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Survive or Thrive: 6 Relationships Every Pastor Needs (PastorServe Series)
Survive or Thrive: 6 Relationships Every Pastor Needs (PastorServe Series)
by Jimmy Dodd
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.29
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4.0 out of 5 stars The framework from which PastorServe ministers to pastors is clearly laid out in this wonderful book by their founder, September 29, 2015
The ministry of PastorServe and Jimmy Dodd has been incredibly impactful for many pastors, myself included. The framework from which PastorServe ministers to pastors is clearly laid out in this wonderful book by their founder, Jimmy Dodd. Survive Or Thrive is a great read for any pastor who is committed to being in the ministry for the long haul, and points the way forward to what it will take to have our private lives and public ministry present the same Good News of the Gospel.

The Unfinished Church: God's Broken and Redeemed Work-in-Progress
The Unfinished Church: God's Broken and Redeemed Work-in-Progress
by Rob Bentz
Edition: Paperback
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5.0 out of 5 stars Why You Must Love The Church, June 23, 2014
The mantra of "I love God, I just hate His fan club," has become the de facto excuse for disengagement from the local church for too many Christians. Often personal examples of hurt and betrayal fuel this sentiment, and the unfortunate truth is that too many people have genuine reasons to feel wounded by the corporate Body of Christ. But, as Rob Bentz points out, the Church is unfinished, it is broken, it is not yet the true reflection of what it was created to be, but it is nevertheless Christ's Bride and God's plan for showing redemption to the world.

In this well-written and thoughtful work Bentz shows how Christians can live out their identity as the Church in a way that is hopeful in anticipation of our future completion, while going on mission to draw more people into this building project. Each chapter draws out a different aspect of what it means to be the Church, and each chapter leaves you more in love with the Bride of Christ. For a generation of Christians that are too easily tempted to detach from corporate worship, this book presents a winsome and robust ecclesiology for laymen and pastors alike.

A New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision for the Common Good
A New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision for the Common Good
by David P. Gushee
Edition: Paperback
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Book Review: A New Evangelical Manifesto, February 28, 2013
One of the recent trends in American political life is the gaining momentum of the religious left. While there have always been those who dissented from the monologue of the religious right, the emergence of the millennial generation has seen liberal evangelicals gain more notice in popular church culture. One of the organizations that is advancing this leftist presentation of Christianity is the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good (NEP). This past year they released an edited volume containing their proposal for a Christian engagement with politics, A New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision for the Common Good. And while this work can be frustratingly far-left in orientation, it does demonstrate what this growing slice of evangelicalism sees as the defining issues of our time.

To a large extent the purpose of this book is to repair some of the damage the religious right has done to our public witness. As the millennial generation comes of age they are turned off by the incessant culture warring of many on the right and are naturally drawn to the "center-left" agenda of organizations like the NEP (See, Introduction, p. x). Of course, after reading A New Evangelical Manifesto, it is difficult to see how they could consider themselves "center" anything. In general, this book presents the classic liberal arguments that we have seen from organizations such as Sojourners and Evangelicals for Social Action.

The reader will doubtlessly find A New Evangelical Manifesto to be a mixed bag. Some of the contributions are surprisingly insightful and represent the best of evangelical scholarship (such as the chapter by David Gushee on torture), while other chapters are frustratingly narrow and agenda driven. Unfortunately the tone of A New Evangelical Manifesto seems to drift towards the latter, making it in places a very difficult read. For example, in his chapter on Christian-Muslim relations Rick Love suggests that loving our Muslim neighbors should be done apart from evangelism (something that goes against the foundation of what it means to be evangelical), and Lisa Sharon Harper argues that a failure to join the Occupy Wall Street movement is tantamount to ignoring God (p. 112).

However, the most troublesome chapter in the entire book--and frankly one of the most troubling things I have read in a long time--comes when Jennifer Crumpton attempts to explain her views regarding the Bible's position on women. She denies the inspiration of Scripture by saying that the Apostle Paul's writings in 1 Timothy are, "not universally sound, his ancient assumptions are not eternally correct, his wishes should not always be our command" (p. 116). Elsewhere she asserts that the main reason Christ came to earth was to deal with the political power of the Roman Empire (p.119), as usual for this type of article there is absolutely no understanding of the substitutionary atonement of Christ. And finally, in a moment of complete absurdity, Crumpton states that the Bible offers no better model of how women should be treated than the messages of popular culture. The insanity is then cranked up a few notches with her conclusion that, "given the Bible's formidable religious authority, its results have been and continue to be much more damaging than that of popular culture" (p. 123). It is certainly ironic that a Christian feminist would not only lambaste the Word of God, but that she would completely ignore the fact that Christianity laid the foundation for women to assume their rightful place as equals in culture and the Church.

Thankfully, however, the ridiculous nature of Crumpton's chapter is not reflected in most of the book. Adam Phillips writes an excellent piece on the global poor, Charles Camosy adds some very helpful insight into the abortion debate (you can read his contribution to our own site here), and in a surprisingly excellent piece, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson makes a very persuasive and logically sound argument for abolishing nuclear weapons.

In summary, A New Evangelical Manifesto is a good read for those who desire to hear an assortment of voices from the evangelical left. Some of the contributors certainly stretch the definition of "evangelical" to its breaking point (such as denying the importance of evangelism or the inspiration of Scripture), but in general the variety of perspectives adds to the enjoyment of the work. As we have previously discussed, the religious left has some areas where it needs to mature, particularly when it comes to loving the Bride of Christ, but their voices can be a helpful counterbalance to the monologue of the religious right.

Honoring God in Red or Blue: Approaching Politics with Humility, Grace, and Reason
Honoring God in Red or Blue: Approaching Politics with Humility, Grace, and Reason
by Amy E. Black
Edition: Paperback
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book Review: Honoring God in Red or Blue, by Amy E. Black, October 5, 2012
There are many in our era who glowingly refer to themselves as "post-partisan," insinuating that their positions are above the partisan mire that our country is currently entrapped in. However, in most instances these claims to represent a voice above the fray are in actuality nothing more than a thinly veiled ideological attempt to gain more credibility. Christians are typically no better--and in some cases worse--as they sprinkle in a little "God-talk" in order to give their policy positions an air of theological importance. At this juncture, the Body of Christ is in desperate need for a renewal of thinking biblically about politics and a fresh approach to the issues that divide our country. A biblical "post-partisanship" would be a healthy engagement with the political realm in a manner that brings glory to God, not a political party. One person who has been contributing to this higher understanding of faith and politics is Amy E. Black, an author and political science professor at Wheaton College. Her most recent work, Honoring God in Red or Blue: Approaching Politics with Humility, Grace, and Reason (Moody Publishers), provides a great model for all who desire to honor God with their political engagement.

Black begins her work by assuring the reader that she is not arguing that Christians must vote for Democrats or Republicans, rather, her goal is for the Body of Christ to be guided by the Holy Spirit in our political advocacy (pg. 11). This principle is demonstrated throughout the remainder of the text as Black shows remarkable balance and integrity as she handles controversial issues. For example, in chapter 9 Black uses the issue of poverty in America as a case study for how Believers can and should engage a controversial topic. Instead of oversimplifying a complex issue, Black fairly and accurately presents the problem and both the liberal and conservative solutions to the dilemma. Instead of towing any ideological line on the issue, she points to a fact most of us intuitively recognize: neither "side" of this issue has the whole answer. Private charity, economic stimulation, and some degree of government programs should all factor into a holistic solution to this problem.

Black's presentation of the issue of poverty is characteristic of her entire work. Data and statistics are prevalent throughout, an approach one would expect from a professor's articulation of such subject matter. In addition to the professorial aura that Black maintains, her experience on Capitol Hill provides added insight that many less familiar with the political process will greatly benefit from.

Overall, it is the political novice that Honoring God in Red or Blue is directed towards. Throughout the work there are sidebars, and insights that inform the reader about how the political process works and resources that enable a more intelligent engagement with government. However, this is not to say that the more politically savvy reader will not also benefit from the book. Many times Christians who are engaged in politics do so from a weak theological foundation. Black's chapter on the different Christian models for political engagement (Chp. 7) will help many believers find a theological home for their political philosophy.

Honoring God in Red or Blue is an essential read for Christians who are trying to gain a better understanding of how the political process works. Some may become frustrated by the nuance with which many subjects are presented, and if this is the case, this book would not be a good fit. However, if you are one of the growing number of Christians who becomes frustrated with the rabid and vitriolic atmosphere that characterizes much of our political culture you will find Black's work a welcome reprieve.

For more information check out the author interview that Amy Black did with

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
by David Platt
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars Book Review: Radical, by David Platt, September 23, 2011
Last year David Platt released his first book entitled, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. Its release created quite a stir in the Christian community but was widely well received, eventually becoming a New York Times bestseller. Since then many have criticized Platt for being too extreme with regards to finances, promoting a works-based faith, and leading his followers to sacrificial burnout (for a more balanced critique of Radical see Kevin DeYoung's review and Platt's response to it). Despite this criticism, Radical has been one of the most influential books of the past few years, causing many to question their own entanglement with American materialism and the human proclivity for greed.

Towards the end of the book, Platt sums up the key messages he is communicating:

"Ultimate satisfaction is found not in making much of ourselves but in making much of God. The purpose of our lives transcends the country and culture in which we live. Meaning is found in community, not individualism; joy is found in generosity, not materialism; and truth is found in Christ, not universalism. Ultimately, Jesus is a reward worth risking everything to know, experience, and enjoy." (183)

As you can see, materialism and greed is only one fraction of the argument. Platt also addresses the modern slide towards universalism, arguing instead that salvation is only found in the work of Christ. This fits nicely with what is actually the core thrust of the book: missions. As a well-traveled pastor, Platt's main goal seems to be seeing the Church do a better job on missions. Materialism, nationalism, universalism, and individualism are all detrimental in that they keep us from furthering the work of missions and evangelism.

Still, Platt does spend quite a bit of time talking about finances and poverty. But the interesting thing to note is that he is not addressing anything that the Religious Left hasn't already been saying for years. The difference is that, unlike Jim Wallis or Shane Claiborne, Platt rejects universalism and is otherwise conservative theologically. In one sense you can say that Platt is indebted to Wallis, Ron Sider, and Tony Campolo for pricking the evangelical conscience to the issues of poverty. In a different sense you can say that the evangelical community is indebted to Platt for doing so from an orthodox, conservative stance that is better received than the liberalism of Wallis, Sider, or Campolo.

One final thing to note, and it is hardly an addendum, is the prescription Platt gives for greed and materialism. Generosity and surrender to God's will is the path of the believer and the key to freedom from the "American dream." But the thing that screams the loudest from the text is Platt's complete silence with regard to the government's role in this discussion. There is no assumption that if poverty exists the government needs to tax the rich more and spend more on poverty relief. Nowhere does Platt argue--as Wallis, Claiborne do--that the government should be the one to end poverty. By avoiding public policy Platt is able to gain the trust of an audience that is not otherwise predisposed to listen to his message.

While many critiques of Radical are indeed valid, overall the thesis of the book is strong and unwavering. Americans are too engrossed with ourselves and our stuff. True religion requires us to live sacrificially so that the orphans and widows of the world can receive assistance from the Church. Hopefully David Platt will continue to call the American church to a closer walk with Christ in this regard.

The Evangelicals: What They Believe, Where They Are, and Their Politics
The Evangelicals: What They Believe, Where They Are, and Their Politics
by Christopher Catherwood
Edition: Paperback
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book Review: The Evangelicals, by Christopher Catherwood, May 19, 2011
The definition of who is an Evangelical is actually quite simple. If you believe the Bible to be inspired and inerrant, that Jesus was the Son of God, that you need to have a born-again experience to go to Heaven, and that you should share your faith with others, chances are you are an Evangelical. But despite this simple definition, a perennial problem for Evangelicals in America is how misunderstood they are by the populace in general, and the media in particular. With an eye to clearing up some of this misunderstanding, Christopher Catherwood recently released an informative little book entitled, appropriately enough, The Evangelicals: What They Believe, Where They Are, And Their Politics. Catherwood's work is a quick read--only 162 pages--that provides a good overview the defining characteristics of Evangelicalism. While those looking for an in-depth analysis of Evangelicalism should look elsewhere, The Evangelicals will help the beginner understand some of the distinctives of Evangelicalism.

One of the main focuses for Catherwood is to show the key doctrines of the faith to which Evangelicals hold. Utilizing several different sources (including the Lausanne Covenant, the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students' statement of faith, and a sample of a British and American church's respective vision statements) Catherwood paints a broad picture of what it means to be an Evangelical. Evangelicals have always been united around key doctrine, so it is important for someone attempting to understand Evangelicalism to recognize what those doctrines are. In this area The Evangelicals is a very beneficial read. However, one should keep in mind that Catherwood is writing from a Reformed perspective, so while he tries to maintain a balance in presentation, he does represent a particular slice of Evangelicals, not Evangelicalism in its entirety.

Which brings us to the second caveat American readers should keep in mind. Catherwood is writing from England, and therefore reflects certain biases in his presentation despite his best efforts to understand American Evangelicalism. At points he can seem a little anti-American, and he is anti-George W. Bush throughout (I think he's a little late to that party). For example, Catherwood goes to great lengths to describe how Bush damaged the world's perception of Evangelicalism, which is certainly true in some sectors of the globe. But he makes very little of the former President's AIDs relief funding to Africa, something the author clearly supports.

As far as "where Evangelicals are," Catherwood does a fine job of building off the work of Philip Jenkins and others, showing how the epicenter of Evangelicalism has been moving to the Global South for the past few decades, an often under-appreciated reality for those of us in America (Jenkins' work, The Next Christendom is required reading for anyone interested in this phenomenon).

Catherwood also includes a chapter on the eschatological (end-times) beliefs of Evangelicals. While it may seem out of place to give so much print space to this topic, it actually fits quite nicely with Catherwood's theme. Views of the end-times are often one of the most misunderstood facets of Evangelicalism, even by Evangelicals themselves. Catherwood's presentation of this aspect of theology is, once again, a good overview for someone attempting to become acquainted with Evangelicalism.

Overall, this quick read is a good introduction on Evangelicalism. In places it may lack depth or nuance, something I'm sure the author could have added had he desired. But that weakness is also the book's biggest strength. The Evangelicals does not get bogged down or overly academic. I highly recommend the work for anyone who is a beginner on the topic, or anyone seeking a quick refresher on one of the dominant strains of religion in the world today.

Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America
Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America
by Christian Smith
Edition: Paperback
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book Review: Divided By Faith, December 31, 2010
I had heard for quite some time that Divided By Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith, was the seminal work on race in the American church. And while I began reading it with high expectations, the authors failed to provide a convincing argument. The book was full of many useful statistics, anecdotes, and themes, but Emerson and Smith failed to tie it all together in a meaningful and persuasive way.

The central thesis of Divided By Faith is twofold: we live in a racialized society, and, despite good intentions, Evangelicals actually make the problem worse, rather than better. By "racialized society," the authors simply mean that we live in a place where race still matters "for life experiences, life opportunities, and social relationships," opting for this term over the more common phrases of prejudice or racism. But even here, we do not get a clear explanation of why it matters that we live in a racialized society, at least not from a biblical perspective. They point to problems such as income disparity, education differences, and de facto segregation--all of which are certainly bad things--as proof of our racialized society. But what they never tie together is the idea that these bad outcomes are the result of racialization.

Secondly, Emerson and Smith say that Evangelicals make the problem worse by having access to a limited "toolbox" from which to draw solutions to this problem. White evangelicals, the authors find, focus on freewill individualism as the chief explanation for the difference in outcomes between whites and blacks, while African Americans point to structural problems, spiritual warfare, and incipient racism as the reason for inequality in America. Additionally, they find that the more time a white Evangelical spends with African Americans, the more likely he or she will cite structural problems as well. Here again, unfortunately, we see Emerson and Smith's inability to tie loose ends together. Both explanations may very well be true, or perhaps only one or the other is correct, but instead of making a convincing case as to why one is right and the other is wrong, the authors just assume that the explanations African Americans give are correct. Let me be clear, I am not saying that that is not the case, I simply wish that Emerson and Smith would have done a better job proving their thesis.

The second half of the author's thesis--that white Evangelicals make the race problem worse--is initially harder to swallow, but interestingly, this is actually the strongest part of their work. The problem is clearly stated in their description that, following the civil war, whites and blacks went from sitting in separate pews in the same church, to attending different churches entirely. This is due to the fact that in a free market such as ours consumers choose the product that fits them the best. In the church world this means that parishioners will attend the church that is the easiest fit for them; the one with the least amount of friction. Since inter-racial relationships carry with them a certain amount of friction, the authors assert, races will tend to congregate together. This then strengthens the bonds that already existed between people of the same race, only furthering the de facto segregation that exists in America. It is from these relationships that better jobs can be acquired, along with a host of other economic and social benefits. Therefore, separate churches only add to the disparity between the races.

Overall Divided By Faith was certainly an interesting read, and while they failed to convince on many points, the book was thought provoking enough to make it worth the time. No one can deny that, while things have certainly improved, the race problem in America is still an issue that needs to be dealt with, especially for the Evangelical church. Let us all pray that as we continue to grow in Christ, we would grow closer to racial reconciliation in the Church.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 18, 2014 2:07 PM PDT

Red Letter Christians: A Citizen's Guide to Faith and Politics
Red Letter Christians: A Citizen's Guide to Faith and Politics
by Tony Campolo
Edition: Hardcover
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book Review: Red Letter Christians, by Tony Campolo, July 2, 2010
Anyone who is looking for a balanced view of the issues of faith and politics should be a little nervous when the book they are going to read holds the endorsements of Shane Claiborne, Brian Mclaren, and Jim Wallis, three of the most far left activists in American Christianity. Put that with the author's own reputation as the patriarch of the Religious Left, and expectations for balance are all but gone. However, Tony Campolo's Red Letter Christians is one of those rare exceptions where, despite the author's own political bias, the reader is treated to a balanced, charitable, and scripturally supported treatise on Christian civic engagement.

Campolo has long been an advocate of social justice and a progressive political agenda. But in Red Letter Christians he widens his focus to address a myriad of topics, ranging from war and Palestine to gun control and campaign finance reform. The title is taken from a growing movement on the Religious Left to redefine themselves as "Red Letter Christians," indicating their marching orders come from the words of Jesus (usually printed in red) in the New Testament. While the implication is clearly that their political opponents do not listen to Jesus--as Wallis and Claiborne have often stated--Campolo's tone is neither accusatory or condescending, with the only exceptions being the chapters on gun control and gay rights where his ideology clouds his ability to present a balanced argument.

It is precisely the issue of balance, however, that leaves the reader with an uplifting and beneficial experience. Perhaps the clearest example of this is Campolo's chapter on the war in Iraq. Instead of participating in the shallow mudslinging of calling George W. Bush the anti-Christ, Campolo shows a great deal of charity towards the former president, while still maintaining a stance of opposition to the invasion. It is in such a manner throughout the book that Campolo is able to argue for a liberal political agenda, but in a manner that is uplifting and God-honoring.

After a careful reading a few discrepancies in his political philosophy will emerge. As with many social justice proponents, his advocacy for the global poor is at times contradictory to his protectionist position on the domestic economy. And his support for "creation care" and protecting forests does not seem to mesh with his concern for the global poor, many of whom are finding that cutting down trees can lead their families out of poverty. Many would find his support of a flat tax to be contrary to his emphasis on protecting those in poverty, but here Campolo cleverly argues that a flat tax would allow the government to more fairly tax the population, thus bringing in more tax revenue, thus creating the opportunity for increased funding of social programs. It is precisely this refusal to be pinned down to a strict leftist agenda that makes Campolo so persuasive.

The main purpose of the book, however, cannot be boiled down to issues analysis or legislative advocacy. Rather, at its heart, Red Letter Christians is a call for Believers to engage politics in a manner that represents the glory of our Savior. Campolo refuses to divorce social advocacy from spiritual activity, instead arguing that, "both the salvation of individuals and the transformation of society are Kingdom non-negotiables." Anyone looking for a thoughtful, left-leaning perspective on faith and politics will find Campolo's arguments intriguing to say the least.

-Kolburt Schultz
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 12, 2012 12:05 PM PDT

Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals
Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals
by Shane Claiborne
Edition: Paperback
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82 of 114 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Book Review: Jesus for President, By Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, March 5, 2010
A friend of mine recently pointed out the importance of discernment when choosing what books to read. Most of us will not complete more than a dozen or so books in a year, and with all the fantastic books out there, we need to be careful not to waste our time on dribble. Unfortunately, Jesus for President, by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, is not a fantastic book. It is a stunning example of what happens when Christians allow our political ideology and biases to affect how we approach the Bible. Billed as a "book to provoke the Christian political imagination," the reader is left with more provocation than actual thought. Showing no understanding of the differing roles of the Church and the state, the authors conflate the two in a misguided attempt to shape Christians approach to politics. The end result is a work that only the most radical of the Christian left will find intriguing, while the rest of us are left wondering if it is Jesus they are following or the god of Liberalism. The book is replete with error, all of which fit into one or more of four different categories.

1. Bad Hermeneutics (Biblical Interpretation)
The most egregious and prevalent of all their errors, the authors blatantly rape Scripture in order to bend it to their ideology. For example, even though 1 Chronicles makes it quite clear that David was not to build the Temple because he had shed much blood, Claiborne and Haw argue that God didn't want a temple because He likes sleeping in tents with poor people (pg. 35). Of course this doesn't explain why God seems to have been pleased to dwell in the temple Solomon built. In another instance the authors state that the Israelites had laws for dealing with illegal immigrants (pg. 58). By choosing the phrase "illegal immigrants," instead of what the text actually says "aliens," the authors are trying to make a passage that has little relevance to our current immigration debate fit their own ideological purpose. At one point Claiborne and Haw state that Jesus was from a family of "peasants" (pg. 116), when we now know that the fact that he was a carpenter most likely put him in what we would know as the middle-class. In another instance, the authors say that the people were hungry for revolution, and thus chose for Barrabas to be freed instead of Jesus (pg. 76), when the Gospel account makes it clear that it was the prompting of the Pharisees that led to this decision. Finally, they state that the book of Revelation was written in code so the empire wouldn't know what John was really saying (pg. 148), when it is commonly recognized that the genre of Revelation is apocalyptic and is thus written in such a mysterious manner.

2. Bad Theology
Despite the fact that Chris Haw is said to be working on a graduate degree in theology, the authors make some incredibly basic errors in theological understanding. In many cases they footnote their arguments by thanking some scholar for giving them "new eyes to see" on a particular issue, but due to the obscure nature of their argument, we are left feeling that they simply choose which eyes they like best. In one disturbing instance, they state that violence kills the image of God within a person (pg. 205). The doctrine of Imago Dei is one of the most foundational beliefs for Christian thinking, and no where does the Bible indicate that a person can have more or less of the image of God within them. The image of God is what gives each person their value, and, if the authors' assertion were true, we would be left with some people that are intrinsically more valuable than others, hardly the traditional Christian understanding. Another instance where the authors show their ignorance is their understanding of the Trinity. In a poor attempt at humor, the authors tell a joke in which Jesus is letting people into Heaven whose names are not written in the Book of Life (pg. 290). This type of naiveté is easily repudiated when one recognizes that the Trinity cannot be divided, and thus would certainly know who is allowed into Heaven. Of course, this issue is further complicated by the authors seeming to indicate that they might not believe that Hell exists anyway. In another instance, Claiborne and Haw state that it is difficult to know whether or not Jesus would pay taxes if he lived in the U.S. (pg. 257), of course the simple phrase "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" seems to answer that quandary. In still another case, the authors revel in the act of lying when it fits their political cause (pg. 297).

3. Bad Political Philosophy and Logic
In many places Claiborne and Haw show utter inconsistency in their logic, coupled with a radically naÔve approach to politics. For instance, they state that capitalism is a yoke that we need to be freed from (pg. 113). And while they admit that writing a book participates in capitalism, they don't seem to grasp the fact that without capitalism their book would not be able to be printed or distributed. In a truly confusing paragraph, the authors argue that the industrial revolution wasn't really an advancement, an assertion so absurd it is difficult to even respond to (I'll let the fact that you are reading this be my rebuttal). And in perhaps the most stunning example of the sheer absurdity of their logic, Claiborne states that, if faced with genocide, he would simply take his clothes off and squawk like a chicken (pg. 273). Such a simplistic assertion fails to grasp the fallen world we currently inhabit, and instead makes a joke of over a million deaths on one continent alone.

4. Bad Use of Historical Argument
Still another way that Claiborne and Haw mislead their readers is by a deceptive use of history. They state that the more the early Church lived out the Gospel, the more they collided with the Roman Empire (pg. 141), when even a cursory understanding of early Church history shows that persecution was sporadic and wholly contingent on who was running the empire, not the degree to which Christians lived the Gospel. In an attempt to show the futility of violence, the authors state that an attempted assassination plot against Hitler only galvanized his resolve and made any efforts towards peace impossible (pg. 203). What they fail to mention is that this happened mere months from the end of WWII, and there was no indication that Hitler was going to surrender under any circumstances.

There are many other examples of all these types of errors I could list, all with equally simple rebuttals. The point is that Claiborne and Haw do not contribute anything new to the discussion of how our faith should influence policy. Rather, they simply carry the water for the far left, attempting to argue that Jesus agrees with them. Personally I am tired of people trying to prove that Jesus agrees with their ideologies, instead, I believe, we should be trying to agree with Jesus. Admittedly this is incredibly difficult for any of us to do, especially since Christ didn't have much to say about the role of the state (contra Claiborne and Haw). What He did address, however, is how we as Christians should act, and I think if we put those things into practice the politics will come naturally.

-Kolburt Schultz
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The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center
The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center
by David P. Gushee
Edition: Paperback
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Future of Faith in American Politics, February 8, 2009
Dr. David Gushee has made an immense contribution to the world of Evangelical politics with the publication of his most recent book, The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center. Gushee not only provides an in-depth look at the current Evangelical political spectrum, but he also clearly articulates a vision for an emerging "Evangelical Center," a moderate approach to politics that more fully embraces the whole of biblical counsel, not merely a partisan outlook on political life.

In the first half of his work, Gushee details the major players, organizations and worldviews that constitute what he sees as a distinct Evangelical Right, Left and Center. On the Right he chronicles the rise of such influential organizations as Focus on the Family and the American Family Association, among others. Gushee agrees with the way in which the Right is able to speak out on abortion and the sanctity of marriage, but faults them for at times having too narrow of an issue base, and at other times for merely adopting the Republican Party platform wholeheartedly.

The Evangelical Left consists mainly of the personalities of Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo and the organizations that they have built around them, but there are many other organizations that embody a liberal approach to politics as well. While the Left, and especially Wallis, tend to view themselves as a mediator between the Secular Left and the Evangelical Right, Gushee rightly points out that most of the ire of those on the Left is directed at the Right. As is to be expected, Gushee praises the Left for being able to widen the agenda of the Evangelical world, especially in the realm of social justice and their reliance on Jesus and His message in the Sermon on the Mount. However, they can fall vulnerable to losing their self-proclaimed prophetic roll when they refuse to speak out on issues that make them feel uncomfortable, most notably homosexuality and abortion.

The thrust of Gushee's argument comes in his description and advocacy for the Evangelical Center. He notes the many different venues from which the Center is emerging, the more prominent of which would be the National Association of Evangelicals, Christianity Today, activist Ron Sider, and mega-church pastors such as Rick Warren and Joel Hunter. The hallmark of the Center is their ability to hold to the traditional Evangelical stances on the issues of abortion and protecting marriage, but also being able to include a broader scope of concerns that includes poverty, the environment, torture, and racism just to name a few.

Gushee takes a much different approach in the second half of his book, using it to articulate the centrist position on a few key issues, including: torture, the environment, marriage and war. While at times it could be argued that Gushee is approaching the subject with a more leftward leaning stance than centrist, all in all he does a good job of promoting both a biblical argument and innovative solutions. At the very least, Gushee should be respected for attempting to strike the delicate balance that the Center should hold, even if at times he comes across as a little more liberal than centrist.

The Future of Faith in American Politics is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand the current state of Evangelical politics, but more importantly, Gushee does a wonderful job of showing what the future of Evangelical political engagement will be. Even if one does not agree with all the conclusions Gushee comes to, it is important to make the same efforts he does, putting the Word of God at the forefront of our political positions and attempting to break free of the partisan structure that so often captivates our political ideologies.

-Kolburt Schultz

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