Monday, July 16, 2018

Good Faith: Being A Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme (2016) - Book Review

Good Faith: Being A Christian When Society Thinks You're Irrelevant and Extreme (2016)
by David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons

The moment I saw the cover of this book – with Kinnaman and Lyons as its authors – I grabbed it (bought 3 copies) and proceed to the counter (BookXcess always have the lowest price). Why? Because I've read their previous remarkable book, unChristian (2007), and was greatly helped by their insights, interviews, research studies, and Biblical understandings. With this one, I'm not disappointed! "I love this book," recommend Francis Chan, "It is a timely reminder that Christians don't have to conform in order to survive. It encourages those of us with deep convictions not to cower but to boldly speak truth with wisdom and love. Radical followers of Jesus can be relevant." Oh yeah!

From the first chapter, this book aims to address these questions: "What does the future hold for people of faith when people perceive Christians as irrelevant and extreme? In what ways can faith be a force for good in society? How can people of faith contribute to a world that, more and more, believes religion is bad?" From the outset, Kinnaman and Lyons convincingly show that many people increasingly view religion—any religion—as "extreme" and "irrelevant." This forces "good faith" Christians to be more intentional and prepared in their interactions with the world. Although the future becomes more hostile, faith can be good in society through ongoing mercy-care and the Gospel proclamation. Both authors also say that Christians can contribute to this world by holding firm to their confession and convictions while striving to live peaceably with all. In essence, Good Faith = How Well We Love + What We Believe + How We Live.

The way forward, they suggest, centers on good (yet difficult) conversations around those areas that people identify as "extreme" and "irrelevant" characteristics of Christianity. The book focuses on four areas: (1) Neighborliness and intolerance in public life; (2) Relationships; (3) Sexual ethics; and (4) Church and religion. Each area has multiple chapters devoted to it and is spangled with personal anecdotes from Kinnaman and Lyons's life accompanied by the wealth of data they've acquired over the years. It makes for a compelling, easy and enjoyable read. There are a lot of commendable aspects of this book but I'll focus on only two of them:

Firstly, this book does not give readers with false hope. Kinnaman and Lyons are men of faith but also very realistic. They are not suggesting that if Christians could just be nicer and more winsome and more engaging the world would like us more and everything will turn out good. They know how the world treated Jesus, and what He said about the world treating His disciples. They write, "It's not enough to be nice… it's no longer sufficient for Christians to be winsome. Being winsome is not bad. It's good. But aiming for niceness as our ultimate goal can give us a false sense of making a difference… Nice doesn't overcome the perception that Christians are crazy." The world will hate us no matter how nice we are. That's not an excuse for us to be compromise or uncaring but it does call us to be winsome while remaining unwavering in our confession and convictions.

Secondly, this book appeal for Christians to admit our failures. This is by no means a major thrust of the book, but it is there... The church should be the leaders in the world to show the "good faith." After all, Jesus came into the world to save sinners. There are plenty of sins to confess. It's of no use to scream about the speck in someone else's eye without removing the plank from our own eyes first. Has the church always been a place of grace for those who have had abortions? Same-sex attractions? And those who suffered unspeakable racial injustice? Not as a whole. The church has, at times, been too slow to speak and act, and complicit in abuse and shame. Instead of saying, "yeah but" as justification for the Christian's sins of commission and omission, we should confess our sins and God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. "We must be the people of God who, rather than being defined only by what we are against, are also defined by what we are for."

There a lot more you can learn about our ever-changing culture that may affect you and me as Christians in the world today as presented in this book. No matter where you are (although the context and research studies of this book are mainly from America), Good Faith is a great place to start. The book is helpful and insightful on the cultural front. You may disagree with some of their antidotes, you may experience differently, you may dislike their approach – but you'll be encouraged to "led by love, grounded in biblical belief, and ready to live as counterculture for the common good, we trust that our good faith will be used by God to renew the world.

This book is divided into 3 parts:

Part 1: Understanding Our Times

Chapter 1: Bad Faith, Good Faith
Chapter 2: Irrelevant
Chapter 3: Extreme
Chapter 4: The Tension We Feel and Why

Part 2: Living Good Faith

Chapter 5: Love, Believe, Live
Chapter 6: The Right Questions
Chapter 7: Who Will Lead?
Chapter 8: Assimilate or Accommodate
Chapter 9: After the Revolution
Chapter 10: Marriage, Family, and Friendships
Chapter 11: Life, Death, and Disability
Chapter 12: Race and Prejudice
Chapter 13: The Gay Conversation
Chapter 14: We Can't Live without Intimacy
Chapter 15: Five Ways to Be Faithful

Part 3: The Church and Our Future

Chapter 16: Firm Center, Soft Edges
Chapter 17: Church in a New World
Chapter 18: Faithful in Exile

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