edited by Robert Wuthnow
Jossey-Bass, 327 pages, $29.95
More than $100 billion is given to “charities” each year in the U.S., and more than half of that giving is associated with religion. Another critical factor is that those who give to secular causes of a humanitarian nature are also those who give to religion (except for environment and the arts, which seem to be mainly supported by people who are not religiously committed). The gravamen of this important study is that the philanthropic world, including most of the big foundations, is making a big mistake in overlooking, as it typically does, the role of religion in philanthropy. If the religious roots are not nurtured, the authors contend, the American tradition of philanthropy could dry up in the next century.
The Rights of Religious Persons in Public Education
by John W. Whitehead
Crossway Books, 329 pages, $12.95
What sorts of religious symbols can be displayed in public schools? What religious views can be expressed and under what conditions? What rights do religious student groups have in gaining access to public school facilities? These questions and many others are taken up here, with extensive citing of legal precedents and arguments. Written from a conservative evangelical standpoint by the president of The Rutherford Institute, a legal foundation opposed to strict-separationist public policies. A valuable source book.
The Pragmatic God: on the Nihilism of Reinhold Niebuhr
by Harry Ausmus
Peter Lang, 308 pages, $57.95
Reinhold Niebuhr, generally seen as a pillar of Protestant neo-orthodoxy in religion and “Christian realism” in politics, is here condemned for covert nihilism and “blatant anti-intellectualism.” The argument in this book is so strange, incoherent, and misdirected that it achieves little in correcting or clarifying Niebuhr's thought. Despite occasional insights concerning his ostensible subject, Ausmus recognizes that his book really “is not about a person,” but rather about “the problem of nihilism.” Put another way, it uses Niebuhr as a foil for the author to work out his own Schopenhauerian pessimism. With its super-high price and low payoff, this book will probably be limited to the small readership it deserves.
Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement
edited by Nicholas Lossky, et al
Eerdmans/World Council of Churches, 1196 pages, $79.95
“An astonishingly thorough and eminently useful reference book. . . . I cannot imagine that anyone who has to deal with relations between the churches could do without this work.” That is what Jaroslav Pelikan, the eminent church historian at Yale, says. As usual, we find no reason to disagree with him.
Pursuit of Truth
by W. V. Quine
Harvard University Press, 113 pages, $17.50
One of the most acclaimed philosophers of our age offers a postscript to earlier reflections on what we can know for sure. As readers of Quine would expect, the answer is. Not much. But arriving at that answer is a fine mind-twisting that provides good clean intellectual exercise with minimal risk of permanent damage.
History, Religion, and Antisemitism
by Gavin I. Langmuir
University of California Press, 379 pages, $37.50
A professor of history at Stanford begins from the premise that religion, and Christianity in particular, is hopelessly irrational. If one believes that Jesus performed miracles and is actually present now in eucharistic bread and wine, it is only a short step to believing that “the Jew” is the incarnation of evil. It appears that the chief difference between Christians and Nazis is that the former are “psychocentric” while the latter are “physiocentric.” If only people would start thinking clearly, the madness of religion could be held at bay. Published, remarkably enough, by a reputable university press.
Political Sermons of the American Founding Era
edited by Ellis Sandoz
Liberty Press, 1596 pages, $29.95
Sermons preached, mainly in the Congregational tradition, from 1730 to 1805 bring vibrantly to life the historical connection between religion and political freedom in America. This book is a salutary antidote to the secularized reconstructions of American history that tend to dominate in our educational systems.
The Turbulent Triangle: Christians, Jews, Israel
by Isaac Rottenberg
Red Mountain (Box 2113, Hawley, PA 18428), 212 pages, $8.95
This book should be of great interest to those concerned about Jewish-Christian relations and how they influence attitudes toward Israel. Rottenberg worked for years with the National Council of Churches and other ecumenical agencies, and makes important contributions to our understanding of why mainline/oldline Protestantism turned so virulently toward a pro-Third World and anti-Israel position.
The Litigation Explosion: What Happened When America Unleashed the Lawsuit
by Walter K. Olson
Dutton, 388 pages, $24.95
A powerful indictment of a legal system that, originally designed to protect the rights of citizens, has been turned into an instrument of despotism. Vaguely worded legislation and sloppy rules of evidence play into the hands of whoever is willing to work with unprincipled lawyers in ruining the lives of others. A moral tract for the times that is deserving of wide attention. The author is senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.