This weighty work, steeped in philosophical language and argument, won’t be for everyone, but it does provide substantial...



A manifesto regarding the sovereign power of God, written for a secularized world.

Vass (A Reformed View of the Sovereignty of God in a Postmodern World, 2012, etc.) offers a well-researched, erudite study of postmodernism and its relationship to traditional Christian views of God. Roughly the first half of his work is dedicated to exploring the topics of modernism and modernity, postmodernism and “postmodernity” (which “suggests that we cannot be certain that there is any objective truth to be discovered”), and even post-secularism. This is no small task, and it involves introducing readers to the ideas of a wide range of thinkers, from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche to theologian Rudolf Bultmann. It’s in the second half, however, that Vass moves from a pedagogical stance to a hermeneutical one as he discusses the sovereignty of God. The author’s goal is to emphasize God’s complete power and control over all creation. Vass argues against widespread views on free will, stating that God controls everything: “In His sovereignty God decrees all things, even all sins.” He also notes that “There is no freedom until the Spirit of God creates it.” But while he blames postmodernism for many views that he finds to be unbiblical, many of them seem to simply stem from the ideas of the 16th- and 17th-century Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius. For instance, at one point, Vass forthrightly states that “God does not love everyone” and goes on to explain that God saves those he does love and doesn’t provide salvation for those he hates. Although he asserts that the God-loves-all philosophy stems from cultural relativism, it may instead have deeper roots in non-Calvinist Christian sects. These aspects aside, the author does provide a powerful statement of belief in God’s ultimate sovereignty, daring postmodernists to provide a reasonable retort beyond simple unbelief. After so much development, however, it would have been nice if the two halves of Vass’ work were better integrated.

This weighty work, steeped in philosophical language and argument, won’t be for everyone, but it does provide substantial food for thought.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5127-9729-9

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.


New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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