Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Street Scene.

I happened upon a street evangelism scene at the beach the other day.

Having been required to do this exercise for a college class (and otherwise), I was especially curious to observe the technique. An earnest woman in her 20s was painting on butcher paper a version of what appeared to be a "Campus Crusade for Christ" (CCC) tract. The audience was comprised of a handful of middle-aged folks and a rowdy group of teenage girls, who were smoking and making rude comments. I immediately felt empathy for the speaker.

At the conclusion of the presentation, the speaker asked if people would be interested in accepting Christ and offered written materials. Except for the obstreperous smokers who stormed off mid-speech, the "audience" turned out to be plants who were holding tracts about how to receive God's forgiveness (not a CCC publication). One was pressed into my hand.

While it's easy to criticize, I want to emphasize that the motivations appeared pure. It's not easy to do what they were doing, and I'm confident they were doing this out of a genuine concern for others.

However, when I read the tract, I was struck by its works-orientation. Immediately following quotations of verses from 1 John about believing in the Son of God for eternal life (1 John 5:12-13), there were no fewer than five commands to do things (other than believing or having faith) evidently tied to receiving God's forgiveness.

Works-righteousness is our "default setting", as written about in Michael Horton's Christless Christianity (reviewed here on January 15, 2009, and also written about on November 23, 2009). We can't help ourselves, unless we grasp what the Gospel really is. Only when we do that can we truly recognize how revolutionary and counterintuitive it actually is.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Review: The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (2010) by Michael Lewis.

Describing one of his subjects--a gentleman who foretold the credit-default swap debacle--author Michael Lewis wrote, in The Big Short, that he was one who spoke in terms of stories instead of numbers.

This description could have just as easily be ascribed to the book itself. While the book chronicles the financial world's most ignominious fall since perhaps the Great Depression, it doesn't depend on hoary financial analysis. Instead, Lewis deftly tells the story through the people that positioned themselves to profit from the insanity of certain exotic lending practices. In so doing, Lewis provides perhaps the most lucid explanation for the catastrophe to date.

As a gifted writer and storyteller, Lewis tackles just about any subject with aplomb. He is well-known for his recent The Blind Side (covering football) and Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (covering baseball) as well as his early work about Wall Street, Liar's Poker.

Observe a master at the top of his craft. Do yourself a favor and read this one.

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