When it comes to Christianity's interface with culture, Christians usually fall into two camps; those who embrace the culture without impressing the reality of Christ onto it and those who avoid culture, sometimes to the point of denying its power. But when Christians affect the culture for the cause of Christ true societal change can occur. John Stackhouse, Jr., by examining the contributions to both society and the Church made by C.S. Lewis, Reinhold Niebuhr and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, illustrates what can be done when both the sacred and the secular inform each other on non-foundational levels.
What should be the Christian's attitude toward society? When so much of our contemporary culture is at odds with Christian beliefs and mores, it may seem that serious Christians now have only two choices: transform society completely according to Christian values or retreat into the cloister of sectarian fellowship.
In Making the Best of It, John Stackhouse explores the history of the Christian encounter with society, the biblical record, and various theological models of cultural engagement to offer a more balanced and fruitful alternative to these extremes. He argues that, rather than trying to root up the weeds in the cultural field, or trying to shun them, Christians should practice persistence in gardening God's world and building toward the New Jerusalem. Examining the lives and works of C. S. Lewis, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer for example and direction, Stackhouse suggests that our mission is to make the most of life in the world in cooperation with God's own mission of redeeming the world he loves. This model takes seriously the pattern of God's activity in the Bible, and in subsequent history, of working through earthly means--through individuals, communities, and institutions that are deeply flawed but nonetheless capable of accomplishing God's purposes. Christians must find a way to live in this world and at the same time do work that honors God and God's plan for us.
In an era of increasing religious and cultural tensions, both internationally and domestically, the model that Stackhouse develops discourages the "all or nothing" attitudes that afflict so much of contemporary Christianity. Instead, he offers a fresh, and refreshingly nuanced, take on the question of what it means to be a Christian in the world today.
John G. Stackhouse, Jr. is Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in New Brunswick, Canada. He is the author of Can God Be Trusted? Faith and the Challenge of Evil (OUP 1998), Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today (OUP 2002), Church: An Insider's Look at How We Do It, and Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender. He lives in Vancouver, B.C.
"If you are satisfied neither with the program of a whole-scale transformation of the world nor with the project of building alternative enclaves in the world, this is the book for you. With compelling arguments, clear prose, and much erudition John Stackhouse points to a third and better way of following Christ in the real world. A must-read for those who are concerned with the role of faith in contemporary societies." --Miroslav Volf, Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale University Divinity School
"John Stackhouse addresses the big ideas about God and human beings and the world, but he does it not only with careful attention to the nuances and scholarly details, but with a focus on the practical challenges of living 'for Jesus Christ, today.' This is a wonderful gift to all of us who care deeply about thoughtful discipleship." --Richard J. Mouw, President and Professor of Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary
"John Stackhouse brings realism and theological integrity to evangelical social ethics. Making the Best of It
combines prophetic criticism with an eye for real opportunities to live God's mission in today's world. Reflection on four great Christian thinkers of the past century provides a breadth of vision from which Stackhouse draws principles that make sense of today's opportunities. The result is global and local, timeless and contemporary, faithful and effective." --Robin W. Lovin, Cary Maguire University Professor of Ethics, Southern Methodist University
"This is an evangelical guide for the perplexed coming from a first-rate theological intelligence. It is coherent in its overall argument, brilliant and acute in its discriminations, simultaneously bracing and relaxing. With uncommon commonsense it shows how a Christian might engage with the shifting complexities of culture and politics, while faithfully interrogating the whole Bible rather than one's own favorite anthology of quotations." --David Martin, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, London School of Economics
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