Dallimore, Arnold. A Heart Set Free: The Life of Charles Wesley. Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1988.
This is another of Dallimore’s well-written biographies. Wesley is best known as a prolific hymn writer. Dallimore’s biography certainly enhances the reader’s appreciation for Wesley’s poetical gift. But Dallimore also demonstrates his role in the formation of Methodism and his relations with both his brother John and the evangelist George Whitefield. Dallimore’s writings are devotional, but they are not uncritical. Wesley’s weaknesses (interference with his brother’s marriage and overly-close attachment to the Anglican Church, to name but two) are also discussed in such a way as to benefit Christians who seek not only inspiration but cautionary lessons from the lives of Christians who have preceded them.
Gates, Robert M. Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. New York: Knopf, 2014.
This is a memoir by the Secretary of Defense for President George W. Bush’s last two years and President Barack Obama’s first two years. Its insights not only on the wars and military actions of those years but also on the way the White House and Department of Defense function was fascinating. Gates has decided opinions, and they do not always align with those of the presidents under whom he served. But he is careful to always speak respectfully even when in disagreement (this was not so much the case when he vented his frustrations with Congress).
Two quotations give a feel for the tone of the book—respectful but critical:
I had been lucky financially when I reentered government in late 2006. Under the ethics rules, I had to sell all the stocks I owned in early 2007, at the very top of the market. However, those joining the Obama administration in early 2009 who owned stocks, and there were quite a few, had to sell at the bottom of the market. A number of those people took huge losses in their personal finances, and I admired them for their patriotism and willingness to serve at great sacrifice. I would disagree with more than a few of these appointees in the years ahead, but I never doubted their love of country (although, as in every administration, there was also ample love of self). 302-3.
I expressed my great concern [to Thomas Donilon, the National Security Advisor] that we were entering uncharted waters and that the president couldn’t erase the Egyptians’ memory of our decades-long alliance with Mubarak with a few public statements. Our course, I said, should be to call for an orderly transition. We had to prevent any void in power because it likely would be filled by radical groups. I said we should be realistically modest ‘about what we know and about what we can do.’ Donilon reassured me that Biden, Hillary, he, and I were on the same page. All of us were very concerned that the president and White House and NSS staffs were leaning hard on the need for regime change in Egypt. White House staffers worried about Obama being ‘on the wrong side of history.’ But how can anyone know which is the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ side of history when nearly all revolutions, begun with hope and idealism, culminate in repression and bloodshed. After Mubarak, what? 304-5
Kapilow, Rob. All You Have to Do is Listen: Music from the Inside Out. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008.
Kapilow’s thesis is that attentive listeners to music really can understand what a composer is seeking to accomplish simply by listening. He writes to non-musicians, providing them with basic music theory that will help them better appreciate classical music. A companion website provides scores and recordings of the examples in the book.
Oren, Michael B. Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
This is the definitive history of the Six Days War. It is not designed to be a battlefield thriller. Instead it provides historical context for the war and details how the war unfolded both on the battlefield and diplomatically. Well worth reading.
Peter Lombard. The Sentences, Book 4: On the Doctrine of Signs. Translated by Giulio Silano. Toronto, Canada: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2010.
Peter Lombard’s Sentences is the most significant theological text published. It was the theology textbook of the Middle Ages. Even Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae did not displace it until after the Reformation. The Sentences were finally translated into English between 2007 and 2010. This is the primary primary source for understanding medieval theology. Book 4 deals with the sacraments, so it is going to highlight that areas of medieval theology most at odds with orthodox Protestant theology.
Currid, John D. Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.
Currid’s book is set against the backdrop of an increasing willingness, even among professed evangelicals, to see the Old Testament as dependent on ancient Near Eastern mythology and folklore. This is often done in such a way that the historicity of the biblical accounts are questioned. Currid’s book highlights, by way of contrast, that one way the biblical accounts are related to ANE writings is through polemic. I found some of his proposed polemics convincing. For instance, the use of the rod turned serpent by Moses, the parting of the Red Sea, and the drought in Baal-worshipping Israel during Elijah’s time, and Yahweh as the true thundering deity all seem to have true polemic elements to them. I wondered if some of the accounts, for instance those alleged to parallel Joseph and Moses, were truly parallel. With the creation and flood stories my inclination is to see shared memory as a more likely cause for parallelism. I think before links between Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts to the biblical text can be firmly established there needs to be a control group study on creation and flood stories from around the world.
Hoffmeier, James K. Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
There is no direct evidence for Israel’s sojourn in Egypt or the Exodus. However, this should not be used to discount this historicity of Scripture accounts. Hoffmeier looks briefly at what can be legitimately expected from archaeology regarding Israel in Egypt given what is and can be known about Egypt at that time and in the place where the Israelites lived. He concludes that the lack of direct evidence for Israel is actually more to be expected than otherwise when this comparative study is undertaken. However, most of the book seeks to provide indirect evidence for Israel in Egypt and the Exodus. Hoffmeier is able to demonstrate that “Semetic-speaking people” would come to Egypt during droughts. Such people did live in Egypt during the time Bible places Israel there. There is also evidence of non-Egyptians, like Joseph, serving in government. Hoffmeier also documents Egyptian influence and an understanding of Egyptian practices in the Pentateuch. This argues for an author familiar with ancient Egypt (rather than one more familiar with later Mesopotamian cultures). Though there are some points at which I would disagree with Hoffmeier (e.g., aspects of his discussion of the plagues) or at which I am not yet entirely convinced (e.g., route of the exodus), the book is an excellent defense of the historicity of the latter part of Genesis and Exodus. I was also pleased to see Hoffmeier cast doubt about the reality of some of the parallels that I found least convincing in Currid’s book (see above).