To Change the World (Oxford University Press, 2010)
The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World
The call to make the world a better place is inherent in the Christian belief and practice. But why have efforts to change the world by Christians so often failed or gone tragically awry? And how might Christians in the 21st century live in ways that have integrity with their traditions and are more truly transformative? In To Change the World, James Davison Hunter offers persuasive–and provocative–answers to these questions.
Hunter begins with a penetrating appraisal of the most popular models of world-changing among Christians today, highlighting the ways they are inherently flawed and therefore incapable of generating the change to which they aspire. Because change implies power, all Christian eventually embrace strategies of political engagement. Hunter offers a trenchant critique of the political theologies of the Christian Right and Left and the Neo-Anabaptists, taking on many respected leaders, from Charles Colson to Jim Wallis and Stanley Hauerwas. Hunter argues that all too often these political theologies worsen the very problems they are designed to solve. What is really needed is a different paradigm of Christian engagement with the world, one that Hunter calls “faithful presence”–an ideal of Christian practice that is not only individual but institutional; a model that plays out not only in all relationships but in our work and all spheres of social life. He offers real-life examples, large and small, of what can be accomplished through the practice of “faithful presence.” Such practices will be more fruitful, Hunter argues, more exemplary, and more deeply transfiguring than any more overtly ambitious attempts can ever be.
Written with keen insight, deep faith, and profound historical grasp, To Change the World will forever change the way Christians view and talk about their role in the modern world.
Are the motivations of Happiness and Duty opposed to one another? In Mortimer J. Adler‘s Syntopicon (Britannica), the passage quoted below discusses the means and ends of moral education. (Earlier in Chapter 20: Education, the distinction is made between liberal education and moral education, the latter “which concerns excellence in action rather than in thought.” […]
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All these were rosy visions of the night,
The loveliness and wisdom feigned of old.
But now we wake. The East is pale and cold,
No hope is in the dawn, and no delight.
C. S. Lewis
Spirits in Bondage
(London: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1984)
Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be waiting for us in our graves–or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth.
Theologian, ethicist, and political analyst, Reinhold Neibuhr, was a towering figure of twentieth-century religious thought. In this important book, the best of Neibuhr’s essays have been brought together for the first time. Selected, edited, and introduced by Robert McAffee Brown – a student and friend of Niebuhr’s and himself a distinguished theologian – the works included here testify to the brilliant polemics, incisive analysis, and deep faith that characterized the whole of Neibuhr’s life.
You might also like to see The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr here.
I do not think there is a demonstrative proof … of Christianity, nor of the existence of matter, nor of the good will and honesty of my best and oldest friends. I think all three (except perhaps the second) far more probable than the alternatives.
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I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York’s skyline. Particularly when one can’t see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window – no, I don’t feel how small I am – but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body. — Gail Wynand