[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”B01HHDTNZU” locale=”US” src=”https://englewoodreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/41UAqRHzw0L.jpg” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”222″]One of this fall’s best theology books is:
How Fixing the World
is Killing the Church
By John Nugent
Paperback: Cascade Books, 2016.
Buy now: [ [easyazon_link identifier=”149829166X” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] [ [easyazon_link identifier=”B01HHDTNZU” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]
This is a provocative book that asks vital questions about how the church should live in the world, and how we bear witness to the good news of Jesus.
Watch an introductory video
and read an excerpt of the book:
*** ALSO, we are planning to do a month-long read-a-long discussion of this book in November, so get a copy and start reading now!
(Used with Permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers)
Christians have long acknowledged that this world is broken. To us this is old news. Sin has been wreaking havoc on this world since the garden of Eden. What is new is how eager Christians are to do something about it. In the past, we’ve wanted to save people from this broken world. Nowadays, we want to fix it. We want to end war, purify water, feed the poor, and eradicate all forms of discrimination. We don’t just want to talk about it; we want to do something and make a difference.
This Christian desire to “do something” goes way back. Second- century Christians did something by rescuing abandoned babies from Roman gutters. Medieval men and women took vows of poverty and chastity to better serve the poor. Fearless Christians harbored Jews who were fleeing from Hitler’s soldiers.
Since the early twentieth century, liberal Christians have been working hard to make this world a better place. Meanwhile, evangelical believers debated whether the church should pursue social justice or just stick to saving souls. That debate is mostly over: God cares about both, and so should we.
I agree that Christians should do something. God has indeed called his people to do something. But I wonder, has God really called us to fix the world? Is this what Jesus meant by calling us salt and light? Are we even capable of fixing this world? Is it something that God has empowered us to do?
Let me be as straightforward and clear as possible: it’s not the church’s job to make this world a better place.
Don’t get me wrong. I, too, want this world to be better. I want it as much as anyone else. I hope my three daughters and future grandchildren grow up in the best possible world. Yet my desire—however strong and pure it may be—does not trump God’s word. Were we to do what it takes to make this world better, we may ultimately fail to do the very thing God has called us to do in Scripture.
I know this doesn’t sound very responsible. What is worse, it sounds downright lazy or apathetic. It conjures up hackneyed images of pious people leaning back in their easy chairs or clasping hands in holy huddles singing pious platitudes while this world goes to hell in a handbasket.
There are people who think that withdrawing—that letting go and letting God—is the way Christians should act. I’m not one of those people. What God has actually called his people to do is far more demanding of our time, energy, and resources than most card-carrying agents of world betterment dare to imagine. It’s also far more in line with this world’s best interests. This book is not about retreating from the world, but engaging the world in the best possible way—the way that only we can.
The church has approached the concept of a better place in many different ways. It is helpful to identify those ways and to discuss their similarities and differences. I have classified them into four types: heaven centered, human centered, world centered, and kingdom centered. In this chapter I discuss the first three types, each of which falls short for various reasons. In chapter 3, I introduce the kingdom-centered type. The remainder of the book is dedicated to making the case for and exploring the implications of this fourth type.
( 40 page PDF )
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior
Enter your email below to sign up for our weekly newsletter & download your FREE copy of this ebook!