Political Visions and Illusions by David Koyzis

Political Visions & Illusions

Political Visions and Illusions, Second Edition, by David T. Koyzis is published by IVP Academic.

I first got to know David Koyzis about ten years ago through an e-mail discussion group.  That group was made up of many intellectual scholars with deep ties to the writings and thought of Herman Dooyeweerd.  By being in the group for several years, I learned an incredible amount about the width and scope of Christian scholarship, philosophy, and discussion.  Most of the time, I was simply sitting on the sidelines, often not even understanding the thread of the current discussions.

Prior to that experience, most Christians I knew were divided up into two camps:  Calvinists and Arminians.  That is an oversimplification; on the one hand, few Christians consciously describe themselves as Arminians; on the other hand, there is more to the Body of Christ than just those of us who side one way or the other on “The Five Points of Calvinism.”

The impact of the Reformation is enormous.  But it was just one wave in a series of waves over the course of many centuries and continueing to this day.  One of the most dynamic and powerful Reformation-induced waves relates to events that happened in the Netherlands in the 19th and 20th Centuries.  It was there that a large number of Christian thinkers expanded and applied the Christian faith to all areas of life.  I could write page upon page about these men and their times, and in fact, I have lectured and written on them on numerous occasions.  To be brief, Abraham Kuyper came to the United States in 1898 and gave a series of lectures that were titled The Stone Lectures and were put in book form with the title Lectures on Calvinism.

The impact of those lectures and that book is enormous.  Among others, it help shape the thinking of a brilliant law and philosophy scholar named Herman Dooyeweerd.  Right up front, I will tell you that when I go to the Herman Dooyeweerd Olympic-size Swimming Pool, I can neither do laps in the pool nor even climb the ladder to the high diving boards.  Instead, you will find me in the shallow end of the wading pool.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t admire and stand in awe of Dooyeweerd and those who have mastered his thought.

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Among the many scholars and students that I got to know (via e-mails) David Koyzis was one of the most accessible, friendly, and encouraging of all.  I, therefore, bought his book Political Visions and Illusions.  Even though I pulled the book out on several occasions and dipped here and there into it, I did not read it.  It was there with the hundreds of other books that I intend to read, but have not gotten to.

Then the second edition came out.  I received a copy and became determined to read the book.  And it does require determination to read.

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One of the blessings of a democratic republic is the freedom of political expression.  One of the curses of a democratic republic is the freedom of political expression.  Since President Trump took office, political discourse has worsened, but don’t be fooled.  Political talk was crazy in the days of Presidents Obama, both Bushes, Clinton, Reagan, and others.  Political talk may actually be more civil than it was during the age of Andrew Jackson.  But it is more pervasive and invasive today.

When I first got interested in politics (circa 1972), I had to catch the evening news from 5:30 to 6:00.  The daily paper also had a few political articles.  On occasion, I would come across a Time Magazine, U. S. News and World Report, or Newsweek.  Now the news business is big business.  At every moment of every day, there are dozens of radio talk show hosts talking politics, along with non-stop news channels.  Add to that all the internet sources.  If someone in Congress sneezes today, I can watch a hundred replays of that sneeze, but listen to hours of commentary on it.

All of this political bombardment can make us think that we are well informed on politics.  The issues are pretty simple, right?  It’s Trump versus the Democrats, or its Liberals versus Republicans, or its some other group of bad guys versus us good guys, right?

The subtitle to Koyzis’s book is A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies.  He covers Lberalism, Conservatism, Nationalism, Democracy, and Socialism.  These are in-depth looks at the root ideologies or worldviews connected to these ways of thinking politically.  A prime ingredient in each survey is to see what good and truthful insights are there and to see what idols the ideology tends toward.  Liberalism is not merely what many of us like me (a Reagan Republican) thinks of when we use the term or label a person or idea with it.  In terms of a historic philosophy, Reagan, Obama, both Clintons, both Bushes, Trump, Nixon, Johnson, Eisenhower, Goldwater, and many others fit into the overall liberal perspective.

Nor is conservatism an easy label to fit on to most people or situations.  As an example, were our Founding Fathers being liberals or conservatives when they sought to break away from Britain?

There is so much more that could be added to the discussion of this book.  Hey, it even has discussion questions at the end of the book pertaining to each section.  The last third of the book focuses on a Christian approach to the political sphere.

Obviously, those of us who teach government and history need to read and study this book,  But I really think that pastors and elders need some serious study here as well.  Again, this book is challenging.  I don’t mean that it is too difficult to read, but it does require some time and attention.  I finished it today, but I seriously need to read it again…and again.

Post Script:  I counted over 60 books in the outstanding bibliography that I already own.  There are at least that many more that I would like to have.

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James Matthew Wilson’s Some Permanent Things, and Other Poets and Poetry

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Poetry is difficult to teach.   Sure, I can assign the poems to be read, or we can read them in class.  I can generate a few questions about the poem in terms of author, subject, and particular details.  But poetry is not easily subjected to a factual set of accomplishments; meaning, I cannot say that I understand T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” because I have learned who he was, when he wrote it, and what images it contains.  Poetry has to be felt to a large degree, but this too leads to problems.  Often, when we read a poem in class, the students respond with “I liked it” or indications that they didn’t like it.  As a teacher, I feel like I am dishing out samples of ice cream flavors at Baskin and Robbins.

The emotional impact of a poem is not something that races straight to the heart, bypassing the brain or reason.  In fact, I may not at all like the emotional punch that a poem delivers, but still recognize the power of the poem.  “Don’t Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas disturbs me, but it is a great poem.  I think that it is odd that we recognize the depth of some types of mathematics and hard sciences, but poetry still gets kicked back into the realm of rhyming words that really serve no purpose.

To admit the next problem is difficult:  In spite of having shelves of poetry collections, both anthologies and works by individual authors, I am prone to not read poetry.  For the thousandth time, I am seeking to correct this vice, and vice it is for me.  My tendency is to start a book with the goal of reading it from beginning to end.  I am not a speed reader, but I do want to cover the ground in a reasonably short time.  Poetry reading throws all my normal reading patterns off.

Many years ago, I asked my students if they had read the homework assignment, which was to read some poems.  A rather good student (who is now a lawyer) said that he scanned over the poems.  Technically, scanning a poem is a technique that involves a very close and careful reading.  What he meant was that he glanced at the poems and speed-read through–to get the main idea.  Imagine applying that to Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony.”  Instead of listening for a half hour or so, a person just hears a few notes here and there.

Yet another problem with poetry is the tricky word “interpretation.”  I hear it from students:  “I don’t know how to interpret poetry.”  Once when we were reading The Iliad, a student made this as an objection. And remember that The Iliad and The Odyssey are both poems.  This is really nonsense.  When Homer says that Achilles thrusts a spear through some hapless Trojan, there is not extraordinary or hidden or veiled or metaphorical meaning.  Often we think of poetry as though it consists of riddles.  We read over a poem numerous times with puzzlement, and then the light comes on!  “Oh, it’s talking about a hippopotamus!”

Granted, poems contain the veiled, mysterious, metaphorical, and obscure, but the goal is not figuring out the riddle.  There are so many wrong ways to read poetry.  I confess that I am still struggling to read poetry better.  Some of my struggles, which have been more successful, are highlighted in the brief reviews to follow.

 

I read Some Permanent Things by James Matthew Wilson last spring and read it all wrong.  I thought the poems to be fine, but had run through them far too hastily.  Let’s just call that misadventure a pre-reading.

I then began–in late May–to read through his poems again.  This time I read slowly.  I kept my cell phone handy so I could look up words that were a bit off my vocabulary chart (and there were several) and places that I was unfamiliar with and people, usually other poets, that he referenced.  The richness of his poems opened quite a bit more.  Being that it is a book of poety, I can say that I have read it–twice–but I cannot say that I am through with it.

A big part of my appreciation for this book is knowing that the author is a Christian.  But these are not simple ditties designed to affirm our faith.  Such things are nice, I’m sure, but trite commonplaces are not what the Christian who wants to really read poetry wants to experience.  The faith undergirds the poems.  Wilson’s word-experiences contain troublesome thoughts, even unchaste thoughts, memories, questions, and various angles on a host of life experiences.  That resembles my own life, rather than a series of faith-platitudes.  Again, I am not criticizing encouraging words from believers, but I don’t want my mechanic or dentist to simply exhort me to look to God, and neither should my poet.

Lest I make Wilson’s poetry sound like a “Where’s Waldo” kind of works where the Christian message is hidden in there somewhere, I will share this verse:

“For, while You shroud Yourself in speaking darkness or withdraw,
The world You fashioned coruscates with stars that overawe,
And the abyss in which You set them terrifies my soul.
From those abyssal depths, I cry to You, My God, my goal.
From “De Profundis”

Part of the bigger challenge of poetry is the battle between poetry with rhyme and meter and that which is often called Free Verse.  In the world of poetry today, anything goes in all too many cases.  In spite of Robert Frost’s complaint that writing free verse was like playing tennis without the net,  most of the moderns play poetry without the net.

Wilson describes his labors to work within the parameters of the older forms where rhyme and meter counted.  This book, Some Permanent Things, is a second edition.  I will add that it is published by Wiseblood Books.

It is really far more than a reprinting of the first book, for Wilson says, “This second edition of Some Permanent Things contains all the poems of the first, but each of them has been rewritten to come closer to that ease and fluency that belongs to the classics of our prosody.”  That sentence alone reveals so much about the man and his craft that it alone sold me on the book.

 

On to a couple of other books:

I am nearly finished with reading The Old Life: New Poems by Donald Hall.  I learned of Hall’s death some months back from Remy Wilkins, a most literary friend of mine.  My first thought was that I had never heard of Hall, but then discovered that I owned one of his books, Their Ancient Glittering Eyes:  Remembering Poets and More Poets.  Hall was acquainted with, even more than that, friends with many of the great poets of the twentieth century.  Men like Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Ezra Pound, and others were among his peers and mentors.

Having learned who he was, I was then delighted when I found The Old Life in a used book quarry for a couple of bucks.  I have been reading it over the past week or two.  Let’s just say that his poems in this collection are strongly autobiographical in a narrative style.  At times, I ask myself what makes his poems poetry?  I ask that quietly, by the way, so as to not look foolish.  There is much that is sad, delightful, whimsical, and homey (home-like) in this work.  Yup, I reckon I will need to read it again after I finish.  And I need to read som more of his books.

The beautiful book in the collection is Collected Sonnets by Edna St. Vincent Millay.  I love the beauty and design of that old hardback volume, which was another bargain find.  But I do have a bit of concern when poetry is dressed in such finery, lest we think that such poetry is just pretty words for pretty people on pretty occasions.

And I love Edna St. Vincent Millay.  I cannot say her name without feeling like it is poetry.  Why she is not as popular as Robert Frost is a mystery to me.  She was a modern, but her style was very much rooted in the traditions of the past.  I may never read this book from cover to cover, but may, instead, open it to a sonnet or there and read randomly.  Such is the nature of poetry.  And life.

 

 

The Well Rounded Life

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Perhaps I often give the wrong impression of my life or how life ought to be lived (and those two things are not the same). This website is called The Heavy Laden Bookshelf, and no doubt it is heavily stacked with posts about books from my past, present, and future readings.  One might think that I live my whole life tucked away in a chair, one book in hand, a huge stack nearby, with a UPS truck driving up delivering the next load of goodies.  One might think that life apart from the pages for me consists of glancing up over the top of the current read and noting that it is sunny or stormy outside, along with the occasional journey from the book nook to the coffee maker.

I admit that is a part of how I live.  But it is not my entire life, nor is it what I desire, nor is it what I am promoting.  Books and reading are delightful and helpful as a part of life.  Expand that to being a big part of some lives.  I am, by profession, a teacher of books.  I was for many years a pastor, which is also a book-heavy profession.  I am also a book reviewer.  And yes, I really like the printed pages bound by preferably hardback covers.  I like the look, feel, experience, and ambiance of books, bookshelves, book stacks, along with stately desks, comfortable chairs, and less than overpowering lamps.

But the world of books is only a limited part of what the world should be.  I wish it were both more of my life and less of my life.  More, because I have many books I need to read.  Less, because I wish I were able to and prone to do more things apart from reading.

For years, I lived in a log house in the woods.  I owned a canoe which I used on every occasion I could.  I often went camping.  That all changed.  When I had children, we faced the need to move, so I lost the log house in the woods.  Work and the adding on of years diminished my ability and interest in being in the great outdoors.  At some point, I realized that I just did not like roughing it in the wilderness, but could not afford to rent the nice log cabin (reminiscent of my former home) near a river.

For a season or two, I had a number of speaking engagements around the country that took me from the Atlantic coast to Florida to Alaska.  That ended, and public speaking is no longer an option for me.  Those trips enabled us to see lots of places that we otherwise could not go to.

So, what is it that I am recommending or suggesting or merely bemoaning?  Variety, as the old saying goes, is the spice of life.  Go to concerts.  I have attended concerts featuring country singers like Charlie Daniels and Mo Pitney over the last few years, along with going to concerts featuring classical music. Go to movies, and I did really enjoy Tolkien, but only liked some of the Avenger-type movies because my family wanted to see them.  See the world that God made.  I am still a bit cross because my outdoor work last week resulted in a battle between me and a group of evil chiggers, and I lost that battle.

And read, but don’t just read.  There are few books about someone who just reads.

 

Wars from Revolutionary to Vietnam

One of the more unexplainable parts of my personality is my total aversion to conflict of any kind, yet my compulsion to study conflicts.  I wish I had had the personality, guts, and inclination to at least consider being in the military when I was right out of high school or college.  I don’t even like guns.  Don’t worry, for I love the Second Amendment and fully support the U. S. military as well as the folks all around me who love hunting.  But personally, I don’t like guns.

Yet, military history has been a consuming passion.  I do find the terrible more terrible, the losses of lives more grievous, the waste of human resources appalling, but the narrative of the history of warfare is a driving force in my reading, teaching, and studying of history.

In this blog, I am going to highlight the stack of books pictured above that I have on my reading agenda for the summer.

Small Boats and Daring Men: Maritime Raiding, Irregular Warfare, and the Early American Navy by Benjamin Armstrong is published by Oklahoma University Press.

This book is Volume 66 in the Campaigns and Commanders Series that I have been collecting and reading for some years now.  From wars in the ancient world to the modern age, from the perspectives of leaders and soldiers, from primary to secondary studies, this series is an overwhelming collection of military studies.

Concerning this book, consider that the United States began its history by going to war twice with the greatest naval power of the 18th and 19th centuries.  That we even survived those wars is due to the successes or avoidance of disasters wrought by soldiers in the land.  Credit George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and, yes, even Benedict Arnold, along with Daniel Morgan, Nathaniel Greene, and others for these land victories.  But the British Navy was a player in both wars against the Britain, and the American nation could in no way go toe-to-toe in a naval confrontation.  From Tralfalgar to Jutland Sea, the British have trounced many who tried to engage them on the waters.

Therefore, it was raiding and irregular warfare, pluck and daring, small efforts and unorthodox attempts that enabled the United States to land a few punches into the “breadbasket and kisser” (to use the descriptive language of wrestler and wrestling announcer Gino “Gorilla” Monsoon) of the Royal Navy.  This book highlights that story in a series of accounts where the American naval heroes, of whom few other than John Paul Jones are rememberd.

Thunder and Flames: Americans in the Crucible of Combat, 1917-1918 is by Edward G. Lengel.  It is published by the University of Kansas Press.

Ed Lengel fascinates me as a historian because he has written a number of studies on George Washington, but also several books on World War I.  Usually, historians specialize in one area and when they venture off the beaten path, it is still on familiar ground.  Late last year, I read and reviewed Never in Finer Company: The Men of the Great War’s Lost Battalion.  This was during a time when I was reading World War I histories, poetry, and fiction to supplement my teaching on the war.

This book, Thunder and Flames, came out in 2015, several years before Never in Finer Company.  It is a more scholarly study of the role of Americans in the First World War.  As I have said previously, World War I is totally overshadowed by World War II.  The Americans entered late and a superficial textbook reading might lead the student to think that we were mainly just mopping up the remains of the already shattered German army.

The fact that we entered and “won” the war overlooks the many failures, challenges, and deficiencies that the Americans faced.  Nothing said here is meant to lessen the courage, learning curve, or achievements of the American soldiers.  World War I was an ugly event even for the United States as a late-comer.  But it is well worth the time spent studying it.

The book I am currently more than halfway through is The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 by Rick Atkinson.  It is the first volume of the Revolution Trilogy by Atkinson.  Prior to this undertaking, Atkinson wrote the Liberation Trilogy on the North African and European Campaigns of the United States (primarily) in World War II.  It was that series that hooked me on his writing.

So far, I am being constantly shamed in this book by realizing how little I know about the American War for Independence.  The narrative is top notch; the cast of historical characters would put Tolstoy to shame; and the flow of the book leaves me wondering if we (the United States) will win.  Among other things, I was astounded reading about how much salt was needed for the army and the colonies.  Supplies were as much a point of contention, struggle, and survival as was getting through battles.  Smallpox was as much of a foe as were the Redcoats.

This book is good enough to read from beginning to end and then start over.  I suspect this series will be just as good as the Liberation series.

Sand and Steel: The D-Day Invasion and the Liberation of France is by Peter Caddick-Adams and is published by Oxford University Press.

This is one of several books that has been published this year just prior to the June 6, 2019 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.  My first study of this event in World War II was reading Brave Men by Ernie Pyle, a first hand account by a reporter who accompanied the soldiers.  It was first published in 1944, and I read it in high school in 1970.  Sometime later, I read Cornelius Ryan’s classic book The Longest Day.  Along with reading Ryan’s other books on World War II, I watched the movie version of The Longest Day several times.  Then I read Stephen Ambrose’s D-Day June 6, 1944 sometime after it came out.  I read quite a few other books that covered that event in some form or fashion as well.

I have yet to start this book.  It will have to wait until I finish the Atkinson book discussed above.  But it promises to be thorough.  It is pretty hard for me to find a book on World War II that I don’t like, so watch for updates on this book

Anthony Beevor’s D-Day The Battle for Normandy is one of many books that Beevor has written on World War II.  I have read several of his books and loved them and am trying to get and read all of his books.  I have yet to start this book.  My son Nick picked it up for me at the Thrifty Peanut in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Another historian I really like is Max Hastings.  When Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 came out last year, I bought it.  Once again, it is having to patiently wait for me to delve in.  But if Hastings, Beevor, Atkinson, or Lengel writes a book, I get it as soon as I can and hope that I actually read it.

 

 

 

The Resistance by Douglas Bond

The Normandy landings, D-Day, June 6, 1944, of which we are now remembering 75 years later, did not begin on that date.  Long before General Eisenhower gave the nod, amidst the dour weather reports, to proceed, actions had been taken to help make that landing a success and a stepping stone toward the defeat of the Third Reich.

Besides the immense amount of work that was going on in planning and training sessions on both sides of the Atlantic, there was a massive air campaign that was designed to impair and cripple Hitler’s war machine.  People still debate how effective the air offensive was and question the ethics of some of the bombing targets, but that debate is much easier to conduct long after the war has ended.  Certainly, lots of German men and materials were concentrated on battling air raids, and that kept those same men and weapons far from either the eastern or western fronts.

Resistance movements were at work all across occupied Europe.  Whether they were sending inside information about troop movements or sabotaging their oppressors, they were able to chip away at the enemy.

World War II, even if just restricted to the European theater, is simply too big, vast, and overwhelming a subject to grasp.  We are endlessly fascinated by it.  The remaining veterans are now few in number and feeble.  The world conflicts have moved on to new and other ugly threats.  But we still find so much that is full of wonder, amazement, horror, and conviction when looking at the Second World War.

I could easily recommend dozens of books, authors, movies, and documentaries that fill in gaps on the story.  I have been reading about the war since 1970, not realizing at that time that it was so very recent.

In this case, I will focus on just one book as a way of exploring the war.  This might be especially helpful for those of you who are teaching your children at home, teaching in a classroom, or just looking for a good read that is informative, enjoyable, and uplifting.

The Resistance by Douglas Bond is published by Inkblots Press.  Mr. Bond’s website is www.BondBooks.net.

Douglas and I became friends via social media last fall after my class read Hostage Lands, which is an historical novel about a Roman soldier and a Celt warrior who get acquainted in the region around Hadrian’s Wall in England.  We all loved the story, and I felt that making contact with Douglas was long overdue.

Douglas Bond has created a whole shelf of historical novels, along with some biographies and Christian music.  He is a Christian writing machine.  What G. A. Henty did in the past (without following a set formula like Henty) and what Bernard Cornwell is doing in the present for adult audiences (without Cornwell’s brutish realism), Douglas Bond is doing for young readers in our time.  But remember the necessary guideline for writing good books for younger readers:  The book has to be enjoyable for older readers as well.  If the parent reading the book sees that it is garbage, the child on the knee who is listening doesn’t need to be subjected to it.

That discussion of books for young people aside now, let’s look at The Resistance.

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This book is something of a sequel to War in the Wasteland, which is Bond’s book about World War I.  I say “something of a sequel” because they are not about the same characters with the same developing plot lines.  But War in the Wasteland deals with an individual soldier and his comrades in the First War, while The Resistance focuses on several individuals in the Second War.  Besides the war themes, the other common denominator is C. S. Lewis.  Lewis the soldier was in the first book, but during World War II, he was on the radio–by request from the BBC–giving lectures on a surprising topic–the Christian faith.

In some ways, discussing Christianity in the 1940s in Europe was akin to discussing alchemy as serious science.  But Lewis did exactly that; meaning, that he made the case for Christianity, not alchemy.  The radio talks became a short book called The Case for Christianity (and I have a copy of it!) and then became part of a larger book called Mere Christianity.

Lewis’s radio talks are the recurring background story in this novel.  The main story is about a B-17 crew that is shot down over France.  Only two crew members survive, and they are picked up by the French Resistance.  From there, there are search and chases and narrow escapes, bloody wounds, ambushes, concealments in strange places, internal conflicts, and—a developing love story.  The two main characters, Eli Evans the pilot and Charlie Tucker the navigator, share a number of harrowing experiences and confrontations with good and evil.  Tucker is a good ole southern boy, deeply rooted in the faith.  Evans has learned to pray during the war out of the fears and dangers, but is only slowly awakening to who God is.

This book is a good adventure into some real history, real conflicts, and the reality that supersedes even World War II.  I started the book by reading a few short chapters at a time, but soon found that I could not put it down.  Can’t wait until the next Bond book appears.

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Summer Morning Readings

Summer mornings are grand.  I love listening to the waves lapping against the shore, watching the sea gulls swoop over the waters, feeling the salty sea breeze against my face, and seeing sun rise as I drink coffee and read.

Okay, none of that describes my mornings except for the last two.  But beaches are overrated, hot, and humid, and sand gets in your coffee and in between the pages of books.  But I do enjoy the extra time that most summer mornings provide for that most delightful of chores:  Reading review books.

I read from a number of different books during the morning.  I will either try to read a whole chapter or I read try to read at least ten pages.  The pattern varies, but that is basically my mode of operation.  I am not recommending it, but it seems to work for me.

I am reading from a new republication of Tozer’s work by Moody Publishers.  This nice hardback volume consists of three of Tozer’s books:  The Knowledge of the Holy, The Pursuit of God, and God’s Pursuit of Man.  Sometimes, I find books that are all combined in one volume are too bulky, but this book has a good feel to it.

I have read A. W. Tozer off and on for years, and I have encountered quotes from him numerous times.  Of late, while reading The Knowledge of the Holy, the first of the three books in this collection, I realized something.  If you are wanting to work through some serious theological issues, like the doctrine of God, don’t read Tozer.  If you are wanting some comforting devotional reading, don’t read Tozer for that either.

Tozer is theologically challenging and sound in his writing, but he requires the mind to connect to the heart.  He may not be the best beginning person to read to get grounded, but he is solid for reinforcement.  His chapters are quite suited for a short reading time, being that they are ten or fewer pages long.  The prayers at the beginning of each chapter are powerful.  I usually read the prayers twice.

A. W. Tozer: Three Spiritual Classics in One Volume: The Knowledge of the Holy, The Pursuit of God, and God's Pursuit of Man

Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church by James Beitler III is published by InterVarsity Press.  This book is shaping up to be one of my best reads for the year. The classical Christian school movement has been instrumental in reviving the study of rhetoric.  While that emphasis has often been grounded in the teachings of the ancients, such as Aristotle, (pseudo) Cicero, and Quintillian, this book focused on some recent and Christian writers and thinkers.

The five people whose rhetorical skills are touted in this book are C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, and Marilynne Robinson.  Each chapter (lengthy ones at that) explores the dimensions of a particular author’s use of rhetorical conventions.  I am less than halfway through this book and am totally swept away by what I have learned from it.

Seasoned Speech

Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies (Second Edition) by David Koyzis is also published by IVP.

I have been friends (through various media channels) with David Koyzis for many years.  He is a top scholar, dedicated Christian, and a Dooyeweerdian thinker who is readable.  I have read from and used the earlier edition of this book, but am making myself read through the entire second edition.  This is the high diving board of Christian political thought.

I have been long convinced that most Christians know and understand little about politics.  I think they/we are gullible, narrow, and prone to use a few catch-phrases and political words in ways that far exceed good sense.  I often credit the book Master of the Senate by Robert Caro as a political eye-opener for me.  This book is filling the gaps in my understanding.  We are not talking about caulking up a few holes in my thinking, but rather filling in a vast chasm of unclear thinking.

Are you ready for this book?  If you talk in any public forum about politics, you better read it (twice or three times) before you say much.

Political Visions & Illusions

The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy by Steve B. Cowan and James S. Spiegel is published by B & H Academic.

I learned about this book when I sat in on a philosophy class at John Brown University last fall.  This was the textbook for that class.  I have read through several books that are meant as introductions to philosophy, but most of them focus on the history of philosophy and a discussion of ideas of the main thinkers from Socrates to Derrida.

This book analyzes the different ways that philosophy deals with topics.  Like the book above, this is not the wading pool.  I am trudging slowly through this book and am thankful that I am not being tested over the contents. I would love to sit in on a class where this book is being taught.  This is a solid and challenging work.

Reason and Worldviews:  Warfield, Kuyper, Van Til, and Plantiga on the Clarity of General Revelation and Function of Apologetics by Owen Anderson is published by Rowman and Littlefield.

This rather short book with a rather long subtitle is still awaiting my official kick off in getting it read.  But I have picked it up and time or two to see what it is in store for me.  A few years ago, I gave a series of lectures on “Calvinist Worldview Thinkers in the Wilderness Years.”  I was pretty proud of my accomplishments in studying the Dutch and American thinkers who were Calvinists before Calvinism was cool.  But I was only scratching the surface.

This will be a slow read, and I will be lamenting not being in a classroom listening to Dr. Owen lecture on the issues in this book.  He and I recently became acquainted on social media.  Again and again, I am rejoicing in the caliber of men and women God is raising up in our day to take dominion over the various fields of thought.  Owen Anderson’s website can be found HERE.

Reason and Worldviews

Some Permanent Thingby James Matthew Wilson is a collection of poems and is published by Wiseblood Books.

I read the poems in this book last March and April.  But working through a collection of poetry is not just a matter of starting on page 1 and getting to page 156 in the case of this book.  It is in the slower, more meditative rereading that Wilson’s words are breaking in.

Wilson is a Christian, but don’t expect nice little poems about God and the Bible and going to church.  He is not a sentimentalist, even though he says so much so well about faith, family, and loves.  I suspect that he is a name to keep an eye on.  This book is a revised second edition for he saw fit to keep working on and molding his poetry more in line with the poetic tradition.

I make the mistake of not reading enough poetry collections, and worse, I make the mistake of only reading poems once.  These poems are worth the time spent and the time spent again.

Image result for james matthew wilson some permanent things

And summer really hasn’t even begun.