Monday, July 16, 2012

The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

I thought maybe it would be a good idea to review some books that I've read in the past, particularly ones which I've enjoyed and have helped me a lot.  Today I want to give you a brief introduction to "The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience" by Ronald Sider.  I first came across Ron Sider in an article in Relevant Magazine which was an "open letter" to this generation.  You can find the first part of that article here, with the rest just a click away.  They are very much worth a read.   This book challenged me a great deal, and it gives us a lot to think about.  Because it's a small book, it doesn't take long to read, but it still manages to challenge the reader enough to be particularly difficult.

The subtitle of the book, "why are Christians living just like the rest of the world?" perhaps gives us an indication of why this would be so difficult.  This question is dissected right away in the first chapter, as Sider gives us the statistics to show why those who claim the name of Christ in America are living just like everyone else.  Looking at wealth/poverty, divorce, racism, abuse and more, Sider shows us how we are indeed living just like the world.

He goes on in the second chapter to talk about the Biblical Vision.  What does the Bible say we should look like?  This, after all, should be our driving force.  It turns out we are to look different from the world, but not just a little bit.  We are to look vastly different.  We are to "bear much fruit" and understand that those born of God won't "continue to sin".  These are calls found throughout Scripture, and need to be taken seriously.

The third chapter is, in my opinion, the best in the book.  Here Sider compares and contrasts cheap grace with the whole gospel.  He begins with this quote from Peter Gillquist; "All the evangelism in the world from a church that is not herself holy and righteous will not be worth a hill of beans in world-changing power."  Indeed, you can reach the lost, but if it not with the gospel, they are still lost.  We must live the whole gospel, and not just the convenient parts of it.

The fourth chapter explores the question of whether we will conform to the world or will we be the church.  Unfortunately, many churches and Christians have chosen to look like the world.  Some use it as an excuse to evangelize better, and some are just lazy.  Some, unfortunately, do so because of false teaching they are hearing in the pulpit.  The more we act like the world, the less likely they are to conform to Christ.  This truth cannot be debated.  Not only will they not be changed, but we are not being the Church.  We cannot be a "royal priesthood" and act like the world.

The final chapter is about the rays of hope.  They are not many, but there are some.  In my personal estimation, the rays of hope are to be found, but we must be careful to nurture them, and not destroy them.

All in all, a very good book.  I would recommend it to anyone, and am thankful for the dramatic affect it has had on my life.

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