Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

Politics and Prose

Byron Borger


May 20, 2011
by Byron Borger

This is the first in a series of articles by Byron Borger, introducing new books significant to the principled practice of public justice.

Herman Dooyeweerd: Christian Philosopher of State and Civil Society, Jonathan Chaplin (University of Notre Dame, 2010) 

Those that know the history of the Center for Public Justice know that its earliest founders were students of the complex works of Dutch scholar and legal theorist, Herman Dooyeweerd.   The rigorous philosopher did his work in the tradition of the wide-as-life Christian renewal of early 20th-century Holland led by Abraham Kuyper (who became the Prime Minister and helped forge a Christian political party that still inspires many to think faithfully about political life.)  This recent book is considered the finest exploration yet of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy, especially as it relates to civil society and the ways in which the tasks and limits of the state can be most properly understood. The Center for Public Justice continues to gladly stand in the broad tradition of neo-Calvinist thinkers who have used Dooyeweerd's ideas.  Dr. Chaplin is to be commended for writing an engaging introduction to this demanding school of thought; Center for Public Justice leaders will surely rejoice that such a book is now available.  Chaplin serves as director of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics, Cambridge, England.

Justice in LoveNicholas Wolterstorff (Eerdmans, 2011) 

Many who read these pages esteem Nicholas Wolterstorff, realizing he is one of the grand examples of a serious Christian scholar--he teaches philosophical theology at Yale—and we are glad that he has often turned his thinking to matters of law, justice, and the restoration of shalom in our public lives.  From his passionate advocacy for social justice in developing countries to his careful, reasoned discussion about the very nature of justice (as in 2009’s acclaimed Princeton University release, Justice: Rights and Wrongs) Wolterstorff has contributed much to our understandings.  This brand new book is a companion to Justice. The title explains its theme: the relationship between justice and love.  That it is called “brilliant” by Jean Bethke Elshtain, “magisterial” by Miroslov Volf and “exquisite” by John Witte indicates how wonderful a book it is.

War and Christian Ethics: Classic and Contemporary Readings on the Morality of War, edited by Arthur F. Holmes (Baker, 2005) 

With the assassination of Osama bin Laden there has been a vibrant conversation about the morality of killing, the nature of a just war,  how military actions do or do not contribute to the restoration of public order and the just rule of law.  This soon becomes a part of the more basic debate about the theology of Christian nonviolence and the credibility of the just war theory.  This thick book is doubtlessly the best resource for the best thinking throughout church history, compiling manageable excerpts of the great thinkers of the past.  This second edition added three new chapters by contemporary ethicists, each offering their own take on the ethics of war in the 21st century.  From Plato to Cicero to Ambrose and Tertullian, Bernard of Clairvaux to Menno Simons (without, of course, missing seminal thinkers like Augustine and Aquinas, Kant and Locke,  Niebuhr and Ramsey) this is rich and rewarding.  Where else can one dip in to Catholic Congressman Robert Drinan, Anabaptist conflict resolution scholar Duane Friesen and the important voices of George Weigel and Rowan Williams?   

Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological IntroductionCraig Bartholomew & Ryan O’Dowd (IVP Academic, 2011)

The Center for Public Justice desires to show forth a realizable, uniquely Christian perspective on statecraft, politics and the implications of that vision for ordinary citizenship, but, for a variety of reasons, it is difficult to know how to explain this approach to others.  What does it mean to do Biblically-grounded politics, if we don’t want to just simplistically proof-text Scripture to justify our views?  This book, which is magnificently written and brilliantly arranged and stunningly insightful, will go a long way to helping us nurture a view of being wise, even in public life.  Bartholomew, who holds the Evan Runner Chair of Philosophy at Redeemer University (Ontario) is one of the leading lights in Old Testament studies today.  His former colleague, Ryan O’Dowd, is a senior visiting lecturer in aerospace studies at Cornell and is himself a published Old Testament scholar.  This guide to the Biblical wisdom literature is unmatched in its combination of scholarly discourse and pleasant readability. It is a remarkable contribution to the formation of our Christian worldview, our insight about the ways of truth lived in the world, and will be exceptionally helpful for Christian leaders wanting to walk in the way of the Lord.  

—Byron Borger runs one of our favorite booksellers, Hearts & Minds Books. Read more of his review essays on that site; you will be glad you did!




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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”