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Friday, June 27, 2008

They Like Jesus But Not the Church

I just finished Dan Kimball's They Like Jesus but not the Church.* I liked it so much more than I thought I would. It was very well-written, accessible, reasonable, and Scriptural.

My confession is that I spend entirely too much time around Christians. With the exception of the health club where I work out, I'm not regularly engaged with non-Christians. When I am at the club, I go in, put on my headphones, and work out. Then I go home. So, I'm not engaging too many people there either. I live in a cul desac, and most of my neighbors are Christians. All I can say is that this book was a good smack upside my head.

Kimball shares the encounters he has with people who like Jesus but not the church, and he quotes them. The main issues covered that people don't like about the church are:
The church is an organized religion with a political agenda.
The church is judgmental and negative.
The church is dominated by males and oppresses females.
The church is homophobic.
The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong.
The church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally.
With a glance at these issues, if we are honest we have to say, "I can see where that would be their perspective." What made this book so valuable was that Kimball is not trying to bash the church. He is not trying to compromise Scripture, and he challenges Christians to take theological thought seriously. He also offers solutions. To each of these views above we can strive to be:
The church is an organized community with a heart to serve others.
The church is a positive agent of change loving others as Jesus would.
The church holds women in the highest respect and includes them in the leadership of the church.
The church is a loving and welcoming community.
The church is respectful of other people's belief and faiths.
The church holds beliefs with humility and strives to be thoughtful theologians.
Through his encounters, Kimball discusses how the world is studying the Bible in context and historically often to a greater degree than Christians are. He challenges us to study and have answers available in a respectful dialog that goes beyond "the Bible says it, that settles it."

I highly recommend buying or borrowing this book, especially for those in ministry whose engagement with non-Christians has diminished. Even sitting at a book store and skimming it will be of value.

*Picture taken from the Amazon.com web site.

4 comments:

danny wright said...

I haven't read the book but it sounds much like "Un Christian" by David Kinnaman. I question just how much of the judgement society has about the church is the result of media caricatures and not any substantial experience. The fact is, if any people could be isolated into a group for any reason, then consistently caricatured in the media, the result would be the same for that group.

It is my position that when Light meets Darkness their will be conflict. Jesus says that blessed are you when people persecute you because of ighteousness, And also when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Are there people in "the church" that act badly? Sure there is. In fact there is plenty of fodder for those who want to caricature the body of Christ. But this is true for all groups, and even more so for the church because even the word Christian has been rendered nearly meaningless without another word attached to it such as evangelical, fundamentalist and so on. Consider; is the political agenda that is so repugnant that of Jeremiah Wright's church, or that of the Episcopal church with it's push for environmental protections and the homosexual agenda; or is it the pro life agenda that has people so upset? I know the answer to that question because only one of those has been caricatured by movies of wild eyed abortion doctor murderers.

Good book review, thank you for posting it. I think these are good books to read for Christians, I think Un Christian has impacted me for the good. It has certainly taken the edge off my Christianess in this world. It is easy to get off track as a Christian when we see so much evil prevailing, and these kind of books I think do help us to check our focus. But at the same time I fear that they will push the Church toward seeking the approval of the world, and I'm not sure that's such a good thing either.

Pascalian Awakenings said...

Danny,

You are absolutely right about the caricatures. One of the things this book pointed out is how their view of the church is generally not based on relationships with Christians. That was what was so convicting. Personally, I do not have enough relationships with non-Christians. Your caution about the church seeking the approval of the world is a good one.

James Pate said...

Hi Yvette. I have a few thoughts (though I've not yet read the book):

1. How can Christianity be respectful to other religions, when the Bible isn't even that way? Most of the time, the Bible conveys a message of "this is the right way, and others are idolaters, or just plain wrong." Sure, there are exceptions, as when Elisha allowed Namaan to keep on kneeling to his Syrian god, but most of the Bible doesn't strike me as all that pluralistic.

2. When I hear non-believers say that they like Jesus but not the church, they usually have a specific image of Jesus: as a hippie, or a New Ager, or a plain nice guy. Or maybe they even like Jesus being mean to the Pharisees, whom they see as the religious right of those days. But their image of Jesus is not entirely biblical. Jesus talked about hell, for example. He said he was the only way.

Pascalian Awakenings said...

James,

1. As far as being respectful of other religions, I don't think Kimball is advocating pluralistic as much as he is in engaging in meaningful dialog. I think he is striving for true discussion with those who are seeking rather than just having an attitude that does not try and understand the other religions. Christians are often clueless as to other religions believe.
2. I agree with you entirely on the point about people liking a concept of Jesus. I think they like the miracle working, parable telling, loving the outcast Jesus, but they probably don't care much for "take up your cross" "deny yourself" Jesus. Kimball acknowledges this in the end of his book where he deals with criticisms of it.