Book Reviews

Review of God & the Gothic: Religion, Romance, and Reality in the English Literary Tradition by Alison Milbank

Milbank, Alison. God & the Gothic: Religion, Romance, and Reality in the English Literary Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2018, pp. 354, hardback. $44.35. Although traditionally seen as a marginal form within the wider world of English literature, the Gothic novel has become increasingly popular with both academic researchers and students since at least the 1970s. Lending itself to a diversity of theoretical and critical approaches, from the psychoanalytic to the Marxist, the Gothic novel has spawned a host of academic monographs and a thriving field of Gothic studies. That said, a surprisingly small amount of attention has been given to the theological and religious elements within this kind of writing—an oversight which stems from both literary studies lack of comfort with the theological and the reticence of theology to take seriously the heterodox and heretical Gothic. Happily, this lacuna has started to be corrected, with increased scholarly attention being given to the intersection of theology and Gothic writing. Into this area, Alison Milbank, associate professor of theology and literature at the University of Nottingham, has produced what will be the landmark text for years to come and an indispensable guide for both students of the Gothic and researchers of…

Review of Science and Secularism-Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology by J. P. Moreland

Moreland, J. P. Science and Secularism – Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology.  Wheaton, IL: Crossway 2018, pp. 222, $16.99, paperback. J. P. Moreland is a household name within contemporary Christian philosophy of religion, and has been one of the most important apologists for the last thirty years, particularly in terms of supporting Christianity’s compatibility with reason and natural science. This task has by necessity opposed Moreland to scientism, yet this present work is his first explicit, critical engagement with the position, building upon three decades of philosophical practice. Moreland’s Scientism and Secularism is a well-timed work which purports to dissect and criticize scientism as an ideology central to the contemporary secular West. In providing a thorough critique of scientism as an epistemological position, it also provides us with an accessible summary of the basic project of Christian apologetics as it has taken form within the framework of modern analytical philosophy, as well as an important defence of first philosophy, particularly of the epistemic primacy of philosophy in relation to the empirical sciences. The book is intended to be accessible to the interested layman, yet without unduly watering down the case being made. The work’s approachability lies both in the…

Review of Common Ground: Talking about Gun Violence in America by Donald V. Gaffney

Gaffney, Donald V. Common Ground: Talking About Gun Violence in America. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018. pp. 160, $15, paperback. Donald Gaffney is a Disciples of Christ minister and alumnus of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since the massacre in 2012, Gaffney has been invested in conversations surrounding gun violence, including through support of the Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization founded and led largely by family members connected to the Sandy Hook shooting with the goal of decreasing gun violence. As the title would suggest, Gaffney attempts to address the topic of gun violence through a call for self-reflection, mutual understanding, and productive conversation rather than through explicit advocacy for a singular political agenda.            Common Ground contributes a unique voice to the politically heated topic of gun violence as it provides regular opportunity for the reader to reflect on forces which often undergird espoused positions. In the first two chapters, Gaffney focuses on how perspectives on gun violence have evolved, first through individual narratives and then in the broader narrative of American culture. He focuses on the narratives of Suzanna Hupp and Gabrielle Giffords, both of whom suffered from gun violence, yet arrived at differing positions as to…

Review of Art as Spiritual Perception: Essays in Honor of E. John Walford edited by James Romaine

Romaine, James, ed. Art as Spiritual Perception: Essays in Honor of E. John Walford. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012, pp. 288, $40, hardback. E. John Walford is an important figure in the engagement of Protestant evangelical theology with art historical studies. His interest in this relationship has been fuelled by a dual concern with the relative paucity of religious voices in the literature of art history and criticism, not least in scholarly readings of seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting, and the related issue of the spiritual substance of artworks. These concerns reflect aspects of his own life journey as an art lover who converted to Christianity in his twenties and as a former student of the late art historian Hans Rookmaaker at the Free University (Vrije Universiteit) of Amsterdam. These interests, and the various ways they have been expressed in Walford’s career—not merely in publications (most notably Jacob van Ruisdael and the Perception of Landscape and Great Themes in Art), but also in teaching art history courses in Amsterdam and at Wheaton College, Illinois—are highlighted in this Festschrift’s Forward entitled “Mentoring Eyes” by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker, daughter of Hans Rookmaaker. She shows, in what is a fittingly generous and clearly personal tribute (Hengelaar-Rookmaaker…

Review of The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher

Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. New York, NY: Sentinel, 2017, pp. 304, $17, paperback. Rod Dreher is a popular Christian author and blogger and is senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written several books: Cruchy Cons (2006), The Little Way of Ruthie Leming (2013), and How Dante Can Save Your Life (2015). His most recent book, The Benedict Option, is a bestseller and has prompted discussions in churches and small groups around the world. In The Benedict Option, Dreher announces that conservative Christians have lost the culture war and that a new dark age is approaching. According to Dreher, the Waterloo of Christian conservatism was the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges (p. 9), and the enemies are several: secularism (9), moral therapeutic deism (the belief that God just wants us to be happy, pp. 10-11), and consumerism (p. 11). In response, Dreher calls Christians to withdraw strategically and form communities modeled after the sixth-century monastic, Saint Benedict, who, in order to preserve Christian culture and values safe from the cultural demise following the fall of Rome, started a monastic community at Monte…