You Were Made For More Than Safety — “Risky Gospel” by Owen Strachan (Review for Christianity Today)

strachanExodus tells us that God saved Israel that it might “serve/worship” (avodah) him (Ex. 7:16; 8:1; 9:1). Contrary to what we might think, the Israelites weren’t set “free” to go off, settle in, and have a safe, pleasant life according to their own whims. God had particular, sometimes difficult, purposes for them. God’s redemption aimed at creating a people to boldly worship, serve, and represent him before the nations (Ex. 19:5-6). In Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Do Something Awesome, Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College and executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), revives this message for a modern Christian audience. Framing our situation with Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), he invites us to do more than accept life in a fallen world, hoping not to screw up too badly before the master returns.

Instead of living “safe,” miserly lives as the wicked servant did, we are called to go out, fulfill the creation mandate, and “take dominion” of the world (Gen. 1:26-30)—in other words, “build something awesome.” For this, we’ll need a willingness to take up our crosses and risk discomfort, failure, and pain in order to boldly do great things for the glory of God.

Sadly, instead of bold worshippers, Strachan sees a landscape filled with Christians who are tired, scared, defeated, and satisfied with small, pointless pursuits; we’re living our “stressed life now.” To use Andy Crouch’s language of “gestures” and “postures” (Culture Making, pp. 90-96), Christians have been flinching, slouching, and playing it safe for so long, we’ve developed a sort of scoliosis of the soul. In other words, we’re stuck. Stuck in weak prayer lives. Stuck in our parents’ basement. Stuck in suburban monotony. Stuck in marriages we’re scared to actually try at and are tempted to bail on. Stuck trying to merely hunker down and survive the Christian life. Well, as a good doctor would, Strachan endeavors to apply the medicine of the gospel to straighten our spines, and walk with the upright boldness of people who know the trustworthiness of God.

You can read the rest of my review over at Christianity Today

How Do You Explain the Jews without the Exodus?

exodusWhile I’m sure there are a number of historical and archeological arguments for the historicity of the Exodus, I found this passage Andy Crouch’s Culture Making compelling for its brevity and force:

The exodus does not just have religious significance. It stakes a claim to human history. To be sure, more than a few moderns question whether the events recounted in the Bible happened the way they were recorded. Undoubtedly the biblical texts, like all texts, streamline or condense certain features of the historical events. Yet those who would deny the basic historicity of the exodus, like those who would deny the historicity of the resurrection, are left with a daunting historical problem: how to convincingly explain the coming into being of such a distinctive people, with such deeply rooted and enduring religious, ethical, and cultural practices, without any cataclysmic event like the deliverance from Egypt. One need only compare the exodus account to the crazy quilt of national origin stories in Greek or Roman mythology. We have to admit a pantheon filled with a wild variety of gods of various sort and conditions, playing favorites, and capriciously intervening in history in an endless cosmic competition, seems much better suited to the haphazard process of cultural consolidation in the ferment of the Mediterranean Basin than the idea of a single Creator God who has chosen a particular people and sticks with them with the ferocity of covenant love. Even in spite of their admitted temptations to assimilation and syncretism, even through cycles of marginalization and exile, the Jewish people maintained a tenacious and culture-shaping faith in that one God, YHWH They did so despite living, generation after generation, in cultural contexts where monotheism in general and worship of YHWH in particular was all but impossible. In the face of such and extraordinary religious and cultural achievement, something like the exodus comes much closer to being the simplest and most plausible explanation.

–Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, pg. 204-205

In essence, “How do you explain the Jews without the Exodus?” You can’t.