If you appreciate Peter Leithart's sprightly opinion pieces in these pages, you will want to get this powerful manifesto of the Church's spiritual and cultural mission. As the author says, he is, all in all, a conservative, and that is why his searching and sometimes withering critique is aimed mainly at conservatism. This book is additional testimony to the vitality of Calvinist thought in the distinctly American context. We expect it will become a vade mecum for people who are earnest about "redeeming the time" in the face of the dark ages that may be upon us.
The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Edited by Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan. Oxford University Press. 874 pp. plus maps and index. $45.
Of the making of Bible dictionaries there is no end. And a good thing, too. Each has its peculiar take on the details of the unfathomable, and each its strengths and weaknesses. This one, for instance, has nothing on Og, king of Bashan, but is very helpful about the Amorites, of which Zihon was king. There are more than 700 entries by more than 250 scholars. (That's what the publisher says. We didn't count how many more.) In any event, a useful and reliable reference, well worth a place beside the others - leaving room, of course, for more to come.
The Believer as Citizen: John Courtney Murray in a New Context. By Thomas Hughson, S.J. Paulist Press. 185 pp. $14.95 paper.
An interesting effort to appropriate Murray-a Jesuit who had enormous influence on, among other things, Catholic thinking about religious freedom-for the academic left. Gadamer, Curran, Tracy, and the writers of bishops' letters figure prominently in this account. Aside from the turgid style, the book is weakened by a failure to engage alternative arguments and a total indifference to Catholic social teaching as represented by the present pontificate. But, even when the treatment is implausible, the more Murray's work is in play, the better for all of us.
A Historical Commentary on the Major Catholic Works of Cardinal Newman. By John R. Griffen. Peter Lang (New York). 204 pp. $39.95.
The title is cumbersome and misleading, and the book costs much too much. Nevertheless, this is an engaging and comprehensive essay on Newman's main writings, with particular attention to his ecclesiology. It should be of interest to more than the Newman specialists who will likely take note.
The Cutting Edge: How Churches Speak on Social Issues. By Mark Ellingsen. Eerdmans. 370 pp. $34.99 paper.
The author, a Lutheran scholar with wide ecumenical experience, deserves a medal for sheer perdurance in working through thousands of official statements and reports on everything under the sun, and maybe then some. The result is a valuable reference work recommended for institutional libraries.
The Bible: Designed to Be Read as Living Literature. By Ernest Sutherland Bates. Simon & Schuster. 1,258 pp. $25.
First issued in 1936, the "Bates Bible" has been updated by Lodowick Allison, but in a manner that leaves the magnificence of the King James language untouched. As an editor named Neuhaus says on the dust jacket: "Interest in the Bible is much more common than familiarity with the Bible. This remarkably accessible edition invites the interested to become familiar."
Catholic Universities in Church and Society. Edited by John P. Langan. Georgetown University Press. 260 pp. $14.95 paper.
Can Catholic universities remain, or become, authentically Catholic? And what does that question mean? These are the problems addressed by essays and responses on Ex Corde Ecclesiae, a 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education. Those responsible for church- related schools other than Catholic will also benefit from sitting in on this lively discussion.
Full Pews and Empty Altars. By Richard A. Schoenherr and Lawrence A. Young. University of Wisconsin Press. 437 pp. $19.95 paper.
An exhaustive demographic study of the Catholic priesthood, concluding that there will be a 40 percent decrease in the number of diocesan priests in the next decade. The sociologist authors are big on trends and extrapolations, and very short on cultural factors (not to mention the Holy Spirit). Of course they may turn out to be right, but one has to hope that those who claim to see a renewal in priestly vocations have a better fix on the future.
Modern Catholicism: Vatican II and After. Edited by Adrian Hastings. Oxford University Press. 473 pp. $35.
A useful reference work twenty-five years after the Council. The tilt is left of center (is Peter Hebblethwaite really the authority on so many subjects?) and the contributors largely English, but the result is a summary of the conventional wisdom (in the not always pejorative sense of the term) about the state of Catholicism today.
Step Ahead of Disaster. By Eugene von Teuber and Basil Entwistle. Grosvenor Books (Salem, Oregon). 162 pp. $12.95 paper.
A dramatic autobiographical account of an aristocratic Austrian family in what is now the Czech Republic, and how they survived both the Nazis and Communists. Central to the story is von Teuber's conversion to a more serious Catholicism under the influence of Frank Buchman. Foreword by Michael Novak.
Faith and Order: The Reconciliation of Law and Religion. By Harold J. Berman. Scholars Press. 415 pp. $39.95 cloth, $24.95 paper.
Few people in this century have done as much as Harold Berman, now at Emory University Law School, to illuminate the complicated connections between law and religion. The essays in this volume reflect the reach of his scholarship-from law in medieval England to church-state relations in America to Christianity and "democratization" in the former Soviet Union. It is safe to say that even those with only a general interest in "law and religion" will find here more than an essay or two that will open up new ways of thinking about the part religion has played, and continues to play, in creating and sustaining our cultural home.
The Gospel According to John. By Thomas L. Brodie. Oxford University Press. 623 pp. $55.
Billed as "a literary and theological commentary," this solid piece of work can be warmly recommended to students of theology and preachers (and those who are both). Brodie effectively argues that the Fourth Gospel is a finely crafted whole that points toward Christ's mission to the Gentiles and the Church's mission to the world. 'Tis a shame that the price will limit its availability.
Being Catholic: Commonweal from the Seventies to the Nineties. By Rodger Van Allen. Loyola University Press. 203 pp. $12.95 paper.
A celebration of the Catholic lay magazine upon its (almost) seventieth anniversary. Commonweal undoubtedly deserves to be celebrated for many reasons, but just a touch of critical analysis would have been more in keeping with the magazine itself.