Saturday, March 12, 2011

Read This Book! - "Good News For Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You DON'T Have To Do" by Phillip Cary

My biggest complaint about Cary's book is that it wasn't available 30 years ago! How marvelous it would have been to have some of these evangelical traps exposed earlier in my Christian walk rather than having to wrestle with them for years.

The back cover gives this description as to content:

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. Phillip Cary explains that discipleship 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." He covers ten things we don't have to do to be close to God, skillfully unpacking the riches of traditional Christian spirituality to bring the real good news to Christians of all ages.

Christopher Hall, the chancellor of Eastern University wrote my thoughts in his endorsement of the book:

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.

This is a quick, easy read and for the Christian struggling with a myriad of "how do you know" questions - it is a shelter from those spiritual storms. Below are a couple of excerpts.

On hearing God's voice:

"Nearly all of my students have been taught to listen for God's voice in their hearts, but most of them seem not to have been taught the basics of God's word. Many of them, for instance, could not tell you the Ten Commandments if their life depended on it. So with hearts largely unshaped and uninformed by God's word, they are nonetheless expected to find God in their hearts. This kind of teaching is a terrible thing to do to them. It makes them dependent on nothing more than the thoughts of their own hearts. This is not the Holy Spirit's way of teaching...the Holy Spirit's way of teaching is to teach the word of Christ...They [the fruit of the Spirit] come into our hearts by the hearing of the external word of the gospel, which the Spirit applies inwardly to our hearts, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, reshaping everything about us from the bottom up. According to this biblical account of the work of the Spirit in our hearts, we won't get a sanctified heart by listening for the Spirit, but by listening to God's word."

On giving God control of your life:

"Perhaps the most important replacement for Christian morality in today's churches is the idea that you're supposed to "give God control" of your life. An older way of saying pretty much the same thing was that you're supposed to "yield your heart to God." And then there's the motto, "Let go, let God," and all the various ways that people think they're supposed to "let" God work in their lives. What I want to look at is. . . how very different these concepts are from the concept of obeying God, which is at the core of Biblical morality. . .The crucial difference is who's doing the doing. Obedience means doing what God says. "Giving God control" means letting God do it for us. That's a fundamentally different notion from obedience and it undermines the very idea of a moral responsibility. You're not morally responsible for what's done if you're not the one doing it. . .The misunderstanding on which much of the new evangelical theology is based is the idea that when God is working in you, then you'renot working. It's as if His working replaces yours, so you're not doing anything - you're just letting God do it. But that doesn't really work, because then you have to make sure that you're really letting God do it - and so you get all anxious about whether you're really doing that . . .

The game doesn't really work, but let's look at how it goes: We're supposed to give control to God, which means we're the ones in control to start with. That means it's ultimately up to us - God has no control unless we give it to Him. It's often put this way: "God can't work in your life unless you'll let Him." This is an astonishing bit of fantasy. Where in the Bible or anywhere else in God's creation did people get the idea that God was so helpless? If God can't do anything unless we let him, then God is not really God, and indeed He is les real than any person we know. After all, you don't have to "let" real people work in your life. They have an affect on you whether you like it or not, precisely because they're real . . . so saying God can't work in your life unless you let Him is basically saying He is not real.