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Further Reading

Department: Featured Blip

Redemption Afoot

A Review of "Restoring All Things: God's Audacious Plan to Change the World Through Everyday People" by Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet

by Terrell Clemmons

Article originally appeared in
Salvo 34

Given a culture that's increasingly marginalizing Christians and looking on them with hostility, it's tempting to either give up in despair or retreat into some Christian bubble. If you're feeling down or dejected that way, then WORLD magazine's Warren Cole Smith and the Colson Center's John Stonestreet have a most encouraging message for you: God is at work—and he invites you to join him.

First, they remind us that God—who does not change with cultural tides—is all about the "re" words we find throughout Scripture—reconciliation, restoration, redemption, and renewal. "'Re' words," they point out, "have to do with returning something (a person, a relationship, a project, a universe) to its original, intended state." The Bible is not just a book about how to have a better life or even how to be a forgiven sinner. Certainly it encompasses those things, but it is much more than that. "It is a book that explains the universe and how God is in the process of redeeming and restoring it to its original good, true, and beautiful state," In that vein, Restoring All Things is a collection of true stories illustrating how everyday Christians are participating today in God's grand restoration project.

A central theme of the narratives is the uniquely American hallmark of "the strength of the middle." French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville noted in the nineteenth century that much of America's strength comes from her religious heritage, her tradition of local participatory politics, and her many mediating institutions and civic associations that stand between the individual and the government. This is very different from other nations, and it's easy to miss when so many put forth government as the go-to solution wizard for whatever ails society.

God's people know that government is not the solution. God is. And accordingly, the authors offer four questions each of us can ask as we seek to participate in what he is doing in the world:

• What is good in our culture that we can promote, protect, and celebrate?

• What is missing in our culture that we can creatively contribute?

• What is evil in our culture that we can stop?

• What is broken in our culture that we can restore?

From there, the rest of the book relates narratives of people serving in their communities, meeting needs right where they live: helping the poor rise out of poverty, improving education by serving in public schools or providing education alternatives, rescuing trafficked women and children, ministering to the sexually broken, and much more. My personal favorite is the story of Pastor Roderick Burton and Michelle Higgins, two African American residents of Ferguson, Missouri, who, clothed with the gospel, walked into the midst of blocked highways, deep pain, and heavy tragedy, risking their very lives to, as Higgins put it, "communicate this profound theology that is the answer to all of their problems."

Stories like these nourish the soul. And, like Michelle Higgins, all of us who are in Christ belong to a story of hope, not of despair. As Smith and Stonestreet remind us, we are "ambassadors of the full redemptive work of Jesus Christ. This includes, but is also more than, the rescue of individual souls. The story, as told in Scripture, is the restoration of all things that culminates in the New Heavens and New Earth, when all wrongs will be made right again." 


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