by Addison Hodges Hart
Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids Mich. 148 pages
The author describes this as a book of oppositions: Christianity against Christendom. He then moves on to describe what is necessary for Christianity to thrive in a post-Christendom world.
This is a tired thesis, but the author is capable of breathing new life into this old argument in a series of “sketches” describing what Christianity must become to retain its core meanings. In the first place, Christians must recover their biblical identity as strangers and pilgrims passing through this land. He does not suggest that Christians return to a golden age in the first three centuries or that all of Christendom was bad. What he does want is honesty about the cultural context in which Christians now live and a commitment to recover the ancient identity of disciples, pilgrims and strangers. To do so requires rethinking everything. Everything.
What makes this wise book worth reading is not the thesis. (After Hauerwas, everyone knows this is a post-Christendom context.) What makes it worth reading (and discussing) is the exercise of saying “yes” to what is valuable to the Christian tradition and saying “no” to what must be left behind in order to retain vitality. Such an exercise for Christians is crucial and this book is a wise guide in that effort.