"Our Good Crisis" by Jonathan K. Dodson. A Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’s young, thoughtful, biblical and to the point. “Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes” is a 192-page softback nicely written and highly germane given our present culture of polarizing and partisanship. Johnathan K. Dodson, lead pastor of City Life Church in Austin, founder of Gospel-Centered Discipleship, and author of several books, has delivered a homerun in this discussion of the Beatitudes “breaking into the crisis of our everyday lives” (x). And by everyday lives, he especially means, our lives right now, in this environment, in this antagonistic context. Anyone from 16 to 86 will gain immensely from the material between these covers.
Dodson launches into his deliberations defining the word crisis, with its ancient roots in Aristotle and in the Greek New Testament. Crisis is the Greek word for judgment, when Jesus will return to judge (krisis) the living and the dead. Therefore, crisis was originally tied to “fixed moral judgments” of right and wrong. But it has been morphing in meaning so that it has now come to refer to my own emotional state and the episodes of momentary uncertainty. This brings the author to explicate the significance of the Beatitudes for reforming our criteria of good, bad, right and wrong and fostering virtue in our morally ambiguous values-driven world. “Virtue is intentional, not accidental. Integrity works to hold our public and private life together. Character is stamped all the way through” (12).
Each of the remaining eight chapters takes the Beatitudes in order and looks them over carefully, especially from the perspective of our modern moral crisis. The author butts Jesus’ words up against self-discovery, activism, social justice, expressive individualism, tolerance, fragility, outrage, the secular judgmental puritanism, the flood of digital details and news, and so forth. Dodson masterfully handles each Beatitude and its antagonist, guiding readers to reflect on how easily we have been captured by our chaotic era, and the remedy. And the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the antidote through-and-through.
One of the most important insights, out of many, was the role of the church for the Beatitudes. As the author rightly notes, “Jesus isn’t calling just individuals to the character of the kingdom; he’s calling a whole community – the church – to be poor in sprit…we need one another to become what God has called us to be” (37). And he challenges us with our own role in the social disease. Even though “we may be “in church,” our problem is that “our identity is “in self”” (115). Though Dodson is fairly pointed in his discussion, he is never abrasive nor abusive. I can honestly say, he will leave you happily uncomfortable.
One further trait I appreciated in the book was how the author draws together topics that have been allowed to become divisive. Whether social justice or personal justice and judgment or mercy, to name a few, he patiently gives each it’s due, while acknowledging their weaknesses. To put it simply, here’s a young minister who subtly takes the teeth out of the bite between Boomers and Millennials, social justice activists and those who promote the spirituality of the church, etc.
“Our Good Crisis” is just the right book for our time. Ministers, medical professionals and magistrates need to quickly grab a copy and pour over it. Church elders and bible study groups should take it up and work through it. Christians who are social media warriors and those who are podcasters need to read it carefully before they post or broadcast their next item. I highly recommend the book.
My thanks to IVP for sending me a copy of the book used for this review. They gladly did so at my request, and they made no stipulations on me. Therefore, the evaluations I have made in this assessment are mine, all mine! And they are cheerfully made without distress or duress.
You can purchase the book here: Our Good Crisis
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