Thursday, September 30, 2010

A New Bonhoeffer Biography

Prominent among Christian martyrs of modern times is the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who in April 1945, just before the arrival of the allied armies, was executed on Hitler’s orders. Bonhoeffer became known not only for his heroic opposition to Hitler, but also and especially for the fact that this opposition was motivated by his allegiance to Christ. Resistance to the Nazi regime was for him a matter of following the Christ who (as Bonhoeffer writes in one of his books), when he calls a man, “bids him come and die.” His theology was a theology of discipleship and therefore not of triumph or worldly comfort, but of the cross.

The standard biography of Bonhoeffer was written shortly after the war by his friend and former student Eberhard Bethge. Since then many commentaries have appeared on Bonhoeffer’s life and work but no full-fledged new biography. That gap is now filled by Eric Metaxas (the author also of a recently published and highly acclaimed biography of William Wilberforce). In his Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (2010), Metaxas makes use of Bethge’s work but comes with additional material and with new insights as well. In my review I draw attention to similarities between this biography and James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom, which I reviewed earlier. Although there are important differences between the two books, both have much to teach us about the Christian life in the world of today, and I hope that both will be read and studied among us.

For the review see our “Collected Papers”; a direct link is here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Poythress on Language: A Book Review

Where does language come from, and how does it develop? What does the character of language tell us about the Triune God, about the nature of created reality, and about us as human beings? What happens to truth when the words which convey it are translated? The field of linguistics, especially when done from a Christian perspective, digs into questions such as these. Vern Poythress, a Reformed academic and author of Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach (which has been mentioned on this blog here and here), recently published another book in his “God-Centered” series, this one on linguistics. We are grateful to Francine VanWoudenberg Sikkema for writing an in-depth review of In The Beginning Was The Word: Language—A God-Centered Approach. The book is also freely available online as a PDF.

Francine is a graduate of Trinity Western University, where she received an M.A. in Linguistics with a focus on Bible translation. She has also studied biblical languages at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary. She is currently working as a freelance editor. She lives in Hamilton, ON with her husband Tim and their pre-born baby, where they are preparing to do mission work in Lae, Papua New Guinea.

Francine’s review of In The Beginning Was The Word is listed in our “Collected Papers”, and a direct link is here. We invite your responses.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Notice: Calvin and Culture

We would like to draw our readers’ attention to a valuable wide-ranging new book relevant to every Reformed academic: David W. Hall & Marvin Padgett, Calvin and Culture: Exploring a Worldview (P&R Publishing, 2010). A wonderful heritage of Calvinism, as compared to many other branches of Christianity, is that it has unpacked the breadth of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ: it is much more than the salvation of human souls, but is something for each of us (including the academic) to be involved in for the glory of God and the benefit of man as we shape and reshape culture.

The book, part of the Calvin 500 series, contains one 20- to 40-page chapter each on how Calvin or Calvinism relates to the academic disciplines:

Ch. 1. 1929 and All That, or What Does Calvinism Say to Historians Searching for Meaning?, by Darryl G. Hart
Ch. 2. Law, Authority, and Liberty in Early Calvinism, by John Witte Jr.
Ch. 3. The Arts and the Reformed Tradition, by William Edgar
Ch. 4. Calvin’s Contributions to Economic Theory and Policy, by Timothy D. Terrell
Ch. 5. Calvinism and Literature, by Leland Ryken
Ch. 6. Calvin’s Legacy in Philosophy, by William C. Davis
Ch. 7. Calvin, Politics, and Political Science, by Paul Marshall
Ch. 8. Calvinism and Science, by Don Petcher
Ch. 9. John Calvin’s Impact on Business, by Richard C. Chewning
Ch. 10. Calvin and Music, by Paul S. Jones
Ch. 11. Medicine: In the Biblical Tradition of John Calvin with Modern Applications, by Franklin E. (Ed) Payne, MD
Ch. 12. Calvin as Journalist, by Warren Cole Smith
Ch. 13. The Future of Calvinism as a Worldview, by David W. Hall

We know that there are members of the Canadian Reformed churches who have academic degrees in many of the areas represented in this publication. And so we sincerely invite your reviews of this book. By special arrangement with the publisher, we are able to send you a chapter of your choice at no charge, and would like to have your concise (three- to five-paragraph) review completed for publication here on the blog. To participate, please contact us at