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Book Review – He Speaks to Me Everywhere

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A friend of mine, who is far more qualified than I am to make such judgments, tells me that Philip Ryken is among the top two or three preachers in the world today. That is quite a claim, but one I am more willing to believe as I continue to read Ryken’s work. Until a few weeks ago I knew little about the man, having encountered him only as co-author of a book he wrote with James Boice. But then I read his book City on a Hill and so enjoyed it that I almost immediately turned to He Speaks to me Everywhere.

During evening services at the church he pastors, Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ryken delivers not only a sermon, but also a short cultural reflection. He Speaks to me Everywhere is a compilation of fifty of these commentaries divided into nine broad categories. Topics range from Muslim dress code, to pressing theological errors of our time; from sports and recreation to the acts of terrorism on September 11th; from the Church Mothers to Intelligent Design. These commentaries show a man who knows the issues that people in our culture, believer and unbeliever alike, struggle to understand.

A pastor who is wholly disconnected from our culture (and I have known many who are) will have less to offer our world than one who heeds the admonition I have heard attributed to many pastors or theologians – that a good pastor keeps the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. I once sat through a sermon where the pastor lamented the state of the church, exclaiming that now “even the church has its own rocks and its own rolls.” It is sad when Christians keep themselves so far removed from the world. A pastor who coaches a team in the community, who keeps up with what is popular in the culture and who knows what people read, watch and listen to, will have a superior ability to build bridges with unbelievers.

But Ryken does not examine culture simply for the sake of keeping up. No, he does so to show that theology is not an obscure, irrelevant pursuit. Instead he shows that the Bible, through which we study God, is relevant to every area of life. Far from being mere personal opinion, these commentaries continually point to the Word of God as the key to understand all that happens in the world around us.

While I do not consider this book required reading, I very much enjoyed it and am happy to recommend it to anyone. It is easy to read and is divided into chapters only two or three pages in length, so can be read in short increments. Ryken provides a great model as to how we, as believers, can be in the world, but never of the world. We can know, understand and appreciate aspects of our culture, while still maintaining strong, biblical standards. And most of all, we can find in the Bible all that is necessary to react to our culture and to stand strong in the faith. This book is practical theology at its strongest.

Very solid, biblical and relevant throughout.
Both easy and enjoyable to read and understand.
A unique book with its short cultural meditations.
A good primer to understand how to practically apply theology to cultural issues.
I unreservedly recommend this book.
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