11 March 2014

Book Review: Joy For the World

Greg Forster's Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence & Can Begin Rebuilding It (2014) is a must read for Christians. Last year, I had the privilege of going through a Christian worldview program, the Centurions program. As a part of that program, I was required to read several books and I will be heartily recommending this book to them.

In this 322 page book, Forster seeks to be an encourager to the church, specifically as we engage culture. He offers some appropriate pushback on the sometimes dour approach we Christians take to dealing with culture, providing a fresh perspective.  As Tim Keller wrote in the foreward, "Greg Forster's important and practical new book helps Christians think out how to engage culture" (page 13).

Forster opens his book explaining why the joy of God has change potential. He described how the joy of God changed his mind, heart, and way of living, leaving me asking what does he mean by joy of God?" He answered: "when I talk about the joy of God, I'm not talking about an emotion. I mean the state of flourishing in mind, heart, and life that Christians experience by the Holy Spirit" (page 23). Forster's description of the joy of God brought to mind Neal Plantinga's concept of shalom discussed in his book Not the Way It's Supposed to Be, another must read book.

His opening chapter, "Christianity and the Great American Experiment," was worth the price of the book in my opinion. It was readable, informative, and engaging. He wades through minefields, such as the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation...or not.  In this section, his wise discussion of the foundational importance of freedom of religion is crucial in the time and place in which I live, 21st century America.

Forster calls Christians to be involved with and engaging society, manifesting the joy of God. Forster was right: "if we we focus on intentionally cultivating social transformation only inside the church building, we are failing to cultivate discipleship in 98 percent of our lives" (page 80). Unfortunately, this message is sorely lacking in most American churches.

After issuing a call for joyful cultural engagement, Forster explores how the church might accomplish this in several different areas of our lives ranging from doctrine and worship to sex and government. This book is wide ranging in its scope, but it kept me interested as a reader. I fear that some people will reject this book out of hand due to its long chapters and overall length, but please do not let that deter you.

Though I have read hundreds of books over the last few years, there are only a very few that I consider must reads.  Joy for the World will now be on that list and that is especially true if you are drawn to books like Not the Way It's Supposed to Be, Culture Making by Crouch, or any of the works of Tim Keller, Chuck Colson, or Francis Schaeffer.

I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway Publishing Beyond the Page book review bloggers 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.”

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