God in Public: Four Ways…

Last night I wrote about a new book, a powerful and important interaction with and critique of the classic Niehbur book Christ and Culture. If you didn’t, please scroll down and take a gander not only at my ruminations about the call and difficulties of being “in but not of” the world, but at my announcement of the new book by Craig Carter, Rethinking Christ and Culture: A Post-Christiandom Perspective.
Today, this book came in, and it is one I really wish I could have had to sell at the Christian Legal Society conference (one of their presentors, Carl Esbeck, is noted and footnoted.) God in Public: Four Ways American Christianity and Public Life Relate by Mark G. Toulouse (Westminister/John Knox; $19.95) looks just fabulous. Its presence reminds us that we at the BookNotes blog are not making this stuff up: evaulating and thinking critically about the most faithful ways to engage culture as followers of Christ is part of the most urgent tasks of our day. This book looks like it could be very, very helpful.
I’m not a big chart person (as you may have picked up from my little note yesterday.) But near the end of God in Public is a great summarizing chart about various aspects of his four types. He names them Iconic Faith, Priestly Faith, Public Christian, and Public Church. I am sure there will be much to learn from this, and I am pretty sure there will be some things I would say differently. I am grateful, though, that he is attentive to some of the more thoughtful evangelicals in this arena—Richard Mouw or James Skillen (even if he mis-spells Jim’s name) and the aforementioned Esbeck, Esq.
There is an extend bit of study in the early chapters about the First Amendment and the establishment clause, and a nice survey of various court rulings about church/state stuff. (He cites Witte, even, whom I mentioned yesterday!) And, happily, he covers the more activist social prophets as well, and explains nicely various sorts and nuances of those who insist on radical cultural critique. Most book jackets can not be as nuanced as the text inside, and this is no different. Still, it is a powerful pair of photos that grace the front.
There are some wonderful endorsements on the back cover—raves from Randall Balmer, Peter J. Paris (from Princeton Theo.), R. Scott Appleby (Notre Dame), and Amanda Porterfield. The forward by Marty Marty is sweet and clear and clever (what else would you expect?) This a work that will be significantly reviewed, I’m sure. Toulouse is at Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University. I suspect we will be hearing even more from him in years to come.

God In Public: Four Ways American Christianity and Public Life Relate Mark C. Toulouse (Westminister/John Knox) $19.95