Notes on Christianity
and Ideas

Issue 1
August 1996

Published by Theodore Plantinga

In this issue ....
Birkerts and the Decline of Reading
A recent book warns that computers may be bad for our moral health. Myodicy responds.

Subscribers Needed
Married men are supposed to be promise-keepers. How about professors in Christian colleges? Or can we get by with a common-law professoriate?

Jewish Law
Some non-findings regarding contemporary Jewish thought.

Whatever Happened to Samizdat?
If you've never heard of Samizdat, don't bother reading this article.


Don't take the term literally. I don't plan to turn pages for you. If I inform you of a website, I will simply pass on the address. But for the most part I will comment here on materials in the world of the printed page -- brief book notes, observations about periodicals, and perhaps a comment on an event.

POLITICS. Are Bob Dole's stumbles and fumbles entirely his own fault? Or is the conservative cause in politics out of gas? The latter view has some currency in various recent publications and is ably explored by David Frum (son of the unforgettable Barbara Frum) in a very engaging book called Dead Right (New York: Basic Books, 1994). It's not a terribly encouraging book if you're of the conservative faith, but it will certainly stimulate your thinking. If you find that you need to get revved up again, you may want to go back to a fine work of yesteryear, Pat Buchanan's autobiography, entitled Right from the Beginning. I recommend this book highly; after you read it you will know better than to believe all those things the secular press have been saying about Buchanan this year during his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Also worth a look is Peggy Noonan's musings about politics and "the culture," as they say nowadays, in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness (New York: Random House, 1994). Noonan is the former Reagan and Bush speechwriter who wrote about her White House days in What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era (New York: Random House, 1990).

Also thought-provoking is another book I picked up recently -- the intellectual autobiography of Vladimir Pozner, whom you may remember as the Russian guy who used to pop up on North American TV speaking impeccable American English. Pozner, despite his name, is not actually Russian but has made Russia his homeland after starting out in France and the USA. I certainly can't agree with his overall political orientation, but his book is enoyable and gives you something to think about in terms of what might have been at various junctures in our history. The book has a nifty title: Parting with Illusions (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990).

TECHNOLOGY. If you're wondering what the brave new world will look like, I recommend Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital (New York: Vintage Books, 1995). The book is very well written, generally non-partisan (it doesn't read like a lengthy ad paid for by Bill Gates) and of considerable educational interest.

THE FUTURE MAKES A COMEBACK! Congratulations are due to the Dutch Reformed Translation Society in Grand Rapids, which has promised to bring us those sections of Herman Bavinck's four-volume Gereformeerde Dogmatiek which were thus far unavailable in English. Bavinck, in case the name does not ring a bell for you, is a very able Dutch Reformed theologian (1854-1921; he is not to be confused with his nephew, J.H. Bavinck) associated with the churches of the Secession of 1834. His denomination joined with the so-called Doleantie churches (Abraham Kuyper's group) to form the now-controversial GKN (Reformed Churches in the Netherlands), to which I trace my own ecclesiastical ancestry. The book that has just been released is entitled The Last Things: Hope for This World and the Next. I have only broswed in it so far, in part because I have read a great deal of Bavinck in Dutch, including some of the eschatology discussions. Thanks are due to John Bolt of Calvin Seminary, who is heading up the project, and to John Vriend (not the Redeemer prof, but his Grand Rapids uncle), who did the translation. We look forward to future volumes. The book is published by Baker Book House of Grand Rapids. If you are minded to support and/or get involved in the work of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society, you can contact them at P.O. Box 7083, Grand Rapids, 49510.

General information:

This electronic journal is my way of keeping in touch with friends, colleagues, former students, and so forth. It does not have a regular publication schedule. Feel free to download it and pass it around. You may even wish to send me a comment; I do not guarantee a response to each communication. If you wish to repost anything in this journal, please let me know. If you care to print something in paper form, this can also be arranged, provided that I retain the copyright so that I will remain free in my use of the material.

Theodore Plantinga
E-mail: [email protected]

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