I READ A LOT OF BOOKS. Some I can recommend, and some I cannot. Here, however, are some recommended titles from recent months. Thomas Jefferson, A Biography of Spirit and Flesh by Thomas Kidd. When I find a historian that writes well, I read more of their books. They aren’t that common. Kidd is one I return to regularly. The author is an evangelical who also writes as an evangelical.
This book is a spiritual and moral biography of President Jefferson, the man who wrote the declaration of independence. Spiritually, Jefferson was an enigma wrapped in a riddle. He was Enlightenment thinker, and his thinking would prove harmful to the American experience. He was an ideologue. He loved ideas, but he wasn’t very good at loving people. He was one Paul Johnson’s “Intellectuals” who loved the world but couldn’t love those close to him. Although he wrote the Declaration of Independence, he owned over 100 slaves. One of them, beautiful Sally Hemings, a slave bequeathed to him by his father-in-law, was also his deceased wife’s half-sister. In other words, she was his sister-in-law, and simultaneously his concubine. Although they had numerous children together, Jefferson didn’t marry her. Read the book. It’s a fascinating study of a complex and compromised man.
The Bell Curve, Intelligence and Class Structure In American Life, by Charles Murray & Richard Herrnstein created a publicity firestorm when it hit the bookstores thirty years ago. (I just got around to reading it). It would be even more controversial today. It is a study of I.Q.—how it affects productivity, and just about every facet of modern life, especially since the advent of the Information Technology revolution. The really controversial part is the data on race and IQ. The IQ of the average Caucasian is about 100. But the average IQ of the Ashkenazy Jew is 115, almost one standard deviation above higher. This means that only 16% of Caucasian IQs equal the Jewish average. In the other direction, the average African IQ is about 85, almost a standard deviation below average. What could be more politically incorrect than these facts? But facts are stubborn realities. They are true whether we like them or not. Read the book. It is compassionately written, and does much to help explain modernity.
With much contemporary ink being spilled over the issue of Christian Nationalism, a book on the intellectual origins of these ideas is most helpful. Christian Reconstruction, R.J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism, by Michael J. McVicar is the book to read. When Rushdoony was in his heyday, the eighties, I read four or five of his books, and found him mostly persuasive and helpful. Douglas Wilson, the contemporary promoter of Christian Nationalism, had the same experience. This is the book to read if you want to understand Rushdoony, Wilson and the thinking of men like them.
I am convinced that one of the best way to learn history is through well-written biographies. Here are three that are hard to put down. They built up my faith and expanded my thinking. The first concerns the life of an important fifteenth century saint. A Crown of Fire, The Life and Times of Girolamo Savonarola by Pierre Van Paassen retells the life and testimony of the great pre-reformation preacher, the Italian Dominican monk and martyr, Girolamo Savonarola. Michelangelo sat under his preaching. His later work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was a replication of the Friar’s sermons.
Skipping to the eighteenth century is Jonathan Edwards, by Ian Murray. Everything Murray writes is gold, and this is no exception.
Last, a twentieth century bio that has much in common with the other two is David Wilkerson, by his son, Gary Wilkerson. All three of these men enjoyed unusual outpourings of the Holy Spirit on their work. They were also men of deep and fervent prayer. Separated by centuries, they united around their love of the same Lord and Savior. You will greatly profit from a study of their lives and times.