Timothy Keller and John Inazu
Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference
Thomas Nelson, April, 2020.
ISBN-13: 978-1400219605

Uncommon Ground

 

"By inviting American Christian leaders as different as their vocations - rap artist, presidents of organisations, Latino entrepreneur, theologians, etc - to 'fight through the unfamiliarity' as they tell their stories, the result is a lively conversation on paper that does indeed reflect the beauty within faithful diversity."

When American Christian rap artist Lacrae first visited Paris, he was quickly disappointed. He’d thought he would fall in love with the city; instead the differences in language, food and customs made it difficult for him to enjoy it. The trip became for him a lesson in self -awareness.

“My preconceptions were challenged, and I didn’t like it. It was easier to stick with what I knew,” he writes in a chapter called “The Storyteller” from the new book, Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference. “But many people I know who kept fighting through the unfamiliarity of differences discovered the beauty of diversity, language and culture of Paris.”

Lacrae’s example is also a metaphor for how Presbyterian pastor/author Timothy Keller and legal scholar John Inazu have framed the 12 essays which comprise Uncommon Ground. By inviting American Christian leaders as different as their vocations - rap artist, presidents of organisations, Latino entrepreneur, theologians, etc - to "fight through the unfamiliarity" as they tell their stories, the result is a lively conversation on paper that does indeed reflect the beauty within faithful diversity. 

“This book’s central question is how Christians can engage with those around us,” Keller and Inazu write in the introduction, “while both respecting people whose beliefs differ from our own and maintaining our gospel confidence.”

Divided into three parts - “Framing Our Engagement”, “Communicating our Engagement”, and “Embodying our Engagement”, the book invites readers to listen to a range of personal and unique stories they might otherwise never hear in their own circles. In addition to chapters from both Keller (“The Pastor”, in part one) and Inazu (“The Translator”, in part two), other contributors include: Lecrae; Anglican priest/writer, Tish Harrison Warren; theologian/professor Kristen Deede Johnson; pastor Claude Richard Alexander; Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities; singer/songwriter Sara Groves; entrepreneur Rudy Carrasco; Southern Baptist community outreach director Trillia Newbell; Tom Lin president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Duke University professor Warren Kinghorn. The combination of such voices and vocations brings a refreshing empathy for navigating today’s pluralism. 

Carrasco’s chapter, for instance, as an ‘accidental entrepreneur’ in addressing urban poverty provides much needed insight for creative resilience when working toward real change. Hoogstra’s narrative in “The Bridge Builder” explores hard-earned insights for gaining trust with those unlike ourselves. And Harrison Warren’s journey to becoming a writer reflects the very power of the book itself, that “writing in a world so very full of love and loss - and of wonder and horror, joy and sorrow, peace and conflict...bears witness to the Word, who will have the final glorious word.” 

Or, as Keller and Inazu point out, each personal narrative helps us better understand our Creator and the unique ways God engages with us by assuming each of these roles. “In making himself known to humanity, God acts as theologian, pastor, adventurer, entrepreneur, writer, songwriter, storyteller, translator, bridge builder, caregiver, reconciler and peacemaker.” 

Put another way, each effort, each vocation, each story can reflect what it means to "live faithfully in a world of difference". Which is why this book also invites more conversations with those unlike ourselves, and absolutely calls for a similar collection of personal essays from Australian Christian leaders, thinkers and artists engaging the culture.