Reading Links

Note: I haven’t been maintaining this reading list in recent years (as of 2023). So the articles are a bit on the older side.

Science and Technology

Henry F. Schaefer III, Stephen Hawking, The Big Bang, and God
[Christian Leadership Lecture at the University of Colorado, 1994]
Schaefer gives a brief but excellent overview of cosmology with a critique of Stephen Hawking’s popular dabbling in cosmology.
Michael Crichton, Aliens Cause Global Warming
[Caltech Michelin Lecture, January 17, 2003]
Crichton decries the social pressures that cause unscientific conclusions to be accepted and protected as science. Read this article and understand that the emperor of scientific concensus is wearing no clothes; scientific results do not depend on concensus!
William A. Dembski, Are We Spiritual Machines?
[First Things, October 1999]
Dembski considers materialism, spirituality, humanity, and intelligence.
Nancy R. Pearcey, DNA: The Message in the Message
[First Things, June/July 1996]
Pearcey considers the argument from design based not on lack of information, but on evidence. She considers an “atheism of the gaps.”
Stephen C. Meyer, DNA and Other Designs
[First Things, April 2000]
On recognizing intelligent design activity.
Fred Heeren, Home Alone in the Universe?
[First Things, March 2002]
Heeren questions the Copernican Principle and discusses the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
William A. Dembski, Science and Design
[First Things, October 1998]
Demski argues that “chance, necessity, and design” are “three modes of explanation needed to explain the full range of scientific phenomena.”
Maureen L. Condic, Stem Cells and False Hopes
[First Things, August/September 2002]
Condic reviews the arguments surrounding stem cell research and calls for avoiding emotional appeals to unfounded hopes.
Maureen L. Condic, What We Know About Embryonic Stem Cells,
[First Things, January, 2007]
An analysis of the exaggerated claims for embryonic stem cell research.
Stephen M. Barr, Faith and Quantum Theory
[First Things, March, 2007]
Barr briefly surveys the current approaches to quantum theory and the implications of each for Christian faith.
Christian Smith, Evangelicals Behaving Badly with Statistics
[Books & Culture, January/February 2007]
Smith takes Evangelicals to task for playing fast and loose with statistics. He’s right on target, in my experience, about an approach to truth that undermines the credibility of Christianity. Anyone who uses a statistical argument on faith-based issues should heed his warning.
Karl W. Giberson, The Guy in the Wheelchair
[Books & Culture, September/October 2007]
Giberson discusses Stephen Hawking’s philosophical and theological shortcomings.
Stephen M. Barr, Matter Over Mind
[First Things, January 2010]
Barr debunks the straw-man notion of “soul” used by the new materialists in present-day mind-body debate. He discusses what is possible to measure and prove by material methods, comparing mind and body to other descriptions of material reality from science. This short article captures some really subtle ideas and explains them well.
David B. Hart, The Dawkins Evolution
[First Things, January 2010]
Hart gives a “thumbs-up” to Dawkins’ new book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution while at the same time lambasting Dawkins for past amateurish philosophical transgressions. “With The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins has returned to what he does best.” Hart does a good job of explaining where Dawkins is strong and where he is is weak. I suppose that means I pretty much agree with him!

Politics and Law

Michael Novak, The Faith of the Founding
[First Things, April 2003]
Novak considers important documents of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and George Mason in the formation of the relationship between church and state in Virginia, arguing a fundamental dependence upon Jewish and Christian concepts of God and man’s responsibility toward God.

Stephen Carter, Liberalism’s Religion Problem
[First Things, March 2002]
Carter shows how contemporary liberal law theory and religious conviction do not get along well together.

Albert W. Alschuler, A Century of Skepticism
[First Things, February 2002]
Alshuler gives a quite unsympathetic overview of the skepticism over values in legal scholarship, particularly the pragmatism espoused by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

James Nuechterlein, American Dreaming
[First Things, January 2000]
An essay on Benjamin Franklin and the American Dream… “proximate social goals.”

J. Budziszewski, Politics of Virtue – Government of Knaves
[First Things, June/July 1994]
An inspiring consideration of “How can we make government promote the common good when there is so little virtue to be found?”

J. Budziszewski, The Problem with Conservatism
[First Things, April 1996]
Budziszewski compares political conservatism with the gospel.

J. Budziszewski, The Problem with Liberalism
[First Things, March 1996]
Budziszewski compares political liberalism with the gospel.

J. Budziszewski, The Problem with Communitarianism
[First Things, March 1995]
Budziszewski compares political communitarianism with the gospel.

J. Budziszewski, The Illusion of Moral Neutrality
[First Things, August/September 1993]
On the culture wars…

J. Budziszewski, The Second Tablet Project
[First Things, June/July 2002]
On attempting to derive natural law without acknowledging God. Excellent discussion of morality and forgiveness and what we forfeit in these areas without God in the picture – a really good article.

J. Budziszewski, Feeling Moral
[First Things, November, 2002]
On feeling moral. As you might expect, Budziszewski does not trust feelings as an adequate guide to ethics, but observes that this is what our society advocates today.

Paul J. Griffiths / Jean Bethke Elshtain, Proselytizing for Tolerance
[First Things, November, 2002]
Two considerations of today’s climate of “tolerance”.

M. A. Casey, How to Think About Globalization
[First Things, October, 2002]
This article considers some of the consequences of globalization and the conflicts posed by globalization for Islam and Christianity.

Mustafa Akyol, Render Unto Ataturk
[First Things, March, 2007]
A view of Islam and secularism from a very different perspective. Very interesting.

Reuven Brenner, The Rule of Law and the Wealth of Nations
[First Things, August/September, 2009]
A clear and concise article on the proper organization of economies and then an analysis of what went wrong in 2008.

Church Life, Philosophy, and Theology

Christopher Tollefsen, The Excellence of Limits
[First Things, December 2008]
Tollefsen’s dynamic and creative review of In the Shadow of Progress: Being Human in the Age of Technology by Eric Cohen explores the relationships between human finitude, achieving excellence, and morality

Alan Jacobs, Do-It-Yourself Tradition
[First Things, January 2009]
Alan Jacob’s shares his perspective on recent trendy critiques of Christianity coming from evangelicals, including the emergent church movement. Read the article, but in a nutshell Jacobs thinks there is something there but also that the “new” perspectives are historically naive.

Alan Mittleman, Asking the Wrong Question
[First Things January 2009]
Mittleman raises questions about the question of the existence of God. Not sure I am on board with his perspective entirely, but he’s no fool. There’s something important in what he is saying. See the next article for what seems a more sophisticated approach to the question of God’s existence.

Thomas S. Hibbs, Annihilating Nihilism,
[First Things, December 2008]
Profound thoughts on existence, the existence of God, and the intersection of philosophy and theology. Hibbs reviews God and the Between by the Irish philosopher William Desmond.

John Haldane, Dueling Dualism
[First Things, November 2008]
A review of Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics by Patrick Lee and Robert P. George, setting it in the context of contemporary philosophy

J.E. Lesslie Newbigin, Can the West be Converted?
[ Online Bibliography.]
Newbegin considers the difficult obstacles to re-converting the post-Christian west to Christianity. Includes a good analysis of modern presuppositions including the fact – value dichotomy. Part of the way through, Newbegin writes: “The first point to be made is that modern science rests upon a faith which is the fruit of the long schooling of Europe in the world view of the Bible.” The article really is more of a statement of where we are and what the problem is than a prescription for change.

David B. Hart, A Most Partial Historian
[First Things, December 2003]
Hart reviews the trilogy by English historian Maurice Cowling. As Hart describes Cowlings magnum opus: “Its focus is quite rigorously limited, unquestionably, but its scope is vast: it is an attempt to gain an encompassing perspective on the transition of England’s cultural consensus, over a little more than a century and a half, from that of a Christian country to that of one decidedly post-Christian, and to do so entirely by way of the literary remains
of the intellectual classes.”

Leszek Kolakowski, Visions of Eternity
[First Things, June/July 2003]
This though-provoking article discusses the question of the existence of God from both a Christian philosophical and modern materialist philosophical perspective. Kolakowski paints with broad strokes, sometimes perhaps avoiding
messy details, but ultimately arrives at some perceptive insights on the question, concluding with: “The unforgettableness of God makes Him present, even in rejection.”

John E. Coons, A Grammar of the Self,
[First Things, January, 2003]
Coons describes an extremely helpful set of concepts for talking about the essence of man, focusing on will as the primary seat of the self. If one accepts Coons’ preferred version of the self, First Good, and Second Good, it
would have many implications for missions, evangelism, and discipling believers.

Richard John Neuhaus, Father, Forgive Them
[First Things, March, 2000]
Neuhaus masterfully considers how “Good Friday” could be called “good”.

Alicia Mosier, Letter From Poland
[First Things, April 1999]
Mosier discusses a group that disciples young Polish intellectuals.

Herbert Schlossberg, How Great Awakenings Happen
[First Things, October 2000]
How does Christianity make a difference in a society?

Richard John Neuhaus, Encountered by the Truth
[First Things, October 1998]
In The Public Square, Neuhaus considers recent comments by Jacques Derrida.

J. Budziszewski, The Revenge of Conscience
[First Things, June/July 1998]
Budziszewski argues for natural law – the law “written on the heart.”

Richard John Neuhaus, Under the Shadow
[First Things, January 1997]
In The Public Square, Neuhaus muses on memories of a childhood friend and George Bernanos and considers freedom from and transcendence above the world.

Wolfhart Pannenberg, When Everything is Permitted
[First Things, February 1998]
On Christian ethics and modern circumstances…

Yitzchok Adlerstein, When Words Kill
[First Things, June/July 1996]
Alderstein considers responsibility for words. He begins by addressing the claim of some that the assassination of Yitzhak Rabbin was justified by the Law.

Richard John Neuhaus, Making Peace By the Blood of His Cross
[First Things, May 2000]
Neuhaus re-publishes an astounding editorial from the London Times.

Ralph C. Wood, In Defense of Disbelief
[First Things, October 1998]
Wood takes popular Christianity, particularly evangelicals, to task for sentimentality and communicating a faith that no tough-minded person could stomach. Don’t expect to be coddled and don’t expect to agree with everything Wood says. He’s rattling our cages; be challenged.

Ralph C. Wood, Ivan Karamazov’s Mistake
[First Things, December 2002]
In this excellent article, Wood discusses Ivan Karamazov’s “Legend of the Grand Inquisitor” from The Brothers Karamazov as Ivan critiques God for allowing innocent suffering and the general problem of evil. This article will deepen one’s understanding of the Orthodox approach to Christianity. It will also motivate you to read The Brothers Karamazov (perhaps again).

Damon Linker, Nietzsche’s Truth
[First Things, August/September, 2002]
Linker gives a brief introduction to Nietzsche’s life and philosophy.

Gary Anderson, A review of The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright.
[First Things, November, 2003]
Anderson helpfully summarizes Wright’s historical criticism of much modern “scholarship” on the historical Jesus.

David B. Hart, Tsunami and Theodicy
[First Things, March, 2005]
A provokative and thought-provoking theodicy from Hart that makes some excellent points, but…well, read it for yourself.

Avery Cardinal Dulles, Mere Apologetics
[First Things, June-July, 2005]
Dulles summarizes much of C.S. Lewis thought and writing – an excellent brief overview.

Timothy George, The Pattern of Christian Truth
[First Things, June-July, 2005]
Timothy George discusses how heretical teaching has helped the church to clarify orthodox tecahing.

Mark Noll, The Bible in American Public Life, 1860-2005
[Books & Culture, September/October 2005]
Mark Noll on how the Bible has been used in American politics and has even formed America as a country, and how the Bible may contribute to political life in America today.

Philip Yancey, Does Prayer Change God?,
[Books & Culture, September/October 2005]
Philip Yancey gives an excellent brief overview of prayer.

Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, Lower Criticism: A female apostle? Impossible!,
[Books & Culture, May/June 2006]
Wilson briefly reviews a book on women apostles, giving interesting background on Romans 16:7. This
article is helpful in supporting the idea of women in leadership.

David B. Hart, Daniel Dennett Hunts the Snark?,
[First Things, January, 2007]
Hart pokes holes in Daniel Dennett’s “Darwinian fundamentalist” evolutionary account of the origin of religion
with creativity and wit.

Andrew Jones, What Did You Go Out to See?,
[Books & Culture, January/February 2007]
Andrew Jones questions a fixation on familiar western forms when getting to know the global church. What is God doing that shakes up our assumptions about what it means to be the church?

Family and Social Issues

Amy Julia Becker, Babies Perfect and Imperfect
[First Things, November 2008]
What a mother of a Down’s Syndrome child learned. Profound.

Joseph Bottum, Children’s Books, Lost and Found
[First Things, December 2008]
Very interesting recommendations of books to give as gifts!

Wilfred M. McClay, David Novak, George Weigel, Midge Decter, and Stephen M. Barr What to Give a First Things Reader
[First Things, (December 2008]
Very interesting recommendations of books to give as gifts!

Mary Ann Glendon, The Women of Roe v. Wade
[First Things, June/July, 2003]
Glendon thoughtfully and frankly considers the extremism of America’s abortion law.

Maureen L. Condic, Life: Defining the Beginning by the End
[First Things, May, 2003]
Condic explains a rationale for defining the beginning of human life that has important implications for the abortion debate– were it to be based on rational argument instead of emotion-laden social agendas.

Russell E. Saltzman, A Fear of Abandonment
[First Things, February 1998]
Saltzman recounts the story of his own adoption, relating it to the issue of abortion.

Paul Swope, Abortion: A Failure to Communicate
[First Things, April 1998]
Swope proposes that we should communicate pro-life messages in a manner that responds to the actual concerns of women considering abortions.

Eric M. Chevlen, Mock Medicine – Mock Law.
[First Things, June/July 1996]
Chevlen considers Kevorkian, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. He’s not impressed.

J. Bottum, Dakota Thanksgiving
[First Things, November, 2002]
Memories of a South Dakota Thanksgiving, creatively presented by J. Bottum. Comes complete with a lesson learned on the duties of parents.

J. Bottum, Dakota Christmas
[First Things, December, 2002]
Memories of a South Dakota Christmas, creatively presented by J. Bottum.

Damon Linker, Fatherhood, 2002
[First Things, November, 2002]
Thoughts on taking balanced responsibility for a newborn baby, as a Father.

John Witte, Jr., The Meanings of Marriage
[First Things, October, 2002]
Comparing and contrasting the Catholic, Protestant, and Enlightenment views of marriage and the consequences for modern society.

Paul McHugh, Surgical Sex,
[First Things, November, 2004]
The psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital discusses what he has learned about sex-change surgery. His comments are not politically correct (to say the least), but quite interesting.

Lawrence A. Uzzell, Books in Review: Muffling the Clash,
[First Things, February, 2005]
Lawrence A. Uzzell, president of
International Religious Freedom Watch
, reviews The Universal Hunger for Liberty: Why the Clash of Civilizations Is Not Inevitable by Michael Novak. Uzzell finds Novak naive and overly optimistic, and makes some interesting observations about secular modernism, Christianity, and Islam along the way in his brief review.

Gilbert Meilaender, Living Life’s End
[First Things, May, 2005]
Meilaender presents a good introduction to thinking clearly about end of life issues.

Eric Cohen, A Jewish-Catholic Bioethics?
[First Things, June-July, 2005]
This article gives a quite interesting overview of both Catholic and Jewish bioethics.

Frederica Mathewes-Green, Against Eternal Youth
[First Things, August-September, 2005]
Interesting article on 1950’s child-rearing mentality, not growing up to face the realities of life, and the age at which people marry. Not the normal evangelical approach to Ozzie and Harriett. The point about age of marriage is well-taken.

Joseph Bottum, Christians and the Death Penalty
[First Things, August-September, 2005]
A deeply profound, if quite Catholic, examination of the death penalty and the authority of modern democracies to wield it.

Jean Bethke Elshtain, With or Against Culture?
[Books & Culture, September/October 2006]
This article was written in response to the question: How can followers of Christ be a counterculture for the common good? Excellent overview of the interaction of following Christ and widely accepted cultural patterns.

Ryan T. Anderson, Struggling Alone
[First Things, February, 2007]
Anderson expresses his reasons for anger at the sexual chaos of current culture.

Richard John Neuhaus, How We Got to Where We Are,
[First Things, January, 2007]
How the Democrats (surprisingly) became the abortion party.

Susan Wise Bauer, On Slippery Slopes, the Blogosphere, and (oh, yes) Women: The place of women in the redemptive community.
[Books & Culture, January/February 2007]
Finally. Reasonable comments on a biblical understanding of gender!

Donald A. Yerxa, Guadalcanal: Turning point in the Pacific War.
[Books & Culture, January/February 2007]
Excellent article on the battle for Guadalcanal. Consider the impact of war on the combatants who survive.

Gary A. Anderson, A Marriage in Full,
[First Things, May, 2008]
An excellent article on the biblical meaning of marriage derived from the book of Ruth. Has a great quote from a letter of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s.

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