A Most Important and Timely Book
I don’t know about you, but if you are anything like me, current debates about Black Lives Matter, CRT (Critical Race Theory), Neo-Marxism, etc., while they permeate the public square, suffer from a lack of clarity as to what each actually means – and the import of each. Enter Douglas Groothuis’ profound and much needed book – “FIRE IN THE STREETS: How You Can Confidently Respond to Incendiary Cultural Topics.”
In 9 short and very readable chapters, Groothuis unpacks the cultural terms slung about by pundits and commentators from all sides clearly and concisely. Especially appealing to their historical origins and popular permutations.
At last! Some clarity. I am most grateful for it.
With endorsements from the likes of Os Guinness, J.P. Moreland and Voddie Baucham, one hardly needs my $.02. But I’ve never let that stop me before and I won’t let it do so now.
If one is to understand the current debates, and respond to them in any meaningful way, we need to grasp the central concepts themselves – so as to avoid straw-man rejoinders, and where they come from originally – so as to rightly discern original trajectories. Ideas do not exist in vacuums. They not only have inevitable consequences, they also have a point of origin which determines the goal(s) the originators or adopters and proponents expect those ideas to achieve when taking effect. This is where Groothuis excels. He get it. Gets them. Gets their original intent. Even if many of the modern adopters themselves do not perceive where the thought systems will (if uninterrupted) inevitably lead. And he exposes the underlying and often hypocritically nefarious and hidden agendas which are really there. And in it all, he continually calls us back to consider the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the true answer to society’s ills.
This is an exceedingly important book for our point in history. It is a must read for informed Christians. And I plan to use it evangelistically due to its saliency and unsparing willingness to grapple with the issues at their base. I can give it without reservation to “Conservatives” for its cogency in addressing the topics with facts and logic, while unflinchingly drawing the reader back to the need for and the role of the Gospel as meeting the need behind the perceived need. And, I can do so for non-Conservatives, in opening a dialog based on facts, and not mere emotional heat.
If there are any weaknesses in the book, it would be in two places.
The section on reparations I found well-reasoned, but failing somewhat in addressing the Biblical response more thoroughly. It failed to be as comprehensive as I would have liked. I agreed with the conclusions but wished he had dealt with some areas which required a deeper and more nuanced understanding of events such as David’s handling of Saul’s sin against the Gibeonites in 2 Sam. 21, and how in the minor prophets, God often calls nations into account for historical sins committed generations before. I think that would have added weight to his argument in the face of what I imagine will be the criticisms of some.
The 2nd place was in the handling of the George Floyd killing. While at a distance, we can of course see that Floyd was a man with a troubled and criminal past. But unless we could show that the responding officers were aware of that past at the time, and that such knowledge somehow informed how they dealt with Floyd that day – it should not be used in examining the isolated facts of that event. Much like in jurisprudence where “prior bad acts” are not admissible in prosecution unless they can be shown to demonstrate a relevant pattern – Groothuis’ use of them here could be seen as an attempt to mitigate his treatment by police. Mind you I said could. I don’t believe that’s what Groothuis was trying to do. But I think it could easily be read that way by some. I think it may have been wiser to have left out Floyd’s history in that place, and to have confined his analysis only to the facts at hand at the time.
Those two things considered, they in no wise negate the ultimate conclusions drawn. They in no wise lessen the fundamental power of the book and its vital role in helping all readers, Christians and non-Christians alike, in wrestling through the issues, carefully, soundly, compassionately, Biblically and with an eye to truly seeking to provide a remedy.
I highly commend it to you.