1. Gods that Fail: Modern Idolatry and Christian Mission by Vinoth Ramachandra. I first encountered Ramachandra when I went to InterVarsity’s Urbana missions conference in 2000 and attended a talk that he gave. I can’t remember now what exactly he spoke on, but I do remember being impressed by him as someone who was very intelligent and articulate, who was knowledgeable about culture, both eastern and western, and who cared deeply about the church’s mission.
Several years later, I picked up his book Gods that Fail at a used book sale, and read it recently as I prepared to give a sermon that touched on modern idolatry. I found in his writing that he was everything I remembered him to be from Urbana, and more. In any book about modern idolatry, the author has to have the courage to call a spade a spade, and Ramachandra has that ability in – yes, I’ll say it – spades. This is evident as early as page 6, where Ramachandra writes, “[Francis] Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’ sloganeering disguises the massive hypocrisy, political betrayals, economic blackmail and proxy violence that have so often attended western talk of defending democracy and exporting ‘free world’ values.” Though this book was published in 1996, it struck me as being quite contemporary in its assessment of the state of the world. That is, I think, because Ramachandra is right in his belief that “the displacement of the God of the biblical revelation, which is the most distinctive feature of modernity, has paved the way for the rise of new gods which, like their ancient counterparts, eventually devour their devotees” (19). These gods, Ramachandra writes, saturate the modern world as well as the church, paralyzing the latter from faithfully carrying out its mission.
Just as Tim Keller wrote in the book on idolatry that I read just before this one (Counterfeit Gods), Ramachandra writes that the way to defeat idols is to replace them with the Crucified God. If Christians worship the God who died on a cross, they are able to see the silliness of the obsession with technique and desire for power that is rampant within the church and without. This means embracing vulnerability, rejecting individualism and nationalism, and affirming “clearly and boldly the truth of the gospel, the fact of the sovereignty of Jesus Christ as sole Savior and Judge of every human enterprise, and to do this in the public domain whether people hear or refuse to hear” (222-3). This was an inspiring read, and a challenging one.
2. Changed by Faith by Luis Palau with Jay Fordice. Reviewed earlier here.
3. Doing Virtuous Business: The Remarkable Success of Spiritual Enterprise by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch. Reviewed earlier here.