Wineskins Archive

February 4, 2014

Book Review: “Growing Old in Christ” (Aug-Sep 2004)

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by James L. Knapp
August – September, 2004

Growing Old in Christ
Editors: Stanley Hauerwas, Carole Bailey Stoneking, Keith G. Meador, & David Cloutier
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003).

During the 20th century, life expectancy in the United States moved from 47 to 77 years, which dramatically increased the number of older Americans.

In response to this demographic shift, policy makers, as well as medical and behavioral scientists, have focused significant attention on the issues associated with an aging population. While a few biblical scholars have made meaningful contributions to the discussion (see for instance, The Bible Speaks on Aging by Frank Stagg and A Biblical Perspective on Aging by J. Gordon Harris), the process of aging within the Christian belief system has received limited attention in theological circles. Growing Old in Christ seeks to fill the void by providing an informed theological reflection on what it means to grow old in a youth-oriented society.

Using chapters written by an impressive compilation of national and international authors, the editors skillfully establish a biblical and historical foundation for the reader before engaging in a discussion of aging in modern society and the Christian practice of growing old. A variety of issues are covered including friendships in later life, the virtues of aging, physician-assisted suicide, and the process of dying within the context of the Christian faith and 21st century America.

In addition, the growing importance of intergenerational relationships in a community of faith is explored against the backdrop of Old Testament and New Testament instruction. Multiple chapters emphasize how the church is meant to unite the generations despite the strong societal message to the contrary.

Growing Old in Christ is well-written but it is not light reading. Familiarity with historical figures and their work, as well as contemporary social issues, is not mandatory but it will certainly aid the reader. In spite of the advanced level of scholarship present in some chapters, the content of the book provides valuable information that can be used by both theologians and those engaged in full-time ministry.New Wineskins


James L. Knapp, Ph.D., is associate professor of sociology at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and author of The Graying of the Flock: A New Model for Ministry (Leafwood Publishers). He and his family worship with the Western Heights Church of Christ in Sherman, Texas.

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