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January 1973 · Vol. 2 No. 1 · pp. 30–31 

Book Review

The Free Church and Seductive Culture

Calvin W. Redekop. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1970. 189 pages.

Reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

A question continually raised by sociology students who are attempting to view their discipline from a Christian perspective relates to material which seeks to take both sociology and Christianity seriously. Redekop provides such material. The seduction of the church has been effected where it has failed to respond with Christian conviction to pressures on it (Redekop points out that such pressures, which threaten the survival of society, are war, economic disparity, social domination and environmental conditions, e.g. technology and population density). He points out that one wing of the church has attempted to remain free of these pressures—the Radical Reformation. Defining the essence of the free church as “the awareness of the possibility that the mind can be ‘darkened’ by the most subtle and dangerous temptation of all—that of being unable to see the truth because of a total involvement in the temporary order,” (p. 83) Redekop holds that “the Mennonites are an illustration of a group which has at least partially succeeded in this stride to be free” (p. 86). Perhaps on this point he is overly romantic in perspective. When he claims that “in the economic realm Mennonites have never fared very well in business and industry, again at least partially because this involves domination over others,” (p. 75) he seems not to take seriously enough the “successes” particularly of Russian Mennonites. Also, the statement that “technology has always been avoided as much as possible by Mennonites” (p. 79) is too categorical to fit at least twentieth-century sons of Menno.

At the same time, Redekop points out the vision which the anabaptists once had, and which is still possible for the free church—to rise against the attempt to objectify a temporal order. The key, he suggests, is to re-emphasize the concept of the body of Christ as a “discerning” {31} and a “sanctioning” body, (p. 133) and one model for this to take place is the koinonia, the small fellowship group.

One minor misprint occurs (p. 106) when “Mennonite conception of the state” should read (I think) “Mennonite conception of the church.” Free Church stands as a very significant contribution to the literature relating to “church renewal,” particularly because of its being written in the context of the social sciences’ own discussion.

Vern Ratzlaff
Mennonite Brethren Bible College, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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