God’s Unwelcome Recovery: Why The New Establishment Wants To Proclaim The Death Of Faith, by Sean Oliver-Dee
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Kregel Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.]
In reading this book, it must be noted where the author is coming from, to better determine if one is the sort of reader who would be interested in this slim and entertaining book of about 170 pages or so of core material. The author is a self-professed Anglican, and his writing focuses on the state of British Christianity, particularly of the established kind, writing about the Anglicans, Presbyterians, Catholics, Methodists, as well as less organized denominational groupings like Evangelicals, who may be found across various confessional lives. The state of Christianity in the United States is used mainly as a counterpoint to the author’s discussion of Christianity in the United Kingdom, and this is also true of Christianity in France and Germany as well, which are also compared to British Christianity. For those who are interested in this topic, this book provides a fascinating look at how an author can take what appears to be an immensely difficult case and seek to make it better through an astute and deep look at statistics and a critical analysis of the biases of the “New Establishment” of secularists. The fact that the author feels bold enough to make a case for the continued establishment of the Anglican faith in an age of widespread religious apathy and questioning is a remarkable one as well.
In terms of its contents, this book is organized in nine fairly short chapters, which begin with a pointed question as far as who says that the Church in England is dying. After this the author speaks about narratives of “green shoots,” namely the rise of non-white immigrant evangelicals and Orthodox believers who have brought their faith with them from other countries, often in the midst of a great deal of persecution, as well as a discussion of the rise in pilgrammages to English cathedrals and increased church attendance in the Greater London area. After a deep look at statistics on religiosity in the United Kingdom, the author then tackles the issues of the Church in public life and the question of the service versus the power of organized religion, seeking to balance common and misguided perspectives of overly ambitious churchmen and corrupt leaders who seek to oppress others. In this book, the author is quite critical, for example, of Theonomy and its efforts to enforce biblical law, as being contrary to Britain’s pluralistic political order. The book closes with a series of chapters that questions the Marxist narrative of progress, urges a re-embracing of organized religion, and notes how a change in perspective of the state of Christianity in Britain would be of great benefit to people, as well as to a government in chronic deficit in need of the idealism and service provided by believers.
So, is this a book worth reading? On many levels, the answer is a qualified yes. If one is a scholar of Christianity or someone who wishes to keep track of arguments over the place of religion in the public sphere, this book is certainly a worthwhile contribution to that particular study . If one wants to read a book where someone takes what others might think to be a difficult case and makes a compelling argument that is worthy of respect and consideration, even if one does not agree with it wholeheartedly. So long as Christianity, even if it is of a Hellenistic form that others may not practice, has such courageous defenders who are willing to apologize for historical wrongs but also are unwilling to accept a historical record that is markedly biased, nor accept blindly a naïve bias in progress. The result is a book that ought to continue a vibrant and lively argument within British society about the place of the Anglican church, one that ought to be worth paying attention to on this side of the Atlantic, despite our lack of an established church.
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