I don't have the time for, or interest in, doing book reviews on the Karis Blog. However, I will from time to time let you know what I'm reading and recommend works for you. A book I just completed, which I highly recommend, is Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Charles A. Anderson, and Michael J. Sleasman. The introductory chapter lays out a procedure for looking at texts (not just books, but music, arts, etc.) and trends in society and responding to them from a Christian worldview. Various authors then spend the next nine chapters showing how this is done, covering everything from supermarket checkout lanes to the music of Eminem to the blogosphere to the movie Gladiator to "fantasy funerals" to the rampant feeling of busyness in our culture. The last chapter is particularly helpful. It deals with the culture surrounding weddings in America, allowing us to look over the shoulders of the authors and see how they go about analyzing texts and trends and responding Christianly. Keys to their approach are as follows: first, you choose a cultural text or trend, and, as the authors point out, they're all around us. Second, you consider the "world-of" the text or trend. You study and observe to learn everything possible about the subject. Here you try to be thorough and thoughtful, suspending judgment, as best as you can. Third, you consider the "world-behind" the text. You study to see how this text or trend came to look like it is. You study carefully, seeing what others have said about it, seeing all those that have helped contribute to it, and, even seeing whose interests are advanced by it. This is easy to see for weddings-- a $72 bilion wedding industry! Additionally, you see what other trends influence your subject at hand. Fourth, the authors encourage us to look at the "world-in-front" of the text or trend. This is where we analyze it, seeing what it influences, and what it values. This looks for a "root metaphor," which, for weddings, could be "the party of a lifetime" or "the special day of a princess." This stage looks for the meaning of the text or trend. Fifth, we examine what the Bible says about this issue. We look for all passages relevant and learn from them. Sixth, we read the issue from a biblical-theological perspective. This is most encouraging and helpful about the book. The authors advocate reading the text or trend alongside the Bible's creation, fall, redemption, consummation flow. Here the authors advocate going from a hermeneutic of charity to one of suspicion, being willing to question why things are the way they are. For example, the wedding industry is largely shaped by people standing to profit greatly from it. Here, we don't just look for a "root metaphor" but a root error. Perhaps, for weddings it might be the idea that this is the day for a princess. Is this about pampering a girl or reverently taking vows of marriage? Seventh, the authors then commend, after all of this study, being cultural agents regarding the issue. We seek not to shun the culture of weddings, but rather change it, largely in the context of God's people, the church.
I haven't done this book justice. Read it for yourself If you could care less about the topics, it doesn't matter. Reading it will give you a process for approaching culture that will make you a better missionary. Don't let the fact that Brian McLaren recommended it keep you from reading Everyday Theology.