Prophetic Stringency

Anarchy and Apocalypse
Essays on Faith, Violence, and Theodicy
Ronald E. Osborn
Cascade Books, $20, 174 pp.

Whatever one’s take on the later rise of capitalism in the Christian West, entrepreneurial genius was at work in describing the Gospels as “good news.” In contrast, the title of Ronald E. Osborn’s wide-ranging collection of essays seems dour and forbidding. That’s a shame, because the book is rich in subject matter and argument, and evangelical in spirit.

Commonweal readers will be familiar with Osborn’s clear-eyed, well-honed analysis (most recently in “Still Counting: How Many Iraqis Have Died?” February 11). This book reveals the foundation of his analysis of headline events. While neither anarchistic (in the colloquial sense of advocating violence or extreme libertarianism) nor apocalyptic (in tenor or proclamation), there is a stringency in Osborn’s thinking that is prophetic and liberating.

The collection consists of eleven essays published over a dozen years in a variety of journals and online publications. The chapters vary in length and theme and are, without exception, personal—that is, never mere academic exercises. We learn that Osborn is a Seventh-day Adventist who is deeply committed to his community’s historic pacifism—and to restoring it—and that in 1999 he spent part of the year ministering in war-ravaged Kosovo. But the essays are personal in another way, too: they reveal Osborn’s intellectual and spiritual engagement with all the topics he treats. A...

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About the Author

Patrick Jordan is a former managing editor of Commonweal.