Extreme is a word that used to be reserved for people who would fly planes into the World Trade Center or strap a bomb onto themselves and detonate it in a bus full of school children. Those people are extremists, aren’t they? Would it surprise you that a growing number of people in our society have lumped faithful Christians in that category as well? In increasing measure, biblical Christianity, especially as it runs counter-cultural to the direction of society, is being labeled as extreme.
In addition, more and more people are convinced that Christianity is also irrelevant. While they might believe that spirituality could be comforting, spirituality based on a 2000 year old book is considered to be completely out of touch. They have no inkling how Christianity matters or that it could matter to them. Thus, Christians and their faith are irrelevant.
How do we respond to those cultural trends? To seek to answer that question, authors Gabe Lyons and David Kinnamon have written Good Faith: Being a Christian when Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme. While staying true to Scriptural teaching, Lyon and Kinnamon seek to help believers navigate the trick waters of being a faithful Christian in a hostile society, while continuing to seek and take advantage of opportunities to impact that same society for good.
The authors begin by spending the opening chapters analyzing today’s cultural attitudes and perceptions regarding faith, especially the Christian faith. The picture is rather depressing. But their goal is not to depress the reader, but to issue a wake-up call. This is not your grandmother’s world, or even your parent’s world anymore. Their goal is to call believers to what they label as “good faith.” Good faith Christians seek to hold true to Scripture, but also seek impact and engage the world through love and compassion. Good faith Christians seek to be people who, rather than being defined only by what they are against, are also defined by what they are for. Good faith boils down to three essential ingredients: love for God and others, belief in biblical orthodoxy and translating our love and belief into everyday life.
With those key ingredients, Lyons and Kinnamon direct the reader toward some of the hot button issues of the day. Politics. Marriage. Sexuality. Religious Freedom. These are the issues where Christians are increasingly taking a stand. And these are the issues where believers are increasingly being labelled irrelevant and extreme. As they journey through these issues, the authors continually prompt the reader to think about how a good faith Christian could and should respond. Their own responses are not exhaustive – this is not a how-to book to cover every situation. And they are very clear that different Christians will have very different, biblically-educated responses to these issues. But all in all, this is a valuable tool for Christians to have to think through and ponder how we can love, believe and live in the midst of a society that is increasingly negative toward faithful belief.
The authors end the book by focusing an even more direct gaze on the challenges of the church and Christian faith. The chapter on societal trends in faith is especially good, pointing out why the Christian faith itself seems to be in decline. They encourage churches to be both inwardly focused on growth and discipleship, as well as outwardly focused on being ambassadors of Christ to the world.
The book concludes with this thought: “We believe our faith community today faces an emerging social context that demands we learn to be Christian in a new way, described best as being ‘faithful in exile.’” (pg. 254) Drawing lessons from the book of Daniel, the authors leave the reader with a challenge. God is still sovereign. He is still purposeful. And the Christian church may face some sort of exile in today’s society. But exile for God’s people was ultimately a good thing. It was an opportunity for purification and reorientation toward God. And it can be the same for us, as we look at new ways to love, believe and live out our faith in Jesus Christ in today’s world.