Reviewed by: Stephen Tracey
Remaking a Broken World: The Heart of the Bible Story, by Christopher Ash. The Good Book Company, 2019. Paperback, 200 pages, $12.74. (This is a revised edition; it was previously published by Authentic Media in 2010). Reviewed by OP pastor Stephen Tracey.
This is a refreshing book. Christopher Ash, who always writes with brevity and lucidity, sets out to prove that “the ordinary local Christian church contains within itself the seeds, or the DNA, of a remade world” (7). He does this by carefully combing through the Bible, highlighting the theme of gathering and scattering. The result is a careful biblical theology of the purpose of God in gathering his people and scattering his enemies.
Ash follows the Bible’s story line from Eden to the New Jerusalem with various stopping points in between. In Eden, God gathered the first couple to work with him in harmony. Before long we arrive at Babel, where human pride led to humanity being scattered. But Babel is not the end of the story. From here Ash follows the biblical plot line to Sinai, where some gathering begins; to Jerusalem, where there is a greater gathering, though incomplete; and then back to Babylon, scattered in exile. God’s full purpose for scattered humanity is not Jerusalem, but the New Jerusalem. So Ash concludes with Golgotha, Pentecost, and the local church gathered worldwide as the beginning of the New Creation. The book is packed with helpful exegesis of relevant biblical texts.
At the beginning of the book, Ash states that he wants to persuade us “to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to belonging to, and serving in the fellowship of, a local church” and to believe that “this may be the most significant thing we do with our lives” (7). The most important thing we do with our lives? I think he is right. He draws out the nuance of this thought from the Old Testament as well as the New. This study is a powerful statement on the importance of the local church in God’s glorious purpose.
The final chapter on the New Creation was thought-provoking, but it seems to me it would have been strengthened by attention to the reappearance of Babylon in the language of the book of Revelation. While the New Creation can be described as gathered forever, the theme of scattered forever is also present in this concluding section of Scripture. There is something profoundly important in the cry of Revelation 18:2, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!”
Each chapter of Remaking a Broken World concludes with a series of discussion questions that would be useful in small group discussions. Each chapter also has a sermonic shape—a real treasure since Ash is an excellent preacher.
I highly recommend this book. It is readable, refreshing, and relevant. It would prove useful from high school Sunday school to seminary.
November 26, 2023
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