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Good News for Anxious Christians: Ten Practical Things You Don't Have to Do
Brazos Press / 2010 / Paperback
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Like many oft-touted fads or diet regimens, numerous Christian cliches and popular sayings that are supposed to bring faith nearer to our hearts, can actually lead us toward feeling anxious, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Phillip Cary explains to us however, that knowing God is a gradual, long-term process that comes through the Bible experienced in Christian community, not from a to-do list designed to help us live the Christian life "right." Contrary to the to-do list, Cary details ten things Christians don't have to do, in order to be close to God. With Keen insight and skill Cary unpacks the richness of traditional Christian spirituality, bringing the real good news to Christians of all ages.
Like a succession of failed diet regimens, the much-touted techniques that are supposed to bring us closer to God "in our hearts" can instead make us feel anxious, frustrated, and overwhelmed. How can we meet and know God with ongoing joy rather than experiencing the Christian life as a series of guilt-inducing disappointments?
Phillip Cary explains that knowing God is a gradual, long-term process that comes through the Bible experienced in Christian community, not a to-do list designed to help us live the Christian life "right." This clearly written book covers ten things Christians don't have to do to be close to God, such as hear God's voice in their hearts, find God's will for their lives, and believe their intuitions are the Holy Spirit. Cary skillfully unpacks the riches of traditional Christian spirituality, bringing the real good news to Christians of all ages.
"Yes! No! Whoa! There are so many terrific, alarming, insightful zingers in this book that I agreed, disagreed and, most of all, had to think about something on every page. Graceful and liberating, it is a word of wisdom and hope that just might convince anxious Christians that the gospel really is better news than we've yet imagined." --Andy Crouch, senior editor, Christianity Today International
"Evangelicals worry about lots of things, including the state of our spiritual health. Phil Cary is worried too: worried that evangelicals are suffering needlessly because they have imbibed a consumerist spirituality that offers much but provides little. Phil's prescription for spiritual indigestion? A turning away from the self to the one who continually speaks a healing, saving word to us, Christ Himself. This is, quite frankly, one of the best books I've read on the spiritual life over the past twenty-five years. I heartily recommend it." --Christopher A. Hall, chancellor, Eastern University
"Phillip Cary has clearly and convincingly explained why so many evangelicals are anxious and believe they may be failing at faith. I highly recommend this book to my fellow Christian counselors and self-doubting Christians because Cary richly explains the comforting good news for our identity in Christ. He thus provides a solid theological basis for correcting many deeply distorted beliefs about the self that propagate anxiety. This book provides the best treatment of this subject that I have ever read." --Christopher Doriani, licensed clinical social worker
In Good News for Anxious Christians, Phillip Cary, a philosophy professor at Eastern University, challenges what he calls "the new evangelical theology," which is "a set of supposedly practical ideas about transforming your life that gets in the way of believing the gospel" (p. x). The techniques that he covers "all have the characteristic that they turn you away from external things like the word of God, Christ in the flesh, and the life of the church, in order to seek God in your heart, your life, your experience. Underneath a lot of talk about being personal with God, its a spirituality that actually leaves you alone with yourself" (p. xi).
With this premise in mind, Cary goes on to attack ten "sacred cows" of the new evangelicalism. As a college professor he constantly sees these faulty ways of Christian living and thinking in his students. These young people have grown up in an evangelical environment that has perpetuated these myths for the entirety of their lives. They are unaware that the matters Cary discusses are recent distortions of the truth and not part of historical Christianity. Cary is writing primarily for these students and his writing style reflects that. It is colloquial, repetitive, and relatively simple. Such a writing style might be irritating to older or more astute readers, but the content of the book is excellent.
The sacred cows of the new evangelicalism include:
God is speaking in your heart Your intuitions are the voice of the Holy Spirit Finding Gods individual will for your life You must examine your motivations Heart and head are different You have to be transformed all the time You always have to experience joy Sermons must be practical Experience is foundational to the Christian life
As can be seen, each of these challenges to evangelical thought would elicit much discussion. But Cary handles each topic well with clearly thought-out reasoning and biblical understanding. This is a helpful book and would be a great study for a high school or college Bible study. Gary Gilley, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
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