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The Flame Imperishable: Tolkien, St. Thomas, and the Metaphysics of Faërie
Jonathan S. McIntosh
This theological and philosophical account of the deepest foundations of Middle Earth will enthrall Tolkien fans. McIntosh beautifully and succinctly expounds on creation, angels, evil, holiness, being and time, and the overruling providence of the God who is “never absent and never named,” as Tolkien put it. In Tolkien’s stories, “faith and philosophy have met and mythos and logos have kissed.” McIntosh can be heavy-handed with his discussions about God’s power and evil’s origins, but readers will find here proof that Tolkien is as profound a philosopher-theologian as literary craftsman—and that good theology makes good stories.
Mariner: A Theological Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Guite writes a magnificent line-by-line exposition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and deftly pairs it with Coleridge’s own life story. From “the kirk, the hill, the lighthouse top” of the poet’s youth, to his descent into the “Night-mare Life-in-Death” of opium addiction and subsequent recovery by returning to the Trinitarian faith of his childhood, Guite illustrates how Coleridge’s own voyage through life parallels that of his fictional Mariner. He also argues for Coleridge’s goal to unite faith and reason by tracing them “back to their single source in the holy Logos.”
George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles: Incarnation, Doubt, and Reenchantment
Larsen neither cheerleads for MacDonald’s theology nor critiques it, but rather explains its historical significance. One key insight: After 1850, British theologians began heavily emphasizing Christ’s incarnation at the expense of His atonement. Larsen persuasively links MacDonald’s work to this trend. Christmas—the celebration of Christ’s incarnation—was MacDonald’s favorite holiday, while Easter—the doctrine of atonement—held less importance to him. Another insight: Following Coleridge’s views, he believed that all creation, properly apprehended, points toward God. MacDonald, whom G.K. Chesterton called “Saint Francis of Aberdeen,” showed his greatest strength in revealing the spiritual dynamics of the everyday.
On the Edge of Infinity: A Biography of Michael D. O’Brien
On the first page of his account of O’Brien’s life, Cavallin informs us, “The car was slightly unreliable.” Car trouble is a theme throughout the biography, as it symbolizes the difficult path O’Brien chose as a Christian painter and novelist. He supported six children while waiting 18 years for his first novel to be published, and continues to choose to follow God over mammon. O’Brien exemplifies both “the courage and persistence that a sincere religious life demands in late modern times.” And he proves that our Father always provides.
David Zahl’s Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do About It (Fortress Press, 2019) explains that we all seek righteousness, only now we do it by what we eat, how much we work, and how well we parent. We are on a performance treadmill, always striving for “enoughness.” Zahl explores various manifestations of this quest and ends with a call to a grace-based, Jesus-centric Christianity.
Justin Whitmel Earley’s encouraging book The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction (IVP Books, 2019) is a good complement to Zahl’s. Earley argues that we all live according to habits that shape our lives and form our hearts—and yet we are largely unaware of them. So he suggests “the common rule,” simple alternative habits—“Scripture before phone” is one—to get us off the performance treadmill and orient us to loving God and our neighbor. —Susan Olasky