About Providence, Divine Action and the Church

In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Disunity in Christ: The Most Important Book You'll Read This Year

It’s hyperbolic, sure, but the title of this post isn’t far from the truth. I’ve just finished reading Christena Cleveland’s Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2013), and I believe that this is one of those rare books that every minister or preacher – oh, forget that, every Christian should read.

Cleveland is a social psychologist, and in Disunity in Christ she explores why so many Christians affirm the need to celebrate diversity in the Church but yet fail to follow through on these aspirations. She recognises that people are naturally drawn to those who are like-minded or from similar or identical cultural backgrounds, but argues convincingly that participation in the body of Christ gives us a far more basic identity than even such important identity markers as gender or race. The Church as the body of Christ falls into disunity when its members privilege their ‘natural’ identity over the fact that they are members of the body of Christ.

The majority of the book is taken up with Cleveland’s treatment of the various cultural group dynamics that can influence Christian behaviour for ill. Of particular interest to me were her comments on homogeneity in the Church (it’s not good!) and how often we confuse our cultural beliefs with our faith in Christ.

I must confess that, at times, I felt quite disheartened by the enormity of the task true reconciliation and cross-cultural work presents. And so, if the book has a main weakness, I would suggest that maybe there could have been more hints or examples as to how negative group dynamics can be overcome. However, Cleveland’s fine analysis of the problems surely contains within itself the seeds of reconciliation, and, as each chapter concludes with some study questions, there is plenty of scope to discuss the issues and act upon them.

To conclude, let me wax hyperbolic once more: Disunity in Christ is the most important book you’ll read this year.

1 comment:

  1. That's quite a wrap, Terry! Thanks for the heads up on this book.


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