To Change the World: Essay 2, Reflection

[This series of posts won’t be a traditional book review. Rather, I’ll summarize parts of To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter, and then I’ll add my own thoughts. I may criticize the book here and there, but I don’t have much to criticize.]

Reflecting on his second esssay is an overwhelming task. There’s so much to say I can hardly say anything. Let’s see …

Now, I had already reached many of the same conclusions as Hunter regarding the Christian Right and the Christian Left. But he was ahead of me on the neo-Anabaptists. I hadn’t bought their whole agenda, but had not thought through it nearly as well as Hunter.

I do agree with much that they say (as does Hunter), but Hunter has persuaded me that their theology is missing some key elements. Continue reading

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To Change the World: A Reader’s Comment

I get emails —

I assume when you say “show me a Christian college that …”, you’re referring to CofC Christian colleges. There is no more cutting edge university in music than Belmont; Wheaton is pretty darn good in liberal arts and philosophy; Furman does cutting edge biology research; and even Pepperdine (CofC) has quite a movie making background. And Baylor is pretty good in all of the above, plus it has very fine grad programs. And don’t forget other pretty good schools, like St. Olaf, Calvin and Trinity.

But if you’re talking about CofC Christian colleges, I wholeheartedly agree – that with minor exceptions (e.g., Pepperdine and movies), “[w]e’re all about trade schools and not about the study of God’s creation.”

I think a bigger issue I’ve never heard you touch on in all the culture war stuff has to do with evangelical Christianity’s small Jesus. So small that we have to put him in a cage to “protect” him from the secularists. Isn’t this mostly what the so-called culture war is about? Continue reading

To Change the World: Essay 2, Summary, Part 2

[This series of posts won’t be a traditional book review. Rather, I’ll summarize parts of To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter, and then I’ll add my own thoughts. I may criticize the book here and there, but I don’t have much to criticize.]

In response to the Christian Left and Right, there has arisen a neo-Anabaptist movement, led by such theologians as Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder.

It provides a credible, even compelling, script for those who find the account offered by Christian conservatives distasteful if not dangerous and the narratives offered by Christian progressives unconvincing and irrelevant. …

[The Christian Left] is committed to a strong State and is willing to press it to realize its agenda in law and policy, while [the neo-Anabaptist movement] keeps its distance from the State, maintaining a basic distrust toward its structure, action, and use of power. Continue reading

To Change the World: Essay 2, Summary, Part 1

[This series of posts won’t be a traditional book review. Rather, I’ll summarize parts of To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter, and then I’ll add my own thoughts. I may criticize the book here and there, but I don’t have much to criticize.]

Essay 2 is “Rethinking Power.” Here Hunter criticizes the methods of the modern American church to change contemporary culture on scriptural grounds.

Yet as Christians seek to fulfill the creation mandate, perhaps the central factor determining the effectiveness and the outcome of their engagement with the world is the dynamic of power. When faith and its culture flourish, they do so, in part, because it operates with an implicit view of power in its proper place. When faith and its cultures deteriorate, they do so, in part, because it operates with a view of power that is corrupt.

Continue reading

To Change the World: Essay 1, Reflections

It’s important to begin by noting that the essay summarized in the preceding post of this series is the first of three essays in To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Hunter. Hunter hasn’t yet really made his point. Rather, this essay is more of what a mathematician would call a lemma, that is, something you prove as a stepping stone toward what you really want to prove.

And yet, this is a hugely important essay. Hunter argues based on principles of sociology that the American church is working diligently to fight a culture war that it’s destined to lose because it’s using the wrong strategy. The argument offered in Essay 1 is that this is not how culture changes. In essay 3, he’ll explain how he believes the scriptures teach we should engage the culture — and, of course, the church must adopt its tactics based on the scriptures and not mere pragmatism. Continue reading

To Change the World: Essay 1, Summary

This series of posts won’t be a traditional book review. Rather, I’ll summarize parts of To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter, and then I’ll add my own thoughts. I may criticize the book here and there, but I don’t have much to criticize.

The book is in three essays. The first essay is called, “Christianity and World-Changing.” In chapter 1, he declares, Continue reading

To Change the World, by James Davison Hunter: Introduction

This is the the book that changes everything. At last, we have a solid, intellectually sound understanding of where the church goes from here.

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World challenges assumption after assumption, leaving the Dobsons, Wallises, and even the McLarens and the Hauerwases behind, urging a return to genuine Christianity, a kind of Christianity that we’ve very nearly forgotten how to live. I mean, this is a big, big deal. Required reading for all church leaders.

Now, it’s not written at a popular level. Hunter likes to use words like “dialectical” and, as a result, this is not an easy read. But that’s no criticism. The transformation of the church has to begin with a sound theology and philosophy, and so it’s only right that such a book be written in such intellectual terms. There will be books yet to come that popularize the ideas and help re-write the DNA of American Christianity. (Be in prayer that this happens!) Continue reading