Trevin Wax is among the most astute cultural commentators of our day. It is not uncommon for a thorny question to arise in the public square only to find he has dealt with it concisely and clearly on his blog the next day. He reads the culture well, understands a biblical worldview well, and writes very well.
This is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel is no exception to Wax’s normal standard of clarity and excellence. In this volume, Wax considers eight significant myths that are especially significant to the present milieu, unpacks them and their significance in our world, and shows how a biblical worldview undermines them. In each case, Wax seeks to show how authentic Christianity has a better answer to offer than the cultural myth.
Wax dissects eight myths that are cultural flashpoints. In the first chapter, he shows how the smartphone functions to alter our perception of reality. Smart phones tie us in to the world around us, make us feel smart because we find information quickly, and allow us to expose every moment of our lives (really just the good ones) to the world in an instant. In Chapter Two, Wax tackles the storytelling of power of Hollywood. He avoids the typical moralistic finger-wagging about too much sex and focuses on the power of story and the greater imaginative scope available to those with a regenerate mind.
Next Wax examines the faulty pursuit of happiness, which is often based more clearly on a goal destined to fail us. Instead, Wax notes that the Christian gospel offers us hope apart from the usual trappings of happiness our culture advertises. Chapter Four wrestles with the myth that consumerism will make people happy. This is the cause of so much heartache and misery in our world, but Wax reveals how it pales in comparison to our hope in Christ.
In the fifth chapter, This is Our Time, deals with the sense of dis-ease Christians often have in the world. The myth is that we should feel at home in this present world, but Wax shows how we should always long for a perfect future not to try to make our world like a supposedly great past. Chapter Six tackles the modern myth that marriage is fundamentally about human happiness. Instead, Wax demonstrates that, as God intended it, marriage is about sanctification and giving glory to God.
Chapter Seven offers a reflection on the changing standards for sex in our culture, noting that self-control and chastity have become insults rather than virtues for society. Wax argues that sex cannot be both everything and nothing as culture claims, but that it must serve the purpose ordained by the Creator if it is to satisfy. In the eighth chapter, the author takes on the pervasive myths of eternal progress and constant decline. Both narratives are compelling for different reasons, but they often distract from our true hope in Christ.
Books that provide cultural critique are a dime a dozen. They have been standard fare for theologically conservative Christians for decades. When I inherited my grandfather’s library, I got dozens of books that had scathing critiques of the culture of previous decades.
In most cases, those critiques were just and warranted, but This is Our Time does something many cultural critiques fail to do: it explains why the gospel is better. That is what makes Wax’s book so helpful; it exposes the myth as a fraud and tells the true story in a deeper, more powerful way.
By telling the gospel truth instead of simply condemning, Wax equips his reader to share the good news. He fills out the necessary understanding of repentance, which is turning away from wrong doing and pursuing the good.
By writing such pointed cultural commentary, Wax has produced a volume that is a treasure for our time. The downside is that This is Our Time is distinctly time-bound. In twenty years, the volume will provide an excellent example of how to write cultural critique for the benefit of the church, but its shelf life as an antidote for the ills of our age is limited.
Therefore, people should snap up This is Our Time in the near term. Read this book. Talk about it in your small groups and consider not just the content, but the way Wax has put together his critique. This volume is a gift to the church, but it needs to be read in our day if it is to have its best impact.
Note: I received a gratis copy of this volume from the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.