This book was not what I was expecting. No, it was quite different from what I was expecting it to be about. When I read the title, I assumed it would be a Christian perspective on sociological studies. Well, sociology is a rather broad subject, so my expectations were that this would be Polythress’ attempt to provide a summary of how the sociological world could be redeemed (assuming it has need of redemption, of course).
I was mistaken.
This book is really about one important facet of sociology – relationships. And as it is written from the perspective of a Christian theologian, the perspective advanced is thoroughly Trinitarian. Polythress writes,
“The New Testament indicates that the persons of the Trinity speaknto one another and enjoy profound personal relations with one another. These relationships within God show us the ultimate foundation for thinking about human personal relationships. God establishes personal relationship with us, but, in addition, the persons of the Trinity have personal relationships to one another. Personal relationships exist not solely among human beings, but also in divine-human relationships, and even in divine-divine relationships. Approaches that conceive of personal and social relationships only with reference to human beings are accordingly one-sided, reductionistic.
Throughout the course of Redeeming Sociology, Polythress sets out to ground our entire understanding of the subject in God. What should be the foundation for how we relate to one another? The answer consistently ends up being related (pun intended) to be God Himself.
Though this is not a introduction to the subject of sociology, it provides some very interesting thinking about the related subcategories. In fact, I found Polythress’ summary of the good and bad kinds of diversity extremely helpful as I have been thinking through issues related to how we should understand diversity. The big idea is that when diversity brings barriers between relationships, it is bad. The Christian is to be cross-cultural, and in those cases, counter-cultural!
There are many other topics covered. I would recommend that those who are interested in a deeper look at the complexities related to the fields of sociology and anthropology most concerned with human relationships. Polythress is a well respected NT scholar whose reflections are worth the time to consider. While it wasn’t necessarily “easy” reading (graduate level), the application of what he is saying is very practical. Base your understanding of relationships on God!
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.