November 20, 2015

Review: Onward by Russell Moore

Moore, Russell D. Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel (B&H, 2015), 240 pp.

Onward, is author Russell Moore’s attempt to forge a third-way between the Christian right and the Christian left. He attempts to remind his readers that we are living in a post-Christian culture, that the ethics of Scripture are (and really always have been) counter-cultural, and that faithful Christian cultural engagement transcends the platforms of both major political parties. Within the book’s ten chapters Moore offers a theological rationale for his brand of Christian political engagement while covering a variety of issues (marriage, family, abortion) near and dear to most Evangelicals.

When judged on its own merits, the book is largely successful (though I could nitpick). However, for those of us who’ve followed Moore’s ministry, it may be difficult to separate the general approach outlined in his book from the specific policy prescriptions he advocates as head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Based on statements made both within the book (p. 130) and elsewhere, I would characterize Moore as a Blue Dog Democrat. As a libertarian, I dislike Moore’s politics even more than he dislikes mine (pp. 6, 21). Knowing this going into the book, it was hard for me to read it without suspicion. There were times when I agreed with Moore in theory, but, having followed his ministry and seen how his approach works out in practice, I’m not a fan. I won’t go into specific disagreements because I don’t want this review to turn into a libertarian screed (again, I’d rather not nitpick).

Moore is at his best when he’s reminding his readers about the counter-cultural nature of biblical Christianity. American civil religion is not the religion of Scripture, and believers are called to proclaim Christ, not conservative (or progressive) values. However, when he moves beyond this and starts making specific policy prescriptions, he and I must part company. Frankly, I think Moore is a much better preacher than political ethicist. Admittedly, though, that’s as much an assessment of his ministry as a whole as it is of this book in particular. That’s why I can still cautiously recommend this book for those interested in the intersection of faith and culture. 

I was provided by the publisher with a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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