Review: Brett McCracken’s Gray Matters

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5 out of 5 Stars
Author: Brett McCracken
Publisher: Baker Books
Buy Gray Matters
Reading Level: Easy

“Christians have a hard time with nuance” (8). That’s an understatement. In my lifetime, I’ve watched the pendulum swing from left to right a dozen times. Few have the sense or bravery to speak where Scripture speaks and to stay silent where it stays silent, while providing nuanced biblical wisdom for the gray matters. Brett urges for just this in Gray Matters.

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I’ll state upfront (maybe this is a given)--I disagreed with some of Brett’s analysis of the gray matters. I assume many evangelicals will, but despite that and because of that you should read this book all the more closely. Brett pushes and prods us to think more critically about our consumption. He builds on a strong doctrine of creation which is crucial for interpreting the rest of Scripture. For instance, he says,

We should also be passionate about engaging culture well because we want to know God more through his creation. We should live our consumer lives with the overarching goal of wanting to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8), understanding that God speaks to us everywhere—in food and drink, in melodies and rhythms, in the multiplex and the church sanctuary, on the beach or atop a mountain. Indeed, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Ps. 24:1). (17)

He tackles four prominent gray areas for Christians today: food, music, movies, and alcohol. I want to highlight some themes found throughout the book. First, Brett values consuming these mediums in community. “As embodied fleshly creatures, we cannot maintain an isolated posture in habits of consumption” (54).

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Second, he encourages thoughtful consumption. When discussing food, he says we should consider where our food comes from, the tastes, why we are eating. Same when discussing alcohol. Why do we drink? Do we mindless consume and are, therefore, happy drinking anything? Or do we engage alcohol as a gift from God? Do we seek to understand the different nuances and flavors in it?

Third, he urges us to consume “anticipat[ing] his [Christ’s] future kingdom” (69). Jesus is central in understanding life in a fallen world.

Fourth, he urges us to understand anything good can become bad if used improperly (187). Fifth, he encourages pursuing holiness.

Friends, let’s stop deluding ourselves into thinking that by shirking holiness we’re advancing the cause of Christ by “breaking stereotypes” people might have of Christians. All we’re actually doing is demeaning the name of Christ by cheapening the cost of discipleship. We can do better than that. (241)

Last, he encourages critical thinking as a way of honoring the image of God and worshiping God (247, 256).

I came from a fundamentalism and saw friends who moved out of the movement either calibrate into normal living or go off the deep end. It doesn’t have to be that way. Christians should thoughtfully and biblically engage culture. We shouldn’t be extremists. Brett knows his stuff. You can tell. In Gray Matters, he provides a sane voice in the midst of the cacophony of rabid voices on culture engagement. If heeded, the church would thrive in the midst of the tension between enjoying liberty and pursuing holiness.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”