Thursday 2 March 2017

A Better Story, by Glynn Harrison

 Image result for glynn harrison better story

Glynn Harrison’s new book really does brim with good things.

I’ve not written a full review, but here are a few general comments and then some choice quotes to whet your appetite and encourage you to buy the thing and get people in your church discussing it.

1.     The whole book is driven by an evident desire to serve and equip the church.  Hard not to like that.

2.     Throughout, there’s a really winsome acknowledgement of our shortcomings as evangelicals, coupled with a willingness to celebrate the good to be found in the sexual revolution (e.g. greater equality for women, a shift away from bigoted oppression of minorities, some heroic examples of sacrificial service).

3.     Glynn recognises the need for some deep and careful theological reflection. At one point he writes “I find myself looking for some serious theological engagement with these weighty issues, especially gender ideology and questions of human identity.” (22). In some ways A Better Story meets that need. Although it is written in a very accessible style, the book summarises a remarkable amount of research and insightfully analyses cultural trends by drawing on multiple disciplines. At the same time, it is a clarion call for some more hard thinking. 

4.    There is an urgent call to make sure that Christians know what they believe and why. This is crucial as the church becomes more of a minority and is seen as an immoral minority on the basis of our views about sexuality and gender. In that way, A Better Story is quite church focussed. On the other hand, it is not simply advocating a withdrawal from the world. Rather, the better story of the title is to be told and embodied both in the church and in the world.

5.     There’s lots of C. S. Lewis. Hard not to like that too.

Ok, now some quotes:

“TV, pop stars and the movies didn’t simply furnish young people with trendy new role models. They were the co-opted handmaidens of burgeoning post-war consumerism.” 7

(quoting Steve Gillon) “Almost from the time they were conceived, Boomers were dissected, analysed, and pitched to by modern marketeers who reinforced [their] sense of generational distinctiveness.” 8

With the arrival of pop psychology in the 1970’s “self-expression was transformed from a mindless act of defiance into a moral quest. It was no longer change for change’s sake, or freedom for freedom’s sake; it was freedom for the sake of authenticity and becoming your true self.” 15

“You can’t out-fact a story. You need to tell a different story. A better story.” 46

74 “Many [young people] still stumble into an awareness of their sexuality through the prism of what the church is against rather than what it is for. I am frequently invited to give a talk on the question of pornography. Almost always I decline unless it forms part of a positive body of teaching on the biblical vision for sex. I am no longer prepared to help perpetuate a culture than knows what it is against, but has little idea what it is for.” 74

“We shouldn’t begin our critique of [the sexual revolution] with what we believe, but, crucially, in terms of what it promised. 76

Quoting W. Bradford Wilcox: the decline in marriage means “large numbers of young men will live apart from the civilising power of married life.” 103

“Marriage creates a culture that binds men to their responsibilities for the children they bring into the world.” 109

“Perhaps it’s about getting in touch with one’s inner hero. But what if your inner hero turns out to be elusive? What if the self you discover within turns out to be a weak, vulnerable and rather dependent thing? And what if your suspicion grows that the notion of your inner hero itself has simply been marketed to you?” 116

“As a couple make their wedding vows, they bear bodily witness to the covenantal character of God’s love. Or rather, as they keep their wedding vows they demonstrate its special character.” 152

“Both single and married people who abstain from sex outside the marriage bond point to the same thing. They both ‘deploy’ their sexuality in ways that serve as a sign of the kingdom and the faithful character of God’s passion. In refusing to have sex outside marriage, the single person witnesses to the unbreakable link between passion and faithfulness. And in refusing to commit adultery, the married person bears witness to the same truth.” 153-4

“How about viewing marriage preparation as one of the first and most important pastoral skills acquired during ministerial training?” 188