Book Information – Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel
Author – Russell Moore
Reading Challenge book? Yes. This is my “Book with the word ‘gospel’ in the title.”
“The culture of the kingdom is not a projection of our lives now onto eternity, but instead the reverse: a vision of a new creation that breaks us and prepares us for our inheritance by patterning us, now, after the life of creation’s heir: Jesus himself. With a kingdom vision, we realize that the priorities of this present world system are different from those of the age to come.”
– Russell Moore
Onward won Christianity Today’s Beautiful Orthodoxy Book of the Year for 2015, and upon reading it, I could understand why. The author is Southern Baptist and I am a reformed Presbyterian, so we may disagree on nonessentials, but when it comes to the priority of the gospel message, Moore nails it. His love of Christ and the Word shines through in every chapter of this book.I’ll confess that I went into this book expecting it to get me excited and reinvigorated about my Christian walk. Perhaps I expected it to be more of an affirmation. However, while there is plenty of encouragement here(and I did feel very motivated by book’s end), Moore throws down challenges for those of us living as Christians in the 21st century.
He starts by acknowledging that modern secular culture doesn’t support our beliefs as it once did. However, in Moore’s eyes, the fall of the “almost gospel” of cultural Christianity opens new opportunities for us. After all, in a society where pretty much any form of selfishness and perverse behavior is tolerated or even embraced in some circles, devoted Christians are going to stand out. Moore thinks this is a good thing, and I’m inclined to agree. The author reminds readers repeatedly – and backs everything up with Scripture – that we were never meant to blend seamlessly into the secular culture around us.
“Keep Christianity Strange” is emblazoned across the back cover of this book, and that theme does run powerfully throughout. One thing Moore does, which I find very productive, is that he challenges us as Christians to let go of the cultural veneer of popular Christianity and to really live the gospel. As he says in the chapter on missions, “Let’s feed the poor, house the homeless, shelter the widow, adopt the orphan, advocate for the unborn, and steward the environment.” In other words, let’s live like we really have been redeemed and are bearing fruit.
As someone raised in and among a culture where just about everyone I knew attended church and if asked, would proclaim some manner of faith publicly, Moore’s challenge to stop looking for compliance with Christian culture and to examine our hearts and think deeply about issues such as religious liberty, human dignity, and the like really made me think. This book is not always comfortable to read and as I said earlier, I come from a different theological tradition. However, with Onward, Moore has written one of those books that I think people will read and be influenced by for years to come. And I hope that I, too, can remember live so that the world will see where my hope lies.
Rating – 5 stars