Adventures in Evangelical Civility
A Lifelong Quest for Common Ground
Richard J. Mouw
Grand Rapids: Brazos Press
Hbk, 256pp, £15.99
Richard Mouw, former president of Fuller Theological seminary, has produced a number of great little books. Not least his introduction to Abraham Kuyper. This is another one. Sadly though, this is not a biography but a memoir. However, it does contain biographical information, though we learn some things about his upbringing and his parent these insights are tangential to the chapter topics. But what we do have is a commentary on his life and on several of the books he has written. This memoir is more thematic than chronological. Mouw is clear that it’s not can autobiography and it seems he has no plans (as yet) to write one; he is also clear that it is not a detailed report on his ‘intellectual pilgrimage’.
As always with Mouw’s books, this one is packed with perspicacity, perceptivity and propriety. It provides a wonderful insight into the mind of a great philosopher-theologian partitioner and academic. Mouw has spent much of his time in civil dialogue with other Christian traditions as well as non-Christian traditions. He makes an interesting distinction between inter- and intra-faith discussions. These intra and inter dialogues shows Mouw’s concern to find common ground.
Mouw straddles the gap between the academic and the public. He dislikes the concept of a public intellectual, but it is a fitting description of him. He also straddles the gap between evangelical and Calvinist - he describes refers to himself by both descriptions. His is certainly a life lived on common ground. This is perhaps shown in at one time his two favourite authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Cornelius Van Til. Two very different conversation partners. In the book he discusses common grace, the antithesis, the image of God and total depravity - and show how these have provided important theological tools for his engagement with others.
He traces his moves from his philosophical studies at Chicago to social-political studies at Calvin and his beginning discussions with Yoder and the Anabaptist movement. His developing cultural discipleship linked with civility is the broad topic of chapter 7 but these also characterise his life and attitudes. This is particularly seen in his discussions with Catholics, Anabaptists and Mormons.
All in all this book presents a portrait of Mouw as a man of wisdom, civility, commitment and a Kuyperian concern that the gospel shapes all of life. It is well worth reading.
1. Calvinists in an Edinburgh Pub
2. A Tale of Two Authors
3. A Many-Faceted "Imaging"
4. More Than "Calisthenics"
5. Lessons from the Philosophical "Moderns"
6. Commonalities in the Public Square
7. Preaching Civility
8. Depravity: Less Than "Total"?
9. Our "Direction-Setting"
10. Paying Attention to Context
11. Reformed and Evangelical
12. When Truth Is Distorted
13. On Being a "Public Intellectual"
14. Interfaith Engagements
15. Of Hymns and Dialogues
16. Concerns about the Journey