GREAT BOOKS: Personal Favorites

Robin Olav Vogsland, New Mexico

Every one a choice pick.

(Newest titles in red)

BOOK CATEGORIES (clickable):


Christian Thought
Politics & Civic Life (& History)
More History

Best & Worst Aspect.


Trans./Edit: Theodore G Tappert

(Fortress Press)
[Lutheran catalogs]

The Book of Concord contains the confessional documents upon which the Lutheran Church is based. It was produced to repair the doctrinal rifts that arose after Luther's death--and it succeeded quite well. This 1959 translation of the Lutheran confessions is very readable. I was impressed by how un-strident & peaceable the Augsburg Confession & Apology are. Pro: A clear translation. It is good even as devotional material.

Con: Some miss Bente's historical intro from the Triglotta version.

by C.F.W. Walther

[Conservative Lutheran retailers or Concordia,]

This book started as a series of weekly seminary lectures in 1884-5 by the renowned LCMS forefather. They are thoroughly enjoyable & challenging and are excellent instruction in what Luther's deemed the most important aspect of Bible interpretation--discerning between Law and Gospel. It is very human in it's style. It is old enough to have a thought-provoking perspective, yet much of Walther's comments on societal & religious trends could have been written today. Pro: Some call this the most significant theological work ever produced in America.

Con: There is some overlap between lectures & Walther's treatment of "mortal sin" seems incomplete & is confusing.

THE FOOLISHNESS OF GOD, The Place of Reason in the Theology of Martin Luther
by Siegbert Becker

[Northwestern, 800-662-6022]

This is the most useful book I know to explain the fundamental difference between Lutheran and non-Lutheran theological methods. No one can speak competently in theology until they have learned the proper place and limitations of reason. Since the fall, our minds are broken, yet we must use these very minds to learn God's ways AND to discern our own errors. In his intro, Becker writes: Reason is a big red murderess, the devil's bride, a damned whore, a blind guide, the enemy of faith, the greatest and most invincible enemy of God. Reason is God's greatest and most important gift to man, of inestimable beauty and excellence, a glorious light, a most useful servant in theology, something divine. In terms like these Martin Luther gave his estimate of human reason.


More On This Book
Pro: Becker explains the necessity of following every Biblical teaching even when they appear irrational (or contradictory). Don't be afraid to believe in paradoxical truths. Becker also speaks of God who hides himself behind masks so that we can know him.

Con: Some more examples would be helpful. One wishes the book had a synopsis of its points for review & showing others.

SANCTIFICATION: CHRIST IN ACTION, Evangelical Challenge and Lutheran Response
by Harold Senkbell

[Northwestern, 800-662-6022]

The author identifies as the mainspring of Evangelicalism, the all-pervasive, but hardly articulated, attitude that sanctification is the point of Christianity-not that they expect to be saved by works, but they figure that to be a better Christian is to immerse oneself in a "Christian" LIFESTYLE. This principle is what shapes the Evangelical movement and is the common thread that runs through all they do. The author believes that it is critical for Lutherans to see clearly this subtle error in order to avoid being caught in the current.

After sensitizing the reader to the problem, the last part of the book presents beautifully the Lutheran view of sanctification (Christ in action) and quickly rebuilds in the reader a evangelical (gospel-based) view of sanctification to replace the "Evangelical" view previously disintegrated.

Pro: A breakthrough book in practical Lutheran apologetics to deal with Evangelicalism. It answers the question, "How can Lutheranism be preferable when these Evangelicals are so dynamic and so successful?"

Con: The exposé of the Evangelical mishandling of sanctification makes up the bulk of the book, and, frankly, it gets depressing. If one is tempted to quit reading because of this, skip to the Lutheran response at the end.

BIBLICAL CHRISTOLOGY, A Study in Lutheran Dogmatics
by John Schaller

[Northwestern, 800-662-6022]

This small book (200 pp) was one of the first English language texts written in the German-American Lutheran churches as they moved away from German-only seminary studies. It is serious theology, but written in a relatively accesible style (no pretentiousness). I recommend it for laymen who have not yet seen how specific, yet rigorously Biblical, a "professional" theological formulation can be. Schaller covers all major doctrines concerning Christ, making fine distinctions as he deals with many, unBiblical variant teachings. Topics include: The Plan of Salvation; The Person of the Redeemer; The Two States of Christ; the Office of Christ. Pro: Beautiful Biblical reasoning that you do not often see these days.

Con: Some German and Latin terminology, but a non-reader does not lose too much.

FOLLOW ME - Discipleship According to Matthew
by Martin Franzmann

(Concordia House)
[Out of Print ???]

A guest review from Pastor John Ude: "After the Bible this is the book I would rank first for every Bible student. His use of language is Franzmann at his best, compelling and invigorating. His grasp of Matthew is so penetrating that it lifts you up to the mountaintop to see the splendour of what our LORD has done and at the same time sends you rushing into the Word of the LORD to study it more." Pro: I have not found this book to read it, but given the stong endorsement, I am including it here.

Con: This book has been out of print. (It may have been reprinted in the Concordia Heritage Collection.)


The role of philosophy & other intellectual endeavors in Christian life can be tricky, but also of great benefit, if kept in subjection to Christ. The Bible teaches us to be Christians. But, somehow we are to become Christian salesmen, accountants, farmers, mechanics, scientists, politicians, etc. not to mention citizens.

I regret that there are not more Lutheran books listed here. I have found that it is not common for Confessional Lutherans to write this kind of thing. Perhaps we are afraid to speculate about things, lest we be found wrong and mislead anyone. I am not ashamed to admit that I am a C.S. Lewis fan. I have seen from his writings that if we approach something by a "philosophical" method, but always guided by what our Lord teaches, we can work our way around the mountain and meet up with the Biblical trail from another direction, and our understanding will be all the richer for it. "The longest way round is the shortest way home." . Tidbit: C.S. Lewis on Social Morality
GOD IN THE DOCK, Essays in Theology and Ethics
by C.S. Lewis -- Ed E. Hopper

(William Eerdman Co.)
[Secular & Christian Retailers]

This book is a collection of 48 out-of-print essays and letters dealing with general apologetics, ethics and morality, Christian philosophy and social commentary. This is a treasure for the Lewis fan. The title of the book refers to the dock, or defendants box, in a British courtroom, and might be rendered in our vernacular as God on Trial, a reference to the strong apologetic theme that runs throughout. Lewis was Anglican and certainly does not speak in Lutheran theological terms. He gives a rationalist defense, informed by faith, against rationalist unbelief. My favorite is On the Reading Old Books --old books serve as an antidote to the intellectual fads of our times (the zeitgeist).

THIS IS MY FAVORITE BOOK (outside of the Bible) There are more fround and seminal thoughts per page than anything else I have read. It does NOT contain my favorite Lewis Essay: WEIGHT OF GLORY (collected in the book of the same name)

Pro: It is not a fluke that Lewis is the most popular Christian writer of the 20th century--his work is captivating & encourages thought.

Con: He has a few pet errors, but most of his work is sound. First time readers think Lewis is (too) deep, but persevere & it gets easier as you get to know his style.

RESOUNDING TRUTH: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music (Engaging Culture)

(Paperback) by Jeremy S. Begbie

[Amazon & Others]

Jeremy Begbie is professor of Theology at Cambridge University. Most of his work deals with cross-pollination between Christian theology and the arts. There is currently a Youtube link with a fine presentation by Begbie called "THE SENSE OF AN ENDING: The Musical Self" from University of California TV (recorded shortly after 9/11).

After seeing that video (which you can buy it online at and I recommend), I wanted to read his writing and finally found this reasonably priced volume aimed at a non-academic audience. It is a kind of introductory course on how Christians have sought to understand what music really is and to discover both the source of, and proper uses of, the powers of music to enhance life and deepen faith. He starts with a historical review of thought on the subject including classical views and includes a nice section on Luther's views on music--as well as of Calvin, Zwingli, and other influential Christian thinkers. He includes the work of several "modern" composers with a spiritual bent. (E.g. He discusses how these have found ways to represent timelessness as well as temporality in their works.) He discusses the tensions between composer and performer. He discusses the ambivalence of many Christians regarding the fleshly and the spiritual powers of music. He overviews everything that the Bible says about musical instruments.

In the main part of the book he presents his own work and thoughts on the subject, covering but amplifying what is in the Youtube video. It is very thought provoking, profound, and wonderful--a rich and pretty much non-technical presentation. I imagine a musician would get more out of it than me, but he lets the reader share in a musician's insights.

Pro: In Begbie, you get a beautiful and compelling picture of how a Christian's life work is enriched by integrating it with his faith. He is a world-class scholar, a fine Christian and a gifted teacher. He is NOT a modernist or post-modernist in his views, but appears to be Biblically sound, committed to following the teachings of Scripture rather than deconstructing them.

Con: As a confessional Lutheran, I am irritated to see the word "Theology" taken to mean merely "thinking about God" (beyond what can be derived from the Scriptures), but at the same time, I believe that thinking about God in all aspects of life, including music, and seeking all kinds of sound wisdom is a worthwhile activity, as long as it supplements and serves rather than replaces in our life the bigger foundational messages of the Scriptures.

FINDINGS, Explorations in Christian Life and Learning by Martin Galstad

(Wisconsin Lutheran College)

Written by a former member of the CLC, this collection of essays is a joy to read. It is written in a prose style that approaches poetry in compactness of content and abounding ideas--so many ideas drawn from his years of ministry and as a long-time teacher. Pro: Diverse works from an intriguing mind.

Con: Harder to find since I believe the author is the publisher.

by C.S. Lewis

[Secular & Christian Retailers]

This was my first read of a non-fiction book by C.S. Lewis. As a new Christian, I was impressed by the orderly treatment of various issues in ethics and apologetics. It is probably the most common starting point for new Lewis readers. Questions addressed include; Evidence that there is a God; why we should be concerned not only with outward actions, but the inner state of others, even when it "does not hurt anyone else." The treatment of the Trinity and of the Zoe (spiritual life) and Bios (physical life) are awe-inspiring. Pro: Crystal clear logic, very well argued.

Con: A few pet errors, I think--(I read it a long time ago).

by C.S. Lewis

[Secular & Christian Retailers]

(The title refers to making clear the utter separation between heaven and hell.)

This book fits no mold. It is an attempt to answer as best one can certain unanswerable questions that unbelievers, and weak Christians struggle with--it is a type of apologetics, if you will. These questions include: How can a good God condemn people to hell? How can we be predestined and still not be puppets? What are heaven and hell like? and others. Lewis answers by picturing a place (neither heaven or hell), from which a bus leaves periodically with dead people's souls to go to the outskirts of heaven. The people are met by a person they know who tries to convince them to go on further, into heaven proper -- most return on the bus. The narrator is a bus rider (Lewis?) and his coach is George McDonald (Lewis' favorite author) who explains many things--they also watch the other passenger's experiences. People with exaggerated traits serve as object lessons. Pro: The answers are tentative and incomplete (Lewis would agree), but it is helpful to know that answers to these "unanswerable" questions are at least conceivable (the devil would have us conclude otherwise).

Con: The reader should not think that Lewis actually believes the afterlife is like this--it is merely a device for explaining how our eternal destiny is shaped in this life.


by Peter Kreeft

(InterVarsity Press)
[Christian Bookstores/Special Order]

An odd approach to Christian philosophy and ethics, but is quite effective: The ghost of Socrates appears in a modern abortion clinic and calmly engages doctors and others in debates about the nature and morality of abortion. Of course, he uses the Socratic method--asking questions to get to the point. It is a powerful presentation to cut through the gobbledy-gook that passes for public debate on this subject. Pro: Learn how to argue against abortion in ways a non-Christian can accept and also learn to love the Socratic method.

Con: Uses the Ghost of Socrates as a literary device.

SPECIAL PROVIDENCE: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World
by Walter Russell Mead

[Amazon etc.]

I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in American politics but is tired of the liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican dicotomies. The author's purpose is to find the source principles of American foreign policy, but his profound insights into our national character have a much broader application. Meade frees himself from the 2-sided debate by focusing on FOUR philosphies that have contributed to our national debate. These four schools of thought he names after well-known historical figures that personified them.
1. a "Hamiltonians" school that is concerned with U.S. economic well-being at home and abroad.
2. a "Wilsonian" school that seeks to promulgate U.S. values throughout the world
3. a "Jeffersonian" school whose main concern is to protect American democracy from anti-democratic forces
4. a "Jacksonian" school that is concerned with preserving U.S. interests and honor in the world.

Meade's wonderful insights include ...
a) He traces the historical importance (accomplishments) of each school--and they ARE at the center of our national success.
b) Each of these ideas are deeply inculcated in the American psyche; all are distinctly "American" and all have some degree of appeal to Americans [you will feel it]. And it is a beautiful thing.
c) Our foreign policy (and more) is determined by a subtle struggle between these four. In any particular situation, as proponents make their arguments, one or more school gets more traction in the public arena and gets its way--but not completely--herein lies the genius of our democracy. This mechanism gives America a tremendous adaptability that is a strong contributor to our national success.
d) There are liberal and conservative forms of each of these schools.
e) The treatment of the last of the four is the most fascinating (a scholarly treatment of redneck populism).

Pro: Profound insights that strengthen understanding of our nation and help us sort out political arguments better. It would be an excellect book to study in a HS or College social studies program/book report.

Con: Too minor to mention.

by Alexis deToqueville

[Amazon etc.]

Wow! This book is full of profound insights into the nature of American democracy and how our institutions directly create it. DeToqueville was a Frenchman who visited America before the Civil War. We returned home and wrote this work in two parts that immediately earned him the highest honors as a political thinker. It is clear he wrote from years of observation and thinking about the nature of politics and democracy.

His genius is clear in that so much of what he wrote is still directly applicable and instructive. It has been or is being put to the test by subsequent and current events and leads the reader think deeply about society and govenment in a much more fundamental way. (As opposed to the rehashing of derivative political slogans that passes for political writing today.)

Pro: So relevant, every page is full of profound insights.

Con: Since it is ~150 yrs old, some of the details of society and the mechanics of government have changed, it is sometimes hard to recognize things that are no longer true. Fortunately, this does not matter much since it is almost as useful to see where we once were as where we are. But one yearns (painfully) for an updated volume by deToqueville to see what he would say about the changes since his time.


by Ewald M. Plass

[Concordia, or Maybe Christian Bookstore]

"Oh, that I might pray the way that dog looks at that meat." -- M.L.

This is Luther is intended to be a character study--to tell what Luther was, rather than what Luther did. It surveys each area of Luther's life, professional and personal, with extensive quotations from Luther (what else would you expect from the editor of What Luther Says); his contemporaries; and subsequent commentators. As many who have read Luther have noticed, his personality comes through powerfully through his words, and the book does very, very well to (re-)introduce us to Luther--and to instill admiration for the man. It emphasizes his religion-centered life, his innately honest and forthright nature. It also takes some pains to present the accusations of Luther's Catholic accusers (which are quite vile). I know firsthand how venomous some of these anti-biographers are (they are still published) and it is good to have a book that faces these accusations head-on. Plass comes across as being sympathetic to Luther (I too find Luther inately lovable). Pro: A captivating introduction to Luther; and it is not dry reading. It is an exciting book--it revealed much about his personal life, his nobility and his humanity. Reading such a book is as close as one will ever get to meeting the man and getting to know him, and that is the sense the book conveys.

Con: The treatment of some subjects is (too) short. A few subjects, such as Luther's blunt honesty are spoken of constantly, without apparent necessity--a minor irritation.

by Josephus

[Christian & secular retailers]

Josephus was born in 37 AD; he was a Pharisee & general in the Jewish revolt against Rome. He was captured, cooperated with the Romans & witnessed the siege and destruction of Jerusalem. Hated as a traitor, he lived in exile in Rome and wrote a series of works explaining his people to Rome. The Jewish War is his account of the terrible ordeal of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Antiquities of the Jews retells for a Roman audience the history of the (Jewish) world from Creation to Josephus' day--including graphic accounts of the mad evil of the first Herod & of the fall of Masada. Against Apion is a defense of the Jews against pagan slanders. Pro: This is one of the most extensive, extra-Scriptural accounts of NT Israel--it even mentions Jesus, James, & the early Christians. It is loaded with interesting information.

Con: I enjoyed the classic William Whiston 1730's translation--it is beautiful English, but slightly pompous & slower reading. There are new translations.

by Eusebius

(Dorset & Others)
[Christian & secular retailers]

A close friend of Emperor Constantine, the Greek Bishop Eusebius wrote the only surviving account of the Church during its first 300 years. Apart from this work we would know little of its rapid extension, its vitality, tribulation, persecutions, and martyrdoms. He deals with the ordeals of 146 martyrs, the teachings of 47 heretics, and the proceedings leading up to the major Councils, especially Nicea. It is marvelous to read direct accounts from those days, rather than rehashes by modern historians. Pro: Many fascinating details. The account of the martyrdoms of Sanctus and Blandina alone makes this book worthwhile. Read it yourself here

Con: His account follows themes rather than systematically telling all--so one sometimes wishes he had given more background info.

by James Boswell

(Various publishers)
[Secular bookstores]

This is one of the most famous biographies in the English language; it has affected countless readers since it was written in 1791. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was a poet, dramatist, literary critic, and pioneering lexicographer, but his greatest accomplishment was to befriend a devoted biographer. The young Boswell sought out & idolized the famous Johnson. Boswell records his wit, sagacity, silliness, generosity, faith, illness, and most of all OPINIONS--so many opinions--many quite remarkable to us moderns. Johnson liked a good debate! The book has two charms: it is a treasure trove of small facts about life in London society, e.g. the British view of the American rebellion. Secondly we get to know Johnson and understand the beautiful bond of love Johnson & Boswell maintained over many years. Pro: You really know Boswell & Johnson when you finish. (You even anguish over Johnson's wavering faith near death.) Much of the book is dialog hastily recorded in shorthand. (Boswell must have been an odd dinner guest.)

Con: Usually found in a 1000+ pg. unabridged form. But there is a harder-to-find condensed version (from Modern Library I think). I confess I read the later, but it will be the long version next time!)

The Faber Book of Reportage (in the UK)

Edited by John Carey

(Avon Books)
[Secular bookstores]

This is a collection of short, but striking first hand accounts of great and small events in history. Pieces include: death of Socrates; Rome burns; eruption of Vesuvius; dinner with Attila the Hun; Kubla Khan's park (Marco Polo); death of Thomas Becket; life on French galleys; the Black Death; Spanish atrocities in the West Indies; Marie Antoinette at the opera; Lord Nelson; American slaves auction; the Crystal Palace--Great Exhibition of 1851; the (real) charge of the Light Brigade; General Sherman lays waste the south; Stanley finds Livingston; San Francisco earthquake; The Titanic: a fireman's story; murder of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarjevo; Captain Scott's Diary (of Antarctica); the Somme + MUCH MUCH MORE. Pro: A buffet of hors d'oeuvres for the history buff. Most accounts are only a few pages. A great variety, though revolution & war & Catholic-Protestant friction are predominant themes.

Con: Short pieces do not do justice to many of the subjects. Only one piece is grossly out of place and also unsuitable (a torrid recounting of a visit to an Egyptian brothel)


I do not read much fiction anymore, mostly it is to my children.
But here are some that are definitely worthwhile and/or powerful.
by John Bunyan

[Secular and Christian Bookstores]

This is a pure allegory, young Christian finds the burden he carries too great and is told by Evangelist that he can escape his burden and leave the Slough of Despond by entering thu the narrow gate.

Thus begins the adventure of Christian who with friends Mr. Hope, and Mr. Little-Faith endures the trials and hardships and joys of the long path to reach the City beyond the last river. On the way he visits many places and meets many people--including, Mr. Worldly-Wise, Backslider, Formalist, Hypocrisy, Lord Hategood, Mr. Money-love, and Atheist. In part 2, Christian's wife Christiana and their children follow a similiar path some years after Christian's departure.

Pro: This book has been a favorite of Christians for 2 centuries. The insights of Bunyan into the dangers to our soul and the freshness of his picturesque allegory make this a unique joy to read. I am also a lover of Elizibethan prose and found the language delightful. (And not hard to follow.)

There are several specialized edited versions of this work too, including, "modern" language versions, and a children's version--Young Pilgrim's Progress.

Con: The author does not think in Lutheran terms, and sometimes tends toward moralism, but the gospel and grace are prominent. I do not recall anything overtly objectionable, though it has been several years since I read it.

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Barnes & Noble Books (& probably others)
[Barnes and Noble Bookstores: Excellent hardcover for ~$6.00]

This is the classic novel of slaves in the South which was instrumental in turning public opinion against slavery, at least in the North. This is a very rich and well crafted book, full of thought, feeling, insight, Christianity and intellect. Stowe is no sentimentalist, her opinions of slavery are based upon a crystal clear perception of its manifest cruelty--even in cases where "Mas'r" was benign. Though it was published in 1852, the commentary is so alive and immediate that it is hard to believe it was not just written. I particularly enjoyed Stowe's, intelligent analysis of morals and human nature. Pro: It is a pleasure to read--intelligent and varied--candy for the mind and the soul. The last half especially is a fine example of Christian novel writing--spiritually edifying and exciting in its portrayal of the victory that we can have in Christ in the midst of "hopeless" circumstances--it evokes the accounts of the early martyrs.

Con: The politically correct may be offended to see the word "nigger" used frequently--often in a neutral way, but sometimes as an epithet, depending on the character of the speaker; e.g. Simon Legree.

by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.
[Secular Bookstores]

At least 8 volumes in the series

Great bedtime reading. I am rediscovering how excellent these books are. (Do not let the TV series deter you from reading these) The stories cover the period 1870 to 1889.

Very good writing, the style is excellent for children, a mix of humor and understated drama and more. Divided into short chapters suitable for reading at one sitting. Each chapter reveals something new and interesting. There are so many details of daily life--technical facts lost from modern memory--the preparation of food, harvesting, clothing, social functions, music, discipline, children's play, family activities and more.

Pro: What impressed me the most is the tremendous treasury of pioneering knowledge they contain. This can serve a vital purpose in connecting the sophisticated trappings of modern life to their earlier forms--forms which could be built and maintained by the hand of the owner--and better understood by a child of today. E.g. the construction of their "little log house on the prairie" in book two is described in one short chapter, but it makes clear what really is required to make a basic house. So rather than thinking of a house as something that just mystically exists, the young hearer hopefully can start to see them as somethings built by human labor and see our homes as just improvements on the primitive version. In the first book, you see the genesis of smoked hams, maple syrup, dolls, cities, and more.

Con: On rare occasions, attitudes and philosophies may need explaining or correction to meet modern sensibilities.

by C.S. Lewis

[Secular & Christian Bookstores]

Best quote: "Aslan is not a tame lion."

    This 7 voume set includes:
  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  2. Prince Caspian
  3. The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader"
  4. The Silver Chair
  5. The Horse and His Boy
  6. The Magicians Nephew
  7. The Last Battle
Written in an understated, homey prose, these stories follow several children who pass out of our world into Narnia, a world populated by talking beasts, satyrs, centaurs, naiad & dryads, giants, living stars, even stranger creatures, and the king of Narnia--ASLAN the lion. Underlying the fantasy is an endearing Christian allegory. In #1, Aslan sacrifices himself to redeem a traitor, in #6, we witness the Creation of Narnia and in #7 we see the end times and judgement day in Narnia. In between there are marvels.
Pro: This is the best children's series I know of and it is just as enjoyable to adults. I have read it a half dozen times, and will again. Lewis' writing skill is subtle and enchanting--before you get through the series, you will love ASLAN as the children in the book do, and you will not be loving a fictional character, you will be loving Christ! Sounds odd, but ... . Each volume adds to the joy which culminates in the most beautiful and compelling (allegorical) picture of heaven I have have ever seen--it makes you eager to get there!

Con: Lewis has a pet error he promotes in several of his books--that the devotions to their gods of (certain) heathen who have never heard of Christ, may be counted by Christ as devotion to himself, and that on judgement day these heathens will immediately recognize Christ as their true God. This idea appears in a single paragraph-- on page ~4 of chapter 15 of the last book.

by C.S. Lewis

(The MacMillan Company)
[Secular & Christian Bookstores]

This adult-level book is entirely in the form of letters from Screwtape, a supervising devil, to his nephew Wormwood. It is Screwtape's task to guide the junior devil in accomplishing the downfall of his human charge -- every letter gives advice on subverting love, charity, wisdom, and capturing the soul. We learn the mechanics of temptation -- as these devil's plot to exploit every human weakness.

In a sequel short piece, Screwtape Proposes a Toast, Screwtape offers a post-supper speech and toast at the Tempter's Training Colege. In his speech, he analyzes the currents in human society and thought, as a reflection of the unceasing war between the "light and the dark." He laments the late 20th century turn in devilish tactics which emphasizes drab quantity over, hypocritical quality (Oh, for the days of the Pharisees!).

Pro: A humorous hypothesis and treatment, but deadly serious content. Lewis enters completely into the role, Screwtape wholeheartedly extols evil and decries good -- Lewis said it was the hardest thing he ever wrote.

Con: Some people (i.e. Christians) find this portrayal of temptors to be too realistic and creepy -- too disturbing to enjoy. There is no "gross" stuff other than that the devils mention that they use human souls and each other as food, and relish a really seasoned sinner.

by WIlliam J. Bennett

(Simon & Shuster)
[Secular & Christian Bookstores]

Great bedtime reading!

This volume is quite well known and is a good book. It is a shame that in reading this one has the sense of entering a time warp-- our culture has relegated the inculcation of real virtue to the trash heap of history.

The book is split into sections, each dealing with a single virtue and containing a mixture of Bible, fiction, essays, Aesop, myth, and poetry which exemplifies and lauds that virtue and demonstrates the consequences of a lack thereof. Within each section, the material starts out at nursery rhyme level and gradually progresses to high-school level or beyond.

Pro: This is a great book to read to your kids at night and you will enjoy it too (I and my 10-year-old love it). It is refreshing--I find I have gotten too used to seeing nothing to build up virtue in the popular culture.

This book is experiencing a surprising wide popularity--even Ted Kennedy gave it a glowing recommendation, expressing surprise that it could be produced by a "narrow-minded" conservative.

Con: Not all of the material is great, a parent reading this aloud should be ready to detect and skip over some dubious material. I did not care for the some of the pagan myths; "Christian" fables and a couple of rationalistic essays--particularly in the Faith section--but this is a small part of the whole.

- Love those red & green chili's!

TOUR: Goto "Intro to Theology"