Today it seems as though anyone can be called an evangelical, from the pastor who takes a hard stand on the Bible’s inspiration to the author who doubts whether or not we can take Jesus at his word about, well, anything.
Perhaps Carl Trueman is right in saying that the real “scandal of the evangelical mind” is not that there is no evangelical mind, but that there is no evangelical.
But perhaps not. While the movement seems to have been diluted nearly to the point of meaninglessness, some are seeking to breathe life back into it.
That’s the point of Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day. With contributions from Kevin DeYoung, Tim Challies, Russell Moore, Thabiti Anyabwile and a host of others, this book offers readers a glimpse into what it means to be an evangelical, historically, doctrinally and practically.
Don’t Call It a Comeback was a treat for me to read. Every contribution was extremely articulate and thoughtful; most importantly, they were genuinely helpful. While space prevents me from discussing every topic covered in this book, I’ll be hitting a few of the highlights from my perspective.
The book starts off on exactly the right foot with Kevin DeYoung’s “The Secret to Reaching the Next Generation.” Church growth is a big issue, and everyone seems to be asking, “What’s the secret? How do you get young people to come to church?” A whole industry has cropped up around this, with books, conferences, and experts all devoted to figuring out the secret. So what is it, according to DeYoung?
“You just have to be like Jesus. That’s it. So the easy part is you don’t have to be with it. The hard part is you have to be with him. If you walk with God and walk with people, you’ll reach the next generation.” (p. 22)
In other words, if you’re going to reach people for Christ, you have to be faithful. It doesn’t matter if your shirt is tucked in or if you’ve got tattoos on your neck, if you’re not faithful, it doesn’t matter. You have to amaze people with God, and the best way to do that is not with cleverness, but with faithfulness in life and practice. “Reaching the next generation for God by showing them more of God. That’s just crazy enough to work.” (p. 31)
Andy Naselli’s chapter on Scripture reminds us why the Bible is so important to evangelicals. Historically, a high view of Scripture has been a tenet of evangelical theology, so much so that, as Naselli writes, “If you want to discredit evangelicals, discredit the Bible.” (p. 59).
Naselli offers a thorough analysis of why the Bible matters to Christians; why the inspiration, inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture matter in a way that, perhaps, many of us have never considered. So while some might call evangelicals bibliolators or suggest that putting too much emphasis on the Bible risks neglecting Jesus, the truth is the Bible deserves to be appropriately exalted in Christian worship and practice. God has identified Himself with His word; it proves itself trustworthy and true time and again; and Jesus repeatedly quoted from it with authority. How can we not do likewise?
The final chapter by David Mathis on missions was incredibly challenging because he gets to the heart of what missions are all about: Worship.
Missions is about the worship of Jesus and the joy of all peoples. And as surely as Jesus is Lord of the universe, the Great Commission will finish. He will build his church. He will be worshiped among every people. And in him will his redeemed people, from all the peoples, forever “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). (p. 236)
This perspective on missions is much needed. It defuses the notion that the era of overseas missions have gone. Going to all nations isn’t a suggestion; it’s a command and one that we should obey with joy and gladness that we get to be a part of it.
Those are just a few of the highlights for me, though there were many more.
Given that the book broadly covers the vast majority of the essentials of Christian faith and practice, one has to wonder if there was anything that could or should have been added?
One thing that was suggested recently by one of the contributors to this book was that, if there was anything missing in this book, it would be a chapter on hell and the necessity of believing in divine judgment for evangelical faith.
I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, the authors, by and large, do an excellent job weaving judgment into their chapters. Tim Challies (writing on Jesus Christ) and Greg Gilbert (writing on the gospel) in particular come to mind. So it’s certainly not neglected. Yet it could well have been its own chapter, and the book almost certainly would have benefited from it.
Don’t Call It a Comeback offers readers a solid primer on what it means to be an evangelical and why it matters. Read the book, share it with others and help the “old faith” continue to spread.
Title: Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day
Author: Kevin DeYoung (ed.)
Publisher: Crossway (2011)
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher