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Covenant Of Love:
Pope John Paul II on Sexuality, Marriage, and Family in the Modern World

edited by Richard M. Hogan and John M. Levoir
Ignatius Press, 328 pages, $14.95

For those who have had enough of the dull and deadly conformism of recent decades, a manifesto for a sexual revolution that is truly revolutionary.

Church and State in Early Christianity 
by Hugo Rahner 
Ignatius Press, 324 pages, $16.95 

Although written before Vatican Council II, which dramatically developed Catholic teaching on church-state relations, this fine historical treatment of the subject from the second through eighth centuries, now reissued, is of lasting value. Rahner (elder brother to Karl) concludes with a firm endorsement of the views of Ambrose of Milan, who cautioned the Church against too cozy a connection with the emperor and had high praise for the merits of being persecuted.

Islamic Da’wah in the West:
Muslim Missionary Activity and the Dynamics of Conversion to Islam
by Larry Poston 
Oxford University Press, 220 pages, $29.95

In the West today, Muslims do not have the option of missiology by military conquest. Poston examines alternative forms of mission activity and the characteristics of those who are being converted to Islam.

What Does the Lord Require?
How American Christians Think About Economic Justice

by Stephen Hart 
Oxford University Press, 253 pages, $24.95

The Christian thinkers favored by Hart favor forms of economic democracy that he describes as “in some sense socialist.” We should put people ahead of profits, and so forth and so on. The argument and, one fears, the author are caught in a time warp. Too bad, for the question of the title remains as urgent as ever 

The Devaluing of America:
The Fight for Our Culture and Our Children

by William J. Bennett 
Summit, 271 pages, $20 

In a manner informed and forceful, the former Secretary of Education cuts through the smog obscuring the culture wars in which our society is embroiled. School choice, sexual mores, and the connections between religion and morality all come in for illuminating attention. A book to pass on to neighbors and take up in discussion groups.

The Ethics of St. Augustine
edited by William S. Babcock 
Scholars Press (Emory University), 189 pages, $29.95 

Outside the biblical canon, nobody is so perennially pertinent as Augustine. In this book of seven solid essays, especially outstanding are “Cupiditas and Caritas : The Early Augustine on Love and Human Fulfillment,” by the editor, and “Human Sexuality in the History of Redemption” by Paul Ramsey.

Parishes That Excel
by Patrick J. Brennan 
Crossroad, 130 pages, $13.95

A priest in charge of evangelization for the Archdiocese of Chicago offers a sympathetic treatment of, inter alia, “church growth” models associated with Protestant “megachurches.” Evangelization employing “marketing” techniques is much criticized by the more theologically thoughtful. It might be of considerable significance if the much-discussed pitfalls could be avoided in the Catholic context.

The Role of Religion in the Making of Public Policy
edited by James E. Wood and Derek Davis 
J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies (Baylor University), 256 pages, $9.95 

Nine essays providing a reliable overview of the title subject. Allen Hertzke’s evaluation of mainline/oldline churches since 1945 is especially insightful.

20th Century Theology
by Stanley Grenz and Roger Olson 
InterVarsity Press, 393 pages, $19.99 

A helpful overview of theological figures and currents in this century, written from an evangelical Protestant perspective by two thinkers much indebted to Wolfhart Pannenberg. A reliable and recommended introduction.

The American Communist Movement:
Storming Heaven Itself
by Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes 
Twayne, 210 pages, $24.95 

A brief but solid and informative history of the movement, its institutional tentacles, and its friends and enemies. Only a few years ago the book might have been controversial. Now it is a welcome documentation of “idealisms” and “idealists” gone horribly wrong.

Refuse to Stand Silently By
edited by Eliot Wigginton 
Doubleday, 430 pages, $25 

An “oral history of grass roots social activism” from the 1920s to the 1960s. Pete Seeger, Studs Terkel, and more than a dozen friends explain why they have been so courageous for so long.

A Noble Death:
Suicide and Martyrdom Among Christians and Jews in Antiquity
by Arthur J. Droge and James D. Tabor 
HarperCollins, 203 pages, $25 

Every once in a while a book appears that is truly pernicious in its wrongheaded use of scholarship. The authors put their undoubted learning to the purpose of fudging the distinctions between suicide, martyrdom, and euthanasia. Augustine, in their telling, is the villain who turned Christians against the idea of “the right to die.” Little wonder that the book carries a warm recommendation by Derek Humphry, the infamous founder of the Hemlock Society. Erudition in the service of propaganda.

The Secularization of Early Modern England:
From Religious Culture to Religious Faith

by C. John Sommerville 
Oxford University Press, 227 pages, $39.95

Sommerville, author of “Why the News Makes Us Dumb” (FT, October 1991), is Professor of History at the University of Florida. He argues that secularization developed in England from 1500 to 1700 as alternative vocabularies emerged for explaining and, to some extent, controlling reality. At that point, being religious became a matter of faith, even choice. The emergence of the heretical imperative (Peter Berger) was much earlier than is usually supposed.

Rediscovering the Sacred
by Robert Wuthnow 
Eerdmans, 178 pages, $8.95 

A prolific sociologist of religion offers, as the subtitle has it, “perspectives on religion in contemporary society.” The subtitle and substance of the book are generic, but always with the nuance and caution for which Wuthnow is noted.

Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash. Image cropped.