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Inspiring, yet short,
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This review is from: Public Faith, A: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (Hardcover)
It is the conclusion of this book that has been with me since reading it a few weeks ago. In this conclusion Volf discusses the speech President Obama gave in Egypt on June 4, 2009. In this speech Obama showed how his own faith was inspired and molded by the cultural and religious context he grew up in and - most importantly - did not loose its core meaning: his faith is still about Christ. Obama's faith, according to Volf, contains an appreciation for the religion of others and it even contains some of the heritage of the other religions he got in contact with.
For me, that is the message of this book: it is perfectly possible to be a professing Christian and to love God with all your heart on the one hand, and be inspired and formed through discussions and debates (in all kinds of ways) with non-Christians on the other hand. Only by doing this will I be able to live with them in one and the same society, without judging those other people because they are different.
In the chapters before the conclusion Volf tries to show why many followers of the Christian faith malfunction in a non-Christian culture. Although his findings are recognizable, they seem to be based on anecdotal evidence. The theological answers he offers in response to his findings are sound and thorough (albeit a bit short and thus condensed).
He also discusses the question of what a Christian's main concern in the world ought to be: interestingly he does not propose that Christians ought to be evangelizing in the traditional sense of the word, instead he believes - and of course he gives some biblical arguments for this as well - that they should be working towards human flourishing, because in that way the good things of God come to us.
In the last chapters before the conclusion Volf discusses an engaged faith. In these chapters he shows in a balanced way what it means for Christians to be a Christian in this culture and in this world. Fortunately, he does not only talk about how Christians ought to live in relation to non-Christians, but he also discusses what they ought to do in relation to their self. That, this piece of self-critique, is sorely missing in many other pieces on the role of Christians as Christians in society.
All in all, Volf has written an interesting and thought-provoking book--hopefully, it also provokes some acts. At times the book is a bit short on arguments and embeddedness in well-researched examples, but in the light of the good ideas that are presented in it, that is not really a big problem.