You Were Made For More Than Safety — “Risky Gospel” by Owen Strachan (Review for Christianity Today)

strachanExodus tells us that God saved Israel that it might “serve/worship” (avodah) him (Ex. 7:16; 8:1; 9:1). Contrary to what we might think, the Israelites weren’t set “free” to go off, settle in, and have a safe, pleasant life according to their own whims. God had particular, sometimes difficult, purposes for them. God’s redemption aimed at creating a people to boldly worship, serve, and represent him before the nations (Ex. 19:5-6). In Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Do Something Awesome, Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College and executive director of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), revives this message for a modern Christian audience. Framing our situation with Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), he invites us to do more than accept life in a fallen world, hoping not to screw up too badly before the master returns.

Instead of living “safe,” miserly lives as the wicked servant did, we are called to go out, fulfill the creation mandate, and “take dominion” of the world (Gen. 1:26-30)—in other words, “build something awesome.” For this, we’ll need a willingness to take up our crosses and risk discomfort, failure, and pain in order to boldly do great things for the glory of God.

Sadly, instead of bold worshippers, Strachan sees a landscape filled with Christians who are tired, scared, defeated, and satisfied with small, pointless pursuits; we’re living our “stressed life now.” To use Andy Crouch’s language of “gestures” and “postures” (Culture Making, pp. 90-96), Christians have been flinching, slouching, and playing it safe for so long, we’ve developed a sort of scoliosis of the soul. In other words, we’re stuck. Stuck in weak prayer lives. Stuck in our parents’ basement. Stuck in suburban monotony. Stuck in marriages we’re scared to actually try at and are tempted to bail on. Stuck trying to merely hunker down and survive the Christian life. Well, as a good doctor would, Strachan endeavors to apply the medicine of the gospel to straighten our spines, and walk with the upright boldness of people who know the trustworthiness of God.

You can read the rest of my review over at Christianity Today

Tim Tebow Is a Hipster, and Other Things I Learned from Salon

That's a vest, right? That's totally hipsterish.

That’s a vest, right? That’s totally hipsterish.

Apparently Tim Tebow is a hipster.

I know, I was surprised at this too, but then I read this piece by Amanda Marcotte of on these 5 Christian “Hipsters” Trying to Make Fundamentalism Look Cool, by being young and hip and with it, despite their horribly conservative Christianity, and there he was, right smack dab in the center of it. I mean, if says so, it’s probably worth considering. Again, it doesn’t initially make sense, but maybe they’re offering up a new definition of hipsterism?

In the past, when I’ve thought “hipster”, sites like VICE come to mind. For Christian hipsters, it was Relevant. To me, Tim Tebow wasn’t a hipster. Tim Tebow plays football. Tim Tebow has arms the size of Wyoming. Tim Tebow is the face earnest, conservative, and Christian Midwest who just happens to be young. There is nothing ironic, faintly urban, indie music-loving, foodie-ish, or Wes Anderson about him.

But, you know, looking at Marcotte’s list is making me reconsider things, because, in surveying it, the only person on that list who kind of made sense to me as a Christian hipster is Brett McCracken. I’ve sat in a hip, urbane coffee shop with him in the Orange Circle (a quaint little old-town section in Orange County) and talked about Whole Foods, craft beer, and cultural consumption, and then ironically laughed at the cliche we were embodying right there–even down to the self-aware irony about our self-aware irony. That’s kind of hipsterish, right?

But then, when you try to fit that into the same category as Tim Tebow, ‘Merican football hero…I dunno. So, maybe I’ve been wrong this whole time.

Then again, McCracken’s being on the list at all, makes me a bit suspicious.  I mean, one of the main points of his book on Hipster Christianity, is that Christians shouldn’t try to make Christianity cool by shaving off the edges, or believing the myth that if we just packaged it properly, everybody would jump on board. In that sense, it’s kind of odd for him to be the poster boy for missing the point that “conservative Christianity is the exact opposite of cool”, when that’s kind of what he’s known for.

Of course, the other odd bit of the article that gives me pause is Marcotte’s fixation on sex and politics as if it were the defining characteristic of conservative Christianity, and the litmus test of it’s truth and morality. I mean, I thought that Evangelicals were supposed to be the ones making views on sexuality the boundary-line of social acceptability? But, in reading it, the whole thing kind of amounted to: “This guy seems cool, or tries to seem cool, but don’t be fooled, he’s just as sex-negative and intolerant as the rest of his conservative counterparts.” Cut, paste, & change the name. Repeat four more times. 

Honestly, given the level of hostility in the article, I was looking for a more damning charge against these types than just being “sex-negative” and holding “anti-sex judgmental attitudes” (and, from what I gather, that simply means holding a fairly traditional sex ethic), but I could find neither hide nor hair of one. Still a bit puzzled over that. It’s like that was the only thing she cared about. But that can’t be right. Conservative Christians are the ones who are obsessed with and intolerant of other people’s sexual beliefs and behaviors, right?

It’s just odd to think that in a article, there’s nothing to see here other than a confirmation of what we’ve known for a long time: people really don’t like what Christianity has to say about sex. I mean, this was true when Christianity first came on the scene in the Roman Empire and the pagan critics were lambasting it. It was true when C.S. Lewis wrote about the issue 60 years ago in Mere Christianity and the Freudians were still kicking about, talking about repression. And it’ll be true until Jesus comes back. That and the tired idea, refuted-by-history, time and again, that if Christians would just get with the times, shift up their sexual ethic, the kids would come back to church. It just seems so trite to keep writing about.

So, maybe now I’m wondering if Tebow’s really a hipster again.

Soli Deo Gloria