Journalist and gadfly, Rod Dreher, loves a good argument. If you read him, as I do, you know he can write and has loads of good things to offer. He pushes boundaries at times, sometimes makes incautious assertions, but you are always forced to think.
This is the second book I’ve read by Dreher. A few months back I read The Benedict Option book. How Dante Can Save Your Life was finished on a flight home late last night. There is much I liked about it.
First, kudos to the publisher for an absolutely stunning design. There’s nothing like real books!
Dreher’s book is full of well-written and insightful observations all while using Dante’s Comedy as his conversation partner.
My only major beef with the book is the Mommie Dearest kind of approach. It’s great to have honesty, but Dreher tells us far too much about the conflicts in his home. At times it felt like a Jerry Springer show in print.
Still, there is much to benefit from in reading How Dante Can Save Your Life.
I am coming to this terrific book about five years after its publication, so no long review here. I will say it is an extremely well done piece of work, both witty and wise, entertaining and educational. You will learn a lot about Scripture and yourself by reading it!
American Christians are especially in dire need of reckoning with this fine book.
Augustine’s City of God and Confessions have made a significant impact on my life. When people ask me for the most formative books outside the Bible, it is easy to name the top two: Confessions and Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.
I’ve read several books about Augustine. I can say that all of them have been quite good, with a few of exceptional quality. Those by Jean Bethke Elshtain and Garry Wills would top my list. Those two are now joined by Justo Gonzalez.
Gonzalez teases out the implications of Augustine being a person of two cultures: African and Greco-Roman. The Spanish word, mestizaje, means that one is a “mixed breed.” No easy thing being one and it carried far-reaching implications for how Augustine viewed himself and how he conducted his ministry.
Gonzalez covers the typical terrain with the Donatist controversy, etc. but in a way no one else has before.
I’ve just finished a terrific book on John Newton by Tony Reinke. Several years back, I read Jonathan Aitken’s wonderful biography of Newton. Tony’s book (interview with the author this fall) focuses more on themes that emerge from the letters of Newton.
The section on politics has much food for thought. If you know about Newton’s life, you know he was not anti-political. His encouragement for his friend, William Wilberforce, to go into the political sphere, is one example. However, Newton did understand better than most that getting consumed with politics has many traps. Here are a few quotes from Newton:
“There is a peace passing understanding, of which the politicians cannot deprive us.”
At the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793 Newton wrote, “The whole compass of my politics lies in Psalm 76:10”:
Surely the wrath of God shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.
“A nation’s safety lies more in the prayers of its people than in the fleets of its navy.”
Here’s a snippet from my interview with Larry Hurtado of the University of Edinburgh:
Moore: It’s become somewhat of a self-evident truth that early Christianity only appealed to the down and out. Is that accurate to the historical record?
Hurtado: For several decades now that old notion has been discredited among scholars of early Christianity. Studies of the people named and described in earliest Christian texts show that, right from the earliest years, they included craftsmen, merchants, and owners of businesses. Of course, there were also slaves and poor among believers. By at least the second century, there were also believers from upper levels of Roman society. That upward progress socially is likely part of what prompted pagan sophisticates such as Celsus to attack Christianity so vehemently.
The full interview is here:
Larry Hurtado: An Interview