Darwin on Trial
by Phillip E. Johnson
Regnery Gateway, 195 pages, $19.95
A calm, comprehensive, and utterly devastating critique of evolution elevated to the level of religious faith. Johnson of the University of California, Berkeley, brings a lawyer’s keen mind to dissecting the arguments that sustain evolution as one of the more overweening orthodoxies in contemporary thought. Excerpts from the book appeared in these pages (“Evolution as Dogma: The Establishment of Naturalism,” October 1990).
Dictionary of Christianity in America
edited by Daniel G. Reid, Robert D. Linder, Bruce L. Shelley, and Harry S. Stout
InterVarsity Press, 1307 pages, $44.95
A truly splendid resource. Prepared under evangelical Protestant auspices and frequently reflecting that bias, this dictionary is thoroughly ecumenical and interreligious in its reach. Especially valuable for its bibliographies and biographical sketches of prominent figures, past and present. Clearly written and thoroughly accessible to the nonspecialist. Highly recommended.
Necessary Angels: Tradition and Modernity in Kafka, Benjamin, and Scholem
by Robert Alter
Harvard University Press, 131 pages, $19.95
The word that seems almost unavoidable in describing Alter’s work is elegant. It certainly applies to these essays on “the epiphanic force of memory” in the thought of Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin, and Gershom Scholem. All claims to the contrary, modernity is not, according to Alter, immune to visitations by angels. Highly recommended reading for those who are open to illumination and enchantment.
Exporting Democracy: Fulfilling America’s Destiny
by Joshua Muravchik
AEI Press, 257 pages, $24
When modern democracy was born on these shores in 1776, it encompassed a million or so citizens, one or two-tenths of 1 percent of the world’s population. Today 2 billion people live under democratic government, about 40 percent of mankind. America has been the engine of much of this transformation.” Muravchik’s provocatively titled and vigorously argued book proposes that the end of the Cold War should be a time for revivifying America’s sense of global responsibility for the democratic idea. He well knows and convincingly counters isolationist arguments to the contrary. Exporting Democracy must be read by those concerned about the moral case for America’s role in “the new world order.” The author overestimates American virtue, and more Niebuhrian ambiguity would be welcome, but he is surely on target regarding America’s responsibility, if not its “destiny.”
Dialogue with The Other: The Inter-Religious Dialogue
by David Tracy
Eerdmans, 123 pages, $12.95
Tracy of the University of Chicago Divinity School writes in his usual very academic manner on a subject of importance. Unfortunately, he is inclined to assume an ability to enter into incommensurate religious traditions in a way that reflects the very hubris of Western culture that he deplores.
Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism
by Donna Steichen
Ignatius Press, 420 pages, $15.95
An informed and informative polemic written by a deeply committed Catholic mother and journalist. One cannot help but be impressed by her determination in spending hundreds of hours in feminist meetings and in interviews with prominent feminists. She ties raging feminism into what she views as the more general crisis of Catholicism in America, but ends on a note of hope for a “restoration” of sanity and, therefore, orthodoxy.
God and Creation: An Ecumenical Symposium
edited by David Burrell and Bernard McGinn
University of Notre Dame Press, 352 pages, $29.95
Christian, Jewish, and Islamic scholars compare their understandings of the relationship between Creator and creature. Of special interest is editor Burrell’s “Creation or Emanation: Two Paradigms of Reason.” Throughout, the essays are preoccupied with the perennial problems connected with the alliance and/or hostility between faith and reason, making some of the essays of broader philosophical interest.
Probing China’s Soul
by Julia Ching
Harper & Row, 269 pages, $18.95
A University of Toronto professor offers a compelling analysis of the struggle for human rights and democracy in China. A particular strength of this account is the attention paid religion, a factor generally ignored by the media. The author wants to end on a hopeful note but has no illusions about the gerontocracy that is, at the same time, devoted to and blind to its own interests.
The Perennial Dictionary of World Religions
edited by Keith Crim
Harper & Row, 830 pages, $19.95
With 161 contributors, some of the entries are bound to be uneven. But The Perennial is, all in all, a reliable and eminently useful resource for any general-interest library.
Priesthood: A Re-Examination of the Roman Catholic Theology of the Presbyterate
by Patrick J. Dunn
Alba House, 232 pages, $12.95
In all the churches, the relationship between laity and clergy raises perennial problems. Dunn offers an accessible and informed survey of Catholic debates on ministry, contending for a “high” view of priesthood that is similar to directions in some Protestant communions. While the argument is generally persuasive, the suggestion that the shortage of priests may require the replacement of the Eucharist as the normal weekly service is likely to meet with stiff resistance. A useful appendix offers an overview of considerations that lead Rome to the conclusion that the church is not “authorized” to ordain women to the presbyterate.
Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America
by Edwin S. Gaustad
Eerdmans, 229 pages, $14.95
An admirable popular biography by the emeritus professor of history at the University of California, Riverside. John Quincy Adams called Williams (1604-1683) “that polemical porcupine” and he did indeed make himself unpleasant in the course of establishing Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissent. Gaustad is especially good in treating Williams’ ecclesiology, which led him to believe that the only possible true church was either Rome—and that was impossible since Rome was manifestly the Antichrist—or the church that would be established upon the return of Christ. For a long time Williams was very poorly treated in histories sympathetic to the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Company, while in this century he has been embraced by civil libertarians who ignore his religious and theological motivations. One sometimes gets the impression from such modern treatments that Williams was a premature member of the ACLU. In fact, his concern was to protect the “garden” of Christianity from the “wilderness” of the general society, underscoring the truth that religious freedom is itself a religious achievement.
Revolution Within the Revolution: The First Amendment in Historical Context, 1612-1789
by William R. Estep
Eerdmans, 214 pages, $14.95
A church historian at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary makes the case for the separation of church and state from a Baptist perspective, and against some others, including the editor-in-chief of this journal, whom he suspects of misrepresenting the history of the First Amendment. A sober and thoughtful argument. Foreword by Bill Moyers of PBS fame.
A Religious History of America
by Edwin Scott Gaustad
Harper & Row, 391 pages, $19.95
A new revised edition of what quickly and rightly became a standard account. In a steady and unspectacular way, Gaustad keeps religion center stage in the telling of the American story. A strong candidate for the library of anyone aspiring to literacy about what made America the way it is.
by Arnoul Greban
Southern Illinois University Press, 110, pages, $24.95
Now is the time to plan for the Christmas season. Greban’s vast fifteenth-century play. The Mystery of the Passion, is here excerpted and gracefully translated by Shelley Sewall. This is just the nativity section, and it would seem to be eminently producible by local churches.