Jackson, Andrew. Mormonism Explained: What Latter-day Saints Teach and Practice. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.
In this brief (200 pp.) book Jackson provides a helpful overview of basic Mormon history and teaching drawn primarily from official Mormon sources and major Mormon teachers and apologists such as Bruce McConkie, Stephen Robinson and Robert Millet. He also compares and contrasts Mormon teaching with basic Christian doctrine. A helpful book.
Deutsch, Kenneth L. and Ethan Fishman, eds. The Dilemmas of American Conservatism. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2010.
The essays collected by Duetsch and Fishman investigate tensions within American conservatism by looking at key figures in its 20th century history. In an introductory essay Fishman and Deutsch argue that conservatism is not monolithic but contains three competing strains: traditional, laissez-faire, and neoconservatism.
The traditionalist conservative finds his roots in Aristotle and Edmund Burke. Recent representatives include Russell Kirk, John Hallowell, and Richard Weaver. They value historical communities and institutions and are concerned about individualistic and libertarian ideologies that undermine them. They emphasize the rule of law as necessary to secure liberty; the role of "aristocracy" in providing moral example; liberty and the individual exist in a social context. They affirm the existence of natural law.
F. A. Hayek stands as the exemplar of laissez-faire conservatism. Many conservatives are traditional in the social realm and laissez-faire in the economic realm, but others apply the laissez-faire philosophy across the spectrum of life. In this approach, liberty is defined as "the state in which a person is not subject to coercion by the arbitrary will of another. The supreme good emerges for Hayek when there is the absence of external restraints. Social justice or equality is a delusion; they only serve to diminish freedom. A free society is self-adjusting, leading toward greater productivity and public order, and this means inequality. Such a robust view of freedom makes the claim that the freedom to pursue one’s private vices, such as greed, will somehow produce public benefits. Traditional conservatives and laissez-fair conservatives inevitably find themselves in conflict over the issue of amoral capitalism" (p. 3).
Iriving Kristol represents neoconservatism, with Leo Strauss mentioned as a influence. Neo conservatives oppose the welfare state, "idealist foreign policies", and "world tyranny" (p. 3). They favor spreading democracy around the world, and they believe that the United States, as the world power, has the responsibility to promote the spread of democracy.
Attempts have been made, notably through the National Review, to unite these three strands of conservatism, but Deutch and Fishman are not convinced that a synthesis is truly possible.
The remainder of the book is a series of essays that cover significant conservative figures: John Hallowell, Eric Voegelin, Leo Strauss, Richard Weaver, Robert Nisbet, John Courtney Murray, Russell Kirk, F. A. Hayek, and Willmoore Kendall. The bibliographies following each of these essays are valuable.
Sproul. R. C. Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism. Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2012.
As the West secularizes the similarities between Roman Catholicism and conservative Protestantism seem highlighted. Both believe in the Trinity, the atoning death of Christ, justification by faith, supernatural reality, the importance of moral norms in public life. Both oppose great national evils such as abortion, divorce, and, now, homosexual marriage. Furthermore Roman Catholic philosophers and theologians often provide analyses and resources that conservative Protestants find useful in navigating the culture wars.
Which raises the title question of Sproul’s book: Are we together? In answering this question Sproul is ready to grant the agreements. Protestants and Catholics agree, for instance, on Trinitarian formulations or in their denial of naturalism and secularism. But they agreed about these things at the time of the Reformation as well. To claim the Reformation is over because of agreement in the culture wars is to miss the point of the Reformation.
The Reformers split from the Roman Church over the nature of the gospel. That issue has not changed or gone away. The current Catechism of the Catholic Church still affirms as doctrine errors that brought about the need for the Reformation. Sproul walks his reader through these fundamental difference is six chapters: Scripture, Justification, the Church, the Sacraments, the Papacy, and Mary. In each of these chapter Sproul fairly lies out the Roman Catholic position form their own documents, sometimes clarifies common Protestant misunderstandings or mischaracterizations, and discusses the biblical reasons why Protestants must still protest the doctrinal deviations of Rome. In short, the reasons boil down to a different source of authority and a different gospel. Roman Catholics and conservative Protestants differ on where the Word of God may be found and on how God brings about the salvation of sinners. To the secularist these may be minor issuers, but for both Protestant and Catholic these are issues of fundamental importance. Thus the question, Are we together? must still be answered in the negative.
Daniell, David. William Tyndale: A Biography. New Haven: Yale, 1994.
Daniell’s biography of Tyndale is a scholarly treatment that pays close attention not only to the events of Tyndale’s life but also to his writings and translations. Daniell, whose specialty is Shakespeare, gives close attention to Tyndale’s style and his influence of the English langauge and subsequent Bible translations. Daniell all stands firmly opposed to revisionist accounts that minimize Roman Catholic opposition to seeing the Scriptures in English or that paint Thomas More in glowing colors. Though not written as a devotional biography, Daniell so highlights the skill with which Tyndale translated the Scriptures that the Christian cannot be but grateful for God’s gifting the church with such a man.
Guelzo, Allen C. Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Guelzo’s history is notable for its significant treatment of the years leading up to the Civil War as well as for a brief treatment of Reconstruction. The book is light on military history; the major battles are recounted but with great brevity. The book instead focuses on the political and cultural aspects of the war. Though McPherson’s work remains the best single volume work on the Civil War for its comprehensive treatment of all aspects of the war, Guelzo’s insightful analysis makes this well worth the read. For instance, in discussing popular sovereignty, Guelzo notes, "Most of all, Lincoln condemned popular sovereignty because it tried to dodge the moral issue of slavery. . . . Even if all the voters of a territory unanimously demanded [slavery], their demanding it did not make it morally right. Liberty was not an end in itself, as popular sovereignty seemed to claim; it was a means, and it was intended to serve the interests of the natural rights that Jefferson had identified in the Declaration of Independence–life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Otherwise, liberty would itself be transformed into power, the power of a mob to do whatever it took a fancy to." Insights like these throughout the book make it a worthy read.
Strauss, Mark L. "Gender-Language Issues in the NIV 2011: A Response to Vern Poythress," WTJ 74 (Spring 2012): 119-32.
Poythress, Vern S. "Comments on Mark Strauss’s Response," WTJ 74 (Spring 2012): 133-48.
Poythress lays his finger on the nub of the disagreement: "It seems to be that Dr. Strauss does not think that ‘he’ is usable in generic statements. I think that it is. Dr. Strauss thinks that it seriously distorts meaning (at least ‘potentially’); I do not . . . . If Dr. Strauss is right, the NIV 2011 is doing more or less the best it could, and I should stop complaining. If, on the other hand, Dr. Strauss is wrong, his mistaken conviction leads him to eschew the use of generic ‘he’ in many situations where its use would result in a very good, superior match in meaning between the original languages and the rendering in English translations" (136).
Anderson, Lee, Jr., "A Response to Peter Enns’s Attack on Biblical Creationism," Answers Research Journal 6 (2013):117–135.
Anderson, surveys Enns’s proposal that genomic research has demonstrated that humans did not descend from one couple and that the Bible thus should be reinterpreted so that the opening chapters of Genesis are read with Adam as a literary "proto-Israel" and not as the first human. This necessitates understanding the New Testament to have wrongly assumed the historicity of Adam but to have rightly drawn theological conclusions from this assumption.
Anderson critiques Enns along three lines. First, despite Enns’s affirmation of inerrancy, he actually operates with a paradigm for inspiration that rejects inerrancy as it has historically been formulated. Second, he believes that Enns has been to credulous regarding the conclusions of the Human Genome Project. Finally, he critiques Enns’s exegesis of relevant passages.
Tyndale, William. "A Prologue by William Tyndale, shewing the use of the Scripture, which he wrote before the Five Books of Moses." In The Works of the English Reformers: William Tyndale and John Frith. Vol. 1. Edited by Thomas Russell. London: Ebenezer Palmer, 1831.
Tyndale opens the prologue: "Though a man had a precious jewel, and a rich, yet if he wist not the value thereof, nor wherefore it served, he were neither the better nor richer of a straw. Even so though we read the Scripture, and babble of it never so much, yet if we know not the use of it, and wherefore it was given, and what is therein to be sought, it profiteth us nothing at all. It is not enough, therefore, to read and talk of it only, but we must also desire God, day and night, instantly to open our eyes, and to make us understand and feel wherefore the Scripture was given, that we may apply the medicine of the Scripture, every man to his own sores ; unless then we intend to be idle disputers, and brawlers about vain words, ever gnawing upon the bitter bark without, and never attaining unto the sweet pith within." The prologue continues on in this devotional strain, but also with solid observations and applications of the text.
Hennigan, Thomas D. "Is There a Dominion Mandate? Discussion: A Response to Darek Isaacs," Answers Research Journal 6 (2013): 137-138.
Kulikovsky, Andrew S. "Is There a Dominion Mandate? Discussion: In Defense of Human Dominion," Answers Research Journal 6 (2013): 139-143.
McDurmon, Joel. "Is There a Dominion Mandate? Discussion: The Dominion Mandate: Yesterday, Today, and Forever," Answers Research Journal 6 (2013): 145-155.
Isaacs, Darek. "Is There a Dominion Mandate? Reply: A Response to Hennigan, Kulikovsky, and McDurmon." Answers Research Journal 6 (2013): 157-177.
Hennigan contests Isaacs definition of dominion such that "dominion [is] humans having complete victory and domination in this world or that creatures must bow in submission to mankind." Hennigan contends this reads the word rādâ too narrowly. He asserts that the term is broad enough to include subduing powerful animals to radio tag them or engage in ecological management or to provide medicines that combat illnesses such as malaria or to harness energy from various natural resources.
Kulikovsky begins his response by critiquing Isaacs’s claim that God never gave Adam and Eve a command to have dominion over the earth. He argues that Isaacs’s parameters for what may constitute a command are so narrow that even some of the Ten Commandments would be excluded. Kulikovsky agrees with Hennigan that Isaacs’s definition of dominion is too narrow. Isaacs asserts that if humans had dominion over creation, they could command it at will the way Jesus did in his earthly ministry. Thus farmers could command weeds not to grow among their crops or insects not to feed on them. Kulikovsky notes that such absolute control is not necessitated by the terms dominion or sovereignty in any dictionary definition of the terms. Finally Kulikovsky rejects Isaacs’s claim that if dominion includes resisting the effects of the Fall at present, it follows that the original creation was not good. It does not necessarily follow.
McDurmon’s article maintains that the dominion exercised by Adam was not lost to Satan. He also argues that the dominion mandate is a true command given to Adam and Eve.
Isaacs provides a long and rambling reply to these three responses to his original article. The pith of his argument however is that the dominion mandate is not a command given to Adam and Eve but a blessing which was lost. Furthermore, he defines dominion as absolute power or control over the world. So when Jesus heals a disease with a word he is exercising the dominion that Adam was originally given. Humans do not have the blessing of dominion granted to Adam, but disciples of Christ can by faith exercise this dominion and raise people from the dead or command a tree to uproot itself and be planted in the sea (Acts 9:40; Lk. 17:6).
I think Isaacs is basically correct to see Genesis 1:26-28 as a blessing rather than a command. But as with the image of God in man, the blessing of multiplying and exercising dominion, is marred but not destroyed. The image and the dominion blessing work together. The Hebrew grammar may indicate that the image is given so that the dominion blessing may be carried out. Thus, whatever else the image might entail, in the original context the image of God seems to include at least the capacities for carrying out the dominion blessing. Finally, that blessing included being fruitful, multiplying, and filling the earth—something that has been and is being fulfilled. Isaacs is overly speculative when he asserts that dominion is absolute, God-like control over creation. This is neither demanded by the vocabulary or the context. It is better to see the dominion as all those capabilities that humans have for ruling and managing this world—capabilities which set them apart from the animal creation. Even granting that these capabilities were greater before the Fall, this would only demonstrate the marring of the blessing. It would not necessitate its absolute removal.
Rhodes, Stan. "Was John Wesley Arguing for Prevenient Grace as Regenerative?" Wesleyan Theological Journal 48, no. 1 (Spring 2013): 73-85.
Rhodes investigates the significance of this paragraph in Wesley’s works:
It is such a divine conviction of God and of the things of God as even in its infant state enables everyone that possess it to ‘fear God and work righteousness.’ And whosoever in every nation believes thus far the Apostle declares is ‘accepted of him.’ He actually is at that very moment in a state of acceptance. But he is at present only a servant of God, not properly a son. Meantime let it be well observed that ‘the wrath of God’ no longer ‘abideth on him.’*
Rhodes argues that Wesley reference to a state of acceptance connects back to a Puritan discussion about works of preparation that precede justifying grace. William Perkins and the British delegation to the Synod of Dort: "While the Orthodox Continental Reformed theologians attending the synod insisted that the elect are unwilling to turn to God until their effectual calling, the preparationists believed that God gave the will to convert and thus allowed for a measure of cooperation on the part of the elect" (pp. 77-78). In this context, Rhodes holds that Wesley meant by acceptance something short of salvation. Thus he concludes, "Appreciating the larger context and the nuances which permitted Wesley to speak both of wrath no longer abiding and of wrath intensely abiding—both in relation to the same person!—suggests that his aim in making the declarations in On Faith was not to argue that prevenience is itself regenerative in the sense of crossing over from death to life.
*John Wesley, Sermon 106, "On Faith," §10, in Sermons III, ed. Albert C. Outler, vol. 3 of The Bicentennial Edition of the Works of John Wesley (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1976-), 497.
Poythress, Vern S. "Adam Versus Claims from Genetics," Westminster Theological Journal 75 (2013): 65-82.
In this article Poythress deals with three challenges that modern genetics has made against a historical Adam: the large percentage (96% / 99%) common DNA between humans and chimpanzees, the alleged existence of junk DNA, and the claim that there is a "minimum population bottleneck" of around 5,000 to 10,000 that indicates that humans could not have descended from a single pair.
Poythress notes that evolutionary scientists are themselves moving away from the junk DNA claims. Yet even if we do have non-functional DNA, Poythress argues that we cannot conclude from that why or why not God would have included it.
Similarly, Poythress says that even if the Christian grants a 99 percent similarity between chimpanzee and human DNA, he need not deny that God created humans directly or that humans are qualitatively superior to chimpanzees due to the image of God. Even so, Poythress demonstrates the percentage of similarity is less than the often quoted 99% or 96%.
Regarding the population bottleneck, Poythress notes these studies assume gradualism: "The paper assumes that a purely gradualist process led to the human race, and then tries to calculate, based on that assumption and others, what might be the average population size at the time at which the proto-chimp and proto-human lineages initially diverged." Poythress argues that without the assumption of gradualism, descent from a single human pair cannot be ruled out. Poythress is willing to grant from these studies that humans lived up to 40,000 to 100,000 years ago, which he harmonizes with Scripture by proposing gaps in the genealogies. (Gaps in some genealogies do exist, but these would be massive gaps; furthermore, given the structure of the genealogies of Genesis 5, it is not clear that gaps are possible there.)
Poythress concludes that in discussing Adam an Eve one must take into consideration not only the science, but also the biblical data and the theological implications.
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, chapter 8.
Book II, chapter 8 of the Institutes presents Calvin’s interpretation of the Ten Commandments. He begins with a defense of the relevance of these commands to the Christian and with a proper method of interpretation: Calvin argues that the meaning of the commandments goes beyond a strict reading of the words to the purpose for which each is given. Thus the fifth commandment strictly enjoins obedience to one’s parents, but Calvin argues the Christian should discern from this the necessity of obeying all God appointed authority. He concludes this section with a discussion of the love commandments which summarize the law. He also has an interesting discussion about why the Scripture sometimes summarizes the law with reference to the second table alone. Calvin says that this is because the First Table deals more with the internal, thus the second table provides more proof of piety.