Friday, May 30, 2014

Can We Still Believe the Bible?

Craig L. Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible?: An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions. Brazos Press, 2014. 287 pages. ISBN 978-1-58743-321-4.

Craig L. Blomberg is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary and the author and editor of several books, including The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Jesus and the Gospels, and A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis. Blomberg addresses six of the most important questions concerning the reliability of the Bible in this book:

1. Aren't the Copies of the Bible Hopelessly Corrupt?
2. Wasn't the Selection of the Books for the Canon Just Political?
3. Can We Trust Any of Our Translations of the Bible?
4. Don't These Issues Rule Out Biblical Inerrancy?
5. Aren't Several Narrative Genres of the Bible Unhistorical?
6. Don't All the Miracles Make the Bible Mythical?

Blomberg has been teaching at Denver Seminary for 28 years. He is a well-respected New Testament scholar. This book is in some sense a response to scholars like Bart Ehrman who claim that the Bible cannot be trusted. In this book, Blomberg describes the reasons he believes that the Bible can be fully trusted. The six questions he addresses is considered some of the most important questions people are asking about the Bible today.

One of the reasons Blomberg wrote this book is because of his own experience as a college student at a liberal arts college: "I came to faith in my sophomore year of high school, in the spring of 1971. In college, from 1973 to 1977, I majored in religion at a private liberal arts college that in many respects was running from its Christian heritage as fast as it could. Between actively engaging anyone in my public high school who would talk with me about Christian faith and delving into the whole gamut of liberal arts curriculum in college, I think I encountered virtually every major historic challenge to traditional, orthodox Christianity during those seven years of schooling. Rarely were the classic or contemporary Christian responses to those challenges ever presented or acknowledged in my classrooms" (5-6). Blomberg understands what it is like to wrestle with these issues without knowledge and help.Can We Still Believe the Bible is written to provide knowledge and assistance in helping the believer struggle with challenges the the Bible's validity. In each chapter he addresses the challenges proposed by skeptics of the Bible. In addition, he addresses positions taken by ultra-conservatives in Evangelical ranks. Blomberg stakes a middle position between the left and the far right on many of these issues. Some evangelicals might think he is too hard on those on the far right. He explains that Jesus and the apostles were hardest on religious leaders who were in positions of authority.

In chapter one Blomberg responds to accusations by Ehrman about the Bible being full of errors. He explains about variant readings in the manuscripts and how very little effect doctrinal teaching. In addition, compared to other ancient manuscripts how solid is the evidence for the Biblical manuscripts. Blomberg notes, "It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that no orthodox doctrine or ethical practice depends solely on any disputed wording" (27). Some might think Blomberg has put it too strong. They might say no central or essential doctrine is based on a disputed passage. Even Ehrman has said in his book, Misquoting Jesus, "that essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament" (27-28). Blomberg provides detailed information about the manuscript tradition of both Old and New Testaments. The arguments and evidence he provides are quite convincing.

In chapter two, Blomberg describes the development of the canon. He answers the charges of those who claim it was politically motivated quite successfully. He shows how "the most fanciful and unorthodox documents do not emerge until the third through fifth centuries" (44). In addition, he shows how the canonical New Testament were the earliest Christian writings. He notes, "Good arguments, adopted by a wide swath of liberal and conservative scholars alike, date all of the books accepted into the New Testament to the First Century or, in the case of one or two books, perhaps to the very earliest years of the second century" (44). So the Gnostic Gospels come much later than the Orthodox writings. The rest of the chapters shows the process of the recognition of the canonical writings.

In chapter three Blomberg shows how most of the Bible translations are trustworthy. He describes the different theories of Bible Translations. Some attempt for a more word-to-word literal translation; other attempt for more clarity in the English language. He believes most translations are in the middle of these two points seeking both for faithful to the text and clarity in the receiving language. He believes any of the following translations are reliable: NIV, NASB, NAB, ESV, NRSV, and others. He seems to favor the NIV. In another section of the chapter he discusses the gender wars on inclusive language. Blomberg does a good job in showing the strengths of different translations.

In chapter four he addresses the subject of inerrancy. He likes the definition provided by Paul Feinberg: "Inerrancy means that when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs and properly interpreted will be shown to be wholly true in everything that they affirm, whether that has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical or life sciences" (123). Blomberg thinks some like Norman Geisler draws the innerancy boundaries too tight, and use it as a bully whip to make them conform or to have them removed from societies or teaching position. This is something I especially about Blomberg's work. He shows intellectual charity to those who disagree with him. In each of the issues he presents multiple options that evangelicals or inerrantists can take on the issue. This spirit shown by Blomberg makes this a compelling book.

The last two chapters answers the questions: "Aren't several narrative genres of the Bible unhistorical? and "Don't all the miracles make the Bible mythical?. Blomberg does a good job in addressing these topics. Blomberg will probably receive the most heat from positions he takes in chapter five. This will come from the people who believe in a young earth. He asks the question: "Does belief in biblical inerrancy commit one to believing in the creation of the universe only six thousand years ago?' (150). He notes how even Young Earth Creationists believe the earth is ten thousand years old. He gives different options for interpreting Genesis one. He states, "Believers in inerrancy have in fact held to a wide variety of positions on Genesis 1, all of which are in keeping with a much older earth, as the vast majority of all scientific investigation suggests" (151). He adds, "Evangelical interpreters should be free to debate the respective strengths and weaknesses of all these suggestions and adopt whichever they find most historically and exegetically compelling" (151). Other key tests he examines are Jonah, Genesis 2-3, The Book of Job, Isaiah, Daniel, and others. Blomberg thinks there is "good, well-argued scholarship for the historical reliability of most of the narrative portions of scripture (i.e., those that are written in a form that they intend to narrate history). . . . Not all writings of a narrative genre intend to record history; we need to treat each on a case-by-case basis" (176). An example would be the parables of Jesus. They are stories to teach a spiritual truth. In addition, Blomberg notes, "The truth claims of the Bible, appropriately cherished by inerrantists, can never be determined apart from our best assessment of the literary forms and genre involved" (177-178).

The last chapter discusses whether we can believe the Bible when it reports individuals doing miracles in the Bible. The greatest miracle of all is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The whole basis of Christianity is founded on this event. Blomberg takes a middle position between two extremes: we need to believe every report of a miracle and God no longer does miracles. He refers to Craig Keener's work on miracles regularly in this chapter. Blomberg shows how miracles fit the background of the stories being narrated in the Bible. It was also in the Old Testament to prove that God was the only God. Blomberg also narrates how family members have experience miraculous healing.

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg is a well-researched book on the reasons why we can still believe in the reliability of the Bible. It is well-written and a high school student to a graduate student should have no trouble reading it. All his citations are put in the endnotes to keep it from being a distraction from the main text. These notes are over thirty pages. This book is highly recommended to all readers who are interested in the subject.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Political Philosophy & Revelation

James V. Schall, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading. Catholic University of America Press, 2013. 281 pages. ISBN 978-0-8132-2154-0.

Political Philosophy and Revelation is a collection of Fr. James V. Schall's recent essays. One must not be mislead by the title political philosophy to think this is a book speaking of the dull machinery of government. It is nothing of the sort. This book is about living in the world as a Christian. How does Christianity relates to the liberal arts? What is the relationship between faith and reason? Why read books? What is the relationship between different academic disciplines? How should Christians respond to modern atheism? Does Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Charlie Brown have anything to teach us? These questions and many more are answered by Fr. Schall in Political Philosophy and Revelation.

This book has twenty-one chapters, an introduction and a conclusion. The book contains essays on philosophy, revelation, political philosophy, and other issues like reading books and pursuing a liberal arts education. Schall divides the book into seven parts. The first part discusses "the principle of all reality." What is this life about? In this part, there are chapters on reading books, reading the Apology of Socrates, and "the purpose of creation." on the chapter on reading books Schall states, "As students, you have already been exposed to many things that are not true. . .  But someday, I hope, you will come across a book, or a poem, or a teacher, or a musing of your own that will wake you up, make you curious" (14). Aristotle taught that philosophy begins in wonder. Thomas Aquinas said, "the greatest good that one can do to his neighbor is to lead him into the truth." That is the greatness of books. It can lead us into the truth.

Many today see reason and revelation in opposition to each other. Schall argues otherwise in this book. He shows how revelation addresses both philosophy and politics in this book. In chapter twenty nine, Schall reflects on fifty years of writing about faith and political philosophy. Schall notes, "If our minds have really taken our questions to their ultimate principle, if we are open to to what revelation addresses to reason, we will see that things cohere" (238). Schall in other parts actually says revelation helps reason to do its job better. Revelation actually makes reason more reason, not less.

In chapter 18, Schall addresses the right of babies to be born. The first part of the chapter he analyses this word,"right." Pope Benedict says this word does not stand by itself, but must be paired with duty. Schall notes, "Afurther danger of the word 'right' is also that it eliminates notions like generosity and gift, of things beyond the correlation of right and duty"(218). Fr. Schall argues that a child, "for its own being and good requires a father and a mother who are married to each other. They are both together responsible for them" (218). The later parts of the chapter Schall discusses modern technologies and the rights of the unborn. The author speaks against many modern technologies because they "separate sex from the begetting" (221). He goes on to say, "The child, however, no matter how conceived, is always a gift. . . Only when it is a gift can we appreciate that all human life is beyond the notion of unrestricted 'rights.' " There is much wisdom in this chapter on caring for one's children, no matter what disabilities they may have. In addition, Schall believes that the purpose of each child's life is eternal life. We are made for eternity.

There are many other excellent essays in Political Philosophy and Revelation. One other essay I especially like is the chapter on "intellectual charity." He quotes from Benedict XIV at the beginning of the chapter: "Such detrimental trends [in modern culture] points to a particular urgency of the apostolate of 'intellectual charity' which upholds the essential unity of knowledge, guides the young towards the sublime satisfaction of exercising their freedom in relation to truth and articulates the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life" (178). This quote from the pope could be the thesis for this book. Fr. Schall in this chapter unfolds this quote piece by piece. He takes intellectual charity "to mean . . . the purpose or healing effect of revelation on intellect. . . Vice versa . . . reason is itself part of the faith in the sense that faith does not contradict but completes reason, completes what reason itself ponders" (184). In other words, faith and reason complement each other. Schall adds that the pope's words insist that Christian minds "have to think correctly." Schall thinks "it is an act of charity [as Aquinas said] to teach, or even point out, the truth to another" (185). Can there be a greater calling?

Though I could go even deeper with these essays, this is enough to whet your appetite to find you a copy of this great book and begin reading. Maybe, it will be the book that "wakes you up, makes you curious."

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Regenburg Lecture

Pope Benedict XVI delivered a university lecture on September 12, 2006  at the university he once taught at in Regensburg, Germany. This lecture created a fire-storm in the Muslim world. Fr. Schall, in his book, The Regensburg Lecture, believes this violent outburst in the Muslim world "overshadowed" many of the crucial points made by Pope Benedict. The pope's lecture "called for freedom of conscience in religious matters and a reasoned debate. Not everyone agreed." Schall's book seeks to cover the main points of the pope's lecture and its implications for today. The entirety of the pope's lecture is included in appendix one of this book.

Schall's book is divided into five chapters, an introduction, and a conclusion. In chapter one, the author explains what is a university lecture. Schall makes many important points in this chapter. Schall notes, "But an academic lecture itself, in principle, even when delivered by a pope, must remain what it is, a reflective, reasoned presentation of the truth as understood and formulated by a free man. It is given before an audience prepared and willing peacefully to listen and consider this argument as presented" (20). The pope was presenting a reasoned argument that he thought that was crucial to hear in our time. If we cannot present reasoned arguments in the university, where can we?

The firestorm resulted from the pope's reference to a historical document in the 14th century. The Byzantine emperor had posed a question to a Persian gentleman. The basic question asked by the emperor is a prominent question even in our own day: "Is violence justified on the grounds of religious purpose?" (24). Is it right to spread Islam through the sword? Here are the words from Pope Benedict's lecture:

"[The Emperor] addresses his interlocutor [the Persian gentleman] with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying, 'Show me just what Mohammad brought that was new and, there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached'" (26). This is a question the West continues to ask today: Does Islam authorizes the spread of the faith by violence? The pope as the Byzantine emperor thought this was an important question. Is it permissible for this question to be asked in the university.

It is easy to lose sight that this historical reference is only a small part of the book. One might wonder why the pope did not leave it out. Probably, because he thought it must be addressed in our time. The pope showed himself a man of courage by bringing it forth. There are many other points in the pope's lecture that must be heard, and that is why Schall wrote this book.

Another important theme in the pope's lecture is the relationship between faith and reason. Chapters four and five of Schall's book discusses the interactions of Christian and Greek thought, and the relationship between revelation and culture.
Was it right for early Christian thinkers to baptize Greek thought? Must the church be de-Hellenized? These are some of the questions addressed by Schall in chapter 4. The pope argues against the attempts at de-Hellenization: "The fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of the faith itself." (112). Schall adds, "The effort to get behind the hellenization of Christianity to a pure form without this presumed burden of reason is itself contrary to the workings of the faith in its initial and formative period." Schall and the pope believe that faith and reason complement each other. Faith needs reason and reason needs faith.

Another issue addressed by the pope is the similarities of the stress on voluntarism in Muslim thought and some Protestant groups. These groups emphasize God's will over His mind. God can give arbitrary and opposing command and it will still be right and must be obeyed. It is that old dilemma noted by Plato: is the command right because God commanded it or does command it because it is right? The pope writes this about the divine intellect:
"The faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy. . . God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in sheer impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf" (123). The pope is saying that God's moral law must bear some resemblance to our moral sense. There are certain things a moral God can and cannot command based on the moral law. The idea that God can command an immoral act just does not make sense according to the pope's thinking. There are certain things God will not do based on his Holy character. The pope argues against the extreme voluntarism in Muslim thought and some Protestant traditions.

The Regensburg Lecture was an important address given by Pope Benedict. I am glad that Schall wrote a book explaining the lecture and including the lecture in his book. Both the book and the lecture makes important points for our time. It is recommended for all readers.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir

Stanley Hauerwas, Hannah's Child: A Theologian's Memoir. Eerdmans, 2010. 288 pages. ISBN 978-0-8028-6487-1.

One of the Church Fathers (Early Christian Theologians) said that Christians are made, not born. There could not be a better statement to describe the life of Stanley Hauerwas. He says repeatedly in this book he became a theologian to become a Christian. He was raised in the Methodist Church and has been a theologian at Duke University Divinity School for several years. He argues, however, that he was formed as a Christian the fourteen years he taught at Notre Dame University. He accepted Christ as a young person, though he argues that it took him several years to become a Christian. He has been a Methodist Theologian for over forty years, but he claims he is more Catholic than Protestant. In addition, he claims he has not really found a home in any ecclesiastical tradition. The title says this is a memoir, but it is not a typical memoir or autobiography. It is more a series of theological reflections on different periods of his life.

Hauerwas has been mentioned in many of the books I have read over the years. I knew he was a long-time professor at Duke Divinity school. I knew he was a pacifist. I recently read a book that mentioned Hannah's Child. I was interested in reading this book because the book I was reading said he was shaped by his fourteen years spent at the University of Notre Dame. I thought it was time to read a book authored by someone I heard so much about.

Hauerwas seems to be a lightning rod. There are many reviews and articles published about Hauerwas and this book. There seems to be strong feelings both in favor and against him. Many people have been critical of him because of his pacifist and non-violent views. I think, however, one does not have to agree with Hauerwas' pacifist stance to enjoy this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It shows how God has worked in one's person's life to form him into a Christian. It also shows a man who seeks to live with integrity, faithfulness,  truthfulness. I was surprised how straight-shooting he was in this book. I was surprised how truthful he was about his experiences.

A particular emphasis of this book was what it was like to live with a wife who suffered from mental Illness. Hauerwas's wife for over twenty years suffered from Bi-Polar. Hauerwas shows what it like to live with a family member who suffers from mental illness. Many of these family suffer in silence. I think Haerwas's experience will be helpful to others.

There is any things I like about this book. It is well-written. It tells a good story. It is honest about his struggle to become a Christian. It shows the importance of friendships in our life.

Here are a few quotes from the book:

"I have written this memoir in an attempt to understand myself, something that would be impossible without my friends. I have had a wonderful life because I have had wonderful friends. . . It is also about God-- the God who has forced me to be who I am. Indeed, trying to figure out how I ended up being Satanley Hauerwas requires that I say how God figures into the story, and this is a frightening prospect" (xi).

"I believe what I write, or rather, by writing I learn to believe. But I do not put much stock in 'believing in God.' The grammar of 'belief' invites a far too rationalistic account of what it means to be a Christian. . . I am far more interested in what a declaration of belief entails for how I live my life" (x).

"For me, learning to be a Christian has meant learning to live without answers. Indeed, to learn to live in this way is what makes being a Christian so wonderful. Faith is but a name for learning how to go on without knowing the answers" (207-208).

Hannah's Child is a book that will bring much pleasure to the reader. I enjoyed reading it. Sometimes, it was hard to put it down. It has made me to want to read other works by Hauerwas.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Idea of a Christian College

Todd C. Ream and Perry L. Glanzer, The Idea of a Christian College: A Reexamination for Today's University. Cascade Books, 2013. 158 pages. ISBN 978-1-61097-327-4.

One of my favorite book on integrating faith and learning is The Idea of A Christian College by Arthur F. Holmes. It was first published in 1975. It has had a great impact on evangelical scholars over the years. Todd C. Ream and Perry L. Glanzer think that it has become somewhat dated. There is also a new trend to go beyond the integration of faith and learning. I interpret this concept to mean that we need a more holistic view of faith and learning. Maybe, it is meant as a corrective to a overemphasis on the intellect. Arthur F. Holmes died October 8, 2011. He was a long-time professor of philosophy at Wheaton College.

Ream and Glanzer believe that there have been many changes since the original publication of Holmes/ book. This is the reason they decided to write a similar book to take account of these changes in the academy. The authors state that they "intend to undertake" in this book "a reexamination of the idea of the Christian College in the light of these changes" (xiv). Two major changes the authors emphasize are "the new ecclesiastical emphasis . . . upon worship's rightful place in orienting our lives" (xiv). This is emphasized throughout this book and it is one thing I appreciate about the book. It is an emphasis in some of James K. A. Smith's books including Desiring the Kingdom. The second change is how "Christian scholars have increasingly recognized our need to dethrone the impulse to reduce human beings to mere thinking selves or selves divorced from our God-given identities" (xiv). This emphasis that we are more than thinking selves is another emphasis I appreciate about this book. Alongside this emphasis goes the concept of practices. These companion ideas are emphasized in the works of Macintyre, Charles Taylor, James K. A. Smith and others.

The Idea of a Christian College is organized into ten chapters, an introduction, and a conclusion. Some of the themes addressed in these chapters are : "Why a Christian University?," loving God, being human, what does the university has to do with Christianity?, "the creation and redemption of learners," our work and God's work, the academic vocation, academic freedom, diversity, globalism, and "the marks of an educated person." Each chapter begins with a quote from Holmes' book, The Idea of a Christian College. Todd C. Ream is professor of Higher Education at Taylor University. Perry L. Glanzer is professor of Educational Foundations at Baylor University.

In the first chapter Ream and Glanzer states that the Bible teaches that all Christians are to love God and neighbor. Christian universities can help in this call by "the creation and redemption of learning" (11). This means to join the Christian's work with God's work. In addition, the authors believe that "what makes the Christian university unique is that its faculty members focus not merely upon the creation and redemption of students but they also engage in the creation and redemption of culture as a whole" (12). The authors mean that Christians scholars are not only to teach, but are to create scholarship too. They must be about advancing knowledge.

In chapter two the authors quote from Holmes: "The Christian college refuses to compartmentalize religion. It retains a unifying Christian worldview and brings it to bear in understanding and participating in various arts and sciences, as well as non-academic aspects of campus life" (14). Holmes is suggesting that Christians are not to live fragmented lives. We are to integrate the Christian faith in all aspects of our life. In this chapter the authors argue that worship needs to be the center of our lives and our learning institutions. They present St. Augustine's idea how our loves direct our loves. They discuss how our loves must be transformed by the practice of worship. This focus on worship that all of our life is to be focused on loving God and our neighbor. The authors note, "Augustine also realized that all education cultivates and orders one's loves" (19). The practice of worship and the spiritual disciplines re-orders how desires to love God.

The Idea of a Christian College does a good job of addressing changes in the academy since 1975. There is a need for a more holistic view of the relationship between faith and learning. The authors do not mean by this that we should abandon the integration of faith and learning. They do mean that we are more than thinking selves. They also recognize the importance of practices in forming our desires. A Christian university would want to do more than just cultivate the intellect. We want to cultivate the whole person.

I do not think the important ideas presented by Ream and Glanzer have invalidated the ideas of Holmes' The Idea of the Christian College. I think it is best to continue reading both. I have read Holmes' work with great joy and will continue to do so.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Your Mind Matters

John Stott, Your Mind Matters. Foreword by Mark A. Noll. IVP Books, 2006. Originally published in 1972. 91 pages. ISBN 978-0-8308-3408-2.

Publisher's Information:

'Knowledge is indispensable to Christian life and service,' writes John Stott. 'If we do not use the mind which God has given us, we condemn ourselves to spiritual superficiality.' "While Christians have had a long heritage of rigorous scholarship and careful thinking, some circles still view the intellect with suspicion or even contrary to Christian faith."

Your Mind Matters is a lecture that Stott gave in 1972. The purpose of the lecture was to correct anti-intellectualism among Evangelical Christians. It is interesting that Mark Noll wrote the foreword of the book since he wrote a book several years ago addressing the same topic: The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Why would these two authors need to address the theme of anti-intellectualism among Evangelical Christians? Is this still a problem today?

I had an interesting experience several years ago. I was the Technical Services Librarian at the University of Mobile. A professor from the English department was bringing Peter Kreeft, professor of Philosophy, to campus. She knew I had read most of his books. She asked me to be his guide while he was on campus. I was very excited about this request. It would allow me a lot of time to privately engage in conversation with one of my favorite authors.

I had some exciting conversations with Kreeft during his visit. On the way of driving him to the airport, I brought up the subject on the relationship between faith and reason. Kreeft is Roman Catholic. I have been an Evangelical Christian for over thirty years and I knew that some Evangelicals thought faith and reason were incompatible. I asked Kreeft what Catholics thought about the relationship of faith and reason. Were they compatible? Kreeft told me that it was an issue that Catholics had settled over a thousand years ago. It no longer was an issue for them. His response was quite surprising. It made sense. I have always thought that evangelicals can learn a lot from Medieval Christianity.

As a young Christian I struggled with the relationship of faith and reason. I learned about faith at my church. I learned about reason at the university. For many years I saw to reconcile these two different worlds. Several years ago I read this little book by Stott and found it to be helpful. I am glad it has been republished with a foreword by Mark Noll. I hope other Christians who struggle with this issue will be helped by it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

C. S. Lewis and the Arts

C. S. Lewis and the Arts : Creativity in the Shadowlands, edited by Rod Miller. Baltimore: Square Halo Books, 2013. 149 pages. ISBN 978-0-9785097-7-4

Just when we thought nothing else could be written by Lewis, multiple books have been published the last few years. Many of these have come out because in 2013 marked 50 years since the death of Lewis. Many think that there are elements of Lewis that has not been explored yet. There can be a strong case for looking at the Arts through the eyes of C. S. Lewis since he was an English professor and a publisher over 50 books.

C. S. Lewis and the Arts is a collection of essays from some of the leading Lewis interpreters: David C. Downing, Don King, Jerry Root, Peter J. Schakel, Will Vaus and others. These essays "explore various aspects of Lewis's thinking in regards to art, beauty, creativity, and their value for humans" (xiii). The authors to not always agree with each other. However, the authors engage each other's ideas and these disagreements give a fuller picture of Lewis and the arts. The essayists not only Lewis thought about themes in the arts, but also add their own thoughts and current understanding about these topics. The reader not only learns what Lewis thought but ways to look at the arts from a Christian perspective.

In the first essay Downing critiques "Lewis's aesthetic theories in the Abolition of Man." He thinks that Lewis's aesthetic are "most persuasive when he views varied experiences of beauty less as embodiments of neo-platonic principle than a glimpses of a person" (6). In addition, he thinks Lewis's defense of the natural law is stronger than his defense of an objective theory of beauty in the Abolition of Man. 

Bruce Herman compares Lewis with two other authors in his essay: George Steiner and Hans Georg Gadamer. He attempts to show where Lewis is in agreement with these two authors. He analyses An Experiment in Criticism in his essay. Herman focuses on showing hospitality to the author of the text and the importance of submission to the text. Scott Key discusses the "moral aesthetic" of Perelandra. He seeks to provide an understanding of beauty. How do we judge beauty is a major concern. Don King looks at the poetry of Lewis. King tells us that Lewis major ambition was to be a poet, but ended up being a prose writer. He thinks, however, we cannot understand Lewis without understanding how he had a poetic imagination and continued to write poetry his whole life.

Rod Miller asks the question on what value does the art serve. He looks at Lewis's attempts to try to answer this question. Lewis says in Learning in War-Time, "He [the practitioner of the arts] must ask himself how it is right, or even psychologically possible, for creatures who are every moment advancing either to heaven or hell, to spend any fraction of the little time allowed them in this world on such comparative trivialities as literature or art, mathematics or biology. If human culture can stand up to that, it can stand up to anything" (47). This sermon by Lewis was addressed to college students who were also Air Force cadets in World War II. How can we pursue our studies at a time of war? Lewis gave many answers in this sermon and other works. Miller does not seem to be completely satisfied with Lewis's answers. In addition, he has a problem with art for art's sake. He thinks there is a higher purpose. He concludes: "As Christian consumers of cultural products we have the freedom to choose those lower works for mere aesthetic pleasure or those of a higher nature that inspire us rightly, increase our devotion, knowledge, wisdom, and love. Christian duty, however, compels us to mirror in the world as much Truth, goodness, and Beauty as we know . . ." (58). I do not think Lewis really disagrees with him. Lewis would probably seek a middle position between the rejection of art, a utilitarian view of art, and idolizing art.

Jerry Roots seeks to defend the objectivity of art in his essay. He argues that Lewis was an objectivist and argued that there were ways to evaluate art. He disagrees with Downing that the the argument for the objectivity of art is not successful in the Abolition of Man. He also describes the debate between Lewis and Tillyward documented in The Personal Heresy. 

Other essays discusses the problems of literary criticism. One of the complaints is that it prevents the reader from seeing the text the author has written. In addition, it looks at ways to determine the good reader. Schakel loos at how Lewis uses music and dance as metaphors in his writings. Another essay discusses the purpose of art. The author makes the following assertion: "My astonishing claim is this : Most of evangelical Christianity for the last hundred years (and longer) has gotten art and culture all wrong, but, as per usual, C. S. Lewis gets it right. We don't know what culture is for, we don't know what is art for, and we keep asking the wrong people: theologians" (115). He thinks the right people to ask would be practitioners in the arts. This seems to be a valid point. One goes to a plumber if they are having problems with the drainage pipes.  The last essay gives an overview of Lewis and the arts. He provides what advice he believe Lewis would give Christian writers today.

C. S. Lewis and the Arts is a welcome addition to the Lewis canon. The reader will learn both what Lewis thought and how to view the arts today through a Christian perspective. It is recommended for all readers who are interested in Christianity and the arts.