“Think Christianly” – A Review

Posted: May 4, 2012 by Josiah Batten in Apologetics, Book Reviews, Christian living
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Zondervan sent me a free copy of Jonathan Morrow’s Think Christianly for review.  The book can be purchased here.  Any parenthetical page numbers refer to this book unless otherwise noted.

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For my first term paper in seminary, I wrote a strategy paper for planting a church in Stockholm, Sweden.  I hand-picked this city because it is one of the most secular in the world.  I focused my paper on the concept of the church actively engaging the cultural worldview of the Swedish people.  Looking back, I wish Think Christianly had been available to me as I wrote that paper.

The major premise of the book is that if Christianity is true then it impacts every single area of life without exception.  This is a theme I have emphasized often, and I am very glad a major Evangelical publisher has undertaken a project like this.  Nietzsche presented a systematic view of atheistic nihilism.  Morrow argues Christians must present a systematic view of life in the City of God.

The book kicks off by explaining the current situation.  We live in a day when humanists are becoming active evangelists.  Media and technology and increasingly influential and consume larger portions of our lives (ironic to write that on a blog, I know).  34% of American teenagers are “religiously disconnected,” while another 33% are “sporadically religious” (19).  People increasingly view “science” as the only source of true knowledge.  Our engagement, or failure to engage, will determine the success or failure of the church for the current and future generations.

In light of this, the time is past for us as Christians to ignore culture.  We have to actively engage it, and “engage” means neither marriage to it nor an assault upon it.  Our culture centers around ideas, and those ideas are conducive or contradictory to the Gospel.  As Morrow notes, “Ideas have always been and continue to be our Enemy’s favorite method of undermining the work of God” (34).

But there is a catch.  Our churches are not engaging culture effectively because they are currently nor prepared or equipped to do so.  I don’t mean for that to be a blanket statement, but as a general rule it is true.  As citizens of the Kingdom of God, tasked with bearing His image and demonstrating His love (44-45), we have dropped the ball.  We have to pick it up and answer the opportunities and challenges of our modern culture.

The second major section of the book focuses on preparing for such engagement.  We have to have the intellectual, spiritual, and relational resources to engage well.  Morrow discusses these in various chapters, focusing first on how Christianity constitutes objective knowledge, second on how lifestyle change is brought about through spiritual disciplines, and finally on how the church can address culture as a community.

The final section takes the foundational ideas of the first two sections and begins applying them to various modern issues.  Morrow addresses such things as the reliability of the Bible, sexuality, social justice, and bioethics.  The topics here are wide-ranging, but appropriately demonstrate how Christianity can address every aspect of life.

Having (very!) briefly summarized the book, we can now turn to more specific critiques.  First, I know some people will fear this is merely another book on apologetics and is only for the intellectual elite.  This dear friends, is not at all true.  Yes, Morrow is a very smart person.  But this book is written for all Christians, and deals with obligations regarding evangelism and outreach that all Christians share.  If you take the Gospel seriously and think that it should impact how you live, this book is for you.

Second, I learned a great deal.  The work is intensely practical, as Morrow lays out specific plans for transformation and strategies for application (a whole appendix is devoted to this, in fact).  For those of us accustomed to ivory towers (I’m a seminary student), it’s nice to step down and actually feel the grass and breath fresh air.

Third, Morrow presents good apologetic answers to serious questions of our day.  Let’s be honest, most apologists are not addressing issues of human sexuality and “God’s design for sex” (175).  But good apologetics responds to the objections actually being raised against Christianity.  One of the primary objections in our culture is that of sexual freedom.  Shouldn’t we be addressing it?  Of course.  And we should do so winsomely and strategically, even as we refuse to compromise biblical truth.

Fourth, after each chapter Morrow has an interview with a scholar/activist on a given topic.  These are wide-ranging, but very interesting.  My only complaint is that some of these could have corresponded more appropriately with given chapters (the interview on “Making the Case for Life” would have gone well with the chapter after bioethics).  But this is merely a formatting issue and did not detract from the work itself or the ideas presented.

Last, the recommended resources at the end of each chapter are incredibly useful.  There are many chapters that showed weaknesses I have in my own studies, and so I found these recommendations helpful and a great resource.

On the whole, Morrow’s book is excellent.  I highly recommend it.  We in the church have to recognize that the Gospel impacts everything we do.  Morrow drives this point home, and makes good strides in applying the Gospel to all of life.  We’d greatly benefit from further dialogue in this regard.

The only question we need to answer is how will we apply this?  What will we do differently as a result of the Gospel impacting everything?  I would love to know what Morrow would suggest for engaging an older audience/congregation that might not see the value in some of these issues.  But how we apply this is a question we all must answer for ourselves.

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