Immigration and the 2016 Election

Immigration is one of the toughest political issues that faces our country.  It is a point of strong contention among Republicans.  It has created some unusual political bedfellows and alliances, such as that between Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, and Ted Cruz.  It is an potential albatross to candidates like Marco Rubio and others.

There are basically three strands of immigrants or immigrant concerns.

First, we are at war with Islamic Jihadist Terrorism throughout the world.  During the World War II era, the term Fifth Column arose.  Its origins were as follows:  During the Spanish Civil War,  a Nationalist general named Emilio Mola had four columns of troops moving toward Madrid, but, in his words, he had a “fifth column” inside the city that would support him and undermine his opponents.

Fifth Column movements were used or feared throughout the war.  In cases where there were secret Nazi supporters inside America, there were limited amounts of damage they could do.  Inside Britain, Fifth Column activities were more threatening.  The Allies strongly depended upon such movements working on our side, especially in regard to the French Underground.

Modern Islamic Terrorism is almost totally a Fifth Column movement.  Geographical boundaries, recognizable uniforms, and national leaders, which characterize previous enemies, aren’t common in this war.

With legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and international travelers coming into the United States through innumerable ports of entry, this is a concern.  The 9-11 attackers were all here on American soil long before they attacked us.  Obviously, the U.S. has to be aggressive and has to be successful at preventing “enemies” from entering the country.  No one entering the country identifies himself or herself as a terrorist, although some have posted status updates on Facebook regarding their intentions.

The United States has no choice other than going the extra mile to keep such immigrants out.  There are refugees who need asylum and aid.  Whatever can be done and should be done must be done somewhere other than on American soil.

Second, there are criminals who come into the country.  If I were a criminal, I would prefer a rich country with a system of laws to a poor country with nasty prisons.  By that, I mean that I would rather be serving time in an American prison than stealing from peasants in a backward country.  Along with the best and brightest of people who flee or seek a new life in America are the criminal minds who see boundless opportunities.

Obviously, these immigrants, whether legal or illegal, need to be dealt with harshly.  I will let the experts determine what is best.  Like it or not, we are not going to re-institute public hangings (and I am glad).

Third, many people come to the United States–legally and illegally–because of the rich possibilities found in this country.  The garage sales and junk stores in America are a veritable Sachs Fifth Avenue to people who come from desperate poverty.  Minimum wages or even sub-minimum wages are high dollars to many who come here.  Along with the poor are the more affluent and better educated who come here because of the educational, cultural, and economic opportunities.

For example, Asian Indian doctors make up a large part of the American medical services.  Accents aside, I have been blessed many times by foreign doctors who have helped me or my family.  A large number of Indian families have found lucrative jobs and opportunities in the motel and hotel business.  Some years back, it seemed like (and I am basing this on personal and limited travels) Indians were buying the older middle-of-the road motels.  Their decorating tastes were awful, but they were successful at maintaining these businesses.  As the years go by, I seen more Indians running and even building higher end motels and hotels.

Another example, in this part of the country, Mexicans make up a large portion of the roofers.  Any time you hear the tapping of roofing hammers, you will see a large number of Mexicans on the roofs of houses.  One roofer explained this to me by noting that a roofing job needs lots of workers who can get the task finished in short order.  As soon as one group of workers clear the old shingles off the roof, another group begins putting on the new shingles.  It is hot, heavy, hard work.  (I tried it a few times and simply can’t do it.)

Most of the people who come here for the opportunities have never studied the founding documents of our country nor our history.  Most don’t hold to our (or my) religious beliefs; few are bona fide free market capitalists; almost none subscribe to National Review; and American politics is more of a puzzle to them than to the rest of us.

But they are attracted to America, have relatives in America, and have hopes of a better life in America.  And there are lots of them.  And there are lots of ways they can get in.  And our southern border is porous.  And our northern border is long.  And our coastlines are vast.

These are the three strands of the immigration problem.  Now for some history.

American History and Immigration

America has always had immigration problems.  John Smith had to roughly deal with some troublesome immigrants in Jamestown.  Added to that is the fact that when he himself arrived, he was under lock and chain.  That was in 1607.  When the beloved Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth Rock in 1620, they had to create some guidelines lest the God-fearers aboard the Mayflower were to be outvoted by the majority non-Christian or at least non-Separatist travelers.  The result was the Mayflower Compact.

I am sure that Native Americans would find both groups referenced above as the original troublesome and illegal aliens.

There were always waves of people coming to America that were opposed by other groups here.  There were always groups that were coming here because of labor needs who were not welcomed with equal opportunities and pathways to citizenship.  Here we think of both indentured servants and Africans.

All of the following groups were considered troublesome, irritating, unwelcome, or out of sync with the goals of the emerging nation:  Quakers, Scots and Scots-Irish, Catholics, Baptists, Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews, and cannibals (see Moby Dick, the early chapters).

During a major phase of our history, the Irish were a major plague to those who were here.  “Irish need not apply” was often written below “Help Wanted” ads.  In time, southern and eastern Europeans, which also Russians and other ethnic groups living inside the boundaries of Tsarist Russia, were coming over in droves.

In the 1800s, Nativism arose as a political movement.  It opposed the immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.  In the 1920s, the renewed Ku Klux Klan found a following that extended throughout the mid-western states and other parts of the country, besides the south.  The Klan always focused on suppressing blacks, but they were also–in the early 20th century–against Catholics and Jews, most of whom were fairly recent immigrants.

In the late 1800s and on until at least the first quarter of the twentieth century, the “Yellow Peril” was a major concern.  This term refered to Chinese and Japanese and other Asian peoples.  For a time, Chinamen were welcomed as workers, and they are remembered for their work on the Transcontinental Railroad.  Coming to the west coast, the Yellow Races were labeled a peril.  Everything bad, cruel, demeaning, and false that has been said about other ethnic groups were said of Asians.  This opposition can be seen as existing up to the time that people of Japanese heritage were locked away in detainment camps during World War II.

These are a few examples of the recurring fears and phobias regarding “furineers.”

Blights on Our History

So what do we do now?  I don’t pretend to have any or all answers to the immigration crisis, but I can say for certain what cannot be done and will not be done by any candidate or any party.  America will not and cannot deport millions of people.  Any political party who was party to such an action would be destroyed.  No President could survive taking such an action.

Four Ugly Examples:

  1.   The Trail of Tears.  President Andrew Jackson thought he was doing the right thing in the forcible removal of Cherokee people from the Georgia/Carolina regions to Oklahoma.  If the events had entailed a safe moving of the people, it would have been bad enough.  But the suffering, death, and damage done to the Cherokees was and still is a terrible blot on our nation’s history.


2.  The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.  This was a part of the Great Compromise of 1850, which only delayed and did not prevent the War Between the States.  Southerners foolishly pushed for this law which entailed the capture and return of slaves who had escaped to free states.  It did not help the south.  Why were slaves escaping if the system was not deeply flawed?  Northern communities, rather than enforcing this law, sided with escaped slaves.

3.  The Removal of the Bonus Army of 1932.  This was another sad event in our history.  As the effects of the Great Depression deepened, many veterans and others gathered in Washington, D.C. to try to collect pay bonuses they thought were due them.  On the part of the Bonus Army, there were misguided veterans, some rabble rousers, and women and children.  President Herbert Hoover, overall a good man, foolishly sent the army in, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, to remove the Bonus Army.  There were deaths and injuries done to Americans by Americans.

4.  The Japanese Internment in World War II.  Since Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, serious efforts were made to protect this country.  Americans of Japanese descent were herded into internment camps.  Neither Germans nor Italians were interned although we were at war with those countries also.  As it happened, there were Japanese-Americans who were allowed to serve in our military and who proved their worth and commitment to the country.

No doubt there are other examples of errors, bad judgments, sins, and evils afflicted on people in our country’s history.  In most cases, people who made the decisions did so on the basis of real convictions about how to solve a problem.  (I don’t believe that Andrew Jackson, the U. S. Congress in 1850, Herbert Hoover, or Franklin Roosevelt were purposely doing evil.)

Here is a difference today:  We have media and lots of it.  The world has media and lots of it.  There are millions of people who came here illegally who are now working class folks.  (Yes, they are enjoying the government supplied freebies.  That is a separate problem.)  Many don’t know English, the Declaration of Independence, or the major thesis of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.  Many are women and children.  Many have no strong church or theological foundations.



I think we need to “do the next right thing.”  Evangelism and education are high priorities.  So is a pathway to citizenship.  Many of us descended from “illegal aliens.” After all, what Indian council approved our coming here!)



50 Plus Good Reads and Authors from 2015

Theological and Christian Living

1. God in the Whirlwind by David Wells
This is the follow-up to Wells’ four books on Christianity and Modern Culture. A heavy theological application.

2. The Prayer of the Lord by R. C. Sproul
A study of the Lord’s Prayer. I preached on that prayer several times before reading this book, but I would read it again before preaching on the prayer.

3. The Philippian Fragment by Calvin Miller
A really fun spoof on much that happens in Christianity and Churchianity. I stumbled upon a used copy of this book, which turned out to be a really funny and yet sometimes convicting book.

4. In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life by Sinclair Ferguson
50 chapters of a few pages each. Most mornings, I read 2 of them. Very good, heart-centered, theologically sound reading for the start of the day. Ferguson is a great writer and Christian teacher.

5. God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth by G. K. Beale and Mitchell Kim
A very good study of the recurring Biblical images and uses of Eden and the Temple. Worth a second and more detailed reading.

6. The Case for the Psalms by N. T. Wright
Good. Worth another read.

7. For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, edited by Storms and Taylor Like many collections of essays, the content varied. Some were a bit too scholarly for my early morning comprehension. Lots of good material. A great tribute to a great preacher.

8. On the Brink: Grace for the Burned-Out Pastor by Clay Werner
Good and right on target on so many issues.

9. Calvinism in Times of Crisis
A collection of talks by such men as G. C. Berkouwer, H. G. Stoker, and others given in Grand Rapids in 1946. Weighty and dated, but these men were solid Calvinists who were applying the Faith to the current crises.

10. Books by R. J. Rushdoony
The Sermon on the Mount by R. J. Rushdoony
A brief study of the SOTM. Complements the work of others. Insights aplenty. Very good book for theological and devotional reading.
Sermons in Obadiah and Jonah by R. J. Rushdoony
A short book of 8 messages. Good for morning reading. Rushdoony always has something worth reading, meditating on, and remembering.
Van Til and the Limits of Reason by R. J. Rushdoony
A difficult short book. This is a reprint and slight expansion of the Thinkers of the Modern Mind (?) series that Presbyterian and Reformed did back in the 1960s-70s. A challenging introduction that reveals the thinking of both author and subject.

11. Concerning the True Care of Souls by Martin Bucer
A Banner of Truth reprint. Good study of Reformation theology. A manual of church oversight and Seelsorge–soul care. Interesting detailed study of penance, which was not just a Catholic practice.

12. What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman
I read this book in 2013 and went to Perman’s lecture at the ACCS conference in June in Dallas. I re-read it with the commitment to try to implement what he says. Very good book, worth multiple readings and applications.

13. Our Faith by Emil Brunner
Since I read Emil Brunner: A Reappraisal, I thought I should read something by Brunner. This is a very basic, almost catechetical study of Christian doctrines. Only a few points of detected differences. His opening chapter sounded like Van Til.

14. Prayer by Philip Yancey
Yancey writes the most powerful honest assessments of Christian struggles of anyone I know. I felt, however, the book went on a bit long with too many unanswerable dilemmas. In spite of that, it was a profitable and convicting read.

15. Living the Cross Centered Life by C. J Mahaney
A really good and soul nourishing book. Great quotes, great content.

16. Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale by Frederick Buchner
Outstanding morning read. Received this book as a birthday gift from Toni Lemley. Loved the book and plan on reading it and the author some more.

17. The Concordia Psalter.  This is a handy, beautiful collection of the Psalms with prayers following each Psalm.

Great Works by Great Writers

18. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
This is my second or third read and the first really good understanding of this much neglected classic, which we read in Humanities class. I am almost persuaded to pursue much more reading of Scott’s many volumes.

19. The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold by Evelyn Waugh
A strange, even haunting, but enjoyable book.

20. Books by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Apricot Jam and Other Stories by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
I read the first story over a year and a half ago. Then last year, I plodded through the rest of them. Several of them were hard to follow, but perhaps the book needs more attention. I am trying to fill a big Solzhenitsyn deficit in my life.
The Russian Question at the End of the Twentieth Century by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Much of the book is a survey of Russian history. Solzhenitsyn laments Russia’s failure to help its own people through the years. The last part is about the failure of progress to satisfy man’s most important needs. Worthy of a second reading.
The First Circle by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
This book took a while to get through, but the last 100 pages made it worth the effort. It definitely needs another reading, but more thought before that time. Also, I read the older 87 chapter version and now need the 96 chapter version.

21. Monsignor Quixote by Graham Greene
A very enjoyable novel. Based on Don Quixote, this story is about a poor priest and a defeated Communist mayor in Spain who travel throughout the country. Profound and funny.

22. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  It is always fun to teach this book which often becomes a favorite for students.

23. Fierce Wars and Faithful Wars (Book I of The Faerie Queene) by Edmund Spenser
Really enjoyed reading and teaching through this book again.


24. Two by Paul Johnson
The Renaissance by Paul Johnson
Read this because it is…well, by Paul Johnson, and because I have had it for a long time, and because it fit with what I was teaching at the time. A lot about art, which is one of Johnson’s specialties.
Eisenhower by Paul Johnson
Johnson has become the master of the short biography. It is a great survey of the life and gifts of a very skilled leader. Convincing and enjoyable. Typical Paul Johnson delightfulness.

25. Foundations: The History of England From Its Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors by Peter Ackroyd.
This is the first volume of a multivolume history of England. Not very easy reading, in part, because I am still vague about the chronology of English kings prior to the Tudors. Worthy read and one that makes me anxious to read the other volumes. My first reading of an Ackroyd title.

26. Our Supreme Task: How Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech Defined the Cold War Alliance
By Philip White
A really enjoyable book. How many Churchill books does it take to satisfy me? At least a few more.

27. Nations and Nationalism by Eric Hobshawm
Very challenging and detailed book. While reading this, I knew I was in the presence of a great thinker. Would have to read it again to more fully engage with it.

28. The Last Cavalryman: Lucian K. Truscott by Harvey Ferguson
Long break between the start and finish of this book. Truscott was a first rate general, but he has not received adequate attention. Good study of his role in the Italian and southern France campaigns.

29. Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Works of Alexander Henderson by L. Charles Jackson
Scholarly, heavily documented, and weighty study of the man and his times. There are lots of lessons to draw from this book regarding the interaction between faith and politics. Really glad that Reformation Heritage Books has published this and other fine books.

Books about Books and Authors

30. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
Enjoyable entry into the world of rare and antiquarian books. But the thief, John Gilkey, who loved books, was a totally disgusting amoral person.

31. On Writing by Stephen King
Overall, a really good book. King is often profane, but also often profound, and sometimes both in the same paragraph. I would like to read some, or at least one, of his books at some point.

32. When Books Went to War by Molly Guptil Manning
After a slow start, this turned out to be an interesting book. Much of the focus and many of the stories concern the American Service Editions of books that were printed by the millions to provide reading for the troops. Great story and an overlooked aspect of World War II.

33. Walking a Literary Labyrinth: A Spirituality of Reading by Nancy M. Malone
A surprisingly good book. Ms. Malone is a nun and of a slight liberal persuasion, but her discussion of the place of reading in our lives was totally agreeable and enjoyable.

34. How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem
By Rod Dreher
An enjoyable book that doesn’t easily fit into a niche. Not exactly a study of Dante or his poem; not exactly a Christian read, although it made the list of the best evangelical books of the year; largely autobiographical with a focus on Dreher’s physical and emotional breakdown and recovery.

35. The Other Solzhenitsyn: Telling the Truth about a Misunderstood Writer and Thinker by Daniel J. Mahoney
A great study. After some troubles getting into the book, I began read some of Solzhenitsyn himself. This is a necessary companion volume to Solzhenitsyn books and biographies.

Political Readings

36. Silent Revolution by Barry Rubin
An in-depth look at the Third Liberalism of our day. A good account of how Pres. Obama’s political views are far off course from those of liberals of the past. The book was repetitive, but useful.

37. Statism: The Shadows of Another Night, edited by Charlie Rodriquez
A collection of essays and speeches by Christian writers and former Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan . The theme is, of course, statism. Good and timely collection.

38. Insider Books about Politics
The Dark Side of Camelot by Seymour Hersh
After showing the video in class for years, I finally decided to read the book. I am astounded at how corrupt and evil the Kennedy brothers were. This book was quite a contrast with The Hawk and the Dove, which was one of the top reads for 2015.

Hell of a Ride: Backstage at the White House Follies1989-1993 by John Podhoretz
A fun but shocking look at the disorder and lack of coherence in the George H. W. Bush White House.
At Ease in the White House: The Uninhibited Memoirs of a Presidential Social Aide
By Col. Stephen Bauer
Very interesting book and very interesting job. I learned quite a bit about the social side of the White House. Bauer was a Vietnam vet. Very favorable views of Nixon, Ford, and Reagan. Carter was so stingy and unaware of how things ought to be done.
The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents
And/or In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect By Ronald Kessler
Fun for the inside look at the personalities, foibles, and faults of Presidents and families. Also a good study of the role, history, and inside fault lines within the Secret Service. Lots of overlapping stories in these two books.

How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life by Peter Robinson
Read this mostly as an afternoon read. Very enjoyable. Along with the expected anecdotes and stories, there was lots that I did not know. Robinson was the main author and proponent of the “tear down this wall” line.

39. Hard America; Soft America by Michael Barone
Read this book a few pages at a time. Although it is over 10 years old, it is still relevant and useful as a cultural analysis of good (hard) and bad (soft) trends in our country. Barone is a fine political and social commentator of a consrvative nature.

40. Christian Political Action in the Age of Revolution by Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer
Being that Groen is the author, what more needs to be said? This was written later than the Revolution and Unbelief collection. Quite good, but not an easy book to glean from. Groen describes the struggles and opposition he faced while laboring in Dutch politics.

41. Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics by Charles Krauthammer                                                                          A really fine collection of essays on a wide variety of topics. Krauthammer is a good stylist. I got this fine volume at a used book source for $2 and it was in new condition. What a find.

Coming Soon:  Favorite Popular Fiction Reads of 2015

Top Reads of 2015


Top 10 Books 2015 4

2015 was a great reading year.  I read more books and really enjoyed the reading more than ever.  I will soon be posting some of the good books I read this past year, but first I will deal with my top ten books and authors for the year.  Frequent readers (or the lone frequent reader) of this blog will recognize most of the titles since I wrote blog posts all through the year about books.

Here is a major change from past years:  I used to award a particular book and author first place.  Then I continued on with second place, third, and on through tenth place.  Sometimes, the best book reading experience is clear to me.  Sometimes not.  Then trying to figure whether a particular book was the sixth or seventh best became arbitrary.  So even though these books appear in an order, there is no ranking.  Actually, I am basing the list on the way the books are stacked up in the picture above.

Also authors of the books became either prideful or hurt because of the placings.  Even authors who were winning Pulitzer Prizes were angry because they did not win the Ben House Best Books Prize.  So, authors, you are all winners.  Come to Texarkana and claim your reward:  A picture with me, the chance to autograph my copies of your books, and a dinner together at Wendy’s (if I pay) or a nice restuarant (if the author pays).


For several years, I have been reading Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy.  This year I read the third volume: The Guns at Last Light.  This set focuses on the European campaigns of World War II, in particular, the American phase of the war, starting with North Africa, then on to Italy, and finally, the Normandy invasion to the end of the war.  Atkinson is an outstanding historian and writer.  He weaves together the overall military campaigns with both key and famous figures in the war and with the accounts of individual soldiers.  For good World War II history and good writing, read the entire set.  This set is to World War II what Shelby Foote’s Civil War is to the American Civil War.  (I hope to someday get the boxed set of all three volumes.  My copy of The Guns at Last Light is defective and coming apart.)

cover of The Great Divide

Thomas Fleming is THE historian of the American War for Independence and early American history.  Yet, he goes beyond his one specialty and writes both histories and novels on other parts of American history.  His latest book is The Great Divide:  The Conflict Between Washington and Jefferson That Defined a Nation.  One could assemble the various Fleming books and have a near complete multi-volume study of the life and times of George Washington.  I will dream of such a boxed set being published and arriving in the mail.

This book is a great companion to other Fleming books or a good stand alone volume.  Washington and Jefferson were fellow Virginians, political leaders and cohorts, and fellow companions in the battle for liberty for the new American nation.  Washington, thankfully, was a skilled leader.  He was able to use Jefferson in his administration.  Jefferson, on the other hand, was a schemer.  He was able to work for Washington while also working against him to advance his own political agenda.  Jefferson was also a rival with Alexander Hamilton.  Washington and Hamilton had a good understanding of the radicalism of the French Revolution, while Jefferson either fell prey to or willingly adopted the thinking of the Revolutionaries.

Political conflict is nothing new.  Good men differ.  Politics is a rough sport.  Thankfully, in these conflicts between two of the renowned figures on Mount Rushmore, Washington’s wiser course of action prevailed.

The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War by Nicholas Thompson is a great read.  This book was a total surprise to me.  I picked up a slightly marked used copy for a couple of bucks.  I thought it might be used as an occasional reference or might be read in that mythical future time when all books I own are read.  Then, I picked it up one evening and started reading.  This is an incredible history.  It is also a worthy tribute to two great American diplomats and civil servants.  I read lots of political books that leave me somewhat depressed.  This book was uplifting.

Nitze and Kennan were both Cold Warriors, basically New Deal Democrats, and intellectuals.  They generally differed on how America should handle the Soviet Union and other foreign policy challenges.  Neither man ever became Secretary of State or held elective office.  Both were superior men.  This book was written by Nitze’s grandson.

In an interesting anecdote, he tells of seeing a well worn complete set of Joseph Conrad’s books.  “How, Gramps, did you have time to read all of these books when you were negotiating all the arms treaties?”  Nitze replied, “Missiles are boring.  Conrad is interesting.”

The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision is a joint effort by Kevin Vanhoozer and Own Strachen, with a few short sections by other pastor/contributors.  For me, this book was preaching to the choir.  As it often happens, really smart theology students go for the academic track, while the others “settle” for being pastors.  As these authors testify, the most challenging academic and theological task is pastoral ministry.  “Our pastor is really a theologian” sometimes means that the listener better get prepared for a dull sermon with little application.  That should not be the case.

I am not a pastor (anymore), but I can testify to the need of pastors being more grounded in theology.  This is not just so he can refute Arminians, Dispensationalists, and others.  This is so he can open the Word of God and apply it to the congregation sitting in the pews.  This is a great study, no matter which side of the pulpit you are on during a Sunday morning service.

Os Guinness has written many good books for Christians that are profound, full of literary gems, and focused on the heart and mind connection.  And Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion may be his best book.  (The Call is quite good also.)  This is a book about Christian apologetics and more.  There have been many volumes of useful debate among apologists and theologians over defending the faith.  The various schools of thought (Presuppositionalist, Evidentialists, etc.) have built up worthy cases for their positions and useful critiques of the opposing schools.  This book never touches those intra-mural Christian debates.

This may very well be the best book I have read on Christian apologetics.  I would put it in this triad:  Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, Lewis’ Mere Christianity, and Guinness’ Fool’s Talk.  This book is filled with practical strategies of communicating with lost people and with objections to the faith.  Yet is is not a handbook.  It is high on my list of books to reread.

Two quick conclusions from reading Emil Brunner: A Reappraisal by Alister McGrath:  I want everything written by McGrath and everything written by Brunner.  Before reading this book, Brunner was a foggy theological person linked with Barth, Tillich, and other guys I was and am wary of.  The German theologians are daunting.  First, one has to get past the names, then the unusual ways of expressing themselves (in English translation), and then the scholarly technical baggage.  At least that is what I thought.  Brunner was a deep thinker, but a man capable of preaching and writing clear and forceful messages.  He and Barth had their own conflicts, and he is far different from Tillich or the liberal theologians of the Higher Critical Movement.

After reading this incredible study, I read Our Faith by Brunner.  It was a great read and almost made this list.  I look forward to reading Christianity and Civilization after reading McGrath’s appraisal of it.  Brunner clearly saw the spiritual dimensions of political movements (like Naziism and Communism).  There are some clinkers in his theology, but overall he was a great and all too often neglected theologian.

I said at the beginning that there was not going to be “The Number One Book for 2016.”  But if there were, it would be this one.  This is a long overdue, scholarly examination of the life of theologian, pastor, writer, political and social activist, educational reformer, and conservative thinker R. J. Rushdoony.  McVicar has given a good study of many conservative and theological currents that were moving along in the 1950s through the 1980s that were impacted by evangelicals.  Rushdoony may not have been as publically prominent as others, such as Francis Schaeffer or Carl F. H. Henry, but he was even more influential.

Rushdoony was a public theologian.  He spent much of his life speaking to and writing for small core groups, but those groups along with his writings added up over time.  Without Rushdoony, it would be hard to imagine modern Christian education and home schooling, Creation Science, Van Tilian apologetics, Postmillennialism, and Christian worldview thinking.

One can hope that this fine study will inspire and provoke more books.  We now need an Iain Murray-type biography of Rushdoony.  (Meaning, McVicar is an academic, while Murray writes for the broader Christian reading audience. )  We also need a good biography of some of the other key men in these related movements.  I gave a series of lectures some years back called “Calvinist Worldview Thinkers in the Wilderness Years.”  Those men and the movements need to have their stories told.

I knew I would like You Must Read:  Books That Have Shaped Our Lives.  I just did not realize how much I would enjoy it.  First of all, the book itself and all the books it highlights are Banner of Truth publications.  This book is, in one sense, a sales catelog, a promotional guide, a book report advertising and pushing Banner titles.  And that’s all right by me.  Second, the contributors include some of the best Christian authors and pastors of our time, including Joel Beeke, Alister Brigg, R. C. Sproul, John McArthur, Mark Dever, and many others.  Third, the chapters themselves are good studies of the contents and impact of the books.

As I read accounts of Ian Murray’s Forgotten Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards: A Biography, John Murray’s Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, and Arnold Dallimore’s George Whitefield, I was reminded of how good and formative the many Banner books have been on my life.  Then there are selections over Banner books I have not read, such as Thomas Boston’s Human Nature in its Fourfold State (the subject of Al Mohler’s chapter) and others I don’t own, I found myself hungering to read the missing links.

This book is, in large part, a tribute to Iain Murray for both his own writings and those he has labored to put into or back into print.  It is also a testimony to how many years the current Calvinist and Reformed revival has been in the making.  (Now, I have to get a hardback copy of this book.)

Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together by Andrew Root was another surprise.  I love the Bonhoeffer life story, even though it always leaves me sad.  I love The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.  I was disappointed in Eric Metaxas’ enjoyable, but flawed biography of Bonhoeffer.  I assumed this book was simply a retelling of his life, but just the early part of it when he was basically a youth director.

This book closely examined Bonhoeffer’s teaching method and investment of his life in that of his students.  Bonhoeffer ministered to young people in Germany and for a time in Spain (to a German community there).  He, too, was a public theologian.  He ministered to the minds of his students and promoted a life of Christian fellowship.  This book is not a biography or the history of a movement in Germany of the 1920s-30s, even though it contains biographical and historical material.  It is a good study of the role of teaching youth and mentoring disciples.

Tim Keller has moved into the “I want every book he writes” category for me.  I read this book about the same time as I read Fool’s Talk by Guinness.  Both books are essential reads for people who deal with rhetoric and ideas.  Keller rightly sees preaching or proclaiming as something that takes place in the pulpit, but not only in the pulpit.  My preaching duties and opportunities are not frequent anymore, but I still found this book extremely helpful to read.  Yes, I plan on reading it again.

Coming Soon:  50 Good Books I Read in 2016