Tuesday Books: ‘Onward’ (Russell Moore)

When I am looking for a good biblical response to current issues, I normally turn to either Al Mohler (albertmohler.com) or Russell Moore (russellmoore.com). I trust these guys first and foremost because I know that their goal is to be faithful to the text no matter what. But I also trust them because they always seem to be well read (particularly Mohler who reads like…everything) and well spoken (I love the humor and music references often found in Moore’s work). I believe that they are some of the best at responding to current cultural issues.

Thus, I was excited when my pastoral reading group decided to read Russell Moore’s latest book ‘Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel.’ As with his other material, Moore does a great job of biblically responding to important cultural issues. And the writing is great. Sometimes the chapters got a bit long for me, but otherwise I have thoroughly enjoyed the book. He repeatedly addresses the problem of churches and individuals believing in an ‘almost gospel’, which is, like other gospels, no real gospel at all. The problem today is not that the lost have gotten more lost but that many in American Christianity have settled for a substitute gospel, which leads to unbiblical solutions to the cultural issues that we face. Moore seeks to call us away from the ‘almost gospel’ and back to biblical truth.

Some good quotes include:

“For a long time, the church in America has assumed that its cultural conservatism was American, that most people at least ideally wanted to live up to our conception of the good life. Those with eyes to see ought to recognize that if those days ever existed, they are no more.” (p. 3)

“The shaking of American culture is no sign that God has given up on American Christianity. In fact, it may be a sign that God is rescuing American Christianity from itself.” (p. 7)

“The church now has the opportunity to bear witness in a culture that often does not even pretend to share our “values.” That is not a tragedy since we were never given a mission to promote “values” in the first place, but to speak instead of sin and of righteousness and judgment, of Christ and his kingdom.” (p. 9)

Those are all just from the Introduction, some others:

“If the Bible Belt had held to a truly “radical” sort of religious vitality, we ought to see regions with higher church attendance strikingly out-of-step with the rest of the country when it comes to marital harmony, divorce rates, sexual mores, domestic violence, and so on. We’re not the culture warriors we think we are, unless we’re fighting for the other side.” (p. 18, from his chapter on the Bible Belt)

“Our vote for President of the United States (for those of you who are Americans) is important. We are held accountable, as we’ll discuss, for the discharge of our ruling responsibilities in this life. But our vote for President is less important than our vote to receive new members for baptism into our churches. A President is term-limited and, for that matter, so is the United States (and every other nation). The reception of members into the church, however, marks out the future kings and queens of the universe. Our church membership rolls say to the people on them, and to the outside world, “These are those we believe will inherit the universe, as joint-heirs with Christ.” That’s a matter of priority of each, not a pullback from either.” (p. 62, in his chapter on the Kingdom of God)

“A church that loses its distinctiveness is a church that has nothing distinctive with which to engage the culture. A worldly church is of no good to the world.” (p. 82, from his chapter on Culture)

I could go on (great writers are very quotable), but I’ll stop with those. I have enjoyed this book and I think you will as well. If you are looking for biblical responses to current issues, then this is a great place to start.



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