Monday, April 28, 2014

Book Review: What's Your Worldview

What’s Your Worldview guides the reader through the menu of possible worldviews based on the answers given to leading questions.  These are what James Anderson calls Life’s Big Questions in the subtitle of the book. I have read several books on worldview from a Christian perspective and this offers a refreshing approach. Instead of categorizing worldviews into the three larger ones (theism, materialism, and transcendentalism), Anderson lists many sub-categories as classes of worldviews in themselves. For example, Judaism and Islam are listed separately, not as a kind of theistic worldview.

This work contains brief chapters, each dealing with an important question, such as “Is there objective truth,” “Is there more than one valid religion,” “Is there a God,” and so on. The chapters conclude with the question and, based on the answer, direct the reader to a new section.

Anderson admits that his perspective is biased, but recognizes that all of our perspectives are biased in one way or another. The primary issue is whether Anderson’s conclusions are rational. In a respectful, non-polemic fashion, this book deals with the various worldview options available in contemporary culture. The author likewise admits that his own perspective, a Christian-theistic worldview, has areas of cognitive dissonance as well. However, when all the options are presented, the Christian worldview is shown to provide a rational and intellectually satisfying way of understanding who we are, why we are here, and what lies ahead.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway Books as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review: Seeking the City

At the outset, I want to acknowledge that I received this book free of charge in exchange for a review. Of course, I was not required to write a favorable review. Having said that, after reading this book, I felt I was somehow violating the principles expressed in this book by not paying for it. Seeking the City: Wealth, Poverty,and Political Economy in Christian Perspective is a massive work of 880 pages of text. This alone may prevent its distribution in a popular market, but that would be unfortunate. Chad Brand and Tom Pratt have given the evangelical world a counterpoint to much of the literature available on poverty, social justice, and the role of business in today’s market.

Unsure of what to expect, I was drawn to this title because of the work I do. I minister at a Rescue Mission in a rust belt city. We are very familiar with federally funded agencies, some of which use government dollars to entitle people under the guise of empowering them. Brand and Pratt speak clearly to this tendency.

Among evangelicals, social justice seems to be canon law. Perhaps we sense guilt or embarrassment that our historical emphasis on the gospel has resulted in neglect of poverty and injustice. Certainly, as Brand and Pratt concur, it is not a Christian virtue to see people destitute and hungry and fail to be moved with compassion. The difference is in how that compassion is expressed and what one means by social justice.

For many, social justice means a redistribution of wealth.  It is a more acceptable term than socialism. The premise behind Seeking the City, however, is that the best way to relieve poverty is to create wealth. The authors move the readers through a biblical theology of poverty and wealth, defining biblically the concept of justice. The second part shows how these principles were worked out historically – and how they were misused historically. The final section deals with the philosophy of economics and how this “trickles down” to street level.

The authors present a summation of the principles they expound in these statements:

It is not giving away money and resources that produces wealth and alleviates poverty. It is work and training/education and business acumen and risk taking and entrepreneurship and a host of other human character traits employed in the presence of property rights protections, the rule of law, and most of all, the elimination of corruption from the governments who rule where poverty exists. To load American Christians with guilt about the deaths of millions of children in the underdeveloped world because of what we are not doing about tithing is a gross misuse of supposed moral authority (italics original).

American culture is on the entitlement train and there seems to be no way to bring it to a halt. Furthermore, not a few voices from the evangelical side wholeheartedly endorse greater levels of entitlements. Brand and Pratt do a masterful job of demonstrating that this is not biblical, it is not helpful to the ones for whom it is directed, and, instead of being an expression of social justice, it is manifestly unjust.

Every Christian who is involved in any kind of charitable enterprise would do well to read this book. It is worth the effort.