19 August 2005

Midnight special


Remember how I spent most of Wednesday on a bus? Well, I spent most of Thursday on a train. It was scenic, and mostly relaxing, and this time I read books rather than Internet printouts.

Books are always better. Here's today's reading report:

  1. Secret Radio, by Grace Jovian. I don't think it's supposed to be any big secret that "Grace Jovian" is a pseudonym for Jeri Massi, who occasionally comments here at PyroManiac and more frequently harasses me from the safety of her own blog. As I have said before, I don't read much fiction, but this is the second of Jeri's books I have reviewed. (Actually this is the third, if you count the two volumes of Valkyries separately.) Her stories are filled with characters, situations, and angst that will all be instantly familiar to nearly anyone who has attended a fundamentalist school. Secret Radio is a story Jeri originally blogged, and it therefore has a serialized feel. One suspects there are major doses of autobiographical non-fiction blended in. It's poignant, occasionally funny, and even painful at times. To be honest, I liked Valkyries better, but Secret Radio is engaging, entertaining, thought-provoking, and well written.
  2. Defense of the Truth: Contending for the Faith Yesterday and Today, by Michael Haykin. Haykin has long been one of my favorite authors, chiefly because of the subject matter he chooses. He's an excellent professor of church history who seems to possess infallible radar for subjects that appeal to me. Best of all, I learn things from every book he writes, even when he is dealing with subjects I have previously studied. (Haykin's short biography of Andrew Fuller, combined with selections from some of Fuller's own correspondence, is a superb volume. If you can find it, its worth a trade for any two volumes of Spurgeon. And you know I wouldn't say that lightly.)
         Anyway, Defense of the Truth is a survey of six key controversies from several diverse eras in church history. Haykin shows why these controversies (and especially the polemical fortitude of the key figures who fought for the truth) are instructive for us today.
         I once did a similar project: a series of lectures on five major heresies that (at one point or another in church history) threatened the very life of the church. My lectures were translated into Italian and published, but I haven't done the book in English yet. Naturally, I was curious to see how Haykin's book was written, what topics he focused on, and whether any of his material intersected with my subject matter.
         Of Haykin's six chapters, only one corresponds to any of my five major heresies, and that is his chapter on Athanasius and the Arian controversy. My material focused a little more on the debate leading up to the Nicene Council; Haykin gives much more detail about the conflict that came after the council. It is an utterly fascinating and supremely important chapter in church history. Thank God for the courage and persistence of Athanasius.
         Every chapter in Haykin's book is a profitable read. My favorites were the excellent chapters about Irenaeus and gnosticism, Augustine and church history, and St. Patrick and missions.
         I loved the book. In a generation when Christians seem to think everything novel is automatically better, it is refreshing to read the work of someone who knows and appreciates the history of doctrine and who knows and cares about where the church has already been. I hope Haykin lives long and keeps writing.
  3. The Wages of Spin, By Carl R. Trueman. My first encounter with Trueman was on the Web, through his excellent critique of the historical ham-handedness of Sanders, Dunn, and Wright. He struck me as clever, perceptive, witty, and a good writer. The Wages of Spin proves he is all of these.
         The book is a collection of Trueman's essays on various subjects, starting with one I'll bet Michael Haykin would give a hearty amen to—and I know I would: "Reckoning with the Past in an Anti-Historical Age." Trueman offers a spot-on analysis of the fallout from the modern and post-modern tendency to be militantly anti-historical.
         The effect of this trend on evangelicalism has been particularly destructive. Our Protestant and evangelical distrust of "tradition" has subtly morphed into a contempt for history, and the effect has been disastrous on a number of levels. This one factor has explains popular evangelicalism's doctrinal illiteracy. It also explains why in our worship, virtually everything novel is immediately embraced by evangelicals, while virtually everything that pertains to our rich spiritual heritage has been unceremoniously abandoned.
         There are lots of great essays in the book—especially "The Undoing of the Reformation?" and "The Glory of Christ: B. B. Warfield on Jesus of Nazareth." But my favorite section is at the end: "Short, Sharp Shocks." The shortest of these mini-essays would make wonderful (albeit longish) blog entries. The clever titles ("The Marcions Have Landed!"; "Boring Ourselves to Life") reflect the wittiness of Trueman's writing style.
         Hats off to Carl Trueman for this volume. He constantly provoked me to think while making me smile. I love that kind of book.

Back on the bus tomorrow. I'm already reading another book I promised to review for Challies. If he hasn't given up on me.

Phil's signature


SoccerReformer said...

I read that Warfield essay about 20 years ago I reckon. Any idea if it's available on the web anywhere?

Patrick Chan said...

I don't suppose it's this one?


Chris Meirose said...

Hey Phil, perhaps a strange question, but do you know what your reading rate is? That's an abitious day's reading if you are reading it all and not skimming it. What (if anything) have you done to become a better reader? I've been studying reading, and working on increasing my speed, so was just curious.

Big Chris
Because I said so

Kim said...

Dr. Haykin is not only a Canadian, and an excellent writer, he is a great speaker. I saw him at a home schooling convention wher he shared ideas for incorporating church history into home school curriculum. He gave an excellent lecture on using the great hymns of the faith and their writers to chronicle the history of the faith. I was wishing I could have had him as a history professor when I was a student.

Kim said...

Hmmm...on second thought, Dr. Haykin may NOT be Canadian. I could be wrong about that... doesn't matter, he was an excellent speaker all the same.

Tim Challies said...

Haykin lives in Canada, at the very least. I had coffee with him a couple of months ago and he was very much...here. It would be tough to be Principal of Toronto Baptist Seminary without living there. :)

And Phil, I like the way you make that book sound like such a terrible burden! But I have never given up on you, pal!

Steve said...

Thanks for the heads-up on the books by Haykin and Trueman. They should find their next royalty checks a few cents larger because their books are must-haves for some research I'm doing. Turns out Haykin has done a couple other books I'd like to read, too.

Sled Dog said...

Uh, Phil aren't you a bit fearful of leading folks astray by titling your last three posts with the names of SECULAR songs:

"Midnight Special???"

"Magical Mystery Tour???"

"On the Road Again???"

You may have to put PYROMANIAC into your worrisome category in your sidebar...


Unknown said...

Thanks to Phil for bringing his Pyromaniacal attention to Haykin and Trueman.

I feel Haykin is the most underrated church historian in Evangelicalism. His work on figures such as Fuller and Sutcliffe fill out the picture of Calvinistic Baptist piety that led to Carey's mission to India. Learning more about these figures has been a great blessing to me.

I also think Haykin is great because he is my boss at TBS!

Trueman also fits the underrated category. Few theologians or historians have the incisive analysis that this transplanted Brit has.

Oh and by the way, Haykin is a Canadian, just to confirm.

Jeri said...

Hi Phil! Thanks for the review! I can see that you like VALKYRIES better than SECRET RADIO, but SECRET RADIO got more pompous and corrupt preachers really, really, really mad. I found it very refreshing to write. You are very kind and gracious,and I am sorry I ever drew a cartoon of you in a tutu.


Warren said...

I've got a copy of Armies of the Lamb that is rather worn (I've used it in two classes so far, both taught by Dr. Haykin). The first time through, it made a huge impression on me, and I started learning all I could about Fuller. The second time through, I became a convinced Fullerite (to borrow Ella's term of endearment). It's a book I recommend to everyone.

M.A.G said...


- in the working stages thought you might like a look.


Kim said...


Thanks for confirming Haykin's Canadian status. I seem to remember reading that in his bio when I attended a convention, but I couldn't remember.

CSB said...

mrclm, good question. I always wonder what apparently prolific readers do to increase thier reading speed.

I am not that fast but I was once told to use a pencil as a guide for my eye and to maintain pace.......it sped me up a little.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I learned to read a little faster when Dr. Boyd (OTS prof at TMC) would have us reading two Bible books in two nights. Don't get me wrong... I love the Bible, but there's something wrong with that man (actually, he is a good teacher). I was just commenting to my mom today about how I wish I could learn to read faster. My sis (now an editor at Grace Comm) can read books a hundred miles per hour. I have enough trouble sitting myself down to read... and then, once that's done, actually doing some fast reading. I hope Chris's question gets an answer... I'll be checking back.

BigChief54 said...

I appreciate your book reviews. I've looked for a list of book reviews by you on your site and couldn't find a list. Is there one? If not, how 'bout it?

Just out of curiosity, what years did John MacArthur play football at USC? Thanks and ROLL TIDE.