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The Mission of God - Review

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The Mission of God: A Manifesto of Hope for Society - review

by Joe Boot, 2016

This is a sizeable book in scope and length but it necessarily has to be selective as no book is big enough to cover this ambitious subject. This is not just a theological study but an empirical one, seeing how God has worked and is working in our world. The research is extensive, the bibliography alone running to many pages.

Joe Boot’s foundation is a recovery of the approach of the Puritans who were foundational in the spiritual and political life of Britain at the time of Charles I. Today ‘puritanical’ is seen as a pejorative term, but coined mostly by those who sought to destroy its reforming influence. Most of Cromwell’s Model Army were Puritan, and it’s said that wherever the army went a church was left behind. Although the restoration of the monarchy marked the end of the Commonwealth period, Britain’s institutions and people had been changed in the direction of better governance and prosperity. Quoting Barzun: ‘within half a dozen years, according to Pepys, many people remembered “Oliver” with a sense of longing’ (p61). God was working to bring spiritual renewal (Bunyan et al) which lead to community and political renewal. This also lead to a strong sense of God’s grace and kingdom filling every area of life. This confidence infused the Pilgrim Fathers setting up new model settlements in the Americas. There was no easy idealism here, the physical and personal challenges were acute.

In setting up new communities the Puritans sought to follow the Bible as deeply as they could, so looked to the ways of God in creating the new Hebrew community, established by 10 commandments as a clear and simple foundation. So, given the fallen nature of man, strong societies require clear laws, robustly kept. This is often mischaracterised as legalistic but the Puritans were Gospel people, warm and constructive in their social and personal relationships – as we’d say ‘firm but fair’.

Joe Boot calls us back to a rediscovery of both the confidence and the comprehensiveness of the Puritan view in our pluralistic times. In many ways the Puritans faced even more opposition than Christians do today so there is nothing anachronistic or nostalgic in that. They would have seen many Christians who could not face the cost of distinctiveness and many who openly attacked them from within the established church from spiritual jealousy or pride. Surely this is not so far from where we are today and so it’s timely to discover these faithful and godly-courageous men and women, and seek to be inspired by them in reforming our sickly culture.

The book covers many topics: Law, Theocracy, Jubilee, Gospel, Pluralism, Tyranny, History, Education, Penology, Family, Culture, Evangelism - seeing how these themes have been treated over history and how to apply now.

Each topic is set firmly in the biblical witness and in the foundational, active and immediate sovereignty of God. It’s not for us to arrogantly invent new ideas but to understand his ways and work for him to bring goodness to all parts of his creation.

Joe Boot, New Puritan, is founder of the Ezra Institute based in the UK & Canada, associated with the Wilberforce Academy (of Christian Concern). The first UK Mission of God conference ‘Courage and conviction in an age of compromise’ was held recently in Daventry jointly with Christian Concern. It was a good time of talking together as well as input from the speakers. More work is required to build the group of attendees into a community of co-workers for the Kingdom, where questions can be asked and answered. A primary challenge is helping pastors to recognise that God is intimately involved in what is going on in his world and wants us to be fully engaged in it too.