A few billion years ago—according to one widely accepted Creation scenario—there was a Big Bang: creation ex nihilo, as the Church fathers described it. (For an excellent account of why that doctrine matters, see Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration, by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, published recently by Baker Academic. It offers a helpful corrective to some misconceptions in Simon Singh's Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe, just out from Fourth Estate.)

Somehow that primeval beginning leads to my little corner of spacetime, where books appear like newborn matter, forming galaxies, occasionally exploding or imploding. Who can count the stars in the heavens—or the books in my office?

Impossible, then, to take note of the significant books from the year just past. But here are a few, in addition to the favorites mentioned last week, that caught my eye.

As usual, B&C's regulars did their share, and there isn't room to list all the books they contributed to 2004's total. With apologies to the many not acknowledged here, let me mention two books that appeared late in the year. Joseph Loconte's The End of Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler's Gathering Storm (Rowman & Littlefield) juxtaposes pieces by influential thinkers opposing U.S. participation in the war with pieces arguing for the moral imperative to resist Nazism by force. Most of the writers on both sides speak from an explicitly Christian perspective. Loconte contributes an introductory essay relating this debate from the 1940s to our current preoccupations.

I'm not a Calvinist, as some of you may have gathered by now, but I have many friends who are, and I have learned a great deal from them ...

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