Books in Review

Briefly Noted

Copyright (c) 1992 First Things 20 (February 1992): 60-62.

Desires Right & Wrong: The Ethics Of Enough. By Mortimer J. Adler. Macmillan. 200 pp. $22.95.

The indefatigible Mortimer Adler returns with vigor to the argument that Aristotle provides the basis for a truly universal and normative ethic. Almost half the book is composed of appendices from earlier writings now out of print, but the author's perennial commonsensicality is startlingly fresh in an era of mindless ethical relativism.

Blessed Are The Barren: The Social Policy Of Planned Parenthood. By Robert Marshall And Charles Donovan. Ignatius. 371 pp. $19.95 paper.

This is not a book for those who wish to be shielded from the unpleasant. As John Cardinal O'Connor writes in the foreword, this study strains the reader's vestigial confidence in an American establishment that has been so powerfully corrupted by the anti-natal ideology of Planned Parenthood. The fastidiously literary will complain about some stylistic excesses. Morally concerned citizens will welcome the wealth of information and sharpness of argument. (Author Marshall was elected last November to the Virginia state senate.)

The Travail Of Nature: The Ambiguous Ecological Promise Of Christian Theology. By H. Paul Santmire. Fortress Press. 274 pp. $14.95 paper.

A careful case for environmental responsibility by a Lutheran scholar who has a firm sense of the Christian tradition. The Travail of Nature is a welcome antidote in a field of debate frequently dominated by the hysterical.

Reason And Reality. By John Polkinghorne. Trinity Press International. 119 pp. $13.95 paper.

The author, a former professor of mathematical physics, is now president of Queens' College, Cambridge, and has a notable talent for explaining abstruse scientific matters to the general reader. In this little book he sets forth the ways in which quantum theory and its successor, chaos theory, suggest a universe open to a Christian understanding of reality.

Catechisms And Controversies: Religious Education In The Postconciliar Years. By Michael Wrenn. Ignatius. 237 pp. $13.95 paper.

A lively contention that something very much like apostasy is the main cause of the collapse of Catholic catechesis since the Second Vatican Council. The author, a pastor in the New York archdiocese, focuses on the Holy See's forthcoming "Universal Catechism" and the anticipatory strikes against it launched by "progressivist" theologians. Deserving of attention from Catholics who understand that, unless the faith is transmitted, there may be no faith to transmit.

Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal. By Norman L. Geisler. Baker. 195 pp. $12.95 paper.

The title and subtitle say it all, and a very appreciative appraisal it is. The author is well known in evangelical Protestant circles and the book should elicit from fellow evangelicals some long second thoughts about the dismissal of Aquinas as a Catholic preoccupied with intellectualizing at the expense of Christian experience and life.

A Fragrance Of Oppression: The Church And Its Persecutors. By Herbert Schlossberg. Crossway. 252 pp. $11.95 paper.

If religious freedom is the foundation of all other freedoms, Herbert Schlossberg helps us understand why this continues to be the century of unfreedom. He offers a chilling overview of the persecutions of the past and present. More important, he explains why Christians, also in this country, must ever be dual citizens prepared for battle with what Saint Paul called the principalities and powers.

Choosing The Dream: The Future Of Religion In American Public Life. Frederick Mark Gedicks And Roger Hendrix. Greenwood. 216 pp. $42.95.

A very thoughtful survey of arguments and conflicts regularly addressed in the pages of this journal. The authors end up on a rather hopeful note that religion in public will be less scarifying to secularists as it demonstrates the ability to form coalitions with its opponents in pursuit of the common good. The price, regrettably, may prevent the book from reaching the audience that it should have. Gedicks teaches law at Brigham Young, and Hendrix is a management consultant and lecturer based in Los Angeles.

The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield And The Rise Of Modern Evangelicalism. By Harry Stout. Eerdmans. 301 pp. $14.95 paper.

Another distinguished contribution to Eerdmans' series, "Library of Religious Biography." Stout, a Yale historian, makes both compelling and readable the story of an eighteenth-century Anglican revivalist who had a considerable influence on Americans both high and low during the period of national founding. To speak of "the rise of modern evangelicalism" may also suggest that evangelicalism will again be, as it was in Whitefield's day, the religious mainstream.

The Case For Christian Humanism. By R. William Franklin And Joseph M. Shaw. Eerdmans. 270 pp. $18.95 paper.

They make the case very forcefully indeed. Franklin of St. John's University and Shaw of St. Olaf College, both in Minnesota, explain why Christians conversant with their history cannot surrender the humanist banner to those who are hostile or indifferent to the Christian tradition. Politics, liturgy, art, and ethics are combined in the Christian vision of the more fully human life revealed in the fullness of humanity that is Christ.

Heavenly Supper: The Story Of Maria Janis. By Fulvio Tomizza. University of Chicago Press. 175 pp. $24.95.

Whether the seventeenth-century Maria Janis was a saint or a fraud is the question posed by this most readable tale. She and her parish priest contended that she lived for five years on nothing but the eucharistic host. The Inquisition did not think so, and Fulvio Tomizza does not say what he thinks. Heavenly Supper is an engaging and subtle introduction to a period of Catholic piety and Western culture.

The Christian Frame Of Mind: Reason, Order, And Openness In Theology And Natural Science. By Thomas F. Torrance. Helmers & Howard (Colorado Springs). 164 pp. $18.95.

"Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind." So said Albert Einstein, and few Christian thinkers have taken him so seriously as has Thomas Torrance. These essays from a richly productive life set forth the argument for a "shared intelligibility" between science and theology. It is not adequate to say that science deals with the "how" questions and theology with the "why" questions. Both fields, Torrance contends, deal with how and why-and he helps us see how they overlap and why they must.