Making Darkness Light by Joe Moshenska–Book Review

I chose this book from the local library in one of my English major moments — it’s a biography of John Milton (best known for his epic poem, Paradise Lost). On one hand, Milton has been called the greatest Christian poet, and on the other, because of his unorthodox view of the trinity, some say he cannot be called Christian at all. The author, Joe Moshenska categorizes himself as a Jewish atheist, but he does an excellent job of navigating and describing the religious history of the time, as well as the personal beliefs of Milton.

This is not a traditional biography. Instead, it is part literary criticism, part personal memoir and travelogue, and even historical fiction, as the author often imagines who Milton might have met and what conversations he might have had with well known figures of his time. Instead of a straight forward, linear account of Milton’s life, Mr. Moshenska uses relatively short vignettes describing his own travels — you might say pilgrimages– to various places Milton lived or visited during his life. Each chapter illuminates a certain phase of Milton’s life, seeking to capture the general sense of that time and place rather than a listing of facts, dates and events.

This is not an easy read, but it is also not dry or overly academic. You’ll come away with a deeper understanding of this great poet and also learn something about the times and places he inhabited.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. A good read for those interested in English literature and English history.

For more of my English major moments see:

Another of Joan’s English Major Moments

More Rest In Nature + English Major Moment!

An English Major Moment from Joan

For more about John Milton see:

What’s a Libretto?

A Poem of Surrender

An Introduction to John Owen by Crawford Gribben–Book Review

John Owen(1616-1683) is considered one of the leading English Protestant theologians.  He lived through Civil War, regicide, the change from republic to restoration, the Great Fire of London and the plague.  He was prodigious in output writing eighty titles over the course of forty years.  His works spanned a variety of genres including poetry, political commentary, New Testament exegesis and theology.  He endured personal tragedy, losing his first wife and all ten of his children.  Over the course of a tumultuous life, his opinions on issues such as baptism and the nature of church/state relationships evolved and changed considerably.

The author of this book on Owen describes it as a work of “biographical theology.”  Rather than focusing on Owen’s responses to major debates in the Reformed tradition, it highlights the kind of Christian life Owen sought to promote.  Owen was greatly influenced by Henry Scudder’s The Christian’s Daily Walk (1627) one of the best selling Puritan devotionals of the day.  He believed that an emotional and volitional response to the gospel was extremely important and the greatest threat to true faith was a scholastic Calvinism that engaged the mind but not the heart and will.

The book includes a time line, maps, and an introduction about Owen’s life and work.  There are sections on childhood, youth, middle age and death in which Owen’s views of the spiritual formation of each life stage are examined. There is also an appendix with Owen’s Prayers For Children, The Primer (1652). He saw the Christian life as growth in grace.  Every Christian needed to know God, walk with God and understand themselves.

I selected this book because my husband (a pastor) has developed an interest in the Puritans, and frankly I found it tough going.  Although it isn’t long, it is fairly academic and assumes a good bit of knowledge about English history of the time as well as Reformed theology.  It wouldn’t be a good choice for the average layperson.

VERDICT:  3 STARS

For more information or to purchase this book follow the link below:

https://www.crossway.org/books/an-introduction-to-john-owen-tpb/

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-book in exchange for a fair and honest review. . Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255

For more on the Puritans, go to this post:

Beyond Stateliest Marble by Douglas Wilson — Book Review