Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought

The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought
Edited by Chris L. Firestone and Nathan A. Jacobs, University of Notre Dame Press, 2012, 412 pp., ISBN 978-0-268-02906-7, $40.00 (paper).
This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source: 
Catholic Library World, Dec2012, Vol. 83 Issue 2, p 127.
In The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought, Chris Firestone, Nathan Jacobs and thirteen other contributors discuss the role of God in the thought of major philosophers from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. The major philosophers examined are Locke, Hobbes, Boyle, Newton, Bayle, Leibniz, Hume, Kant, Fichte, Schleiermacher, Schelling, Hegel, and Kierkegaard. The essays of The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought argue that the thought of these thinkers have been secularized and their religious thinking has largely been ignored. Firestone and others note, “The philosophers of this period are . . . not orthodox theists; they are freethinkers, emancipated by an age no longer tethered to the authority of church and state” (1). These philosophers, however, are “bent not on removing God from philosophy but putting faith and reason on more sure footing in light of advancements in science and a felt need to rethink the relationship between God and the world” (1). The purpose of the book is to examine this often ignored part of the story.
The strong part of these essays is that each of the philosophers examined is by a noted scholar in the field. In addition, each of these scholars believes that the philosophers have been misinterpreted by not taking seriously their religious thought. Some might think it is strange that Kierkegaard was included in this collection since he is an orthodox thinker. Myron B. Penner, however, shows how his thought has been distorted by a secular mindset. For example, Kierkegaard has been interpreted “as a fideist who opts for transcendence and spurns the use of reason altogether in religious belief” (384). In truth, Kierkegaard argued against “modern reason.” It is against the argument in modern philosophy which “invests authority entirely in human reason” and denies a transcendent source.
The Persistence of the Sacred in Modern Thought makes an important contribution to the field of modern philosophy. It corrects an overlooked dimension of major philosophers from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. This reviewer was surprised that it was written in understandable prose that a non-philosopher could understand. It is recommended for all college and university libraries.

Theological Librarianship Part 2

In part 1 Herman Peterson sees the theological librarian as a steward of the memory of the body of Christ. The model he uses is stewardship. In the second part of "Theological Librarianship as a Ministry" he presents the theological librarian as serving the body of Christ "by serving its memory." He notes that "all ministry is a form of service." The servant model of theological librarianship is best shown by the virtue of hospitality. It is the kind of service that is available to all the members. Peterson looks at two sources for describing this model: Lucien Richard's book on hospitality and the Genesis account of Abraham serving his divine visitors.

Richards contends that some of the barriers in modern life are a "rampant individualism, consumerism, and materialism." The solution is Christian hospitality. Parker Palmer defines hospitality: "It means meeting the stranger's needs while allowing him or her simply to be, without attempting to make the stranger into a modified version of ourselves." Hospitality provides a home for a stranger. It provides a place where they feel accepted and welcomed.

Peterson believes Christian hospitality remains an important Christian virtue "because it is intimately connected with the love of God and neighbor." He cites Matthew 25 as support for this idea. What we do to the least of them we have done unto Jesus. Richards states, "The practice of hospitality to the stranger as advocated in Matthew 25 is not only as obvious ethical demand but also a hermeneutical principle of comprehension." I particularly like this point. We can practice hospitality with texts and people. We can show love to authors and the texts they have written. Richards argues that showing hospitality to the stranger is "central to the Christian vision and to Christian discipleship."

How does this apply to theological librarianship? Peterson believes that offering hospitality is a way to build the kingdom of God. Building the kingdom is a function of ministry. He notes, "The link between the Kingdom of God and the reception of the Kingdom in our lives is compassionate dedication to those in need." Christian love calls us to love all without distinction. We serve Christ when we serve the least of them.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

God and the New Atheism

Haught, John F. God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. Louisiville: Westminster John Knox, 2008. 124 pages ISBN: 978-0-664-23304-4

Haught's God and the New Atheism is a response to the new atheism of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. The author wrote this book "in order to expose the fundamental flaws and fallacies that make the new atheism much less impressive than it may initially seem to be" (xiii). Haught is Senior Fellow in Science and Religion at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. He is a leading figure in the field of science and theology. Haught was chair and professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University from 1970 to 2005. He has published many books on science and theology: Christianity and Science; God after Darwin; Is Nature Enough and others.

God and the New Atheism is scholarly but written for the general reader. The book is not a comprehensive rebuttal of the New Atheism but a good critique of the popular writings of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. He also critiques the atheism of Daniel Dennett. Haught shows how much of the new atheism is attacking straw men. He asserts that the new atheists are writing about fundamentalist Christianity. In addition, the new atheists know very little about the discipline of theology and how it works. Haught's explanation of the discipline of theology and how it is actually practiced is one of the strengths of this book.

Haught accuses the new atheists of being reductionists. Haught accepts science but critiques scientism. He states, "Scientism is to science what literalism is to faith. It is a way of shrinking the world to make it managable and manipulable" (38). Haught believes there are multiple levels of explanation and that faith and science are compatible. He gives as an example as the page of the book you are reading. He notes, "The page you are reading exists because of a printing press, because of the author's intention, and because of the publisher's request" (85).

Haught disagrees with the new atheists assertion that scence is a matter of evidence while belief is a matter of unfounded belief. The author disputes the idea that science is without belief. Haught writes: "Exactly what are the independent scientific experiments, we might ask, that could provide evidence for the hypothesis that all true knowledge must be based on the paradigm of scientific inquiry?"(45) This is scientism and not science.

Haught has written an excellent rebuttal to the assertions of the new atheists in laymen terms. He writes well and does a good job in communicating his ideas. The best part of the book is the describtion of how the discipline of theology actually operates. This book is recommended for those who like to have a better understanding of the new atheists and the Christian arguments against them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Boxcar Children: The Garden Thief

The Boxcar Children:The Garden Thief:130
Created by Gertrude Chandler Warner, Albert Whitman & Company, 2012, 107 pp., ISBN 978-0-8075-2751-1, $15.99.
This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:
Catholic Library World, Jun2012, Vol. 82 Issue 4, p.317.
The Boxcar children have been a family favorite for generations. Only the first nineteen stories were written by creator Warner. Other books in the series have been written by other writers. The recent books of the series are set in the modern day. One wonders why this series continues to be popular. Many parents remember reading them when they were young. They want to share this experience with their children. Another reason is that the stories are written in simple prose that is appealing to people of various ages. The writing is basic which makes it readable for young readers, but the stories are also fun to read.
In this new addition to the series, the many strong points of the series continue. Grandfather’s friend, Mr. Yee, has broken his arm and he cannot tend his prize-winning garden. He has won many blue ribbons for his garden in the past. The children, Benny, Violet, Jessie, and Henry offer to help Mr. Yee. Another difficulty is that someone has been vandalizing and stealing fruits and vegetables from the garden. The kids tell Mr. Yee they will help him solve this mystery.
The Garden Thief is an exciting mystery that will keep the reader turning the pages. It includes black and white drawings that complement the text. The Garden Thief  is written for ages seven-ten or grades two-five. It also will serve as a good read-aloud for the family or classroom.

Parenting Bipolar Children

The Ups and Downs of Raising a Bipolar Child: A Survival Guide for Parents by Judith Lederman and Candida Fink. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003, 308 pages. ISBN: 0-7432-2940-1.

Parenting a bipolar child is not for wimps. Judith Lederman, a parent of a bipolar child has co-written with Candida Fink, a psychiatrist, a survival guide for those parents are caregivers who are raising bipolar children. The Ups and Downs of Raising a Bipolar Child does an excellent job of providing the nuts and bolts of raising bipolar children. The book is well written and intelligible to the general reader. The author has written for The New York Times and a number of national magazines. The author's own experience of raising a bipolar child adds to the helpfulness of the book.

The book is divided into four parts. The first part is about the bipolar child. It contains chapters on diagnosis, picking a mental health team, mood swings, medications, structuring the child's schedule, and hospitalization. The second part covers the "child in the world." Topics covered are school, camps, family and friends, and legal matters. The third part covers the immediate family of the bipolar child. One of the bests chapters in the book is the stress on the caregiver taking care of herself. Another important chapter is the one on the non bipolar sibling or siblings. The last section covers finances. One chapter discusses career. and the other chapter covers how to pay for meeting the needs of the bipolar child.

The Ups and Downs of Raising a Bipolar Child is a book that all bipolar parents will want to own. It will also be helpful for anyone working with bipolar kids. The book is realistic and provides many helpful ideas. Some other books on raising bipolar kids that are helpful: The Bipolar Child by Demitri Papolos, What Works for Bipolar Kids by Mani Pavuluri, Positive Parenting for Bipolar Kids by Many Ann McDonnell and Janet Wozniak, and Bipolar Kids: Helping Your Child Find Calm in the Mood Storm by Rosalie Greenberg.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Theological Librarianship as a Ministry Pt.1

Herman A. Peterson, "Theological Librarianship as a Ministry," American Theological Library Association Summary of Proceedings 55 2001, p 231-250.

Peterson proposes that "the ministry of theological librarians is analogous to the function of memory in the body of Christ" (231). He thinks that the "two fundamental activities of any library or librarian is preservation and access, which, of course, presupposes collecting" (231). This would be similar to the activities of storage and retrieval of the human memory. He uses this image to show how theological librarianship is a ministry.

In the first part he describes the theological librarian as a steward. The virtue of the steward is stewardship. Memory needs care and someone needs to care for it. Paul speaks of us being the stewards of the mysteries of God. Salvation history is a ministry as theological librarians must preserve this history. Paul writes that stewards must be found faithful. Without a memory we do not know who we are. It would be a disaster to lose the memory of all the great thinkers of the Christian church. The sad part is that many members of the church are unaware of many of these thinkers. It is a hopeful sign that some Evangelicals are becoming aware of the Church Fathers and people like Thomas Aquinas.

An example of preserving the memory of the body of Christ is the work of monks in the Middle Ages copying manuscripts that would have been lost without their work of preservation. I think of these monks as the saints of librarians. They show us an important part of our work. It is interesting that they preserved not only Christian writers but pagan writers too. We are in their debt.

Speaking the Truth in Love to Muslims

Speaking the Truth in Love to Muslims, DVD produced by Outreach to Muslims, and distributed by Vision Video (, Worchester, PA., 2010. 17 min., color, $19.99.

This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:

Christian Librarian, 2012, Vol. 55 Issue 1, p36.

The world has changed since September 11, 2001. There have been both positive changes and negative changes. One positive change is that Americans have become more aware of Islam, the fastest growing religion in the world. One of the negative changes is that Americans have become more fearful of Muslims living in our midst. What are Christians in the United States to to do about the growing Muslim population in America? This is the question that Speaking the Truth in Love to Muslims attempt to answer.
            This DVD seeks on an introductory level to introduce the beliefs and practices of Muslims. It also gives instruction on the best ways to share the gospel with Muslims. The DVD is separated into four sessions. These sessions covers the basic beliefs, practices and history of Islam. It also includes different ways to reach out to Muslims in love. The presenter is very clear and intelligible. The video is meant to be used by Bible Study groups. There is also a companion Leader and Participant guide for $4.95. This video would be helpful as a guide to witnessing to Muslims on an introductory level.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Faith at the Edge

Robert N. Wennberg, Faith at the Edge: A Book for Doubters. Eerdmans, 2009.

Wennberg's Faith at the Edge is an excellent book for Christians who struggle with doubt. The book is made up of short chapters. Wennberg believes that many Christians struggle with doubt and it is nothing to be alarmed about. He provides helpful advice in dealing with doubt. Some of his points are:

  • There is a difference between doubters, questioners and skeptics. "Doubters are believers struggling with their faith within the Christian tradition. Skeptics and seekers are both outside that tradition" (xv).
  • All doubt is not wrong.
  • The nonreligious experience doubt too.
  • Christian service is sometimes the best response to doubt.
  • It is helpful to have a theology of God's absence. C.S. Lewis can help us with this.
  • What the Dark Night of the Soul can teach us
  • How hope can help us during difficult times of doubt
  • We should doubt from within a Christian community
  • How to handle unanswered prayer
  • Why do some people believe different than I do
  • Why do some intellectuals do not believe what we believe
  • Why some non-Christians are better people than some Christians
  • "Why doesn't God make His presence more obvious"

This is a wise book. It will bring much comfort to the Christian who struggle with doubts.

Incarnational Humanism

Jens Zimmermann, Incarnational Humanism: A Philosophy of Culture for the Church in the World. IVP Academic, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-8308-3903-2., 356 pages.

Zimmermann's Incarnational Humanism argues for a recovery of Christian Humanism that is rooted in the beginning of the Christian Church. One can even consider this work as picking up where Mark Noll left off in his popular recent book, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, 2011. Noll had argued for the importance on the life of the mind because of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The incarnation affirms human life and this world. Zimmerman's book seeks to show how the Christian Tradition and the Incarnation of Christ affirms a Christian Humanism.

Incarnational Humanism is written for Evangelicals. He wrote a companion volume, Religion and Humanism, for a broader audience. Incarnational Humanism seeks to dispel certain myths held by some evangelicals. One of these myths is that humanism means secular humanism. He does this in the early chapters of the book by drawing from the writings of the Church Fathers, Medieval and Renaissance writers which sources prove that they held to a Christian Humanism. Zimmermann believes that this Christian Humanism is a successful tool for engaging modern culture.

In the later parts of the book he looks at the rise of anti-humanism among certain modern thinkers like Kant and Nietzche. He also looks at some modern thinkers who have tried to recover an Incarnational Humanism. The last chapter is his prescription for an Incarnational Humanism that can engage modern culture.

Incarnational Humanism is well-written and Zimmermann shows a great command of his sources. The footnotes are informative and even function as a second text. He draws from many rich sources in the Christian tradition. He is very knowledgeable of both Protestant and Roman Catholic sources. This book will be helpful in recovering a Christian Humanism for today's church. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Forum and the Tower

The Forum and the Tower: How Scholars and Politicians Have Imagined the World, From Plato to Eleanor Roosevelt
By Mary Ann Glendon, Oxford University Press, 2011, 261 pp., ISBN 978-0-19-978245-1, $27.95.
This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:
Catholic Library World, Sep2012, Vol. 83 Issue 1, p.65
Mary Ann Glendon notes that many of her students want to make a difference in the world. Many of these students either choose academic life or the political arena. Many of her students, however, struggle with the idea that they will have to compromise themselves if they enter the political arena. Glendon is no stranger to both academic and political life. She is Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and is a former United States Ambassador to the Vatican. The Forum and the Tower presents short biographies on major intellectuals who experienced both the intellectual and public arena. There are individual chapters on Plato, Cicero, Machiavelli, John Locke, Rousseau, Edmund Burke, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and others. She uses these individuals to explore the questions asked by her students: “Is politics such a dirty business, or are conditions so unfavorable, that I couldn’t make a difference? What kinds of compromises can one make for the sake of getting and keeping a position from which one might be able to have influence on the course of events? (Xiii)”  Glendon presents answers to these questions and many others.
Some of the thinkers, Cicero and Edmund Burke, were successful in both the political arena and in the intellectual arena. Others were successful in either the forum or the tower. Tocqueville and Weber were better fitted for academic life even though they wanted a political life.  Glendon analyzes the common law tradition when she compares Thomas Hobbes and Edward Coke. The author shows that not many people have the skills to be successful in both the forum and the tower, but it is necessary for them to listen to each other. For John Lock wrote, “Both the man of action and the man of contemplation are diminished if they remain shut up in their own worlds” (222). This book is recommended for all libraries.

Learning From My Father

Learning from my Father: Lessons on Life and Faith
By David Lawther Johnson, Eerdmans, 2012, 151 pp., ISBN: 978-0-8028-6708-7, $15.00 (pbk).
This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:
Catholic Library World, Sep2012, Vol. 83 Issue 1, p.48.
Learning from my Father: Lessons on Life and Faith by David Lawther Johnson presents lessons that David learned from his father on faith, God, belief, love, sin, evil, and hope. The author was able to spend important time with his father the last three weeks of life. In some sense, David received his greatest lesson on all, how to die. The father he knew at the end was the same man he knew at the beginning: a man of faith. This last lesson was “shown rather than said: make sure you develop a type of rugged faith, a religious belief you hold credible and true, because you never know when the faith you will need to withstand the limits of life itself” (8).
David, a longtime business leader, lawyer, and president and CEO of BioCrossroads, “recalled” a few weeks after his father’s death how forty years before his father had corresponded with him on issues of faith when David was a freshman at Harvard University. He had saved these letters and after re-reading these letters believed they would be helpful to others as they had been to him. David presents in Learning from my Father lessons that his father taught him and his own reflections on these lessons forty years later. Some of these lessons were that faith is a relationship with God and others. Love is an action word, not a feeling. David’s Presbyterian father not only taught him these important truths, but also lived them out before him.
Learning from My Father is a beautifully written book with many pearls of wisdom. It can be read individually or in a group; or even better it can be read by parents in the company of their sons and daughters. This book would also make a good gift to parents and young adults.