Friday, September 26, 2014

James Madison and the Making of America by Kevin R. C. Gutzman. A Review.

Image Courtesy St. Martin's Press.
“In general, Madison was only human, in that he wanted to have been consistent even when he had not been.”  Kevin R. C. Gutzman.


In James Madison and the Making of America published by St. Martin’s Press (2012), author and historian Kevin R. C. Gutzman energetically debunks the mythical James Madison.  Here, Madison is not the “Father of the Constitution” but a man who felt the Constitution was simply a step above the Articles of the Confederation.  He is not the promoter of the Bill of Rights but a man who found them unnecessary.  He has less faith in the virtue of men and finds them “brutish.”  Indeed, he is not a demi-god but merely a man.

A few important points to note in this book:

·        Madison favors a national government over a federal government.  Unlike his famous friend, Thomas Jefferson, Madison prefers an “energetic government.”  Yet, once the Constitution is ratified, Madison supports the federal government because that is the idea that was "sold" to the People.

·         Madison feels the main purpose of having a Bill of Rights is to “allay the fears of moderate men” but he does “not consider a bill of rights desirable in itself.” 

·         Madison and Alexander Hamilton “jointly” collaborate on The Federalist-that is far from writing them remotely, the two men assist each other in drafting the papers.  (Gutzman dissects Federalist No. 9 and Federalist No. 10 specifically to argue his point). 

·         Madison’s belief in religious freedom is a reflection of his Princeton education where he develops his understanding of human nature and this understanding eventually leads to the creation of the Virginia Statues of Religious Freedom, an important but often overlooked contribution of his political career.  (Notably, Gutzman is not saying that Madison feels government is superior to religion but that Madison finds religion so important that he feels it should be kept separate from government (and the “brutes”) to safeguard its significance).

·         Overshadowed by Thomas Jefferson, Madison is a prime contributor (if not the creator) to the formation of the Republican Party.*  (Gutzman tackles the growing rift between the Federalists and the Republicans, and the Alien and Sedition Laws).

Although not quite a full-fledged biography of our fourth president, the book is essential to understanding Madison’s contributions and accomplishments as a political figure.  Gutzman’s expert knowledge and extensive research play an integral part in the book.  Those looking for a flowery description of Madison’s presence at his wife’s extravagant Washington soirees or his preference in dress may find James Madison and the Making of America challenging but those interested in a serious study of Madison’s complex character and the creation of our Republic will find much to appreciate in this remarkable book.

Gutzman, Kevin R. C.  James Madison and the Making of America.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 2012.
*Not today’s GOP.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel by David Limbaugh. A Review.

Image Courtesy Regnery Publishing

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16.

In his latest book, Jesus on Trial:  A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel, released by Regnery Publishing (2014), author David Limbaugh records his personal journey through life as a skeptic to a steadfast believer and now an apologetic for Jesus Christ.  Limbaugh meticulously uses his training as a lawyer to investigate and analyze many of the arguments made by skeptics against Christ.  He tackles Christ’s humanity and divinity, biblical prophecy, pain and suffering, and scientific evidence to make a strong case for Christianity by using his own personal experiences and weaving them with solid research based on historical, scientific, archeological, literary, and theological evidence. 

Limbaugh acknowledges that Jesus on Trial:  A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel covers only a fraction of questions skeptics (and some Christians) have about Christianity but he notes that, “these questions have answers, and in some cases, while they may not wholly satisfy, they will give…a better understanding…that there are plausible explanations….”  Indeed, it is Limbaugh’s focused attention to the specific questions he addresses in his book that encourage further discussion on Christianity between Christians and skeptics alike.  Through it all, he encourages skeptics to study the Bible with an open mind so they too may experience Christ’s saving grace as he did, “…examining the evidence, or reason alone can’t save us.  It can only get us to the point of faith.  In the end, no matter how much our intellect tells us that Christianity’s truth claims are valid, for salvation we must surrender and place our trust in Christ, and that’s a matter of the will, not the intellect.” 

Limbaugh writes purposefully and his strong narrative carries the reader from one page to the next with ease making the book a scholarly, yet, enjoyable read.  The book consists of thirteen chapters and a conclusion with fifty-two pages of invaluable notes for further research and examination.  Although Limbaugh aims his book towards skeptics, it is also an excellent resource for Christians. 

“John 3:16 (Spreading the Word).” In Open Bible  (accessed September 7, 2014).

Limbaugh, David.  Jesus on Trial:  A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel.  Washington D.C.:  Regnery Publishing, 2014.