What a unique and interesting book Timothy George and John Woodbridge’s The Mark of Jesus: Loving In a Way The World Can See is. The title and content are meant to pay homage to Francis Schaeffer’s tremendous little book, The Mark of a Christian, and to Schaeffer’s idea of love as the “final apologetic.” Maybe it’s best to see this book as an update and extension of Schaeffer’s work.
Much has changed since Schaeffer wrote, and yet so much has not. What has not changed is the need for the Christian witness to be grounded in love and borne on the wings of love. With the rise of Islam and an increasingly tendentious religious scene in the United States (and around the world, for that matter), there has never been a better time for a renewed call for the final apologetic.
Love is the final apologetic because it cannot be refuted or argued against. Our arguments for Christ or against other religions can be bandied about, debated, and dissected, but genuine love for people cannot be. This is the case that George and Woodbridge are making, and they do it well. This is not, by the way, a lapse into sentimentalism. Strong arguments and truth claims are needed. But when these are buttressed by love, how much stronger they become.
Anything by Timothy George is worth reading (and I’m sure by Woodbridge as well, though I’m not as familiar with him). It is nice to see a popular level book by Dr. George, and I do hope he will do even more of these. Of course, being from the pens of two academic, this book occasionally wanders in fields that some might find a bit tedious. The long chapter on the rise of fundamentalism was fascinating, but I did occasionally wonder, while reading this chapter, who exactly this book’s target audience is? Regardless, that chapter in particular is important and helps explain a great deal about media terminology in covering religious realities in North America as well as about how people view evangelicals and fundamentalists. Furthermore, the authors do a good job in this section of questioning the oft-repeated supposed linkage between Christian fundamentalism and Islamic fundamentalism.
There’s helpful and practical wisdom here about what Christian ecumenism should look like. The authors refuse to sell doctrine down the river in exchange for dialogue and peace. No, we are to hold to our biblical convictions and seek to communicate them clearly. But we communicate our convictions with hearts of love and understanding.
Personally, this is a word I needed to hear. I suspect it’s a word we all need to hear. I highly recommend this book.