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 ...
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.
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I was looking forward to reading this book as it promises a mediation between the two mainstream view of Christian ethics prominent today: withdrawal and uncritical involvement in the culture. Following H. Richard Niebuhr, Stackhouse prefers a Christ and Culture in paradox paradigm, using Bonhoeffer, C.S. Lewis and Reinhold Niebuhr as his main exemplars. But while Stackhouses summaries of their works were useful I'm not convinced that his proposals are that groundbreaking. The book was one of two-halves with the theologians through not really drawn on for the constructive part. That said there are some sharp points of critique of Hauerwas and others that glisten occasionally throughout the text.
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