Joyful Exiles: Life in Christ on the Dangerous Edge of Things
James M. Houston
InterVarsity Press, 204 pages, $17.00
Christian discipleship requires us to live " 'dangerously on the edge' of our culture," writes James M. Houston, founding principal of Regent College in Vancouver. Houston, the author of some 40 books (including The Mentored Life), brings a critical eye to Christian culture and to our surrounding secular culture. In so doing, he questions the shibboleths of both secular humanism and professional Christianity. Most Christian readers will nod comfortably with the critiques of secularism, but some of the questions Houston raises about the ways Christian culture has been infected by that secularismsuch as his suggestion that the tendency in today's professionalized ministry is to substitute "techniques and technology for love"strike uncomfortably close to home.
At the heart of Houston's vision of the Christian life is a relationship with God. But in our current agean age when technology often supersedes or distorts human relationships and leaves many of us deeply lonelywe have trouble remembering how to be intimate with an Other. Houston usefully translates Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas's notion of ethics into an evangelical-friendly idiom: Ethics is about living in the presence of another person. Therefore, what the Christian says to God is not "Here are all the things I think or feel about you," but "Here I am; relate to me."
Houston draws on many saints who have gone before him, including John Bunyan, Richard Baxter, George Herbert, and Søren Kierkegaard. Indeed, the whole book is an extended meditation on one of Kierkegaard's most crucial insights: Physical death is less fearful ...1
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