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Culture Books


Teaching to talk back

Some good books for those who have been subjected to academic propaganda

"WE ARE ALL SOCIALISTS NOW," a Newsweek cover earlier this year screamed. Happily, Jay Richards is not, and his new book, Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem (HarperOne, 2009), will help its readers to shout back. In easy-to-understand chapters Richards annihilates the economic myths taught as fact in schools and magazines. This is an excellent gift for graduates and others who have been subjected to years of propaganda.

Also in the teaching-to-talk-back mode is John Coleman and Joe Carter's How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway, 2009). The co-authors Christianize the teaching of Aristotle on rhetoric and go on to show how Jesus used story and imagery. Theirs is part of a generally positive trend to emphasize the Bible's use of narrative and human interest, rather than textbook-like paragraphs.

And while we're on Aristotle and other early wise guys: Christians who teach ancient philosophy will value Patrick Downey's Desperately Wicked: Philosophy, Christianity and the Human Heart (IVP Academic, 2009). Can good motives accompany socialism's harmful solutions? Do any of us have good motives? Downey's thoughtful book begins with Jeremiah's realization that the heart is deceitful. It ends with Christ's promise that despite our desperate wickedness we can become His friends.

Downey's book raises issues about how Christians should make use of non-Christian philosophical insights. Some say we should just read Christian books, or at least books that don't advocate positions opposed to the Bible. Hmm . . . in The Gulag Archipelago Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, "Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts." The same is true of books: Even good ones have flaws, and even some thoroughly wrong-headed ones can reveal interesting and important information.

A case in point: Evolution-embracing Darwin's Sacred Cause, by Adrian Desmond and James Moore (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), shows that the anti-slavery movement led by William Wilberforce greatly influenced Charles Darwin, who hated theories that different races of humans had separate origins. One of his motivations for pushing the theory of evolution was that it suggested that all humans had an ancient common ancestor: Science could thus become the servant of abolitionism.

Bradley Watson's Living Constitution, Dying Faith: Progressivism and the New Science of Jurisprudence (ISI Books, 2009) describes the impact of evolutionary theory on political and social thought. He notes that Social Darwinism had its left and right wings, but both undermined constitutional understandings and eventually led to runaway courts and the judicial usurpation of democracy. Watson shows that both Republican and Democratic presidents during the 20th century damaged the Constitution by appointing justices who thought it righteous to legislate from the bench.