Review: Thinking Like a Lawyer

Thinking Like a LawyerThinking Like a Lawyer, Colin Seale. Waco: Prufrock Press, 2020.

Summary: Applies the framework law students learn to teaching critical thinking for all school students.

Colin Seale was a disruptive student in school until a perceptive teacher had him tested and got him into a gifted program. Later, when he slacked off on studies, a school counselor leaned into his poor performance based on his past grades, got him into a summer school, where he was thought smart, and he decided to live up to it. In college, he almost gave up on his course of study, but his mother told him, “You have always figured things out, and you just have to figure this out. I have to get back to work.”

Three people saw through his behavior and refused to allow him to waste his potential, resulting in him getting into law school, where he ended up at the top of his class. There he learned what it meant to “think like a lawyer.” Something else happened as well. To work his way through law school, he taught school. He discovered that the critical thinking methods and skills he used so successfully in his classes could help his students — even those who were academic under-achievers. He discovered that instead of critical thinking being some high level skill only advanced students could use, it was a key skill that motivated all sorts of other kinds of learning. This book reflects his efforts to apply the teaching of critical thinking throughout the educational process.

He defines critical thinking as:

  1. the set of skills and dispositions we need
  2. to learn what we need to learn
  3. to solve problems across disciplines
  4. that are grounded in the spirit of doing right instead of being right

He calls his approach the “thinkLaw framework.” It involves:

  • Analysis from Multiple Perspectives: understanding all sides of an argument. He unpacks this further as the DRAAW+C framework
    • Decision: Who should win?
    • Rule/Law: What is the rule or law for this case?
    • Arguments plaintiff will make:
    • Arguments defendent will make:
    • World: Looking at the big picture, why is your decision better for the world than other possible decisions?
    • Conclusion: Re-write the Decision as a Conclusion
  • Mistake analysis: identifying what mistake we should really care about and what mistake “Joe Schmo” is most likely to make.
  • Investigation and Discovery: what do we know and what do we need to know?
  • Settlement and Negotiation: Determine the underlying interests, Identify the best outcome if you fail to negotiate a settlement, and Make a proposal that addresses interests and exceeds your best outcome without a settlement.
  • Competition: in law school, being a good student is not enough. success requires creative analysis that uses all these other skills to argue a conclusion better than one’s classmates.

The rest of the book unpacks how all this can work to make everything from literature and social studies to math and science fertile ground for critical thinking. He outlines a variety of structures that can be woven into instruction, contrasts it with “engagement,” discusses the use of thinkLaw in classroom management, test prep, and with families–particularly with not enabling learned helplessness by intervening in homework struggles (kind of like his mother did with him as a college student).

Reading this, on one hand, felt like thinkLaw was the silver bullet for whatever ails education. What I would love to see is a more detailed study of the difference his methods make in a school or school system that adopts them. At the same time, what comes through in every page of the book is the conviction that we under-estimate what students are capable of, and particularly in this matter of critical. If more students have to look at a question from all sides, work rigorously to discover what is known, learn to analyze mistakes, including the ones they make, and to think how their solutions work in the real world, we certainly would have students equipped for whatever innovations in technology and the nature of work are thrown at them.

What comes through on every page, unmistakably, is Colin Seale’s passion that we “simply have to stop leaving genius on the table.” Sometimes that genius comes in the form of those most creative in disruption, more often seen as a problem than as genius. Can Seale’s critical thinking methods develop that disruptive genius? He suggests one of the real payoffs in observing that often the people companies turn to when they need to innovate or turnaround are those skilled in “creative disruption.” Likely they weren’t the good students in class–more likely the cut-ups or disruptive ones. Like Colin Seale.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: No Border Land

no border land

No Border Land, Tom Graffagnino. Grand Rapids: Credo House Publishers, 2020.

Summary: A prophetic call to a world without moral or spiritual borders, to a lukewarm, compromised church, concluding with a vision of the beauty of the Christian hope rooted in the cross.

Tom Graffagnino is an artist and writer whose work I first ran into on Facebook. Often his response to posts, including some of mine, was a poem, often with a simple rhyme scheme, some clever play on words, and a prophetic “bite.”

This work combines a series of jeremiads lamenting the state of a “no border land” culture, and a lukewarm, compromised church in its first two parts concluding with a proclamation of the hope of the gospel centered in the work of the cross and God’s gift of grace.

A few samples of his writing:

Singer, Sanger, Kinsey, Leary,
Joseph Campbell, Jung, and Freud…
Prophets of New Paganism,
Heroes of the coming Void.

Marx ‘n’ Nietzsche, Kundalini
Foucault-Fun for Me and You
Listen!…Sweat Lodge Kali-calling,
Stir that New, Old Pagan Brew
. . .
Welcome to the heart of darkness,
Stand with us on sinking sand.
Place your bets on “good intentions.”
Welcome to No Border Land.

This is the opening poem and typifies the play on words, the literary allusions, the sarcastic bite of his verse, clothed in a simple rhyme scheme that runs throughout.

If anything, Graffagnino is tougher on a church that he sees is infatuated with celebrities, theologically and morally flabby, making a god it wants, a “moral therapeutic deity.” In Theraeutic Puppy Dogma, he writes:

Welcome to our Puppy Dogma
Quite the soft and cuddly sight,
Waggy-taily, always friendly…
And this Dogma doesn’t bite!

Here’s religion we can hang with,
Here’s a good God to enjoy!
Puppy Dogma co-existing,
Quite laid back…a real good boy!
. . .
Bottom line, he’s reassuring
He’ll make sure you’re feeling good!
He’ll come running when you whistle…
Like good Puppy Dogmas should!

There is a shift in tone in the third and final section, “Living Waters Living.” Graffagnino both acknowledges our spiritual destitution, and the wonder of the cross and the grace of God. In one of the poems in this section, he proclaims:

There’s a Living Word at work here,
Yes, true Language from the Heart…
There’s a Maker, there’s a Reason,
There’s a Romance from the Start.

Listen closely…there’s true Meaning
That transcends the world we’re in…
There’s a Lover who is waiting,
Christ who overcomes our sin.

He’s the Perfect Lamb, a Person,
He’s the Plan you may have heard,
God’s incarnate, Son and Bridegroom…
His proposal’s in the Word.

Each of Graffagnino’s poems is accompanied by one or more quotes by writers like G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis that underscore the ideas in Graffagnino’s poems. It seemed to me that each enhanced the other.

If you are looking for a work of great poetry, I would suggest this isn’t that work. Truthfully, much of the work in the prophets, particularly the Minor Prophets, wasn’t of the highest literary quality. Graffagnino’s writing serves a different function, one much like these prophets, to hold up an uncompromising mirror, both to an unbelieving culture and a church of watered-down belief. He’s also like the unflinching doctor who doesn’t spare our feelings when telling us the truth of our condition and what will bring us healing. In doing so, his poetry soars to its most elevated as he considers the wonder of the gospel.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: The Three Musketeers

3 musketeers

The Three MusketeersAlexandre Dumas. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2011 (originally published 1844).

Summary: An adventure that begins with D’Artagnan, a young nobleman who wants to join the musketeers of the guard, and quickly gets entangled with plots to bring about war between England and France, and love affairs that endanger his life and break his heart.

Sometimes, a good adventure makes for a great summer read. The Three Musketeers was a book I read in a children’s edition more than 50 years ago. I remember little, but I suspect the adult version has a lot of material omitted in the children’s edition. The story begins when a young but poor nobleman, d’Artagnan, from Gascony sets off for Paris with a recommendation from his father for the Musketeers of the Guard for the King of France. On the road he has an encounter with the Comte de Rochefort (unknown to him at the time), an agent of Cardinal Richelieu, who might be the real power in France at this time (c. 1625). Insulted by de Rochefort, d’Artagnan challenges him to a duel. Instead, he is roughed up by Rochefort’s companions, and his recommendation is stolen. Nevertheless, he makes it to Paris, and while not admitted to the Musketeers by Monsieur de Treville, his spirit sufficiently impresses de Treville to recommend his admission to a kind of training academy. While awaiting the recommendation, he spies de Rochefort, runs after him, insulting three of the musketeers, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, who all challenge him to duels that afternoon. They are amazed when he shows up, nearly dispatching Athos before they are all set upon by Richelieu’s guards. They join up to fight and defeat the guards and become “one for all and all for one.”

The remainder of the story revolves around the further adventures of d’Artagnon and the three musketeers. There are affairs of the heart, between d’Artagnan and Madame Bonacieux, the wife of his landlord that begin when Madame is kidnapped and d’Artagnon sought out to rescue her. He also pursues an affair with de Rochfort’s conspirator, Milady de Winter, who he ends up spiting when he learns she does not truly love him and bears the mark of a criminal, discovering that she is a most dangerous woman, seeking his death throughout the remainder of the story.

Much of the story revolves around the plots of Richelieu, de Rochefort and Milady to involve France in a war with England. The Queen of France, unhappy in her marriage, is having a secret affair with the Duke of Buckingham. She gives a set of diamond studs as a keepsake, only to have the king of France, at Richelieu’s bidding, ask her to wear these at a ball. D’Artagnan, aided by the musketeers, recovers the jewels, earning the Queen’s gratitude. Later, once again they pursue a secret mission, this time to warn against Milady, who is on a mission to kill the Duke.

Milady is captured by her brother, the Lord de Winter, but escapes, beguiling her guard, Felton, who helps her, and accomplishes her mission. This section is perhaps one of the most suspenseful, counting down her days to exile, while tracing her step by step efforts to seduce her guard, despite the warnings of de Winter. Buckingham will not be her last victim as she avenges herself on d’Artagnan before the final denouement.

In between are the battle exploits of d’Artagnan and the Musketeers. Perhaps the most satisfying part of the book is the fraternity and friendship of these four. Richelieu comes off as a shrewd Machiavellian, far more savvy than his king, though outwitted by d’Artagnan. In the end, Richelieu decides to keep his friends close and his enemies closer. None of the women come off very well, perhaps revealing the options open to them in a male-dominated society. Milady comes off as the most fascinating, if also the most sinister, in the pursuit of her interests.

My sense is that by today’s standards, Dumas could have used an editor to pare down the prose, and perhaps, some of the intricacy of the plot. Nevertheless, he offered what I sought–a diverting summer adventure read.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Girard’s Beginnings

I’m sure I’ve driven through Girard, probably up Route 422 toward Warren, following along the course of the Mahoning River. Little did I realize that this road and this river were a significant reason why Girard existed. Girard was originally part of Liberty Township, the five mile by five mile township due west of Hubbard Township. The township was originally owned by four men: Moses Cleaveland (after whom Cleveland was named–they dropped the first “a”), Daniel Lathrop, Christopher Liffinwell, and Sam Huntington, Jr. The township was divided into 25 one mile lots. Lot 10, where Girard is located was in a prime location because the Mahoning River ran through it and State Road, which ran through it connecting Youngstown and Cleveland.

Hieronimus Eckman and his family settled the upper third of Lot 10 in 1802, The next year he petitioned to have an east-west road built between what became Girard and Hubbard. This is now Route 304, Churchill Road. The Eckmans were from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, a heavily German area. Others followed and settled in this area on the north side of Girard, so many that it became known as “Dutchtown.”

The southern third was settled by the Francis Carlton family and established the first school, a log cabin affair, on their land. They were an Irish family from western Pennsylvania. The middle section was owned by a succession of people winding up with Solomon Kline, after whom Kline Street was named

One of the other early families to settle in the area was the Henry Barnhisel family. The family eventually acquired 650 acres just north of Lot 10. The Union Church was the first church in the area and was built on land donated by the Barnhisels. In 1841 Barnhisel’s son built the Classic Revival mansion on State Street seen above.

Stephen_Girard_by_JR_Lambdin

Stephen Girard

Up until the 1830’s, the area was dominated by prosperous farms served by Andrew McCartney’s Grist Mill, powered by water from a dam across the river. Then plans developed for the Pennsylvania-Ohio Canal that would run from the Ohio River, up the Beaver and Mahoning Rivers and on to Akron. The reservoir above the dam made an ideal place to load and unload canal boats and this fact led to land speculation in which four men bought 42 acres of Solomon Kline’s land to form the town of Girard, likely named after Philadelphia philanthropist Stephen Girard, the richest man in America at the time of his death in 1831. One of the four was David Tod from Brier Hill, future industrialist and governor of Ohio.

The canal reached Girard in 1839. The dam was modified to a two levee dam with a canal lock at the east end. There was a basin north of the dam for loading and unloading barges and this both brought goods into Girard and enabled shipping of the local farm products. Taverns, a post office, a school and residences on the fifteen blocks of lots followed. By 1860, 500 people lived in Girard.

Girard mills

Girard Rolling Mills

The next thirty years was a time of industrial expansion. Fredrick Krehl established a tannery in 1860 that grew to eventually turn out 600 hides a week. The major growth was due to the iron and steel industry. All the needed raw materials were nearby. An influx of Welsh settlers engaged in much of the mining. In 1866, David Tod, Joseph Butler, William Richards, and William Ward built a mill that could turn out 20,000 tons a month. Nearby, also on the south side of the Mahoning, Henry, Myron, and John Wick built the Girard Rolling Mill in 1872. The Girard Stove Works were nearby and eventually became part of Youngstown Foundry and Machine, building coal cars and castings.

Lotze building

Lotze Building

All of this brought money and people into Girard. Fredrick Krehl built a mansion at State and West Broadway while Zenas Kline built a mansion on Churchill Road. The Girard Savings Bank and a newspaper sprang up and the Lotze Building on Liberty Street, which housed a number of stores and the Opera House on the second floor. Churches and new school buildings were erected. By 1890, the population surpassed 1,000 and in 1893 Girard was incorporated as a village with a mayor and city council. A descendant of the first settlers, Ambrose Eckman became mayor.

There is much more to tell of Girard’s story. One of the best accounts on which I drew extensively may be found at “Girard History” hosted by the Girard Free Library. The same factors that accounted for Youngstown’s early industrial development were factors with Girard–the Mahoning River, and nearby raw materials for steel making. The Tods, Wicks, and Butlers led the growth of these industries in both areas. Transportation both by canal and land, later augmented by rail brought goods into and out of both. I suspect some of this might have been a surprise to Hieronimus Eckman and Henry Barnhisel. But they had the foresight to recognize those transportation possibilities, good not only for the products of their farms, but far more.

Review: A Week in the Life of Ephesus

A week in the life of ephesus

A Week in the Life of Ephesus (A Week in the Life Series), David A. deSilva. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020.

Summary: A historical novel exploring the religious and cultural context of Ephesus during the reign of Domitian c. 90 AD.

The latest installment in the IVP Academic “A Day in the Life Series” acquaints us with the religious and cultural context during the reign of Domitian, around 90 AD. Like other books in the series, David deSilva uses a historical fiction approach centering around Amyntas, a prosperous Christian landowner in a context becoming increasingly hostile to Christians, who were considered atheists because they did not join in the worship of the pantheon of deities, from local deities to the cult of the Roman Emperor Domitian.

Amyntas hosts a gathering of Christians in his home. Some community leaders, who are also involved in the various religious cults, including that of the Emperor Domitian, for whom Ephesus has been designated a regional center, collude in a plot to trap Amyntas. They invite him to become a neopoios for the temple of Domitian. This is a kind of caretaker or trustee position, that on the face of it is an honor and would make him an insider. But it would either compromise him, or “out” him as a Christian, leading to his being ostracized, or worse. A close friend, and then his own son, are beaten up for their Christian beliefs.

A Christian friend from Pergamum suggests that he “go along to get along.” After all, “idols don’t really mean anything.” The contacts he would make, and the influence he would wield, could help the Christians. People from his house church disagree, and even ask Amyntas’ friend to leave. Amyntas struggles to decide. It becomes more complicated when a letter arrives from the John, in exile on the isle of Patmos.

Through the narrative and sidebars, we learn about the pantheon of gods, and emperor worship, and how Christians worshiped. An underlying theme is the power of imperial Rome and how that power was projected through the imperial cult, and how imperial Rome was a drain on the rest of the empire. Although set two millenia ago, the narrative raises questions about what Christian faithfulness looks like in relation to the competing claims of empire. We are forced to consider what we would do, or perhaps are doing, when faced with the conflicting claims to allegiance of empire, and the kingdom of God. David deSilva portrays the subtle guise in which the temptation may come, the allure of the inner ring, the justifications one may use, and the real consequences of Christian faithfulness many through the ages have faced.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Higher Education Books I Would Re-Read

red building with clock tower

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I work in collegiate ministry, particularly relating to grad students, faculty and administrators. That has resulted in a passion to understand the place where I and these people work. What is the history of these institutions? Why do they exist and toward what end? How do they work? And as a Christian engaged in ministry in this setting, what does religious faith have to do with the enterprise of higher education. Here are some of the books I’ve found most helpful that I turn to again and again.

Michael Bérubé, What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts. One of the early defenses of the classic idea of the liberal arts in the face of increasing questions about both their usefulness, and attacks on political correctness. He addresses “liberal bias” and discusses what’s right about the liberal arts.

Robert Boyers, The Tyranny of Virtue. A more recent book also holding up the classic view of the liberal arts against the virtue signalling, cancel culture becoming more prominent in university life. This book addresses what’s wrong with the liberal arts and why the death of these programs is at least in part, self-inflicted.

Andrew Delbanco, College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be. This is a concisely present history of universities, an overview of what they are today, and Delbanco’s idea of what they should be as places that educate for citizenship and prepare people for useful work and a life of meaning.

Donna Freitas, Sex and the Soul. Since 2008 when this book came out, Donna Freitas has been writing about campus sexuality, and the connection between sexuality and spirituality. In this book she studied four kinds of campuses including conservative evangelical campuses and how religious beliefs shaped sexual ethics and practices of students.

Charles Homer Haskins, The Rise of the Universities. I read this in college, and it is a good basic account of the rise of colleges out the cathedral schools of Europe.

Anthony T. Kronmen, Education’s End. The title is something of a play on words, dealing both with the purpose and the demise of higher education. Kronmen provocatively questions why universities have given up on the big questions, like the meaning of life.

George M. Marsden, The Soul of the American University. More than just a study of the history of the American university, he looks at how the place of religious faith shifted from the center to the margins as universities moved from church-centered schools to public and pluralistic research universities.

Paul H. Mattingly, American Academic Cultures. Covers similar ground to Marsden but looks at the history as one of seven overlapping academic cultures, featuring a prominent campus example of each.

John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University. A classic, from his lectures as Rector of the University of Ireland, in which he discusses the unity of knowledge, the relation of faith to free inquiry, and the relationship between the church and the academy.

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Educating for Shalom. A collection of essays relating faith and the educational enterprise where the author’s concerns for shalom, justice, academic freedom, and how a Christian world and life view works itself out in various academic disciplines.

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Religion in the University. Unlike the earlier book, written in the context of a Christian college, this work was written during the author’s tenure at Yale. He makes a compelling argument for the rightful place of religious voices in academic discourse.

As with other installments in this”books I would re-read” series, these are not the only books worthy of such a list. There are others on my shelves I haven’t read once that probably should be here. Universities are vitally important cultural institutions, both in educating the next generation and in conducting cutting edge research to enhance in various ways our flourishing as human beings. These are some of the books that have helped me understand that world.

 

 

How Now Shall I Live?

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Sunset over Western Hills. Bob Trube, 2020

I’ve gone through a range of feelings as the pandemic has moved into a new spike in infections in Ohio and elsewhere. From conversations with friends, it seems like all of us are going through similar fluctuations. I share about my own journey not to say how others should respond, because your situation is not mine.

I find myself really frustrated with reports of coronavirus parties and others engaging in high risk activities voluntarily and then getting sick. You know the feeling when a couple kids who were acting up and keeping the rest of the class from going out for recess?

I struggle with feelings of futility. I’m enough of a data geek to see that our state’s infection trends are following those of states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California. I’ve tried to warn others. Our governor has said the same thing. It feels to me that all this falls on deaf ears.

I grieve for many businesses who have tried to do the right things but with rising infections are going to take a hit whether or not there are stay-at-home orders.

I sense the desperation in all the social media posts that tout treatments and cures and vaccine progress. We are desperate for things to go back to the way they were.

I’m saddened by what seems to me magical thinking that for months has been saying this will go away. It will go away when it does. Likewise for those who are saying it really isn’t so bad, or they don’t need a vaccine. It seems to me a “choose your own reality” effort, and I hope this doesn’t result in a serious infection or super-spreading event.

I’m dismayed by all the self-appointed experts who think they know more than people who have dedicated their lives to studying epidemiology and public health to prepare for pandemics like the one we are facing. I watched our own state health director driven to resign her office after vicious, racist statements, attacks on her character, and threats on her and her family’s lives. I was especially angered because she came from my home town, overcoming an incredibly rough childhood.

I marvel at the inconsistency of many companies preferring to have their staff work at home while we seem determined to send children to school. At the same time, I am saddened by spouses (often women) resigning jobs to oversee at-home education. I realize there are no easy answers for all this, which frustrates me as well.

I could go on, but you get the idea…probably because you’ve been there, or are there.

All this was swirling around in my mind recently when I went for an evening walk. I’ve done this often to clear my head after a day’s work, and the news of the day. My thoughts turned to Matthew 6: 25-27:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

It reminded me that my fretting about all these things, real though it was, was needless. I was fretting about things largely out of my control. I needed to acknowledge it, and let it go. My worrying was very unlikely to change anything. It wouldn’t add to my life. It wouldn’t change others. God alone can do that.

It reminded me to live in the moment of God’s care. I was breathing, walking, taking in a gorgeous sunset. We’ve made it through four months of basically shelter at home. I’m blessed to share it with my wife of 42 years. We’ve enjoyed socially distanced visits with family and friends outdoors. We’ve gone out painting together. I have meaningful work I can do at home. I’ve enjoyed so many good books, and written about them. We’ve done drive-by birthday celebrations and stayed connected with church, choral, and artist friends on Zoom. There is so much good for which I’m grateful, and life is better when I remember this and live there.

I don’t know how many more months of this we have to go through. I am realizing this one is out of my control. I’m probably better for realizing that what others do, intelligent or irrational, is also out of my control. Perhaps the only thing I can do is extend a kind word and listening ear when this whole thing is getting someone else down, and to enjoy with others what is still good in this life, in this day. Given that we are in an “at risk” population by age, we will continue to choose low risk activities, social distance and wear masks, while continuing to learn to be creative with those. It’s really OK. Each day has its riches–a conversation, times when a painting actually works, a passage in a book, flowers in the garden, a sunset, a cloud formation, or even working up a sweat pruning trees and weeding flower beds. Perhaps I still have much to learn from the birds.

Review: Answering the Call

Answering the Call

Answering the CallNathaniel R. Jones. New York: The New Press, 2016.

Summary: The memoir of Judge Nathaniel Jones, from his early civil rights efforts to his work as general counsel of the NAACP, and then service as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

In 1909, sixty black and white citizens who were fighting for the civil rights of blacks issued “The Call” for others to join the long struggle for civil rights. This led to the formation of the NAACP. One of those who responded to The Call was a black attorney and publisher in Youngstown, Ohio by the name of J. Maynard Dickerson, who eventually served as a Youngstown city prosecutor in 1943 and served as an early organizer of the NAACP’s efforts in Youngstown. Eventually, he employed Lillian Jones, the wife (eventually divorced) of a black mill worker. Her son Nathaniel began writing sports columns for Dickerson’s paper, The Buckeye Review, and Dickerson took an interest in then boy, from insisting on precision of writing and speech, to how he dressed and comported himself. He took him along with him as various national NAACP leaders spoke in Youngstown.

This book is a memoir of that boy, Nathaniel R. Jones who went from early efforts to protest a local segregated roller skating arena, and a local restaurant, to work his way through law school. He came to the attention of Robert F. Kennedy in 1961 and was named an Assistant U.S. Attorney. In 1963, he was named Assistant General Counsel to the President on President Johnson’s Kerner Commission on Civil Disorders. His understanding of the root causes of racial unrest ultimately led to his being named general counsel for the NAACP, coordinating legal cases challenging school segregation in the north, segregation in the military, and notably, securing the pardon of one of the wrongly accused Scottsboro Boys, the last living survivor. Fulfilling a promise to name black judges to the Federal bench, President Jimmy Carter nominated Jones for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, seated in Cincinnati. Retiring from the bench in 2002, he played an important role in the establishment of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, and an outspoken advocate for preserving the legal freedoms he and his predecessors in the NAACP fought so hard to secure.

This last is a major theme of the book. Influenced by his mentor, Jones recognized the critical importance of securing legal decisions to enforce the provisions of the Constitution and civil rights laws. He contends that laws are not enough. Nor are protests enough. He takes us through the careful, meticulous legal research and strategies employed by the NAACP resulting in landmark major decisions desegregating schools, upholding voting rights, and employment law. On the bench, he sought to educate his fellow justices of the experience of blacks in society, and the challenges black attorneys faced in the legal community. He also makes stinging remarks regarding the jurisprudence of Justice Clarence Thomas, which opposed many previous rulings and supported a reversion to “states rights” that upheld a separate but equal doctrine. The book concludes on a hopeful note during the presidency of Barack Obama, albeit one calling for unrelenting legal vigilance to prevent the erosion of civil rights so hard won.

A lesser theme, but one running through the book was the power of a mentor. Toward the end of the book, he recounts his relationship with a high school student:

I invited Raymon to accompany me to the University of Dayton Law School’s hooding ceremony, where I was to deliver the commencement speech. When I picked him up for the event, he emerged handsomely dressed in a new suit, with a tie in hand. He said, Judge, would you help me with my tie? I don’t know how.” I readily agreed and there on the street corner moved behind him in order to begin the process. As I began to perfect the knot, my mind went back over fifty years to the moment when Dickerson, this distinguished lawyer, performed the same act for me, a teenager.”

Judge Jones died this year at the age of 93. A Federal courthouse in Youngstown bears his name. He lived a life of unrelenting pursuit of The Call, fulfilling the promise his mentor saw in him. The memoir reflects the careful writing of a lawyer and a deeply abiding passion for justice. Through this work, his life can continue to be a model of the persisting, relentless pursuit of justice accomplished not through louder voices but better arguments. It is a story that can speak to anyone black or white who cares about a more just society, as did the collection of sixty black and white leaders who first issued The Call.

 

 

Review: Approaching the Atonement

Approaching the Atonement

Approaching the AtonementOliver D. Crisp. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020.

Summary: A study of different models of the atonement, explaining and critiquing each model, focusing on the “mechanism” of atonement, the issue of violence, and the author’s own preferred approach.

The atonement. This is the idea that Christ’s died for our sin and thus made possible reconciliation with God. The question that has arisen throughout Christian history is how Christ’s death accomplishes that reconciling work. What is the “mechanism” of atonement? What are the different models that have been held through history and how do they differ? How to we reconcile the presence or even necessity of violence in these models with a loving God? Are there ways that the models compatible that might point to a greater whole?

This slim volume offers a survey of different models of the atonement formulated throughout history, clear explanations of each, critiques and possible responses of each, and how these models might be relate to each other. He begins with patristic accounts of the atonement, those of Irenaeus and Athanasius. He then turns to the ransom or Christus Victor accounts, Anselm’s satisfaction account, moral exemplarism proposed through history from Abelard to John Hick, versions of the penal substitutionary, governmental and vicarious penitence doctrines, approaches that may be described as “mash-ups” or “kaleidoscopic.” Amid the discussion, the author takes a chapter to discuss the problem of atoning violence implicit in several of these models. He concludes with a recent proposal, the union or participation proposal that he favors.

Several aspects of this book make it an ideal introduction to discussions on the atonement. One is the conciseness and clarity of Crisp’s explanation of each model, including distinguishing between variants on a model, like versions of penal substitution that focus alternatively on the substitute taking punishment in place of the guilty versus taking on the penal consequences of sin, but not the actual punishment. He also offers helpful discussions of atoning violence, including an emphasis that the atonement was accomplished by the Triune God, not setting Father against Son in ways that separate the unity of the three-personed God. He also explores the double effect response and the distinction between atonement proper, and crucifixion, which are often conflated.

He uses memorable images in his discussion, such as the idea of “one theory to rule them all,” most often in reference to penal substitution, referencing a classic article by recently deceased J.I. Packer that also serves as an example of a “mashup” approach that recognize various models as aspects or facets of the atonement. His discussion of moral exemplarism is an example, where in critique he observes the lack of a mechanism of atonement, raising the question of the necessity of Christ’s death, but also observes that exemplarism is an element, or implication of most models. Likewise, older models, such as the early models of Athanasius, and the satisfaction of approach of Anselm, are treated as far more formidable and important than often credited in modern treatments. His concluding treatment of union or participatory approaches most associated with Michael J. Gorman, suggest this may be a way forward, both drawing upon other models and drawing heavily on the biblical material of the corporate aspects of fallen and redeemed humanity as significant to the mechanism of atonement.

What marks this work is its even-handed discussion of the various models, focusing both on strengths and criticisms for each, understanding each in the context they were first framed. Contrary to the “rhetorical flourish” approach that many who respond to critiques of atoning violence, he shows how these are often question begging and tries to approach this in a way that takes the issue seriously. Each chapter provides a bibliography, and the book concludes with a more extensive bibliography of the literature. Crisp offers a scholarly introduction to contemporary discussions of the atonement that serves as a syllabus for more in depth study on this central doctrine of Christian faith.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr.

Nehemiah Hubbard Jr.

Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr.

My aunt’s sister Winifred used to live on the outskirts of Hubbard. We would visit occasionally, usually when my uncle came up from Texas. We would drive up Wick Ave to Logan Avenue, and then turn onto Youngstown-Hubbard Road (Route 62), crossing Crab Creek. All of a sudden, it seemed we were out in the country, with the glow of the mills behind us. Winifred lived in a home on a large lot on the east side of Youngstown-Hubbard Road. That is the extent of my memories of Hubbard.

Like so many places in the Mahoning Valley, Hubbard is named after one of the land speculators who purchased land in the Connecticut Western Reserve. Like many, he never moved to Ohio. Hubbard is named after Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr. of Middletown, Connecticut. He was born on April 10, 1752 as the third of thirteen children of Nehemiah and Sarah Hubbard. From the age of 14 to 21, he clerked in Samuel Talcott’s store and then went to sea in the West Indies, eventually becoming a captain and later, a merchant. In 1776, Governor Jonathan Trumbull Sr. appointed Hubbard as paymaster to Colonel Charles Burrall’s regiment. He advanced to deputy quartermaster for the State of Connecticut. In 1780 served with contractors supplying the French at Yorktown. He was on hand when General Cornwallis surrendered, ending the war.

After the war, he returned to Middletown, becoming a successful merchant, and eventually the president of Middletown Bank, and later the Savings Bank. He became one of the original founders of the Connecticut Land Company. He acquired 15,274 acres, which formed Range 1, Township 3 of the Western Reserve (nominally these were 16,000 acres but varied because of surveying errors). He also acquired land in Ashtabula and elsewhere, owning roughly 58,000 acres.

Hubbard sold the first parcel of land to Samuel Tylee, who acted as Hubbard’s agent in selling plots of two hundred acres (sometimes subdivided) in Hubbard Township, and moved his family from Middletown, Connecticut to Ohio. The township itself remained small until coal fields in the Mahoning Valley opened up in the 1850’s and 1860’s. This attracted settlers from Europe and in 1861 Hubbard became a village, and in 1868 it became a statutorily incorporated municipality.

While Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr. never moved to Ohio, his nephew, William Hubbard moved to Ashtabula in 1834, three year’s before Nehemiah’s death, serving as his agent to sell the remainder of his lands. William Hubbard was known for his abolitionist efforts, joining his brothers Matthew and Henry who had previously settled in the area and who were also engaged in anti-slavery efforts. He was active in the Underground Railroad, at one time sheltering 39 fugitive slaves. His house in Ashtabula, at one point facing demolition, has been restored as the Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum.

Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr. died February 6, 1837. He has been described as “tall and commanding. He was a man of unbending integrity, of quick and discriminating judgment, and of a noble, frank deportment.” In other places he has been described as energetic. He was a pillar of his community, a Revolutionary War veteran, a founder of the Connecticut Land Company and part of a family that not only gave Hubbard its name but had influence throughout the Western Reserve, particularly in anti-slavery efforts.