Saturday, August 19, 2006

Peculiar People

A Book Review
Title: A Peculiar People
Subtitle: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society
Author: Rodney Clapp

Here is today's entry from my dream journal:
I am walking westward down a street much like the one near my home. Looking west, toward the vast field where alfalfa is grown, I see a magnificent storm in the sky, like a vast thunderstorm with dark clouds filling the sky. It was a beautiful sight. I turned to look east and, behold, in the sky there was a storm so great, so dark, so awesome that I was greatly astonished at the sight of it. But in the midst of the clouds, shining through them, was a bright light, that was beautiful like to the full moon at night. This sight lasted a moment and then my vision went blurry and grey. I felt as if I was trying to open my eyes but couldn't. Then I woke up.
I mentioned earlier that there is an answer, even if it's hidden in darkness. I have my suspicions as to the interpretation of this dream, but I need to think about it for a time.

After reading Rodney Clapp's book "A Peculiar People", I do recommend the book, especially for pastors. But it's the sort of book that has to be read very carefully, at least twice, first of all, because Mr. Clapp covers a great deal of territory in his book, and secondly, because, I think, he can be easily misunderstood in what he is saying. For example, Clapp sometimes uses words in a way that have peculiar meanings, and one has to pay careful attention to understand exactly what he is talking about. As an example of this, sometimes he uses the words "politics" and "political" in a sense that really has nothing to do with their usual meanings, which most people would probably associate with political parties, Republicrats and Democans, lobbyists, pressure groups, and the rest of the usual hubbub of secular governments. It is actually the case that Clapp is using the words with the far more subtle meaning of "that which constitutes the structuring and maintenance of an independent community in its essential nature and identity".

It would almost require a book of its own to completely analyze what Clapp had to say. But to put it very briefly, in a nutshell, he is saying that the Church has truly entered an entirely new epoch in its history: it has entered what he calls a "post-Constantinian" era. But one would have to read his book to understand all the ramifications of what this means. But what is important to note, as Clapp sees it, this pivotal development is actually a great opportunity wherein the Church can fulfill its true destiny as the eschatological community of God's people here in this temporal age. Basically, I agree with Clapp's thesis; it resonates with me in many ways. But I would go one step further: the Church in not just a community, but it was meant to be a supernaturally empowered community, which exists as a prophetic testimony to the truth of the Resurrection, Ascension, and Glorification of XP, and to His ineluctable Second Coming.

Although it constituted only a small sidebar in what his book was really about, the one area where I would disagree with Clapp is in his espousal of pacifism. For me pacifism is a respectable but mistaken position, understandably mistaken, but mistaken nonetheless. Nevertheless, "A Peculiar People" is one of the best xtian books I have read in a long time, and I rate it up there with Marva J. Dawn's book "Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down".