Austin, Jane. Sense and Sensibility.
Gouge, William. Building a Godly Home, Volume 1: A Holy Vision for Family Life. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2013.
This is one of the best expositions of Ephesians 5:21-6:4 that I’ve encountered. Gouge does an excellent job of explaining the text, explaining difficulties, and reconciling apparent contradictions. His seventeenth century perspective is an advantage rather than a liability because it enables us to see this text through different cultural eyes. In this regard his comments on equality were especially insightful. Reformation Heritage has done an excellent job in laying out the text, inserting headings and footnotes, and making the text readable for a contemporary audience.
Guelzo, Allen C. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion. Knopf, 2013.
Nagel, Thomas. Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
The gist of Nagel’s argument is that Neo-Darwinism cannot provide a materialist explanation for consciousness, cognition, and values. The explanations they do offer actually undermine our ability to have confidence in our reason―including the reasoning for Neo Darwinism. Nagel rejects theism and intelligent design (while appreciating their work and defending their critique of Neo Darwinism) for what seems to be a teleological evolutionary approach that embraces panpsychism rather than materialism. I found the critique compelling (aside from some spots that I had difficulty following). The positive vision was left underdeveloped because a paradigm shift in science would be necessary to develop it, Nagel says. Christian theism would provide answers to the questions that Nagel raises, but Nagel doesn’t consider theism in the book because he is "strongly averse" to the idea of God.
Hensley, Alexia Jones. Hidden History of Greenville County. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2009.
This book contains interesting accounts from Greenville county ranging from the colonial period until the early twentieth century. For the resident of Greenville, it reveals the stories behind the names of local neighborhoods, roads, and landmarks. At times the book could benefit from better organization. Maps that pinpointed the locations of the events discussed in the book would also add to its value.
Denault, Pascal. The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism. Solid Ground Christian Books, 2013.
Denault proposes that the root of the difference between Particular Baptists and Paedobaptists of the Seventeenth Century was their different covenant theologies. Both held to similar views of the Covenant of Works, but they differed regarding the Covenant of Grace. Paedobaptists argued that the Covenant of Grace had a single substance but different administrations. The New Covenant was simply a different administration of the Covenant of Grace. The Baptists, on the other hand, held that the New Covenant was indeed something new and distinct from the Old Covenant. Regarding the Mosaic Covenant, Paedobaptists disagreed about whether it was part of the Covenant of Grace and unconditional in nature or whether it was akin to the Covenant of Works and distinct from the Covenant of Grace. The Baptists held that all the Old Testament Covenants were part of Old Covenant. This is why circumcision, a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, is so closely connected with the Law. In this view Abraham was given the promises of the Covenant of Grace, but the Covenant of Grace, though progressively revealed in the Old Testament, was not enacted until Christ. The New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. Thus Abraham stands at the head of two seeds, a physical and a spiritual. Once Christ comes the purposes of the physical seed and its covenant are finished. Unlike the Old Covenant, which was mixed, the New Covenant is unconditional, entirely effective, and made up entirely of those who know Christ.
Denault does a good job of introducing the reader to significant seventeenth century figures from both sides of the debate. Nehemiah Coxe is introduced as the Baptist who most clearly developed this version of Covenant Theology, though other Baptists, such as Benjamin Keach, are also drawn on. Interestingly, though not a Baptist, John Owen is also claimed to have held the Baptist Covenant position. This is especially clear from his Hebrews commentaries.
Overall Denault seems to have presented the historical information clearly and accurately. This is not merely a historical monograph, however. Denault wishes to recover Baptist Covenant Theology for the present day. I found this position most convincing when critiquing the Paedobaptist one-covenant-under-many-administrations approach. I think the case for a disjunction between the New Covenant and Old is clear. And I am in full agreement that the New Covenant is a unconditional, effective, and unmixed covenant. The equation of the Covenant of Grace with the New Covenant is more convincing than the Paedobaptist construct of a Covenant of Grace made up of many different biblical covenants. However, this Baptist Covenant Theology has its own construct: the Old Covenant. In Scripture it seems clear that the Old Covenant and First Covenant are the Mosaic Covenant. Despite providing an explanation for the connection of circumcision and the Law, I’m not convinced exegetically that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants can all be subsumed under one Old Covenant.
Meyer, Stephen C. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. New York: HarperOne, 2013.
Darwin’s Doubt is a sequel to Meyer’s Signature in the Cell. The earlier book told the story of the discovery of DNA and made the argument that the origin of life (with its information-bearing DNA) could not be explained apart from an intelligent designer. Meyer also makes the argument in that book for Intelligent Design qualifying as science. In the Prologue to Darwin’s Doubt Meyer notes that most of the critiques to Signature argued that mutation and natural selection could account for biological evolution. Meyer notes that these critiques missed the point since Signature was addressing the origin of life rather than the evolutionary development of life. It is the latter topic that he addresses in Darwin’s Doubt. The central story in Signature was the discovery of DNA. The central story in Darwin’s Doubt is the discovery and explanations that surround fossils in the Cambrian explosion. With the Cambrian explosion a wide variety of different forms of life appear in the fossil record with no developmental precedents in the fossil record. Meyer guides the reader through the various theories that have been proposed to explain or explain away the Cambrian explosion and finds why, even according to Neo-Darwinists, they are found wanting. He concludes that Neo-Darwinism cannot account for the new genetic information necessary for the Cambrian explosion "because: (1) it has no means of efficiently searching combinatorial sequence space for functioning genes and proteins, and (2) it requires unrealistically long waiting times to generate even a single new gene or protein. It has also shown that the mechanism cannot produce new body plans because: (3) early acting mutations, the only kind capable of generating large-scale changes are also invariably deleterious, and (4) genetic mutations cannot, in any case, generate the epigenetic information to build a body plan" (411). As with Signature, Meyer concludes that the new information must come from a designer.
Young earth creationists reading Meyer’s work must recognize the extent of both their agreements and disagreements with Meyer. Meyer is an ally in his critique of Neo-Darwinism. This is so not only in the major thesis of the book but also, perhaps, on the issue of common descent as well. He also notes that Intelligent Design dose not necessarily reject common descent (411). Nevertheless, he does seem to provide a critique. He notes that Darwinists have proposed multiple conflicting trees and have resorted to convergent evolution to explain similarities that in divergent branches. Meyer notes that "invoking convergent evolution negates the very logic of the argument from homology, which affirms that similarity implies ancestry, except–now we learn–in those many, many, cases when it does not" (133). I was left unclear as to whether Meyer himself embraced common descent, but his arguments seemed to provide ammunition against it. Despite the helpful information provided by Intelligent Design, Christians must recognize that it is not sufficient. Reconciling science and the Bible has to go far beyond simply affirming the existence of a designer–even a Designer believed to be the God of Scripture (which Meyer, an evangelical, affirms). The Bible also contains exegetical information that explains how creation takes places and theological teaching about the goodness of the original creation and the effects of the fall into sin. Because Intelligent Design simply affirms the existence of a designer, it often accepts account of science that remain at odds with Scripture. Nevertheless, Meyer provides an eminently readable, well-argued critique of Neo-Darwinism.
Grudem, Wayne and Barry Asmus. The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.
The thesis of Grudem and Asmus’s book is that the solution to national poverty is to produce more goods and services. They further argue that the free market system is the best economic system for producing greater numbers of goods and services. Grudem and Asmus defend the free market system by arguing that it promotes virtues such as freedom, integrity, care for others, punctuality, courtesy, and fairness. The further argue that free markets moderate selfishness and greed and result in better care for the environment. They conclude with the conditions that are necessary for a free market system to work: the governmental conditions, the necessary liberties, the necessary cultural beliefs. They argue that governments must establish the rule of law, an impartial justice system, eliminate or make rare corruption. The government must have enough power to protect its people against crime, disease, invasion, contract and patent violations, and environmental destruction while at the same time having its powers limited and separated so that it does not stifle economic growth. Necessary freedoms include: freedom to own property, to travel, to start businesses, to work a job of one’s choice, etc. These freedoms must exist not merely legally but also practically. Important cultural values include: belief in God and in a final judgment, honesty, productivity, education, patriotism, etc.
Overall, I believe Grudem and Asmus are right. The solution to poverty is to produce more goods and services and free market economies do this better than other forms. However, I was left with two questions. (1) What are the other goals that a society ought to have? Does the free market system ever stand in tension with these other goals? For instance, they highlight the importance of a society being willing to change in order to compete. This is certainly true on a technological level. But certainly Christians have to resist cultural changes that erode aspects of culture shaped by Scripture. All citizens should worry about societal change that undermines social cohesion. (2) How has the Fall affected the free market system? I’m suspicious when Christians can’t locate the effects of the Fall on a certain area of life. This often happens in discussions on music. It seemed to happen in this book’s discussion on economics. The free market system was held up as the solution. I would have found the book more convincing if they had noted the effects of the Fall and how to mitigate them.
These criticisms noted, overall I found the book a helpful read. I think the authors established their primary point.
Clendenin, E. Ray and David K. Stabnow. HCSB: Navigating the Horizons in Bible Translations Nashville: B&H, 2012.
The last decade and a half has seen the emergence of several new or revised Bible translations. Often with these translations come books that explain and defend the translation philosophy of a given translation. Leland Ryken has written several books that do this for the ESV. This book was written to explain and defend the philosophy behind the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The authors argue for making a fresh translation rather than revising a translation with roots reaching back to Tyndale. They defend a translation philosophy that values many of the priorities of functional equivalence but which is willing to sacrifice them at points where naturalness and clarity are at stake. Thus the HCSB will seek to follow reflect the grammar and even word order of a passage, but it may render an idiom with an equivalent or resolve an ambiguity with a translation that reflects a specific interpretation. The authors also discuss specific translation decisions such as use of Yahweh, Messiah, and slave in many cases instead of Lord, Christ, or bondservant. The authors also provide a primer on textual criticism.
This is an interesting read for those who wish to peer behind the scenes of a good Bible translation. In comparison with Ryken’s books, this work is more accurate in discussing linguistic issues. Ryken has a better understanding of literary issues. Thus I remain unconvinced regarding the treatment of metaphors that Clendenin and Stabnow promote. Ryken and this volume also clash on the value of revisions versus fresh translations. I think both male excellent points, and in this regard I’m happy to use both translations. Regarding the specific translation issues, some (such as the use of Yahweh and Messiah) I like while on others, such as the use of "slave", I remain ambivalent.
Overall I prefer the ESV as my primary translation. I prefer its preservation of original metaphors when practical and approve of their choice to do so when the metaphor is understandable in English rather than only when it is natural, as in the HCSB. Nonetheless, I often turn to the HCSB and I am often impressed with their translational choices.
Schafer, A. Rachel. "Rest for the Animals? Nonhuman Sabbath Repose in Penateuchal Law," Bulletin for Biblical Research 23.2 (2013):167-86.
Argues that the care for animals, both domestic and wild, specified in the Sabbath commands (book weekly and every seven years) implies responsibilities for animal care. The exegesis of the article does support the claim that humans are to give requisite care to God’s animal creation. The concluding footnote that suggests becoming a vegan is the best practical way to exercise this care does not follow from the argument.
Hannon, Michael W. "Against Heterosexuality." First Things (March 2013): 27-34.
Argues that the heterosexuality/homosexuality constructs are recent (mid-nineteenth century), already being questioned by LGBTQ academia, and probably on their way out once their usefulness in creating civil rights analogies grants the legal status and compulsions desired. Hannon argues that Christians should resist the construct on the grounds that sinful behavior should not be embraced as an ontological identifier. In addition the label "heterosexuality" should not be used to designate a "normal" that obscures other kinds of sin.
Peter Lombard. The Sentences, Book 4: On the Doctrine of Signs. Translated by Giulio Silano. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2010. pp. 136-233 [Extreme unction, ecclesiastical orders, marriage].
This section of The Sentences deals primarily with marriage. Given the prominence of marriage in contemporary political discourse, this discussion is very interesting. Peter’s view stands in stark contrast with the prevailing American view of marriage, as the following quotation demonstrates: "And so the principal final cause for the contracting of marriage is the procreation of offspring. For it for this that God instituted marriage between our first parents., to whom he said: Increase and multiply, etc.—The second is, after Adam’s sin, the avoidance of fornication; hence the Apostle: Because of fornication, let each man have a wife and each woman her husband.—There are also some other honourable causes, such as the reconciliation of enemies and the re-establishment of peace.—There are also other less honourable causes because of which marriage is at times contracted, such as the beauty of the man or the woman, which often impels spirits inflamed with love to enter into marriage so that they may fulfil their desire. Advantage also, and the possession of riches, frequently is the cause of a marriage, as are also many others, which it is easy for anyone with diligence to discern" (Bk. 4, Dist. 30, ch. 3.2 [§180]). It is interesting that beauty and passion ranks low with Lombard whereas they probably rank toward the topic in the modern conception whereas procreation is far more significant as a purpose of marriage than it probably is for most moderns. And yet Lombard is also a significant reminder that appealing to traditional views of marriage is not sufficient for the Christian, for he sees the physical delight of a husband and wife in each other as a venial sin. Scripture, not tradition or contemporary culture, must be the touchstone of our views on marriage.