Thursday, January 1, 2015

Book Review - Salt, Light and Cities on Hills: Evangelism, Social Action and The Church - How Do They Relate To Each Other by Melvin Tinker

In three parts to this new book Melvin Tinker covers well the tension that exists in many churches over the relationship between and priority of evangelism and social action. In Part 1 he reviews the different stances taken by evangelicals and offers some critique. In Part 2 he lays the exegetical groundwork to model the relationship between evangelism and social action. In Part 3 he details what this looks like in his ministry at St John Newland.

One strength of the book is the clear and methodical way he documents the tension historically and the way more recent church leaders (Tim Keller, John Stott, Michael Hill, Tim Chester, D. A. Carson) have attempted to express and resolve the tension. Although the setting for the discussion is clearly Great Britain, there is much that is true here is America as well. It is a book of substance addressing a contemporary issue with a long and familiar history.

The most helpful part of the book for me are Chapters 6 and 7 where the parallels between Isaiah 61 and the Sermon on the Mount are discussed as Tinker unpacks the pictures Jesus uses of his followers being like ‘salt’, ‘light’ and a ‘city on a hill’. Here he concludes that the co-ordination of evangelism and social action is modelled by the Sermon on the Mount and shaped by the motifs behind Isaiah 59-61.  First there is the heralding of the good news from the new city on the hill. Second, since being the ‘salt of the earth’ is a symbolic reference to maintaining the covenant, we are to engage in a prophetic ministry in all our social relations to be sure that the integrity of the covenant remains operative. We are to preach justice and all those attributes characteristic of God and his designs for our living. Thirdly, we are to be light – shining examples expressing the new life that we have found in the Kingdom.

The last chapter is a very practical chapter where Tinker gives concrete examples how he manages to keep the proper biblical character to his practice of evangelism and social action.

One point of frustration with the book is the failure to define what Tinker means by ‘The Reforming Evangelicals” and the “Radical Evangelicals” in chapter 3. I suppose those are well understood terms in the U.K., but not for this American reader.


I received this resource for free from EP Books via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.