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Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don't Have to Do Paperback – October 1, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Brazos Press (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587432854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587432859
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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I wouldn't have bought this book based on its title. "Good News for Anxious Christians" sounds like another Christian living book. Nothing against those books, but I've stopped reading most of them. And I sure don't need another one in my library.

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.
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By Tara on November 13, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was excited to buy this book, and it did not disappoint. Phillip Cary was one of my professors at Eastern University-- and probably the one that influenced my faith & encouraged me in it the most. His view of Christianity is simple: being a Christian is believing in and participating in the story and promises of Jesus. Being a Christian is NOT ascribing to current church trends and forcing yourself to believe in things that don't make sense. Cary, more so than any other Christian thinker I've listened to, gave me the freedom to think critically and still believe I'm a Christian.

I'm part of his intended audience: 20-something evangelicals who are doubting their faith because they're tired of playing the "mental gymnastics" they learned were essential to being Christians as teenagers. I bought this book because I thought Dr. Cary's words would be an encouragement to me now, as they were in college. I was right. I would recommend this book to peers coming from the same background.

I would also recommend it to youth leaders-- both as a check and an encouragement.

My only problem with it was that it was a bit repetitive at times. At certain points I felt like it was written in a way that anticipated I'd put it down mid-chapter and come back to it later, not remembering what had just been said. So that was a little annoying.

But overall, I found it to be a very encouraging book.
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If you've ever felt distant from God and wondered what you have to "do" to get back on track, what you need to "do" is read this book :)

Cary argues that some of the most common things we are hearing in evangelicalism (or what Cary labels "new evangelicalism"), like hearing God in your heart, letting go and letting God, finding God's will, and experiencing God, are untrue and even harmful ideas. Cary believes that in different ways these ideas shift our focus onto ourselves rather than Christ and the good news of the Gospel.

Most people will find something controversial in at least one of Cary's chapters, leaving them thinking "Is that true?" and "But what about the verse that says...?" This last question ("But what about the verse...") is the most important. The fact that Cary doesn't provide thorough arguments from Scripture and rebuttals of common texts that "new evangelicalism" appeals to is the book's weakest point. And if it weren't for the fact that Cary manages to be largely persuasive despite this, I would have given the book only three stars instead of four.

Cary *does* provide some arguments from Scripture and *does*, at least on one occasion that I can remember, offer an alternative understanding of what you might call a "new evangelical proof text," but the reader will still be left with a lot of unanswered questions. And even if a person doesn't find Cary's arguments persuasive, I think they would still benefit greatly from the book as a balance (to say "hearing God in your heart") rather than a refutation.

Cary's alternative to the new evangelical theology is persuasive enough and distinctive enough that it needs to be heard and wrestled with by any Christian wondering about "finding God's will" or struggling with their Christian experience.
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Format: Paperback
Good News for Anxious Christians by Phillip Cary reminds me of Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen and J. Robin Maxson. The latter challenged what the authors called the traditional view that God has an "individual will," a specific plan for each life that a person must discover through prayer, reading the Bible, getting counsel, considering circumstances, etc. I read it early in my Christian life, and though it was Scripturally-based, I found it troubling because I believed the more common view. Back then I thought the will of God was like a steep precipice, difficult to reach and with little room to stand, but these two books picture it more broadly like a plain bounded by the truths of Scripture.

Good News references Decision Making and builds on it. The subject matter is more diverse, but like its predecessor it challenges widely-held views. Both books help Christians to become responsible for their decisions by acting wisely.

Cary believes that a "new evangelical theology" has infiltrated the church. It's his name "for a set of supposedly practical ideas about transforming your life that get in the way of believing the gospel. They are the result of a long history of trying to be `practical' in evangelical theology, which has now thoroughly adapted itself to consumer society." This critique is his opportunity to preach the gospel to Christians. He writes that the "understanding of the gospel that has shaped my reading of the Scripture was articulated most famously in Martin Luther's little treatise The Freedom of a Christian ..." Cary is Anglican, but someone who believes that Luther was right most of the time. This influence, with its emphasis on faith in Christ rather than what we do, is refreshing.
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