Empowered Witness: Politics, Culture, and the Spiritual Mission of the Church

By Alan D. Strange, Foreword by Kevin DeYoung

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Empowered Witness: Politics, Culture, and the Spiritual Mission of the Church

By Alan D. Strange, Foreword by Kevin DeYoung

... Show All

Rediscovering the Spirituality of the Church in Our Highly Politicized Age 

The goal of the church should be simple—share the gospel to the ends of the earth. But in our highly politicized age, Christians can tend to place earthly political and social agendas over God’s spiritual mission of the church. 

In Empowered Witness, author Alan D. Strange examines the doctrine of the spirituality of the church, making a clear distinction between the functions of the church and other institutions. Strange argues that if the church continues to push political agendas, no institution will be focused solely on the Great Commission and the gospel will be lost entirely. This book calls readers to become aware of the church’s power and limits and shed light on moral issues in a way that doesn’t alter the deeply spiritual and gospel-centered mission of the church. 

  • Explores the Spirituality of the Church: An important biblical doctrine developed in the 19th century  
  • Appeals to Thoughtful Laypeople and Church Leaders: Considers the critical distinctions between the church and other institutions
  • Historical: Examines the purpose of the church throughout history and the development of the spirituality of the church in the 19th century 
  • Foreword by Kevin DeYoung: Author of Just Do Something; Crazy Busy; and The Biggest Story

Read Chapter 1


Alan D. Strange

Alan D. Strange (PhD, University of Wales) is professor of church history at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, a conference speaker, and the author of various works, including The Doctrine of the Spirituality of the Church in the Ecclesiology of Charles Hodge.

Product Details

Category: Culture & Social Issues
Church Ministry
Christian Living
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 168
Size: 5.5 in x 8.5 in
Weight: 7.19 ounces
ISBN-10: 1-4335-8427-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-8427-5
ISBN-UPC: 9781433584275
Case Quantity: 64
Published: February 13, 2024

Table of Contents

Foreword by Kevin DeYoung


Chapter 1: The Doctrine of the Spirituality of the Church
Chapter 2: Slavery and the Spirituality of the Church
Chapter 3: The Spirituality of the Church Preceding the US Civil War
Chapter 4: The Spirituality of the Church and the General Assemblies of 1862–1865 
Chapter 5: The Southern Church and the Reunion of the Northern Church
Chapter 6: The Spirituality of the Church and Politics Today

General Index
Scripture Index


“The psalmist’s question ‘How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?’ (Ps. 137:4) continues to haunt many Christians today. But—both in content and emotional energy—the answers given vary widely. Where, then, is wisdom to be found? In Empowered Witness, Alan Strange offers us a much-needed combination of historical learning, biblical thinking, and deep love for the church. Rather than browbeat us into sharing prejudices, Empowered Witness serves us by helping us think. In expressing the ‘reasonableness’ Scripture enjoins (Phil. 4:5), Strange provides a model for us all.”
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary; Teaching Fellow, Ligonier Ministries

“Excellent history schools us in wisdom and truth, and Empowered Witness is no exception to this rule. Alan Strange skillfully examines the oft-misunderstood but biblical, true doctrine of the spirituality of the church. This book is required reading for anyone who wants to engage the world and at the same time preserve the church’s gospel mission.”
J. V. Fesko, Harriet Barbour Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson

“The fruit of deep reflection over many years, this book by Alan Strange offers the wisdom we need now more than ever. Christ is building his church—his way—and Empowered Witness points us in the right direction.”
Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California

“If the church fails to clearly address the revolutionary cultural and social changes in today’s world, it will be a dereliction of duty, but if it identifies itself with any factions in that world, the piercing message of the gospel will be blunted. Alan Strange discusses these topics with great skill and insight, using his encyclopedic knowledge of Charles Hodge’s contribution to debates on slavery and the spirituality of the church. This is a book that should inform and shape our thinking; it is not to be missed.”
Robert Letham, Senior Research Fellow, Union School of Theology

“As indispensable as Charles Hodge is for the history of American Presbyterianism, Alan Strange contends that Hodge is crucial for its future as well. Hodge steadfastly upheld the church’s spiritual vocation in his day—despite criticism from the South and the North in times of both peace and war. Strange, with dispassionate sense and impassioned urgency, calls us to follow Hodge’s example in our day and remain steadfast to the church’s divine calling, lest we deprive the world of consolation that the church alone can provide.”
A. Craig Troxel, Robert G. den Dulk Professor of Practical Theology, Westminster Seminary California; author, With All Your Heart

“The spirituality of the church is a crucial doctrine and a rather simple idea, even if it is sometimes challenging to apply. Yet the church can so easily lose sight of this doctrine or simply reject it, especially in times of high political tension. Alan Strange’s clear and charitable appeal for the ‘mere spirituality of the church’ is thus timely and welcome. Contemporary readers would do well to ponder Charles Hodge’s wise reflections in the midst of his own politically charged context, and Strange is an excellent guide.”
David VanDrunen, Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, Westminster Seminary California

“The spirituality of the church is a doctrine that has fallen on hard times in recent years, and perhaps understandably so, given its very real historical association with a laissez-faire attitude to slavery in the antebellum American South. Nonetheless, at its heart, it expresses a vital truth: the church’s business is primarily heaven, not earth; yet Christians still live in the earthly city, and our faith is to make a difference in all areas of our lives. In this context, Alan Strange’s book is to be heartily welcomed as a guide for the perplexed who seek to honor the church’s task in dwelling on heavenly things while using this mindset as a motive for loving neighbors and being a good citizen. It is a tricky and controversial subject, but Strange’s thoughtful, clear, and kind book gently threads the needle. I hope it receives a wide readership and generates many constructive discussions.”
Carl R. Trueman, Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies, Grove City College; author, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

“The debate over American slavery and the ensuing Civil War may not seem the best context for revisiting the doctrine of the spirituality of the church, but Alan Strange looks carefully at the teaching of Charles Hodge that was refined and nuanced in his debates with Southern Presbyterians and other competing versions of the doctrine. Though Hodge did not win the day, he points to how the church can speak into the pervasive politicization of our age. Strange’s commendation of a ‘mere spirituality’ is indeed no diminution of the church’s voice but rather the more excellent way of an ‘empowered witness’ to a divided and confused culture.”
John R. Muether, Dean of Libraries and Professor of Church History, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

“What should be the role of the church in the affairs of the state, particularly its political process? Alan Strange addresses this much-mooted question primarily through an in-depth treatment—largely sympathetic yet also critical—of Charles Hodge’s wrestling for the answer. Following Hodge, Strange offers his own balanced understanding of the spirituality of the church as an institution. His insights will be helpful for Christians today faced with the same difficult question. A valuable read.”
Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Professor Emeritus of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary