Published by Good Book Company on September 1, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Politics, Theology
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Love and wrath. Sovereignty and responsibility. Victory and suffering. Some of the truths we read in the Bible seem to be in opposition to each other. We naturally tend to gravitate towards a side, but when we lose sight of one truth in order to protect the other, we are in danger of becoming proud, creating division, and diminishing our faith.
Taking sides can even lead to ugly arguments and have a damaging effect on the church's witness to the world.
Adam Mabry shows us where the Bible tells us to be both/and, not either/or. He encourages us to embrace the tensions in the Bible instead of taking sides, so that we can leave anxiety and outrage behind, and instead enjoy the whole truth of Scripture, experience every element of the Christian life, and be gracious towards our fellow brothers and sisters.
Adam Mabry begins this book with an anecdote about church members from opposite ends of the political spectrum who separately criticized him for the same sermon, incensed that he had not taken their side. He found this absurd, funny, and infuriating, and writes in this book about how vital it is for Christians to seek unity instead of demanding that their pastors and church communities espouse all of their political views. Even though he honors the role of politics in its proper place, he emphasizes how vital it is for Christians to listen to other viewpoints and learn to hold different truths in tension instead of camping out in a specific political or theological tribe and vilifying everyone else.
Theology Debates, Not Politics
Stop Taking Sides: How Holding Truths in Tension Saves Us from Anxiety and Outrage sounds like a politically focused book, but it focuses more on theological beliefs. Each chapter addresses a specific tension between different truths, such as God’s sovereignty and our responsibility, and even though this provides a model for how Christians can seek truth and hold a balanced view, only a few of the chapters specifically address politics. The chapter that contrasts individualism versus collectivism is particularly good, engaging with the positive and negative elements of both, but it is one of the only chapters that delves into current political conflict. For the most part, this book deals with theological views, showing how even though people tend to choose to camp out with their preferred element, we need to hold issues like God’s love and wrath in tension, since the Bible explicitly teaches both.
This book’s content can be very beneficial, but even though it is important for Christians to step back from side-taking and hold biblical truths in tension, this model is only marginally helpful for evaluating different political ideologies. There are some political views and ideas that people can hold in tension, but many are mutually exclusive, and others are so flawed that even though they might have policy-based merit, we would not hold them as intangible truths. Christians can hold seemingly contrasting biblical teachings in tension, since both views come from God’s revealed Word, but it is a different matter entirely to deal with ideological and conscience-based political leanings and policy issues.
This book encourages Christians to seek unity, refuse the comfort and ease of partisanship, and live in the tension between different beliefs. This is all admirable, and I appreciate the book’s strong message against our outrage society, but this book does not live up to its title. Also, even though skeptics and people outside the church might be interested in a book like this, the heavy focus on theological debates will be irrelevant them and their personal backgrounds. Even though this book makes some great points and has a stirring, much-needed message, I would only recommend this to Christian audiences, and would give the clear caveat that even though this book will encourage them in humility and unity, it will not help them resolve their pressing political dilemmas.