Summary: The basics of Christian practice and belief from someone that survived their faith.
One of the problems of my life is that I spend very little time with people that actually are non-Christians. I am a stay at home Dad, I work part time out of the house in my spare moments, my prefered enjoyment activities are reading and being alone.
The time I do spend with people is usually my extended family or church small group. In spite of that I feel like I know a lot of ‘post-Christians’. Those that have grown up in the church or on the perefery of the church, but have an uneasy relationship with the church now.
The US makes being a ‘none’ easier all the time. And for many, it is far easier to walk away from the church when things get difficult than it is to struggle through to a new equalibrium. Or at least that is how I describe it. It seems to me that there are many points in time where all is good, you are comfortable, you have faith, you see God working, and things make sense. But then there is a crisis of faith, or a dry spell or a tragedy or something that breaks that equilibrium and you have a choice of searching for a new equilibrium or to just stop fighting.
Ed Cyzewski has written this guide for two groups of people, those that have no background in the church, or those that have lost their equilibrium and need to find a new one. For both readers, the old answers aren’t working any more. New Christians have different questions because they didn’t grow up in the church and they are culturally ill-disposed toward the standard answers that were based in a previous generation’s questions. And those that have grown up in the church and had their equalibrium break, the standard answers were probably what caused the break in the first place.
So this is a 14 chapter book (a bit too long for a small group discussion, but still oriented around that type of idea.) The first 9 chapters are about Christian beliefs. These chapters are not rejecting orthodox Christianity, but are focusing on an older Christian orthodoxy shaped by resent cultural concerns. So these chapters look at Prayer, the Bible and the way we understand it, Doubt, the End Times, the Problem of Evil and the violence of the Old Testament God.
I am glad that there is both room for questions, but a desire to not let the reader get stuck in the doubt but to seek out, if not a final answer, at least answers that are good for now.
The last five chapters are on Christian Practice. If there is anything I have come to believe over the past five or so years, it is that believe is important, but practice is essential. (I am not dismissing belief, but culturally right now, belief seems easier than practice. Both are important, but it seems to me a far better starting place to be sure about practice and unsure about belief, than sure about belief but unattached to practice.)
So Cyzewski grounds the real rubber meets the road part of the book with practice. The chapters are on sin (and how it is a type of addiction), money (and how it reveals our dependence on God), Community (and how it is never perfect, but it is central to spritual growth), evangelism (and how what you have been taught is probably not helpful) and the Holy Spirit (and how not to either dismiss the importance of the Holy Spirit nor get distracted with particulars of the Holy Spirit.)
I am not a new Christian. I read theology for fun. I have been through lots of doubt and walked with others through their own doubt. This book will probably be more helpful for those that are from an Evangelical background or in an Evangelical-ish church now. Cyzewski is not a fundamentalist (nor am I, I think he is pretty much right in his theology here), so if your ownly experience in christianity is a conservative Southern Baptist church and you are fine with that, this probably isn’t the book for you. Not that there is anything wrong with the place you are in, but just because the questions Cyzewski is focused on are probably not your questions.