Kinnaman and Lyon Research Faithful Living, Part 3
Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
In their book, Good Faith, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons divided their argument into three sections:
- Understanding Our Times.
- Living Good Faith.
- The Church and Our Future (7-8).
Part one of this review focused on the first section. Part two of this review, focused on this second section. In part three of this review, I will address this third section.
The Church and Our Future.
In section three, Kinnaman and Lyons remind us that atheists, agnostics, and religiously unaffiliated only account for about a quarter of the U.S. population (222), which means:
“the vast majority of Americans are informed by faith in some way and Christianity is far and away the dominant player on the U.S. religious scene.” (221)
Don’t take comfort in this summary. Kinnaman and Lyons see underlying challenges behind these statistics.
Legacy Christians Declining
First, the number of Christians is declining, especially among “legacy” or cultural Christians. The good news is that the number of practicing Christians seems reasonably stable (45% of boomers, 42% of Gen-Xers, and 36% of Millennials; 224). Kinnaman and Lyons treat this subject gingerly, but the numbers suggest that “Christianity lite” is not a good strategy for long-term church vitality or growth.
Problem of Biblical Illiteracy
Second, biblical literacy has declined making it harder for people to apply the Christian message to their lives. Remove the foundation; watch the building crumble (226). Kinnaman and Lyons observe:
“secularism shouldn’t be our greatest concern. In other words, secularism’s advance is downstream from anemic Bible engagement and thin theological thinking.” (227)
The storyline here seems to be simple—give people thin soup and they start checking out other restaurants. People want an adult faith to believe in and provide a lens for interpreting a crazy world.
Third, we have become increasingly individualistic, to the point of narcissism. Kinnaman and Lyons report:
- “Eight-four percent of U.S. adults and 66 percent of practicing Christians agree that the highest goal for life is to enjoy it much as possible.”
- “Ninety-one percent of adults and 76 percent of practicing Christians believe that the best way to find yourself is to look inside yourself.” (228)
These trends suggest that a large portion of U.S. Christians have bought into “New Age” dogma, which reveals a pervasion influence of pagan ideas. That is, the substitution of self for God in our worship, a consequence as old as original sin.
Three Lessons from Daniel
Rather than go away cynical, Kinnaman and Lyons offer three familiar lessons for good faith drawn from the book of Daniel: love well, maintain an orthodox faith, and act consistent your beliefs (256-260). Daniel took a chance to interpret the king’s dreams, arguing to save the lives of those who did not (257). Daniel cites scripture in advising his peers to:
“… seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jer 29:7 ESV)
Daniel applies the advice of Jeremiah in continuing his government service, in spite of the pagan nature of that government. We, as Christians, face this very same problem today living and working in a secular society, the new Babylon.
In their new book, Good Faith, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons explore why Christian faith is considered irrelevant and extreme. They employ empirical studies and data to make their case. Their analysis bears examination and discussion by practicing Christians, seminary students, pastors, and researchers.
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