Book Reviews: Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul

Roger Willliams book

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Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul by John M. Barry (Viking)

Two men who shared a common commitment to Christ and the Bible agreed 17th century America could become a model for the world. But they differed greatly in what kind of model.

John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts, wanted to create a shining "city on a hill"—a New Jerusalem in the New World that would be an example of Christian virtue and religious practice nurtured by the state. Roger Williams, on the other hand, founded Providence Plantations in Rhode Island as a place of refuge for people persecuted because they followed the dictates of conscience. Williams envisioned a model where religious liberty would be protected by keeping church and state separate from one another.

Author John M. Barry traces early influences on Williams, ranging from noted British jurist Edward Coke to philosopher Francis Bacon, as well as examining the theological underpinnings of his views on soul liberty. Likewise, he notes how Williams' writings on freedom of conscience, individual rights and the separation of church and state influenced John Milton and John Locke, who—in turn—influenced Thomas Jefferson.

More than just a history lesson, Barry provides insights into the competing visions that still shape the religious and political landscape in the United States.

Ken Camp, managing editor

Baptist Standard


The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook by J. Daniel Hays & J. Scott Duvall, editors (Baker Books)

Daniel Hays and Scott Duvall have added a hefty volume to the extensive list of Christian resources. The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook delivers a wealth of background information, a multitude of explanatory materials and a plethora of full-color images and maps. More than 60 evangelical scholars, many of them Baptist, contribute more than 100 articles to the new reference book.

The editors provide an overview of the Bible then organize the handbook into Old and New Testament sections, divide by general categories and subdivide by Bible book. Specific information for each book includes general background, the author, the audience, the setting, the heart of the book, the uniqueness, the message, applications for today and favorite verses. Supplementary articles and illustrations accompany the text. The handbook's final sections encompass "How the Bible Came to Be" and "Digging Deeper into the Bible."

The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook offers significant information in a very appealing format. While an index might have increased its usefulness, the handbook is worth adding to the library of the Christ-follower who wishes to enrich Bible study or expand biblical knowledge.

Kathy Robinson Hillman, former president

Woman's Missionary Union of Texas


Love Food & Live Well By Chantel Hobbs (Random House)

Chantel Hobbs loved food, and her plus-sized figure evidenced that fact. Never considering her weight an issue, the wife and mother of four learned to accept her body type. The turning point came when she found it impossible to fasten her seatbelt on an airplane. When a flight attendant loudly insisted that she buckle up before takeoff, Hobbs admitted her inability. The humiliation from that experience forced her to examine her relationship with food. She lost 200 pounds.

In Love Food & Live Well, Hobbs applies a simple approach to weight-loss maintenance derived from biblical principles. As a professional life coach and personal trainer, she urges readers to focus on honoring God through healthy eating and fitness. This advice, combined with a simple eating plan and exercise routine, promises readers weight loss results that last a lifetime.

Love Food & Live Well does not offer breakthrough dieting formulas or quick results, but Hobbs' personal story and encouragement give readers hope that they, too, can lose weight.

Tameshia Williams, student

Dallas Theological Seminary

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