Book Review – Good Faith

Good Faith, by David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons

I was gifted with a copy of this book last month by an associate.  I don’t think I’ve made any secret of the fact that these sorts of books are not very helpful, in my opinion – but he certainly had no way of knowing that based on the nature of our working relationship.  This book hasn’t changed my mind about allegedly helpful books targeted at nervous American Christians.

Kinnaman and Lyons are popular writers, speakers, and I suppose researchers (at least in Kinnaman’s relationship to Barna Group).  Perhaps cynically, I think much of their appeal comes from their age and their efforts to point a way forward for American evangelical Christians bewildered by shrinking congregational sizes and a rapidly changing culture that grows increasingly intolerant towards Christian morals, values, and truths.

At best, most of what this book has to say is redundant – read your Bible.  Love your neighbor isn’t exactly rocket science, but it’s a terrifying thought that Christians need to be reminded of this basic precept.  Perhaps it’s the less intuitive notion that I love my neighbor even when they don’t like me or I don’t like them or when we live our lives in radically different ways.  At worst, this book ignores basic Scriptural assumptions and descriptions of reality.

Curiously, this book directs Christians as though we are no longer the dominant population in America, yet Barna’s own statistics disprove this overwhelmingly.  It isn’t that Christians are outnumbered by any stretch of the imagination – it’s that Christians have somehow allowed themselves to be told that they are not free to speak, not free to practice their faith openly, and that this is acceptable.  If every Christian in this country ceased to allow their faith to be dictated to them by their employer or the civic government or the school board, things would change in this country dramatically and drastically.  Even more dramatically and drastically than the cultural changes of the last decade.  This country would cease to function properly if Christians simply said ‘enough’ to the pressures and guilts that have been laid on them.

Of course, that would necessitate a different sort of book.  Of course, that would require a massive rewiring of our priorities and values, but I think the Bible says something towards this issue.  Hmmm.

Another problem I have with this book is the basic premise that if Christians just do things the right way, everything is going to be OK.  If we’re just polite and thoughtful and engaging enough, we’ll retain a seat at the cultural dinner table.  People will continue to listen to us and we’ll have some level of influence.  We’ll be accepted, even if more and more people don’t consider themselves one of us.

I think this is terribly naive.

Firstly, it  ignores the spiritual aspect of things.  We have an enemy who has single-mindedly dedicated himself to the destruction of creation, to wresting away humanity and nature and anything else he can sink his claws into from the grace and love and forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ.  He began this in the garden of Eden.  He continues his work today though mortally wounded.  His thrashings in his death throes are still terrifying.   For over 200 years America has been profoundly influenced and guided by Judeo-Christian principles and ideas.  We are a historical anomaly, and if we think Satan hasn’t been working towards our downfall we’re not taking the Bible very seriously.

Secondly, it ignores the depths of human depravity.  We lament the polarization in our society right now, but we need to listen to the tone of that polarization and be careful of our role in it.  People are quick to denounce, threaten, mock, demean, and otherwise totally disregard the humanity of another person that disagrees with them.  They think it morally acceptable to cut themselves off from anyone who might think differently from them, to blame anyone who disagrees with them for every and any offense, and to demand some sort of accountability.  The tone of our rhetoric would be very comfortable and admirable to the likes of Joseph Goebbels.  Both sides are guilty of it to a degree.  And such rhetoric, such a disjointed view of other people who are different or who disagree with you is a dangerously close step to internment camps or worse.

Finally, this book does little to direct American Christians away from obsessive navel gazing and towards the return of our Lord.  Our hope and prayer is not simply a more tolerant public square or more favorable political patronage.  Our hope and prayer is not simply for a continued place at the table, but rather for the return of the Savior of the world.  This is our one true hope and prayer at all times and in all circumstances.  Yes, we must and should pray for our daily bread and the attendant policies and mechanisms that make it available.  But the first three of the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer direct our eyes firstly to the glory of God and his plan for salvation – and away from our perceived needs, wishes, and fears.  I think that’s very telling, and no book that alleges to be a help and guide for Christians is complete without seriously taking this into account.

I think that on the one hand, things aren’t nearly as bad as they seem – if American Christians would just quit being bullied about and take steps to protect themselves via the mechanisms available to them economically and politically.  On the other hand, things are far worse than the authors paint, because we are facing a spiritual battle as well as an ideological one, and the stakes are much higher both individually and culturally than Kinnaman and Lyons either want to admit or can foresee.

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Book Review – Good Faith”

  1. Lois Says:

    Write the book this should have been. I’d be happy to be your proofreader.

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