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Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don't Have to Do Paperback – October 1, 2010
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From the Back Cover
10 Things You Don't Have to Do to Be Close to God
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.
"Yes! No! Whoa! There are so many terrific, alarming, insightful zingers in this book that I agreed, disagreed and, most of all, had to think about something on every page. Graceful and liberating, it is a word of wisdom and hope that just might convince anxious Christians that the gospel really is better news than we've yet imagined."--Andy Crouch, senior editor, Christianity Today International; author, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling
"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."--Christopher A. Hall, chancellor, Eastern University
"Phillip Cary has clearly and convincingly explained why so many evangelicals are anxious and believe they may be failing at faith. I highly recommend this book to my fellow Christian counselors and self-doubting Christians because Cary richly explains the comforting good news of our identity in Christ. He thus provides a solid theological basis for correcting many deeply distorted beliefs about the self which propagate anxiety. This book provides the best treatment of this subject that I have ever read."--Christopher Doriani, licensed clinical social worker
About the Author
Phillip Cary (Ph.D., Yale University) is professor of philosophy at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, as well as scholar-in-residence at the Templeton Honors College. He is the author of Jonah in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible and of three critically acclaimed books on the life and thought of Augustine.
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Top customer reviews
But the subtitle drops some hints that this isn't just another one of those books. "10 Practical Things You Don'tHave to Do" makes it sound like a practical how-to book, until you think about it. "Don't have to do." This is a book that tells you to stop doing some practical things, things that are not found in the Bible, things that are making you anxious and weakening your faith in Christ - things that are taught in many of our churches.
In other words, this is a book that wants to rid you of practices that are rooted in bad theology. I knew this book would be different as soon as I began reading the preface:
"I suppose in some ways this book is a stealth attempt to preach the gospel, disguised as an attack on what I call 'the new evangelical theology.' So let me give away what I'm doing right away, so no one will be misled by the disguise and think the whole purpose of the book is negative."
"I'm trying to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to Christians. I'd like us all to be free to rely on the gospel rather than to put our trust in a supposedly "practical" ideas that are actually doing us harm."
What are some of the practical ideas that he debunks? Ones that are surprisingly common: that we should listen for the voice of God inside; that we need to let go and let God; that we need to find God's perfect will for our lives; that we should always experience joy; that we should focus on what we should do (application) more than on what Christ has done. We've been trained to accept a set of practical ideas or techniques in the Christian life. They "work," but not as they should. Phillip Cary, the author, helps us understand that they're not biblical, that they're weakening our faith, and that they're making us anxious.
The alternative? Cary continually draws us away from ourselves and back to Christ and his gospel. "What the gospel of Christ does is give us Christ, and that is enough," he writes. "It's our job to keep preaching the gospel of Christ to one another."
This is a great book for every believer, but it's also a great book for pastors. It helps pastors understand how we've been sucked into a focus on techniques and practices that are making us anxious. Chapter 9 on preaching is called, "Why `Applying It to Your Life' is Boring, Or, How the Gospel is Beautiful." This chapter alone is worth the price of the book, and every pastor should read it.
Cary leads us to the Sabbath rest that we find in Jesus. It's a rest that is about what we don't do, about what has been done for us by Him. "Every time we turn to Christ in faith," he writes, "it is like a moment of Sabbath, a little foretaste of eternal rest and glory." This continual turning to Christ is the antidote to our anxiety, and is truly good news for anxious Christians - and pastors.
This book isn't what I expected. It was far more. If you're looking for a good example of stealth-mode gospel-centered teaching, this is it. You may find yourself less anxious, and more enraptured with the beauty of Christ, who truly is everything that we need.
Not being a scholar, and particularly a philosopher, there were many times that I had to re-read a paragraph so I could truly take in what the author was trying to convey; but as I did so, I just kept highlighting and highlighting to bring out all the truly remarkable and profound truths he shared! I would highly recommend reading the last chapter, which summarizes the book, first. Then you will have an idea of the points he's trying to make so as you read the whole book you'll have fewer of those foggy moments when you're a little unsure of where he's going with all this.
This is a book that I will spend a lot of time contemplating and searching the scriptures to confirm what he has said. The author himself invites us to do this because he wants us to think for ourselves.
I would recommend this book to "newish" Christians and to any Christian who has struggled with all the experiential, emotional based teaching they've heard over the years. I would recommend it to pastor's who feel trapped on the spinning wheel of church growth and would like to find some rest for their souls.
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