this review) cares for physical engagement. Piper’s son provides the illustration. I don’t tell him how important this struggle is. He is learning to draw while he learns to read, and his is learning to write while he learns to draw. All of these aspects are being bound together in his brain. Were we to let go of handwriting he would lose a key piece of this mental puzzle. . . . There is a profound sense of person that comes through the work of one’s hand that cannot be fully replicated digitally (81). Piper suggests we read in a reading nook. Time and place are both important. We stop. We sit. We rest. We read. We create shelves for our books because books deserve a place. The very act of “browsing” depends on embodiment when we browse or glance at books (120-21). And herein is the problem. “The urban reader no longer seeks out the nook for the sake of getting lost, taking a rest, or taking a leak. He or she is now persistently on a quest for meaning” (123). Instead, Piper reminds the reader of the specialized reading chairs invented for the home, places where individuals could forget about their bodies as they read. The book and the material support to which it corresponded, was understood as a form of rest—it allowed readers to rest from the rigors of daily life among other things. The book was there so that we wouldn’t have to be. (116-17) Over and over Piper suggests that readers need to get lost by finding a place.  Piper introduces us to Eastern mindset ideals connecting numeracy and literacy (131). Hebrew writers were known for connecting words with numerical order and structure. In the same way, Piper reminds the reader that repetition “is one of reading’s backbones” (145). Repetition creates meaning; the parts make the whole. The reader of Book Was There will feel as if they returned to childhood, book in hand, Piper shares the belief thatthe incarnation of ideas on the printed page demand we honor the incarnation of the book in ourselves and with others. Dr. Eckel is a regular contributor to faithandlearningforum.com.

A Review by Mark Eckel


Edited by Douglas V. Henry and Michael D. Beaty, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006)

Nearly a decade has passed since these essays were conceived, yet the ideas continue to mature. Christianity and the Soul of the University should be pondered by all.  Long standing principles are meant to be pondered and practiced over time. The introduction makes clear that the days of academic fragmentation through disciplinary pride must cease. Interdependence through an interdisciplinary mindset is key to thoughtful, community engagement through all departments at all schools. Community necessitates communication; professors must talk with each other across fields of inquiry. Richard Hays sets the tone of the volume with his expositional overview of 1 John stressing koinonia or fellowship. There can be no division in our commitments since professors are to create intellectual solidarity born of our new birth in Christ. Community is not an idealist’s wish; it is the command of our Lord who made us one. Confession of belief brings with it dedication to work together: “Truth can never be separated from concrete acts of love and mercy” (28). Hays’ five implications for community in the Christian university are not to be missed (35-6). Jesus’ incarnation is the essence of the Christian professor’s distinctiveness. The distinguishing example is set by John C. Polkinghorne. Stressing the unity of knowledge as non-negotiable for the believer, Polkinghorne evangelizes with his words The true university’s quest for interdisciplinary truth may be properly called “Christian,” because those who seek the truth without reserve, whether they know it or not, are ultimately searching for the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (53). Polkinghorne pulls no punches—Jesus is the center of the learning universe. Education is not simply an access to knowledge but a development of wisdom. Reason and purpose are central to Polkinghorne’s argument, “Why?” being the most important question anyone can ask. Beauty in math gives example for the claims of interdisciplinary studies. “The indispensability of theology” (61-64) gives the basis for properly interpreting all knowledge accessible because of God’s transcendent unity of all knowledge. Joel Carpenter reminds the reader that human experience is much more broad than individual perspectives. “Christian scholars must reorient their course” (66) toward the south and east. Scholarship should seek more practical, more concrete thinking as is the mindset in Asia and Africa. Western models over-departmentalize. “Systematic theology” is rightfully questioned (78-79). Carpenter attacks the assumption of a secularized world (68) suggesting that the East deals with a multiplicity of religious influences. Revision of theories and innovation of approach is needed. Christians have always been at the forefront of educational change when translation endeavors have opened disciplinary doors in other cultures (74). Likeminded Christian professors from far flung locations can “learn new things about the gospel” (84) when a spirit of mutuality is established through curricular synthesis. But it is David Lyle Jeffrey’s concern for coherence that allows for the basic issue of synthesis. Marking something as “Christian” does not make the discipline Christian. The theatre of study must be in its very essence “Christian” if God creates and sustains all things, if all things are in-and-of-themselves sacred. Indeed, the doctrine of coherence is mentioned consistently throughout the book (75, 78, 86, 94, 122, 161) as a core concern for Christian faculty. Jeffrey’s multiple bullet points (96-98) are worth pondering over and over. In particular, Jeffrey mandates that there be “translators” between disciplines so that departments can talk with each other. The academe needs interdisciplinary bridge builders. The bridge between theory and praxis is well represented. Susan Felch says professors should reconsider critiques as student assessments which trigger doubt and distrust. A hermeneutics of delight, on the other hand, prompts one to consider wonder within a Christian context. Literature, humor, and reading highlight the importance of affective objectives highlighted by Felch. Trust makes sense of the world and trumps doubt as a Christian methodology. Aurelie Hagstrom shows another insufficient educational approach—tolerance— in comparison with Christian hospitality considering the university context. “Hospitality is incarnational, morally attuned, and prompted by commitments to truthfulness in word and deed . . . involv[ing] far greater commitments and costs than mere tolerance” (121). Incarnation “requires an affirmation of one’s identity” (129) allowing genuine dialogue to proceed. Dialogue is not a commitment to vapid views of equality; dialogue necessitates distinctiveness. Steven Harmon pounds the uniqueness of Christian communal conflict as a stake in the ground. Distinguishing the Christian view from others is consistently raised among many authors (35, 36, 87, 119, 125, 175) Harmon rightly identifies the synthetic thread of faith-learning-integration with worship (134). Daniel Russ and Mark L. Sargent petition the reader to think of ways the university can inculcate moral imagination within its curriculum. Committed to language study and the elucidation of the text both authors make stout cases for communication through story, poetry, math, art, and athletics. Christian institutions have developed strong worldview components but their “weakness has been in demonstrating how one lives in a world where worldviews collide” (161). A community, interdisciplinary approach to collegiate teaching would begin to include the redemptive agency the gospel employs. A truly Christian university will exhibit its soul, its internal commitments, as it lives its life, its external conduct. Throughout the book authors repeat the essence of incarnation: truth must be embodied (23, 28, 34, 36, 50, 117, 120, 137). A Christian university must provide practicums in every class. “Capstone courses,” if they are believed to be so important, should foundationalize the course of study, not top it off. Internships should be required of all majors; not just 3 hour, 2 month commitments, but 12 hour commitments intermittently or concurrently throughout the program. Team-teaching and dual-department membership should be a staple between divisions. Case studies, novel reading, poetry exercises, labs, expert forums, field trips, and cultural apologetics should be part and parcel of every program design. The affective—the soul—of the Christian university is impacted by acumen as well as action. Belief-being-behavior must become a whole. Thomas Aquinas’ quote, which began the book, is an apt summary of Christianity and the Soul of the University: “A man needs the help of friends in order to act well, the deeds of the active life as well as those of the contemplative” (15). Dr. Eckel’s website is warpandwoof.org.

A Review by Chelsea Andres


Sarah Jobe, (Brewster MA: Paraclete Press, 2011)

Wolfing down my third taco of the night as a woman in her fifth month of pregnancy, I finished Sarah Jobe’s book with a sigh. On one hand, Creating With God contains a wit and humor that only pregnant women appreciate as it encourages us in our doubts and fears through laughter and honesty. Yet, as I turned each page, I wondered if what Jobe wrote next was going to rub against or jive with the Christian theology which I hold dear. With each chapter Jobe makes clear an unprecedented view that pregnancy makes woman more like Christ. Though becoming more like Christ is hopefully every believer’s goal, Jobe’s specifics on how a woman becomes like Christ is sometimes disconcerting. With that said, I am thankful for a book that challenged me to think biblically and creatively about one of life’s greatest joys. Creating With God touches the delightful depth that is pregnancy. It is fair to start with a little background on Sarah Jobe. As a pastor trained at a Methodist seminary, Jobe married a Catholic man, has two daughters, and is now living in an “intentional Christian community” in North Carolina. Jobe is a woman who has worked hard to live life deliberately, trying every day to understand God’s grace and how she can extend it to others. She is honest about how her ambitious nature gets in the way of her faith: “Receiving my faith as a gift is still difficult for me. I feel like I should be doing something. I want faith to feel like an accomplishment.” I appreciate this confession almost as much as the graphic transparency with which she describes one of her daughter’s births. “At the end of my labor, I lay on the bed a few inches from where I had just pooped with a tiny, wet version of my daughter nestled against my breast.” This is an author who knows how to connect with other pregnant women. The task of connecting the moments of birth with biblical interpretation may seem difficult, but Jobe accomplishes it rather seamlessly. She writes about the true nature of pregnant bodies with the same ease as she does her theology—a sign of familiarity and confidence. In this book, Jobe “explore[s] how the practices we take up on behalf of our growing babies train us in the very practices we need to live a life of faith.” In one chapter, she begins with the story of Jesus being touched by the woman who was bleeding for twelve years. Jobe then breaks off into a personal story, tying in the ancient narrative as it applied to her own. Though Jobe’s interpretation of this application should be up for discussion, the strategy of interweaving personal with theological analysis was well done. Yet, yet, yet… after reading only the introduction, I had the same feeling I did when I finished Creating With God: wariness, unease, the desire to raise my hand in rebuttal. Frankly, I felt Jobe claims more for pregnancy than is her right to claim. Beginning with the statement that women are “co-creators” with God in pregnancy, Jobe puts pregnancy on a holy pedestal without giving enough credit to the Giver of gifts such as children. In Chapter One Jobe states, “it matters if we say that Eve “acquired” a child “with the help” of God. This is different than saying that Eve and God are co-creators.” To this I say, yes, it does matter! The former gives glory to God for his gift while the latter puts women on even footing with God the Creator. In a subsequent chapter to this Jobe equates Jesus’ ability to heal with a pregnant woman’s ability to form relationships. Later she applies Jesus’ glow in his transfiguration to the glow of pregnancy. Next, Jobe relates Jesus’ body and blood through communion with how a pregnant woman’s body will give calcium from her bones to her growing baby if he or she is not getting enough. Jobe is not writing in metaphor when she says, “My body is real food,” Jesus says. “Mine, too,” I reply.” At the end of Chapter Six, Jobe crosses the line when she puts a woman’s blood and water from labor in the same sentence as the blood and water expelled from Jesus at the cross. As a Christ-follower and the daughter of a theologian, I cannot stomach these claims. If a woman at all resembles Christ, it is because of Christ in her—never her own creative holiness. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me (1 Cor 15:10 NIV).

Should you read Creating With God? Yes, but only if you’re willing think. Jobe does a wonderful job of making pregnant women feel more comfortable in their stretching skin as well as connecting this stage in life to the God who calls all children to Himself. Still, as with all books, a reader should not blindly read; think about every insinuation and claim. In the end, reading Jobe’s book makes me want to rejoice for my own growing little one and exclaim praise to the Creator of that life.

Chelsea Andres is a member of our regular reviewer, Mark Eckel’s family.

A Review by Mark Eckel


Amy L. Sherman, (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 2011)

There is countless talk about socio-economic concerns, but Amy Sherman tells the stories of many who are doing, not talking. The full title also explains Sherman’s belief. The King is king of the whole kingdom. The Church’s focus often centers on itself and its work, whereas the work of The Church’s people is who they are, where they are. ‘Calling’ is that of folks changed by The Call, practicing agents of redemption as janitors, doctors, trades-people, lawyers, coaches, philanthropists, and all the multi-colored gifts of God’s people (1 Peter 4.10). ‘Vocational stewardship’ means the “intentional, strategic deployment” of a believer’s full person and place “to advance foretastes of God’s kingdom” (20). ‘The common good’ involves everyone within our sphere of influence who benefits from our God-given gifts. Inspired by a Tim Keller sermon on Proverbs 11.10, Sherman now inspires us to help communities flourish by the giving of ourselves to justice. Sherman’s biblical-theological mindset gives Kingdom Calling its strength. Scripture sets assumptions. Authors ere when practice drives principle, where what one does cancerously morphs into pragmatism. Scripture teaches, on the other hand, that hearing drives doing. Sherman frames her arguments within the parameters of God’s words. Sherman allows biblical definitions correlated across The Bible to radiate their impact. Justice, for instance, is not simply standing against a problem or for a person. Biblical justice aims to rescue through opportunity finding its target in restoration. Biblical peace is a proposal across the quadrants of our lives. However, the marriage of justice with peace is sometimes obscured by those overseeing the ceremony. The ‘righteous’ can subtract from the meaning of the gospel. A context in which much Christian preaching, music and books emphasize a highly individualistic understanding of the gospel does not provide rich soil for the nurture of believers who will live as the tsaddiqim (righteous ones). . . . Put differently, it focuses only on what we’ve been saved from, rather than also telling us what we’ve been saved for (70-71, emphasis hers). So theology matters. As R. C. Sproul has said for years, “Right now, counts forever.” Heaven does not mean much if earth means little. Highlighting the Four Circles illustration by James Choung (78-82), Sherman refocuses the Christian mindset. God’s original intention, damaged by our inherent corruption, finds earthly restoration in our gospel participation. Christians should contribute to God’s cosmic plan through holistic work.  Incarnational theology should be our response to brokenness wherever we are in whatever we do with whomever we meet. Excitement surges through readers as they encounter story after story after story about how believers are enacting their giftedness for the benefit of others. “Christian architects, engineers, business owners, historians, entertainers, photographers, chemists, dancers, sales reps, lawyers and real estate appraisers” (91) have their stories told. What the individuals and church leaders profiled in this book have accomplished is not outside the realm of possibility. These are people like you; these are congregations like yours (224). But Kingdom Calling supplies the reader with biblical-practical tools to engage any community. Part 2 identifies how to disciple for vocational stewardship: the integration, inspiration, discovery, and formation of faith with work. Seven facets of stewardship are much more than leadership lessons baptized with Bible verses.

Sherman gives ‘four pathways’ empowering those hands to deploy their vocational power: blooming, donating, inventing, and investing. The biblical concept of place is given short shrift in biblical theology until recently.(#1) “Bloom where you’re planted” takes on its original meaning in a Christian context. We should be who we are, where we are, with what we have. “Volunteering” retains its others-centered focus with others-connected partnerships in the gospel. “Inventing” sees peoples’ needs and seeks ways toward “investing” where intentionality cushions the poor instead of padding bank accounts. Vocational stewardship, it must be warned, is no panacea. There are pitfalls and temptations to be overcome. Sherman’s honesty with each story’s difficulties reminds us that we enact our vocational intentions within a fallen culture. Yet the joy of ‘the city’ resounds.

Dr. Eckel is a renown Christian scholar whose website, warpandwoof.org is filled with great reading.

A Review by Mark Eckel


Andreas J. Köstenberger, (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2011)

A good many books have arrived on bookshelves which broadly address the Christian intellect. Surely the grandfather of them all is Harry Blamires’ The Christian Mind (1963). Others followed, all adding to the essential discussion, pleading with Evangelicals to honor God’s gift of intellectual pursuit left with humanity. A biblical-theological case established in each tome structured direction in overview fashion that The Church bore responsibility for Christian thinking. Andreas J. Köstenberger now adds personal depth to the entire dialogue. Excellence maintains that a believing scholar’s intellectual pursuits must always originate from Jesus’ transformation of the Christian which changes the mind. The principles and commands of Scripture run throughout life and so, should run through the Christian scholar. My copy of Excellence is pock-marked with exclamation points, cheers, and penciled shouts of glee. Always, always, always must the believer premise examination and explanation of anything on the exegesis of The Book. It has been some time since I have seen a volume so full of argument sustained with an avalanche of biblical texts! Answering the question “Where is that found in The Bible?” is answered again and again evidenced by deep exegetical study. Word studies abound. Correlation passages pound the truth that Scripture is Its own best interpreter. Hebrew and Greek understanding is brought to bear on seemingly every item in Köstenberger’s passionate exploration. As a good scholar should do, Köstenberger builds his case on the foundation of biblical theology. Copious, intricate endnotes cast a wide net, gathering sources, evidence, and added application. At times, the footnotes expand understanding to such a degree they seem to supersede the text itself! The opening chapters give credence to theological truth about a scholar’s pursuit of excellence. This is no esoteric manuscript! For example, as Köstenberger begins to make his case, he carefully and clearly transitions the biblical concepts to educational practice. He rightly links arête and telos to affective goals in education (43-46). In keeping with his goal, Köstenberger argues, as he should, that our doing arises out of our being. Applicational statements pop off each page. Excellence is prompted by virtue which should prompt intentionality connected to community ultimately culminating in gratitude (48-53). What should be obvious to any Christian scholar who claims The Name is specifically spelled out for all to see. Köstenberger then examines what should be the essential basis for all of life for the believer—holiness (55-66). Ultimately Excellence is the fruit of distinctiveness coming from the root of holiness. What joy to discover an author who properly links the human corruption of worship in idolatry to its roots in The First Testament! Distinctiveness in Christian scholarship from other viewpoints is the obvious application when worship of other presuppositions is properly exposed. Christian scholarship emphasizes an apologetic of love born of holiness (81). Each chapter echoes the essence of holiness: diligence, courage, passion, restraint, creativity, eloquence. Köstenberger’s charge to theological thinkers begins and ends with himself. Over and over, the author demonstrates that his personal compulsion to practice his scholarly craft rests on application of truth to life. Grand additions to Excellence are the questions the author includes within every section. Christian scholars are expected to personally reflect on their response to Köstenberger’s applicational concerns. Examples of scholars who have moved away from a presuppositional approach to Christian scholarship as well as those who continue the pursuit of distinctive biblical engagement are found throughout the volume. Köstenberger deals with PhD work, plagiarism, workaholism, distractions, or peer pressure brought on by cultural pressures scholars face. Of course, Excellence is ultimately a commitment born of a covenant loyalty which has changed us. From time to time disconnects occur. The biblical principle of ‘rest’ rightly applied to the scholar seems not to flow with other ideas which are assumed to emanate from it (38-39). Sexual temptation is proffered as a problem for the Christian scholar but the connection to excellence in scholarship is not obvious (57-59). One wonders in later chapters why the exegetical word studies give way to examples of believers from Scripture. What was begun in the first sections of Excellence is not carried through to the end: the section on ‘wisdom’ could have been easily supported from Hebrew vocabulary (177ff). Sometimes Köstenberger too easily dismisses other points of view. Monastic traditions, for instance, are not given full coverage to color them as simply “ascetic spirituality” (76). Small quibbles arise when the reader has to endure repetitious statements such as “I will have more to say about this in a later chapter” (i.e. 59). Transitional elements should trump such pedestrian linkage. But these minor shortcomings do not mar Köstenberger’s pristine work. For years, a self-made poster hung in my classroom: “not just information but transformation.” My admonitions to young charges to “think, biblically” resounded through educational hallways. Köstenberger may have had just such written spoken admonitions for his own students. He has set a standard for other scholars to follow. My responsibility in the study is to dig deep, push wide, and explain my findings simply in the classroom. So here, Köstenberger gives evidence of his exegetical work buttressed by his analysis with real world examples. Christian scholars could have their own excellence expanded by reading Excellence. Dr. Eckel is a regular contributor to faithandlearningforum.com. 

A Review by Mark Eckel


Robert A. Fryling, (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2010)

John F. Kennedy was wrong.  So says Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput in Houston Baptist University’s forum on faith and public life. Running for president in 1960, Kennedy uttered this famous line, “I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair.”  Chaput’s response?  “Real Christian faith is always personal but it’s never private.”  There is a lack of coherence, a lack of integral understanding, of how one’s private life impacts public life. Integral integrity integration—all from the same root word meaning whole—is the essence of Robert Fryling’s The Leadership Ellipse. Fryling maintains that a leader’s external decisions come from an internal drive.  The necessity of aligning one’s living with one’s being cuts cross-grain against any commitment to simple “privatistic experience” (35).  Fryling rightly rests his case for a leader’s interiority change on First Testament Sabbath teaching.  Cultivation of one’s person begins with God’s original intention of rest.  The last day of the week is the first order of business.  In order for the wholeness of one’s person to be sustained, the creational law of rest leading to contentment must be practiced. Personal growth is predicated upon Sabbath reflection.  No Christian leader (or Christian scholar) should operate alone; whether outside the accountability of others or The Holy Spirit.  Internal growth then leads to a renewed mind, impacting involvement with the world, the “internal compulsions” (102) of prayer life, ultimately leading to shalom—which is defined in Hebrew as wholeness, the integration of all things.  The true greatness of Fryling’s teaching resides in part three of his book.  There Fryling properly aligns wholeheartedness, attentiveness, and gratefulness as the natural results of a supernaturally led life.  Fryling, however, did abbreviate the impact of gratitude linking it immediately with clarity (194)—an unfortunate and unnecessary reduction whose connection still seems murky, even after three readings.  Yet, the driving need for one’s heart affections to be impacted by one’s mind intentions so thoroughly permeates The Leadership Ellipse as to overcome the shortcoming.  Engaging illustrations from various venues constantly give flesh to Fryling’s prose.  All Christians, not simply Christian leaders, would be benefited by Frying’s incisive investigation of interiority. Chaput is right.  Christian living is always personal yet never private belief.  Leadership books abound which focus on work that need be done by the leader.  Fryling’s book properly places the emphasis on work that must be done in the leader.  Leadership integrity (wholeness of character) depends on integral (wholeness of life) personal integration (wholeness of person).  May leaders’ public lives be shaped be the leader’s private life as they read The Leadership Ellipse. Dr. Eckel’s website is warpandwoof.org.

A Review by David Claerbaut


Phil Jackson, (NY: Penguin Press, 2013)

Eleven Rings is essentially Phil Jackson’s autobiography.  It is heavy on his NBA basketball career, including his days as a player and how he integrates Eastern—Buddhist, more specifically—philosophy into his coaching.  Jackson is, if anything, an out of the box thinker.  He is counterintuitive in many ways.  In basketball, his emphasis is totally on bringing disparate personalities together into a tribe-like alliance of intimacy.  Throughout the book, he alludes to how his teams were doing in the win/loss column only to return to the issue of tribal unity as the answer to the team’s woes.  He acknowledges the importance of talent, but in the end attributes success to being in the moment and in harmony with one’s fellow tribesmen.  The book is chock full of Buddhist wisdom sayings, with an occasional bible verse tossed in here and there.  This goes to the person of Jackson.  Raised in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s by a rural Pentecostal husband and wife pastoral team, strict boundaries were set as to his participation in the things of the world.  It was a censorship-laden childhood, long on rules and short on nurture and intellectual fodder.  Hence, the reader quickly gets the sens that Jackson equates evangelical Christianity with sawdust thinking.  He is careful not to speak pejoratively of his parents or the faith in which they reared him, but he is clear that it was too narrow for him to feel comfortable. With that, Jackson did what many others of his like do.  He began exploring alternative religion/philosophies.  Though making no claim to being a Buddhist—in other settings he has professed to be a Christian Buddhist, whatever that might be—he espouses the be-in-the-moment worldview of Buddhism.  Moreover, he credits much of his success to that consciousness and his enabling his players to practice it through non-religious meditations—ten minute quiet times during practices and before key games.  To his credit, I have yet to hear any of his Christian players object to his methodologies, suggesting they are more about gathering oneself than espousing a religious worldview.  Interesting, is that Jackson has been singularly successful in the relational side of basketball coaching—a genius one might say.  Yet, he has been unsuccessful in his two marriages and is yet to marry his current decade-long partner, Jeanie Buss.  This may suggest a difference in the nature of intimacy.  He is uniquely skilled in professional relationships requiring a personal distance that may feed his introverted nature, while not so effective at the intensely personal level.  The reader will find him quite self-revealing but in very measured, cognitive fashion. The book is interesting and with minimal fluff.  Jackson makes a sincere effort to relate his professional and person journey to the intelligent reader.  For the Christian, there is a tinge of sadness as one wonders what might have happened to Jackson’s faith had he encountered some Christian intellectual mentors in his early adult years. Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by David Claerbaut


Carl Bogus, (NY: Bloomsbury Press, 2011)

Carl Bogus, professor at Roger Williams University School of Law, is a self-confessed liberal who admired William F. Buckley, Jr. (WFB).  In a public speech, Bogus claimed that Buckley had six careers and was ragingly successful in every one.  He was a syndicated columnist (“On the Right”), churning out 5,600 columns in his lifetime, enough to fill 28 volumes.  He wrote 56 books, only 6 of which were collections of his columns.  His books spanned from politics to fiction to travel and received prestigious awards. He wrote countless magazine articles for elite publications.  He gave an average of 70 speeches a year, donating much of his fees to his own publication, the National Review.  He holds the record for the longest running single TV host, having hosted the award-winning “Firing Line” from 1967-99.  Finally, he founded the National Review in 1955, serving as its editor until 1990 and maintaining control until 1999.  His publication redefined and led conservatism for decades.

It started in 1951, when the 25-year-old Ivy League graduate he wrote God and Man at Yale in which he excoriated his alma mater’s religion and economics departments.  It became a bestseller.  He was on the map and creating a stir. 

Buckley was an enormously charming, witty, and charismatic character.  He ran for mayor of New York in 1965 on the Conservative Party ticket.  He wanted to reach a wider audience for conservatives and to extinguish the political career of liberal Republican, John Lindsay.  He hoped to drain away enough votes to sink Lindsay.

One could only imagine the horror of the Conservative Party officials when they heard his first press conference.  When asked if he wanted to be mayor, Buckley said, “I never considered it.”  If you win, will you serve?  “If elected I will serve.” 

Do you think you have a chance of winning?  “No.”

How many votes do you expect to get, conservatively speaking?  “Conservatively speaking, one.”

A week later he was asked what would be the first thing he would do if elected.  “Demand a recount.”

Buckley, with his wit and dash, galvanized the attention of people, especially young people.  Here was an honest politician, someone to follow. 

Conservatism had been given up as dead prior to WFB.  Liberals captured the Republican party’s nomination five straight times–from 1940 with Wilkie, followed by Dewey and Eisenhower through 1956.  Buckley transformed conservatism.  Bogus does not see him as a political philosopher but rather as a brilliant polemicist and extremely gifted leader.  He knew how to create an army.  He conducted the orchestra, as Bogus stated in a public speech.  He made all strategic decisions and was very good at it.  To Bogus, he was more intuitive than consciously strategic, but he was brilliant.

Today we see conservatism as a three-legged stool, says Bogus—libertarianism, neo-conservatism, and religious (or social) conservatism.  There are overlaps and hosts of contradictions and inconsistencies within and among them.  Though seeing him principally as a libertarian, Bogus feels Buckley managed to embrace them all.  His editor, Frank Meyer, was a libertarian.  

The cornerstone for Buckley was his Catholic faith.  In God and Man at Yale he wrote, “I myself believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world.  I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.”  It was all about the cosmic struggle between good and evil, Christianity and atheism.  He saw individualism as on the Christian side, states Bogus.

He had conservative foes in the 1950’s, chief among them were the New Conservatives.  They were followers of Edmund Burke, the 18th century British political theorist who argued that we should honor traditions and institutions (including powerful governments), because they had evolved for good reasons and they worked.  Wisdom was the product of experience, for Burke.  All this was in opposition to the Buckley’s thinking.

Burkeans were communitarians while Buckleyans applauded individualism.  Libertarians defined liberty as being free from coercion while Burkians believed liberty also required opportunity, which came from community and even government.  Moreover, Burke’s followers advocated a strong government, believing it necessary to preserve liberty, while libertarians wanted small and weak government. 

Russell Kirk was a Burkean star.  At  35 he wrote The Conservative Mind from Burke to Eliot, a doctoral thesis at what is now Michigan State University, that caught the attention of Time magazine in 1953.  Kirk argued that Burke was the true model of conservatism, rejecting libertarians as too materialistic.  He was attacked by Buckley and others.  Then brilliantly, WFB saw the wisdom in recruiting this opponent.  He traveled to Mecosta, Michigan, charmed the socially awkward Kirk and hired him to write for the National Review.  Buckley wanted him to write on educational policy.  Unaware of the libertarian nature of the National Review, Kirk was outraged when he saw his name on the masthead with the likes of Frank Meyer.  Buckley took him off the masthead but Kirk continued to write the column until 1980.  For 25 years he remained silent in his critiques of libertarianism. 

By 1980, however, the battle between the Burkeans and the libertarians was long over as the former were torn by dissension, leaving Kirk with little potency.  The irony is that the communitarians splintered while Buckley, the individualist, created a conservative community.

There is much to applaud in this book.  Bogus captures much of Buckley’s magnetism and sketches the history of American conservatism from his outsider, liberal perspective.  A central thesis for Bogus is that had there been no WFB conservatism would not be what it is today.  Possibly the bigger-than-life nature Buckley’s character and style caused Bogus to attribute current American conservatism so heavily to Buckley, while dismissing a number of less well-known thinkers whose contributions are estimable. 

Bogus labels WFB as a libertarian, something that may be a tad narrow, given Buckley’s regularly mediating competing conservative views.  He opposed fanaticism including the virulent racism in the South.  He was also a pragmatist, willing to back the best conservative available.  He may have given WFB short shrift as a political thinker, claiming Buckley’s theories were the intellectual property of his father.  It is difficult for anyone who may have read his writings or witnessed WFB’s fierce intellect to dismiss him as a political theorist

He was a continuing work in progress.  He repudiated and confessed as wrong the racist elitism with which he grew up and which he expressed early in his career.  He was an ardent debater yet ever gracious, never mean-spirited; never personal.  At his death in 2008, many of his liberal foes spoke of his kindness and friendship. 

For the faith and learning believer, William F. Buckley was a genuine hero.  His Catholicism was the greatest influence in his life and it was about as compatible with Protestant evangelicalism as it could be.  His Nearer My God bears testimony to this.  Moreover, he was a compelling faith and learning advocate as witness his God and Man at Yale and later writings.  When I requested the then 77-year old Buckley write the foreword to my Faith and Learning on the Edge he wrote me a personal letter wishing me “the best in the world” with my book, despite having to decline due to time constraints.

For the believer, Buckley was an inspiration, fearlessly expressing his faith as a natural dimension of his personality, always with style–never forced–and manifestly genuine.  Bogus does well in helping us remember an American giant in so many ways. 

Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of FaithandLearningForum.com

A Review by Mark Eckel

[29] The Works of Leland Ryken

Leland Ryken has written or edited 40 books in his lifetime, teaching for almost a half century at Wheaton College.  What Ryken has done is to give the thoughtful Christian a basis for engaging classic texts such as Macbeth, Paradise Lost, The Scarlet Letter, and The Odyssey with the transcendent source of truth, Scripture. Each small guide—70 to 95 pages—begins with the same pages: “The Nature and Function of Literature,” “Why the Classics Matter,” and “How to Read a Story.” Packed paragraphs mark a succinct direction for why these Christian guides are necessary. To Ryken, literature captures universal ideas which matter to all people.Classics, the best of literature, help humans to interpret their world.One must never forget that interpretation always bears moral weight which is why truth claims of a story matter. Every booklet highlights the novel, poem, play, or epic, giving an overview summary of its important characters, plot, cultural context, and tips for reading. Cultural context is the centerpiece in showing how the book matters in a Christian perspective. “The Author and His Faith” helps each reader to understand how the author’s thinking fits within a God-centered framework. Milton’s life, for instance, is marked by exceptional education, the Protestant Reformation, and Puritanism which helps the reader understand why the poem Paradise Lost is religious in nature. The very next page in the guide identifies the genre of its subject. In the case of The Odyssey, Ryken explains the concept of “epic” connecting the ideas in the book with how that type of literature matters in interpretation. The Macbeth booklet includes a more thorough understanding of “Shakespeare’s Theatre” bringing the Renaissance stage to life. Ryken then digests each treatise for the reader. Plot summaries and commentaries zero in on the essence of the writing’s life-view. Sidebar comments dazzle the reader’s imagination as local customs, word histories, outside source quotes, or unpacked historical events which add understanding. Most important to a thinking person is the addition of reflection or discussion questions causing one to ponder how ancient ideas are more modern than we think. Resource and glossary pages give further insights. One would hate to miss Ryken’s bonus materials on the biblical perspective of The Odyssey or its “Tie-Ins with the Book of Proverbs.” Ryken has demonstrated for over 45 years that his thinking, writing, and teaching is thoroughly biblical. Anyone who wants better to understand any of these classic works could do no better than the erudition of Leland Ryken. A mere $6 price for any of these slim volumes is worth the $100 students will spend on a textbook they will never read

Mark Eckel is Professor of Ministry Studies at Capital Bible Seminary, Washington, D.C.

A Review by Karen Riethmiller


David Claerbaut, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004)

My faith in God and His guidance lead me to a career in a higher education at a “secular” college.  I arrived via a technological route, spending twenty years advancing through the ranks of a Tool and Die Machine Detailer to an Associate Mechanical Engineer in a Department of Research and Development.  As a woman in a truly non-traditional vocation, the experience proved to be interesting and challenging. Now in higher education, I asked myself the following questions.  Where do I stand on the battlefield between my alliance with God and the sphere of secular higher education?  What is Christian education?  What should my relationship with my students look like?  This time, God’s answer led me to an excellent text, Faith and Learning on the Edge: A Bold New Look at Religion in Higher Education by renowned professor and writer, Dr. David Claerbaut.  His answer to my first question was very simple, “…-that one’s scholarly vocation is not complete unless it includes an ongoing effort at integrating one’s faith with one’s academic pursuits.”  (134)  He quoted Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey’s definition of Christian Education for the answer to my second question: “It consists of teaching everything, from science and mathematics to literature and the arts, within the framework of integrated biblical worldview… It means teaching students to relate every academic discipline to God’s truth and his self-revelation in Scripture, while detecting and critiquing nonbiblical worldview assumptions.”  (18)     Claerbaut said that this definition of Christian education was not much in evidence in his undergraduate experience and very rarely in his graduate journey.  Others, he interviewed affirmed his experience.  But it should be.  It is in college, Claerbaut states, that students find out that their parents’ faith and views are not the only belief options.  “The students’ faith, after all, is that of their fathers and mothers, believing friends, and church family.  It has been propagated, reinforced, if not indoctrinated, but neither examined nor questioned.”  (73)   Students find themselves placed in “intellectual cul de sacs” with other diametrically opposed views and opinions as to belief systems.  He goes on to describe practical ways to put faith and learning into higher education. Claerbaut not only presented provocative and persuasive arguments for the integration of faith, truth, and learning on Christian and secular campuses, but also supplied a foundation for applying these principles in the classroom and research arenas.    He reminded us that we are preparing our graduates to go into the “… culture-shaping professions.”  (131)  In explaining why this should be a concern for us Christian professors, Claerbaut provided three components for the integration of Christian scholarship: 1. Philosophical- -an established viable intellectual Christian alternative in mainstream academia), 2. Critiquing–a review of established paradigms from an intellectual defensible Christian perspective of truth, and 3. Theory building–an attempt at building actual Christian theoretical models within disciplines.  Claerbaut is not alone in his declaration for promoting sound, solid, Christian yet academic perspectives.  He cites other Christian scholars and their success in the intellectual world.  The mainstream does seem willing to hear from Marsden, Wolterstorff, and others of their ilk as they make the case for faith and learning.  Such scholars have been granted prestigious appointments in research universities, their books have been published by quality mainstream university presses, and their ideas are visible on academic websites.  What seems to be missing is a body of work by Christian scholars that moves beyond philosophical justifications for faith-and-learning syntheses to actual examples of this type of scholarship. (128) In short, Claerbaut advocates relating God’s truth to every sphere of academics.  Doing that is what makes a professor a Christian scholar. Again, the issue here is not about one’s personal commitment to Christ or one’s willingness to live the life of the Spirit; those are matters of faith, will, and conduct.  It is about viewing life mentally through Christian lenses, just as the zealous political partisan will view almost any matter in the light of his or her liberal or conservative commitment.  It is about thinking things through, using Christian criteria in making assessments.  It is about moving the faith-and-learning endeavor off the back shelf and taking it to the edge.  It is about having a Christian mind.  “To think Christianly,” notes [Harry] Blamires, “is to accept all things with the mind as related, directly or indirectly, to man’s eternal destiny as the redeemed and chosen child of God.” (23) Claerbaut was quick to point out that to be true servants of God, we have to develop a passion for bringing solid, verifiable, foundational truths into our  lecture halls, seminars, collegial conferences, and publishing.  Style is important.  Our attitudes need to be one of humility in our teaching and our research because we are not the authority, God is.  James Keener, a mathematics professor from the University of Utah, used the fifteenth verse from John chapter fifteen of the Bible on which to base his pedagogy.  “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead I have called you friends for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (166)  Keener treated his students as friends because they may be his colleagues someday.  We have to build-up our students’ confidence and faith in a time in which many have no domestic support.  Words of encouragement can mean a great deal.  Just as we expect our students to respect us, we should respect them in return.  For Claerbaut the challenge is to “seek and find God’s wisdom and truth in nature, and to impart it to others.”  (178)  Teachers need to know the content of their worldviews.  Claerbaut cited Thomas Rosebrough’s point that the more understandable a teacher’s worldviews are the more effective that teacher is with his/her students. Claerbaut defines the ongoing task of the Christian scholar.  “It is also to refine the models, modes of analysis, and paradigms, continuously with the aim of making them better vehicles of faith and learning, better exponents of God’s truth.”  (308)  Sound educational philosophies and approaches are developed through this process.  Key, however, is a three-point Christian philosophy of education.  1. Reality is known only through God. 2. “Education, then, must aim at developing a sense of worth and responsibility, rooted in the divine and eternal nature of humankind [and 3.]  …Morality is objective.” (232)  With absolute and fixed moral principles founded in the nature of God, “… the mission for the Christian student in developing her own philosophy of education is two-fold.  It is to grow by remaining open to innovations in thought and practice, while exercising careful Christian discernment in the process.”  (232)  Finally, there needs to be a Christian vision.  “One that sees faith and learning, stimulating Christian models and analyses, built and refined both to cultivate the minds of believers and to shine the light of truth into the dim world of secularism.”  (308) This is an excellent book, very much worth reading for professionals, parents, teachers, college students, pastors, and graduate students.  Dr. David Claerbaut makes a very powerful and compelling case for the integration of Christian intelligence into the Christian and mainstream research academy.   

Ms. Riethmiller, is an accomplished Engineer, and has served as a Professor at Butler Community College, Butler, Pa.

A Review by Mark Eckel


James Martin, (NY: HarperOne, 2012)

In Between Heaven and Mirth! Martin opens his humor file (he must have one!) to prescribe the medicine of delight to those in need.  Martin does not sidestep the difficulty of asking “Do I have to be happy all the time?” or “Where do I find joy in the midst of sadness?”  Sometimes awfulness can be tempered by the hilarity of hyperbole: don’t miss the roach story in the chapter “My Life Stinks” (185). For the Christian, Martin’s intended audience, we are reminded of textual situations in Scripture that focus on joy.  As a Catholic priest, Martin’s ecumenical approach asks a wide array of scholars what they think of certain sections of The Bible.  The rabbi, for one, will tell Martin that The Old Testament is “earthy” (an understatement!).  The New Testament researcher will show how much the English reader can miss in Jesus’ parables. During Advent, it is good to rehearse Mary’s joy.  The Greek term in Luke 1 suggests such excessive gladness that words are linked with actions.  Dancing, shouting, and leaping for joy is linked with the joy of salvation (Is 61.10; 65.19; 66:14; Acts 2.26).  Joy is caused by our hope in Christ (1 The 2.19).  Exultation marks response to Scripture (Ps 119.162).  Joy-soaked-salvation brings a cheerful response in serving and giving (Rom 12.8; 2 Co 9.7).  The community joins the individual to rejoice over honor bestowed (1 Co 12.26).  The Hebrews used a word meaning “circle in around” indicating human exuberance over creation, a wedding, or a father delighted in his son (Ps 118.24; Ps 45.15; Pro 23.25).  Ultimately the strength of connection to the character of God as the basis for humor, His presence (30), is Martin’s underlying purpose. Humor can shock and sneak.  Isaiah 44:6-20 suggests the hilarious condition of the idolater fashioning his totem out of a tree while cooking his dinner from the fire of the same wood.  Isaiah’s question: What happens if he burns the wrong half?  In this sense, Martin amplifies cultural knowledge as necessary for every joke.  He encourages that the threads of humor be pulled from the fabric of the text.  How often, for instance, have we said, “God must have a sense of humor”?  If we bear the mark of our Maker why would we doubt our funny bone? Affective (mindset) directives are derived from happiness in chapter four.  Self-deprecation is as important in humor as it to humility.  Humor pin-pops pomposity.  If nothing else, Martin’s work could serve as a joke book for sermons on joy.  Each page is packed with the banter of a friend, sharing conviviality.  The last two chapters study 1 Thessalonians focused on the command to “rejoice always” and how prayer life could be enlivened by our commitment to feel the pleasure of God.  Beneficial was Martin’s connection to books in the text that deal with the issues of laughter, both theological and pedestrian.  It was good to see Elton Trueblood’s The Humor of Christ mentioned. Martin’s approach could be a bit broader at times, but he did identify base line differences between pagan and Christian views of happiness versus joy (25-26).  Martin’s connection to story after story was also a boon.  So often story gets to the heart of a funny situation; jokes are not always necessary.  I cannot imagine the next life without the intentional goodness of this one, laughter included.  And if we’re not good at increasing the level of levity, James Martin points us in the right direction. Dr. Mark Eckel is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, Indiana.

A Review by Mark Eckel

[26] The Dr. Seuss Book Series

He was stuck on a boat, returning from a European trip. For eight days, all he could hear were the ship’s engines going, chug-chug-chug. It seems the sound got stuck in his head. From that moment on, Theodor Geisel began to write books according to rhythm. Rhythm turned to rhyme in his first children’s book entitled And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. An Atlantic Ocean crossing and the chug-chug-chug of those engines began the career of the man who could tell children’s stories in poetry. Of course, Theodor Geisel is better known as Dr. Seuss. Seuss’s first book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street turned 75 this year. Originally, publishers rejected the book 27 times. As one historian tells it, Geisel had almost given up on the book, deciding to destroy it instead. But a surreptitious encounter with an editor friend as he walked home one evening after work changed all that. Had Geisel been walking on the other side of the street we might never know of Dr. Seuss. The editor friend liked Mulberry Street, got it published, the book received great reviews, and for six decades after, everyone knew the name Dr. Seuss. Seuss’s brilliant way with words was wonderfully augmented by his own artwork. Verbal and visual came together in Dr. Seuss books to tell story in poetry. As with any writer, Dr. Seuss also stirred controversy with his political viewpoints. The Lorax was Geisel’s environmental treatise against the business of cutting down trees. And The Butter Battle Book was Geisel’s view of The Cold War. Seuss wrongly believed the only moral difference between Communist Russia and Western democracy was the difference between choosing to butter a slice of bread on the top or bottom. However, many stories were morality tales I have used to teach positive lessons. Yertle the Turtle explains that some leaders get too big for their britches, ending up in ditches. How the Grinch Stole Christmas pronounces one’s view of holidays depends on the size of one’s heart. My personal favorite, Horton Hears a Who, contains the line which preaches by itself: “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” Students from junior high to graduate school have heard me read Dr. Seuss both in disagreement and in celebration. Teachers have used Theodor Geisel’s rhythm and rhyme books to coach phonics. Green Eggs and Ham or The Cat in the Hat are titles which have taught children to read. The chug-chug-chug of a ship’s engines changed the course of children’s publishing. I own every Dr. Seuss book in print. The reason? I could never preach in 45 minutes what Dr. Seuss books help me teach in five. Dr. Mark Eckel’s website is full of stimulating writing–www.warpandwoof.org.

A Review by Mark Eckel


Peter Lovenheim, (NY: Perigree Press, 2010)

How would you respond to a neighbor you had just met who asked if he could sleepover one night at your house to record your daily life? Begun as research for a book, Lovenheim’s initiative engaged lives close to his home, answering such a query.  Lovenheim’s epilogue of In the Neighborhood records multiple community responses to his initial 2008 essay published in The New York Times. It seems Lovenheim’s good concern for bonding with others is hardly unique.  Nationwide concern for knowing one’s neighbor is identified time and time again across the country in voluminous ways.  But it is the sleepover concept that is both unique and, as the author’s teenage daughter says, “crazy.” Various references to outside sources are not so crazy.  Homeowners sharing property seems to be more common than not; a community pool, for example (115-18).  Realizing too late that suburbia separated people rather than intertwining lives highlights Suburban Nation and The City in History (70-71).  And what social interest does not reference Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone (64) as a source of concern?  Lovenheim is to be lauded for his neighborhood outreach in both word and action.  There is, however, a self-serving current running beneath the pages of this book.  But while it seems In the Neighborhood began as journalistic fodder, Lovenheim’s efforts paid off in real human capital. The reader may well be put off, on the other hand, by personal comments made by Lovenheim.  Specific statements felt wrong: how a woman’s hair lay on her shoulder, references to a lady’s silk sleepwear, titillating repartee with a single woman, and a day spent alone with a married female working at home.  Hardly a prudish comment, it seems the whole idea of a “sleepover” went too far with the majority of his neighbors too.  Of all the 36 houses in Lovenheim’s subdivision, only enough to be counted on one hand were accepting of such an invitation.  Other stories had to be gleaned from “outsiders”: a paper carrier, mailperson, and a frequent walker through the neighborhood. If one would like a guide to community relations they would be better served by visiting my friends at Englewood Christian Church.  Here, not only do people live next door to each other but they extend personal lines of credit to those in their membership who need to buy a home.  On a recent excursion through the neighborhood—within a three block radius from the church’s building—one of the leadership was explaining how houses were constructed on his street.  “These houses are close enough to one another,” Joe explained, “So that conversations could be had from one home directly across the street to the one opposite.”  If one wants to know how neighborhoods should be encouraged, put down In the Neighborhood and visit the one around 57 N. Rural Street, Indianapolis, IN. Dr. Mark Eckel is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, Indiana.

A Review by Mark Eckel


C. Christopher Smith, (Kindle Edition, 2012)

Englewood Christian Church is the first example of a First Century Church. It is “ecclesiology in action.” The leadership of ECC and I have discussed our common commitment to place: living, working, playing, educating, worshipping in one location. Symbiotic relationships across the street and across Indianapolis reinforce what is the essence of a place–its people. In “The Virtue of Dialogue” (VOD) Chris Smith introduces the reader to a concise history of ECC’s commitment is communication. The long road of agreement, disagreement, and agreeing to disagree is sketched for the reader. Chris establishes the salient features of communication that come out of Englewood’s experience. Inundated by the spirit of democracy, efficiency, consumerism, individualism, and power the American church often falls prey to a business model of “doing church.” One primary, overriding concern in VOD is church size. If people don’t know each other, how will they communicate? And if people do not live in the same place, how will they truly know each other? Fostering conversation encourages unity amid diversity. If Church history teaches us anything, we know that inclusivity comes only through exclusivity. Christ followers are committed to one universal: Jesus as The Way, The Truth, and The Life. All peoples are given invitation to salvation; no one is left out. The practice of Jesus’ Grace is the gift of grace to each other. Giving space to others by the practice of grace is important.  Indianapolis is bettered by the presence and work of ECC through conversations in political, economic, and philanthropic venues. Englewood Review of Books (ERB) has an international-internet connection which expands communication through ideas. My institution’s (Crossroads Bible College) Urban Leadership program uses the curricular-faculty expertise of ECC helping students to see how theory meets practice in a city. VOD could be broadened to incorporate a multiplicity of communication possibilities. If you are looking for an example of how Christ’s Church should live in the 21st century, look no further. You may not agree with every book noted or theological concept applauded. But VOD sets the standard for how ecclesiology should be taught and lived, no matter your locale, no matter your exact belief. Dr. Mark Eckel is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, Indiana.

A Review by Mark Eckel


Edited by Todd C. Ream, Jerry Pattengale, and David L. Riggs, (Abilene TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2012)

Arthur Holmes, who shepherded Wheaton College through 40 years of biblically integrative practices, would have been proud. Beyond Integration? not only stands on the shoulders of Holmes but points to still more vistas ahead. Each essay—including history, psychology, history of science, sociology, politics, and literature—provides a map for future study across the disciplines. Overall, a key concern is the necessity of integrative-affective impact for professor-pupil development. James K. A. Smith opening essay acts as a broadside across the whole integrative discussion. Indeed, Smith would rather replace the term “integration” with Charles Taylor’s “social imaginary.” Smith also wishes the suspension of Christian ‘thinking’ or ‘worldview’ as primary components for the Christian academe. Smith commends the affective-biblical interaction, instead, suggesting for example “before we think, we pray” (23). Smith says current emphasis on the ‘thinking’ as a Christian usurps ‘being’ as a Christian: the mind replacing the heart, creating a kind of syncretism. He points out various problems in Christian scholarship as it currently stands, calling for “unapologetic Christian scholarship,” meaning that Christian scholars should not attempt to weave their foundational commitments with those antithetic to The Faith (31). Timothy Larson’s well written essay addresses the intersection of thinking as do the others. But Larson explains to the Christian historian how to write their work better. He admonishes academic writers to choose subjects whose Christian lives speak for themselves. The task of the Christian historian is not to pronounce declarative interpretations of historical events but simply to expose the historical events to show how Christians involve themselves in life. Above all it is “the historian who tells the most compelling narrative [who] wins” (117). John W. Wright’s introduces the reader to a seemingly obscure writing of Immanuel Kant: The Conflict of the Faculties. Kant’s evaluation is that of state controlled education. Governmental authorities demand compliance to national standards. In so doing, local authorities lose control. The parochial nature of some schools is often due to federal constraints that create educational lockstep becoming “the university’s Alpha and Omega, its beginning and end” (169). The question left for the academe to answer is “Who are the educational theologians?” Social structures inhabit universities and thus can inhibit educational change. Theology is co-opted by state revelation, compartmentalized into ineffectual, unproductive experiential-individual, separated from any real educational impact. Wright cries out for The Church’s reengagement of the integration of faith and learning. But this is the problem with the connective “and.” Wherever Christian thinkers utilize the phrase “faith and learning” one begins an unnecessary bifurcation. So to discuss any of the subjects in the present volume from the perspective of addition introduces duality from the start. Hyphenation (i.e., faith-learning) announces oneness.  There is also the problem for the Christian university operating in compliance with state standards: the state accepts institutions into their guild when said institutions submit to the regulations which arise out of political, economic, and business paradigms which are antithetic to Yahweh’s Revelation. Jerry Pattengale’s conclusion could have expanded comments centered on faculty hiring to maintain a commitment to biblical Truth. College presidents and provosts must act as gatekeepers. There is a need to hire faculty not with a focus on credentialing but rather on teaching philosophy. Academic freedom must come with institutional responsibility. In the short term, exacting standards for faculty appointment must transcend where one did their schooling to incorporate how one teaches. Beyond Integration? is an appropriate first step down the path of Christian higher education interdisciplinary processes. Appropriate humility within the craft of integration, however, must not give way to vacillation. One would wish for a manifesto or confession entitled Beyond Questions? where variant voices would all agree to some salient signposts, even doctrinal commitments. For instance, could all Christian academics declare allegiance to Transcendent justice as the only basis for immanent peace? Could Bible-believing academics commend “interdisciplinary” over “intra-disciplinary” academic pursuits? Educational foundations are shifting under the collective feet of the educational world. Entrepreneurial endeavors are necessary now. Decision is decided by direction. There is an immediate need to process how we will begin. Beyond Integration? could be given to professors for summer reading, pursuant to dialogical engagement before classes begin. Ultimately, there is a need for a comprehensive, cohesive, consistent plan to create faculty-curricula which compels classroom conversation—the front lines of restructured thinking for students. References to monastic practices suggest smaller educational environments (177). Is there a true wholeness to the whole of student life? Are we willing to adopt a type of monastic focus, such as is practiced at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin? Wright’s clarion call need be rung on the bell of every Christian campus: “Without theology, its founding discourse and the life of the church to sustain it, it is not apparent that the university can sustain a coherent life and continue its drift into irrelevancy” (183). Each essay deserves a singular response. Perhaps such a volume could be useful in the future as a point-counterpoint perspective. On a personal note, some of my own interdisciplinary thinking was augmented and enlivened by my years of teaching in Christian high schools. My compatriots and I were constantly interacting with each others’ disciplines. Collaboration with colleagues was taken for granted. After a few years I altered the title of “Bible” for my classes replacing it with the moniker “Christian Life and World Studies” (CLAWS). I was bringing math, science, history, literature, and fine arts to intersect with Scripture. So thoroughly did the interdisciplinary process unfold, that end of the year projects were often one paper for two classes. Academicians everywhere at every level bear the responsibility succinctly and specifically to move beyond abstraction and weave theory with practice, everyday life with a biblical mind grid, and their own discipline with those of others. Dr. Mark Eckel’s website is full of stimulating writing–www.warpandwoof.org.

A Review by David Claerbaut


Dr. Ben Chavis, (NY: NAL 2009)

Crazy Like a Fox is anything but boring. You don’t want this one at your bedside if you want to slide into a restful sleep.  It is the story of Ben Chavis, a native-American (he prefers American Indian) from rural North Carolina, who took over the worst middle school in Oakland, California in 2000, and within seven years turned the American Indian Charter School into the top-ranked middle school in the state Dr. Ben’s methods are regressive and successful.  The outspoken author condemns all liberal educational orthodoxy claiming it is laced with good intentioned, low expectations for poor and minority students, and as such, teaches a subtle victimization.  Away with all that, and most of the progressive technical methodology as well.  For Chavis, it is all about reading, writing, math, and reaching national competency levels.  No need for large staffs, parental involvement, or cultural enrichment.  It means a classroom focus, no nonsense, long hours, and dedicated teaching. His style is unabashedly confrontational.  The title of the book is a bit of a defense for his style, Chavis claiming that to manage in the inner city one has to be crazy (but cunning) in style and methodology to succeed.  Hence, the use of street language, public humiliation, and plain old confrontation is very much in evidence.  Whatever it takes to maintain control and move forward. The author does not care what you, or me, or any one else thinks.  He is on a mission and the results validate the means by which he gets there.   There is nothing PC about Ben Chavis.  He can play the professional role in the board room and mix it up on the street if necessary.  Not surprisingly, he is controversial, has gained a few foes along the way, but the track record makes has rendered this educational version of Bobby Knight bulletproof. There are rules.  No cell phone usage or the device is confiscated for the entire year.  Proper dress.  No dropped off by mom lunches, and punctuality.  Enforcement is certain and often psychologically painful. For example, when several youths let their pants sag too low, Chavis made belts out of pink string with pink bows on the front and had the boys wear this Chavis-made apparel.  There is no give.  If parents do not like the methodology they are welcome to withdraw their children.  But the potential price is high, because Chavis all but guarantees academic competence and college entrance for those who persist. Clearly, Chavis is effective.  The reader is left with not doubt on that.  The nagging question relates to method.  One wonders where tough love ends and abuse begins.  More particularly, to what extent is Chavis reissuing some of the abuse he received from his alcoholic father under the guise of effective discipline? Ultimately, Chavis became bigger than the school and his own mission.  The sin of pride doomed him in the tradition of PTL’s Jim Bakker.  An audit reported in 2012 after Chavis had moved on, indicated financial irregularities reaching the $3MM mark.  Ever the capitalist, the charge is that awarded a number of costly projects—construction and consulting services—to some of own businesses and ran up other seemingly personal expenses on the school’s credit card. Despite his sins and self-destruction, Chavis proved that no child need be written off educationally if there is enough singleminded commitment aimed at her development. Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of www.faithandlearningforum.com.

A Review by Mark Eckel


Kenneth B. McIntyre, (Wilmington, DE: ISI, 2011)

Twisted history marks the pastime of lazy thinkers.  Herbert Butterfield would have none of it.  Practicing his craft during the tectonic shifts of the 20th century, it would have been easy for Butterfield the historian to accept the view that using history to promote present belief was acceptable.  He understood that views of history must be constrained and limited; interpretation of another person’s place or time does not exist for simple lessons of history.  “The Christian faith produces both humility and sympathy in the face of the moral and intellectual complexity of past” (42).  The practical application of Christian doctrine to an academic discipline is well expounded in Kenneth B. McIntyre’s Herbert Butterfield: History, Providence, and Skeptical Politics. McIntyre does the reader a service by explaining early on how the horrors of World War I affected England opening the way for Butterfield’s views to a popular audience.  The ‘progressive’ view of history (culture was becoming better) was rejected in lieu of Butterfield’s contention that history is autonomous, to be understood within its own period of time.  Butterfield rejected ‘presentism’, historical ideas used for current concerns, saying that the study of history should be pursued for its own sake.  Still others analyzed history for its ‘practical’ values.  Butterfield argued instead that history could not be moralized by those living in the present.  Historians come to conclusions based on evidence but their job is not to make ethical judgments.  History operates within its own field of study with different methods of inquiry.  Butterfield’s academic views quickly became accepted based in part on British Broadcasting radio appearances.  Butterfield’s culture made it possible for his thinking to influence the 20th century study of history. McIntyre’s authorial work is tireless and can be tiring.  Any book whose length is almost one-third references and resources has sustained a necessary depth for argument.  Density of prose, however, unnecessarily weights the book, making reading difficult.  I found myself re-reading sentences multiple times.  Yet, I constantly wondered what other choice was there for McIntyre?  Some of the thick writing is owed to an intellectually thick subject.  Butterfield’s views of history are difficult to sort, even for historians.  Unsystematic, repetitious concepts dot the pages of Butterfield’s books which do not lend themselves to easy reading.  Here McIntyre builds the reader three windows directing attention on historical scenery.  Chapter one is a labor of love for those of us who love history, desiring to scrutinize the historian’s method.  Chapter two examines the long reach of Butterfield’s method into the historicity of science, a field he began almost single-handedly.  Chapter three engages political concerns, which is perhaps the most applicational chapter of all. McIntyre’s initial chapter demonstrates the constraint of Butterfield’s writing about views and uses of the past.  The past should be understood for itself, in its own terms, not what we make it to be.  History should not be used as a bludgeon to beat down or prop up whatever positions we hold today.  Liberals and conservatives both need learn the lesson: past perspectives are not automatic molds for the present.  Assailing an ethnic group now for the sins of past generations must be held in check.  Transposing statements from past generations with immediate applications to our day must be resisted.  Objectivity—still the academician’s ideal—should be of primary concern throughout halls of learning.  Practices and methods of his discipline were Butterfield’s interest. Butterfield’s Christian doctrine clearly played a role in his views of life.  Belief in inherent human corruption formed the crux of his viewpoints.  Folks are fallen, fragile, and finite, incapable of full intellectual understanding.  When politicians or movements co-opt the historical enterprise for their own ends speeches and textbooks are obviously limited by prearranged political perception.  Apart from God’s revelation to man, both history and science would never have the foundational support for human activity.  Indeed, Butterfield would argue that there was no ‘revolutionary’ thought which hatched history and science.  Compelled by Scripture, reason as its servant, men were led to God’s understanding of the world.  Practical, progressive, present-minded viewpoints only seek to reorient achievements in any academic discovery away from the service of God to the idolatries of men. As is the case with everyone, views of the human person motivate thinking.  Both liberals and conservatives can share Butterfield’s basic practical political insight; the former spotlights the problems of big business, the latter of big government.  “Big” anything is repulsive to Butterfield who believed local communities are the best form of life for people.  McIntyre elicits a smile when he summarily insists “human sin often leads Butterfield to advocate a purely prophylactic role for the state” (113).  Intrusions of top-down controls in any culture stultify a populace.  Citizenry begin to think the state owes them something, giving up individual freedoms along the way.  Of course, Butterfield would maintain the opposite is also true: pure democracy is unproductive (104).  Masses of people remain unrestrained by law.  One of many marvelous quotes expresses the essence of human cupidity which “sets every compass slightly wrong; it puts the bend into our wishful thinking; and it gives a bias to our very righteousness” (112). Yet, the positive role of practical, political purposes is also owed to human nature.  Persons have worth because they are created in the image of God.  The individual has value so liberty is rightly tied to conscience.  With a wary eye on human depravity, personal dignity sustains the tension of human limitation in political affairs.  Revolutionary uprisings tend toward human perfectibility, resisted by those who refuse to believe overthrow of one government automatically means the next will be better.  Evidence for the destructive legacy of France’s revolution, for instance, was overwhelming to Butterfield.  The state’s expansion of powers creates novel means of usurping personal liberties.  Intrusive ideologies inundate inhabitants with interferences imposing importance on institutions instead of the individual.  Butterfield’s conclusion based on the data was the ultimate end of revolutions is not utopia but slavery. Butterfield maintained the Christian doctrine of God’s providence in history while keeping intact the methodology of a historian.  In keeping with The City of God Butterfield continued Augustine’s view that human and divine views of history were separate.  Rightly assessing the linear Hebraic view of history Butterfield delineated the Christian intellectual from classical Greek thinkers where history is repetitious.  Political direction in any society arises out of a commitment to its worldview.  To honor the past is to study history for itself.  It is not wise to say that past lives teach us in the present how to live.  Butterfield rather asked “What does each generation do with the law and order they have been given?”  Beliefs in so-called ‘progress’ were the deposits left of evolutionary teaching; humans move from primitive, savage states through stages of betterment.  Political forces corrupt the past by assigning it weight history was never intended to carry.  In our day, it may be one group’s wish for ‘JFK’s Camelot’, whereas others anticipate ‘the next Reagan.’  History is not meant to ask “How will we pick up our hero’s mantle?” but “What will we do with similar opportunities which were available to our hero?” So where does Butterfield place his hope for a dignified but depraved human race? Butterfield’s optimism for human endeavors resides in ordered liberty premised on Divine Providence.  In the end, Butterfield rejects all doctrinaire attempts to make viewpoints acceptable by cherry-picking historic persons, places, and events to substantiate certain cultural claims.  Butterfield merely reflects biblical history which does exactly the opposite, showing our true, sordid natures.  History rejects a cut-and-dried simplistic approach accepting rather a cloak of complex intricacy.  The historian should write the story of what she studies without regard for popular pressures for packaging.  Present historians ought to consider the past for examples but limit the authority of any particular ‘lesson.’ The sophistication of Herbert Butterfield’s teaching about God and man in history is well served by the scholarly organization of Kenneth B. McIntyre. Dr. Eckel’s website, www.warpandwoof.org is first-rate reading.  This review is published in Englewood Review of Books, February, 2012.

A Review by David Claerbaut


Ben Shapiro, (NY: Broadside, 2011)

Conservative blogger Ben Shapiro leaves no doubt that Hollywood is a tool of the political left, that it is totally controlled by liberals.  He also asserts that the liberal message is communicated with cunning effectiveness—through the use of narrative.  In short, Hollywood creates characters, very likable ones, people with whom we would rather spend our time than members of our own family, and has them engage in actions with which we do not approve.  It is pretty much that simple.  Likable characters doing less than morally acceptable things and leaving the viewer with a dissonance that is eventually be resolved in favor of the protagonist. The youthful, not-even-30 Shapiro, traces the history of Hollywood back to the 1950’s and early 60’s.  At that time, the executives were conservatives, while the creators were for the most part Jewish liberal socialists from New York.  The result was a non-partisan standoff in what in the country was a more conservative.  With the death of JFK, a spirit of national cynicism set in and liberalism took hold of Hollywood.  TV executives came from the huge ad agencies in NY and soon everything was moving in the same direction in a still, rather conservative nation. Shapiro dates 1965 as a turning point.  Creators, he says, care only about advertisers, who care only about ratings.  The ratings focus is localized on segments—18 to 34, and 18 to 49.  Why?  While people over 50 tend to be employed and in possession of disposable income (and youth are often living in their parents’ basements unemployed and smoking pot, according to the author), creators have lied to advertisers claiming the younger demographic is the place to be.  The genesis of this lie is placed at the doorstep of ABC.  In the middle ‘60’s only CBS had affiliates everywhere, reaching all of the US.  ABC was limited to urban affiliates and creators scammed the advertisers to believe the youth market was economic Canaan, and of course, that market is more liberal. Liberals defend their dominance by saying that viewers need only flip the channel if they do not like what they see.  To Shapiro that will only engage another liberal program.  There is simply no place to go.  Even though many viewers are older and often do not live in urban areas, Hollywood doesn’t care.  The leftist beat goes on. There are no negative ramifications for Hollywood in its liberal march. A compelling feature of Shapiro’s book is his clever field research.  Presenting himself accurately as a graduate of Harvard Law School, he solicited interviews with Hollywood heavyweights for a book he was doing about changes in TV and its effects.  With a name like Shapiro and a Harvard credential, the author was never vetted as the subjects quickly assumed the stereotype—that he was a leftist Jew from NY.  Ideologically one of them.  Wearing his Harvard Law School baseball cap as cover, Shapiro met with those who make TV what it is and heard them out And what stories they told. Doug Herzog, CEO of MTV, regarded people like himself and their networks as “superpowers” that can influence culture.  Susan Harris, creator of the “Golden Girls,” characterized conservatives as having “medieval minds.”  Nicholas Mayer, producer of the 1983 made-for-TV epic, “The Day After,” depicting the aftermath of a nuclear war, stated his aim to be the unseating of Ronald Reagan.  Producer Leonard Goldberg (the partner of mogul, Aaron Spelling) openly acknowledged a leftist dominance and a barrier to entry for conservatives. In sum, the heavyweights made clear they were openly discriminatory and happy to proselytize in a liberal direction.  And it was unanimous.  Hollywood was a leftist monolith–a liberal echo chamber.  Those who detest imperialism practiced blatant imperialism.  Hollywood does not reflect culture, as these people claim.  It reflects its own Hollywood culture and attempts to influence the larger culture in that direction. Shapiro states that he was unprepared for his findings.  He had begun the enterprise believing that Hollywood discrimination was a myth.  He eventually found out firsthand how discriminatory the system is.  Asked by Goldberg for a pilot set in Harvard Law School, Shapiro eagerly went to work.  After very optimistic meetings, he was “googled” and a producer told an agent of his that Hollywood would never work with Ben Shapiro. There is lots of red meat here.  He describes an unholy alliance among the Obama campaign, pharmaceutical companies and Hollywood.  Shapiro claims that in exchange for capping pharmaceutical liability at $80B, the companies kicked in $150MM to the President’s campaign which in turn spent lavishly on commercial.  To Shapiro, everybody won but the taxpayer. Unlike many tell-all tomes, Shapiro offers solutions.  He urges conservatives to take back from Hollywood the art of storytelling, citing the great books from the Bible to the works of Shakespeare as examples of effective narratives.  He calls for excellent narratives that happen to be conservative, rather than simply conservative narratives.  Moreover, instead of boycotting and stressing the negative, conservatives need to invest in a new Hollywood. The book is compelling and disturbing to the faith and learning advocate, irrespective of one’s political leaning, because Hollywood’s focus is not on political candidates but on eroding the social and moral agenda of believers.  Christian scholars are in a battle—a spiritual and ideological war—for the mind of those with whom we associate in the intellectual arena.  The major secular foes are the naturalistic university and the media.  Shapiro unmasks the latter as a force with an imperialistic agenda.  Clearly not a Christian, there is nothing in Shapiro’s work with which a Christian can take issue.  Better yet, his solutions are proactive, much along the lines of the late Bob Briner’s Roaring Lambs, in which the emmy-award winning producer’s call is for Christians to counter Hollywood with better quality material. This is the mission of  FaithandLearningForum.  In the academic and intellectual arena we encourage and promote Christian worldview excellence.  May more of our colleagues in the world of art and entertainment find ways to do the same. Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of www.faithandlearningforum.com.

A Review by David Claerbaut


Bob Woodward, (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2012)

What makes Woodward’s books special is his ability to get close to the principals and provide the reader with a dramatic play-by-play of what occurs in the corridors of power.  For some this close-up methodology causes readers to see the forest but not the trees.  Given the many books offering analytical approaches, being in the arena is rather exciting. In sum, the book chronicles the political handball game between Obama and the Congress over the tax and spending policy between 209 and the summer of 2012.  Although the back and forth is intense, some argue that the wrangling was much ado over not a whole lot of something.  Most of the proposed savings would push out as far as a dozen years.  Hence, the impact of a deal would hardly be immediate. The book’s focus is on a few heavyweights rather than a large cast of characters in a culture in which some really understand the budgetary nuances and others are easily bamboozled there is plenty of back and forth.  Chief among them are Obama and Republican congressional leader, John Boehner. Again, if you are looking for perspective—although some is offered at the end– this may not be your book.  If you want a ringside seat, however, and see politics for the contact sport that it is, Woodward is very good. With that in mind, it is important to realize Woodward was not there.  His work is the result of interviews with the major players, many of which traded candor for anonymity.  One can be fairly confident of the book’s accuracy because a journalist like the author will compare notes carefully. There are some real keepers in the book.  One human moment has Republican congressional leader, John Boehner, longing for a cigarette in the no-smoking White House.  He suggests to the President (trying to quit smoking) that they move outside to the patio.   Boehner sums up the event this way.  “All you need to know about the differences between the president and myself is that I’m sitting there smoking a cigarette, drinking Merlot, and I look across the table and here is the president of the United States drinking iced tea and chomping on Nicorette.”  There is indeed some high drama, including a hostile the-deal-is-off phone call from Boehner to Obama in which the latter showed some uncharacteristic rage. Woodward portrays Obama as not conversant with the pragmatic deal-making methods ofWashingtonand a tad idealistic and naïve as to his abilities to manage something as complex as an agreement over fiscal policy.   Moreover, the president’s staff comes as in disarray with the notable exception of Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner. Finger-pointing is a huge part of the story, of course, and it reveals the sick side of the business of politics.  There is a dearth of stand-up-and-be-counted types in the nation’s capital, and the President is not one of them. There is plenty of blame to go around, but in the analysis that is present in the book, Woodward places the primary responsibility on Obama who admittedly inherited a bad hand, but was unable to do what successful presidents do, “work their will.” Reviews have been mixed.  Few rival Woodward in spinning an interesting non-fiction yarn, but he may have overspun this one a tad, as the book’s pace occasionally bogs down in plodding move-by-move detail. For the Christian reader, the book sends the unmistakeable signal that the stewards of our nation’s business are too much about power and political gain and not enough about the good of the republic.  The book’s title makes that clear.  It is almost as if the wellbeing of the citizenry is a marginal concern at best.  Indeed there are no Profiles in Courage here and the one’s concern for the nation only deepens. Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of www.faithandlearningforum.com.

A Review by David Claerbaut


Edward M. Kennedy, (NY: Twelve, 2009)

The late Senator’s book is a memoir as opposed to an autobiography, yet it flows chronologically and reads like an autobiography.  The reader is immediately struck with the G-rated, tame tone of the book and the heavy emphasis on family and the Catholic faith. Kennedy describes his childhood as idyllic, an real life affluent Ozzie and Harriet existence.  Most of the credit given to his father, Joseph, Sr.  This is consistent with other books on the family.  The founding father may have been a philanderer of the worst kind—something you can be sure does not find its way into these pages—but he loved his children unconditionally and they felt it. Early in life Kennedy’s father confronted the author, telling him he had a choice to make.  He could lead a serious or frivolous life.  He assured young Teddy he would love him either way, but he would less time for him if he chose the latter.  The conversation left an enduring mark. Kennedy recounts his embarrassment over the cheating scandal at Harvard and his decision to marry his first wife, Joan.  The marriage finds its way in and out of subsequent pages with Kennedy showing sensitivity to Joan’s plight and her battle with alcoholism.  No mention of Kennedy’s womanizing is made. The stories of the deaths of John and Bobby are wrenching.  Kennedy’s reminiscence of his profound grief and emptiness upon the death of RFK is eerily similar to accounts of Bobby’s reaction to the death of JFK.  Not to be lost in this is that the eldest brother, Joseph, Jr., arguably the best and the brightest, perished in a WWII plane crash. All the major events are covered including Chappaquiddick.  Kennedy refuses to stray from his original version of the tragedy, that he was at the wheel, somehow got out of the submerged vehicle, dove down several times in an unsuccessful effort to find and rescue Mary Jo Kopechne, raced back to the cottage to get help, and then sort of operated in a blur owing to shock and a concussion.  No on investigator buys this as fact, but Kennedy sticks to his story.  The career-shaping episode gets but a few pages. Although never vicious or truly nasty, Jimmy Carter does not get “good press” in this book.  Kennedy recounts his attempts to connect with the 39th President, but often felt rebuffed.  He was chagrined at a mean-spirited Carter’s grudge holding, while playing down any alienation on the convention floor in 1980. His second wife, Vicki, comes through as a star—a rescuing angel for the 60-year-old Senator and constant source of strength during his battle with brain cancer. On balance, the reader will have a hard time disliking Kennedy upon reading his book.  The charitable and grateful tone of the book is liberating.  It is devoid of the subtle or direct “get even” quality of other autobiographies of the famous.  Little evidence of bitterness, self-pity, or regret. The major weakness of the book is its sanitized nature.  Nothing on the alienated marriage of his father and mother due to Joe Sr.’s womanizing.  Nothing on the adulterous lives he and his brothers also lived.  (When reports of the Senator’s death went public, the first thing a friend said to me was, “I wonder how many women that guy had.”)  Nothing on nephew William Kennedy Smith and his sexual assault charge in 1991 while staying with Ted.  Nothing on his own embarrassing, often alcoholic laden-escapades, behaviors for which he apologized at Harvard.  Nothing on his oxymoronic support of abortion while clinging tight to Catholicism. The closest the Senator comes to any public confessions is being sorry for mistakes he made over his life, all related in the most general terms possible. Yet the book is good.  One gets the sense that Kennedy was at peace with God and his own life as he approached death.  If that is the case, perhaps he simply did not want to look at some of the ugliness in his life.  Perhaps he wanted this memoir to be one of remembering the good things and making peace with some of the family tragedies. If that is the case, the reader can forgive some of the sanitizing. Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of www.faithandlearningforum.com.

A Review by David Claerbaut


Bill Donohue, (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Image, 2012)

Bill Donohue is President and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, and national spokesperson for all things Catholic.  He was trained as a sociologist, something that becomes rather evident in this very to-the-point book.  Donohue’s thesis is simply this: Those in search of the “Good Society” need look no further than the teachings of the Roman Catholic church.  Were a society to model itself along those teachings it would be healthy and good. The book is of two parts.  There is a compelling argument made in defense of Catholic teachings and the role of the Church throughout the centuries in advancing the Good Society.  There is also an attack on secularism and alternative notions of good. The Catholic teachings stand over and against what Donohue sees as the prevailing cultural tendency of “lowering the bar,” dumbing down, and appealing to the lowest common denominator.  The teachings call us out of narcissism, hedonism, and ignorance.  As for those priests who have engaged in destructive and abusive behavior, Donohue charges them with following the id rather than Catholic teachings.  He affirms the sinful nature of humanity (even the Pope goes to Confession) and declares the teachings to be solid—uncorroded—although followers may fall short. There is a long defense of the Catholic Church, a literary resume of its honorable actions and traditions.  For example, Donohue claims that the concept of the university emanated from the Catholic Church.  He also regales the Church in its opposition to Nazism, claiming Roman Catholic involvement under Pope Pius XII saved 860,000 Jews.  Nuns are praised for their role in establishing hospitals, schools, asylums, and foundling homes.  There are, for Donohue, many Mother Teresas.  John Paul II is credited for his part in bringing down theSoviet Union, and the Church’s advocacy of slave rights is advanced as “eating away” and ultimately destroying that insidious institution.  Moreover, the Catholic Church is said to have had almost nothing to do with the Inquisition and the Crusades are minimized. Donohue states that reason in pursuit of truth is the key to Catholicism.  He emphasizes Natural Law, which he sees as affirming Christ’s two Great Commandments, calling humans out of narcissism and toward a life rooted in a well-formed rather than wholly individual conscience.  He rejects positivism in the form of the government positing and controlling human behavior.  Natural Law comes from God (as do Natural Rights) and supercedes human authority for the author.  Hence, the Nazi war criminals had no moral standing in attributing their actions to the dictates of the German regime. Donohue assails cultural relativism, citing an exchange he had with a group of Jewish academics deeply imbued with a non-judgmental, all-cultures-are-equal relativism.  In Nazi Germany, Donohue reportedly said to these academics, they put Jews like you in ovens.  In the US we put pizzas in ovens.  Is that merely different strokes for different folks?  For Donohue, the Holocaust is a logical outcome if truth does not exist. Freedom is not individual autonomy—libertinism.  It is not the right to do what one wants.  It is the right to do what one ought to do.  Donohue admits that a calling to live in accordance with the Ten Commandments and Catholic teachings is a “hard sell” in an age of license.  The opposite road, however, is calamitous.  He cites the celebrated philosopher, Michel Foucault, as a symbol of the misplaced notions of freedom and a rejection of truth.  For Foucault reality was a series of “social constructs” rather than verifiable and reliable certainties.  Living a hedonistic life of drugs and boundary-free sex, Foucault died of AIDS at 57.  For Donohue, the philosopher’s death is a metaphor of the fruits of positivism, cultural relativism, individual autonomy, and a rejection of truth and moral absolutes. Despite his bombastic, in-your-face style, there is much to be said for Donohue’s book from a faith and learning standpoint.  Although provincially Catholic, rather than more widely Christian, the book makes a powerful case for a God-centered, creation-constructed worldview.  Donohue’s affirmation of truth amid a sinful humanity is also central to a Christian worldview.  Moreover his critique of secularism in the form of cultural relativism and postmodernism is spot on. There may be spots in which the passionate, fiery, yet never boring Donohue  overreaches a bit, but that is a small failing for a book filled with faith-reinforcing, intellectual truth that empowers the faith and learning scholar. Dr. Claerbaut is the founder of www.faithandlearningforum.com.

A Review by Mark Eckel


Jeffry C. Davis and Philip Ryken, eds. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Publishers, 2012)

When you see a book with Leland Ryken’s name, buy it; ask questions later.” For the past 25 years this has been my mantra whenever anyone has wondered about books for the humanities. Philip Ryken, WheatonCollege’s current president, honors his firsthand knowledge of home learning from his father Leland with the new book Liberal Arts for the Christian Life. The essays are premised upon Leland’s 1984 chapel address “The Student’s Calling.” Written with undergraduate students in mind, Liberal Arts seeks to set patterns for young minds. Dr. Philip Ryken’s essay appears at the end of the book but marks the beginning of thought for new students: In conducting this exploration we will exercise our theological imagination. But we will also make deductions that are grounded in the prophecies of Scripture, governed by the principles of sound doctrine, and guided by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit as we gather together the strands of revelation that lead toward engagement in the liberal arts as an eternal enterprise (295). Philip Ryken intones “the liberal arts are the liberating arts . . . within the transient we experience moments of the transcendent” (299, 301). So, curiosity and creativity for Christian liberal arts study should be given coherent comprehensiveness for the classroom. Terminology and background are established in section one. Jeffry C. Davis sets the historic connections for liberal arts study. Lisa Richmond gives an overview of broad learning in The West. It is Edith Blumhofer whose words about Evangelical learning inAmericaset the stage for section two. Blumhofer notes “Debates about the authority of Scripture or the exclusivity of Christianity questioned the assumptions behind Christian liberal arts education” (62). Scriptural authority and Christian exclusivity form the twin pillars of biblical-liberal arts. In like manner, the twin pillars bear the weight of a four-fold theological framework: human nature, loving God, redemption, and faithfulness. Duane Litfin reminds the reader that love for God begins within us; the affective objectives of learning. Roger Lundin argues that since we live “in the middle of things” we must understand our nature on that fulcrum between human dignity and depravity. Faithfulness to the task of learning is ours because we represent our King in His Kingdom, says Jeffery Greenman. Yet the spirit of theological commitment to study is best captured by Wayne Martindale’s quote of C.S. Lewis musing on “The World’s Last Night”: Happy are those . . . laboring in their vocations, whether they were merely going out to feed the pigs or laying good plans to deliver humanity a hundred years hence from some great evil. . . .No matter; you were at your post when the Inspection came (99). Our vocational gifting is born out of our habits and virtues: the thrilling third section of Liberal Arts is dedicated to the inner life of the student. Dorothy Sayers’ brilliant educational philosophy is promoted through Marjorie Lamp Mead: learn how to learn. Alan Jacobs is marvelous in his reintroduction of the reader to reading, focusing on focus. Other essays promote gracious living begins with grace given in listening; humility marks the sharing of knowledge; while community exists to encourage a collective way of living. And to the student who struggles with materialistic-pragmatistic cultural views of learning, let a quote from Arthur Holmes adjust the internal undergraduate barometer: “The question to ask about education is not, ‘What can I do with it?’ . . . The right question is rather, ‘What can it do to me?’” (121). Only after the student is prepared internally can she focus on external scholastic disciplines. The exceptional essays of Dorothy F. Chappell and Henry Allen should be read in tandem. Students of natural and social sciences should not operate in competition but rather collaboration. Presuppositions in both essays establish parameters and patterns which should boundary all avenues of study. Music, art, and theatre—examples of those study venues—are also expertly explained in these pages. However, if one essay exemplifies the essence of Liberal Arts it is Jill Peláez Baumgaertner’s “The Humanities as Indulgence or Necessity?” Undergraduate parents should be tasked with its reading. Her line of reasoning, bolstered by poignant quotes, is beyond rebuttal: and her last sentence from her first paragraph made me laugh out loud! Liberal Arts is necessary if for no other reason than it gives education its goal—a life prepared, fully, Christianly, wisely. As the fifth section’s introduction asks rhetorically, “Are the liberal arts only for a certain time and place, or are they for all times and all places, including the life to come?” (240) Read Mercer Schuchardt’s essay “Social Media and the Loss of Embodied Communication” is essential reading for the visually-saturated, text-glutted eighteen year old. Focus on external beauty is rightly tempered by Walters’ “Learning to Live Redemptively in Your Own Body.” Personal development (formation of one’s spirit is based on what one loves) and lifelong learning (living our words) are ultimate educational ends. I can think of no other current academician in Christian higher education who has had such impact in his broad writing, expansive teaching, seminal Bible translation, and deep cultural interpretation than Leland Ryken. Dr. Mark Eckel’s website is full of stimulating writing–www.warpandwoof.org.

 A Review by Mark Eckel


W. Scott Poole (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2011)

“Trick-or-treat!” can only mean one thing—Halloween. Stamped on American culture, the phrase brings to mind images of costumes, plastic masks, and parents holding the hands of little monsters as they collect candy calories.  But real monsters collect different trophies; they are no laughing matter.  Evil brutes exist inside and outside American neighborhoods.  Monsters in America is W. Scott Poole’s interpretive history.  For Poole Halloween means more trick than treat; we discover that the monsters are us. Friedrich Nietzsche believed we are the monsters.  The atheist taught that inflicting suffering while enjoying the process is human nature.  Poole agrees telling us early and often “You are the main character in this terror-filled little tale” (xviii).  He rightly frets over our technology which ineffectively obscures the divine and so Americans create vampire stories which take God’s place (59): Americans are still attempting to apprehend mystery in the midst of supernatural confusion (11).  Both belief about the supernatural and the supernatural itself creates creatures which slither into our thinking-being-behaving.  Poole summarizes, “Perhaps our own beliefs about monsters and their intractable nature help to produce the monsters we fear the most” (164).  Alien invasions prompt the author’s apt comment, “The otherness of the monster can embody the sum of all fears but also an escape from fear” (131).  We can anticipate either alien salvation or judgment from beyond. Poole does justice to judgment; the focus of some horror films.  But too often he ascribes American injustices with little more than a metaphorical connection to monster movies.  Indeed, the reader may struggle as I did with the leaps Poole makes between monster movies and American social ills.  Chapters three and four in my copy of the book, for instance, are littered with questions: “How did we get here?” “This is a logical leap!” and “What??!!”  His transitions from movie metaphors to American social ills are often strained if not unconvincing.  One wishes for a consistency in commentary.  At times in the book a movie director is taken at his word, the reason for his film given authorial intent.  Other times Poole relies too heavily on social interpreters for his connections.  Scholars will argue over interpretation because that is what scholars do.  But honestly, most folks go to horror films for what they would say is “the hell of it.”  Some people enjoy being scared, period.  Filmmakers create celluloid illusions with that in mind.  Social commentary may drive sub-text but money drives the movie. Poole suggests monsters are created by America to mask its own monstrosities or monsters exist which interpret American culture.  But a third interpretive option exists.  America, like all nations, is made up of monstrous human beings.  While real monsters do exist, the reality of our own monstrosities mirrors not a national heritage as much as our human heritage.  Societal values impact individuals only as much as we understand an individual’s values.  No historically reflective Christian would disagree with Poole’s castigation of wrongdoings by some Americans.  The horrible treatment of indigenous peoples and slavery’s practice is sin that stains America’s history.  Solely focused on the horrors, readers would think that no Christian or church stood against the aberration of Scriptural teaching; but such was the case with missionaries and abolitionists. Title and sub-title encouraged my interest in securing a copy of Monsters in America for review.  For my own part, I have been studying and writing about Gothic horror for some years.  I hoped to expand my interaction in the genre, albeit from an American point of view.  Honoring authors by not reading other reviews ahead of time, I anticipated simple engagement with monstrous intrigue of the horrendous and hideous.  What I discovered is that Poole should have written two books: his perspective on American history, another on monsters.  We are led to believe that bloody movies portray the sinister seditions of social conservatism—the ultimate grim reaper.  Poole’s book becomes a tired screed against those whose political-social viewpoints are antithetic to his own.  Judging from the verbiage, Poole’s sub-text for the American monster is conservative-Christian-white-heterosexual-Republican.  Poole’s constant harangue against anything “conservative” is a thin criticism to begin, stretched beyond any semblance of recognition by the end of the book. The pages are littered with characterizations which demonize only a conservative set of ideas.  Poole’s excoriation of one homogenous grouping belies the essence of the problem which is our human nature.  Poole explains his parameters of a monster’s nature from the outside, in: monsters are a product of our collective hatreds “outside the human psyche.”  By so delimiting his interpretation, Poole mirrors his stated concern for other theories that monster interpretations are “reductive and overdeterminative” (13-18).  Indeed, Poole interprets the meaning of the meaning, reinterpreting historical narratives infusing past story with present perception: “history is horror” (22).  Not only is America guilty of creating its own horrors, failure to acknowledge monsters also creates them (23).  Evenhandedness exists in the book’s last sentence suggesting that liberal visions of social justice could create something worse (228).  Would that Poole could have written a chapter on one of the liberal American horror shows: 50 million babies slaughtered through this country’s abortion industry.

The little monsters who come to our doors for candy at Halloween are small reminders of our large problem.  Monstrosities exist in us and therefore they are all around us.  Monsters refuse to be cordoned off in only one nationality, ethnicity, religion, or political mindset.  Monsters in America instead should acknowledge monsters exist in every culture, every tribe, every era.  If one would like to get into the spirit of monster mania during Halloween, no better place to begin is with the books that generated monster madness: Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Island of Dr. Moreau. The scary tales found in the classic texts remind us—no matter our nationality, ethnicity, or political persuasion—the monster is us.

Dr. Mark Eckel is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, Indiana.

A Review by Mark Eckel


Craig G. Bartholomew and Ryan P. O’Dowd (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2011)

Cloud watchers, unite!  Wonder, mystery, miracle, and marvel enfold us in God’s world.  All of the life screams of The Creator.  Yet, we Westerners tend to disregard Wisdom resident in creation.  Comfortable in our homes, we forget that one look outside the window might refocus our attention on what matters most.  Daily life surrounds us with displays of Heaven’s call to humans everywhere.  And what is that “call”?  Order, rhythm, pattern, and wholeness bear silent testimony to what should be painfully obvious—because true Truth exists, the world works.  Pragmatists that we are sometimes, we think the opposite; if it works it must be true.  Creation and Wisdom should be forever linked in First Testament studies. Experiential wisdom can be Providentially practical.  Biblical wisdom is tied to daily life and its connection to real-world experiences for every time and place.  So, it was with delight that I opened Bartholomew and O’Dowd’s Old Testament Wisdom Literature (OTWL). The authors invest time in obvious concerns: “the fear of The Lord,” poetic devices, theology of wisdom, etc.  But this text supersedes all others for its intersection with and excitement for God’s creation.  Using the literature they love so well Bartholomew and O’Dowd give an overview reminiscent of symphony conductors.  Because language is relational, the authors know it is lyrical.  Whereas some other wisdom literature texts approach the subject as a mechanic to a car, Bartholomew and O’Dowd view wisdom as artists—no wonder they quote Wotlerstorff’s Art in Action at length.  Our fragmentary culture, full of distractions, needs the unity of thought found within biblical wisdom.  Chapter 3, for instance, could have been cumbersome; Hebrew poetry tends to be an alien form of communication to Westerners.  Here the authors easily explain poetry concepts, connecting Genesis to wisdom to ordinary life. Western unresponsiveness to poetry is associated with a naturalistic worldview dedicated to scientism.  OTWL makes sure one sees obvious similarities between pagan views then and now: not much has changed.  The reason is plain, “Wisdom rather than science was the key to unlocking the living structure and order in creation” (34).  Understanding chapter two helps everyone understand the necessary confrontation between lifeviews which are at odds.  Reality, time, law, sex, and creation worldview issues are nicely compared in a table on page 45.  Because we are “embodied creatures” living and thinking are inextricably connected—a materialistic outlook simply considers our outward looks.  Hebraic poetry-forms celebrate the wholeness of human experience whereas separation into columns and data points is celebrated in the 21st century.  Where else but Hebrew poetry would one find women-wisdom-valor as a keynote address (chapter five)?  Where else but Hebrew poetry would one find wisdom trumping knowledge (chapter seven)?  Where else but Hebrew poetry would one find a theology of time (chapter nine)?  And where else but Hebrew poetry would one find a direct connection to revelational truths and Incarnational Truth (chapter ten)?  Wisdom is the craft of human artistry where even scientists agree—a crucial argument for any theorem must include beauty. The artistry of creation is no more clearly seen than in Proverbs (chapter four).  “The echoes of eternal cosmic Lady Wisdom are merged with the mundane” (99) says it all.  Job (chapter six) deserves and is given a clear connection to creation.  And why does creation cry as a woman giving birth?  Here “theodicy” is well explained; left as a mystery but knowing the God of Mystery governs gives Job—and us!—hope.  Connecting Ecclesiastes (chapter eight) to Augustine’s Confessions and Saint John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul marks the consistent connection of past to present in OTWL.  The last two chapters are worth the price of the book.  The “character-consequence motif” apparent throughout the text is given full voice here.  Key to faith-learning integration is “wholeness,” a word to which Bartholomew and O’Dowd are committed.  Connections between Hebrew wisdom and education, politics, spirituality, the ordinary, and suffering provide marvelous climax to a book so dedicated to application. A minor issue which is major for any interested reader is the reintroduction of footnotes to the text.  Thank you IVP for allowing my eyes to drop to the bottom of the page instead of the back of the book!  References to important books or articles direct bibliophiles toward new library acquisitions.  Some notes of constructive criticism are included in any review of any book.  While I would cheer a much needed Evangelical reinvestment in “tradition” (28-30), more care could have been taken to identify biblical “tradition”—which is textual and transcendent.  Any scholar wishing to understand second temple Judaism (231-38) would be encouraged to include Nicholas Perrin’s new work Jesus The Temple (Eerdmans, 2010).  Referencing Doug Blomberg without giving appreciation to the connection between wisdom and education in Marvin O. Wilson’s Our Father Abraham makes me wonder why.  And to leave unacknowledged Qohelet’s refrain “life is a gift of God” makes the discussion of Ecclesiastes incomplete.  But as with so many reviewers, such quibbles are only that. Recently, I was visiting my family in Colorado.  We visited Glen Eyrie and viewed Pike’s Peak from a nearby visitor’s center.  I simply sat for half an hour in awe.  I remembered the famous line from Psalm 148, “Praise Him from the earth . . . you mountains.”  Natural history and Hebrew poetry are linked.  It is exciting to see a wisdom literature text that I will use and encourage others to write into their required reading.  The down-to-earth clarity of writing is joined effortlessly with the salient detail necessary to unwrap First Testament wisdom.  Bartholomew and O’Dowd’s book will well serve serious students of Scripture not to mention Christian higher education for this and future generations.  Hopefully those who use the wisdom found in this textbookwill become what the famed Hebrew scholar Abraham Heschel called “text-people.” Dr. Mark Eckel’s website is full of stimulating writing–www.warpandwoof.org.

A Review by David Claerbaut


Jane Leahy (NY: HarperCollins, 2010)

If you love baseball and you remember or wish to learn about the golden days of New York baseball, Jane Leavy’s book is for you.  The title suggests that Mantle was the last real hero of an innocent, pre-JFK assassination, pre-‘60’s America. Mantle’s story is, in a word, poignant.  A super athlete emanating out of the rural mining culture of Oklahoma, young Mantle was wholly unprepared for New York, celebrity, and marriage.  He came from a less than nurturing family, and one in which males died young.  His first engagement with professional baseball was disastrous, so much so that he wanted to quit.  His father, Mutt, a hard-edged miner who Mickey revered, went to see him, and rather than expressing a bit of empathy, he all but challenged his son’s manhood.  Mantle stayed and baseball was the winner, though Mantle may have been.  Mutt also admired Mickey’s taste in women and was happy to see his 20-year-old son marry his girlfriend, Merlyn Johnson. In Mantle’s first year with the Yankees, playing rightfield in deference to the great and often arrogant but fading Joe DiMaggio, he stepped in a drainage hole while chasing a fly ball and all but completely tore up his knee.  In a pre-sports medicine era, surgeries were less than expert, and Mantle was sentenced to playing the rest of his career with what was apparently a torn ACL.  That he persisted is amazing.  That he forged a Hall of Fame career is astonishing. But that is not the story of Leahy’s book.  It is the story of Mantle’s descent into self-destruction and dissolute living.  Though married, he abandoned his family and lived his life as an alcoholic single man on the sexual prowl.  When his career ended there was really nothing for him to do but be…well, “Mickey Mantle.”  And he hated it.  Leahy met Mantle when the latter was 51 and working as a celebrity face in an Atlantic City casino.  Her attempts to interview him were met with a bit of charm, more evasion, and even more alcohol consumption.  Tearing off the mask of her childhood hero was a daunting task for the able author.  It became especially painful when he came on to her sexually, only to collapse on top of her in a drunken stupor. Leavy covers his career well and his achievements are very well noted and expressed.  A man devoid of arrogance, Mantle was beloved by fans and teammates.  All of it, however, occurs under a cloud—that of a troubled man with no true identity or sense of personal place, who drowned his physical and emotional pain in alcohol and carousing. His ownpain may have been exceeded only by that of his family.  Though never divorced but always absent, his wife and his four unfathered sons all became alcoholics.  One son, Billy, named after Mantle’s “running buddy,” Billy Martin, died at 36 from the effects of drug abuse. Mickey Jr. died of liver cancer in 2000, five years after his father. Drinking finally caught up with Mantle, making his liver look like a “doorstop.”  This propelled Mantle to listen to the counsel of fellow alcoholic, Pat Summerall, and enter the Betty Ford Clinic.  It ended his drinking but did not save his life.  In 1995, he received a liver transplant, without pulling any strings to move up on the list.  What the physicians did not know until the operation was underway was that Mantle was suffering from a liver cancer that would take his life 66 days later. In the last year of his life, a penitent and sober Mantle received Christ as his savior under the guidance of Yankee teammate and well-known Christian, Bobby Richardson. This is a powerful book. The Jewish Leahy tells a chilling story and she tells it well, including Mantle’s spiritual awakening.  Without minimizing Mantle’s incredible feats—he was clearly a better player in his prime than the Giants’ Willie Mays—she describes a man who was as empty and starving on the inside as he was robustly successful on the outside.  He also shows how the sins of the father are visited on the children.  For Mantle, it started with Mutt, who died at 40.  Mantle never permitted himself to make his own decisions.  He followed the internal sound of his father’s voice until he could bear it no more.  He drank and abandoned his family over it, and they paid for it in unspeakable terms. For the Christian, the lessons are legion.  Celebrity is cunning and sin is deceptive.  Slavery to alcoholism and sex strikes with no warning.  Because we are intensely relational creatures, those around us are profoundly affected by the choices we make.  God will redeem until the last breath, but the harvest of a life badly lived is inevitably reaped. Despite the happy ending of Mantle’s life, one closes the book feeling a sense of sorrow.  One looks at the book’s attractive cover and stares into the handsome face of the young man from rural Oklahoma who reached unimaginable public heights, one cannot shake the thought that he spent so much of his personal life in the lowest depths. Dr. Claerbaut is the founder of www.faithandlearningforum.com.  

A Review by David Claerbaut


Jonathan Cole (Jackson, Tenn: PublicAffairs, 2012)

The key to understanding the central points in this 640-page tome lies in its subtitle: Its Rise to Prominence, Its Indispensable Role, Why it Must Be Protected.  For Cole, about 150 of the 300 American universities (along with approximately 4000 colleges) are great in that they discover and transmit knowledge through research.  These universities get their reputations through research not service to undergraduates.  They are not primarily teaching institutions although Cole is quick to defend the quality of their pedagogy.  The great U’s draw students and faculties from all over the globe. The former Provost of Columbia University–schooled in the sociology of science–argues that knowledge is not depleteable and is seen as a form of intellectual property.  As such, education is an industry.  It is not Ivory tower but rather informs the world and is embedded in it.  According to Cole, one of the reasons why the American university holds sway is its commitment to academic freedom, something not in evidence in China.  As it stands the American model will remain on top for another 20-25 years, although competition is good and will bring about improvements. The American U is under threat, says Cole, and the threat is internal.  Not surprisingly, budgetary reasons top the list.  He cites the once excellent California public university system as one that is being strangled economically by the fiscal restraints of the state.  The state, he feels, needs to see the U’s as having governmental value.  There is also a need to rethink student costs and the problem of colleges having to live off of student loans.  Indeed, the budgets are formidable. Columbia’s Ivy League budget nears the $4B mark.  That for 23,000 students and a faculty/student ratio of 7 to 1.  As for tuition sticker shock, try this: List price is $50,000 per year. Looking to the future, Cole wants to see more academic “leagues,” cooperation and alliances among other colleges and universities, enriching the overall product.  He supports online education in the form of lectures given by the finest scholars with actual classroom time devoted to problem-solving.  This means fewer boundaries to the learning process, a considerable departure from the days of the Chemistry building. In an age of specialization, Cole argues for a liberal arts core.  A specialized focus undermines critical thinking, analysis, and a wide-angle lens on the world.  The humanities, he feels, are much overlooked. In the end, however, it is about money and power.  The university is dependent on the government and Cole decries the government’s constraints both in economic largesse and control.  As it stands, money is scarce and it comes at the expense of total academic autonomy.  Cole admits the compact between government and the university requires great trust on the part of the government.  It must see how indispensable the U is to the society—that it is a necessary investment–and in turn offer that U the freedom it needs to operate without restraint and so deliver the finest product possible. The book does well in sketching the American university’s ascendance to international prominence and its critical role in discovering and transmitting knowledge.  In a “dumbing down” age, it is hard to disparage a book that defends the finest in educational achievement and contribution. Even faith and learning Christians, who ardently believe no education without God at its center is complete, have to acknowledge their debt to the research universities for providing so much of the cognitive bodies of knowledge taught in the classroom. Cole’s future notions are also to be applauded.  Forming academic as well as sports leagues, embellishing online education, and maintaining a focus on the liberal arts and its emphasis on problem-solving and critical thinking have genuine potential. In his plea for governmental support, however, Cole sounds like just another entitlement-minded soul with his hands extended, ready to receive the benefices of the government.  Without strings. That will not work now. Fifty years ago, with Sputnik overhead, the nation was only too ready to write the checks to the those who might advance education in general, and science in particular.  In a post-Vietnam, post-Watergate, post-industrial, post-modern age, one that has replaced commitment and optimism with cynicism and distrust, no one is inclined to feed the jukebox without picking the songs. The challenge ahead is not to convince the government to toss no-strings-attached grant monies in the direction of the research universities, but rather to forge a new alliance in which the university is accountable to the government—and hence, the citizens—for its stewardship of the funds it receives.  We are not a happy society.  Wars continue.  Poverty exists.  A constricting economy engenders anxiety over future survival.  The university will have to find a way to perform its duties in that context.

 Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of www.faithandlearning.com

 A Review by Mark Eckel


Justin Martin (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2011)

There is something innate in the heart of humanity for planning, pruning, and producing.  Our creational, kingship responsibilities continue to prompt our cutting lawns, painting houses, planting crops, fixing roads, in short, establishing order.  It is foolish, for instance, to think that all creation must always remain pristine, without human investment or intervention.  When I pull weeds out of my garden, I do so because I want to eat tomatoes in August.  Obviously there are places that should and must remain as they are, without human interdiction.  National forests, monuments, and wildlife parks exist for us to explore.  In some cases, I just want to pull up a chair and gape in wonder.  At the same time—it should be obvious—there are deep concerns about how humans live in God’s world.  How much do we create or recreate along with creation? This was the discussion I was having with myself as I read Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted. Justin Martin’s deep research to expose the inner life of Olmsted combined with his engaging writing style, contributed to broadening my own view of place.  Olmsted’s multi-disciplinary mindset sets the stage for expansive contributions.  Traveling over vast stretches of American landscape impacted not only his view of America but of Americans.  Educationally centered from his earliest days, Olmsted used his learning practices for a lifetime.  It must be said, were it not for his father’s paternal backing, Olmsted may never have been able to accomplish what he did.  Surveyor, sailor, journalist, farmer, design-engineer, and entrepreneur are markers of a man’s accomplishments but arise out of the interior foundation of a person.  One cannot help but marvel at the unusual movements within Olmsted that made possible the marvels he produced. Key to understanding the man who would benefit New York with Central Park was his view of life’s meaning found in work.  His faith was not in an organized religion but in organizing the world: construction that abated chaos.  Olmsted’s philosophy of work included the beneficence of others. Most of all, Olmsted would approach this task as a social reformer.  Park making was another opportunity for the activism that Olmsted had earlier applied to scientific farming or writing about the South.  From the outset, he saw Central Park as a place of tranquility for all the residents of the crowded metropolis.  “The Park is intended to furnish healthful recreation,” he asserted, “for the poor and the rich, the young and the old, the vicious and the virtuous” (140). While there must be some question about how Olmsted took advantage of low wages and seven-day work weeks to accomplish his goals, his belief in human personhood cannot be doubted as a flaming Abolitionist.  Olmsted’s care for people resulted in a lifetime achievement which dwarfs the parameters of a short book review.  He designed 30 city parks, the U.S. Capitol grounds, city communities, and university campuses.  His vision was panoramic in scope, surely benefitted by the magnificent vistas he experienced throughout his travels, not the least of which was his farm on Staten Island. Key to Olmsted’s contributions was his view of longevity—he wanted his work and wisdom to last for generations.  Olmsted was progenitor of terminology we take for granted such as “green space.”  Urban planners constantly take pages from Olmsted’s written plans.  Olmsted Jr. perpetuated his father’s vision by establishing educational direction for landscape architecture at Harvard.  Legacies depend on influence.  Unequivocally it can be stated that every designer over the past century owes a debt in some way to Frederick Law Olmsted. This week I found myself in a Catholic church, built in 1879, which is being refurbished in Indianapolis for architectural firm office space.  The transcendent lines marking the inside and outside of the edifice stirred my soul.  Knowing my love of architecture, a student-friend of mine, an executive in the company, had invited me to the walk-through with others in his office.  As we all talked together I was taken again with the spirit of Olmsted—taming the unruly aspects of creation to creatively create creature space.  Kevin explained his views with a tattoo on his leg which reads, Earth Ethos, Genesis 1:28.  He went on to explain, “I have been given responsibility within God’s creation to manage and conserve the place I live.  I take my responsibility seriously.  So even in the reconstruction of office space within church space my mind is controlled by concern and care for everything from maintaining the original intention of the builders to the way our work will fit into the neighborhood.”  I was pleased to hear such a holistic view of place; Olmsted would have been proud. Dr. Eckel is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, Indiana.  His website is warpandwoof.org.  Published online for Englewood Review (V. 4, #15), 15 July 11, www.englewoodreview.org

A Review by David Claerbaut


Marcia Clark (New York: Penguin, 1997)

What?  A 1997 tome?  This is one of those books I always intended to read but never got around to it.  Had I not read it, I would have missed little. The title should refer to the state of mind of the reader upon finishing this ponderous tome.   The reader should be “without a doubt” as to why Clark lost the Simpson trial. Published three years after the Hollywood homicide, one might have expected a more intelligent and incisive look at the drama that was the “trial of the century.” Instead, the reader must endure one long, negative thinking page-grinder, rife with references to the mess that was (or perhaps is) her personal life.  The volume drones on for nearly 500 pages, a literary lament over all things Simpson and Clark—insofar as they touch her personal life. As for the trial, Clark manages to blame—in no special order—the jury, Mark Fuhrman, Lance Ito, Johnny Cochran, Robert Shapiro, the media, Kato Kaelin, the Brown family, and even her erstwhile lover and associate, Chris Darden for the verdict favoring the former Heisman Trophy winner.  All quite amazingly, Clark herself seems to have kept her errors at a minimum The book contains a tad of stream of consciousness in the form or transcriptions of on the moment taped commentary.  The value of these snippets is that they provide the reader with a glimpse into the psychological state of the author.  These bytes drip with foreboding prophecies.  Clark’s pessimism with respect to her prospects of gaining a guilty verdict in the case is reminiscent of that of a losing football coach approaching a game against an undefeated opponent. A powerful argument could and has been made that Clark held all the trump cards going into the case.  There was forensic, circumstantial and even adjacent eyewitness evidence pointing a collective finger on Simpson.  It is difficult to imagine how a prosecutor could fail to get into the end zone—if you will pardon the expression—with all the evidentiary goodies Clark had at her manicured fingernails. But she didn’t get it done. Simpson skated, the nation went into a nasty racial spasm, and Clark and Darden became rich publishing unconvincing apologias for their sorry performances. What is sad about this book is that Clark seems to have learned nothing of value from her failure, other than sharpening her already well-developed self-pitying skills.  Moreover, after chapter upon chapter of proclaiming her ever cumulative fatigue and stress—hardly abated by such stress-management techniques as smoking Dunhills and occasionally imbibing in alcohol—Clark decides to toss in her professional towel personally.  Instead of rededicating herself to becoming a first-rate or at least better prosecutor she makes a feeble argument suggesting that–given her Simpsonian notoriety–she could no longer continue effectively in her beloved profession. Such nonsense.  Clark’s notoriety almost certainly would have receded into a distant memory, as fortunately has been the fate of this book, and LA might have gotten itself a more competent prosecutor.  Instead, Clark opted for retirement and riches emanating from this pathetic book. Larger than that excuse is that Clark likely burned out.  She is a self-professed non-religious Jew, and that raises a key faith and learning point.  In my book Urban Ministry in a New Millennium much is made of God’s concern for justice as expressed in scripture.  Also emphasized is the risk of burning out in its pursuit.  One of the antidotes to burning out is having a reason–a philosophical one–larger than oneself or one’s job as a reason for persisting.  Clark provides an example of what happens when that is absent. Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of www.faithandlearning.com

A Review by David Claerbaut


James Rosen (New York: Doubleday, 2008)

This two-thumbs up biography of the rather mysterious John Newton Mitchell is arguably as revealing a book on Watergate as has been written.  The youthful Rosen chronicles the life of the former attorney general from womb to tomb and rolls out the story of Watergate comprehensively along the way. Written after Mitchell’s passing, one does not put this 500-page volume down feeling he “knows” Mitchell in any personal way.  One has to pull together a profile of this introverted figure from the facts and observations that adorn the pages of this interesting book to get a sense of the man. Mitchell began his career as a NYC legal hotshot.  He was among the Big Apple’s elite when the electorally defeated Nixon joined his firm in the early 1960’s.  Out of his association with Nixon, Mitchell morphed into running the successful 1968 presidential campaign and reluctantly agreeing to become attorney general at the president’s urging. On the personal front, there was much drama for this seemingly taciturn, socially inert man.  Before heading for Washington, Mitchell had left his first wife for the ragingly alcoholic Martha Elizabeth Beall and contended with Martha’s emotional and behavioral chaos, a constant plague until the union became undone in a post-Watergate, 1973 divorce.  Martha died three years later.   She was 57. There are good guys and bad guys in the book.  Nixon comes off as confused, vengeful, and self-serving; Liddy as zany and over the top; Haldeman as solid, substantial, and genuine; Magruder as spineless; Colson and Ehrlichman as loathsome, and Dean as the snake-like villain in the Watergate morality play. What emerges is a sense that at bottom, no single person brought about this scandal.  Rather it was the result of a mélange of figures angling for Nixon’s good opinion, managing competing loyalties, and shifting responsibility back and forth, all without ever taking a “this is wrong” position and so bringing the fiasco to an appropriate halt long before the burglars were apprehended. One most certainly could lay the scandal on Nixon, himself, for his commissioning efforts to spy on administration’s enemies as he readied himself for the re-election campaign.  Clearly, the president created an edgy environment, one that rewarded efforts at gathering intelligence and doing in political adversaries. Dean becomes a central figure here.  Over and over things seem to move forward on the heels of meetings and directives from Dean, even though—other than working directing for RN—he held no real authority to put Watergate in motion.  One senses that Dean, in his ambitious attempt to rise to the apex of Nixon’s empire—drove the endeavor forward as manipulatively and deviously as he could.  Also central to Dean’s motives to bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters may have been an effort to glean and perhaps manage information as to the sexual activities of Democrats because his then new wife, Maureen, had been chummy with one of the major female players in a prostitution ring serving the sexual appetites of highly-placed members of the political opposition. Rosen gives Dean a good literary working over, but his documentation makes this pummeling believable and compelling. Dr. Claerbaut is the founder of www.faithandlearningforum.com

A Review by Mark Eckel 


Alistair McGrath (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP, 2010)

“You had me at ‘Hello’” said Renee Zellweger to Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire.  A reader yearns for that response to a book’s introduction.It was my first thought about McGrath’s essays when I read, “I have always believed that theology is at its best when it generates reflective practices in the life and service of The Church” (8).  The opening pages are full of rich nuggets, the benefits of theology extolled.  Theology has a “positive role” giving “coherence to the Christian vision of reality” explaining “a distinctive way of looking at things” illuminating “our perceptions, decisions, and actions” making “sense of itself and the world” presenting “something essential to Christian ministry and preaching” enabling “attractiveness of faith” inhabiting “the Christian interpretive community” energizing “The Church to witness in the public square.”  Every page in my copy of The Passionate Intellect is marked, highlighted, with additional notes lining the margins. “Seeing” is McGrath’s key to understanding how The Church must engage culture theologically.  Calling upon the words of Iris Murdoch (45, 81-82) McGrath encourages her definition of sight—and the use of poetry— to include imagination, seeing beyond the empirical to deeper truths.  The vitality of The Christian Faith (its core, the person and work of Jesus) depends on theology in action, passion through collaboration, honor to tradition, and the necessity of biblical theology.  When we study The Bible as a whole rather than with human systematic constructs, we find ourselves living with the difficult and preserving the mystery punctuated by Paul at the end of Romans 11.  By looking at Scripture with new eyes, we honor The Story of our Lord, acknowledge the limitation of our reason, remembering our finite, fallen estate.  Christian tradition emphasizes a shared memory.  If we do not have connection to the past, we have no community.  Community creates accountability. Remembering others who have gone before us is to accept their help in the study of theology with tools, centuries old.  McGrath calls this “a theology of retrieval” (38).  We find stability in the past.  And what a pleasure to read a theologian who directly roots his pursuits “in worship, prayer, and adoration” (40)!  If The Christian content becomes detached from Christian communication we are liable to become lifeless in our response to God and lax in our service to God’s world.  One cannot “do” theology without ministry.  Theology is the window through which we see the world.  While many exalt the preeminence of reason as we study Revelation, McGrath reminds us “we must also value the power of the human imagination as the gatekeeper of the human soul” (46).  Poetry, then, provides a lens through which The Christian can see the world, whereby the world can see Jesus. The window to our world, however, is often soiled with suffering.  McGrath reflects on harshness and darkness through Luther and Lewis repeating his theme “Christianity made sense in itself, and it made sense of everything else” (57-58).  Magnifying earlier concessions of limitation, we “must settle for the best fit, not the perfect fit.”  Acknowledging Simon Weil’s apologetic aphorism, Christians should not seek for a remedy for suffering but a use for it (62-63).  Wedding reason with emotion allows a fuller Christian view of life’s hard reality.  We find great comfort in Lewis’ acknowledgment that sometimes Heaven does not answer the door, even as we pound away.  Theology which does not maintain the maddening mystery of suffering is no theology at all.  Where McGrath had been helpful in other pages by relaying his personal experiences; unfortunately, we find none here.  Existential connections fill theology with life. It is McGrath’s personal testimony about his love of natural science which does infuse the latter chapters of part one.  McGrath first establishes the relevance of Christian theology which animates his engagement with the new atheists in part two.  The author asks us to see clearly before we offer the spectacles of Faith to another.  Intertwined with his concerns for suffering, McGrath wants us to view everything in creation honestly, even if it means we are left in discomfort.  More poetry is deployed to bring our theological lens into sharp focus.  But it is connection to mathematics which might cause the reader to wonder.  Instead of scratching our heads we ought to acknowledge that God spoke His world into being with numbers.  Math is a preeminent apologetic.  We need a total engagement of the total person with the total creation.  The recent spate of books whose subjects precede the word “intelligence” (i.e., “emotional intelligence,” “spiritual intelligence,” etc.) must all be entwined together, gathering what McGrath calls Christian “consonance.” Reframing theological-apologetics within a wholistic view of humans and creation necessitates that our rhetoric must now wrap itself in the art and persuasion of aesthetics.  Theology is born of mission, dialoguing with those outside The Faith, inviting them to The Faith.  The Message of The Gospel must consider each audience it tells.  A symphony orchestra needs multiple instruments to create its performance; so Christian theology harmonizes all its musicians to create the melody of The Message. Christianity’s Message depends upon history.  So, as McGrath engages “new atheism” he does so saying that understanding history helps us understand science.  We must study history to understand the reception ideas proffered in their day.  For instance, scientists were less receptive to Darwin’s theory than was The Church; a crucial moment of clarity for contentious debates today.  To utilize science’s own critique surrounding The Origin of Species is to lay claim to historical arguments which would substantiate The Church’s claims.  As elsewhere, the reader is struck again with McGrath’s honest honor of serious thought.  He sees Darwinian theory not as a bogeyman but as a theory which must be engaged on its face, with its own merits.  If we do not practice honesty in scholarship, we run the risk of marginalizing the very ideas which may have most influence on our generation.  To be generous, gracious, yet tenacious, is a truer Christian response.  May people see our unshakeable Faith while we plainly acknowledge our dependence upon limitation.  Ours is a human concern.  We defend not our parochial position but our universal situation.  In so doing, Christian theology becomes The Message of our earthly Mission. The lack of historical critique is the essence of “new atheism’s” point of view.  “Attack the fringe, forget the center.”  Anyone who desires to disparage a movement (e.g. “intelligent design”) needs to make headlines, not examine the lines of history.  The task of defending The Faith should not rest on a cursory quote nor pounding the pulpit on one point.  McGrath points out painfully obvious contradictions within atheistic attacks.  These are simple, to the point, repudiations of a purely humanist perspective as well as questioning why Christian service in the world is overlooked.  McGrath calls out the hypocrisy of new atheists who refer to religion as “bloody.”  He lacerates, as I have never seen, the problem with atheism soaked in Christian blood.  Ignorance is bliss until bliss realizes reality.  The evidence of Christian acts of goodness within culture is not to be missed, just as the gulags and death camps of atheist dictators should not be ignored.  Dependence on the doctrine of human perfectibility will always lead to the killing fields.  Thus, without a view toward human corruption, McGrath says “The Enlightenment” leaves out the light.  It would seem “the dark ages” is misapplied to The Church.  Perhaps it is time for a new term: “The Endarkenment.” Eyes Wide Shut, another addition to the Cruise filmography, might rightly identify some who refuse to see all the evidence.  Unfortunately, this identifies too many in Christ’s Church as well.  Often we are blind to how theology must change us and infiltrate the culture.  McGrath’s arguments are powerful, focusing on clear prose which point out the clarity of a person’s thought.  His research, clearly articulated in copious footnotes, is easily accessed.  One wishes for a conclusion: 6-8 pages which summarize what the editor decided upon as The Passionate Intellect.  A person would be benefitted to know a Christian summary of what key attributes identify a believing perspective of proper human thought directed by The Transcendent Personal Creator.  But clearly, this book should be ingested by all Christian leaders.  Pastors must reengage their congregations with Christian theology.  Theology professors must enliven their courses with art, poetry, music, and imagination.  Apologists must marry history with story with rhetoric producing persuasion.  But most of all, every believer must fall in love again, saying, “He had me at ‘Hello.’”

Dr. Eckel is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, Indiana.  His website–filled with sparkling prose–is warpandwoof.org.

A Review by Mark Eckel 


Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2010)

Faith and learning students from junior high through high school to undergrad to graduate programs have heard me incessantly intone this mantra: we must know both what and why we believe.  The person who parrots a point of view without reason is simply doctrinaire.  The person who can explain their belief, on the other hand, better understands their doctrine.  Everyone holds to certain dogma, guiding principles, or an accepted canon of thought.  If one gains no other information from American Grace, it might be this: one’s conduct reflects one’s commitment. Putnam and Campbell have added their exceptional research skills to divine how faith functions in American life.  Statistical research, based on huge amounts of data, demonstrate their expertise.  Blended research methods tighten threads of interpretive fabric.  Academics needing to validate findings can easily follow the flow of approach and argument.  Internal corrections and limitations are in evidence throughout the book.  Chapters covering broad historical changes set the stage for understanding the present.  Crosscurrents of thought are overlaid on multiple categories within a number of religious affiliations forecasting future developments.  Conclusions are, for the most part, carefully drawn.  The reader is consistently given caveats within which to read the sum of data found at each chapter’s end.  Interpretation of data shows general American trends.  But in the end, the average, interested religious person in America would not be at all surprised by any of the broad findings. For instance, what are the results of people who “switch” or “mix” their belief with another (chapter five)?  If one changes doctrines, it seems obvious that transfer of their religion will not be passed on to their children.  Clearly, personal choice would be more important than one’s creedal past when a person changes faith commitments.  In chapter eleven, religions’ impact on American politics is explored.  Is it a stunning conclusion to concede that a person’s internal commitment will impact their external conduct (418)?  Would it come as a surprise to anyone conversant in religious circles that people who have been individually changed by belief would work against issues of inequality as individuals (chapter eight)?  Why, then, should these results showing personal commitment to redress wrongs be compared to trust in government intervention?  A conclusion such as “religious America has offered little support for public action to redress growing class inequities” (258) is predisposed toward top-down solutions for bottom-up problems.  Why should bureaucratic oversight be blithely accepted by the authors as marking the solution to societal inequity? While most of what one reads in American Grace comes as no surprise, lack of definition catches the reader unawares.  Examples could be multiplied.  What is the definition of “evangelical” or “moderate” (3, 106, 132)?  What of “polarization” or “pluralism” (chapter 1)?  To suggest that fluidity of religious belief (3) is the cause of religious clashes strikes against the very essence of “polarization.”  Why are gambling, movie attendance, and premarital sex all referred to as “leisure activities” (22)?  Pages 6 and 18 list very important research questions whose meaning must be assumed by the reader.  Perhaps most unnerving are word choices and their corollary ideas.  “What happened to cause religious devotion to be so strongly associated with partisan politics” (7, emphasis mine) is a question linking “devotion” to “partisan.”  Does this assume that non-believing people are not involved in partisan politics?   This is a simple social science question that must be answered before questions are proffered.  Further, a need exists to examine the definition of “religious” beyond external compliance.  Throughout the book Putnam and Campbell wonder why young people are being “pushed away” from religion.  Three primary, cultural influences—celebrity, media, and university professors—are not mentioned, leaving the impression that if a person “switches,” “mixes,” or “leaves” their belief, the onus is left at the door of The Church. Most disconcerting are categorical statements peppering the book.  Without citation the statement is made, “younger generations are better educated” and are therefore “less literal in their interpretation of the Bible” (112).  Because Evangelicals tend to believe in sin they are described as having a “dark and somewhat puritanical” moral outlook (113) giving rise to concerns about authorial bias.  To suggest that religious Americans have not “led the way in racial tolerance” (319) is a slap in the face to the many who have stood against racism—from the Abolitionists to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to every Evangelical inner-city ministry existing today.  Similar retorts could be made to the untruth that believers “are less staunch supporters of civil liberties” (492).  Where is explanation of this “moderate religious middle—the once thriving segment of the religious spectrum” (548)?  And why are those who hold to distinctive doctrines described as “less tolerant” (542ff)?  Would the authors believe the opposite, that “more tolerant” people tend to be fickle?!  Absolute differences in belief do not negate absolute care for those who disagree. From a purely human vantage point, the authors are right, “It is difficult to damn those you know and love” (517).  But will “interlocking personal relationships among people of many different faiths” (550) be the ultimate solution?  For instance, would a strict Muslim imam allow such latitude of thought in his congregants?  Would an orthodox rabbi in a Jewish synagogue?  Would Al Mohler at Southern Seminary?  How important is distinctiveness in anyone’s belief (547)?  How can any doctrinal grid maintain clear markers of difference while operating in a world of pluralism?  And here the reader must return to the introduction: does the commitment of belief match the conduct of its members?  Can a person adhere to revelatory truth claims while living peaceably in a divergent society?  Could it be said that belief in supernatural sources of truth has given stability to American law?  Has “religiosity” made a positive impact in American culture?  Is peaceful-pluralism possible in other nations?  Are Americans so obsessed by their failings that they do not revel in what Putnam and Campbell rightly call American Grace? The limitations of statistical research include the assumptions or anchors in a person’s mindset.  Though no endnotes substantiate the statement, the clearest comment in the book defines the issue for those of us who care about faith and learning: “Religion, or the lack thereof, informs and shapes people’s deep-seated values, their worldviews.  Disagreements over religion are often disagreements over fundamentals: the immovable object of one person’s beliefs meeting the irresistible force of another’s” (493). The only human possibility of “faith without fanaticism” (547) in a civil society such as America’s is its “national DNA . . . the nation’s constitutional infrastructure” (549-50).  Historians of all persuasions at least agree that Christian influences positively mark the founding documents and ideals of America.  But ultimately, the responsibility of unity within diversity rests with Believers who now practice Christ’s accomplishments on The Cross, breaking down the dividing walls of hostility (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Dr. Eckel is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, Indiana.  His website is warpandwoof.org.  He is a big believer that Mark 9:38-41 must be practiced more.  Published online at www.englewoodreview (vol.4, #3).  American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell.  Simon & Schuster, 2010. 

A Review by David Claerbaut


David Horowitz, (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2010)

David Horowitz’s book, Reforming Our Universities: TheCampaign For An Academic Bill Of Rights, is a chronicle of his seven-year quest to get his Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR) adopted by major universities in the United States.  Hardly a faith and learning tome, the prolific Horowitz is an unintended role model for those who desire the proper placement and practice of faith and learning in higher education. Horowitz’ research indicates that 95% of university teaching personnel resides on the politically left.  Moreover, he asserts that the liberal arts wing of higher education—the sector in which virtually every segment of knowledge is open to interpretation—has become an intellectual breeding ground of radical leftist thought.  Highly controversial positions are presented as settled fact, rather than ripe fodder for diverse points of view. The notion that gender differences are a social construction serves as an example.  It is an all but non-negotiable doctrine in women and gender studies programs. Social construction, however, is not established in biology. Nonetheless, teaching students the notion of social construction as established fact is not deemed, by these academics, to be indoctrination. They seem to feel no intellectual obligation to bring in opposing points of view or data from other disciplines that might call their cherished notions into question.  So it is with naturalism, from a faith and learning perspective. Regarded as settled fact its opponents speak out at their own risk. And there is risk. Worse, while faculty and administrators proclaim the values of free discourse and unrestricted debate in an open marketplace for ideas, Horowitz contends that in too many cases First Amendment rights are all but suspended for those who express ideas that are not in synch with a radical left orientation.  In short, there is “intellectual bigotry, grade discrimination, and the denial of basic rights to any and all whose opinions diverge from the extreme liberal orthodoxy.”  Professors evangelize for radical causes, and intimidate non-compliant students into ideological submission, while dissenting visiting speakers are shouted down or all but physically attacked.  Regrettably the aforementioned radical leftist dominance in faculties and associations insures continued cowering on the part of politically neutered administrators. Horowitz vividly catalogues the hysteria, protests, and even violence he encountered as he articulated his pleas for divergent (non-leftist) points of view. In this volume, he compellingly advances a manifesto for confronting this universal left-leaning “indoctrination” called an Academic Bill of Rights. It does not request the dismissal of leftist professors, or the introduction of a hiring quota system.  The essence of the ABOR is to have universities insure an openness to the various sides of controversial issues and the protection of students and others from methods of intimidation and other thinly disguised efforts at intellectual censorship. In brief, Horowitz means to recall higher education to its traditional mission, that of being a place in which students and teachers offer and question opinions, and engage in Socratic dialogue free of intimidation or consequence.  Horowitz, acknowledging his own role in helping to destroy this mission during his earlier radical liberal days, wants to make our universities once again centers of learning and free discussion. Horowitz writes well, and without demonizing his ideological opponents with the same venom sent his way in his university appearances.   He addresses the issue clearly, soberly, and fairly.  His work runs counter to the fuzzy-thinking, politically correct, collectivist, and genuinely repressive people in our university culture. The book is heavily anecdotal, and as such, extremely readable, but this lack of precise empirical research leaves his work open to critique by those who feel the author is selective and biased in sketching this less than savory portrait of the condition of intellectual diversity on the American campus. Critics attack the book at just this point; alleging that it presents a distorted picture of the current state of free dialogue in the university.  One commentator suggested that if the university is in fact a white-hot cauldron of “anti-American sentiment” and “enablers of Radical Islam,” it only indicates how powerless academia is in terms of shaping the larger American opinion, an opinion at great variance from Horowitz’s depiction of the American university. The charge that Horowitz’s depiction of the current ideological state of the university is grossly distorted does beg the question:  If the author’s depiction is inaccurate, why then would institutions–which ostensibly support this open inquiry principle–fight so zealously against the adoption of his ABOR, which simply codifies this idea and explicitly secures academic freedom rights to students?  If indeed the leftists do have no interest in dispassionate inquiry, one could argue that the American university is now dispensing a secular version of the religious indoctrination the American university was accused of practicing prior to the second half of the 19th century.  This current “religion”–radical leftist orthodoxy—has as its doctrines that the United States is a racist, sexist, homophobic, imperialist force of evil in the world. Quite aside from the precise merits of Horowitz’s argument, his book is a chilling bit of reading for advocated of faith and learning, scholars who are all very aware of how unwelcome expressions of faith can be on the university campus.  All too many Christian scholars are familiar with the hostile treatment Horowitz witnessed, having observed similar attacks on ideas of faith and learning.  This reviewer is aware of many instances in which Christian scholars seem to take the Clairol (“only their hairdresser knows for sure”) approach when it comes to identifying themselves as believers.  The rationalization is that to remain underground is a necessary survival technique in the camps of intellectual Philistia.  The alternative is viewed as “professional suicide.” Horowitz can be both entertaining and bombastic.  We may question his style, but he is to be applauded for his courage, his willingness to stand up and be counted on a very unpopular issue among many denizens of the university culture.  His quest was indeed lonely.  Horowitz states that no major conservative policy organization backed his campaign, and that it was ignored by such notable conservative intellectual journals as National Review and the Weekly Standard. Among other reasons, he attributes this to a general aversion among conservatives for arousing the ire of the intellectual establishment and inviting ad hominem attacks.  In a word, fear. Despite resistance and lack of support, Horowitz’s work is significant.  It puts higher education on notice with regard to ideological bullying.  In that sense, Christian scholars are wise to discuss ways in which they—like Horowitz—can make a public case for the same tolerance and inclusion of faith and learning perspectives as that accorded African-American, Islamic, Gender, and Gay & Lesbian special interest studies. Despite this reviewer’s sociological orientation and intellectual training, in too many cases he can offer not defense against the charge that the previously mentioned special interests collectives are often little more than political movements rather than fields of dispassionate research.  In fact their very existence is politically more than intellectually determined.  It derives from the value-based judgment that members of these groups have been disenfranchised and overlooked in the culture at large in the history of the university in particular.  Their existence is a form of academic affirmative action coupled with an institutional version of endangered species protection. There is, however, a strong argument to be made for their inclusion on the basis of their being marginalized historically.  Yet, in a university system founded as an educational training ground for the clergy, Christian studies, explorations into faith and learning, and other forms of Christian scholarship (outside perhaps of philosophy), receive no such special protections.  In fact, they are all but censored, tossed over as value-based ballast in a university system that owes its very origin to the Christian faith. Horowitz has a case, and he is making it.  We in the world of faith and learning would do well to make ours as fearlessly.

Dr. Claerbaut is the founder of www.faithandlearningforum.com.

A Review by David Claerbaut


William C. Ringenberg (Upland IN: Taylor University Press, 2005)

I received a copy of William Carey Ringenberg’s book. Letters to Young Scholars: An Introduction to Christian Thought and I like it.  It is a fine addition to any faith and learning library and is particularly worthwhile as assigned reading for any Faith and Learning or Christian Worldview class.  The author is a man not without experience in dealing with youthful scholars.  Ringenberg has been spent the bulk of his career at Taylor University teaching including directing the Honors Program there. His book is holistic, concise, and readable, three qualities in short supply among the volumes that often cross my desk. First it is holistic.  Ringenberg covers no less than 46 topics in the book, a veritable waterfront of Christian thinking.  There are seven insightful chapters on the human condition, nine more on encountering the Divine.  There are also sections on marriage and community, maturity, and institutions.  Barriers to belief are also treated, including the problems of evil and pain, and the role of science in matters of faith.  The author concludes the book with the development of a philosophy of life. Many Christian professors are deeply concerned about the lives of their students outside the classroom. While understandably loath to preaching on lifestyle matters affecting and afflicting our students, they long for a forum to address such critical issues.  One of the genuine beauties of this book is its wide-ranging yet thoughtful commentary on life beyond the world of academic faith and learning.  The material is grist for solid discussion on virtually all-important issues in the lives of young scholars. It is concise.  The 46 chapters are confined to 353 pages.  Hence, chapters are brief, punchy, and not of such length as to induce sleep rather than reflection.  It is replete with scriptural references and includes topics for conversation at the conclusion of the chapters, even suggestions for further reading. And it is readable.  The trade paper edition is laid out nicely and the prose flows smoothly.  The reader feels included and respected rather than an object of cold didactic presentation.  Ringenberg is even-handed—in the C.S. Lewis tradition–while engaging many thorny faith and learning issues. The book’s greatest value, however, may well be that its audience is the young faith and learning scholar.  There are some hefty faith and learning bibliographies (including those on this site) available, but the readership for most of the entries is the professional Christian scholar, often someone who has already resolved many of the difficult faith and learning issues. This book meets the impressionable learner, at a time in her life when she is most in need of a mature perspective as she forms her worldview.  Ringenberg treats that reader respectfully and warmly, reaffirming God’s grace and goodness, all the while effectively opening her to consider a sound Christian worldview. Ringenberg’s book has a three-pronged focus: (1) the search for truth, (2) intellectual honesty, and (3) the primacy of universal truth.  Although he does well in achieving his focus in the pages of this book, I was particularly struck with the citing of #2, often unmentioned in faith and learning efforts, for fear of the reactionary responses it may elicit.  Contemporary young scholars, however, place a premium on credibility—on intellectual honesty in the academy.  Slow to commit, they often test the reliability of the messenger more than the message itself.  Ringenberg does well to highlight that element. If you want a flavor of the book, you will find the chapter, “Academia and the Temptation of Intellectualism,” as the second entry in Phil Foundations under the F&L Phil tab.

Dr. Claerbaut is the Founder of www.faithandlearningforum.com.A Review by Mark Eckel


Angus J. L. Menuge, ed. (St. Louis: Concordia, 2004)

Educators are dependent upon the work of others who establish models, theories, and axioms for our classroom teaching.  As Christian educators, it is a joy to discover the seminal thinking of scholars who point us toward the order and Orderer of creation.  This faith and leaning viewpoint is the case in Reading God’s World: The Scientific Vocation.  A series of lectures given beginning on that world-changing day, September 11th, focused on the wedding of science and vocation for the Christian.  Five presentations were amplified to ten for this volume whose purpose is not unlike its original intent—demonstrating the biblical worldview of science through the eyes of Christians holding the office of scientist. Indeed, the office of scientist is the definition of what it means to be gifted in the observation of God’s world.  Being a scientist is simply one vocation among many in The Church.  Nancy Pearcey argues that science as a Christian vocation is premised upon the cultural mandate given in Genesis 1:28.  She then extrapolates five functions forming the framework for Christian thought based on the work of John Hedley Brooke.  All of Brooke’s work is a reflection of Scriptural truth that might create footing for the philosophy of any science course in the Christian school.  Pearcey punctuates principle with personality, quoting famous believing scientists.  The first few pages of the first essay in the book explain why we in the twenty-first century have need of this volume.  The heretical secular/sacred dichotomy that has plagued The Church for over a century is again the noted villain here.  Yet, even a one page summary of Kepler’s life as a mathematician and astronomer (p. 24) gives hope for those of us in the Christian academy whose responsibility it is to plow the fields of student minds readying the soil for seeds from a Christian, faith and learning perspective. So it is pleasant to discover others who believe the Gospel message who have served us by showing the historical connection of Christianity and science.  A multitude of mathematicians and scientists from The Church, past and present, are represented here.  Kepler’s quote “priests of the Most High God, with respect to the book of nature” (chapter two) is identified through the lives of Newton, Locke, Ray, More, Brooke, and Boyle.  To be sure, Robert Boyle is lovingly ascribed a singular essay by an admirer, Edward B. Davis (chapter six).  Known principally as “the father of chemistry,” Boyle was a deeply spiritual man.  Any Christian school teacher in the field will want to commit to memory passages quoted and life experiences reminisced from Robert Boyle: a man whose faith and vocation were so intertwined as to be one. Further connections to history demonstrate the deep theological basis of biblical scientific forebears.  The quotations alone are worthy of continuous rumination.  Luther explains vocation as a “mask” (p. 253).  More described the universe as “God’s temple” (p. 70).  Melanchthon discoursed on innate human knowledge—its source in God’s image—being “natural light” (p. 163).  And Boyle depicts his work as a scientist in his last book entitled “The Christian Virtuoso” (p. 193).  Harry F. Schaeffer III certifies why science is best compatible with the Christian worldview (pp. 143-152).  Peter Barker explains the importance of the Protestant Reformation for our current understanding of scientific knowledge (chapter five).  Historic precursors to the Intelligent Design movement can here be uncovered (pp. 165-177).  Sir Karl Popper, not himself a Christian, pointed to falsification as more important than verification in experimentation.  Writing on this famed realist, Kurt Marquart contends that Popper fought against the postmodern affect on science that led to scientism (chapter nine).  Comparisons between Kuhn, Laudan, and Jaki point out how foundational assumptions direct the practice of science itself (chapter ten).  Again and again faith and learning educators can find the people and purposes behind what happens in the classroom today in the lives of Christian scientists of yesterday. It is the practice of what we do that generally motivates us as teachers.  This is why certain chapters help more than others in the immediate issues we face today.  Boehlke addresses the anti-Christian bias in laboratories of our day (chapter seven).  He maintains that Christian assumptions must be wrapped in an apologetic of humility born of awe.  Boehlke’s stories of prejudice against believers fortifies his contention that followers of Jesus must perform their vocation with excellence so their lives speak more than their words.  A theological basis for vocation as image bearers is contained in Nathan R. Jastram’s essay, “Scientists Called to be Like God.”  Here we find the imago Dei (“image of God”) as the reason for science helping others (chapter eight).  But the weaving of theology and science is nowhere better understood than in the editor’s chapter “Interpreter’s of the Book of Nature” (chapter three).  Here Angus Menuge definitely links the historical/grammatical/literal hermeneutic arising out of the Reformation as the basis for inductive scientific study.  Textual criticism of Scripture led to “exegesis” in nature.  Symbolism fell to the ax of literalism.  Medicines and technologies leading to cures of our neighbors’ illnesses were dependent upon applying theological principles to the reality of life.  Menuge does a huge faith-and-learning service to the Christian educator showing the complementary nature of “the queen of the sciences” with science herself. Reading God’s World has much to commend it for the continued growth of Bible believing teachers.  Boyle’s study of the original languages (pp. 197-98), science as dependent upon outside influences (pp. 160ff.), the importance of math (pp. 72-77), and linkage of physical with ethical concerns (pp. 288-290) are but a few of the shining jewels waiting to be unearthed in this examination of faith and learning.  Each essay begins with an abstract, finishing in detailed endnotes—marked just as much in my copy as the text itself!  Each contributor is duly noted; their current positions and contributions to Christian thought appear at the end of the volume.  One might wish for a subject index in some future edition.  But for those in the Christian academy who desire to add meat to their mental faith-and-learning diet, Reading God’s World comes highly recommended.  May we all continue to celebrate this life in appreciation of scientific office-holders who point us toward the One who has promised to restore everything to its original created order (Acts 3:21).

Dr. Eckel is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, Indiana.  His website is warpandwoof.org.

A Review by Mark Eckel


Alasdair MacIntyre (Sheed & Ward, Rowman & Littlefield, 2009)

What good is philosophy anyway?  Those not interested in the life of the mind sidestep discussions that probe human ways of thinking.  Yet The Church, celebrating philosophy as from the hand of The Personal Eternal Creator (Proverbs 8), should honor the “love of wisdom” more than anyone (170-71).  Indeed, for Christian higher education, proper thinking about how we learn and live is essential in training future generations.  Alasdair MacIntyre’s masterwork After Virtue is augmented in God, Philosophy, Universities as character education is given a historical Christian, faith and learning intellectual infrastructure. Philosophy is “of crucial importance for human beings in every culture . . . philosophy aids in answering the seminal questions “Who am I?,” “Why am I here?,” and “What happens after life?” (165).  Thinking formation must be accessible for the common person (176).  MacIntyre’s chapter on Augustine (21-32), for instance, clearly shows the importance and benefits within the limits of philosophy.  While pursuit of wisdom in itself cannot give adequate knowledge of God nor lead us to Truth (25) “the project of understanding is not one only for those engaged in teaching, studying, and enquiring within universities.  Every one of us in our everyday lives needs, in a variety of ways, “to learn and to understand” (69).  For the Christian “the ends of knowing and of loving God” (82) are a pastoral guide for “plain persons” (92) so that

By developing habits of obedience to the natural law, habits that are also expressed in the exercise of the virtues, we direct ourselves toward the achievement not only of the common goods of social life, but also of our individual good, that good by the achievement of which our lives are perfected and completed (89).

It is the deepest desire of everyone “to be at one with God” (6).  Unity of all truth can have full comprehension through a God-centered context (175).  Only theology has the ability to integrate all studies (177) working together with philosophy (168) prompting the interrelationship (179).  But life and teaching is based on transcendence (158) which must be revisited again and again.  An “external and independent” (159), “not a dependent being” (83), is the core of Christian philosophical understanding.  How we should live with others is directly tied to this metaphysic (178).  And Scripture provides The Transcendent One’s self-revelation “as the only adequate response to basic questions of life” (171). Ultimately, it is concern for Heaven-directed wholeness that gives “point and purpose to the activities of the university” (146).  Key to a Christian university is the unity of the universe and the underlying unity of all subjects of study (17).  If there is one target on which MacIntyre trains his sights, it is higher education in general and the Christian academy in particular.  He builds the case for and unapologetically demands integration of disciplines to be practiced in the hallowed halls of learning (150).  While philosophers decry “sub-disciplines” without a central focus (17-18), within higher education the problem of disintegration begins with professionalization (176): the fragmentation of departments and coursework (18).  The origin of division (begun in Genesis 3) is dualism—separating the human person into pieces and parts—destroys “the unity of the human being” (128), antithetic to the Christian view of unity (77-78). But MacIntyre concedes that the faith-and-learning mandate of God being central to every discussion will raise howls of protest in the university (146).  The author expects objections and protests (179).  Statements such as “about fundamental human reality the natural sciences are and must be silent” (155) clearly draws a line in the sand.  MacIntyre argues that by taking theology out of the sciences “other disciplines fill the void, answering questions they cannot answer” (146).  It is God’s revelation which can correct distortions (142).  Indeed, the great event of individual reclamation through salvation is no where better expressed than in the life of Pascal (119).  The point is that regeneration and revelation will provide the intellectual footing necessary for real change.  The purpose of education should be to complete the wholeness, the unity of the student by creating students into self-teachers (94-95, though MacIntyre concedes this is not how they are currently being served). The whole faith and learning argument for the unity of truth in teaching is wrapped in historical essays showing the progression of Christian thought and its results.  Interesting insights unfold in unusual places.  For instance, a variant and interesting view of the purpose behind Pascal’s famous wager is seen in new interpretive light (121).  Those looking for a historical review of the interaction between philosophy and university will not be disappointed.  Pedestrian readers may skim sections that dig the shaft too narrow and deep for a layperson’s mining of truth.  But jewels are strewn across the ground above; MacIntyre’s contention that philosophy be accessible to all (176). While integrationists will cheer another masterwork from MacIntyre, only a question or two lingers in the mind as the pages unfold.  Contending that colleges cannot adequately develop the character of their students (148) MacIntyre seems to want it both ways, advocating “teachers to teach virtue who themselves are virtuous” (87-88).  He suggests the influence of teachers on students will have an impact on everyone outside of the schools (69).  In addition, editorial quibbles cause irritation.  It irked me to have footnote material (i.e., 23) embedded within the text.  And the constant use of “it,” “that,” “these” grated on me, leaving me, as the reader, to wander and wonder “where exactly is the antecedent?!” Professors invest our lives to help Christian minds build a faith-and-learning framework of thought.  And so, I cheer the buttressing impact of MacIntyre’s God, Philosophy, Universities may have on the academy as a whole, for The Church as a whole.  So enthused was I by the book that my copy is littered with exclamation marks throughout.  I can think of no more fitting conclusion than allowing one section of punctuated excitement to speak for itself, repeating my call above for the continued building of Christians’ intellectual infrastructure:

First, the attainment of truth is integral to the goal of understanding.  Acts of understanding always involve knowledge of truths and of the relationship of those truths to others.  Second, insofar as the achievement of a perfected understanding of the nature of things requires relating the truths of theology to those of a variety of other disciplines, it matters not only that within each discipline enquirers acknowledge the various standards by which truth is discriminated from falsity, but also that they share a single concept of truth that gives point and purpose to the application of those standards. Third and finally, the project of understanding is not one only for those engaged in teaching, studying, and enquiring within universities.  Every one of us, in our everyday lives, needs in a variety of ways to learn and to understand.  The ability of those outside universities to learn and to understand what they need to learn can be helped or hindered by the good or bad effects on their intellectual formation and their thinking of those who have been educated in universities, by the good or bad influence, that is not only of parents, but also of school teachers, pastors, and others.  One condition for that influence being good rather than bad is that what is communicated to and shared by the whole community of teachers and learners is a respect for truth and a grasp of truths that presupposes . . . an adequate conception of truth (68-69).

Dr. Eckel is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Crossroads Bible College.  His website is warpandwoof.org. This review was originally published online in the Englewood Review of Book.

A Review by Mark Eckel


Steven D. Smith (Harvard University Press, 2010)

“How can you believe in something you can’t see?”  My atheist friend whispered this question to me during homeroom announcements when I was 16. So bothered was I by the one sentence interrogation that I read all of Francis Schaeffer’s works by the time I was out of high school.  From then on, apologetics (“defense of The Faith”) would always be wedded to real life for me.  Schaeffer’s argument swung on two hinges: The Personal Eternal Triune Creator Is and He has spoken.  All of life depends on proper opening of this door.  The ultimate questions of life (e.g., Who am I? Where did I come from? What is right and wrong? What happens when I die?) come through that faith-and-learning door.  And ever since high school football practice, or English class, or talking with friends over lunch, my concern in conversation has been to persuade others that our deepest inside questions have to have an outside answer. So it was a great thrill to read that theological thought would be allowed a voice in Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse. If the title does not tell the tale, consider some opening quotations.  People act on “comprehensive doctrines—that is, their deepest convictions about what is really true” (15).  Human-centered discussions have no ultimate basis, no standard for discovering Truth unless there is “smuggling” of “purposive cosmos . . . providential design” (26).  “Smuggling arguably allows modern discourse to function” (34).  Conversations in a separate secular arena “could not proceed very far without smuggling” because “secular vocabulary . . . is insufficient to convey our full set of normative convictions and commitments (emphasis his, 38-39).  Smith’s concern for years has been that no one in strictly secular circles has admitted they use other-world ideas for physical world arguments. Smith’s chapters claim it makes no sense—indeed it’s impossible—to divorce theology from reality.  Chapter two engages the contentious “right to die” issue insisting our moral musings fit existing moral frameworks (58).  “Do no harm” in medical arenas seems obvious until chapter three reminds us of deeply rooted, external commitments apart from which we cannot operate (105).  Arbitrary fault-lines separating church-state discussions cannot be validated according to chapter four, leaving “freedom of conscience” in an earthquake zone.  So called “universal values” in chapter five are valueless unless extra-human standards are allowed (185).  And the jolting paragraphs which open chapter six introduce the reader to Joseph Vining’s The Song Sparrow and the Child leaving anti-theists left to answer “can you really live with what you say you believe” (208)?  Only conscientious, open, respectful, restrained (224-25) acknowledgment of beliefs will allow for constructive, beneficial dialogue. Considering the number of exclamation points and statements of “wow” that appear on my review copy, one might conclude this to be the end of the review.  Not so fast.  I can imagine various atheist, agnostic, humanist, and secular readers might wonder what problems a faith and learning devotee might have over Smith’s arguments.  Early on Smith exhibits a dislocation of definition.  Even if one defines a term such as “equality” (29-31) the person is still left without the essence of the thing; its history and origin is missing, untraceable within human discourse.  So while Smith wants to say outside voices should be heard, human definition is still limited because it is human-centered.  Defining “equality,” for instance, without a notion that humans were created with worth, value, and dignity is foundationless.  Comparison of important ideas—reason and truth (12, 32)—with horoscopes and school tests also seem incongruent.  So when Smith goes looking for “a trusty vehicle” suitable to carry the language of conversation, we are still left bereft of an idea’s essence or a word’s origin.  In short, “the trusty vehicle” still needs a driver (68-69).  Perhaps Smith did not see his way clear to personally commit to his own argument. For instance, Smith wants secular discussion to include religious ideas.  The historic backdrop to “separation” of powers is properly connected to Reformational history.  The right of conscience is established—pun intended—by The Church.  Smith calls secularists to account, to acknowledge the very term which carries so much weight (“conscience”) was birthed by Churchmen.  Yet, when given the opportunity in the “separation of church and state” argument he allows the division to stand (149).  Smith’s contention for “smuggling” in religious ideas slips a gear, now refusing to ride the bike that brought him to this point.  One wishes that Smith would have added to his exhaustive 50 pages of endnotes the original intent from The Framers in The Federalist Papers: the First Amendment keeps the state from imposing religion rather than keeping religion from influencing the state.  There is also a desire at the end of chapter six for Smith to come out and declare “Can you honestly live with what you say you believe?!”  Perhaps the problem of discontinuity is an attempt not to alienate his audience.  One wonders, however, if the revelation that these chapters have been culled from journal articles, now shaped into a book, might not be the answer (279-80). But don’t get me wrong.  Smith’s work is important for every faith and learning believer invested in apologetic concerns.  All honest intellectuals ought to acknowledge and engage the debate surrounding ultimate issues.  Everyone must admit they believe something.  In so doing, everyone must admit these commitments impact them in conscious as well as invisible ways (222-23).  We are committed to “should” (an outside belief) whether we like it or not.  The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse is necessary for all doctors, lawyers, professors, scientists, theologians, rhetoricians, philosophers, ethicists, and politicians.  Anyone interested in life would be benefited!  But it is the interplay between now and then, temporal and eternal, earth and heaven that each must give the reader pause.  My atheist friend in high school made me search for answers to deep questions.  Much to his credit, Steven D. Smith wants to make sure that all the answers can be heard. Dr. Eckel is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Crossroads Bible College.  His website is warpandwoof.org.

A Review by Dr. Mark Eckel


Robert Harris (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2004)

Some authors write from the vantage point of research.  Others communicate only their experience.  One has the distinct impression from Robert Harris that The Integration of Faith and Learning: A Worldview Approach was born of love’s labor in the academy with an eye toward helping students find their Christian footing in pagan environs.  Indeed, the purpose statement of the book makes clear that Harris intended undergraduates to benefit most from this presentation. Twenty-five years in the university setting establishes Harris’ right to speak on this topic.  Further, his expertise in language and literature lends a hand toward communicating specific concerns with Christian interaction in higher education.  Establishing a paradigm and definitions for discussion, Harris reemphasizes salient truths for the faith and learning scholar in chapter one with special emphasis on “responsible skepticism” (p. 12) and an “emphasis on meaning” (p. 13).  “Knowledge builds on knowledge” (p. 14) is a crucial reminder to all that the footers we pour on the four corners of our educational “house” are tied directly to permanent, first things. Assumptions in place, developing a critical mindset (“don’t believe everything you hear”) creates the rhythmic undertone of Harris’ concern for students.  He warns against the heretical secular—sacred dichotomy prevalent in both unbelieving and Christian circles (chapter two).  The crying need of coherence in education proclaimed by many in and out of The Faith is stressed here.  Chapter three, then, is critical for any student to cement in their thinking as it relates to the origination of knowledge.  Here Harris shines citing critical questions that must be asked of any information source (pp. 42-43).  Bias and authority issues lead directly to chapter four—the most important chapter in the book.  Outside influences on knowledge have debilitating effects on thinking.  People tend to leave out what does not conform to their faith commitment.  What is listened to, talked about, read, written, and watched is seen through a screen of understanding.  The questions on page 68 should be incorporated into any professor’s thinking on the subject of faith and learning.  Chapters ten and eleven cement the approach Harris brings to the subject.  Blueprints are sketched providing clear direction in building a Christian integrative residence. Chapters five through nine seem to be the target of Harris’ aim for his foundational pages.  The subtitle of the book focuses on a compare and contrast methodology with naturalism and postmodernism in the crosshairs of Christian critique.  Harris centers on a “macro” integration approach, poking holes in the fabric of ideas and consequences for each aberrant worldview.  Historical connections for each point of view clearly demonstrate the slow yet ardent progress faulty assumptions about the world have yielded in halls of learning.  Five lessons to learn about research (pp. 128-130), seven truths compared to current culture (pp. 139-143), “the hermeneutics of integration” (pp. 182-84), and five tools for preparation of integration (p. 216) are all helpful, specific guides for students who desire good defensive weapons in the warfare of worldviews. The construction of the text itself would help a professor teaching a course on the subject.  Each chapter contains discussion questions and an important segment on “implications for integration.”  Dialogue over issues could begin here.  Having worked so long in the university setting, Harris knows the importance of theory and practice.  High school teachers in apologetics, literature, philosophy, and any advanced placement course would find this text helpful.  As such, the book is not written to help Christian schoolteachers understand or implement biblical integration in their day-to-day workload.  But on the whole, Harris does Christian undergraduates a service in preparing them to defend their beliefs in ungodly settings.  Indeed The Integration of Faith and Learning: A Worldview Approach may do wonders for future Christian leaders who must “encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9).

Dr. Eckel is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Crossroads Bible College.  His website is warpandwoof.org.

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