- I was pleased when I heard that Chalcedon friends Dennis and Joel Miller (father and son) were starting a new publishing company (Oakdown, www.oakdown.com; P. O. Box 910, Lincoln, CA 95648). I was especially delighted when Joel told me that the first title to be released was an updated edition of Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.'s work defending moderate alcohol consumption. The first work, The Christian and Alcoholic Beverages, published by Baker in 1986, I read soon after its release. I was impressed with the book then, and I am even more impressed with this expanded version. Not merely Gentry's cogent argument, but also the book's typeface, cover, and general appearance, contribute to this excellent work. While I don't want to offend my dear brothers who hold the anti-alcohol position, I sincerely cannot conceive of a credible refutation to Gentry's well-honed exegetical argument. The updated version is titled God Gave Wine and costs $13.95 plus $3.00 shipping, and is available at the address I gave above.
- In my opinion, the best editorial site on the web is LewRockwell.com. Lew is a gifted thinker and writer, carrying on the tradition of the libertarian Austrian school of economics (Ludwig von Mises being the fountainhead), and his website routinely carries some of the best editorial comment on current issues. It is a pro-liberty, pro-free market, and anti-war site; and it is generous in its posting of articles from an orthodox Christian perspective. Christian writers (aside from Lew himself) include Joel Miller, Gary North, and this writer.
- I have mentioned before the conservative-libertarian sociologist, Robert Nisbet. His book, The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom (San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies , 1990) is probably his seminal work. Nisbet's extensive writings are dominated by the theme of human community that men are not islands but create societies and cultures in which to relate to one another. The Quest for Community contains three parts: "Community and the Problem of Order," "The State and Community," and "Community and the Problem of Freedom." This work contains not merely brilliant sociological observations; its religious and psychological comments are often outstanding as well. He observes, for example, in Protestantism the tendency to oppose any externalization of religion and often thereby to create a radical individualization that destroys true human community (pp. 82-85). In his chapter, "The Problem of Liberalism," he asserts that men's presuppositions often arise from the community of which they are a part, and not from an individualistic employment of reason. This leads him to assert, naturally, the vital importance of communities, not ideas as such, in forming peoples' beliefs and practices (pp. 196-197). The great thesis of this book, however, is that individual freedom, far from being the effect of emancipation from state power, is, in fact, the precondition of that power. Tyrannical states do not war against the individual; they war against those non-coercive, intermediate institutions which claim the individual's allegiance: the family, the church, the school, business, and so on. In fact, as Nisbet observes, the only freedom tyrannical societies permit is individual freedom (p. 185). They desire an individual wedded exclusively to the state, and offer him a certain limited sphere of "freedom." It is not individual freedom that these tyrannies oppose, but competitors to their authority that they find unacceptable. This book is filled with profound insights. Get it and read it.
- You may have already heard of Stéphane Courtois' (editor) massive work, The Black Book of Communism (Harvard University Press, 1999). This is the book which, more than any other, documents the horror, hatred, murder, torture, genocide, repression, and terror perpetuated by Communist regimes in the twentieth century. With access to the latest documentation available since the fall of Communism in most of the world, the writers set forth in searing detail the dehumanizing evils in Communist regimes from the Soviet Union to China, from Cambodia to Latin America.
- Thomas Oden's Agenda for Theology (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1979) sets forth an orthodox theological program by a former liberal who has dramatically seen the error of his former ways. There is both an incisiveness and warmth in this work that other orthodox writers need to emulate. I agree with Oden in seeing the orthodoxy of "classical Christianity" as the environment in which to write sound theology. His three-volume trilogy of systematic theology (The Living God, The Word of Life, and Life in the Spirit, all three republished by Prince Press) are anchored in the broad, orthodox Christian tradition and take the authority of the Bible and of orthodoxy quite seriously.
- H. Henry Meeter's The Basic Ideas of Calvinism(there are, I believe, a number of editions) is an excellent work setting forth the notion of God's sovereignty in all of life as a central principle of the Reformed Faith. For Meeter, this means that Calvinism is a system of thought, or a "world- and life-view." The book is almost exclusively about this life-view, and, while I disagree strongly with certain of its conclusions, it does present an outstanding view of Calvinism and the latter's conception of Scripture, theology, common grace, culture, politics, the state, and so on.
- A great Reformed theologian in the past century was Herman N. Ridderbos. His When the Time Had Fully Come: Studies in New Testament Theology (Jordan Station, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press , 1982) is just one example of his many fine works. I disagree vigorously with certain aspects of his so-called "redemptive-historical" approach to the Scriptures; but his rigorous, perceptive theological insights cannot be denied. In the work under consideration, I especially enjoyed his chapters on "The Redemptive-Historical Character of Paul's Preaching," "The Law of God in Paul's Doctrine of Salvation," and "History of Redemption and the Scriptures in the New Testament." In the chapter on Paul's use of the law, Ridderbos recognizes that the apostle does not pit the Old Testament law against the New Testament gospel, but only the misuse and misinterpretation of the Old Testament law against the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like Geerhardus Vos and Richard Gaffin, Ridderbos believes that the Pauline epistles are largely a systematic interpretation of the historical revelation of the Gospels. In other words, Pauline writings are not only inspired Scriptures; they are, in addition, inspired systematic theology (p. 49). There is much to learn from this profound Dutch scholar.
- Thomas Sowell's A Personal Odyssey (New York: The Free Press, 2000) is not an autobiography as such but a collection of personal vignettes that serve as a lens through which to interpret his life's experiences. Sowell, the leading conservative-libertarian economist, recounts his humble beginnings in the South in a broken family, his elementary and secondary school years in New York City, his tour with the Marines, and his subsequent academic career including a number of years teaching college. Sowell is an excellent example of a man committed to "old-fashioned" humanistic values. A main theme of the book is how he (and he alone) worked hard for his personal accomplishment, and how he is responsible for his success. (I relish Monte Wilson's description of the moralistic humanist: "A person pulling himself down to hell by his own bootstraps.") Like many other conservatives, as Sowell observes, he was essentially a Leftist (even a Marxist) in his youth, but the constraints of reality (not God, of course!) turned him around. The book is valuable in its verification of the hypocrisies and stupidities of the secular academic Left when it comes to economics, race, politics, and many other issues. Unfortunately, as Sowell's work unwittingly discloses, the secular academic Right is ultimately no better. Many students, though, can learn a basic fact from Sowell's experience: hard work usually trumps brilliance. Sowell was almost forced to leave Harvard because the academic program was too rigorous for him. He did not rely on his inherent brilliance alone, but "made his brains sweat" and soon was able to master the academic work at increasingly difficult levels. He graduated magnacum laude. Unfortunately, as in all else, he does not give God the credit for his success.
- Gustaf Aulén's Christus Victor (London: SPCK, 1931) is a little theological classic explaining and defending the view of Christ's atonement which dominated the Western church for about its first thousand years. It is the view that Christ obtained salvation for His people by trampling down the devil, evil principalities and powers, and the present world system and sin itself. It is to be distinguished from the view systematized by Anselm and transferred to the later Protestant Reformers, the satisfaction or judicial theory of the atonement, the basic outlines of which began with the Latin view of purgatory. The fact is, both "theories" of the atonement are manifestly Biblical. We cannot limit Christ's work to a narrow, humanly constructed "theory." Christ surely was a substitute and sacrifice for our sins; He bore the legal penalty for our law-breaking (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24). In addition, however, Colossians 2:14-16 makes quite clear that Christ's death was also a victory. He spoiled principalities and powers and captured His elect by means of His death. The Christus Victor theme emphasizes Christ as a ransom paid to free His people from their sins. Though there certainly is some misguided theological speculation that goes along with this theory, its basics are grounded in Biblical fact, and it coincides well with postmillennial theology.
- Canon Press (P. O. Box 8741, Moscow, ID, 83843, www.canonpress.org) is publishing many fine works, a number of which deal effectively with how to start and maintain a godly Christian family. Here I'll mention the title The End of All Things: A Defense of the Future, by C. Jonathin Seraiah. This is (to my knowledge) the first book-length refutation of "consistent preterism," the view that all Biblical prophecies (including the Second Advent and the final resurrection) had been fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70. Seraiah terms this heresy "pantelism" (from the Greek, meaning, "all is completed"), and his book evinces the exegetical and historical bankruptcy of this view. Please contact Canon Press and get a catalog of all their books.
- One of the great Calvinistic ministries stressing genuine, Biblical reformation and revival is John Armstrong's Reformation and Revival Ministries (P. O. Box 88216, Carol Stream, IL 60188, 1-888-276-1044). In a day of both spurious revival as well as opposition to the very idea of revival, this ministry stands squarely for the sovereignty of God, the authority of the (whole) Bible, the centrality of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, and the profound work of the Holy Spirit. Please get on their mailing list.
Family & Marriage,