Two New Books: “Answering Atheism” and “The Romance of Religion”

In the books of Nehemiah and Ezra, we get a nice picture of the Christian life.  The returning exiles from Babylon were compelled to rebuild Jerusalem with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other (since the neighbor kept attacking them and trying to hinder the work).  That’s the story of our life on earth as Christians.  With the sword of the Spirit, we have to defend the faith from attacks by enemies, such as atheists…

(Click on this nice cover to find out how):

…and with the trowel we must continue to build the city of God and bear fruits like goodness, truth, and beauty:

“Here is orthodoxy as heavy as the universe, made to dance like the universe. Reading this is like coming upon old Augustine dressed up like St. Francis.” – Thomas Howard

Get ’em both!

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  • Steve

    That’s a beautiful mediation on Ezra. All I remember thinking when reading it is, “Good, almost done with the historical books.”

  • Dan C

    And this is one of the points of contention with a cultural element of conservativism, not a principled element.

    I reject the “sword in hand” thinking of Christian community.

    I look to the eras of real rejection of Christianity-particularly the early eras, and it was vulnerability and the Cross that was embraced, not the sword. This is one of the aspects of separation between the old and the New Testament. Paul, actually oppressed, is not seen recommending the sword. His sharpest criticism was on members of the community. The early Christian communities were similar in outlook.

    The story of the monks of Tibhirine is similar.

    The criticism against the poor of Latin America who took up the sword again against real oppressors was a warning away from that, and a warning away from justifying that activity via the Church.

    Such is the way for conservatives too. There is a cultural element within conservativism that does not lend itself to this vulnerability and there are many expressions of this: manliness to “fight for family” (echoing Evangelical Christianity’s “family” as idolatry and the strain of thought that wants men to be manly) and Evangelicalism’s immediate blessing of political aspects of conservative Christianity-a thinking process immediately lending itself to first self-defense and then ever-expanding notions of what constitutes self-defense.

    I see the image of “sword in hand” Christianity as a barrier to community. A barrier to getting the message out. I maintain that this is not a principle of conservativism but a cultural aspect of those who are conservative. Some of this defensiveness I sense at the same time I hear critiques of Pope Francis, actually a point of many recent posts of Fr. Longenecker.

    • Charles Beard


    • The sword is not inappropriate when you have been called to prosecute justice. A Christian who is a tax-collector has the responsibility to collect a just tax, even if those from whom he collects it resist. Furthermore, a family, a parish, a diocese, or any other institution can, by virtue of its existence as an institution in the world, be given by the society in which it dwells responsibility to prosecute justice in that society. If that happens, it become the responsibility of those who make up that institution to bear the sword, not in the name of the institution but in the name of the society.