The sub-title to this timely book is “Can evangelicals win the world without losing their souls?” Bruce Shelley, professor of church history at Denver Seminary, has proven to be a challenging writer to our generation. This book is no exception. In the midst of an avalanche of mediocre books dealing with the church of the nineties, this book blends optimism with caution and scholarship with perception.
Shelley calls the influence from the past (on the church) “tradition,” and the pressures of the present “style.” He says, “The church, it seems, is always at risk. Sometimes, in guarding the common life of the faith, it clings to its traditions so tightly that it misses opportunities to make contact for Christ in the secular world. At other times the church sells its soul to style. It can compromise its integrity by its attempts to relate to the surrounding world” (p. 71).
Though I may not always list the same issues under tradition or under style that the authors do, I appreciated their approach at being fair to both categories without alienating anyone who might disagree. Bruce Shelley has demonstrated his conservative approach to church history and issues by his record in the classroom and by his writings. To Shelley, the danger to the church is to be swallowed up in a consumer society. This is a society where everything is tailor made for the man who has the power to purchase. We would expect this in the business world and we see it often in politics, but to what degree do we make the same considerations in the church? Are we sacrificing integrity for ambition? I recommend the book for those looking for a thoughtful response.