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Short Notices

John R. Muether

1 and 2 Kings, by Peter J. Leithart. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2006, 304 pages, $29.00.

What do Peter Leithart, Stanley Hauerwas, and the late Jaroslav Pelikan have in common? These seemingly disparate theologians have written the first three offerings in the new Brazos Theological Commentary series (on 1 and 2 Kings, Matthew, and Acts, respectively). The BTC seeks to rescue the Bible from the hypercritical and hyper-specialized world of contemporary biblical studies, at least as it is practiced in the academy. Its ecumenical lineup includes Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox contributors, all of whom are committed to Nicene orthodoxy and to the conviction that "dogma clarifies rather than obscures." The refreshing result is a respect for the tradition of the church in an age when exegesis often competes with or denigrates theology.

Leithart's contribution will be especially welcome by readers of Ordained Servant for its sensitivity to redemptive history. The PCA minister and professor at New Saint Andrews College notes in his introduction that 1 and 2 Kings "anticipated and foreshadows the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that a Christian reading of 1 and 2 Kings must regard it not primarily as historical, or prophetic, or sapiential but as evangelical." Leithart's careful treatment of typology in the narratives of Israel's kings lives up to the high standard that he has established.

John R. Muether
Reformed Theological Seminary
Orlando, FL

Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State, by Darryl Hart. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2006, 288 pages, $26.95.

Beginning in the "Year of the Evangelical" and the successful Carter presidential campaign in 1976, American evangelicals have proclaimed their emergence from political exile. Since then, every successful presidential candidate has prominently displayed his born-again credentials, and evangelicals, particularly of a Reformed stripe, have promoted programs of cultural transformation from political action groups to faith-based policy initiatives. This enthusiasm for transformation is spread across the political spectrum from the evangelical left to Christian Reconstructionists, and it has captivated premillennialists and postmillennialists alike.

Darryl Hart's latest book offers a sobriety test for intoxicated cultural warriors by challenging many of their assumptions about the nature of church and state. "Where Christians use their faith for political engagement," Hart writes, "they have generally distorted Christianity." He proceeds to document this claim with episodes from American history extending from John Winthrop to George W. Bush. Although Christianity asserts the nobility of secular vocations and the goodness of creation, it remains a fundamentally otherworldly religion. And the church, in turn, remains a community in exile: America resembles Babylon more than Canaan. This does not yield a political indifference, but it does put politics in its transitory and non-redemptive place.

Secular Faith is dedicated to the memory of J. Gresham Machen and written in the tradition of Machen's highly nuanced political and social views. Machen understood that a respect for the difference in the role and function of the church and the state would produce a more faithful Christian witness in modern American culture. Hart adds that a "secular faith" is ultimately a liberating faith, a message well worth pondering as America braces for another presidential election season.

John R. Muether
Reformed Theological Seminary
Orlando, FL

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