Category: Book Reviews (page 1 of 12)

Berman on Grief

Berman, Jeffrey. 2010. Companionship in Grief: Love and Loss in the Memoirs of C. S. Lewis, John Bayley, Donald Hall, Joan Didion, and Calvin Trillin. University of Massachusetts Press.

Berman’s book is about what happens in the life of a remaining spouse when the wife or husband dies. There are five chapters, each Berman’s examination of the writings of the grieving partner and the therapeutic value of the authors’ stories.

Although Berman is a “secular Jew” and certainly a non-believer as far as Christian doctrine is concerned, in Chapter one he gives a balanced and, indeed, favorable exploration of the writings of Joy Davidman (Lewis) and C.S. Lewis.

Berman has read the books of Davidman and Lewis carefully and even taught a course called “Love and Loss” based on A Grief Observed. He believes that Lewis’s book has “exerted…a profound influence on later memoirists who write about spousal loss” (21).

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Cooke on Jamaican Missions

Cooke, Lloyd A. 2013. The story of Jamaican missions: How the Gospel went from Jamaica to the world. Kingston, Jamaica: Arawak Publications.

Lloyd A. Cooke grew up in Jamaica, the son of an Anglican minister. His father often spoke of the Church’s Jamaican teachers and ministers who served in Africa during the 19th-20th centuries.

This is a massive book of 672 pages, with many illustrations and photos (292 are listed). It is divided into six parts containing 25 chapters, followed by a postscript, four appendixes, a bibliography and an index. There is also a timeline of the Jamaican church from 1512, when the Franciscan Friars arrived until 1996.

Section One covers the insurrection of slaves in 1831, led largely by an inspired slave named Samuel Sharpe. The insurrection was part of the so-called “Baptist War,” referring to those Baptists (and other missionaries) who were opposed to the British rule. Moravian missionaries were imprisoned; John Lang is singled out as an “extraordinaire” missionary, who “wore himself out in the work” (p. 100). Moravians had depended on plantations for income and support but eventually, burdened by slavery, they closed their main one, “Old Carmel,” and freed the slaves. However, New Carmel was opened in 1831 and by 1834 the Moravians had a number of stations open.

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Vishal Mangalwadi on the Impact of the Bible


Mangalwadi, Vishal. 2011. The book that made your world: How the Bible created the sould of Western civilization. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Mangalwadi’s book has had a number of positive reviews in the six years since it was published. His background as an Indian scholar and his depth of appraising history demonstrate conclusively that the main contributors to Western civilization have had their worldviews built solidly on the Bible. Mangalwadi uses both research and story to convey this information in a convincing manner.

In the foreword, J. Stanley Mattson, founder and president of the C.S. Lewis Foundation in Redlands, California, compares Mangalwadi’s book to Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, in terms of its wide-ranging assessment of Western cultures and civilization. It is his contention that the research of Mangalwadi “establishes the fact that the Bible  and its world view…combined to serve as the single most powerful force in the emergence of Western civilization” (xvi and wvii, emphasis in the original).

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Enns on Certainty

Enns, Peter. 2016. The sin of certainty: Why God desires our trust more than our ‘correct’ beliefs. New York: HarperCollins.

In this book Enns follows up his The Bible Tells Me So with further observations on how the Bible is often misinterpreted and used as both a crutch and a club.

Enns speaks from a personal encounter with Westminster Theological Seminary (he does not mention this in the book, but I found out on Internet), where he was once a tenured professor (he is now at Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania). However, when he began to question or teach certain parts of the Bible differently than the seminary expected, he was eventually fired.

The book begins with Enns’s discussion called “I don’t know what I believe anymore,” He had been taught “that questioning too much was not safe Christian conduct” (p.4) and he found his slide from certainty into uncertainty to be “frightening” (p. 8). And why is certainty so bad? “because this pattern of thinking sells God short by keeping the Creator captive to what we are able to comprehend” (pp. 18-19).

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Lewis on the Psalms

Lewis, C.S. 1958. Reflections on the Psalms. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.

Lewis reminds us that he is “no Hebraist, no higher critic, no ancient historian, no archaeologist. I write for the unlearned about things in which I am also unlearned myself” (p. 1).

What Lewis does is interpret the Psalms for the layperson in common (for the most part) language. Lewis is a poet and the Psalms were written by different poets at different times, but they used a number of formal patterns or features that were common to all the Psalms: the most prominent one was “parallelism”, “the practice of saying the same thing twice in different words” (3). Sometimes the parallelism is concealed, but Lewis claims that it should not disappear—even in a translation.

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