Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Should Christians Try to “Change the World”? A Controversial Sociologist and Theology Professor Believes It May Be A Misdirected Effort

I enjoy reading “controversial” or “edgy” books that want you to stretch your thinking. I’ve found another one in To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davisson Hunter.

This professor of Religion, Culture and Social Theory at the U. of Virginia has taken on the views of some heavyweights in the Christian world like Chuck Colson, Jim Dobson and Jim Wallis with his persuasive – and provocative – observations.

His 1991 book, Culture Wars, in which he described the dramatic realignment and polarization that has transformed American politics and culture, laid the groundwork for his current writing efforts.

Christopher Benson, a book reviewer for Christianity Today, said the following in his comments about Hunter’s latest book:

“Faithful presence (Hunter’s coined term) is not about changing culture, let alone the world, but instead emphasizes cooperation between individuals and institutions in order to make disciples and serve the common good. ‘If there are benevolent consequences of our engagement with the world,’ Hunter writes, ‘it is precisely because it is not rooted in a desire to change the world for the better but rather because it is an expression of a desire to honor the creator of all goodness, beauty, and truth, a manifestation of our loving obedience to God, and a fulfillment of God's command to love our neighbor.’"

Interestingly, this is not, at first look, at odds with our Lutheran concept of “living out God's grace in the world.” Stay tuned. More coming when I finish the book.

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