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Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World [Hardcover]

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Item Number 100685  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   384
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.4" Width: 6.46" Height: 1.03"
Weight:   1.45 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 2, 2008
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0195173589  
EAN  9780195173581  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
When it comes to Christianity's interface with culture, Christians usually fall into two camps; those who embrace the culture without impressing the reality of Christ onto it and those who avoid culture, sometimes to the point of denying its power. But when Christians affect the culture for the cause of Christ true societal change can occur. John Stackhouse, Jr., by examining the contributions to both society and the Church made by C.S. Lewis, Reinhold Niebuhr and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, illustrates what can be done when both the sacred and the secular inform each other on non-foundational levels.

Publishers Description
What should be the Christian's attitude toward society? When so much of our contemporary culture is at odds with Christian beliefs and mores, it may seem that serious Christians now have only two choices: transform society completely according to Christian values or retreat into the cloister of sectarian fellowship.
In Making the Best of It, John Stackhouse explores the history of the Christian encounter with society, the biblical record, and various theological models of cultural engagement to offer a more balanced and fruitful alternative to these extremes. He argues that, rather than trying to root up the weeds in the cultural field, or trying to shun them, Christians should practice persistence in gardening God's world and building toward the New Jerusalem. Examining the lives and works of C. S. Lewis, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer for example and direction, Stackhouse suggests that our mission is to make the most of life in the world in cooperation with God's own mission of redeeming the world he loves. This model takes seriously the pattern of God's activity in the Bible, and in subsequent history, of working through earthly means--through individuals, communities, and institutions that are deeply flawed but nonetheless capable of accomplishing God's purposes. Christians must find a way to live in this world and at the same time do work that honors God and God's plan for us.
In an era of increasing religious and cultural tensions, both internationally and domestically, the model that Stackhouse develops discourages the "all or nothing" attitudes that afflict so much of contemporary Christianity. Instead, he offers a fresh, and refreshingly nuanced, take on the question of what it means to be a Christian in the world today.

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More About Jr. John G. Stackhouse

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John G. Stackhouse, Jr. is Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in New Brunswick, Canada. His previous book, Can God Be Trusted?: Faith and the Challenge of Evil (OUP, 1998) was named one of Christianity Today's books of the year.

John G. Stackhouse currently resides in Vancouver.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A must read on Christian mission and ethics!  Dec 23, 2009
How should the church relate to society? Two models seem to predominate. One is accommodation. Some churches seem either to completely withdraw from society or be so accommodated to culture that they have little influence. The other model is full scale transformation of society according to some perceived biblical imperative ... taking expression in everything from the Religious Right to Christian Progressivism to liberation theology.

Stackhouse offers us a brilliantly articulated alternative he calls Christian Realism although it is nuanced some from what has passed as Christian Realism in the past. Stackhouse walks us through the story of God's mission in the world, identifying four commandments. Two are creation mandates. There is the cultural mandate to make the best world we can ("make the best of it") and the mandate of the great commandments to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. There are also the redemption mandates. We are given a "New Commandment" to love one another as Christ has loved as ... thus giving witness to the world of God's love and vision of Kingdom community ... and the Great Commission to seek out others and bring them into community. The overarching principle is the pursuit of the greatest shalom possible in the world (in all the richness the term "shalom" conveys.)

But here lies the problem. We can never fully achieve shalom this side of the consummation of the Kingdom of God. Sin is with us until then. Furthermore, due to our sin and finite existence, there is considerable doubt that we ... individually or corporately ... can fully grasp what pursing shalom truly entails in our context. Ambiguity and paradox are ever present companions. It creates a powerful tension. Unfortunately, we all too often try to escape the tension through accommodation or through idealistic transformational crusades. (Some offer Anabaptism as an alternative but that tradition also fails ... as Stackhouse shows ... to successfully address the paradox. There is recurring respectful dialog with Yoder in the book.) So how to respond?

Stackhouse begins the book looking back. The first half of the book revisits H. Richard Neibuhr's "Christ and Culture" and then explores the Christian Realism of C. S. Lewis, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Unfortunately, many are ready to tune him out here ... especially emerging church folks ... , believing that John Howard Yoder has thoroughly discredited Niebuhr. Stackhouse is not calling for a revival of Niebuhr's work but also takes issue with how Yoder has critique of Niebuhr. Furthermore, Stackhouse notes that all these Christian Realists were seriously lacking in a Trinitarian perspective, the work of the Spirit, and the role of worshiping communities in transforming the world. The first half of the book is more about identifying themes from the past to inform us in our exploration of the issues.

The second half of the book is where Stackhouse articulates his view of Christian Realism and it is largely disconnected from the first half in any direct sense. The two halves could be read as separate books but together they give a completeness that is needed. I've already mentioned the four commandments. Stackhouse also draws on the idea of Scripture, tradition, reason and experience working together... through the guidance of the Spirit ... to lead us as we pursue shalom. I particularly like how he roots his ethics in the narrative of Scripture and God's mission in the world.

This is an exceptional book! It is easily one of the most important books I've read on Christian mission and ethics. It articulates many conclusions I've come to on my own, clarifies so many other issues that I've struggled with, and presents it all in a cogent engaging style. I can't recommend the book highly enough.
Great Book!  Dec 10, 2009
This is a great read for anyone who is interested in the question of what it means to think and act Christianly in the cultural context in which they find themselves. There are at least three important benefits to be derived from reading this book: 1) You will learn a good deal about three flat-out interesting Christians--Reinhold Niebuhr, C.S. Lewis, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer--and how they understood and practiced following Christ in their very different contexts; 2) You will get a compelling portrayal of the scope and contours of the Biblical story and how human culture contributes to and detracts from God's intentions for is world; and 3) You will receive an extremely cogent and compelling articulation of Christian discipleship that combines an appreciation of the complexity of the historical and cultural contexts in which Christians are located with the conviction that the way of Jesus really does represent the most God-honouring way to be a human being in any and all cultures.

Well worth the read!

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