In my last post, I discussed the nature of scholarly university press publications and some books I have read over the past year, along with a book I am currently working through. In this post, I will discuss some books I have received in recent months that are both scholarly books and yet books with a wider appeal.
The following books are university press publications that I am currently trying to preview. Due to having too many books and too little time, my first goal is “pre-reading.” If you have never read, use, and studied How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, stop everything you are doing right now, order it, and carefully read at least the first few sections of that book. (Some say that one is better off getting the original version of the book which was just by Adler.) At any rate, pre-reading is an important aspect of getting into, embracing, and imbibing a book.
Now, on to some very promising looking books.
When I first read the title of this book, it was love at first sight. I even like the way it is presented: Destroyer of the gods with a lower case g in “gods.” This book is published by Baylor University Press and is reasonably price at $29.95 in hardback. Dr. Hurtado is Emeritus Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Although he lives in Scotland, he was born in Missouri. He has written or contributed to quite a few books and studies on early Christianity.
Part of my interest in this book comes from my current teaching on Augustine and his classic work The City of God. In our time, Christians have awakened to and devoted energy to such topics as developing a Christian worldview or learning Christian apologetics. Christianity is a warring faith, although the weapons, when used rightly, are not swords, spears, and shields. Christians are called t be in the gods-toppling and idol-displacing business. There is much to be learned and reminded of from the early centuries when Romans could not and would not countenance Christian truths. As it notes on the review at the Baylor University website, Christians were called “silly,” “stupid,” “irrational,” “simple,” “wicked,” “hateful,” “obstinate,” “anti-social,” “extravagant,” and ”perverse.” But more than insults were hurled at believers.
All of the books I have been teaching in my Humanities course recount the triumph of the Christian faith. Those books include City of God (as previously mentioned), Eusebius’ Church History, and Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization. I believe this book will prove quite useful and fun as I continue to read about and think about Christian confrontations with non- and anti-Christian thought.
There are quite a few features to the book New Deal Cowboy: Gene Autry and Public Diplomacy by Michael Duchemin that caught my interest. First of all, I have a love for singing cowboys, old westerns, and country music. Gene Autry had basically several really successful careers. As a country-western singer (with the emphasis on the western side), he was quite successful and is in both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. The song “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer,” which is anything but country or western, was his biggest hit, but not his only one. Autry was also a successful film star and was one of the leading “Singing Cowboys.” Many of his films are quite simplistic and formulaic with all the features that made westerns favorites in America for decades.
What is not all that well known about Autry is that he became involved in politics. While he was an ardent New Dealer and supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt, his impulse was more patriotic than partisan. The use of celebrities to support politicians and political causes is common today, but not new.
Perhaps my strongest motive for being interested in this book has lost some of its drive. My dad served in the Army Air Corps in World War II as an airplane mechanic. He told me about meeting Autry on several occasions and about Autry’s general friendliness. Gene Autry became a pilot and was carrying supplies in the areas where my dad was repairing the planes. If I had received this book a year ago, I would have passed it on to my dad before I ever read it. In a short time, he would have returned it to me read and initialed in the back. I would have enjoyed hearing what he had to say about it. Sad to report, my dad was sick for much of 2016 and died in December. Still, when I read this book, I will be thinking of what he might have said about the book.
New Deal Cowboy is published by the University of Oklahoma Press.
When I was in college, I got interested in the intersection between American history and Christianity. I entered into a quest to discover how the Christian faith had affected both individual Americans and the nation and culture as a whole. For a good many years, I felt like I was finding a pebble here and there to construct a picture of a nation very much impacted by Christianity.
I no longer see this as finding pebbles. I am finding huge stones. I recently received the book Reading the Bible With the Founding Fathers by Daniel L. Dreisbach, which was published by the Oxford University Press. While it is wrong to someone canonize the Founding Fathers as though they were theologians first, political statesmen second, and mere men third, it is also misguided to ignore or demean the religious influences on their lives and thought.
The Oxford University Press makes these points about this book:
- First in-depth study of the American founders’ use of the Bible in political discourse
- Analyzes the diverse uses of, as well as the promises and perils of using, the Bible in political rhetoric
- Challenges the belief that the ideas that informed the founding fathers were strictly or predominantly secular
- Shows that Enlightenment rationalism competed with biblical Christianity in the founders’ political thought
All of these points are good ones and convincing; however, I would want to note that this book, which promises to be first rate, is not the first work to examine the issues that are given as bullet points. John Eidsmoe’s Christianity and the Constitution, M. E. Bradford’s Worthy Company: Brief Lives of the Framers, R. J. Rushdoony’s This Independent Republic and The Nature of the American System, and a whole stack of other books have already explored these topics.
That criticism is not meant to diminish this book. I have read some of Daniel Driesbach’s work in the past and he is first rate. I am happy to add a large boulder to the this edifice.