Book Review – Healing for a Broken World

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  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway Books
  • Amazon
  • DVD & Study Guide
  • Much is being written these days on the relationship between Christianity and politics, especially in the light of the decline of the religious right. The more enlightened of these articles and books avoid simply defending either the Republican or Democrat party line, but instead seek to apply biblical principles to public policy and civil society. One recent book that does this well is Steve Monsma’s Healing for a Broken World: Christian Perspectives on Public Policy. Monsma is a former state senator, emeritus professor of political science at Pepperdine, and currently senior research fellow at the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College.

    The book is divided into two parts. Part one sets out four principles from Scripture that Monsma believes are the most relevant for thinking about public policy. These principles are creation, sin, and redemption; justice; solidarity; and civil society. The first principle is drawn from the early chapters of Genesis and portrays the nature of our world and the human condition: God instructed human beings to multiply and subdue the earth (the cultural mandate). But man fell, and God is now in the process of redeeming humanity, as well as every aspect of His creation. (I appreciate this reformed approach to redemption, which includes all of creation, and doesn’t focus solely on human souls—important as that is.)

    The second principle (justice) indicates that “God has instituted governing authorities and their public policies to work against evil and to promote justice in society” (p. 49). The third principle is solidarity, which is the obligation God has given every person to love their neighbor as themselves (Matt. 22:37-40; Rom. 13:8). The final principle draws on Abraham Kuyper’s idea of “sphere sovereignty,” which holds that God has established several domains of human society, each of which is authoritative in its own realm. Chief among these domains are the government, the family, and the church. Since each sphere possesses its own authority, it is wrong for any one sphere to usurp the authority of another—for example, for the government to usurp the authority of the family, or the church to usurp the authority of the government. These four principles, Monsma contends, are those that should guide a Christian approach to public policy.

    Part two seeks to apply these four principles to several pressing issues in our world today, including church and state, life, poverty, the environment, human rights, the needs of Africa, and war and terrorism. On the issue of abortion, for example, Monsma points out that justice requires that human life, which is made in God’s image, should be protected by law. At the same time, Christians and others in our society should stand in solidarity with pregnant women facing difficult circumstances and seek to help and support them. In terms of civil society/sphere sovereignty, private organizations are typically better equipped to offer emotional and spiritual support, while government agencies are often better placed to provide monetary assistance, housing, and job training (though there may be exceptions where organizations can also contribute to these).

    Yet challenges and gray areas remain. To what extent should a society attempt to restrict abortion? Should exceptions be made for the health of the mother, in cases of rape and incest, or when the fetus is severely deformed? Are conservatives willing to support assistance programs for low-income families that will discourage women from having abortions? Are liberals willing to extend their concern for children to the womb?

    Monsma frequently raises difficult issues such as these in each of the chapters in part two, which I appreciate about the book. I believe his four biblical principles are compelling and important, though others, no doubt, could be added. He does a good job of consistently applying these criteria to the problems he addresses, while also highlighting some of the ambiguities that arise in trying to construct a consistent Christian public policy.  At some points I felt that references to relevant political philosophy would have made for a richer discussion (for example, in defining terms like “justice”), but Monsma was keen to keep the discussion concrete and practical (p. 50).

    The relationship between Christianity and government is a difficult and complex topic, and there are no easy answers. But the principles Monsma suggests are indispensable to the discussion, and deeply rooted in Scripture and Christian tradition.   Anyone interested in the intersection of Christianity and politics will find this book helpful, especially since the author has wrestled with many of these issues firsthand.

    — Reviewed by Chris Reese

    * Thanks to Crossway for providing a review copy.

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    Free J. I. Packer Book for Kindle and iPhone

    Total dependence on God. Jesus proclaimed victory over the powers of darkness. The Holy Spirit as advocate, counselor, guide, and helper—the one who glorifies Jesus. Communion of the saints.

    In Affirming the Apostles Creed, Packer explains the meaning and implications of each phrase of this great creed. Each concise chapter concludes with discussion questions and Bible passages for further study.

    Click here for your free Kindle edition available until October 31, 2009.

    You can also read the book on your iPhone, without a Kindle, by downloading the iPhone Kindle app from the iTunes store.

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    (Via Crossway Blog)

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    “Because He Loves Me” Free on the Kindle

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    For those who have an Amazon Kindle e-book reader, or an iPhone with the (free) Kindle app installed, Crossway is giving away the book Because He Loves Me free for 30 days.

    Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life (April 2008) is available for free for 30 days in the Kindle Store.

    (Note: We were hoping to have this up on other platforms as well but are experiencing some delays.)

    Elyse’s latest book, Comforts from the Cross: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time, was published last month and her next, written with Dennis Johnson, will be published in June. It is titled Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ.

    Endorsements for Because He Loves Me

    “The Spirit of God seems to be initiating a widespread recovery of the gospel and its implications. Because He Loves Me is another—and welcome—indication that fresh gospel breezes are blowing. If you love the gospel of Jesus Christ, you’ll love what Elyse Fitzpatrick has written in this book.”
    Donald S. Whitney, Professor of Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

    “Because He Loves Me will provide hope and a desperately needed supply of ‘spiritual oxygen’ to many Christians who have lost sight of what they have and who they are in Christ and are struggling to live a life they can never live apart from him.”
    Nancy Leigh DeMoss, author; Radio Host, Revive Our Hearts

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    Interview with Ajith Fernando

    I was impressed by this interview with Ajith Fernando posted on the Crossway blog today regarding his book A Call to Joy & Pain.  He has some insightful things to say on the topic of suffering.


    You say that one of the weaknesses of the church and individual Christians is “the lack of a theology of suffering.” What are the greatest dangers when we don’t have such a theology, and how does it affect us?

    We will not have the ability to face suffering biblically if we do not have a theology of suffering. Because of their problems, some move away from their call and end up missing God’s best for them. Others remain in their place of suffering, but do so with anger, bitterness, deep discouragement, or even depression. A theology of suffering provides a base upon which we can build healthy attitudes toward difficult circumstances, so that we can always live joyfully.

    You mention wanting to help people develop an approach to life that “refuses to look upon suffering as a big deal.” How can this be possible when we inherently view suffering as being a very big deal?

    If we realize the great wealth of a life of godliness with contentment (1 Tim. 6:16) and the great wealth of our riches in Christ, then we are able to put suffering in perspective and look at it in relation to the greatest things in life. Then the sting of suffering is reduced. Our theology tells us that even suffering will work out for our good (Rom. 8:28). We realize that suffering is less significant than the love of God for us and in us (Rom. 8:31-38) and the deep joy of the Lord in us arising from the fact that God loves (1 John 3:1) and delights in us (Zeph. 3:17).

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