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Book Review – Common Grounds

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It seems that “theological novels” are becoming increasingly popular. Of course English literature began with a theological novel in the form of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. In more recent years we have seen a series by Richard Belcher that has been quite popular in Reformed circles and Brian McLaren’s somewhat notorious series, popular in Emerging Church circles, that began with A New Kind of Christian. A recent addition to this list is Common Grounds written by Glenn Lucke and Ben Young.

Ben Young is a Southern Baptist who is associate pastor of worship at the inconceivably huge Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. Glenn Lucke is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary and leads Docent Communications Group. Their relationship and a common concern about the lack of theological understanding in the young people they interacted with, led them to write a book presenting the basics of the faith. As they began to write the book evolved into its current narrative format.

Common Grounds is the story of three friends who are all at different places in life. Brad is a nominally Baptist investment banker; Lauren is an unbelieving former Catholic corporate attorney; Jarrod is a Charismatic graduate student in philosophy. These three friends gather each Sunday evening to talk and share their lives with each other. One day Brad meets a new friend, a semi-retired professor of theology. He invites this man to join their group and the professor begins to mentor them in the faith, presenting to them the foundations of Christian doctrine. These weekly conversations address critical doctrines such as sin, evil, revelation (both natural and special), sovereignty, and more.

This book is notable for at least two reasons. First, the doctrine presented is Scripturally-sound and consistent with Reformed theology. Second, the authors present a way of evangelizing people that is geared to a postmodern generation. They employ the twin concepts of narrative and story to present sound doctrine in a way that will appear to postmoderns more than the traditional abstract propositions one might find in a classic book like Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Today’s generation is less-likely to be persuaded by a cold, rationalist presentation of the facts, and more likely to be persuaded by the presentation of a person’s own testimony or story. Common Grounds will help believers understand how this can be effective.

My only concern with the book was that there was no clear presentation of the gospel. This postmodern method of evangelism can be effective, but only if it includes the gospel! My concern was alleviated, though, when Glenn Lucke sent me the following in an email. “The 3 key missing words on the last page are ‘To Be Continued.’ Book 2 is largely done but needs revision as MacGregor continues to teach Brad and Jarrod more deeply about the Christian faith and to explain it to skeptic Lauren.” Common Grounds is only the first chapter of the story. I look forward to reading the continuation of this fascinating dialogue. I echo Al Mohler’s endorsement where he writes, “If you want to reach the postmodern generation, read this book and give it to your friends.”

Strong, Bible-based theology throughout.
Easy to read and understand.
Unique in the consistently Reformed theology.
Well worth reading for adults and teens.
It’s not the best fiction you’ll read, but it is compelling dialogue and sound doctrine.
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