Renaissance People: From Lives That Shaped the Modern Age
Robert C. Davis and Beth Lindsmith (Getty Publications)

In Christian intellectual circles, cartoonish notions of "modernity" abound, given credence by people who should know better and disseminated to pastors, youth leaders, and assorted pundits. Not the least of the charms of Renaissance People, a gorgeously produced volume, is its resistance to being squeezed into such half-baked homilies, wherein "modernity" is all of a piece and the root of (most) evil. The book profiles 94 individuals, covering an enormous range. A sovereign remedy for postemergent headache and distress.

Enlightened Evangelicalism: The Life and Thought of John Erskine
Jonathan M. Yeager (Oxford University Press)

As with modernity, so with "the Enlightenment project": much handwringing. Meanwhile, as if in a parallel universe, scholars are exploring the relationships (multiple, contested) between evangelicalism and the Enlightenment (or Enlightenments). A case in point is Jonathan Yeager's Enlightened Evangelicalism, which begins with a quotation from Sir Walter Scott. Focusing on John Erskine (1721-1803), a prominent Scottish evangelical preacher and theologian, Yeager tells a story with wide resonance.

The Making of the English Gardener: Plants, Books and Inspiration, 1560-1660
Margaret Willes (Yale University Press)

If, in winter's icy grip, you like to think ahead about the garden, Margaret Willes will be a boon companion, and you will delight in this "book about people, their gardens, their plants, and the books they used to find about botany, horticulture, and design." Every garden, however modest, looks back to the bliss of the first garden and bears the promise of paradise.

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Renaissance People, Enlightened Evangelicalism, and The Making of the English Gardener are available from and other retailers.

John Wilson is editor of Books & Culture, a Christianity Today sister publication.

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