Book Review

Summer/Fall Book Preview

Noah J. Frens
Richard A. Muller
Friday, July 1st 2022
Jul/Aug 2022

Providence, Freedom, and the Will in Early Modern Reformed Theology
by Richard A. Muller

Reformation Heritage Books | may 2022 | 304 pages (paperback) | $25.00

This new volume by Richard Muller follows his recent trend of books on the topic of divine providence, free choice, and related concepts in the Reformed tradition.[1] The volume is a mixture of previously published essays, most coming from articles in academic journals, and new essays on the topic that chart Reformed conceptions of providence from Peter Martyr Vermigli to Jonathan Edwards. The first seven chapters of the volume trace the development of the Reformed understanding of providence and free choice; one considers the debate over Jacob Arminius’s views, and the last three chart the revision of this Reformed understanding in Jonathan Edwards. Rather than seeing Edwards as continuing the Reformed legacy on the matter, Muller argues that he departed from this tradition in his understanding of necessity and contingency. This latter argument is one of the most controversial aspects of Muller’s recent works and has met with a range of positive and negative appraisal. I am glad his essays on the topic are now in one place, making them more easily accessible for a wider audience. This will also make his earlier work more coherent, as a fair bit of Divine Will and Human Choice presupposes knowledge of some of the articles in this present volume.

Reformation in the Low Countries, 1500–1620
by Christine Kooi

Cambridge University Press | july 2022 | 250 pages (paperback) | $39.99

A monograph on the Reformation in the Netherlands has been long neglected. The only such volume came nearly three decades ago by Alastair Duke. Though good, his work was a collection of previously published essays that were formed into a history of the Reformation in the Low Countries and largely still reads as a series of essays rather than a book (Duke even acknowledged this in his introduction).[2] All this is to say that the Dutch Reformation has been greatly neglected by scholars, and this volume by Christine Kooi is greatly welcomed. Kooi is well suited to write such a volume, having written two books and a number of articles on the various religious and political upheavals experienced in the Low Countries during the Reformation. I am particularly interested in how she narrates the often tense and tenuous interactions of the diverse religious groups that continued to call the Low Countries home even after the Dutch Reformation, from Jews to Catholics to Calvinists.

Alasdair MacIntyre: An Intellectual Biography
by Émile Perreau-Saussine, translated by Nathan J. Pinkoski

University of Notre Dame Press | september 2022 | 288 pages (hardcover) | $40.00

Alasdair MacIntyre is probably one of the most important philosophers of the past half-century and easily the most discussed ethicist in recent memory. Though best known for his work After Virtue, MacIntyre is also known for his breadth of writing across several disciplines that appeals to people from different philosophical schools and theological and religious persuasions. This volume by the late Émile Perreau-Saussine first appeared in French over a decade ago to wide acclaim and is only now appearing in an English translation. The work critically, though sympathetically, engages MacIntyre’s thought around three chapters on his political thought, philosophy, and theology. These chapters for the most part revolve around MacIntyre’s political communitarianism, his work in moral philosophy, and the impact and importance of tradition on philosophical and theological enquiry, which are central themes in his Whose Justice? Which Rationality? and Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry. The volume will be of interest to anyone looking for a scholarly introduction to him or thoughtful interaction with his corpus.

Retrieving Freedom: The Christian Appropriation of Classical Tradition
by D. C. Schindler

Notre Dame University Press |october 2022 | 550 pages (hardcover) | $60.00

In recent years, there has been a growing number of scholars, mainly Catholics, who are deeply critical of “classical liberalism,” often seen as descending from the figure and writings of John Locke. This postliberal movement sees the current political and cultural malaise of America, and the West in general, as a natural outgrowth of the inner logic of classical liberalism. For prolific Catholic scholar D. C. Schindler, the central problem with classical liberalism is its misconception of the concept of freedom, as he recounted in his earlier work Freedom from Reality.[3] This earlier work diagnosed and critiqued what he believes is an insidious concept of freedom as arbitrary choice coming out of Locke. The work also traced an alternative, and what Schindler sees as a superior account of freedom, coming out of Plato and Aristotle. The present volume expands on this tradition of freedom by tracing it through the Christian tradition from antiquity to the Middle Ages. The volume should appeal to anyone interested in the recent postliberal debates or interested in contemporary and ancient conceptions of freedom. It should also be noted that one can accept much of Schindler’s genealogy of freedom without completely buying into his overall critique of liberalism, a camp in which I count myself. This genealogical narrative with regard to freedom is not novel, however, as a number of scholars over the years has argued a similar line of thought. The most prominent of them is Catholic philosopher Thomas Pink, who has argued that Thomas Hobbes, more so than Locke, was the pivotal figure for changing conceptions of freedom.[4]

Knowledge Lost: A New View of Early Modern Intellectual History
by Martin Mulsow

Princeton University Press | november 2022 | 456 pages (hardcover) | $39.95

Over the past several decades, the scholarly understanding of the European “Enlightenment” has gone through serious revision. A part of this revision, to which Martin Mulsow has contributed, emphasizes that much of the Enlightenment was often not outright antireligious or a project in secularization, as some older scholarship tended to argue; the Enlightenment often had deeply religious overtones. Mulsow’s earlier work on the Enlightenment shows the importance and even centrality of religious views and arguments in various German figures of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, though these religious perspectives were often quite heterodox or outright heretical.[5] Because of the heterodox nature of these figures, Mulsow argues that their own views were either not expressed publicly (only discussed with those they trusted), or when expressed publicly were couched in prose that often veiled their meaning to the uninitiated, those not already sympathetic to their heterodox beliefs. The present volume follows Mulsow’s earlier work by tracing the ways in which the Renaissance and Reformation were not merely a blanketed return, ad fontes, to the sources. Some writings, ancient and contemporary, were at times deemed problematic and relegated to destruction, often by being burned (as with many Jewish books), or closely guarded by political or religious establishment (such as the Catholic Church’s Index of Prohibited Books, which first appeared in 1560). As Muslow’s title indicates, the early modern period was not just a reclamation project of ancient sources but also a destruction of such works. In light of this, Mulsow narrates how different figures throughout the period, often out of step with the political or religious establishment of the day, continued to preserve this knowledge through obscure methods of allusion or unpublished manuscripts, sometimes handwritten and passed from hand to hand.

Other Works

Jesus and the God of Classical Theism: Biblical Christology in Light of the Doctrine of God
By Steven J. Duby
Baker Academic | April 2022 | 464 pages (hardcover) | $55.00

Thomas Jefferson: A Biography of Spirit and Flesh
By Thomas S. Kidd
Yale University Press | May 2022 | 320 pages (hardcover) | $30.00

An Explorer’s Guide to John Calvin
By Yudha Thianto
IVP Academic | July 2022 | 235 pages (paperback) | $22.00

The Gospel and the Gospels: Christian Proclamation and Early Jesus Books
By Simon J. Gathercole
Eerdmans | August 2022 | 450 pages (hardcover) | $55.99

Scribes and Scripture: The Amazing Story of How We Got the Bible
By John D. Meade and Peter J. Gurry
Crossway | October 2022 | 224 pages (paperback) | $19.99

Noah J. Frens is a graduate of Calvin University (Philosophy) and Westminster Seminary California (MAHT) and is currently a PhD candidate in the history of Christianity at Vanderbilt University.

1. Richard A. Muller, Divine Will and Human Choice: Freedom, Contingency, and Necessity in Early Modern Reformed Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017); and Grace and Freedom: William Perkins and the Early Modern Reformed Understanding of Free Choice and Divine Grace (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020).
2. Alastair Duke, Reformation and Revolt in the Low Countries (London: The Hambledon Press, 1990), xi. The next best work that comes close to such a history is Jonathan Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness and Fall, 1477–1806 (New York: Clarendon Press, 1995).
3. D. C. Schindler, Freedom from Reality: The Diabolic Character of Modern Liberty (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2017).
4. See Thomas Pink, “Hobbes on Liberty, Action and Free Will,” in The Oxford Handbook of Hobbes, ed. A. P. Martinich and K. Hoekstra (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 171–95. See also the account of freedom in the popular Catholic work by Servais Pinckaers, The Sources of Christian Ethics, trans. Sr. Mary Thomas Noble, 3rd ed. (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1995).
5. Martin Mulsow, Enlightenment Underground: Radical Germany, 1680–1720, trans. H. C. Erik Midelfort (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015).
Friday, July 1st 2022

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
Magazine Covers; Embodiment & Technology