A Catalog of My Recent Book Reviews

I read a lot of books. I review a lot of books. This post is simply a collection of recently published book reviews that have come from my keyboard.

1. Alice Dreger - Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science

Dreger’s thesis:
’Science and social justice require each other to be healthy, and both are critically important to human freedom. Without a just system, you cannot be free to do science, including science designed to better understand human identity; without science, and especially scientific understandings of human behaviors, you cannot know how to create a sustainably just system.’

2. Paul Heintzman - Leisure and Spirituality: Biblical, Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

This is the most thorough book on the concept of leisure available. Heintzman’s historical summaries bring together a number of streams of discussions in a comprehensive fashion. His biblical outline of leisure and rest covers the relevant passages in a manner that is fair to the text. This is a book that is both critical and constructive. In short, this is a reference volume that anyone interested in doing scholarship on work and leisure should own.

3. John Warwick Montgomery - History, Law and Christianity

History, Law and Christianity, by John Warwick Montgomery has recently been republished by the 1517 Legacy project, which aims at presenting a Christian apologetic to the world. Montgomery’s book was originally published in 1964, having begun its existence as a series of lectures in response to attacks on the Christian faith. The first five chapters discuss the plausibility of historical evidences of the truthfulness of Christianity. The final chapter provides a “legal defense” of Christianity, as it might occur in a court of law. This edition also includes the original lecture to which Montgomery was responding, as well as an affirmation of the quality of the argument by a non-Christian historian.

4. Paul L. Allen - Theological Method: A Guide for the Perplexed

Allen’s goal is “to survey and analyse the history of Christian reflection regarding how we speak of God and the life of the world in relation to God” (viii). He does this using a “wide-angle lens on the horizon of Christian theology, with peaks and valleys of theological method revealed in cursory snapshots over the bulk of its 2000-year history” (ix). Indeed, these two sentences sum up Allen’s accomplishment in this volume well.

5. Alistair Young - Environment, Economy, and Christian Ethics: Alternative Views on Christians and Markets

This recent volume by Alistair Young is an attempt to tie together the issues of environment, economics, and Christian ethics. Young is a retired economist, with experience teaching economics in several countries. His extensive experience in economics is evident throughout the text, as there is a decided emphasis on economics over the other two title subjects. Young has three purposes for writing this volume. First, he makes the case that environmental conditions require a response. Second, he examines theological perspectives on the environment. Third, he describes and evaluates policy decisions on the environment.

6. William Boekestein - Ulrich Zwingli (A Bitesize Biography):

Ulrich Zwingli follows the basic formula of the series, which includes a timeline, a brief introduction, and a walk through progression to importance, major conflicts, and reason of significance. The volumes all end with a summary of the legacy of the individual. This means that these books, including Boekestein’s recent edition, have all the pieces necessary to a good biography.
Both editions of this text have been, as the title claims, A Theology for the Church. The preposition in the title is hugely important, as it is not a theology of the church or to the church, but one designed to be accessible for the church. In other words, unlike many Systematics, which are written by theologians for other theologians, Akin’s text was written with the intelligent but theologically untrained in mind. Thus it does not get caught in jargon and leave insider references unexplained. It is crafted so a person in the pew can pick it up and benefit from it. Because of that, it makes an outstanding introductory Systematics for a Bible college or seminary.
Scott Sauls’ recent book, Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who are Tired of Taking Sides, is intended to mitigate the trend in polarization and move toward gospel reconciliation. As such, this book represents the beginning of a deep conversation that needs to happen in the gospel community whose ideas are increasingly demonized.
Rediscovering an Evangelical Heritage has been republished at a time when another major effort is being made to redefine Evangelicalism as merely a social movement with negotiable understandings of significant, historical doctrines. The essays were written at a popular level, with no interaction with contrary positions, which gives a false impression that this notion is and has been uncontested. The volume is worth reading, but it is one-sided.

10. Bill Watterson - Exploring Calvin and Hobbes:

This new book from Andrews McMeel Publishing is a breakthrough for the hungry Calvin and Hobbes fan. Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue begins with an extended interview with the man who curated a recent exhibit of Calvin and Hobbes strips at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. In this interview, Watterson discusses his childhood, how he became interested in cartooning, his various attempts to break into the industry, and how the production of Calvin and Hobbes took place for its decade-long run.
This is basically a popular level book with some sociological research to support it. The conclusion outpaces the argumentation at several points, but this is still a thought provoking text. It has some significant weaknesses, but the strengths are sufficient to make it worth reading. Nonviolent Action is unlikely to become a classic text on the subject, but it makes a contribution to an important conversation in turbulent times.
Overall, though, this volume is well written and may replace Avery Dulles’ book, Models of Revelation. Having done a fair amount of reading on this topic, it is the best explanation of a Roman Catholic understanding of the doctrine of Revelation I have encountered. I would recommend it to those seeking to meaningfully engage in inter-denominational dialogue on this topic. Levering is an excellent scholar, whose work on Augustine I have benefited from in the past. This book is a helpful addition to the discussion, but it is far from the final word.
In about 130 pages of content, Ashford manages to provide a solid overview of a broad sweep of Christian thought. Besides the question of the relationship between the Law and the Gospel, there are few questions more significant to Christian theology than how Christians should relate to cultures which are, most often throughout history, not distinctly Christian. Ashford’s book is a beginner’s field guide on the topic.
The sub-discipline of environmental ethics has seen a torrent of publications in the past few years, with volumes that claim to present an authentically Christian version of environmentalism. Most of the books have juxtaposed a basic theological foundation for environmental stewardship with accepted scientific data to make ethical pronouncements consistent with those of explicitly non-Christian sources. The ethical methodology used by many of these authors tends to be utilitarian, rather than theological. This means that the majority of the books on Christian environmentalism tend to backfit theological concepts to previously accepted conclusions.
Pinker makes significant contributions to the style discussion. First, he presents some of the cognitive linguistics data that help make sense of prose structure. This is done in a clear manner that communicates well and is helpful for contemporary writers. Second, he affirms beginning with basic style manuals, but shows how good writing may and should move beyond. This is helpful as an academic and popular writer. Third, Pinker demonstrates good writing throughout. The prose is punchy and alive. It is interesting, even when the content is heady and a bit dry. This is a demonstration of how to make bland content flavorful without being gimmicky.
If you have questions about nuclear power, buy this book and read it. If you are a proponent of nuclear power, buy this book and cite it in your arguments. This is, hands down, the best one stop reference on the subject I have encountered.
If you love Puritan theology, you will thoroughly enjoy this volume, which is well stocked with Puritan quotes. If you want to deepen your walk with Christ, you will find this book very beneficial, because it points readers toward practices which are important for becoming more Christlike. If you need encouragement in your walk with Christ, this short text will provide ample exhortation. It is worth your time to read it.
I commend this to readers who are looking for answers to some very important ethical questions. I plan on recommending it as a resource to people in my church who have questions about this topic. It is up to date and informative. It is written with a pastoral heart and academic acumen. It should be a trusted resource for the church for the near future.
The question Baron picks up in the volume is whether “digital reading is reshaping our understanding of what it means to read.” (xii) She goes on to argue “that digital reading is fine for many short pieces or light content we don’t intend to analyze or reread.” (xii) Her conclusion is that digital reading is here to stay, but so is reading in print. Each has a niche in the publishing world and the academic world. Thus the future is a complementary coexistence rather than extinction of one or the other.
Neil Wilson and Nancy Ryken Taylor have put together a handsomely illustrated and solidly evangelical help for Christians seeking to enrich their ability to interpret some of the images of Scripture. They point to ways that significant symbols are used and make connections between them. They provide several Scripture references for each and show how the terms are applied.

21. Michael A. G. Haykin - George Whitefield (Bitesize Biographies):

Whitefield is a worthy subject of such a biography. This format of very brief, but well-researched biographies is a helpful tool for Christian discipleship. Reading a popular-level account of the life of a significant believer reminds the reader that great things are possible for those who are faithful to use their talents according to their calling. It is also a testimony of God’s faithfulness, as he raised up someone to preach and through him revived true religious fervor despite the moral decay in Britain and America in the 18th century.

22. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty - Dorothy Day for Armchair Theologians:

At just about 200 pages, Hinson-Hasty provides an overview of Day’s life and work that covers the major epochs in her life, the main thrust of her work, and helps to place Day in her cultural context. Additionally, the author shows how Day’s ideas have been appropriated and applied to contemporary social justice movements. This makes the book a useful introduction into the topic.