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Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World

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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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"If you are satisfied neither with the program of a whole-scale transformation of the world nor with the project of building alternative enclaves in the world, this is the book for you. With compelling arguments, clear prose, and much erudition John Stackhouse points to a third and better way of following Christ in the real world. A must-read for those who are concerned with the role of faith in contemporary societies." --Miroslav Volf, Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture and Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale University Divinity School

"John Stackhouse addresses the big ideas about God and human beings and the world, but he does it not only with careful attention to the nuances and scholarly details, but with a focus on the practical challenges of living 'for Jesus Christ, today.' This is a wonderful gift to all of us who care deeply about thoughtful discipleship." --Richard J. Mouw, President and Professor of Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

"John Stackhouse brings realism and theological integrity to evangelical social ethics. Making the Best of It combines prophetic criticism with an eye for real opportunities to live God's mission in today's world. Reflection on four great Christian thinkers of the past century provides a breadth of vision from which Stackhouse draws principles that make sense of today's opportunities. The result is global and local, timeless and contemporary, faithful and effective." --Robin W. Lovin, Cary Maguire University Professor of Ethics, Southern Methodist University

"This is an evangelical guide for the perplexed coming from a first-rate theological intelligence. It is coherent in its overall argument, brilliant and acute in its discriminations, simultaneously bracing and relaxing. With uncommon commonsense it shows how a Christian might engage with the shifting complexities of culture and politics, while faithfully interrogating the whole Bible rather than one's own favorite anthology of quotations." --David Martin, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, London School of Economics

Library Journal

Oxford has a limited and selective offering of works on theology, purely considered-academic studies of religion aplenty, but successors to Augustine and Calvin, rather few. Stackhouse (Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology, Regent Coll.) is an interesting exception to the unstated policy of Oxford, which has published his previous books, Can God Be Trustedand Humble Apologetics; he may be likened to the house's evangelical authority. As in his prior outings, here Stackhouse uses a strong and intelligent grounding in the prominent theologies of the past to situate his own ideas. He draws on the readings of C.S. Lewis, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to build what he calls "a new Christian realism," which tries to come to terms with the world and especially with witnessing Christ inthe world rather than againstit, as some conservative Christians recommend. This sober, thoughtful study deserves a wide audience. For most collections.
—Graham Christian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195173581
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/2/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

John G. Stackhouse, Jr. is Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology, Regent College. He is the author of Can God Be Trusted? Faith and the Challenge of Evil (OUP 1998), Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today (OUP 2002), Church: An Insider's Look at How We Do It, and Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender. He lives in Vancouver, B.C.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction: Who Are We, for Jesus Christ, Today?     3
The Classic Typology
Reappropriating H. Richard Niebuhr's Christ and Culture     13
Reappropriating the Typology of Christ and Culture
Some Resources for the Recovery of Christian Realism
C. S. Lewis: The Christian Individual     45
The Christian Story
The Elements and Shape of the Story
Themes in a Theology of Culture
Conclusion: C. S. Lewis's "Parables"
Reinhold Niebuhr: Prophet of Christian Realism     81
Is Christianity Realistic?
What Is Christian Realism?
Implications of Christian Realism
Conclusion: Niebuhr's Legacy
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Christian and the Church in and for the World     115
The Heart of Bonhoeffer's Theology
Themes in a Theology of Culture
Conclusion: Stations on the Way to Freedom
Making the Best of it
Method in Ethics: A Sketch     165
Attending to Jesus
A (Protestant) Christian Tetralectic
The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Receptivity
The Story and the Mission     181
The Christian Story-and Us Within It
Mission: The Four Commandments
Vocation     221
Conclusion: Mission and Vocation
Principles of a New Realism     261
A Mixed Field, Mixed Motives, and Mixed Results
The Normal ... and Beyond
Faith and Faithfulness
Liberty and Cooperation
Conclusion: Making the Best of It     309
The Shape of Our Lives
Behaving in Public
Governing Motifs
Index     357
Index of Scriptural References     369
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