To Change the World 1

I begin a series of posts engaging James Hunter’s recent provocative book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World.

The book’s central questions are both academic and personal according to Hunter. The basic academic questions are: “How is religious faith possible in the late modern world? Is it possible? How does the encounter of religious faith with modernity change the nature and experience of faith? Or for that matter modernity itself?”

The personal question is: “How do believers live out their faith under the conditions of the late modern world?”

To answer these two basic sets of questions (the academic and the personal) the book is divided into three interlocking essays.

Essay I: Christianity and World-Changing
Essay II: Rethinking Power
Essay III: Toward a New City Commons: Reflections on a Theology of Faithful Presence

To get a sense of the book’s interests, I surveyed the index. The following list represents the most prominent themes, persons and organizations. I put an astericks (*) by those items that are even more prominent.

Themes: shalom, state & culture, politicization, political action, power (*), networks, late modernity, institutions (*), faithful presence (*), family, homosexuality, culture, elites & elitism, the Church (*), capitalism (*) and the Bible.

People: John Howard Yoder (*), Jim Wallis, Pat Robertson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard John Neuhaus, Jesus, Stanley Hauerwas (*), Jerry Falwell, James Dobson (*) and Charles Colson.

Organizations: Sojourners Community, Republicans, Neo-Anabaptists, Focus on the Family, Evangelicals (*), Democrats, American Christianity (*), and Catholics

An interesting list for sure! From this very brief survey, the book is clearly about American Christianity’s interaction with culture in the last four decades.

In the preface I found two names that interested me in a list introduced by the line “there is one group of friends who have engaged them with me longer and more patiently than any others”. The two individuals are Tim Keller and Skip Ryan. Most know of Tim, but perhaps not Skip. I have the privilege of calling Skip my pastor in 1999-2000. He was pastoring a PCA church in Dallas at the time Park Cities Presbyterian. While I am not PCA, I really benefited from Skip’s preaching ministry and enjoyed serving at the church. It is very interesting to see who an author’s friends are. Since our friends are more often than not a direct indication of us, I find that because Hunter is in relationship with these guys, I have a sympathetic ear going in.


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