From Culture Wars to ‘Re’ Words: a book review

The Bible likes the  “re” words. No, I am not talking about: reduce, reuse, recycle. Those words are important but I can’t find them in my Bible (perhaps in the Message?). Nor am I talking about the lesser “re” Bible words: resisting, reacting and rejecting. Nope, the big, important ones are: redemption, renew, repent, restore, resurrection, reconciliation and redemption.  In Restoring All Things, authors Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet argue that these are the most important “re” words in the Bible, even if our Christian reputation most often reflects lesser ‘re’ words like rejecting and resisting (17). (Hey did you notice that ‘reflect’ is also a ‘re’ word?).

Smith is the vice president of the WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD magazine, author and radio program producer. Stonestreet is a speaker and fellow of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and host of BreakPoint (with Eric Metaxas) and The Point. They are both conservative (both politically and theologically) but they are gracious in their engagement with the wider culture. Much like Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, Smith and Stonestreet have not abandoned the convictions of their predecessors, but embody a noticeable difference in tone.

Chuck Colson still looms large in Smith’s and Stonestreet’s eyes, but Abraham Kuyper is their muse. The epigraph at the head of their introduction is the oft quoted Kuyper quote, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'” (17).  Their fifteen chapters are an attempt to bring the lordship of Christ into every realm of contemporary culture including: poverty, capitalism, abortion, the plight of women and girls in our world, education, restorative justice, race, the prevailing secularism in the university, ministry to the LGBT community and those with disabilities, promoting marriage, caring for orphans, the arts, and local action.  Both Smith and Stonestreet earn their bread as Christian commentators and that is their primary role here; however each chapter tells  the stories of Christians who are active in each of these arenas.

Four questions guide their quest on how to bring Jesus into the public square:

  1. What is good in our culture that we can promote, protect and celebrate?
  2. What is missing in our culture that we can creatively contribute?
  3. What is evil in our culture that we can stop?
  4. What is broken in our culture that we can restore? (25-26)

And so Stonestreet and Smith celebrate the good (like capitalism), look for creative Christian contributions (the arts) call us to put a stop to evil (Abortion on demand, racial injustice) and call us to restore that which is broken (the institution of marriage, the prison system, etc).

I really appreciate the stories of people and ministries that Stonestreet and Smith profile. They profile people I respect (i.e. John Perkins, Makoto Fujimura, Bob Lupton) and many others. The stories are my favorite part (and that is part of their strategy of capturing the culture). They take sensible stands on issues that many evangelicals ignore (such as the racism and prison reform). They also have helpful suggestions for readers to research deeper and begin contributing in each arena they discuss.  However on other points, I found the commentary one-sided (such as their passionate defense of Capitalism) or shallow. Perhaps a book that tackles this many issues is bound to be underwhelming in some places. Still I appreciate the aim and irenic spirit they have. I give this book three-and-a-half stars.

Notice of material connection: I received this book from Baker Books in exchange for my honest review.

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