42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2008
Rarely do I pick up a non-fiction book and cannot put it down. Yet, when I picked up Al Mohler's new book, Culture Shift, I could not put it down until I was done reading it. Granted, the book is really a brief introduction to Christianity's influence on practical cultural issues (only 160 pages) but it was not the low amount of pages that made it a must-read, it was rather the content that was life changing for me.
Mohler, one of the greatest minds in the Evangelical church today, is President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY. And while this may be his first book, it is hardly his first foray into writing. Amongst a plethora of articles and chapters for books, Mohler has an almost daily blog that deals with many cultural issues and how Christians are to respond. In fact, many of these chapters in his book, Culture Shift, were originally written for his blog. But, even if you have read these before, you must read them again.
We as Christians, Mohler notes, often take two approaches to our involvement with culture. Some take the extreme of non-involvment. For instance, hard lined Classical Dispensationalists may argue that we as Christians have no real responsibility to transform culture at all apart from the proclamation of the Gospel. Whereas, on the other side liberal theology becomes so involved with transforming culture that they neglect the actual mission of the church; evangelism.
So, the first thing that Mohler does in his book is articulate issues of culture, engagement, and the Christian's responsibility to culture. The first five chapters then seek to introduce these issues, and defend a Christian's engagement and involvement in culture and to denounce the concept of a purely secular culture. Mohler then begins to engage various issues with logical clarity, an unparalleled knowledge of society's best writers, and an unfailing adherence to the Scriptures.
Mohler discusses areas of offence, the role of the Supreme Court on religion, terrorism, public schools, the God gene, parenting, dishonesty, abortion, natural disasters and God's sovereighty, nuclear war, and racism. In each chapter Mohler surveys the writings of some of America's greatest writers, praising them where they are correct, criticizing them where they are wrong. He clearly interacts with the issues and then responds with Scripture where it applies. While these are not in-depth critiques of cultural issues, they are tantalizing surveys of the issues. I found myself many times thinking I needed to read the book Mohler was talking about in a particular chapter.
You may not agree with Mohler on every issue. For instance, on the use of torture especially in terrorism cases I am not sure I agree with a blanket ban on the use of torture as in the McCain amendment. But I am willing to be persuaded by further study. On the other hand, I think Mohler is right on with the issues of our coddling of our children, the maintaining of both God's sovereignty and His benevolence when we talk about national disasters, and the renewed effort we need to make in the pro-life movement.
Overall, I found Mohler's book challenging and enlightening. It really challenged my thinking as to my involvement in culture and my role as a member of the body of Christ in transforming culture for Christ. Every Christian should read Mohler's book. They should devour it in one sitting and then sit down and chew over every issue. This book will challenge you and spur you on to further study of the issues. Overall, it will challenge you to truly live as a light for Christ in a dark world. Mohler has hit a home run with this book and I hope he continues writing more on this subject as it is desperately needed in the church today. Cannot be more highly recommended.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
The most surprising thing about Culture Shift is that it is Dr. Albert Mohler's first book. Though he has been a contributor to edited volumes and though he is a very prolific writer, this book represents his first solo effort. Published by Multnomah and set to his store shelves on January 15, Culture Shift is a book that engages current issues with Scripture's timeless truths. It teaches Christians how they should think about such issues. Dr. Mohler is one of the church's foremost cultural commentators and is well-qualified to write such a book. Through his blog, through his radio program and through his media appearances, he has proven that he can combine theological acumen with spiritual discernment as he addresses the issues that affect the church in our culture.
In the first four chapters, Mohler lays some important groundwork. He first addresses Christian faith and politics by using the case St. Augustine made in The City of God. Humanity, he says, is confronted by two cities--the City of God and the City of Man. While the City of God is eternal, the City of Man is only fleeting and temporal. However, it's passing nature does not mean that the city is entirely unimportant. Christians are called to responsibility in both cities. "Even as we know that our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, and even as we set our sights on the glory of the City of God, we must work for good, justice, and righteousness in the City of Man." As we seek to live between these two cities, Christians tend to swing between extremes, sometimes giving undue attention to one or sometimes looking too singularly to the other. This book seeks to help Christians understand how they can live in this tension. Having addressed the importance of engaging the City of Man, Mohler moves two three secular arguments, three secular myths and then five theses related to Christian morality and public law.
Having laid the groundwork, he turns to particular areas where Christian truth can speak to cultural issues. He looks at a Christian challenge to the culture of offendedness, the Supreme Court's rulings on religion, terrorism, torture and public schooling. He looks to the God gene, American immaturity, abortion, natural disasters and other contemporary issues. In each case he addresses these topics by looking to the Bible's timeless truths to show how God informs and directs our engagement with the culture. In each case he handles the issue with grace but also with truth. Those who are familiar with Mohler's blog will be familiar with the way he sets about engaging with issues and will even recognize many of these essays as most of them began their lives in one form or another at his blog.
In his introduction to the book Dr. Mohler writes "We must first understand our culture and its challenges because we are to be faithful followers of Christ and faithful witnesses to the gospel. We are called to faithfulness, and faithfulness requires that we be ready to think as Christians when confronted with the crucial issues of the day. This is all rooted in our love of God." An understanding of culture, then, is an evangelistic necessity if we are going to impact this culture with the good news of the gospel. The essays in this book will help equip Christians to understand the culture in which we find ourselves so that we can reach into it and engage with it for the glory of God. Dr. Mohler's first book is an excellent one and I pray it is only the first of many.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2008
"If you were a fish, would you realize you were wet? Every person is deeply embedded in today's cultural reality. Many are fundamentally unaware of this fact, but Christian faithfulness requires a thoughtful and conscious application of God's truth to everyday situations."
So writes Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in his new book out this month. What is amazing is that this is the first book authored solely by Mohler. He writes a mountain of words on his blog each week to the benefit of the church, and he has contributed individual chapters to numerous books. However, this is his very first book with only his name on the author line.
Of course, introducing Mohler to readers of this paper is like introducing you to your own mother, for both have consistently served up nutritious food over the years - spiritual and material.
It has now been nearly a decade since Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey gave us the influential manifesto How Now Shall We Live?, calling Christians to understand and act upon the knowledge that American culture is "post-Christian." In so doing, Colson and Pearcey taught terms like "Christian worldview" and "postmodern" to an entire generation of Christians.
With the theological mind of Jonathan Edwards and the pastoral heart of Charles Spurgeon, Mohler takes up Colson's challenge to apply a consistent biblical worldview to all of life. In a quick-moving book of 178 pages, Mohler tackles grade inflation, Hurricane Katrina, Supreme Court decisions, abortion, tsunami and theodicy, politics, biomedicine, and public school education - just to name a few. As such, Mohler consciously stands in the tradition of his mentor, Carl F. H. Henry, who argued against disengagement from cultural issues in his book The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism.
With Schwarzenegger-sized intellectual muscles at his disposal, you have to admire that the first book Mohler put forth is easily-accessible to any thinking Christian. Writing for the Christian in the pew rather than the scholar in the ivory tower, Mohler puts forth his positions with coherence and clarity. Upon reading Mohler's analysis, people in the local church will be better equipped to converse about these thorny cultural and theological issues.
I gladly join in with John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, David Dockery, and others in recommending this book for your beginning-of-the-year reading.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2008
Mohler stands in the gap, between the ivory towers of the academic world and the pop-consumer reader. Mohler's unusual gift of information intake and thoughtful processing is fully evident in this book. Mohler processes the writings of cultural taste-makers (assuming that the ideals of the academy eventually trickle out to popular culture) and provides a thoughtful analysis for those who haven't the time to read what is coming out of the different academic disciplines, or even know where to find such material. Mohler also provides an academically clear headed sifting through articles circulating in popular magazines and newspapers.
At first glance, the size of the book is surprising. But don't let its conciseness fool you. Mohler is so precise with his wording that depth of thought and analysis are not found wanting. With that said, this book is an easy read. Taking practical cultural issues and addressing them thoughtfully and clearly. Mohler also writes with an `excitement' that makes it hard to put this book down.
I would give this book to anyone who enjoys addressing cultural topics. Christians and non-Christians will benefit from reading this work. The non-Christian should be respectful of Mohler's thoughtful and appropriate application of Biblical texts to the issues pertaining. The Christian should consider this read to open up new categories of thought, and ways of addressing the issues that find themselves on the covers of our newspapers, and become the 'political' topics of lunch conversations.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2008
This is the first solo effort by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and it was pretty good. First, Dr. Mohler is way more intelligent than I ever will be, so to even attempt to "review" his work seems pretty futile. I was caught off guard by the structure of the book, as I guess I didn't believe Dr. Mohler in the preface that these were essays put into book form. Because of this, there wasn't much flow to the book overall and so it read more like a bunch of essays or blog posts, than a book.
Putting that a side.
The material presented was very well done. The book consists of 20 essays that shows the depth and breadth at which Dr. Mohler represents and defends Christianity. He does it in such a way that is pretty amazing as well. Most say that it is better to be an expert at one thing instead of novice at a lot of things. Dr. Mohler is rare, in that he is an expert at a bunch of today's topics and he shows this in his essays in this book. The essays cover topics such as public policy and the Christian worldview to what Christians should do about public education and their children. Each essay is given from a Christian perspective and one that is balanced and fair. Some of my favorites in the book are:
The Culture of Offendedness (speaking on people being offended in everything and how the Christian should challenge this assertion)
Are We Raising a Nation of Wimps? (parents coddling their child, or young adult, so much that they cannot make their own decisions or present their own thoughts)
Hard America, Soft America (taking away competition all the way into college (soft America), to the business world where it is cut throat (hard America))
Is Abortion a Moral Issue? (Shows the issues that face the arguments being brought forth on the Left wing alone)
Who's Afraid of the Fetus? (This is the best essay out of all as it shows the harsh realities of what happens when women that want abortions are shown their baby through ultrasounds and the reactions from the left wing...i.e. 90% of women change their mind)
Once I figured out that this was a bunch of essays instead of a book, it made the reading easier. What I will tell the reader is that this is more of a ivory tower look at the culture as it deals a lot with public policy and what is happening among congress and the overall picture of all of America. It is a lot different than a blue collar look at culture like you would expect from someone like Mark Driscoll and his book, Radical Reformission. But, if you know anything about the two authors this should be no surprise.
I would definitely recommend the book as it will give you an interesting perspective of what is happening nationwide with policy making and some of the major issues that we deal with overall. Recommended
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is a quality collection of essays which presents a thoughtful, Biblical approach to current issues. Dr. Al Mohler is intellectually rigorous but also clear and simple in his discussion of a Christian view of current culture. This is a short book and an easy read. It is definitely worth your time, especially in an election season which requires Christians to Biblically examine candidates' positions. If you are a fan of this book, I'd also recommend the Al Mohler Radio Show which you can find online.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2008
Many cherished assumptions of our culture are in direct conflict with the teachings of Christ. This series of essays helps Christians thoughtfully consider and respond to the crucial moral questions of our day.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2012
I believe Dr. Mohler to be one of the sharpest minds in the Christian corner. President of The Southern Baptist Seminary, Dr. Mohler has been given the ability to use his brilliant mind to comfortably confront the cultural trends that stand in opposition to Christianity. He speaks and writes from an intellectual background but is easy to understand by anyone. I have had the privilege to hear him speak several times and in each instance I am challenged and encouraged through him.
Culture Shift is a book made up of short, easy to read essays that confront the issues at the forefront of the culture wars. The essays are readable and full of careful, biblical thinking when taking on issues such as politics, terrorism, parenting, public schools, the rise of the new atheism, abortion, the dismissal of absolute truth and other topics. You can read his passion in every word and this little book is full of wisdom.
The only essay in the book that I had trouble with was the one dealing with public education. While I do agree that public education is in need of repair I'm not sure there is a need for a mass exodus from public schools. There aren't enough alternatives for families if every Christian family in our country left public schools for the alternatives of either homeschooling or private schools. It's a differing of opinions, that's all. I don't dismiss anything that Dr. Mohler wrote about, I just feel the chapter is more alarming than it should be.
Overall the book is a great read and if you are unfamiliar with some of the issues facing Christians in the culture around us, this is an excellent foundational book to start with and Dr. Mohler will equip you with biblical views to take with you when confronting some of these in your own life.
A fantastic book and one I can heartily recommend.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2009
Though his influence as one of the leading intellectual evangelicals is far-reaching, it was only this year that Albert Mohler wrote and published his first book, Culture Shift. The book is comprised of two major sections: the first part of the book where Mohler attempts to explain why it is important for Christians to be involved in the political arena and the second section which is a collection of essays dedicated to a variety of current issues and topics.
Mohler begins the first half of Culture Shift, by engaging with Augustine's monumental work, City of God. For the past fifteen hundred years, Augustine's classic work has been the standard for explaining the two "cities" every Christian is confronted with: the eternal City of God, where all things are ruled by God's Word and its sole concern is the glory of God, and the City of Man, where rule is temporary and marked by moral autonomy and disobedience. In the opening chapter, Mohler argues that we cannot ignore the City of Man just because we are citizens of another place. Mohler writes:
"Of course, we know that the City of God is eternal, even as the City of Man is passing. But this does not mean that the City of Man is ultimately unimportant, and it does not allow the church to forfeit its responsibility to love its citizens. Love of neighbor - grounded in our love for God - requires us to work for good in the City of Man, even as we set our first priority the preaching of the gospel - the only means of bringing citizens of the City of Man into citizenship in the City of God."
Because of this, Christians bear important responsibilities in both cities. Even as we know that our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, and even as we set our sights on the glory of the City of God, we must work for good, justice, and righteousness in the City of Man. We do so, not merely because we are commanded to love its citizens, but because we know that they are loved by the very God we serve.
Mohler states that, while we must be careful to never confuse our allegiances to God with allegiances to political parties or even our country, he believes our love for our neighbors should compel Christians into political involvement and action.
After Mohler is done elucidating why Christians should engage the culture and enter the public square, he addresses and answers different arguments from popular secularists who argue that religious convictions should be kept out of the political arena where public policy is decided. He writes, "As Christians, we must face the fact that we enter a public square that many expect to be purely secular." To counter these secularist arguments, Mohler "offers five theses for understanding the relationship of Christian morality to public law:"
1) A liberal democracy must allow all participants in the debate to speak and argue from whatever worldviews or convictions they possess. A liberal democracy should say yes to the entry of all citizens into the public conversation.
2) Citizens participating in public debate over law and public policy should declare the convictional basis of their arguments. Mohler writes, "This is where intellectual honesty enters the national conversation." He believes this should apply to evangelicals as well as secularists and those of other religions.
3) A liberal democracy must accept limits on secular discourse even as it recognizes limits on religious discourse. Mohler states that just as we cannot "take the church covenant of any particular church and make it municipal or national law" we must also "recognize that there are limits upon secular discourse. Most importantly, secular discourse does not have the right to eliminate religious discourse."
4) A liberal democracy must acknowledge the commingling of religious and secular arguments, religious and secular motivations, and religious and secular outcomes.
5) A liberal democracy must acknowledge and respect the rights of all citizens, including its self-consciously religious citizens. After engaging secular arguments earlier in the book, Mohler understands that some secularists believe the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution only protects religious expression "insofar as it does not interfere with a purely secular political state." Mohler writes, "That idea, however, cannot possibly be reconciled with the founding vision of America or with the language of the Constitution or with how human beings actually think, act, and speak."
In the second part of the book, Mohler moves quickly from subject to subject, as each chapter deals with a specific political issue or current event. Topics covered include standard conservative Christian fare like abortion, terrorism, public education and racism to more unique issues like torture, post-modernism, raising a coddled generation of boys and girls, the nuclear bomb and the human suffering caused by the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. In these chapters, Mohler usually begins each chapter by quoting from a paper or article on the subject and then engages the article and subject. For instance, in the chapter entitled "Are We Raising a Nation of Wimps?" Mohler interacts with an article in Psychology Today by Hara Marano in which Marano argues we are sheltering our kids way too much from physical harm and danger.
It has been a long time since I've seen such a concise argument for Christian involvement in the public square. What used to be a commonly held belief among all Christians, social and political activism, has become marginalized in many Christian circles. It's refreshing to know that there are still intelligent evangelicals fighting for the right to engage in the social and political arenas as Christians with a Biblical worldview.
I also enjoyed the variety of the topics Mohler covered in the second half of the book. Besides offering excellent takes on the subjects he tackled, he was not afraid to tackle subjects and topics unusual in the evangelical realm. An example of this is his chapter defending Truman's use of the nuclear bomb at the conclusion of World War II.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2008
"Culture Shift" is one of those books that when I read it, I had a hard time putting it down. I heard Dr. Mohler spoke the first time at Desiring God Conference in 2004, but not until I read his address in Together for the Gospel (T4G) in 2006 did I start to be stunned by the acuteness of his views on culture. Now what he talked about there at T4G is a subset of other challenges covered in "Culture Shift". Here he not only shows the reality and ugliness of what he calls "cultural seismic events" but he also lays out plan of actions; legitimate and urgent.
Mohler begins with the importance of Christian engagement in culture, by learning from Augustine's "City of God" with a caveat in mind, that is, Christians are to love the people of the City of Man with the gospel, not for the sake of city and culture themselves, but the sole concern ought to be for the greater glory of God. This is important because there is indeed a tendency to subordinate the gospel to personal agenda that may come in the forms of ethnicity, family, prosperity and country unless we are reminded that the City of Man is passing away, while the City of God is eternal. Nevertheless, "even as we know that our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, and even as we set our sights on the glory of the City of God, we must work for good, justice and righteousness in the City of Man" (p.3).
Then the discussions take on different themes, beginning with the idea of purely secular principles in driving public law; reasoning, motivation and religious neutrality, all of which Mohler defies as impossibilities and establishes a counter proposal, the reason being public law involves matters that go beyond individuals . But in addition to Mohler's refutation, any reasonable individuals would also ask, to challenge the purely secular manifesto, that first, whatever happens to the freedom of speech? And second, one only needs to look at the communist and other tyrannical states to understand the intention behind the drive toward a purely secular state.
Next, secular humanism leads to decay, not only in morality, but also inevitably in education. The popular talk these days in both camps, coming out of the perennial battle about abortion, centers around reducing the number of abortions. This is excellent because it exposes the true agenda behind many pro-choicers, to the point that even General Electric was accused of promoting pro-life agenda by selling 4D ultra-sound imaging systems because this technology "isn't a matter of providing more knowledge, but an attempt to manipulate women" (p.117, 119). In the education world, while students in Asia get busy learning calculus, physics and chemistry to prepare them for college, students in most American public schools are getting choked and brainwashed by the sexually-loaded indoctrination of the normalcy of homosexuality, promiscuity and cults. No wonder Mohler said exit strategy is needed (p.65-72) from this pathetic system, which actually doesn't have to be this way if managed properly. Sometimes I even wonder if American K-12 students need to start studying overseas, unless the domestic system undergoes a major reform, to keep up with the rest of the world, particularly to prepare them in science, as I think of Japan, Korea, India, Singapore or Europe, though I have to admit that some American universities are still among the best in the world. In research and development, a God-less pre-supposition leads to a discovery of the so-called "God-gene," that is, "a genetic explaination for belief in God that provides evolutionary explaination for faith" that Mohler hilariously but correctly describes as "Bad Theology Meets Bad Science." Here is how absurd science with false presuppositions and worldviews has become, where "humans are [soul-less] collections of atoms and molecules, and all consciousness, belief, emotion, and moral judgment must be explained by nothing more than biochemical processes within the brain" (p. 74).
Other interesting reflections and call to actions are in foreign policy dealing with terrorism and an attempt to explain the problem of evil, the case studies of which are the 2004 Tsunami and the 2005 Katrina.
Words can not describe the urgency of the matters that Dr. Mohler covers in "Culture Shift" in which he provides true and fair analysis as well as valuable recommendations. Upon learning the cultural landscapes we are in today, I can not help but observe that rational apologetics is not likely to do much good to answer post-modern issues. One needs to start getting into pre-suppositional apologetics; of which at least two books come to mind, "Always Ready" by Greg Bahnsen, and "Defense of the Faith" by Cornelius Van Til.