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Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint Paperback – April 3, 2011

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Gifts of the Dark Wood: Seven Blessings for Soulful Skeptics (and Other Wanderers) by Eric Elnes
"Gifts of the Dark Wood" by Eric Elnes
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Editorial Reviews


"Byers does a wonderful job explaining that disillusionment is 'the dispersal of illusions' and can actually be a form of illumination." (Aaron Wilkinson, Books & Culture, November/December 2012)

"This is an enlightening book, which would be a good addition to any church library." (Libraries Alive!, Fall 2011)

"Andrew Byers asks, 'Can anyone justify being a cynic if Jesus was not a cynic?' Indeed, Faith Without Illusions confronts our tendency to forsake the example of Jesus and give up on the church in disappointment. Read the book and discover a better way, marked by 'hopeful realism.'" (Collin Hansen, editorial director, The Gospel Coalition, and co-author, A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir)

"Cynicism has spread to outbreak proportions--particularly in my generation--and many of us too easily succumb to its sickness. Faith Without Illusions is exactly the shot-in-the-arm antidote we need to remain mercilessly realistic and yet still cling onto hope." (James Choung, author of True Story and national director of InterVarsity's Asian American Ministries)

"Andrew Byers takes a hard look at the broken, bitter and jaded in the church who are at a fork in the road. He offers a path of faith paved with hope and healing in the footsteps of the best models of Scripture. Byers is a humorous, unassuming and sympathetic guide, one worth following down the better road." (Nijay K. Gupta, School of Theology, Seattle Pacific University)

"Cynicism is the natural outcome of a culture whose idols have crashed and burned. The pop Christianity of our time is a narcotic but not an answer to the deepest yearnings of the rising generation. Andy Byers surveys this landscape with a sharp analytical mind and with sails trimmed to the biblical gospel. An important and timely book of hopeful realism." (Timothy George, founding dean, Beeson Divinity School, and general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture)

"Cynical anger being replaced by prophetic anguish is, according to Andy Byers, the way of the prophet. It's also the way of Faith Without Illusions. With wisdom and grace, Byers inspires discerning Christians to move beyond cynicism for the purpose of challenging the church, instead, with love. Right now, it's where Byers's work is moving me." (Margot Starbuck, author of The Girl in the Orange Dress and Unsqueezed)

About the Author

Andrew Byers (PhD, Durham University) works as the Free Church Tutor and Teaching Fellow at Cranmer Hall, St. John's College, Durham University. He has spent twelve years in pastoral ministry, most recently serving as the Chaplain of St. Mary's College, Durham University. Andrew is the author of TheoMedia: The Media of God and the Digital Age, and Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (April 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830836187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830836185
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,243,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Father of four; Tutor & Teaching Fellow at Cranmer Hall, St John's College, Durham University; Chaplain at St. Mary's College. My PhD (Durham) is on Johannine Ecclesiology.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Disillusionment is the "dispersal of illusions," and many Christians are finding themselves passing through disillusionment only to drown in a sea of cynicism.

Andy Byers makes his authorial debut with a very timely book that is bound to challenge and encourage the broken, bitter, and burned-out Christian cynics among us.

"It is hard not to be cynical when you drive past a church and read a message like this on a rusted marquee sign: `To Prevent Sinburn, Use Sonscreen.' Really? Someone thought it was a good idea to go public with that?" (p.107)

It's the marquees, the bumper stickers, the shallow theology, the sappy "Christian" radio disc jockeys, and the endless clichés of pop-culture Christianity that are enough to send disillusioned believers into a cynic rage. I mean... who hasn't wanted to drive their car off a cliff after having to hear "I Can Only Imagine" for the bazillionth time?

Byers observes that, "many believers have now slid into those dark pits that cynicism is becoming vogue in many Christian circles as a self-identifying trademark of a new spirituality--the edgy spirituality of the jaded." (p.8)

There is certainly no shortage of bitter believers that claim to be "free" from the chains of religion. You can even join social networks for the caustic cussing Christians who are congregating on the fringes of Christianity and attracting others who feel abused and betrayed.

Byers says, "Cynicism is a sickness." However, it is possible to overcome this state of disparagement by reckoning disillusionment with the church as a gift from God--an "act of God's grace.
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What a terrific book and great resource for those disillusioned with the church. I worked in college ministry for over ten years and wish that this book had been available then for me to hand out to every idealistic student who tried to break free from the establishment and strike out on their own. This book will help people understand what's fueling their cynicism and how this cynicism should be now be directed in light of the transforming power of the gospel. Great book. Well written, Insightful, Hopeful.
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The brokenness of human misery before God may recede into bitterness, but healing comes when we bring our maladies to him and check into his healing ward. We do this not by avoiding him in disillusionment but by crying out to him from the depths and striving with all our might to grasp onto something hopeful from his hand. Andrew Byers Faith Without Illusions, page 175-176

As a pastor who has been in full-time parish ministry for not quite 25 of the past 31 years, I have read books, attended seminars, and had numerous conversations, face to face and in writing, regarding those who either become disgruntled with the Christian faith and church or have been for quite some time whether having been a part of a church or not. Cynicism has never been in short supply just ask St Paul... and Jesus.

And Andrew Byers does, in a manner of speaking, as he addresses the issue of walking the line between despair and cynicism in a new book published by InterVarsity Press in 2011, Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint.

He begins with a first person account of how "we fall into" cynicism with a grade school love story. He then goes on to state something that all of us know to be true, namely that, "cynicism often arises from painful disillusionment-when the rug gets violently jerked out from under us..." and then he turns to the focus of the book "What if we are disillusioned by the church- that one safe harbor of community on which Christians are told to rely on when all else comes crashing down? What if we become cynical toward the faith that is supposed to sustain us through all life's trials?...what if the object of our disillusionment is...the God we worship?
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Format: Paperback
Every so often, books come along which actually live up to its title. Often, I find that authors sensationalize their titles, with very little in the book which actually relates to the title. Byers hasn't. As the title plainly states, this book actually deals with faith, moving past illusions, living, and sainthood through the ideas of cynicism. But, there is just so much more.

I was expecting something different, something like a mood ring, but always on black. Instead, I found a book by another young theologian which calls attention to the need to move past the black and remember that cynicism is good for only a short time. Byers is presenting himself as a prophet who is calling attention to the problems of the Church, problems which he has lived and struggled to overcome. He is honest and speaks with the words which many of my generation - and indeed, many in each generation - need to hear. I think of the Prophet Amos, who was one of Israel's elite, was able to preach to them out of experience and a shared status. Here, Byers speaks to both the idealist and the cynic because he was both once. Now, he is what he calls a `hopeful realist' and is issuing a call to those who are in either camp to, well, get real.

In this first part, Byers introduces himself in humiliating fashion, telling of his own road to the Fall in which he experiences the wall which I hope every Christian meets as hard as I have. A review shouldn't be a repeat of his book, so I will not rehash his experiences, but in them, I find myself being examined.
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