Culture > Books

Rx for a sick society

Books | Going beyond the obvious in finding spiritual solutions

Issue: "Cleaning up Longview," Nov. 23, 1996

We all know that American culture is in real trouble. We have recounted ad nauseam the sundry woes of our societal disarray. We have witnessed firsthand the dire consequences of concupiscence and lasciviousness and a culture gone awry. So, there is hardly any reason why we would want to read yet another book rehearsing for us everything that has gone wrong with our civilization. Thankfully, these three fine books do not dwell on the obvious. Instead, with penetrating insight, theological adroitness, and visionary purposefulness, they address why we've gotten into the mess we're in and how we might get ourselves out of it.

The Sensate Culture is a brilliant analysis of the seemingly insatiable American appetite for gargantuanism. Harold O.J. Brown has greatly contributed to the well-being of the modern church with a lifetime of faithful service, but in this book he may have bequeathed his most valuable gift yet. His perspective of how and why sensuality ultimately leaves men and nations hollow and empty is simultaneously erudite and evident. Tracing three distinct stages of disintegration in the arenas of law, education, medicine, the arts, and religion, he affords us an understanding of the root causes of our colossal errors. But Mr. Brown also points the way to a real and substantial hope for the future. This is a powerful and prophetic book.

Deliver Us from Evil by Ravi Zacharias addresses the same concerns, but with a distinctly apologetic purpose. Mr. Zacharias is first and foremost an evangelist. In this remarkable book, he posits the ineradicable Word of God as the only inextinguishable light in these dark and dismal times. But be assured, this is a work of apologetic power and suasion unlike almost anything you may have read of late. With beautiful prose, sharp logic, and direct applicability, Mr. Zacharias tackles the toughest intellectual issues of our time with uncommonly orthodox verve and nerve. Give this book to your cynical and skeptical friends and begin with them the dialogue of eternity anew.

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The Rise of the Imperial Self is likewise an analysis of our contemporary cultural crisis. But where Mr. Brown takes a sociological and theological approach and Mr. Zacharias takes a philosophical and biblical approach, Ronald Dworkin takes a historical and political approach. Utilizing the grid of interpretation of de Tocqueville's Democracy in America and Augustine's The City of God, he is able to approach the conundrums of the culture wars in an entirely fresh and innovative fashion. Mr. Dworkin's correlation and integration of ancient heresies and modern atrocities will make your head swim.

R.L. Dabney once criticized conservatives as those who can do little more than "grumble and growl at iniquity before capitulating wholesale." These books neither grumble nor capitulate. Instead, they offer a voice of reason and hope in these all too often unreasonable and hopeless days.


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