SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY CHURCH: Finding a Better Way to Influence Our Culture, by Dean Merrill (Zondervan, 183 pp.; $12.99, paper). Reviewed by John Wilson.
If there is one thing that American Christians at the end of the twentieth century have in common, it is a strenuous wrestling with what it means to be the church. Sometimes, though not as often as we might hope, this questioning is pursued with full consciousness of the issues at stake, undergirded by sustained theological reflection, and always tested against Scripture; more often, questions like What is the church, really? and How do we know what it should look like? are taken up in a pragmatic, hit-and-miss fashion. But whatever form it takes, this questioning cuts across all the usual dividing lines of race and denomination and worship style. The members of the Willow Creek Association are rethinking church from the ground up—not least in dispensing with the name "church"! And so also, when Francis George, the new archbishop of Chicago and soon-to-be cardinal, makes evangelization the keynote of his program, he is asking American Catholics to rethink the meaning of church.
With Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church: Finding a Better Way to Influence Our Culture, Dean Merrill has made a valuable contribution to this ongoing reexamination. Merrill, a former vice president at Focus on the Family and currently vice president and publisher of the International Bible Society, does what a long line of Christian provocateurs have done, going all the way back to the apostle Paul. The trick is simple. You merely ask Christians, Suppose what you say you believe is really true—how should you then live?
That question is too staggering in its implications ...1