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Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just Hardcover – November 2, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
The pastor of New York City's Redeemer Presbyterian Church offers a persuasive plea for evangelicals to embrace social justice efforts. Keller (The Reason for God), whose evangelical credentials are well respected, is among a new breed of conservative Christians eager to break out of the straitjacket that frowns on justice work as doctrinally unsound or the work of overzealous liberals. Without ever resorting to hyperbole, Keller carefully analyzes Old and New Testament passages to make the case that God's heart for justice on behalf of widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor is indisputable, and that an encounter with grace will inevitably lead to a desire for justice. This short manifesto goes further: Keller argues that gospel preaching that aims only to change hearts while remaining oblivious to unjust social structures will never fully succeed. Keller recommends that evangelicals partner with non-Christians in pursuit of social reform while speaking distinctively in their own religious idiom. Emergent Christians as well as others serious about their faith and eager for a balanced and authoritative voice on the subject will appreciate this book. (Nov.)
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Praise for Generous Justice
"Keller shows us how a . . . spirit—one of generosity coupled with justice—can thoroughly alter not only a person but, ultimately, society as a whole. . . . Many gems are to be mined from Generous Justice." —The Washington Times
"Generous Justice is the best book I've ever read about putting Christian faith into action. . . . Were all Christians to respond to Keller's understanding of Biblically based justice, it wouldn't simply result in more social programs, food and shelter, and health care for the needy. It would result in a world defined by shalom, a comprehensive peace, a world in which human beings flourish." —Beliefnet.com
"This is the most biblically informed and intellectually careful (read the footnotes!) 'social justice' book I know of. Justice skeptics and justice proponents alike will learn from Generous Justice." —Kevin DeYoung, TheGospelCoalition.org
"A great book . . . Keller cuts through the highly charged rhetoric and presents a clear, biblical call for the church to 'do justice.'" —EFCAToday.org
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But the bottom line is this, the poor we will have with us always and how do we deal with them? How do we help them with their issues of hunger, lack of resources, lack of advocates standing up for them with the judicial system and society at large. What also do we do with the "year of jubilee" where the debts of the poor are forgiven and they are given a fresh start. What should we do with that today.
Keller takes us through a discussion of the definition of Justice, why the Old Testament is still valid, what does Jesus say and how do we treat our neighbors. He reminds us that the Old Testament, specifically the nation of Israel, was a Theocracy style of government. So how do we in a democracy deal with the poor since it is a completely different style of government than a Theocracy. What is the point of justice? What should we do about standing in the gap for our neighbors who are poor, or do we ignore them and let the government deal with them through welfare?
There are deep theological issues here and deep moral issues as well. How do you respond to the poor? How do you handle your resources? What do you do regarding Charity? Why do you act charitably?
Keller also talks a good bit about how our young people are moving back into a culture of "volunteerism" and the benefits that has on society as well as on themselves. But the real issue comes down to the heart issue of why do they volunteer to help the poor.
Wrapped in all of this is a discussion also about "God's Grace". Because some people feel that justice might just mean that we let people suffer in their poverty because they bring it on themselves. But the Bible is clear. Our task is to help the poor, the widow, the orphan, etc. These people are precious to God and thus should be precious to us.
This is a quick read, but a very needed read for the "Western Church" today. You will be forced to look at the role of "Deacon" in the church and how that role was put together to serve the poor. You will be left with this question, how does my church stack up in regards to reaching the poor? How would God feel we have done in serving the poor and providing "justice" for them.
Generous Justice is by far his most academic work so far (with The Reason for God also being intellectually rigorous but in a different way). Keller does a kind of biblical theology on the concept of justice and mercy, in many ways borrowing and improving on Craig Blomberg's work, Neither Poverty nor Riches.
The latter half of the book - particularly the chapter on conceptions of justice in the public sphere - felt a little incongruous with the first half. It was a fascinating look at secular formulations of justice and how Christianity interfaces (quite similar to portions of The Reason for God), but the chapter felt too short to unpack and really interact with the material.
The last chapter on shalom and how we can only do justice by being captivated by the beauty of Christ was classic Keller. It is basically like the last 10 minutes of a typical sermon of his.
I guess my complaint with the book is that it did not feel like it was tightly argued throughout. The latter chapters felt like independent articles tacked on because it was topically related. I also object to book's binding/shape. It was a good format for The Prodigal God - which is a great book to give as a gift to someone. But for this more complicated topic (and material in which Keller decidedly ups the academic rigor with impressive endnotes - notice how many Harvard profs he cites), the book's childish format was unfitting. Keller should have acknowledged the material better and done an academic printing.
Would recommend to anyone who is seeking a better understanding of God's grace.