This isn't conventional biography as much as loose collection of conversation fragments (read: mini Stone monologues). It gives an interesting but incThis isn't conventional biography as much as loose collection of conversation fragments (read: mini Stone monologues). It gives an interesting but incomplete portrait of his life and work through the vantage point of his retirement, and an especially engaging view of his retirement projects. You probably should have a basic linear familiarity with his life before you read this. Whatever one thinks of Stone overall, he seems to be a fascinating example of a self-taught man, a tenacious and fiercly independent journalist, and in his old age--a life-long learner....more
This book builds upon the supposition that if choosing flesh-and-blood friends wisely is important, then we should likewise think about who we befrienThis book builds upon the supposition that if choosing flesh-and-blood friends wisely is important, then we should likewise think about who we befriend through reading.
From that vantage point, Wilson comes up with a list of 9 people he wants to introduce to his readers, presented chronologically. They are: Chesterton, H. L. Mencken, Wodehouse, T. S. Eliot, Tolkien, Lewis, R. F. Capon, Marilyn Robinson, and his son, N. D. Wilson. In the introduction, Douglas suggests that, whether they use it directly or not, a good reader ought to be gradually learning about the craft of writing.
The reader who expects to find nine neat biographical chapters here will be disappointed, as will those who expect to find a set of conventional notes which outline each writer's writing style and techniques. Wilson is not trying to add to the biographical literature on these figures nor is he trying to write a writing textbook. Rather, he is seeking to draw readers in—he’s a matchmaker of sorts. Often he does it by emulating the current author’s style. He is mostly successful.
Though the book is infused with thoughts about how faith and writing intersect, and Wilson’s views on a whole host of matters pour through--the selection of writers is broad enough to include an atheist, a Roman Catholic, Anglicans, a Presbyterian, an Episcopalian, and a Congregationalist.
Each chapter is broken into three sections: "A Writing Life," "Digging Deeper," and "If You Read Nothing Else." My favorite section was usually "If You Read Nothing Else," which bounces off the other sections and gives the reader good suggestions about where to start. Most of the weak points, which are not many I might add, are to be found within the "Digging Deeper" sections. The rambling and digressions I found generally fell both into the "strengths" and "weaknesses" side of the ledger. At times I would have liked to see the digressions reined in a bit, but I wouldn't want to rein them in too much, either. One would have to be careful in tinkering with them, because it would be easy to lose some of the "personal encounter" feel to the book. If Wilson going to successfully point his readers to the writers in a convincing way, it IS important that he personalize his engagement! And so I can hardly fault Wilson for bleeding through the lines. I just think it would have been possible to keep a few of the areas a little more trim and not let the focus go a bit wonky.
The inclusion of Doug's son N. D. Wilson in this book was rather odd. I was put off by it initially, but on reflection, it blends pretty well with the other chapters and does not feel out of place in a book which has a purposely personal and slightly autobiographical feel to it. So if this makes you roll your eyes, I encourage you to set aside your initial thoughts and at least give it some time. N. D. Wilson is a great writer and there were some important points and connections to be made in that section, and Wilson does it tactfully. (As an aside, I've wondered why the exact number of writers included is 9!)
Love him or hate him (or something in between), three things are exceedingly clear: Wilson writes with great skill himself, he has been deeply impressed and shaped by these authors, and he makes a laudable effort to point his readers to them. By and large, the book focuses on these things and hits it out of the park. Even though I was already quite familiar with most of these writers, I found this a very profitable read and it was quite far from boring (as though anything Wilson ever writes is boring!)
Even granting a few quirks and weaknesses, this book is valuable and should be a powerful matchmaking tool—matchmaking in the sense of initiating new friendships between these writers and new readers. Only a couple of these writers are still alive to appreciate such a friendship, but I believe that will not stop new readers from walking side by side with them for many more years. Now that you made it through this review, take up and read!...more
This book provides an engaging, sympathetic perspective on the English poet William Cowper's life and work. It is a good read with plenty of poetic exThis book provides an engaging, sympathetic perspective on the English poet William Cowper's life and work. It is a good read with plenty of poetic excerpts and illustrations. It is not a biography in the proper sense, but rather, as the subtitle states an "evaluation, vindication, and appreciation" of Cowper's life and work. (George Ella has an actual Cowper biography, the whopping 692 page "William Cowper: Poet of Paradise") Having recently digested the highly negative, critical, and anti-evangelical biographies by Hugh l’Anson Fausset or David Cecil, it was refreshing to read this book which is, by the author's admission, positive, even optimistic. Kudos to Ella for writing this book and Joshua Press for publishing it--the layout is beautiful and the cover is stunning. It certainly makes me anxious to checkout the full biography which Ella wrote....more
This is the fifth book I’ve read from this series and the first one which features a figure who is still living.
One can’t peruse a well stocked ReformThis is the fifth book I’ve read from this series and the first one which features a figure who is still living.
One can’t peruse a well stocked Reformed/Evangelical library for long without being confronted with the profound influence of the Anglican theologian J. I. Packer. Through his books, such as Knowing God, and his endorsements and forewords, Packer has left a mark on nineteenth century Christian publishing. His influence extends far beyond the publishing world.–evidenced in his role at Regent college, his work on the ESV, his involvement in the inerrancy controversy, his leadership in the Anglican church, and his membership in the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
There is no question that Packer’s written corpus, massive as it is, provides rich fodder for gleaning a distinct view of the Christian life. And there is no escaping his massive influence and role in shaping where the church is at today. It is therefore fitting that this series would include J. I. Packer, even though unlike most of the other people, he is not a deceased luminary.
Storms does a fine job of conveying the main emphasis of Packer’s life work, straightforwardly acknowledging his debt to the “Puritan, Theological Exegete, and Later-Day Catechist.”. The book is loaded with substantial quotations from Packer’s pen (or typewriter?), establishing a careful presentation of how he interacted with the Scriptures and the ideas of his day. Packer’s piety (or spirituality) seeps through Storms’ work. There are brilliant sections on suffering, the role of the atonement, Romans 7, prayer, and theocentricity.
This is unlikely to be the “bestseller” in this series. Neither will it generate as much excitement as some of the other titles. Nevertheless, there is almost no aspect in which it is inferior to the others, and it exceeds most of the ones I’ve read so far. This is a solid resource and certainly one of the best ones in this series. It is well worth reading, and I hope many more do so!...more
Though it has some endearing aspects, I think this book is generally wrong-headed. Hugh l'Anson Fausset not only gets Cowper very wrong, but also JohnThough it has some endearing aspects, I think this book is generally wrong-headed. Hugh l'Anson Fausset not only gets Cowper very wrong, but also John Newton and eighteenth century evangelicalism in general. This book has a lot of energy and passion, but the underlining theme is suspect and filled with venom, especially against John Newton....more
I’ve been plunging into several William Cowper biographies lately, and I’m amazed at how bitterly many of his biographers hate John Newton. As I’ve reI’ve been plunging into several William Cowper biographies lately, and I’m amazed at how bitterly many of his biographers hate John Newton. As I’ve read the perspectives of, say, Hugh l’Anson Fausset or David Cecil, I see transparently festering contempt for Newton. So, when I received this volume on John Newton in Crossway’s “Theologians on the Christian Life” series, I was ready for a refreshing change. I knew Tony Reinke has a sincere appreciation for this man and his legacy. After such unveiled contempt, even a little hagiography would be excusable!
In this series, thus far I’ve read the volumes on Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I generally appreciated and enjoyed them, though I also found some weakness in each of them. I had no desire to nitpick, I just really expected more. And, so, beginning this book, I’ve been very interested to see how it would measure up.
John Newton (1725-1807) made a lasting contribution to the Christian church when he penned the words to the hymn “Amazing Grace.” However, there is a rich store of resources from the pen of John Newton which have gotten much less fanfare over the last three centuries. Newton’s placement in history at the point at which “the Post Office had developed to the point where letter delivery was more affordable and reliable than ever” allowed him build a substantial letter writing ministry. These one thousand or so letters rivaled his sermons “in both substance and usefulness.”
Tony Reinke has submerged himself into this vast quantity of letters in an attempt to show that Newton was, indeed, a theologian, and then presents for a popular audience the essence of his theology. Reinke shows Newton as a “spiritual doctor,” or more specifically an expert in “cardiology,” a student “of his own heart and the hearts of others.”
The first and most enduring impression I had upon reading this book was that Newton exalted the supremacy, centrality, and glory of Christ. Christ, to him, is the “priceless treasure” that seeps through all of what he writes. “Like an unceasing echo, the theme of Christ’s super-abundant grace is heard in everything Newton writes” Newton “will not allow us to abstract the Christian life from Christ” and so, a book on Newton’s view of the Christian life is largely a book about Christ. This emphasis seeps through all of what Reinke writes about Newton! Here you can really see how Reinke has steeped himself into Newton’s work and does a fantastic job of bringing this emphasis out.
I would like to highlight a few portions that were especially helpful: There is an excellent discussion of “gospel simplicity” (Simplicity of Intention/Dependence). The discussion of seven types Christians with character flaws is excellent and convicting (Austerus, Humanus, Prudens, Voatilis, Cessator, Curiosus, and Querulus). Don’t let the Latin trick you, the observations in this section are extremely concise and simply explained! The chapter on “Discipline of Trials” is also excellent and very thought provoking!
Upon reflection, I’ve concluded that this is the best book in the series, a fair amount better than the works on Edwards, Luther, and Bonhoeffer. Each has remarkable strengths, but none I have read in the series yet measures up to this one.The only notable weakness I would point out is perhaps connected to it strong points. Reinke has submerged himself in Newton’s letters and masterfully described his theological thinking, but he has perhaps not given enough space to show how that theology worked itself out in practice, both in his life’s decisions and also in his pastoral advice on specific topics. Some of the exploration of Newton’s theology could have been tied a little tighter into concrete events in his personal or pastoral life. At one point towards the end of the book Reinke intimates that there is much more to be said about Newton on topics such as friendship, fellowship, marriage, discerning God’s will, etc. I think that rings true, and I am left wishing Reinke devoted some space to these subjects if he could do so without too severely truncating his coverage of Newton’s theological thinking.
Reading this book is certainly profitable from a devotional perspective. It also is a helpful volume if you want to better understand the theological emphasis of 18th century evangelicalism. On both accounts I can sincerely recommend it and I hope many Christians read it, not only to know John Newton, but ultimately Jesus Christ, who he so vigorously pointed to....more
I found this devotionally helpful. I can't vouch for or against its accuracy. I don't know enough about Bonhoeffer to know if Nichols' portrayal of hiI found this devotionally helpful. I can't vouch for or against its accuracy. I don't know enough about Bonhoeffer to know if Nichols' portrayal of him is accurate--I sort of wonder whether he might be "sugar coating" him a bit or perhaps "creating a Bonhoeffer in his own image." However, I really don't know. Nevertheless, this was a good, well-organized read about a fascinating individual....more