Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Mark of Jesus

I just finished Timothy George and John Woodbridge's new book: The Mark of Jesus. It was a good read.

Strangely enough, it's a book on love. I don't think there are enough books on that topic. The subtitle is "Loving in a Way the World Can See." The authors are building on a quote from Francis Schaeffer in The Mark of A Christian and spelling out what it might look like in the first decade of the 21st century.

After an introductory chapter about love: "(1) The Christian's Mark," George & Woodbridge apply it to a wide swath of subjects:

(2) Loving Your Neighbor When It Seems Impossible
(3) Evangelical Unity (Drawing Boundaries and Crossing Barriers)
(4) When the World Calls Us Hypocrites (How Should We Respond?)
(5) What's In a Name (Are We All Fundamentalists?)
(6) But What About (People Of Other Religions)

The 3rd and 5th chapters were the reason I picked up this book (which was given to us at the EFCA National Conference by Next Step Resources). I've been wrestling a lot with boundaries and barriers within Christianity. I have been trying to work through what Christian unity means and how it relates to evangelicalism (and what "evangelicalism" means, nowadays for that matter!). This was a helpful read, especially because of the historical lessons that these two scholars have drawn out for us.

For example, here are some exceprts from chapter 3: "1. We do not achieve unity by compromising our convictions. 2. We must never seek togetherness for mere prudential reasons. 3. We msut never imagine that doctrinal matters are trivial or unimportant. [On the other hand...] 1. Make a careful distinction between primary doctrines of the faith, which may not be compromised without betraying the Gospel, and secondary issuses, which may be important but are not essential for fellowship. 2. When we have theological disagreements with our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is always appropriate for us to pray for additional guidance and illumination from the Holy Spirit 3. Humility, not arrogance, is the proper attitude in all controversies among Christians."

I especially enjoyed reading something from John Woodbridge again. Dr. Woodbridge had been one of my professors (and my advisor for one year) when I had been at Trinity. It was fun to "hear his voice" while reading and recognize some of his favorite themes (esp. the fundamentalist/modernist controversy).

I'm afraid that the book didn't answer all of my questions. And I would have loved some more on the "how-to" side of things (like how to make the "Careful Distinction" between primary and secondary doctrinal issues). But it was helpful along the way, especially in giving some historical context. I recommend it for those who are wrestling with these kind of questions.

What the world does need is love, sweet love. But not love like the world loves. Love like Jesus loves.