Thomas Molnar’s review of Albert Camus and Christianity by Jean Onimus (University of Alabama Press, 1970) was CSR’s first book review. The final review of its first 50 years was T. M. Moore’s look at The WEIRDest People in the World by Joseph Henrich (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020). In the intervening decades, CSR has reviewed over 3,000 books, providing a vital resource for our readers and a window into Christian scholarship.
While perusing the list of books reviewed over the decades, one is struck by the breadth of topics. Such diversity is solid evidence of Christian engagement with the academic issues of our times. While some subjects come and go with the intellectual winds of each decade, certain topics are of enduring interest to CSR and its readers. It will come as no surprise that books that explore evangelical identity—its history, its boundaries, its engagement with the culture—are of continuing concern. For example, over the years CSR reviewers have focused their attention on 12 different books written, in whole or in part, by the historian Mark Noll, whose historical insights have deeply informed evangelical self-understanding. Noll holds the record for the author with the most books reviewed in CSR during that time.
In addition, if the pages of CSR book reviews are any indication of the evangelical commitment to its intellectual saints, the focus on C. S. Lewis in its pages would be prima facie evidence. Books by or about Lewis have been reviewed in its pages some 41 times over the last 50 years. The Anglican don continues to be a resource for Christian engagement with culture nearly 60 years after his death.
Additional topics are of continuing interest decade after decade: engagement with biological science (especially evolution), literature, the arts, psychology, history, biblical studies, theology, Christian higher education, and, of course, faith-learning integration.
These patterns confirm and reinforce several of our commitments as Christian scholars. The reviews display a commitment to know ourselves—to know our history, to test, to investigate our intellectual and theological boundaries, and to shift those boundaries in interesting and helpful way when necessary, or to shore them up if needed. Anchored in the firm belief that truth is discovered in all of God’s creation, the reviews reveal an eagerness to engage with the very best thinking wherever it might be found, whether within Christian academe or outside of it. Christian scholars are both creators and critics of ideas that are shaping our world. The reviews also exemplify a commitment to connect confident, informed Christian action in and for the world with enduring theological truths, whether that be in promoting social justice, opposing apartheid, engaging with environmental issues, formulating a more fruitful approach to politics, developing faith-informed stances to a plethora of ethical concerns, or responding to issues surrounding feminism, race, or human sexuality. In all these efforts, CSR book reviews have been a dependable source for thoughtful, critical engagement with the influential thinkers and movements of our time.
CSR’s “Statement of Purpose” in its first volume includes the goal of assisting scholars in their divine calling to“contribute toward a broader and more unified understanding of life and the world.”1 The book review editors, books authors, and reviewers of CSR’s first 50 years have achieved that vision. May CSR book reviews in the years to come faithfully follow the legacy of thoughtful criticism, active engagement, and creative faithfulness modeled by those who came before.
Given the vast number and diversity of CSR book reviews over the last half century, it would be unwise and impossible to attempt to select representative reviews. Instead, I have chosen reviews of a handful of books from each decade that were recognized as significant at the time and that continue to be of interest to a wide array of scholars. The books and their respective reviews exemplify the qualities of critical engagement mentioned above. Lately, I have been listening to a podcaster who profiles “books that last forever.” It is too early to tell whether the books below will last forever (forever is a long time), but I am confident that many CSR readers will agree that these books were and remain influential. Any deficiency in the choice of these books is, of course, due to my own peculiarities. Finally, the language in the book reviews reflect the time in which they were written. We reprint them here in their original form.