Living at the Crossroads in the New Year of our Lord
You know that we have, as you most likely have, long lamented the weak-kneed nature of many churches, too often feeble and silly, hardly able to muster much concern for anything other than the color of their carpet. Of course many good church folks are doing good hard work in many ways, and all sorts of congregations are providing wonderful care for their people, but it seems that too often, church folk don't learn--at least not clearly and helpfully--how to live out the truth of the Lordship of Christ in every area of life. They may be dedicated Christians, but rarely can they articulate the difference their convictions about faith make in, say, their jobs, let alone their shopping or voting. And so, we offer our Faith & Vocation bibliography (granted, a bit dated) naming and describing numerous books that will help Christians be disciples of the Master in their callings and careers. We stock books on art and science, work and business, ecology and poverty, childbirth and legal theory, education and philosophy. We like to invite our customers to not only read these kinds of integrated perspective books themselves, but to help get books into the hands of their Bible study leaders and pastors, their Sunday school teachers and campus ministers, their youth group leaders and denominational leaders that will inspire them to help lay-people live out faith across the whole of life, "in/not of" the worlds of commerce, politics, art, neighborhood development, media and such. People need to hear this kind of whole-life discipleship, need to be aided in their journey towards nurturing the Christian mind and lifestyle.
Happily, evangelical churches, especially, are increasingly active in the urgent matters of creation care and racial justice and global poverty. Many are working towards wholistic missional mindsets and are helping folks work against sexual trafficking, say, or are embracing ministries and conversations around contemporary films or novels. We are--thank goodness--moving beyond what the apostle Paul calls "milk" and we are learning to relate our Sunday faith to our Monday work, picking up the cross and carrying it into public life. We are allowing our most inner spirituality to spill out into our most public action. especially in acts of advocacy for the "least of these."
For me---and I know this is true for some of our readers and local customers---all kinds of specialized talk and reading and cheer-leading on certain topics never really took off or gained the snowballing effect I'd hoped for. We can do lectures on human rights, Bible studies on the poverty. We can host film series and start artist-friendly Gen X coffeehouses. We can pray for folks in the work-world and we can invite families to see their homes as the a central location for living out discipleship. We can start prayer vigils for peace and we can ask people to wear their work-cloths to church (to illustrate that God cares about their careers and jobs.) We can go green and recycle at church or sponsor debates about intelligent design. We can teach about world missions and we can study historic theology. We can talk about community and start small groups. We can invite folks to Sabbath time and we can invite folks to rest from it all. Any number of such actions can help enhance the connection between faith and life, getting folks involved in something, anything. And it can be exhausting; a dis-connected, piecemeal approach, the fad of the year, 40 days of this or that. Such fragmented start-ups of projects and plans can even backfire as we play one concern over and against another, pitting church reform against cultural reform, or Bible study against social activism, artists against prayers. What should the adult class church teach us, how to vote faithfully or the roots of Pauline theology? What should our short term Spring break be, building houses in Haiti or doing hospice care in our own town? Should we start a group to think about buying local and eating faithfully or try to get folks involved in congregational life?
The fruitful way to integrate and live out a robust, multi-faceted, culture-making, spiritually-alive and Biblically faithful way of life in the world is to be intentional about studying how we see. Yes, our view of things, our imaginative constructs, our assumptions and attitudes, our underlying values, all shape how we think about all of life. The glasses we wear colors our interpretation of everything, and our subsequent views of discipleship--what to do and what not to do, and how to do the most ordinary things, how to make sense out of life, and how to live----are informed by our vision, the glasses we wear. The most effective, lasting and radical way to get church folks equipped for a life of service before God in the real world is to focus a bit from time to time on seeing life Christianly, from God's viewpoint. That is, we must study the topic of worldview.
There are still only a small handful of good, thoughtful, generative and vital worldview books. We---Hearts & Minds fans, BookNote readers, especially, I'd like to think--should be aware of these and become cheerleaders and evangelists for the best of 'em. These are the books that are designed to help people "get it all together" and to live into an integrated life. I suspect you know that we have been significantly impacted in earlier years by friends and mentors such as Brian Walsh & Richard Middleton who wrote The Transforming Vision and Al Wolters, whose neo-Calvinist take on worldview is seminal (Creation Regained.) These should be known in your circles, I would think. Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth is big and very important for those who want a deeper study. James Sire struggles with the very nature of what a worldview is in Naming the Elephant; it is a very lovely little book. Last years (Re)Thinking Worldview by Mark Bertrand is fabulous; a must-read, especially if you think you've heard it all in this field. Wow. David Naugle wrote the definitive big work on all of this simply called Worldview: The History of a Concept. I'm telling ya, these are our core curriculum for nurturing faithful hearts and minds, raising up folks to live out faith in coherent and integrated ways. Getting people whipped up about important ministries or causes--marketplace ministry, cultural engagement, social action, family renewal, liturgical reform---will not matter nearly as much unless they see the Big Picture of their callings and passions within the story of God's work in the world, and see things integrated within a uniquely Christian world and life viewpoint. I am hoping that you, obviously a reader, will be a leader in your own setting, helping frame the good work that is most likely happening in your faith community by this bigger, liberating, foundational concept. It will be like passing out new glasses to a blurry and dizzy people. It will help them understand, perhaps for the first time, the power and cost and grace of Romans 12:1-2, laying down our very bodies as God's worship, non-conformed to the world, but pointing towards God's renewing will.
Enter then, this first new great book of the new year, this book I've been wanting to announce in some significant way. It is a major new work on worldview, thoughtful, deeper than some, important. It is called Living At the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview by Michael W. Goheen and Craig Bartholomew (Baker; $19.99.) It is somewhat of a follow-up to their widely acclaimed introduction to the Bible called The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Baker; $19.99.) That is truly my favorite one-volume overview of the unfolding drama of the Bible, and it is partially that because these authors present the Biblical overview with this worldviewish backdrop. They know, even in their fairly standard telling of the grand themes of promise and deliverance, of creation and covenant, of Israel and church, of the Trinitarian God who shows up in Christ, of Jubilee and Kingdom, of Resurrection and Pentecost, that all of this working of God is the story that makes sense of our stories. That is isn't a quaint faith for personal inspiration, nor minimized as "religious truth." God's Kingdom is the frame for our lives. The Bible shapes us into a worldview, a narrative. As such, it puts us at odds with other narratives. And so, naturally, their sensible and insightful and in many ways thrilling overview of the Bible is followed up with this part two volume: At the Crossroads.
Living at the Crossroads is an accessible but serious introduction to the various aspects of worldview studies, of what all that means and how a Biblically-informed vision of life does indeed put us at odds with the other stories/values/worldviews/ideologies that are vying for attention in our postmodern world. It is a must-read for our times, certainly a useful resource for any who, like us here in this year of our Lord, desire for integrated lives, who want meaning and purpose and joy and Biblical faith.
As economist Bob Goudzwaard says on the back "In this book, the authors show students how to recognize and gradually understand more fully the relevance of the living Word of God for their living, working, and studying in these complex and often bewildering times." Yes, students. That is one audience, college age young adults. But who of us are not called to be students? Perhaps, in deed, one of the reasons our times are so bewildering, is that churches have not proclaimed the full gospel, and we church folk haven't been serious about thinking through and living out of the many implications of invoking God's name over our life and times. Our broken, secularizing times are, to some extent, the fruit of unfaithfulness of God's people in the last century. Perhaps getting a study group going on a foundational and feisty book like this will help. Polishing up our lenses, getting a better viewpoint, seeing life as Christ does, surely is an urgent exercise, a worthy project. Tune in next time as I tell you more why I so appreciate these authors, how this book could help you, and why we hope to have many take up this book early in this new year.
Check out their descriptions of the books, read endorsements and some sample stuff here.