Morgan, Edmund S. Roger Williams: The Church and the State. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967.
This is a very helpful interpretation of Roger Williams’s thought. It is not a biographical study, though biographical details are included when relevant to Williams’s thought. In sum Williams seems to have had true insights that were contrary to the customary thought of the time, but he held to these insights with such rigor that he drove himself into other errors. For instance Williams was correct to believe that the church needed a pure membership that was separate from the mixed state church. But he drove this to such an extreme that he could no longer fellowship with the Separatists at Plymouth because the church did not reprimand members who listened to Puritan (Anglican) preaching while traveling in England. Also, Williams was convinced that if worship was to be kept pure, unbelievers must not participate in any part of worship. This meant that unbelievers should not be permitted to listen to preaching in church because preaching was part of worship (the gospel could be proclaimed to the lost outside church). It meant that families should not pray together if some of the children were unsaved because prayer was part of worship. Williams also rightly recognized that a pure church ideal leads to a baptist position, but he left the Baptists in Rhode Island because he also believed in the necessity of apostolic succession for baptism to be valid and he believed that the Antichrist had ended that succession.
Williams is perhaps best known for his thinking on religious liberty. Morgan helpfully points out that the difference between Williams and the Puritans on this matter has its root in their different understandings in the way the Old Testament relates to the New. The Puritans thought their colony was like Israel. It was in a covenant with God. God would bless them if their colony obeyed God’s laws; He would judge them if they disobeyed. They copied the laws of Moses when writing their own laws. They thought the responsibility of Old Testament kings to keep idolatry out of Israel was the responsibility of their government also. Williams disagreed. He said that Israel was a shadow of the church. The Old Testament laws and the examples of Old Testament rulers were pictures of Christ and the church. Modern day rulers should not take those teachings literally. Williams said that the government’s only purpose was to protect people’s bodies and goods from harm. Rulers did not need to be Christians to that. Furthermore, most rulers in the world were not Christians. Williams did not trust rulers to make right decisions about what religion should be practiced in their countries. He said that people should be free to worship according to their consciences. It did not matter if they were Puritans, Quakers, Muslims, or atheists. Again, Williams saw some important things that the Puritans missed (though both of them erred in their relation of the Testaments), and yet Williams also seems to be a first step toward American secularism. I see no biblical problem in allowing freedom of worship within moral bounds for other religions, keeping the church and state distinct, while also requiring state officials to recognize Christianity as the moral compass for the nations laws. Many states adopted this approach even after the Constitution went into effect.
Shales, Amity. The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. Harper, 2007.
Shales’s title plays off of two uses of the phrase "the forgotten man." The first use of the phrase came from a nineteenth century essay by William Graham Sumner. Sumner identified the forgotten man as the one that bears the burdens that progressives and social reformers lay on him in their efforts to help others. Roosevelt uses the phrase to describe those in need from the programs of the New Deal. It is an effective title because it keeps the question before the reader’s mind throughout the book as to who the forgotten man truly was.
Piper, John. & David Mathis, eds. Acting the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification. Crossway, 2013.
The essays from this volume are drawn from sermons at a Desiring God conference. The conference seemed designed to address an antinomian tendency among some of the "young, restless, and reformed" whose conception of "grace-based," and "gospel-centered" leaves no room for Spirit-empowered personal striving toward Christlikeness. I found the essays by John Piper and Kevin DeYoung to be the most beneficial. Piper develops a theology of sanctification and DeYoung demonstrates that the Bible gives a multiplicity of incentives for sanctification.
Carwardine, Richard. Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power. New York: Knopf, 2006.
This is not a biography of Lincoln. Instead it looks at Lincoln as a politician. Carwardine examines his political viewpoint, objectives, and how these changed (or did not change) over time. He also looks at how Lincoln gained power through the party process and how he governed. I gained a greater appreciation for Lincoln’s skill as a political leader and as president. Carwardine also paid attention to Lincoln’s religious milieu and his own religious beliefs.
Jones, Mark. Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? P&R, 2013.
As a Puritan scholar and Presbyterian pastor Mark Jones is doubtless glad to see greater interest in Reformed theology. However, he is also concerned that many who identify themselves as grace-based and gospel-centered are actually more antinomian than historically Reformed. Jones provides a helpful history of antinomianism. He argues that the imitation of Christ and obedience to the moral law of God are appropriate guides to sanctification. He further argues that God rewards good works, and that good works are necessary for salvation, though not meritorious of it. Assurance of salvation involves not only reliance on the promises of the gospel but also a recognition of spiritual growth in obedience. In addition, Jones rejects the antinomian sentiment that our disobedience does not affect God’s love toward us because God only sees us in Christ and thus does not see our sin. Rather, the Puritans distinguished between an unchanging love of God for us based on our status in Christ and another aspect of his love that is pleased with or obedience and grieved and angered by our disobedience. This summary of positions, however, does not do justice to the exposition of the positions within the book. Well worth reading.
Miller, Perry. "Roger Williams: An Essay in Interpretation." In The Complete Writings of Roger Williams. Volume 7. 1963; Reprinted: Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2007.
Perry Williams also helpfully treats the differences in the relation between the Testaments in Puritan and in Roger Williams’s thought:
"This secular interpretation of Williams is a misreading of his real thought. . . . It is his writings that reveal the true issue between Williams and the spokesmen for the New England theocracy; between him and Winthrop; between him and John Calvin. The issue was not at all the content of the four indictments. It was rather the broad, the undermining, the truly dangerous conviction from which he deduced these specific corollaries. The difference was an irreconcilable opposition between two methods of reading the Bible. ¶. . . Roger Williams was a ‘typologist.’ John Cotton and his colleagues were ‘federalists.’ Williams held that the historical Israel was a ‘type’ that had been absorbed into the timeless and a-historical ‘antitype’ of Jesus Christ. Cotton and his friends held that God had entered into a covenant with Abraham to nominate a chosen people, that Christ was the seal upon this covenant, which continued still to bind Him and His people together. They founded their social and historical endeavor upon the reality of this temporal and organic development from Palestine to Boston, out of which came a solid system of interpreting the growth, the step-by-step unfolding of Christianity. Without this demonstrable continuity human history would be meaningless; without it the Christian community would dissolve into chaos. ¶But Williams, by treating the Israel of Moses, Abraham and Isaac as a ‘figurative’ prophecy of a purely spiritual and invisible church (which by its nature would be utterly alienated from any physically embodied political order) was putting a chasm between the Old Testament and the New. He was cutting off the present from its origins. ¶Consequently, when he wrote that he would prove [Vol. III, 316] ‘that the state of Israel as a Nationall State made up of Spirituall and Civill power, so farre as it attended upon the spirituall, was merely figurative and typing out the Christian Churches consisting of both Jewes and Gentiles, enjoying the true power of the Lord Jesus, establishing, reforming, correcting, defending in all cases concerning his Kingdome and Government, Williams was hacking savagely at the root of every ecclesiastical organization through which Western civilization had striven to confine the anarchical impulses of humanity. If he was correct then all coherence was gone, not only theological but social; there could then be nothing but make-shift and fallible expedients, such as a ‘social compact’ too tenuous to claim any sanctions which a rebel need respect If he was correct, the colonization of New England was a gigantic and senseless blunder" (10-11).
"By this form of argument [Williams’s typological argument] David and Solomon are not to be condemned for executing Jewish heretics; in fact the justice or injustice of their administrative actions is irrelevant, except in a ‘figurative’ sense. They ruled over both the civil and spiritual kingdom. But no Christian magistrate since the Resurrection can play the dual role. No ruler, Spanish, English, or Bostonian, has any right to punish one who dissents form his idea of true Christianity, even if the offender appear irretrievably anti-Christian. All typical regimes have been abolished in the consuming light of the disclosure of their hidden secret; they have given way to the antitype, which is the true church, radically ‘separated’ form pretended religious institutions, such as the parish churches of England. . . .By treating the Old Testament as figurative he did not explicitly deny that it was also valid as a chronicle of facts. But in effect he demoted that aspect of the sacred books to virtual insignificance. The true thread on which they are strung was a sort of literary, a rhetorical, schematisation. Churches which in Christian times claim the right to act upon the precedents of Israel are confusing categories hopelessly. . . . We have only to contrast Williams’ approach with that of orthodox New England, with the conception of a legitimacy based upon the continuous covenant, to perceive why the orthodox had to see in Williams their most dangerous foe. He declared at the end of the chapter cited above, and elsewhere, a thousand times, that they who follow Moses’ church constitution, ‘which the New English by such a practice implicitly doe, must cease to pretend to the Lord Jesus Christ and his institutions.’ . . . If they saw him as a firebrand, it was not because he proclaimed the doctrine of liberty for all consciences, but because he set up a conception of cause and effect, within the framework of time, which made every Protestant assertion of the civil authority in matters of religion a blasphemy against their own Savior" (18-19).
Foulkes, Francis. "The Acts of God: A Study of the Basis of Typology in the Old Testament." In The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?: Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New. Edited G. K. Beale. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.
Foulkes sees a twofold basis for typology. First it is grounded in the character of God, who acts consistently in history such that a pattern may be seen in his acts of judgment and in his acts of mercy. Second, typology is grounded in the progressive nature of God’s action, which means that God’s acts in the Old Testament are incomplete and find their climax in his acts in the New. Foulkes distinguishes between typology, which is grounded in history and tied to the context of passages and allegory which is word-based, ahistorical, and non-contextual.
Hesselgrave, David J. "Conversing with Gen-Xers and Millennials Concerning Law and Grace, Legalism and Liberty (An Open Letter to John and Joyce)."
Hesselgrave begins with definitions and settles on three variants of legalism (two bad and one good): "salvation by works legalism," "excessive conformance legalism," "reactive legalism/nomism" (the later indicating obedience to God’s law from a grateful heart of love). Hesselgrave then provides a brief history of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism in which he stresses the need to appreciate the strengths of Fundamentalism. He denies that the first type of legalism can be pinned on Fundamentalism. Whether the second or third (negative or positive) apply to Fundamentalists varies on a case by case basis. While seeming to agree with the evangelical assessment that Fundamentalists were too separatist, Hesselgrave seems to indicate that Evangelicals made the opposite error in their relation to the world. Hesselgrave concludes with nine guidelines: (1) "Salvation by works legalism" is always wrong, (2) "Christ himself must be the judge of" whether someone is guilty of "excessive conformance legalism," (3) "reactive legalism/nomism" is "highly pleasing to God," (4) NT faith "involves "belief(s), believing and behavior," (5) grace should provoke a response of gratitude that affects behavior, (6) a born-again Christian cannot be lawless, (7) "Christian liberty . . . means ‘set free’ not ‘self-serve,’ (8) the Great Commission invokes discipline people to observe all his commands, (9) the "essence" of the Kingdom of God is the rule of Christ. Regarding the particular issue of an institutional "code of conduct," Hesselgrave notes, "When it comes to surrendering personal liberty to meet the need for credibility on the part of corporate entities such as a Christian church, school, or mission agency, the weight of biblical principles and precedents clearly seems to be on the side of that Christian entity—provided that its requirements and regulations are clearly announced and biblically based. It is Western individualism rather than Christian conviction that recoils at the idea of serving by submitting. The Scriptures stress the testimony of the Church as a Body, not just or primarily the freedom of its members."
Kevan, Ernest F. "Legalism: An Essay on the Views of Dr. Emil Brunner," Vox Evangelica 2 (1963): 50-57.
Rebuts Brunner’s existentialist-based contention that any obedience to a pre-stated law is legalism.
Articles on "Body," "Anthropology," and "Image Doctrine" in Allan D. Fitzgerald, Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.
Hamilton, Jim. "Does the Bible Condone Slavery and Sexism?" In In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture, ed. Steven B. Cowan and Terry L. Wilder. Nashville: Broadban and Holman, 2013.
Hamilton answers the titular question in the essay’s second sentence: "Of course not!" Regarding sexism, Hamilton notes that much depends on proper definitions. The Bible does teach an "ontological equality" between male and female while also demonstrating "a righteous hierarchy in edenic gender relations." Hamilton understands sexism as both "feminism, the female desire to control, and Chauvinism, harsh male abuse of females." Hamilton argues that both slavery and sexism result from sin. In answering the charge that the New Testament authors condone slavery because they command slaves to obey their masters, noting "The authors of the New Testament are not out to revolutionize the existing social order but to make disciples of Jesus. . . . As day will come when social justice will be achieved, when Jesus will establish his kingdom, but the authors of the New Testament expect tribulation and affliction, the messianic woes, until that day comes." This is a mostly correct answer. However, it would have been stronger if Hamilton had acknowledged that when Christianity spreads and disciples of Jesus have political power, they ought to rule righteously. This would include social reforms such as ending slave trade and slavery. Justice will only fully arrive when Christ returns, but he will judge kings for not ruling justly in the meantime.