Our Good Crisis, Jonathan K. Dodson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, Forthcoming March 17, 2020.
Summary: Underlying the various crises of our culture is a moral crisis, a crisis of good into which the virtues of the Beatitudes can speak, leading to moral flourishing.
Sexual assault and other misdeeds. Financial misdealing. Political divisiveness. Consumerism that is consuming the planet. Jonathan K. Dodson contends that underlying all of these crises is a moral crisis. A crisis of good. Dodson speaks from experience. He grabs our attention in the opening words of this book:
I picked up the phone and said hello.
“Jonathan, this is Amy.” I hadn’t spoken to my old girlfriend since she’d moved to Alaska a decade ago.
“Well, okay. I’ve been meaning to call you for a long time. I need to tell you something. When we were dating, I got pregnant and had an abortion. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about it. I just felt like it would send you on a different path, away from ministry, so I kept it to myself.”
Our crisis of good reflects that we live in a context where we no longer clearly know what is the good, nor are learning the virtues that lead to virtue, to acting with integrity in personal and public settings. For Dodson, the Beatitudes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, offer a pathway to grow in the virtues that lead to goodness and foster our moral flourishing.
Dodson devotes a chapter to each of the beatitudes. In an age of self, “the big me,” poverty of spirit grasps our bankruptcy before God, how desperately we fall short of his righteousness, that brings us into the kingdom and a humility that becomes a gift to others. We live in an age of distraction that diverts us from the mourning that brings real comfort and not mere diversion. Meekness calls us out of a culture of comparing with others how big of piece of the world’s pie of glory we are getting. Instead, the meek inherit God and all that is in Him. We move in a culture of expedient values rather than being rooted in the righteousness of God that pursues justice for all and not just ourselves.
Dodson goes on in succeeding chapters to discuss mercy in an age of tolerance, purity in an age of self-expression, peacemaking in an age of outrage, and persecution in an age of comfort. One thing I thought he nailed with regard to peacemaking, was how often we are either more concerned about being right than making peace or more concerned about keeping a superficial peace to tell the truth about grievances that are coming between us.
Dodson weaves three helpful elements through his discussions: astute cultural analysis that relates to each of the Beatitudes, elaboration of the meaning of the Beatitude, and helpful practical examples of how the moral goodness of each of these Beatitudes might be expressed in our lives. Each chapter concludes with several reflection questions.
We are in an age of moral outrage coupled with a lack of moral compass. Even in the church, we mobilize around moral crusades while an onlooking world is disgusted with our moral hypocrisy. Dodson both diagnoses our moral crisis, and offers the Beatitudes as our course of treatment.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.