Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth: Sacred Doctrine and the Natural Knowledge of God
By Eugene Rogers, Jr.
University of Notre Dame Press, 248 pages, $34.95
This is a splendid example of the close reading of classical texts taught—or formerly taught—in the theological graduate schools of Yale. In good Yalie fashion, however, it is structured by a matrix of interlocking agendas, whose complexity Rogers' various attempts at explanation do little to alleviate. Potential readers should be warned, but definitely not put off. Two contentions seem determinative for Rogers. The first is that Thomas should be read primarily as a biblical theologian, made ever more biblical precisely by his study of Aristotle. We should not read Thomas' biblical commentaries as material for his Summas, but interpret the Summas by the biblical exegeses. The second is that when we read Thomas this way, he appears as a much more “evangelical” theologian than he is sometimes taken for. Rogers supports his first contention by exemplifying his suggested way of reading and by choosing a particularly knotty case—interpreting Thomas on the natural knowledge of God by reading the first question in the Summa Theologica from Thomas' exegesis of Romans 1, instead of the other way around. And he supports the second contention by showing how Thomas, read this way, is not after all very far from Karl Barth on the same subject—if Barth also is held to his exegetical work. For those who need to know about such things, this will be a necessary book.
—Robert W. Jenson
The Nazification of Russia: Anti-Semitism in the Post-Soviet Era
By Semyon Reznik
Challenge Publications (Washington D.C.), 276 pages, $24.95
With the end of the Cold War, many intellectuals in the West believe that Russia is on the road to democracy and that its problems, however painful, are marginal. Reznik's book is a warning against such wishful thinking, concentrating on the last three decades (but stopping just short of the recent presidential elections in Russia). This firsthand account, based on twenty years of personal experience and research, is a fascinating blend of scholarly analysis, adventure stories, and sketches of lively characters. The book reveals how Communist ideology gradually faded under Brezhnev and how this process accelerated under Gorbachev and Yeltsin—only to have a new breed of extremists appear in Russia. Reznik shows how the national-patriots (as they call themselves) widely exploit traditionally popular xenophobia and anti-Semitism. In the context of disastrous economic conditions, corruption, and social instability, their activities are especially dangerous. Reznik's book was already completed when the national-communist Gennady Zhyuganov and his “patriotic” rival Alexander Lebed won tens of millions of votes in the presidential elections. This is a strong signal that Reznik's alarmed voice deserves to be heard.
—Boris A. Kushner
The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America: Since 1945
By George H. Nash
Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 467 pages, $24.95
George Nash knows as much about the intellectual history of modern American conservatism as anybody, and it is a pleasure to have his classic 1976 study again available. This reprint includes a brief Epilogue (just thirteen pages) bringing matters up to date. Nash's original work told in impeccable detail of the post-World War II coming together—not without fractious controversy—of the three groups of modern conservative intellectuals: the libertarians, the traditionalists, and the anti-Communists. National Review provided them their major platform, and NR's Editor, William F. Buckley, Jr., presided with a shrewd and ecumenical spirit over the emerging intellectual right. Nash's necessarily cursory Epilogue introduces the two other voices of modern conservatism: the neoconservatives and the religious right. As always, his treatment is evenly balanced and scrupulously fair. Conservatives of all persuasions can be grateful to have George Nash as their historian.
Standing Firm: Reclaiming Christian Faith in Times of Controversy
By Parker T. Williamson
Presbyterian Lay Committee (Lenoir, NC), 209 pages, $12
An argument that many of the controversies troubling Protestant churches today were effectively faced by the Council of Nicaea in a.d. 325. The author is editor of Presbyterian Layman, a conservative paper sent to half a million Presbyterians in North America.
Jesus in an Age of Controversy
By Douglas Groothuis
Harvest House, 374 pages, $9.99
An evangelistic and somewhat polemical response to the “Jesus Seminar” and other high jinks in biblical studies. This accessible book is especially strong in countering New Age and other esoteric renderings of the Jesus story.
Christian Ethics: Problems and Prospects
Edited by Lisa Sowle Cahill and James F. Childress
Pilgrim Press, 400 pages, $18.95
Twenty-one essays in honor of James Gustafson, the noted Protestant ethicist. The book is a useful overview of the current state of “mainline” ethical discussion, both Protestant and Catholic, in the academy. Of particular interest to readers of this journal are Stanley Hauerwas, “Agency: Going Forward by Looking Back,” and Joseph Allen, “Recent Theological Discussion of Democracy.”
The Compassionate Conservative
By Joseph J. Jacobs
Huntington House, 293 pages, $24.99
A successful businessman tells the story of putting his considerable fortune in the service of what Peter Berger and Richard John Neuhaus have dubbed “mediating institutions,” those nongovernmental agencies that help the disadvantaged and marginal to take charge of their lives. Other philanthropists might consider emulating Jacobs' determination to spend his money in his lifetime, rather than entrust it to the unreliable fiduciary virtues of philanthropic professionals.
Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin
By Leo F. Stelten
Hendrickson, 328 pages, $24.79
Exactly what the title suggests, and a very useful reference. Especially helpful is an appendix that explains current church uses of a Latin terminology whose meaning has evolved over the years.