Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book reviews: D'Souza, Godfrey, Coulter

These are some of the books I've been reading lately.  It's an eclectic mix and I don't have time to do a thorough review of each one, but I'm sure you can deal.  I'll have quilts to show soon.

Life After Death: The Evidence by Dinesh D'Souza is something of a companion piece to his What's So Great About Christianity, which I reviewed a few months ago.  I believe his argumentation skills have improved measurably since the first book.  This is a book to recommend to agnostics and any atheists who are intellectually honest enough to be interested in evidence.  It's also good for believers who interact with atheists and agnostics, or who merely want to understand the terms of the conflict we find ourselves in.  D'Souza describes himself as a kind of "Christian cage-fighter" who likes to handicap himself when arguing against secularists by using only secular proofs, kind of like tying one hand behind his back.  He doesn't ever really untie the religious hand, but the final chapter is pretty much guaranteed to anger the hard-core New Atheists if they manage to get that far.  It's a difficult read in the sense that most of us don't have a strong grounding in philosophy (or our memory of Rel/Phil in college is rusty).  But D'Souza carefully spells out the history of the debate and uses clear examples to make deep philosophy understandable.  I appreciated this book and -- the ultimate testimonial for me -- it's one I'll probably try to buy after reading it from the library.  Well worth the reading for people serious about the great questions in life.

An Unexpected Journey: Discovering Reformed Christianity by W. Robert Godfrey of Westminster Seminary in California, is a brief presentation of Reformed teaching and a spiritual autobiography.  Godfrey observes that the spiritual autobiography, while prevalent in other branches of Christianity, has been neglected in the Reformed tradition, and sets out to rectify that.  Godfrey was raised as a nominal Methodist but experienced a more vibrant faith in the Dutch Reformed tradition.  He notes the importance of family life, the catechism of children, and education as features of Reformed practice that appealed to him.  Although he comes down squarely on the side of Van Til in apologetics and I come from the classical apologetics camp myself, he makes an interesting point when he says that recognizing the presuppositions of secular intellectuals and thereby defusing them is important for young students.  He says, “The Reformed Christianity that I learned was not fearful of the world or eager to hide from the challenges of the day.  Rather, it was confident that the mind should be used as a servant of true religion.” (p. 79) Those of us in the Reformed tradition love our theology, and this is a very theological autobiography.  In the “Worship” chapter there is a discussion of how the Reformed tradition of simple, intellectually stimulating and heartfelt worship is threatened by the prevalence of worship styles lifted from the Pentecostal and Arminian Revivalist traditions.  I think this would be a good book for those who are dissatisfied with life in the typical American megachurch but don't exactly know what they're looking for as an alternative.

I know it's a Sunday and schadenfreude is a poor excuse for Christian charity, but I might as well confess it now -- I love Ann Coulter.  I want her to be Secretary of State (or perhaps even more powerful, White House Press Secretary) in a Palin administration.  I recently finished If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd Be Republicans and am working through Godless. It's hard, because every page is packed with the kind of wit you don't find in even the best newsrooms anymore.  Witness: "When a Democrat is in the White House, Republican senators vote by huge majorities to confirm extreme left-wing lawyers to the Supreme Court, such as former ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg. When a Republican is president, Democratic senators turn every Supreme Court nomination -- even lower court appointments -- into Armageddon."  (Godless, p. 106).  Been there, lived that.  I was in Washington for the Souter and Thomas confirmations.  I know, you wouldn't think Souter could provoke Armageddon.  But so true.  And to top it off, Coulter is blonde.  I'd like to see her handle the blonde jokes.  Payback time!

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