To change the world
October 4, 2010
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
<![CDATA[A book which deserves a much longer review is James Davidson Hunter’s To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Later Modern World. As I say, I cannot possibly do this book justice in these few words, other than to say that if you are interested in the problem of cultural change in our day you really should read it. I don’t agree with everything that Hunter says. For instance, it is frustrating that Hunter (so sure footed elsewhere) makes if not monumental gaffes in historical summary, at least takes a particular side in the historical debate about particular events without seeming to realise that the side he is taking is far from non-controversial. He seems to regard it as an open and shut case that Luther was at least partly responsible for the German genocide of the Jews, and that Calvin was entirely responsible for the judicial execution of Servetus on religious grounds. As a historian (admittedly my period being a century or so later among the Puritans and the early Evangelical Awakening), those two statements are debatable and not to be taken at face value. That frustrates me, because to some extent it undoes a lot of the good work that Hunter does, of significant service to the church. Talking of the Puritans, you would also think that a brief survey of Protestantism would mention them quite a bit, especially writing as an American. These frustrations aside, Hunter’s thesis is engaging. He argues, at some length, that American Christians should not be attempting to change the world through judicial process and political hurly burly. He says that such attempts inevitably lead to the ‘instrumentalisation’ of those involved, that Christians seem to take on ‘Nietzschean’ tactics and so become the very thing they wanted to change. Instead, Hunter says, we should be aiming to be a ‘faithful presence’. We are na•ve to think that cultures can be changed ‘in a generation’ through taking over the schooling system, in particular. In fact, evangelical influence in America is strong where real cultural power is weak, and cultural change happens slowly and is effected through the influence of small cabals of highly powerful and influential people — the media, the politics, elite academia — so that hoi polloi Christians really shouldn’t think that if they are not a part of that group they have much hope of changing anything. Read more at the Evangelical Now website.]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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