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Volume 12, Issue 1: Meander

Spinning Brodies

Douglas Wilson

Let me push along the Mars Hill Audio Journal, the work of the very capable Ken Myers. Myers publishes, if that is the right word for this endeavor, an audio magazine with interviews of writers, musicians, and other assorted interesting people. I have found that this is one of my best sources for finding out about books I need to get and read. Find out more about them at This is good stuff.

I recently had the pleasure of re-reading, kind of, The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce. The first time I read it was many years ago in the Dover edition—which faithfully represents how the book was originally published by Bierce. But this last summer I got hold of an enlarged edition, with many previously missing entries supplied from newspaper files by an industrious researcher named Ernest Hopkins. Consider these definitions as a small sampler from the E’s: “Exhort, v.t. In religious affairs, to put the conscience of another upon the spit and roast it to a nut-brown discomfort.” “Epidemic, n. A disease having a sociable turn and few prejudices.” “Education, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.” The enlarged version is published by Penguin.

After we published our Wodehouse issue, I read Uncle Dynamite again, and simply had a wonderful time. Better add it to the list of recommended novels.

Obedience is not difficult to understand. The hard part comes through our quarrelsome second guessing. But if God were to tell us to jump through the wall without leaving a hole, our task would be to simply get a running start and leave the ground.

As much as I hate to recommend anything published by IVP, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Their recent Dictionary of Biblical Imagery is well worth getting. The Bible is not a massive collection of didactic passages; it largely consists of narrative, poetry, and wisdom literature, all of which have to be read as literature in order to be understood. This makes many evangelicals nervous because they remember their Bible As Lit course from Ol’ Slewfoot U, and respect for the inspiration of the Word was not a high priority for the drunk poltroon who taught that course that semester. However, the articles in this dictionary do not appear to have any deal going with unbelief, and also appear to be generally sane. Sometimes literary types, when they get their chance, make up for lost time by turning everything into a motif, including the maps and concordance. In many ways, this book appears to fill a long-standing need.

Not that it’s perfect. Making up for the fact that I have had to recommend an IVP book is the privilege of being able to point out a couple of howlers in the introduction. Jacob did not first meet his mother Rebekah at the well in Gen. 29 (p. xv), and one scratches one’s head in bewilderment over the lesson gained from the story of Gideon’s (sic) mother (p. xxi). Where does it say she was sic?

I recently finished two first-rate books by Ronald Wallace. The first was Calvin’s Doctrine of Word and Sacrament. The second was Calvin, Geneva and the Reformation. These were so good, I have just thrown a third into my pile for reading, Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life. The publisher is Wipf and Stock Publishers at 150 West Broadway in Eugene, OR 97401. I am not sure about the publisher’s name thing; it must have something to do with being in Oregon.

The subject matter of these books is the central doctrinal teaching of John Calvin, one of history’s truly impressive figures. But more striking than his intellect and ability to assimilate material from his vast learning was his devotion to Jesus Christ. As Beza said, “Having been a spectator of his conduct for sixteen years.... I can now declare, that in him all men may see a most beautiful example of the Christian character, an example which it is as easy to slander as it is difficult to imitate.”

I heard some song or other by the Grateful Dead on the radio this morning. Have you ever noticed that in their songs somebody is always singing slightly flat?

In line with our theme this issue, let me recommend The Catholic Mystery by my friend John Armstrong. For those who want to promote intelligent interaction with Roman Catholics that is both charitable and non-compromising, this is a good place for classical Protestants to start.

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