Friday, June 8, 2018

How the Nations Rage by Jonathan Leeman

I had difficulty consistently comprehending this book. I began reading with great interest but soon became bogged down. The author's writing style just did not resonate with my logic encrusted brain. I found he was not concise and I sometimes lost track of what he was trying to communicate. For example, while writing about maintaining unity in the church when we differ on what the Bible says about an issue, he has us go off to think about the pastor's job description. (Loc 1437-1481/4319) Near the end of that section he writes, “I suspect you are beginning to feel how jumbled and complicated this topic is.” (Loc 1492/4319) Yes.

I do have some major concepts from the book. This is an era of testiness in politics. We see confusion and conflict among Christians too. Leeman's first goal for this book is for us to rethink politics from a biblical perspective. He includes other goals as well but I think his first goal is the major one.

Leeman writes that we cannot separate politics and religion. All of life is political and religious. Politics cannot be religiously neutral since every human worships God or a god. “Politics serves worship. Governments serve gods.” (Loc 660/4319) Behind every action is a worldview and behind that worldview is a god. The public square, he writes, “is a battleground of gods.” (Loc 693/4319) We can and must separate church and state, however. They “possess distinct God-given authorities with distinct jurisdictions.” (Loc 887/4319)

We might look to the Bible to inform us on political issues. Leeman writes, “...the Bible does not tell us what to do on trade policy, carbon dioxide emissions, and public education. But it does tell us that whatever we do in these domains will be measured by the principles of righteousness and justice explicitly established in the Bible.” (Loc 1525/4319) We live out those principles through our local congregation. That requires God-given wisdom. Even Leeman notes that different political viewpoints and various Christians have differing views of what justice is. (Loc 3478/4319)

Leeman writes, “...when the Bible isn't explicit and clear, let's leave room for Christian freedom." (Loc 1709/4319) A great, even if often repeated, suggestion. Leeman notes how easy it is to misread the Bible. (Loc 1721/4319) He gives some principles on how to read the Bible politically but notes it is complicated. (Loc 1732/4319)

At one point, Leeman writes that his concern is “to help you know how to have the conversation and think through different topics for yourself.” (Loc 2074/4319) At another point, “The bottom line here is that Christians need good judgment and wisdom.” (Loc 3122/4319) But how do we really help Christians develop that good judgment and wisdom?

The topic of this book is not an easy one and I felt this book is not an easy one to read and digest. In the end, all I know for sure that this is a complex topic. Progress would require thinking through issues, something very hard to get politically adamant Christians to do.

Food for thought: “If there is hope for the nation, it's through the witness and work of churches.” (Loc 4075/4319)

You can watch the book trailer here.
You can watch an interview with Leeman about the book here.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Jonathan Leeman is the editorial director at 9Marks, a ministry that helps church leaders build healthy churches. He teaches theology at several seminaries and has written a number of books on the church. He is also a research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He has degrees in political science and English, a master of science in political theory, a master of divinity, and a doctorate in political theology. He lives in the DC area with his wife and their daughters.

Thomas Nelson, 272 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.
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