Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Christian Nationalism Without Christ

 For decades Christians with whom I share many sympathies have warned about the emergence of a Christless Christianity among American evangelicals. In the last decade the reality of an advocacy of Christianity without Christ has seemed to increase as Christians have seemed willing to desire the restoration of Christendom even if it involves the abandonment of the Son of God. Consider the following:

  • In the last year or so Christians have invested significant time and treasure in a campaign to sell to the American public a version of Jesus that resembles the heresy of Socianism more than it looks like Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament. Stripped of any message of his divinity or his saving mission, Americans are supposed to be impressed that "he gets us," though it remains unclear why it should matter.to anyone.
  • A nationally known Christian talking head was recently heard by this correspondent to say that the Bible actually has "little to say" about salvation, though it provides a lot of information relevant to the development of a "Christian worldview." Evidently, the core affirmation of the Christian religion that God saves sinners, a notion that suffuses the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, is in fact remarkably absent after all and not important to whatever worldview that requires developing.
  • In a lecture on Christian nationalism before an academic evangelical audience, listeners were assured that Abraham Lincoln was certainly a "Christian nationalist" even though it was admitted that it is unclear whether the 16th president would affirm a single phrase from the Apostle's Creed. Seemingly, Christian nationalism doesn't require any clear doctrinal confession -- not even the opening phrase of belief in "God the Father almighty."
  • Recently, a woman who had been victimized as a girl by radical versions of Islam before embracing atheism has now announced her conversion to Christianity. I need to state that I hope she truly has come to faith in Christ, as her story is a striking one of great courage. What is unclear from her written statements, however, is whether her conversion involves faith in the saving work of Christ. She seems more concerned about the capacity of Christian ethics and perhaps theism to provide a foundation for a humanitarian societal ethic. Many evangelicals seem enthused.
These types of examples seem to point toward the embrace of Christendom and Christianity without Christ, of evangelicalism without the evangel. Advocates seem to want to point to legal structures embracing moralistic commitments as a foundation for "taking America back," though it is unclear what they are taking it back for. Somehow, no one talking about a Christian nation is advocating replacing the Star Spangled Banner with the Nicene Creed or the vague "In God We Trust" with a pronouncement that justification is by faith alone.

None of this is to deny that there are negative trends taking place in culture, but the culture cannot be reclaimed by a church that has lost track of the Gospel. The real need of the day is not the reclamation of the culture as much as the reformation of the church. The former is unlikely apart from the realization of the latter.

Monday, January 01, 2024

Books Read 2023


1.      William F. Buckley, Jr., See you Later, Alligator

2.      Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo *

3.      Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and the Margarita *

4.      William F. Buckley, Jr., High Jinx

5.      Scott Turow, Suspect

6.      Anthony Trollope, Phineas Finn *


7.      Michael P. Winship, Hot Protestants: a History of Puritanism in England and America

8.      David D. Hall, The Puritans: a Transatlantic History *

9.      Thomas S. Kidd, Who Is an Evangelical?

10.  Charles Malcolm Wingard, Help for the New Pastor

11.  Cailin O’Connor and James Owen Weatherall, The Misinformation Age

12.  Millard J. Erickson, ed., Readings in Christian Theology, Vol. 1: The Living God

13.  Shelby Foote, The Civil War (Volume 2) *

14.  Keith A. Mathison, The Lord’s Supper

15.  Richard Ganz, Psychobabble

16.  David VanDrunen, God’s Glory Alone *

17.  Kim Riddlebarger, The Man of Sin *

18.  Scott David Allen, Why Social Justice Is not Biblical Justice

19.  Grant Macaskill, Autism and the Church

20.  Gene Edwards Veith, Jr., God at Work

21.  D.G. Hart, Sean Michael Lucas, and Stephen J. Nichols, eds. The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards *

22.  Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future *

23.  Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell

24.  W. Andrew Hoffecker, Charles Hodge: the Pride of Princeton

25.  Stephen J. Nichols, R.C. Sproul: a Life *

26.  John Stott, The Cross of Christ *

27.  William R. Edwards, John C.A. Ferguson, and Chad Van Dixhorn, eds., Theology for Ministry

28.  Geoffrey Robertson, The Tyrannicide Brief *

29.  Carl Bridenbaugh, Mitre and Sceptre

30.  J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism *

31.  Shelby Foote, The Civil War (Volume 3) *

32.  R.J. Rushdoony, The Sermon on the Mount

33.  Roosevelt Montas, Rescuing Socrates

34.  Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope

35.  J.V. Fesko, Adam and the Covenant of Works *

36.  Michael Horton, Recovering our Sanity *

37.  Edward Taylor, Upon the Types of the Old Testament (Vol. 1)

38.  Edward Taylor, Upon the Types of the Old Testament (Vol. 1I)

* -- highly recommended

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Movie Review: "Jesus Revolution"

 Back during my student days, I attempted to invite a co-worker to church. In response, he told me about a time in the past when he and some friends, then teenagers, occasionally visited a church. They seemed always to hear the preacher opine against young men wearing long hair. Looking around and seeing no other males with long hair, they figured that the sermon must be directed at them. Whether correct or incorrect, they soon quit going and did not seem to hear any message other than the criticisms of the length of their locks.

That story came to mind while watching the recent movie sensation, "Jesus Revolution." My own reactions to the movie were rather complex, finding more of value in the diagnosis than in the cure presented over the course of the film. The strength in the film lay in its exposure of knee jerk reactions against those in need of the Gospel. Yet, the film also, sometimes unintentionally, exposes weaknesses in the Jesus Freak movement that require correction, rather than emulation.

Though the movie takes the sort of cinematic short cuts that must be taken to reduce real life events to a 2-hour film, it attempts to recount the story of the Jesus movement of the late 1960's, as it occurred at Calvary Chapel. Pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammar) had no interest in or sympathy for the hippies until he actually met one, Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie). When Frisbee convinced Smith that hippies were looking for truth about life's meaning, and some were learning to prefer the message of Jesus over Timothy Leary, Smith's attitude changed, and hippies began showing up at Smith's church, much to the chagrin of some of the church's leadership. 

In the face of opposition to outreach to the unkempt, unshod hippies, Smith showed admirable courage and earnestness. At what I found to be the movie's most poignant scene, church leaders complained that the dirty bare feet of the new visitors would destroy the church's carpet. Those leaders arrived at the church on Sunday to see a long line at the entrance, as Pastor Smith, on hands and knees with basin and towel beside him, washed the feet of each young person before they entered.

How could one not be moved at that?

The movie has been called a fluff piece on the Jesus movement. While that is partially true, it does expose weaknesses that were largely responsible for the implosion of the movement after about 5 years. As mentioned above, Smith had earnest concern for the spiritual condition of these hippies, but once they arrived in mass he actually seemed at a loss as to what to tell them, and in the movie, at least, he basically turned everything over to others who themselves were novices in the faith. Frisbee focused on evangelical concerns at the start of the movie, but soon gave in to extravagant and sensational claims of Spirit prompted healings. In the movie's version of events, immature leadership eventually led to a fracturing of relationships among leaders, as well as a tendency toward abusive leadership models based on charismatic qualities. The movement as such ran its course in about 5 years, though it has had numerous long term impacts on the larger church. The various imitative "calvary chapels," as well as Vineyard churches spread over the country are the most obvious examples, and many of the changes in church music and focus on charismatic leadership in the last 50 years have their origin in the movement. Such changes have tended to attempt to retain attendance and evangelism at the expense of reducing biblical content. These changes have also tended to produce unhealthy authoritarian leadership structures in churches.

Those thoughts regarding impacts notwithstanding, I have attempted to focus this review on the contents of the movie itself. I am aware that there are others giving more attention to whether events portrayed in the movie cohere with reality. Not having the time or inclination to perform that research, I will leave that task for others.

Nonetheless, I will say that efforts to develop all sorts of extracurricular materials designed to use this movie to foster a revival movement would seem to reflect the unhealthy tendency within evangelicalism to use history as prologue by reducing spontaneous movements into techniques. The Spirit blows where He wills, and we would do better to engage in faithful practices related to the proclamation of Word and sacrament while asking the Spirit to use the means that He has commanded.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Book Review Article: "Who Is an Evangelical: a Movement in Crisis," by Thomas S. Kidd

 In 1963, Columbia University historian Richard Hofstadter published "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life," a work for which he won a Pulitzer Prize the following year. The book received high praise on the left from academics who agreed with the author's jeremiad of a spreading anti-intellectualism in the United States. Perhaps unexpectedly, the work has also been applauded by reformed evangelicals who appreciate Hofstadter's praise of Puritan New England as the intellectual high point of American history. Noting that the agrarian colonists prioritized the building of colleges and built a culture featuring high literacy rates, Hofstadter complained that American religionists had since contributed to the downward spiral of intellectual life in this country.

While Hofstadter's book is a well written and argued survey, it can be read as a work of his times. In some important ways, the highly regarded book was simply an extended rant against a culture so lacking in sophistication that it had elected the philistine Dwight David Eisenhower instead of the poster boy of socially elite enlightenment, Adlai Stevenson. Subsequent investigation demonstrates that neither Eisenhower nor Stevenson deserved their reputation, but, nevertheless, Hofstadter was hardly the only academic elitist who held to this view of the two men.

All of this brings us to the more recent work by Thomas Kidd, Who Is an Evangelical, surveying the evangelical landscape. Kidd, a highly regarded evangelical historian who teaches at Baylor University, would seem well positioned to write such a survey. While the stated purpose of the book is to "introduce readers to evangelicals' experiences, practices, and beliefs, and to examine the reasons for our crisis today," he acknowledges that the work is not primarily intended to address the interests of scholars. Rather, he is writing for "journalists, pastors, people who work in politics...." to explain to them "what has happened to evangelicals." Nonetheless, he seems particularly exercised about reports that 81% of evangelicals supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election (the book was written prior to 2020, which spared Kidd the necessity of adding more anxiety inducing details). Nonetheless, Kidd wants to clear evangelicals from the calumny that they are an extension of the Republican Party. He also doesn't want evangelicals to be thought of as white, though he finds it necessary to admit that blacks have sometimes not been included in the movement.

Every writer on evangelicalism struggles to find a definition for the movement, and Kidd is no exception. As is common with contemporary writers and pollsters, Kidd uses the characteristics suggested by David Bebbington (conversionism, emphasis on biblical authority, centrality of the cross, and evangelistic activism) to develop his parameters. Nonetheless, Kidd runs into trouble by lumping Pentecostals (but not prosperity gospel advocates) into the movement. Ignoring the fact that mainstream evangelicals either in the pre or post WWII era did not consider Pentecostals to be part of their movement helps Kidd improve his demographics, but it forces him to ignore many of the aspects of contemporary evangelicalism contributing to the movement being in crisis. He is able to include everyone from Aimee Semple McPherson to John Gerstner as an evangelical, a feat requiring an extraordinary bungee cord. In short, including Pentecostals undermines any ability to focus on a unified and defined movement (Bebbington's criteria notwithstanding) while masking the doctrinal decline that this blogger would find at the center of the crisis. Having defined those issues to the periphery, Kidd is left to focus on political and social concerns.

Kidd contends that political interest has always played a role in evangelical activism, arguing that evangelicals have done best when advocating in behalf of the marginalized. Notions of the church having a spiritual mission are readily dismissed as opportunistic when groups don't want the church to weigh in against their interests. Kidd is no political leftist -- no one should think that his criticisms of the religious right mirror those of evangelical leftists such as Ron Sider or Jim Wallis. Nonetheless, Kidd takes an increasingly dim view of evangelical politics since the rise of the Moral Majority. Leaders of the movements leading up to the present have damaged the reputation of the church, bringing it to the point of crisis.

While one should take care not to criticize a survey unfairly for what it has left out, a couple of obvious matters deserved attention in a work of this sort. First, many of us believe that the crisis of American evangelicalism may have a political component, but the more fundamental issues relate to a decline in doctrine and piety. Second, if Kidd is going to insist on evangelical politics, the work of Carl F.H. Henry deserved greater attention as providing an example of a road not travelled. Kidd discusses Henry's critique beginning with his publication of The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism in the post-war years. However, he gives no attention to Henry's post 1980's critique of Christian political engagement as lacking in an overall political philosophy including the goals and limits of political engagement.

Finally, Kidd fails to address the potential benefits of the church not seeking a seat at the political table. The late conservative journalist Robert Novak, when asked whether the rise of the religious right had been beneficial, responded that it had been great for the Republican Party, to which it provided foot soldiers, and a disaster for the church.

Had Novak lived longer, he might have even argued that the disaster contributed to a movement in crisis.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Yes, He Gets us, but we Crucified the Lord of Glory

 Christian media outlets are awash with the news that Jesus will have a Super Bowl ad this year. The ad furthers a campaign designed to let America know that Jesus "gets us." In order to get across that message, its designers created a modified version of qualities emphasizing those aspects of Jesus' life that most of our secular neighbors would find agreeable. He was a migrant who suffered poverty and other forms of privation while also enduring racism. That he bore such griefs means that he empathizes with all of us who carry similar loads. Thus, he gets us. There is no mention of allegedly controversial notions that he was the Son of God or died bearing the punishment of people's sins.

Reports indicate that those bankrolling this cause have committed $1 billion over 3 years. When people whom I would on many things agree with have shown their sincerity by giving so benevolently of their treasure, one can have no pleasure in disagreeing with them, but here goes:

It won't work. And, if it does work, it will be a bad thing.

Promoters of the campaign, particularly as it regards placement of an ad during America's seminal religious event (the Super Bowl), embrace hope in the presentation of a likable Jesus to a culture that is sprinting away from organized religious belief. It would seem relevant that in the New Testament the apostles faced a similarly hostile crowd and presented Christ's claims in an entirely different fashion. Peter announced in the temple precinct in Jerusalem that God raised the One whom they had crucified. Paul told the Corinthian Christians that their leaders had "crucified the Lord of glory," and the author of Hebrews, addressing a crisis resulting from a generation of Christians looking to abandon the faith, asserted that God had spoken by the Son, who had created, sustains, and been appointed the heir of all things. Thus, the biblical preachers and writers responded to unbelief by boldly proclaiming the claims of the one being rejected.

Modern evangelicals are riding down a well worn historic path of soft selling a Socinian Savior who can supposedly be believed in by modern Americans. Christians of varying stripes have attempted this over the course of history. That it has never worked doesn't seem to have occurred to current evangelicals, most of whom haven't given much thought to the history of their own movement. In fact, today's evangelical apple has not fallen far from the liberal tree of a century ago, when "modernists," certain that no one in their day could be expected to believe in historic Christian claims, advanced updated "interpretations" of biblical doctrines designed to make God relevant to anti-supernatural men. Thus, those committed to making the church relevant capitulated in a way that ultimately emptied it out. Socinianism as a half way house to committed Christianity has never been an effective approach.

Thus, if one wants to spend $1 billion on a campaign -- and I am not saying that they should -- he might want instead to deploy a strategy that has actually worked, particularly when empowered by the Spirit of God. Such an approach would involve confronting men with the historic and eternal claims of the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, someone might claim that this is what the church has been trying. If one wants to make that claim, I would ask when? Not during the last generation.

Over the last 50 years, the evangelical churches have largely taken one of two reactive approaches to the secularization of American society. One has involved a "seeker sensitive" mentality that emphasized the use of marketing techniques to present a vision of church that would be palatable to the felt needs of our unchurched neighbors. While for decades those promoting these church growth techniques claimed that only the methods, not the message, changed, almost anyone surveying the course of this history can see that they modified the message itself in significant ways, too often creating the result of a "Christless Christianity."

The other evangelical approach was a more politically oriented one making a strange case for "taking back America." Again, one might look through history to the New Testament to see that this might have some history behind it post-Constantine, but that history would not include the teaching of the Apostles. After all, Peter did not stand in Jerusalem and announce that the resurrection meant that they were going to bring Jerusalem back to God. He didn't tell them either to brandish swords or register to vote. Instead, he told all of his listeners to believe and be baptized, thus introducing them to a different kind of kingdom.

Evangelicals today know that they stand at a threshold, but they may not recognize what awaits behind the door where they stand. In his book "The Kingdom of God in America," the highly regarded neo-orthodox theologian Richard Niebuhr famously castigated the religious left for their drift away from Christian coherence, saying that they were now preaching that "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

Niebuhr's liberal castigation strikes eerily close to much contemporary conservative preaching. Evangelicals would do better to follow a more faithful path, praying that God would use the proclamation of a full Christian message announcing the whole Christ for the renewal of his church and the salvation of the lost.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

How Does a Conservative Southern Baptist Pastor Become a Presbyterian?

 I can't speak for others, but here is my story.

As I graduated from college and prepared to head off for seminary in Memphis, Tennessee, my college pastor offered a bit of advice: don't waste your time debating other students about Calvinism, he said. It will only prove confusing and will distract you from "soul winning." 

While I intended to follow advice from a mentor I admired, it was partly undermined by another commitment of my upbringing, the belief that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and required my study and allegiance. That the Bible addressed the Gospel in a more God planned, God centered way than I had previously thought required modifying my understanding of God's saving grace. I remained concerned that a belief in election and predestination would cause a loss of enthusiasm for evangelism, but I was assisted in that regard by a short book by James I. Packer called Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Packer argued persuasively that not only was divine sovereignty consistent with the evangelistic enterprise, but in fact it provides the only sound foundation for confident evangelism.

Because Packer was helpful to me in that book, I next read his best known work, Knowing God. That book does not deal with Calvinism as a predominant theme, but I found in Packer something I had not experienced before: a writer of serious theology that is also devotionally rich. Because I found that combination in his writing at a formative stage of my theological development, he became a key influence for me.

In addition, a Baptist committed to biblical inerrancy can't help but encounter the work of B.B. Warfield and J. Gresham Machen, two scholarly and Presbyterian advocates of biblical authority that have shaped modern evangelicalism's understanding of the Bible.

As a result of all of these influences, my doctrinal commitments began to move. While I didn't really know the doctrinal categories prior to seminary, in retrospect I can say I was moving away from prior commitments to a kind of Arminianism that bordered on semi-pelagianism toward a soteriological Calvinism. I was not there yet, but that was the direction at the time I completed my M.Div.

Some of the professors at my alma mater also held to reformed Baptist commitments, though the president of the school and many of the trustees were firmly against those ideas. Because of this, a professor who published a book on the history of the doctrines of grace in Baptist life was ultimately forced out of his job, reportedly as a result of the book's criticisms of "the invitation system." Although at that time I had not yet fully committed to a Calvinistic understanding, the professor in question was an excellent scholar and popular lecturer. I thought his views were certainly within the bounds of evangelical Baptist theology. As such, I was shocked that he had been let go. I only had a semester left before graduation -- if it had happened sooner, I likely would have transferred.

Nonetheless, this event had a profound impact on me in that it cut my sense of belonging to my alma mater. After graduation, I took a position working as a mission pastor in Pennsylvania. During that time I read a book by George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture. Marsden is a first rate historian. His historical account of the rise of fundamentalism in the years 1859 through 1925 provided a grid through which I could evaluate various historical influences on my own Christian understanding. Marsden's history helped me understand that I was attempting to hold on to views that in some respects were contradictory. Working though that, I came to a better understanding of where I fit into American ecclesiastical culture. 

Subsequent events in Baptist life furthered my sense of disconnectedness with my roots. As Southern Baptists increasingly became aware of a rising Calvinistic movement in their midst, numbers of them began letting us know that we were not welcome -- I actually wrote a letter to the editor of one of the state Baptist papers around 1990 complaining about the uncharitable rhetoric and later talked to a Baptist college president who expressed appreciation for my call for more constructive dialogue. That said, while I can be pretty stubborn in some ways, I have never been one to hang around when told I am not wanted. 

As a result, when I left the pastorate for reasons unrelated to this topic, I decided to begin attending a confessional Presbyterian church. At the time, I still believed in believer's baptism only and was ambivalent about connectionalism, but I wanted to attend church where my growing commitments to Calvinism would not be controversial and where I could learn more about worship, a subject I felt I did not adequately understand.

My pastor at my new church, through dialogue and written materials, helped me work through questions regarding baptism, as well as a fuller understanding of covenant theology. Even so, it would not be until 2013 I would feel again called and prepared to begin the process of pursuing credentials in a Presbyterian communion (first, the PCA, then the OPC). Nonetheless, here I am, and I am thrilled with where God has brought me.

One benefit of my path is that, living in the south, with its heavy influence from Baptist and Bible churches, I have a good understanding of the beliefs and questions of those who are seeking. I enjoy working through those with anyone who wants to learn.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Books Read 2021

 Competing priorities slowed down my reading this year, but I managed to consume a wide variety of interesting material:

Books Read 2021



1.      William F. Buckley, Jr., Saving the Queen. Buckley’s fiction was not really that good, but it serves as a nice diversion from more serious reading.

2.      Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels. The interactions with the Lilliputians made for more interesting reading than the land of the giants.

3.      Neil Munro, Doom Castle. Recommended by a friend. It was ok.

4.      William F. Buckley, Jr., Stained Glass



5.      R.C. Sproul, What we Believe: Understanding and Confessing the Apostle’s Creed. This is a nice summary.

6.      Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics: Vol. 1 – Theology Proper. Vos’s writing can be a slog at times but is worth the effort.

7.      James E. McGoldrick, Presbyterian and Reformed Churches: a Global History. The spread of Reformed Christianity is an engaging story, even if all too frequent apostacies are depressing.

8.      Camden Bucey, et al, No Uncertain Sound

9.      Edwin H. Rian, The Presbyterian Conflict. A great account of the founding of the OPC.

10.  Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics: Vol. 4 – Soteriology.

11.  Herman Ridderbos, Paul: an Outline of his Theology

12.  Bill Broward, Red Notice. This should be read by everyone who would want to understand the tyranny of the Putin regime.

13.  J. I. Packer, Affirming the Apostle’s Creed. Packer is almost always worth reading.

14.  John Bolton, The Room Where it Happened. Bolton doesn’t like the former President for many good reasons, but got himself into the messes he laments.

15.  Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics: Vol. 5 –Ecclesiology, the Means of Grace, Eschatology

16.  Ronald H. Nash, The Gospel and the Greeks. This is a good basic survey of these issues.

17.  Julian Jackson, Charles de Gaulle. I learned a lot about de Gaulle, yet do not feel like I understand him. That is because de Gaulle himself defies explanation, though this author made a valiant try.

18.  George M. Marsden, The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience. An early work by Marsden. It is good, but not his best work.

19.  R. Kent Hughes and Douglas Sean O’Donnell, The Pastor’s Book. I found this very helpful.

20.  David McCullough, The Path Between the Seas. McCullough always is worth reading. He covers the French failure and the ultimate American success.

21.  Costi Hinn, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel. This is a fascinating story about the conversion of the nephew of Benni.

22.  Michael J. Behe, Darwin Devolves

23.  David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers. Almost anyone will find things to disagree with in this book, but it is a challenging and fruitful read.

24.  Joel Richard Paul, Without Precedent: Chief Justice John Marshall and his Times. The subject deserves a better biography.

25.  David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions. A sometimes interesting take by a non-Christian.

26.  David McCullough, The Wright Brothers. This is an amazing story well told.

27.  A. Scott Berg, Wilson. Wilson is generally sanctimonious and unlikable, though the biographer tries hard to make him otherwise.

28.  David McCollough, The Great Bridge. I always like McCullough and enjoyed this story of the building of this engineering marvel more than I expected.

29.  Rachel Green Miller, Beyond Authority and Submission. Overall, this is a helpful read.

30.  Antonin Scalia, The Essential Scalia. Scalia is a great writer. The editing of these documents was somewhat frustrating.

31.  Saikrishna Bangalore Prakash, The Living Presidency. This was highly recommended political philosophy that I found mediocre.

32.  David McCullough, The Johnstown Flood. A fascinating re-telling of one of the great natural disasters of American history.

33.  Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., Taming the Prince. Better than #31 above.

34.  Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Bully Pulpit. Contrasts Roosevelt and Taft. It is an interesting take on these 2 men.

35.  Cornelis P. Venema, Children at the Lord’s Table. Helpful in addressing this issue in dispute among many of the Reformed.

36.  Aristotle, Rhetoric. Not what most would call scintillating reading, but many would benefit from an approach that gives significant focus to the listener.

37.  Nigel Yates, Eighteenth-Century Britain: Religion and Politics, 1714-1815. I don’t generally enjoy reading surveys. This was a survey.

38.  Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Hurricane’s Eye. The American Revolution was won by nature and the French navy in large degree, so argues this well-written tome.

39.  Lynne Cheney, James Madison: a Life Reconsidered. I learned a lot about Madison, but thought the writing was mediocre.

40.  Thomas Oden, Pastoral Theology. I picked this up because Oden’s life story fascinates me. This particular work, though, was disappointing.