Comment remains one of my favourite journals, publishing thoughtful pieces on a wide variety of subjects, often asking how best to think as Christians and what practices emerge from our reflections about God’s redemptive work in the world. Readers care about a lot of stuff, and want to learn how to live in these times fruitfully and faithfully.
Of course, as a bookseller, it is a joy to talk about books that might be of interest to this exact sort of engaged, open-minded, and discerning reader. Here are a few choice titles that Comment readers might enjoy.
Justice in Love by Nicholas Wolterstorff (Eerdmans, 2011)
Many Comment readers have long followed the justly esteemed Wolterstorff, formerly of Yale, now at University of Virginia. His 2010 book Justice: Rights and Wrongs was considered a tour de force, extraordinary for its scholarly depth and exquisite passion. In his own life as Christian thinker and author, Wolterstorff has spent time visiting places of harrowing brokenness, from Honduras to Palestine to South Africa. He brings an informed awareness of global realities and the cries of the poor even as he produces high-level, world class scholarship. In this recent book he carries forward the project begun in his memorable 1982 Until Justice and Peace Embrace and Justice: Rights and Wrongs. Specifically, Wolterstorff is pondering (as only a philosopher of his calibre can) the relationship between justice and love. What does it mean to love others (justly)? This is wide ranging (one chapter is on justification and atonement theories) and engages nearly all the great philosophers of our era. Of course, some of our leading public intellectuals have raved about the book-Jean Bethke Elshtain calls it “brilliant” and “beguiling.” Reformed legal theorist John Witte declares that it is “learned, judicious, strikingly innovative, and crystal clear.”
Neither Necessary Nor Inevitable: History Needn’t Have Been Like That by Udo Middelmann (Wipf & Stock, 2011)
Middelmann married into the famous family of smart, missionary-to-the-disaffected-youth-culture Francis Schaeffer, and remains active in the global work of L’Abri and the Schaeffer Foundation. He is a thoughtful and dense writer whose four books continue to trouble the waters for modern and postmodern thinkers alike. His brand new one is a head-on critique of historical determinism: the subtitle speaks powerfully of the urgency of his ruminations. Recorded history comes to us as a story, of course, and lived history is (as he colourfully reminds us) experienced often as chaos. His view highlights the significance of personal choices, rejecting notions of a master plan (determined by material or divine intervention). None of this is tidy; much remains in the balance. As Middelmann says, “Responsibility is not reduced by the belief in a necessary history or a willful god.” This historiography honours the idea that we are made in God’s image and that humankind is given the task to creatively shape history, even though we must be restrained in our understanding of how our choices ripple through the generations. Succinct and profound.
Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It by Amy Cortese (Wiley, 2011)
Comment‘s publisher, Cardus, has done extraordinary work in thinking about civic life, interlocking institutions and structures, and Biblically-informed norms for economics, for buying and selling. Of course, anyone struggling with this topic in these days comes across the localist movement, and there is much to commend in this “small is beautiful” perspective. This is the first book to investigate how localism might influence investing. The author has been a business reporter and has published in journals as diverse as Business Week (where she was an editor) and Mother Jones. This fascinating book is up to date and quite helpful, for local, indie businesses or the investment community, as it shows models and examples of “local stock exchanges” and how-just to show one simple illustration-some businesses (like Ben & Jerry’s) have sold stock shares directly to their most loyal customers (and thereby bypassed Wall Street). Michael Shuman, who wrote The Small Mart Revolution, called it a “breathtaking ride.”
Reading Scriptures with the Reformers by Timothy George (InterVarsity Press, 2011)
For anyone wanting to be distinctively Christian in their efforts to bring renewal and improvement to public life, it is essential that the great traditions of the past be seriously consulted. It is a distinct modern deceit to think that we are the first to struggle with understanding the faith in faithful ways and living fruitfully and helpfully in our time and place. This book is a wonderful overview of how various 16th century Reformers viewed the Bible and struggled to believe, teach, and live it well. There is little doubt that the earth-shattering movement of the Reformation was entwined with the recovery of the Bible. Timothy George is a trusted and esteemed evangelical leader and a renowned historian of the era. (And he is senior editor of the forthcoming, on-going published project, which this book launches, of bringing Reformation-era Bible commentaries to the market.) Each chapter of this thoughtful paperback shows how key figures read and interpreted Scripture and how it shaped their minds and their cultural efforts.
The books listed above are all available from Byron Borger’s bookstore—Hearts & Minds Books.