Archaeologists have unearthed a tale to delight the heart of every conservative in America, and to answer the question posed by Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet in Restoring All Things. How can the church act in ways that are restorative and life-giving without being reactionary? The story is set in Ephesus, seat of Artemis worship and home to the temple which housed the perpetual fire for their worship. Now, it happened that the priests, keepers of that fire, were essentially the utility monopoly of Ephesus, for they made it known far and wide that obtaining one’s fire elsewhere was an affront to the gods. Evidence now reveals that members of the early church in Ephesus would freely share their fire with the needy, simultaneously providing life-saving fire to the poor, contributing to the demise of Artemis worship, undermining the pagan temple’s source of revenue, and ending their tyranny over the people of Ephesus. The point of the story is that these first-century Christians accomplished all this without benefit of political representation, legislation, or so much as a single demonstration outside the temple. Bearing fire was an act of kindness –, a militant compassion — that met a need and effected change in the process.
In chronicling God’s Audacious Plan to Change the World through Everyday People, the authors skimmed the cream from thousands of stories from the archives of BreakPoint and World Magazine, both of which exist to answer the universal questions: What’s wrong with the world? What can make it right? How can I be part of making it right? Each of the stories demonstrates with boots on the ground practicality how twenty-first century Christians can serve as fire-bearers, carrying the message of reconciliation, redemption, restoration, renewal, and resurrection, because all those “re” words from the Bible are gifts from God to our fallen world. The authors skillfully demonstrate that Christianity is the only worldview with the moral and philosophical resources necessary to:
- Provide a basis for outrage over evil. If there is no ultimate authority, who gets to decide what’s wrong?
- Support a level of forgiveness that leads to healing and reconciliation.
- Offer a more robust understanding of identity than what is offered by a culture that seeks to devalue life.
- Bring meaning, significance, and value to life in the womb and life characterized by disability and suffering.
- Fuse artistic expression with “bedrock concepts of truth and beauty . . . redemption and healing.”
- Restore dignity and worth to those in poverty through meaningful work, because “the poor matter to God, and work reflects His glory.”
- Integrate worship on Sunday with one’s 9 to 5, Monday to Friday occupation, since both are a means of participation in God’s “restoration of all things to Himself.”
- View all of humanity with respect (regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation) as image-bearers of God.
- Address the “why” of education in meaningful ways that exalt the life of the mind as we fulfill our chief end: “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
Practical expressions of faith are a powerful apologetic, and Restoring All Things translates a theology of redemption into meaningful steps that any believer can tackle. Many items from the “To-Do Lists” at the end of each chapter have found their way onto my to-do list for my family. For example, I want to watch “Shark Tank” with my kids to encourage their already blossoming entrepreneurial spirit. I want to read several of the books the authors recommend. (More information about one that I’ve already read and reviewed is available here.) I want to continue to invite those on the fringes into the circle of warmth and acceptance available in Christ-centered community.
Restoring All Things is a call to the classic understanding of vocation which is masterfully defined by Frederick Buechner:
“The place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
One person’s deep gladness can transform a family or a faith community into an army of fire bearers.
Let the restoration begin!
This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.
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