Lincoln Team of Rivals

A Joy to Read
Lincoln Team of Rivals is a special book. There is no other way to say it. I cannot imagine the hours, the years, the research, the extensive compiling and organization it must have taken Doris Kearns Goodwin to write this masterpiece. Over the last two months I have been plodding through this Pulitzer prize winning book, enjoying every detail, savoring every character—in what has to be one of my favorite periods of American history. Goodwin is a very good writer and because the book is so laden with direct source material, I feel assured that she is giving nothing more than the full flavor of Lincoln and the figures that composed his cabinet.
Team of Rivals traces the story of Lincoln (primarily), Bates, Seward, and Chase—all political figures running for the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination. After Lincoln shockingly won the nomination, he assembled these three “rivals” as the primary cogs of his cabinet, key players who would prove indispensable throughout the mos…

Weakness and Christan Progress

I have been wrestling with D. A. Carson's book on 2 Corinthians 10-13, a portion of Scripture where the apostle Paul lays himself bare. In these chapters the apostle protects his authority, pleads with the church, utilizes irony, and gives a moving testimony of his own weakness. The Corinthians have been taken in by false brethren, carnal men who are being paraded as super apostles; men who are building the house with worldly means.
Carson shows in the introductory chapters that the Corinthian culture was largely influenced by the Sophists. The Sophists were showmen. Triumphalists who strutted their own achievements, knowledge, oratorical skills as a means to gain both a following and credibility to their viewpoints. It was not uncommon for them to begin their letters with long lists of "recommendations" to validate their authority on whatever matter they were addressing. Unsurprisingly the Corinthian church was susceptible to such self-promotional figures because they we…

Work Aversion

An apprentice is likely to be idle, and almost always is so, because he has no immediate interest to be otherwise. In the inferior employments, the sweets of labour consist altogether in the recompense of labour. They who are soonest in a condition to enjoy the sweets of it, are likely soonest to conceive a relish for it, and to acquire the early habit of industry. A young man naturally conceives an aversion to labour, when for a long time he receives no benefit from it. The boys who are put out apprentices from public charities are generally bound for more than the usual number of years, and they generally turn out very idle and worthless.
- Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
I like to think that I have fairly good self-awareness. I can recognize defects in myself, tendencies and propensities which are just not good. For the faults that I miss due to personal pride or blind spots, I have a wife well placed to identify such short comings. Thankfully she is often gracious in her assessments!

Letters to an American Christian

In Letters to an American Christian, Bruce Ashford writes a collection of letters to a hypothetical college student, Christian, attending a progressive university. Ashford writes on a broad array of hot-button issues in this current political climate, ranging from the foundational: why should Christians soil their shoes in the muck of politics at all? To the more practical: what should a Christian's view of socialism be? What about global warming? Racial reconciliation? Immigration?
This struck me as a daunting task.
Interestingly enough, what most surprised me about this book is how non-controversial it is. In a political moment like ours with such an overwhelming divide between right and left, I was expecting this book to retain at least a portion of the spirit of the times we live in. Ashford writes this, however, with a most measured tone. He writes with levity, injecting humor throughout his correspondence. Even in areas where I initially disagreed with his position, I found my…

Christless Christianity: Necessary Assessment but the Pendulum Swings

As a born and raised evangelical, and someone who remains "evangelical" despite the loaded connotations of the term, Horton's Christless Christianity was a punchy read, necessary for me to grapple with. Even while there were certain areas I disagreed with the author, this book forced me to give an honest look at my own church tradition, and ways that it can perhaps be re-aligned to a more Biblical, Gospel focused model.
Christless Christianity begins with a critical assessment of the modern Americanized Gospel.Horton laments the "Pelagian" heresy that is the de facto religion of the human heart, which Horton argues, exists even in our most conservative houses of worship. This heresy limits Jesus to an example to follow or a means to a better life. The gospel is good advice, not any more "good news" of a reality outside of us by which we are shaken and confronted. We emphasize "deeds not creeds" as we climb the ladder to "your best life n…

Book in Review: Mere Hope

Mere Hope is a brief book about the growing cynicism of our time, which has most definitely seeped into our churches. Jason Duesing calls us to a renewed gospel hope rooted in its Savior who reigns inside of us.
A few years ago I detected in myself a malignant escapism growing in my spirit. I had then watched several friends of mine stray from the faith, and all around things seemed to be growing darker and darker. What my natural response was then, and at times is now, was to withdraw into the inner chambers, to lock the door with the handle and the bolt. With “no trespassing” signs on my lawn and a shotgun in my closet I would make it through. Even with gritted teeth, I would make it through.
Duesing’s book is a needed reminder to me that we have great cause for hope, and it is not in ourselves or in our determined mental makeup. He reminds us that we need to look down at our gospel hope, look at Christ’s reign within, look out at the hope for the nations, and look above to our future…

Chancellorsville – Stephen Sears

Chancellorsville is my first book by Stephen Sears. It is thick in content and thorough in the extreme. I can tell you right now that it will not be my last of this author.
Sears begins by providing the context of the fateful battle. He discusses the previous failure of the Army of the Potomac under Ambrose Burnside five months earlier at Fredericksburg: the unimaginative hurling of men before superior Confederate positions and the slaughter that ensued.
In comes Joseph Hooker, a general I had previously thought of as brash and foolhardy—just another name to add to the pantheon of incompetent Union generals. Sears, however, makes the case that Hooker’s failures in the Chancellorsville campaign were less due to him directly (as was the case with his predecessors)—and more due to the failures of those immediately beneath his command, as well as some plain bad luck.
It is difficult to imagine a more difficult job than Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac at the start of 1863. Figh…