Saturday, December 24, 2016

Book Review: A Blaze of Glory, by Jeff Shaara

Shaara’s account of the battle of Shiloh in the form of a historical novel does a great service by bringing to attention a battle the import and impact of which has been largely lost in the mists of history. The fields of slaughter produced by that conflict (24,000 casualties out of 100,000 combatants) are among the most horrific of the Civil War.

Shaara continues with his style of tracing the movement of the battle through the eyes of a select set of characters on both sides, most historical, some fictional. His research, as always, is impeccable.

On the negative side, there was too much climbing inside the thoughts of the characters, causing me as a reader to lose the thread of the tale. And the book could have used double the number of maps. In Shaara’s defense, the confusion I experienced trying to stay atop the action might have had something to do with the confusing reality of the battle itself. The generals running the show appeared to have the same confusion that I did reading the story  so long after the fact.

This one I would not characterize as a page-turner, but definitely a worthwhile and enjoyable read. Three and a half stars.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Book Review: Rescuing the Gospel, by Erwin W. Lutzer

Rescuing the Gospel, by Erwin W. Lutzer

Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, has done the evangelical world a favor in two ways. First, he has written a concise history of the Reformation that is accessible to any reader. And second, he demonstrates that the causes of the original Reformation—the distortion of the gospel by the Catholic Church—persist unto this very day.

Lutzer begins with an honest assessment of the medieval church and its moral corruption. He traces the beginning of the glow of the Reformation through Wycliffe and Hus, and then devotes the bulk of the book to Luther. Luther’s path from terrified monk to fearless reformer is given in sufficient detail to allow the reader to come to know Luther the man.

Zwingli, the Anabaptists, and Calvin occupy most of the remainder of Lutzer’s attention. Lutzer is brief enough that the reader is not awash in details, and yet specific enough to flesh out the primary doctrinal and historical highpoints of each of his subjects.

Lutzer’s retelling of the Reformation is a valuable—if brief—introduction to a tumultuous time in history. But the real value of the book is in the final chapter, in which Lutzer documents that the issues initially separating Luther and Calvin from the Catholic church persist unto the present day. In an age in which philosophers and theologians seem to have an almost desperate craving to unify the Catholic and Protestant faiths, Lutzer demonstrates that there is only one side compromising its beliefs: the Catholics are holding firm to their historic pronouncements and distinctives while the Evangelicals are being tempted to move the doctrine of Justification to a back bench for the sake of “unity.”

If you are looking for a concise history of the Reformation with an equally concise and clear list of the issues that continue to separate Catholics and Evangelicals, this book is a good place to start. Four stars.