Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Review (#19 of 2010)

Turbulent Times for the Soviet Church: The Inside Story by Kent R. Hill.

I found this book in a closet so it was added to my "read and release" list. I bought it from a bargain bin years ago, not sure when. It was published in 1991 and is an abridged version of Hill's more complete piece: The Soviet Union on the Brink. Hill has an interesting resume.

This book gives a fascinating picture of the Church in the midst of glasnost in the late 1980's. So much was changing so fast and Hill does his best to sort it all out. While glasnost was a time of more openness in some areas, Christians were still being martyred and the Church was very much struggling with its identity.

Hill gives a history of the Church in the Soviet Union. I found part of the pre-Lenin history fascinating as Hill gave a solid case for how Marxism and Christianity are incompatible. Hill has researched various Christians and former Marxists who wrote essays prior to 1917 of how Marxism was a huge threat to the Russian Church because it is predicated on atheism. I find this interesting in light of how people like the writers Jesus Radicals seem bent on reconciling the two.

The author also recounts the story of several known martyrs of all denominations throughout the decades and how the Orthodox church struggled with resistance and then capitulation and manipulation by the Supreme Soviet. These are all good things to know and remember.

As Russia moved toward a more open society and conformed to more Western standards on things like human rights, the media, etc. during glasnost, Christians were given much more freedom in the written laws. But the image of a government divided against itself, particularly in how it dealt with Christians, is obvious in this recounting of that period.

There is very little mention in the book of any Christian actions in the Central Asian republics. Of course there was not much action in those Muslim-context cultures but my guess is that Church history there probably was not well-known or reported. In his predictions for the future Hill mentions but downplays the problems that would arise between the Orthodox Church and protestants in many parts of the former USSR. He does caution the West in not making evangelization of the USSR a "photo op" type of thing once the doors cracked open, which unfortunately was probably not heeded.

I give the book 3 stars out of 5. I'm sure his more complete version (which is three times the length of this one) is much better.

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