Joseph D. Martinez, a 2008 alum of Acton’s Toward a Free and Virtuous Society program, produced a great video to introduce readers to my new book, Liberating Black Theology (now in the Acton Book Shoppe. Buy it here). Thanks, Joe!
As we begin the New Year, I find myself thinking about books that fill the conservative armamentarium for resisting the left-liberal onslaught on the past handful of years. I’ve omitted some categories, like military and foreign policy, because they are outside my areas of expertise and don’t apply as much to the Acton mission, anyway. Here are my recommendations:
Common Sense Economics by James Gwartney, Richard Stroup, and Dwight Lee — Dr. Gwartney taught the first economics class I ever took as a university student and made a permanent impression. Socialism has looked like wishing-makes-it-so madness ever since I sat under the powerfully logical lectures of this confident professor.
The Role of Government:
Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics by P.J. O’Rourke — Though this book is billed as an economics book, I think of it as having broader philosophical and practical lessons to teach about the way government works in healthy societies and how it creates pathology in unhealthy ones. It has the trademark O’Rourke humor, but the moral of the story is deadly serious.
Bi-Partisan Hope (if such a thing exists):
Re-Inventing Government by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler — One of the worst parts of the decline of the New Democrat movement in America is that it took the kind of thinking in Re-Inventing Government with it. The authors argue that government is not very good at actually, you know, doing stuff. It would be better for the government to privatize as much as possible and take advantage of market incentives where it can. The central insight, which I love, is that the age of monolithic government bureaucracies should quickly pass in favor of lean government which focuses on entrepreneurial policy where it makes sense for government to intervene. The logic of Re-Inventing Government could easily support new ideas about public schooling where government might fund education, but wouldn’t have to run schools.
The Party of Death by Ramesh Ponnuru — The author documents the slide of the American left into an almost soulless devotion to abortion laissez faire and an accompanying disinterest in maintaining the sanctity of life in other areas. This book did not get the attention it deserved in a year dominated by news about Iraq. Ponnuru is one of the most articulate and rhetorically powerful defenders of the sanctity of life writing during the last ten years.
Religion and Money:
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem by Jay Richards — Evangelicals, especially younger evangelicals, have been increasingly squishy on free-market economics of late. This has been so much so that different organizations, like the Acton Institute, Heritage, and AEI have undertaken initiatives to reach out to them on matters of economic policy. Jay Richards (a think tank vet of Discovery, Acton, and Heritage) has written a book tailor-made for this audience. I’ve had the privilege of hearing him discuss these matters and he is highly persuasive.
Christianity and Whatever Historical Awfulness You Care to Name:
God’s Battalions by Rodney Stark — Stark is legendary in my old grad program for once telling a socialist student “Listen to me. Marx is doo-doo.” In this book, he takes on the old and busted claim that the Crusades were a purely evil enterprise. I recommend this one because it is his latest, but he has written several other fantastic volumes on the intersection of faith, history, and society. For the Glory of God is particularly notable.
*Hunter Baker is the author of The End of Secularism.
Well, at least the book is, anyway. The End of Secularism is now in stock at Acton.org and should be available in stores, too. Help me, faithful readers.
I don’t think I’ll disappoint you. Francis Beckwith, David Dockery, Russell Moore, Father Robert Sirico, Herb London, Jennifer Morse Roback, and Glenn Stanton all liked it. I hope you will, too.
Did you get the best part, by the way? FATHER ROBERT SIRICO. Here is his take on the book:
The task of discerning the alternative to practical atheism lived by many nominal Christians and the pretense of a neutral secularism has been made easier by this rich study. Once authentic Christians grasp the ramifications of the incarnation of Christ, then and only then will it be apparent that, as Baker argues, secularism only makes sense in relation to religion.
“We talk about what caused the financial crisis, whether ‘greed is good,’ and if ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ It’s John J. Miller describing his podcast interview with Jay Richards here at NRO. They discuss Jay’s excellent new book, Money, Greed and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and not the Problem.
It’s the time of year when the experts among us proffer gift lists, a subset of which is book lists. I’ll spare you my own book list, per se, but it has been a while since I used this space to note some new titles of interest at the intersection of faith and economics. Here then, some noteworthy books (whether they are appropriate for those with whom you exchange Christmas presents, I leave to you):
Are Economists Basically Immoral? A collection of essays by Paul Heyne, published posthumously.
Rethinking Rights, edited by Bruce Frohnen and Kenneth Grasso. Another important entry in the ongoing critique of a liberalism that grounds rights too insecurely in the benevolence of the contemporary state.
Handbook of Economics and Ethics. The latest in Elgar’s series of reference works on key issues in economics.
The Wisdom of Generosity: A Reader in American Philanthropy. The vigor of charitable work in the United States has been often remarked. Here William Jackson gathers excerpts from a wide variety of sources to furnish a sense of the character and motivation of American giving.
Rethinking Business Management, edited by Acton’s Sam Gregg, with James R. Stoner, Jr. The proceedings from a Witherspoon Institute Conference on the subject, bringing together philosophers, economists, and theologians in a timely examination of the need for business education reform.
In the July 24 edition of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano , a couple of articles related how Italians are reading less than their European counterparts, with 62 percent of the population failing to read even a single book during the year. “Above all, reading increases innovative capabilities, the ability to understand phenomena and in the ultimate analysis, worker productivity,” said Federico Motta, president of the Italian association of publishers.
According to Motta’s article, only 31 percent of Italian 20-29 year-olds have a university degree, compared to 34 percent in Spain and 56 percent in the United Kingdom. This pattern mirrors the levels of unemployment among the young: 20.3 percent in Italy, 18 percent in Spain and 14 percent in the UK. By affecting educational levels and worker productivity, this lack of reading also results in less social mobility and opportunities for growth.
In human capital terms alone, the cost is evident, but there are even greater cultural ones. With the growth of television, cell phones, video games, the Internet, and iPods, it is no surprise that young Italians are not developing a taste for books, i.e., the ability to read, understand, and learn from greats such as Dante, Leopardi, and Manzoni.
And we can’t forget about the Book of Books. Can there be any hope for regaining the Christian roots of Europe without understanding the Bible? Here, at least, there is some reason for hope. The Italian Bishops Conference and in particular its National Catechism Office have promoted various initiatives that have successfully brought the Word of God to young people. Many Bible-study groups are also promoted by lay movements and parishes. This coming October, Pope Benedict XVI will launch a six-day reading of the entire Bible on Italian television, as the Vatican journalist John Allen has reported.
It will be interesting to see how the country reacts to such a public reminder of this lost treasure. Taking books seriously again will benefit Italy not only in terms of its economic productivity, but may also help rekindle its faith.
Today’s post will look at the Hendrickson Publishers Academic Catalog 2008 and the Brill Biblical Studies & Religious Studies 2007 catalog (series index):
Titles from Hendrickson:
- Marty E. Stevens, Temples, Tithes, and Taxes: The Temple and the Economic Life of Ancient Israel (2006).
- Ritva H. Williams, Stewards, Prophets, Keepers of the Word: Leadership in the Early Church (2006).
Titles from Brill:
- Javaid Rehman and Susan C. Breau, eds., Religion, Human Rights and International Law: A Critical Examination of Islamic State Practices (June 2007).
- Roland Boer, Criticism of Heaven: On Marxism and Theology (June 2007).
- Gerrie ter Haar and Yoshio Tsuruoka, eds., Religion and Society: An Agenda for the 21st Century (September 2007).
- Giuseppe Giordan, ed., Vocation and Social Context (July 2007).
Today’s post will look at the Georgetown University Press Religion & Ethics catalog and the Westminster John Knox Academic Update (series index):
Titles from Georgetown University Press:
- Matthew S. Holland, Bonds of Affection: Civic Charity and the Making of America–Winthrop, Jefferson, and Lincoln (November 2007).
- Sheila Suess Kennedy and Wolfgang Beilefeld, Charitable Choice at Work: Evaluating Faith-Based Job Programs in the States (2006).
- Stephen V. Monsma and J. Christopher Soper, Faith, Hope, and Jobs: Welfare-to-Work in Los Angeles (2006).
Titles from Westminster John Knox:
- David H. Jensen, Responsive Labor: A Theology of Work (2006).
- Edward Dommen and James D. Bratt, eds., John Calvin Rediscovered: The Impact of His Social and Economic Thought (November 2007).
- Scott H. Hendrix, Recultivating the Vineyard: The Reformation Agendas of Christianization (2004).
Today’s post will look at the Boydell & Brewer Early Modern & Modern History catalog and the de Gruyter Religious Studies/Jewish Studies/Theology catalog (series index):
Titles from Boydell & Brewer:
- Thomas S. Freeman & Thomas F. Mayer, eds., Martyrs and Martyrdom in England, c. 1400-1700 (April 2007)
- David M. D’Andrea, Civic Christianity in Renaissance Italy: The Hospital of Treviso, 1400-1530 (March 2007).
- Elizabeth T. Hurren, Protesting about Pauperism: Poverty, Politics and Poor Relief in Late-Victorian England, 1870-1900 (September 2007).
Titles from de Grutyer:
- Christoph A. Stumpf, The Grotian Theology of International Law: Hugo Grotius and the Moral Foundations of International Relations (2006).
- Stephen Lake, The Church and the Sick in the Latin West (4th-8th Centuries) (Fall 2007).
- Florian Mühlegger, Hugo Grotius: Ein christlicher Humanist in politischer Verantwortung [Hugo Grotius: A Christian Humanist and His Political Responsibility] (Summer 2007).
- Gene W. Heck, Charlemagne, Muhammad, and the Arab Roots of Capitalism (2006).
I’ve had a number of new book catalogs cross my desk over the last few months. Given the gift-giving season that is upon us, I thought I’d highlight some of the more interesting items from the various publishers. If you share my varied and rather eclectic interests, ranging from scholarly to popular works on a number of subjects, you might find something here you could add to your own Christmas list (although some items are forthcoming for 2008).
Today’s post will look at the Ashgate Reformation Studies catalog and the Crossway Academic & Pastoral Resources catalog:
Titles from Ashgate:
- Mack Holt, ed., Adaptations of Calvinism in Reformation Europe: Essays in Honour of Brian G. Armstrong (December 2007).
- Irena Backus, Life Writing in Reformation Europe: Lives of Reformers by Friends, Disciples and Foes (November 2008).
- John Schofield, Philip Melanchthon and the English Reformation (June 2006).
- Paul F. Grendler, Renaissance Education Between Religion and Politics (April 2006).
Titles from Crossway:
- Steve Monsma, Healing for a Broken World: Christian Perspectives on Public Policy (February 2008).
- Samuel T. Logan Jr., ed., Confronting Global Challenges: A Call to Global Christians to Carry the Burden Together (August 2007).