Book Review – Beyond Culture Wars

Beyond Culture Wars by Michael S. Horton

Moody Press, 1994

Another on the reading list for this.  This book is 20 years old, and while the thesis of this book is valuable still today, it was not the most exciting read for me since I didn’t grow up in evangelical Christianity.  As such, Horton’s admonitions seem rather, well, obvious.

Writing when there was growing panic among religious conservatives about the accelerating shifts in American culture, but before anybody really believed those shifts would lead us to where we are today, Horton attempts to dissuade his evangelical brethren from their tactics politically and socially.  Instead, he calls them back to faithful preaching and teaching of the Word of God, and essentially the conversion of culture one heart at a time through the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit.  He warns congregations and denominations away from relying on political activism as a means for achieving victories only winnable by the power of the Holy Spirit.

If anything, this book made me value my Lutheran heritage, which has attempted to shy away from such efforts, saving our mudslinging and politicking for internal matters.  I have a strong conviction that nothing changes hearts but the Holy Spirit, and a profound (and I think well-deserved) distrust of the legal system as a means for achieving any lasting change.  Churches need to preach the Word, and allow the Word to come first in guiding parishioners into public action, service, and debate.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book was the foreword by Thomas C. Oden that disagreed with Horton as much as it praised his book.  I wish more forewords were as interesting to read – it made me want to know less about the book and more about the relationship of these two men and how Oden came to be the one to write the foreword!

If you grew up in or are currently in an evangelical denomination or congregation, this book might be helpful for you in (re)thinking how the Church might deal with the even greater acceleration of culture shift in America today.  Obviously, Horton’s encouragements must have fallen largely on deaf ears 20 years ago, but his insight is still useful today.

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