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Knowing the times

BOOKS | Preparing Christians for a “negative world”

Knowing the times
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WITH STRONG RESEARCH SKILLS and experience as a high-level consultant, Aaron Renn brings significant credentials to Life in the Negative World: Confronting Challenges in an Anti-Christian Culture (Zondervan 2024).

Renn has done influential city and state policy research, so much so that the governor and mayor usually pay attention when he comes to town. He also is an entrepreneurial journalist in the digital world, with podcasts and newsletters. In his spare time he wrote an easy English version of John Owen’s classic, The Mortification of Sin.

In this new book, Renn prepares evangelicals for the “negative world” in the United States, or a world in which Christians are viewed with suspicion. He writes in the spirit of the children of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what to do (1 Chronicles 12:32).

He splits recent history into three eras: the first, positive toward Christians, 1964-1994; the next, neutral, 1994-2014; and the third, negative, 2014-present. Then he describes three styles for Christian life in such a world: culture war, seeker sensitivity, or cultural engagement. His analysis offers a useful tool, similar to personality tests. It’s just a framework, and many readers will see themselves in all three categories, using all three styles, depending on circumstances.

His organization and clarity are unusual for a popular Christian book. But he dwells a bit much on evangelical failure and gives too few examples of success. (Faith in the Halls of Power by Michael Lindsay offers some success stories.) Renn suggests 1950s Secretary of State John Foster Dulles as a worthy role model. Evangelical Dan Coats would have been a more recent and pertinent example of excellence, pursued in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate, the ambassadorship to Germany, and then as President Donald Trump’s director of national intelligence. Leaders of his stature warrant at least a footnote.

But that’s a minor fault in a very good book. Renn has sounded an alarm to prepare for harder times in light of current trends. Even if it turns out that he’s too pessimistic, his recommendations are still worthy. He urges readers toward excellence, resilience, and truth spoken clearly. Those recommendations never go out of date.

Russ Pulliam

Russ is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, the director of the Pulliam Fellowship, and a member of the WORLD News Group board of directors.


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