Onward and Out of the Graveyard

In his review of Dr. Russell Moore's book, Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, Pastor Josh Stringer poses some strategic questions for those of us who follow Jesus.

Here's Josh's review  that first appeared in Connections, and a disclaimer that Russell Moore is one of Josh's former professors.

Do you feel out of place in our culture? Are you prone to panic over the headlines? Are you bothered that you’re perceived as odd or strange for what you believe? Do you ever wonder why you feel that way? If you’re a Christian, have you ever thought about the strangeness of the gospel you say you believe?

Think about it. As a Christian, you believe that a baby was born to a virgin, and he later walked on water, told the weather what to do and eventually walked out of a tomb after being dead for three days? That. Is. Strange.

And we haven’t even begun to talk about the counter-cultural moral standards that accompany belief in a holy God who would send his Son to die for your sins and then call you to follow him. Let’s face it. The gospel of Jesus Christ is strange, particularly in the face of a growing culture of “the religious nones.”

This is exactly what Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, reminds us in his book Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel. Says Moore, “The shaking of American culture is no sign that God has given up on American Christianity. In fact, it might be a sign that God is rescuing American Christianity from itself.” Moore clearly reminds us of what the gospel is and why it matters that we get it right. He is also crystal clear about what the gospel isn’t and, sometimes uncomfortably, points out how we’ve subtly gotten it wrong in the past and why that matters, too.

It might be tempting to mine this book for pithy sayings in order to win a Facebook argument or to accumulate verbal hand grenades to lob at a liberal co-worker. First, if that’s you, repent. Second, you’ll need to look somewhere else to find your ammo.

Other readers might want to find an honest how-to list for cultural engagement. Moore gets there, but not until his later chapters which include, “Human Dignity,” “Religious Liberty” and “Family Stability.” Before you get to helpful how-to’s, Moore leads his readers through a biblical journey of the whys in chapters such as “A Bible Belt No More” and “From Moral Majority to Prophetic Minority.”

Moore will engage your thinking in a lively manner with theological integrity, cultural relevance and Christlike compassion. He also brings a kingdom-centered veracity that is missing from many of our conversations that are often filled with hopeless laments over cultural change. And that’s why you should read this book.

With great hope in Christ, Dr. Moore calls us to flee cultural panic and press forward with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. He boldly reminds us, “The kingdom’s advance is set in motion by the Galilean march out of the graveyard. We should then be the last people on earth to skulk back in fear or apathy. . . . We need leaders and allies, but we do not need a Messiah. That job is filled, and he’s feeling fine. . . . We live now in this demon-haunted earth, but we wait for the demon-conqueror from heaven.”

Strange, indeed. Let’s keep it that way.