I enjoyed reading an advanced copy of Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. The book begins with a few chapters summarizing the increasing secularization in the United States (and even in the Bible belt itself), as evangelicals have shifted “from moral majority to prophetic minority.” Moore then explains how the already, not-yet nature of the kingdom of God means that our priority, as individual Christians and as churches, should be the reconciliation of sinners to God not the subjugation of those who (sometimes vehemently) disagree with us. The next chapter does a great job explaining how the culture war, in a sense, is nothing new: Going all the way back to the days of Jesus, true Christianity has always been strange and freakish relative to the wider culture. Moore writes:
The church is not to be walled up from the broader culture but to speak to it (2 Pet. 2:12), but that can only happen if, as sojourners and exiles, we have something distinctive to say (2 Pet. 2:11). We are called to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness,” but we can only do so if we remember that we are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (2 Pet. 2:9).
As the church, we’re to bear witness “to what the whole universe will one day look like.”
The latter chapters address how Christians should think address some of the pressing issues of our day–human dignity, religious liberty, and family stability–not with an “us-versus-them” mindset but from a disposition of “convictional kindness,” seeking to be faithful to the truth and winsome to the lost. A few parts I underlined:
With regard to boycotts, “Let others fight Mammon with Mammon. Let’s instead offer a word of faithful witness that doesn’t blink before power, but doesn’t seek to imitate it either.”
On Jesus telling us to expect being called mean, bigoted, and evil (Matt. 10:24-25). “The issue is whether we actually are mean or evil. That’s what we can control.” The point is we don’t engage the world in the ways of the world. We’re distinctive in what we believe and in how we present ourselves. “We must appeal to the depths of accused consciences that already know God, but shrink back from him in fear.”
For any Christian who wants to engage the culture without distorting the gospel, there is much to commend in this excellent book.