Summer is a great time to catch up on the books one has wanted all year to read but never had the time. So far this summer I've managed to finish three books each of which I enjoyed very much:
The Edge of Evolution by Michael Behe: Most of the hostile reviews of this book have been long on ad hominem and short on substantive criticism. That may be because one of the favorite criticisms of any book on intelligent design, i.e. "Whatever it is it's not science," simply doesn't stick to this one, so critics like Richard Dawkins are reduced to pathetic exercises in personal insult. Behe makes a strong case that random mutation is a very limited mechanism for producing viable genetic novelty. Those interested in following the controversy surrounding this book can find plenty of links here (scroll down). I also commented on the book here.
A History of Christianity by Paul Johnson: This 1976 tome by the prolific British historian has been sitting on my shelf for about fifteen years waiting for me to work up the resolve to commit to its 500+ pages. Well, last May I finally started it, and finished it at the end of June. Johnson directs much of his attention to the Roman Catholic church which means that we learn not as much as we might have liked about Orthodoxy or some of the pre-Reformation movements. The book is also almost obsessively concerned with highlighting the negative aspects of Christianity's history, and, of course, there's much ore in that vein to mine. There's also a great deal in its history that redounds to Christianity's credit, but Johnson doesn't seem much interested in exploring this terrain. Even so, I found it a rewarding read and would recommend it to anyone who has a some knowledge of European history and who wants to enrich his/her understanding of the development of the Christian church.
Erasmus and the Age of Reformation by Johan Huizinga: This past week I, my wife, and youngest daughter joined my oldest daughter and her two children on a Disney cruise to the Bahamas and thereabouts. The flight down and back, as well as a day spent on the beach at Castaway Cay afforded much opportunity to read, and I spent the time with Huizinga's classic biography of the 16th century reformer Desiderius Erasmus, who in several respects I found to be a man after my own heart. Erasmus was a scholar and lover of ancient texts who once said that "When I get a little money I buy books. If I have any left over I buy food and clothing." He was also a theological minimalist who was distressed by the violence wrought over what, to him, were trivial matters of doctrine. He was not without his faults, of course, but compared to some of his contemporaries, like Luther and Calvin, his life and spirit were estimable and every Christian would profit from learning a little bit about him.
Having completed the above I'm working now on Escape From Evil by Ravi Zacharias, Are the Gospels Reliable by Mark Roberts, and a reread of Del Ratzsch's Nature, Design, and Science.
Waiting on deck are Journey to the Ants by Bert Holldobler and Edward O.Wilson and the formidable 800 pages of Joakim Garff's Soren Kierkegaard: A Biography. Unfortunately, that last one might be another book that sits on the shelf for fifteen years before I muster up the courage to take it on.RLC