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George Barna and Mark Hatch: Boiling Point

 

George Barna and Mark Hatch, Boiling Point: It Only Takes One Degree. Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2001), 327 pages.

George Barna is known for his apparent pessimism. The successful author of The Frog in the Kettle and The Second Coming of the Church, Barna sets out in his latest work, Boiling Point, to examine the future of North American life in the first decade of the 21st century. Barna’s research firm is conducting national surveys as well as other types of primary research on a wide range of interests. His books are therefore a natural product of many of the results, surveys and insights gained from this research. Yet in this book, the authors limited the statistical content in favor of providing a more conversational narrative that tells people the story of the likely future of an average American citizen during the first decade of the third millennium. The story of Jill provides to be an interesting yet often startling narrative about what life might be like during this decade.

The book also paints a dim picture of the Church in the 21st century. Haunted by a lasting inability to recognize and adapt to rapid cultural changes, the Church already shows signs of a widespread Biblical illiteracy, a dearth of visionary leadership, outdated ministry models, ignorance of church history, moral relativism, lack of effective discipleship, and fruitless forms of social and cultural engagement. The book supplies a road map of how these challenges affect the life of individual Christians around the country by following the story of Jill and explaining how her life could one day become the typical life of every American.

The authors are convinced that America has reached the boiling point. Rapid social and cultural changes, powerful generational differences, increasing moral relativism, overcrowded schedules, the technological revolution, religious pluralism and globalization are just a few of the factors observed in this book. All of these factors, the authors propose, affect the fictional character, Jill, in a prototypical way. Jill is lonely, angry, disillusioned, unfulfilled and confused. Those who find themselves reflected in this vision of the future will rightfully wonder what to do about this situation.

Yet Boiling Point is more than just a descriptive book; it is also a directing and challenging work. The two constant questions asked in each of the 14 chapters are “Where are we headed?” and “What can you do?” The answers to the first question expand Jill’s story in order to apply it to the general audience. The answers to the second question address the Christian response to the challenges we encounter. It is these answers that make the book a valuable guide in times of political, economic and spiritual uncertainties. The authors’ response to the challenges of our times is summarized in the last chapter with the motto: “Face the Future on your knees.” A praying community of Christians committed to Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, the truth of the Bible and the immense resources among believers—can embrace the challenges ahead with confidence and thereby become one of the most powerful agents of influence on society, culture and country.

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2005

About the Author: Wolfgang Vondey, Ph.D. (Marquette University) and M.Div. (Church of God Theological Seminary), is Reader in Contemporary Christianity and Pentecostal Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. He is an ordained minister with the Church of God (Cleveland, TN). His research focuses on ecclesiology, pneumatology, theological method, and the intersection of theology and science.

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