Published in the Catalyst, Vol. 33, No. 1 - Summer 2010
Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the real world
By John G. Stackhouse Jr.
Oxford University Press, 2008
Reviewed by Rebekah Sears
Who are we for Jesus Christ, today? In a contemporary Canadian context, long removed from first-century Palestine, this is the essential question John Stackhouse poses.
For Stackhouse, incorporating context is crucial in Scriptural application. Jesus used parables to convey Biblical principles to people of his time. Through Jesus' teachings, Stackhouse sees our principle task as bringing knowledge of God to others through our vocations. He calls this furthering shalom, or peace, wholeness and goodness in everything we do, from working in government to painting a masterpiece. Bringing shalom does not mean winning the world for Christ through political power, or isolating ourselves, but doing our best in the world.
But is Stackhouse promoting slightly too passive a stance? Stackhouse's interpretation of calling, furthering shalom, is similar to theologian N.T. Wright’s. But Stackhouse emphasizes that bringing the Kingdom is solely the work of God. Wright does not dispute this, but argues that God has and can empower people to help usher in the Kingdom through our vocations. Stackhouse warns, with good reason, not to focus too much on bringing the Kingdom. He fears such rhetoric might lead to the desire to conquer nations for God through political means. He provides multiple examples of Christian governments which, after coming to power, did not rule under principles of God's Kingdom. The quest for balance answers who we are for Jesus, today.