IVP - Andy Unedited - History Archives

September 26, 2018

An American Story

Freedom of religion seems like it has always been foundational to America. As Brandon O'Brien tells in Demanding Liberty, however, this was long in doubt and has regularly needed defense even since it was enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:55 AM | Comments

August 23, 2018

Bad Religion

Heresy has always been with us, and, as New York Times columnist Ross Douthat tells us in Bad Religion, that has not necessarily been a bad thing. Heresy can stimulate orthodoxy to clarify itself and perhaps help correct an imbalance in the church. What is different now is that heresy is no longer at the margins of an orthodox center. Today the situation is reversed.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:58 AM | Comments

July 17, 2018

History More Interesting Than the Myths

Napoleon and Wellington are historically joined at the hip because of their epic encounter at Waterloo. Yet other apparent similarities are striking: both were born in the same year (1769), both were born of prominent fathers who died when the boys were in early adolescence, both had four brothers and three sisters, both spoke French as their second language, both were self-taught in military matters, both led their nations (Wellington as prime minister from 1828-30), they even shared two mistresses (though perhaps less remarkably Wellington picked them up after Napoleon's defeat), and one of Wellington's brothers even married the sister-in-law of the ex-wife of one of Napoleon's brothers.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:03 AM | Comments

July 10, 2018

Around the World in 250 Pages

Derek Cooper's An Introduction to World Christian History overviews two thousand years not only at 30,000 feet but at 500 miles an hour. You better not blink or you will miss a century or two.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:02 AM

June 19, 2018

Where Have All the Fundamentalists Gone?

We used to have fundamentalist Christians, but where are they now? I rarely hear anyone refer to themselves by that label. Do you?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:09 AM | Comments (3)

May 10, 2018

We Were Eight Years in Power

The dramatic pendulum swing from a President Obama to a President Trump has left analysts, both right and left, scrambling to understand what happened. In We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has become the premier commentator from Black America, responds by collecting eight articles he published in The Atlantic, one per year, during the Obama administration. To each he adds an extended preface which reflects on the strengths and weaknesses of each piece, and which looks forward to implications the ideas in each essay might have.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:04 AM | Comments

April 4, 2018

Tradition, Scripture and Slavery

How do we know if our interpretation of Scripture is correct? One way is to weigh it against the general consensus of the church throughout its history. That is, by tradition. If we are coming up with a view that is at odds with the creeds or the historical views on the trinity, the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus, his bodily resurrection, or other core tenets of the faith, we should be very suspicious of ourselves. We may be right, but probably we are not.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:16 AM | Comments

February 7, 2018

James W. Sire, 1933-2018

James Sire was a keystone in the intellectual renewal of evangelicalism in the 1960s and 70s, championing the work of Francis Schaeffer and contributing his own landmark books on world views. Joe Bayly, publisher at David C. Cook, once called Sire "the Maxwell Perkins of contemporary Christian publishing."

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:58 AM | Comments (8) are closed

January 30, 2018

Lincoln's Startling Conclusion

I remember visiting the Lincoln Memorial and being amazed by the Second Inaugural engraved on the North interior wall. Did the builders really know what it said? For a country that says it separates church and state, Lincoln provided perhaps the deepest theological reflection by any U.S. politician, and something far deeper than that of many theologians.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:05 AM | Comments (2)

January 17, 2018

The Human Story of a Man-Made Disaster

I remember driving in the south and southwest during the late 1950s and early 1960s on family vacations. We'd see rows and rows of tall, narrow trees (many probably being tower poplar) planted between fields. "Why did they do that?" I asked my parents. They were windbreaks, they told me, used to stop the soil from blowing away like it did in the great black, rainless storms of twenty-five years before.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:01 AM | Comments

September 6, 2017

A Generous Calvinism

Generous Calvinism may seem like an oxymoron, but in Saving Calvinism Oliver Crisp helps file the rough edges off a narrow, ossified version of this venerable tradition. The result is a Calvinism that embraces the breadth of its own heritage.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:56 AM | Comments

July 26, 2017

Union Made

Do leaders make the church or do the people?

The story goes that a small group of radical, white, male leaders created social Christianity, supported by the middle classes. Heath Carter's account of Chicago, labor and the churches offers a different tale.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:08 AM | Comments

July 11, 2017

The Penultimate Curiosity

Are science and religion enemies, each seeking supremacy over the other? Or do they simply look at the same thing from different, perhaps complementary, perspectives? In The Penultimate Curiosity, Wagner and Briggs propose a very different relationship than either of these options.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:06 AM | Comments (2) are closed

February 10, 2017

What Augustine Offers Our Multicultural World

Augustine, the great church father, has been such a giant on the theological landscape for so many centuries, he has become a huge, lifeless statue to some. In The Mestizo Augustine Justo González pumps life back into our view with a fresh and fascinating look at the humanity and the competing cultures at work within Augustine.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:22 AM | Comments

January 12, 2017

Insider Jesus 2: Did the Reformation Make a Misstep?

God is active in all cultures around the world, even before Christianity or the Bible reach them. That's what William Dyrness contends in Insider Jesus (which I discussed here). If he is right, the implications go far beyond missionary efforts. They encompass how we should view our own faith.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:31 AM | Comments

November 17, 2016

Why Hitler Lost

Adolf Hitler knew his history. He knew that one of the world's greatest military geniuses, Napoleon, was defeated when he invaded Russia. Hitler knew that his Nazi generals strongly advised against opening a second front in 1941 when Germany had not yet subdued England. Yet he invaded Russia anyway. Why?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:28 AM | Comments

November 15, 2016

Music in the Ruins

The epic life of Dmitri Schostakovich and his music offers a window into the terror of Stalin's purges and the cruelty of the Nazi blockade of his beloved Leningrad (St. Petersburg) during World War II. In Symphony for the City of the Dead, M. T. Anderson begins with Schostakovich's early life and development, taking us step by step to the climactic composition and performance of The Leningrad Symphony in the midst of the city's starvation.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:27 AM | Comments

October 18, 2016

Kissinger's Shadow

Henry Kissinger (now age 92) has been a prominent international figure since I was in high school when he became Nixon's National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State. He seemed to me to be an urbane realist then and an elder statesman now. By looking deeply at Kissinger's early writings and the record of his actions as filled out by declassified top secret documents from previous decades, historian Greg Grandin offers a very different picture in Kissinger's Shadow.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:58 AM | Comments

August 23, 2016

How Did He Make It So Suspenseful?

Eric Larson achieves the drama and suspense of a political thriller in his book on the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. This is a remarkable achievement because everyone knows how it ends before they start--a German U-boat sinks the ship. How was he able to do this? When I read the acknowledgments at the end of Dead Wake, I found out. He listened to his editor.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:06 AM

July 28, 2016

Learning from a Presidential Biography

What might an incoming president learn from a biography of Thomas Jefferson? Much indeed.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:07 AM

June 23, 2016

The Vaccine Hero

My sister died because of a vaccine . . . a vaccine she never received. On a September morning in 1952, at the age of seven, Lucy Rae Le Peau contracted polio and died that afternoon. The vaccine that would have saved her life would not be developed for another year.Lucy Rae Portrait edited.JPG It was a vaccine my grieving mother prayed for desperately, especially because her three other children, including me, were still vulnerable to the terrifying disease. Every year thousands of children across the United States were struck with it, peaking the year my sister died with over 57,000 cases, of whom 3,145 died.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:58 AM

May 24, 2016

Kenneth E. Bailey, 1930--2016

In the 1970s a friend gave me a copy of Kenneth Bailey's The Cross and the Prodigal. I was blown away. It transformed my understanding of how to read the New Testament. Later I devoured Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes. Bailey's basic thesis was that Middle Eastern peasant culture changes only very slowly. So if we want to understand the world that Jesus lived in, we should get to know Middle Eastern peasant culture today.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:37 AM | Comments (1) are closed

May 12, 2016

Was Eliot Nuts?

I remember first coming upon T. S. Eliot's "Tradition and the Individual Talent" and thinking it was completely nuts. I was in high school at the time. So it is a tautology to say I was quite sure of my opinions.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:07 AM

May 6, 2016

Dance of the Titans

Franklin and Winston is a delightful piece of narrative history from one of the masters of the genre. By focusing on the relationship of these two titans rather than the massive array of events that was World War II, Meacham gives us, just as the very apt subtitle promises, "An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship."

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:09 AM

April 13, 2016

The Right Brothers

The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough, paints a portrait of two heroes and celebrities who stand in sharp contrast to those of today. The brothers didn't look to maximize their fame; they simply wanted due credit. They didn't try to amass enormous wealth; they simply ran a business.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:08 AM

May 26, 2015

Forty Years Ago

Forty years ago the editorial department at IVP consisted of Jim Sire and me with Linda Doll working half time. We put out about twenty-four books a year. Today the editorial department consists of seventeen people and we do about a hundred and ten books a year.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:23 AM | Comments (11) are closed

March 10, 2015

April 1865

As we come April 1865.jpegup on the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, a must read is April 1865: The Month That Saved America by Jay Winik. An historian and diplomat, Winik had the opportunity to see first-hand how civil wars around the world so often end so badly--either in the genocide of the losing side or an interminable guerrilla insurgency. Neither happened in the United States. This the remarkable story of why.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:10 AM | Comments (1) are closed

March 25, 2014

A Christian Nation? Schaeffer Weighs In

Every once in a while a kerfuffle bubbles up about whether or not the United States was founded as a Christian nation. The question can take many forms. Were the Founding Fathers personally committed Christians? Did they expect the Bible or parts of it to be the bedrock of the country? Was Christianity intended to be the unofficial established religion of the land?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:37 AM | Comments (3) are closed

November 25, 2013

The First Thanksgiving 3: How the Story Was Misremembered

How did we come to think that the Pilgrims

  • were rugged individualists when they were strongly bound to community?

  • were patriots first and committed Christians second?

  • would support Thanksgiving Day football even though "the 1650s the Plymouth General Court prescribed fines for individuals who engaged in sports on days of thanksgiving" (p. 145)?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:49 AM | Comments (2) are closed

November 19, 2013

The First Thanksgiving 2: What We Don't Know Is Inspiring

The First Thanksgiving by Robert Tracy McKenzie corrects a lot of the errors and myths that surround that original celebration by the Pilgrims in 1620. turkey.jpg In telling us the real story, McKenzie points us to more fruitful lessons we might learn than the warm feeling we get when we think about those independent-minded Pilgrims seeking new lands and freedom, and thanking God for helping them on the way. For example:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:31 AM

November 12, 2013

The First Thanksgiving 1: What We Know Ain't So

What you thought you knew about the first Thanksgiving is wrong. But what you didn't know can be even more valuable. That's the message of Robert Tracy McKenzie's fresh and fascinating book The First Thanksgiving.

Squanto did indeed teach the Pilgrims to fertilize their cornfields with fish, but what else did you learn in school that isn't true?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:34 AM

December 20, 2012

Modern Times (3): Enemies of the Twentieth Century

Paul Johnson has a point of view. And in Modern Times he takes no pains to hide it. His narrative history of the twentieth century (see my first installment here) is replete with heroes and villains. The three enemies of the twentieth century that he vilifies throughout, roughly in the order he takes them up, are

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:52 AM | Comments (4) are closed

December 17, 2012

Paul W. Fromer, 1927-2012

For many years, IVP and the InterVarsity student magazine known as HIS (published from 1941-88) were closely linked. HIS (so-called to emphasize that it was not IV's but God's) was always separate organizationally from IVP. But the two occupied the same offices from the 1950s onward, first in Chicago and later in Downers Grove, Illinois.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 1:20 AM | Comments (3) are closed

December 13, 2012

Modern Times (2): Events That Obstinately Don't Occur

Twenty-five years ago friends of mine were talking about Paul Johnson's Modern Times (now revised and expanded), telling me it was a must read. I was always daunted by the size. But this fall I realized that I had several long flights coming up when I knew I could make a big dent in it. So while others flashed their Kindles at me, I happily plowed into 800 pages of pulp, glue and ink.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:47 AM

December 11, 2012

Modern Times (1): Contrarian Historian

What makes Paul Johnson's Modern Times so entertaining is that the guy is markedly opinionated. No dry history of the twentieth century this. No boring lists of dates and of names from around the world to memorize. No bland writing here. No indeed. His judgments pop out everywhere in his assessment of many key figures and events from the era. For Johnson, the received historical wisdom on these matters is just so much poppycock. Here's a sampling:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:08 AM

December 4, 2012

Stott's Influence (5): Limits and Legacy

On November 15, 2012, I presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society entitled "John Stott's Influence Through Publishing." I offer it here in five installments. The first installment can be found here.

Were there any limits on Stott's influence? At least three can be mentioned.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:15 AM | Comments (5) are closed

November 29, 2012

Stott's Influence (4): Common Ground

On November 15, 2012, I presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society entitled "John Stott's Influence Through Publishing." I offer it here in five installments. The first installment can be found here.

The fifth and final influence is Stott's commitment to emphasize what we have in common as evangelicals rather than pound on our differences. As an evangelical statesman, he was of a decidedly vanishing breed. He never sought to divide Christians, to win over people to the particulars of all his viewpoints. Rather he worked to unite Christians in the basic convictions of the faith. He never aimed to win so much as to be winsome. His book
Evangelical Truth (first published in 1999) is one example of this.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:09 AM | Comments (2) are closed

November 27, 2012

Stott's Influence (3): World Christianity

On November 15, 2012, I presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society entitled "John Stott's Influence Through Publishing." I offer it here in five installments. The first installment can be found here.

This leads to Stott's third influence. In addition to encouraging respectful engagement with the culture at large and encouraging the life of the mind, John Stott promoted an understanding and appreciation of world Christianity. In fact, Stott was a World Christian long before it was fashionable to be a World Christian. I already mentioned the many university missions around the world. He had made over 15 trips overseas to dozens of countries before the Berlin '66 Congress on World Evangelization where he gave three plenary Scripture expositions.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:22 AM

November 16, 2012

Stott's Influence (1): A British Anglican in American Evangelicalism

On November 15, 2012, I presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society entitled "John Stott's Influence Through Publishing." I offer it here in five installments.

To separate John Stott's influence through publishing from his influence through other avenues is almost impossible. The emphases in his preaching, teaching and worldwide pastoral ministry were entirely consonant not only with his publishing efforts but also with his own institution building through the Langham Trust and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity as well as his deep involvement in other institutions from the Lausanne Movement to the Tearfund to the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students--not to mention the Church of England.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:41 AM | Comments (4) are closed

August 20, 2012

Remembering Calvin Miller

Calvin Miller, best known as author of The Singer from IVP, died August 19. He was a prolific writer, having authored dozens of books, for many of which I worked with him as editor. IVP was proud to have put Calvin on the map of the publishing world with his surprisingly successful "mythic retelling" of the gospel story, a book that went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 2:00 AM

April 12, 2012

Slide Rules and Blank Stares

"We used to do that with a slide rule."

Blank stare. "What's a slide rule?"

"It's a device they used before calculators to do division, multiplication, square roots, squares and trig functions."

Blank stare.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:54 AM | Comments (3) are closed

November 14, 2011

John Stott Memorial

Since his death on July 27, more than two dozen memorial services have been held for John Stott on every continent, in such places as Addis Ababa, Auckland, Delhi, Hong Kong, Lima, Manila, Singapore and Vancouver. On November 11, a memorial was held in the United States at College Church, Wheaton, Illinois.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:54 AM | Comments (1) are closed

October 31, 2011

HarperCollins Buys Nelson

The publishing world, and particularly the Christian publishing world, is abuzz because of the announcement today that HarperCollins (the third largest trade publisher in the United States) has purchased Thomas Nelson (which claims to be the seventh largest trade publisher). With Zondervan
Harpercollins-logo.svg.pngNelson logo.gif and HarperOne already under the umbrella of HarperCollins (which itself is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.), half of all Christian trade publishing will be in the hands of a single entity.

What does it mean?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 5:32 PM | Comments (7) are closed

October 27, 2011

The Pulitzer Legacy

One of Hungary's great gifts to the United States was Joseph Pulitzer, founder of the Columbia School of Journalism and the Pulitzer Prize. On October 29 we mark the 100th anniversary of his death.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:30 AM | Comments (1) are closed

October 24, 2011

Arthur Holmes, 1924-2011

Yesterday I attended the memorial service for Arthur Holmes, IVP author and beloved professor of philosophy at Wheaton College, who died earlier this month. Born in Dover, England, in 1924, Art has influenced generations of students since he started teaching there in 1947. Among those who came under his tutelage were many who have gone on to significant academic careers of their own in philosophy, history and biblical studies--David Lyle Jeffrey, Merold Westphal, Marianne Meye Thompson, Mark Noll, Roger Lundin, Walter Hanson and C. Stephen Evans among others. The last three of these offered their memories of their beloved teacher at the service.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:34 AM | Comments (1) are closed

September 1, 2011

Discovering the Gospel of Mark

For the last ten years I have lived with the Gospel of Mark—poring over its text, tracing down every Old Testament allusion, reading books, commentaries and journal articles, teaching the book in week-long intensive courses, letting its currents roll over me. All this is no accident, because I am the inheritor of a tradition.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:40 AM | Comments (5) are closed

August 18, 2011

Schaeffer's Gift

My first exposure to InterVarsity Press came when a friend, George, handed me a copy of Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer over forty years ago. It was the original edition imported to the U.S. from Britain. I was in high school at the time and had heard of some of the philosophers and theologians and artists he mentioned. (Being raised Catholic, Aquinas was at least familiar.) Many were completely new, however. Even though I only had a vague sense of what he was writing about, I devoured the book.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 10:07 AM | Comments (3) are closed

June 21, 2011

The Story Behind the Quiet Bestseller

For more than two generations, Quiet Time has been introducing readers to one of the most basic spiritual disciplines of the Christian life—spending some time alone with God each day. Originally the piece was written by several campus staff members (called traveling secretaries) of the British Inter-Varsity movement.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:50 AM | Comments (1) are closed

April 26, 2011

John Stott at 90

InterVarsity Press is privileged to have been associated with the ministry of John Stott for over fifty years. His clear, balanced, sound perspective on Scripture and life has been filled with a grace and strength that seems rare in this era of extreme viewpoints and harsh rhetoric. As tomorrow marks his ninetieth birthday, I want to consider just one aspect of his character and vast influence.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:27 AM | Comments (3) are closed

February 22, 2011

Stupid Things You Learned About the Reformation

As we approach the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, we will hear more and more about the movement that has so shaped the Western world since Luther pounded his Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenberg church door in 1517. And so we should. But we should do so from a solid foundation.Getting Ref Wrong.jpg

James Payton gives us just that in his excellent Getting the Reformation Wrong, which got my Setting-the-Record-Straight Award for 2011. The book corrects some stupid things people believe (he is much more diplomatic than I am, calling them "common misunderstandings") about the Reformation. Here's just a few:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:43 AM

January 20, 2011

JFK's Speech: Still a Model Fifty Years Later

On January 20, 1961, John Kennedy gave what some consider to be the greatest presidential inaugural speech of the twentieth century. What made it so effective rhetorically? Max Atkinson identifies several key techniques:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:46 AM

October 20, 2010

To Change the World 2: The Untold Story of Christianity

Christianity has long been “Exhibit A” of populist movements changing the world. Two thousand years of history clearly show these people on the margins transforming their societies through the power of the gospel. Right? Why then is James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World so negative about the ability of a widespread impulse in ordinary people to transform society?

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:33 AM

August 20, 2010

The Shallows 2: A Brief History of Reading

In Phaedrus, Socrates muses on the merits of writing. Surprisingly to our minds, he is skeptical. Why? It is a recipe for forgetfulness. We won’t have to exercise our memories anymore. Knowledge of a subject, after all, is much more valuable than a written account of the same thing. The only virtue of writing was as a guard against the forgetfulness of old age.

So Nicholas Carr, in The Shallows, introduces us to the first Luddite in his book on how the Internet changes our brains. (See part one of my review here.) In chapter four he offers a fascinating overview of the history of the written word and how each change created changes in us and in society.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:29 AM

August 12, 2010

History with Attitude

Lies My Teacher Told Me is one of the funnest, most informative rants I've read in quite a while. James Loewen is ticked at the stupidity of American history high school textbooks, and he has reason to be.

One 1990-era textbook offered this whopper: "President Truman easily settled the Korean War by dropping the atomic bomb" (p. 320), which has so many errors in it I hardly know where to begin.

But there's more. Lots more. The textbooks are wrong when they say that . . .

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:46 AM

July 1, 2010

Happy 2nd of July, America!

Some 230-plus years ago, thirteen colonies were unhappy with the mother country. So the leaders of these New World governments gathered in Philadelphia to debate, discuss and bargain. Finally, they cobbled together a unanimous vote (with one abstention--New York!). As all school children know, the momentous day in 1776 on which the colonies declared independence was July the 2nd.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:27 AM

May 6, 2010

Busting the "Dark Ages" Myth

Recently a good friend mentioned “the Dark Ages,” and I nearly flew into a wild rage. Well, no, it was more like severe annoyance. Actually, now that I think of it, maybe it was just a mild depression.

The “Dark Ages” weren’t dark. Not only was there plenty of sunshine, but culture and civilization were merrily rowing along as well.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:23 AM | Comments (3) are closed

February 10, 2010

To Sociologists: Duh!

It's tempting to roll our collective eyes when someone recognizes the obvious. Now we learn that sociologists have got religion. They have made the absolutely amazing discovery that religion is actually important.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:39 AM

January 11, 2010

Francis Schaeffer: Fifty Years after Time

Fifty years ago today, Time magazine published an article on Francis Schaeffer, who with his wife founded "one of the most unusual missions in the Western world." What made their ministry, nestled in the Swiss Alps, so different? They focused on intellectuals--artists, musicians, students, atheists, Jews, Catholics and Protestants--an eclectic mix of people that in 1960 the church tended to neglect.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 4:35 AM | Comments (6) are closed

August 25, 2009

400 Years Ago Today, Galileo Didn't Invent the Telescope

There are many myths about Galileo. One is that he invented the telescope. (He didn't. Hans Lippershey gets the honors. A year afterward, on this date four hundred years ago, Galileo demonstrated his version of the device to merchants in Venice. (The sale price was not a pound of flesh.)

Here's a little quiz to see how good you are at separating fact from fiction. Jot down which you think are true and which are false:

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 4:23 PM | Comments (1) are closed

July 29, 2009

160 Million

I was with a group of friends recently when another common myth of western civilization was trotted out as if it were gospel. "We all know religion has caused more violence and death than anything else."

"Well, actually, that's not true," I ventured.

Heads turned. Mouths gaped. The planet itself seemed to wobble on its axis. "What facts do you have to support that?" said the historian in the group, eyebrow arched.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:27 AM | Comments (5) are closed

July 1, 2009

Behind Every Good Declaration of Independence

John Locke is not just a character on Lost. He's one of the most important philosophers of the last five hundred years on issues of the self and of political theory. When it comes to identifying how the United States came to be in the first place, Locke's Two Treatises of Government written in a hundred years beforehand, is a good place to begin.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:56 AM | Comments (2) are closed

May 14, 2009

Report on Successful Book Marketing

As one century ended and another began, what did publishers learn? Here are the results from one report.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:32 AM | Comments (1) are closed

April 27, 2009

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Certainly we are in unprecedented times. Certainly no one has ever faced the dilemmas and problems we face today. Certainly tomorrow is uncharted.

Well, yes. And no.

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Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:30 AM | Comments (2) are closed

April 21, 2009

Not the Center of the Universe

This really bugs me.

People who should know better--including Ph.D.s--keep making the same mistake. I just read it in a 2008 book, which I will not name to protect the guilty.

The Myth. In the Middle Ages people believed the sun went around the earth because it put the earth and humanity at the center of the universe--elevating the prominence of humanity in the cosmos.

The Fact. According to Medieval cosmology, the hierarchy of the cosmos was from the outer extremes (most important and most perfect) down to the center (least important and least perfect). Aristotle said that the heavenly realms were so superior that they were made of something entirely different from the four elements of earth, water, air and fire. The fifth element--the quintessence, or aether--was found only in the heavenlies. In other words, the closer to the center something was, the less ethereal, and thus the more imperfect it was.

Earth, being irregular (mountains, valleys, etc.), changing and subject to corruption, was the least perfect. The moon, as Medieval cosmologists could clearly see, also had imperfections but fewer than earth. The planets were more perfect (but had an irregular motion accounted for by epicycles). The realm of stars was even more perfect. Beyond that, well, heaven of course. Some cosmologies also put the most imperfect--hell--at the very center of the earth itself.

So putting earth at the center of the cosmos was not a statement of human hubris but of human humility.

There, I feel better already.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at 11:49 AM | Comments (6) are closed

March 10, 2009

The Familiar and the Unfamiliar

Do you have a favorite book title? One that is memorable and interesting, all the while telling you just what the book is about?

Here's another perspective on what makes an ideal nonfiction book title. Previously I wrote that the ideal title employed two elements: content and creativity. You can also think of them as the familiar and the unfamiliar.

Continue reading "The Familiar and the Unfamiliar"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 8:59 AM | Comments (2) are closed

July 9, 2007

Nothing New Under the Publishing Sun

Looking for new publishing ideas? One neglected place to look is the past.

Continue reading "Nothing New Under the Publishing Sun"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 9:38 AM

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