I recently received Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. If you are not familiar with Moore he is the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. Onward is a profoundly deep and engaging look at American Christianity, some of its problematic preconceived notions, and a very encouraging way forward.
In this book Moore makes an argument for the Church to engage our culture while maintaining the Gospel of Christ. In our efforts to make our amends with the culture of modernity we have set Christ aside and elevated high moralism and perfectionism as the substance of our Christian faith. The end result is a religion that ostracises the culture for not living up to its moral expectations and pays a little more than lip service to Christ.
Moore suggests a better way of going, “Our call is to an engage alienation, a Christianity that preserves the distinctiveness of our gospel while not retreating from our callings as neighbors, and friends, and citizens”. The miscalculation of the church during modernity was that it naively thought if it toned down the Gospel it could present Christianity as a religion of values something that everyone can buy into, right? Wrong, there is a whole society that views values as Victorian moralism of a bygone age, leaving our churches with no attendees and no Gospel.
This is why Moore says, “We must learn to be strange enough to have a prophetic voice, but connected enough to prophesy to those who need to hear. We need to be those who know both how to warn and to welcome, to weep and to dream.” Rather than tone down the Gospel we should be doing as Paul says and holding it up. This is what Christianity is about. I also appreciate his line about being strange. At times it feels like we want to show the world how much we are like them. Moore tells us to accept the strange. Moore goes on to say “Let’s not aspire to be a moral majority but a gospel community, one that doesn’t exist for itself but for the larger mission of reaching the whole world with the whole Gospel.”
This review has gone longer than I wanted so i’ll abruptly end here. I highly recommend Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel for the laity all the way up to Church leaders.
Rating 5 out of 5.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”