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In Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It (Crossway), Greg Forster, program director at the Kern Family Foundation, helps American Christians understand the church's complex relationship to the surrounding culture. Beginning with the premise that the Christian life is grounded in divine joy, he argues that our approach to cultural engagement should flow out of that same joy.
This book is the first offering in Crossway's Cultural Renewal series. It is split into three parts, each derived from the classic Isaac Watts hymn "Joy to the World" that inspired the title. The first section, "Let Men Their Songs Employ," looks at the unique challenges facing the American church as it attempts to bring the gospel to bear in all areas of life.
Part two, "Let Earth Receive Her King," relates the dynamics of the spiritual life to Christ's three offices of prophet, priest, and king. This section offers a helpful, balanced account of the spiritual formation necessary for engaging the culture of a particular community.
Finally, in part three, "He Comes to Make His Blessings Flow," Forster turns to three particular topics—sex and family, work and the economy, and citizenship and community—and puts forth a Christian response to each.
Though all three sections are valuable in their own way, I suspect Forster's opening reflections on the fraught relationship between Christian faith and American identity will make the greatest impact. Here, he manages to distill fairly academic social critiques into an accessible package.
To begin, Forster lays out what makes the United States such a unique nation. Historically, we have maintained a strong cultural consensus around specific religious beliefs, but without ever enshrining those beliefs in our founding documents. Despite having no established religion, we have a very religious citizenry.
Explaining this hybrid ...