People used to accuse me of being cynical when I was in college. I told them, “I am not cynical – its just that I am from New Jersey.” From the Garden State or not, I think it is a common cultural experience for those of us who spent some time in youth group to end up with a fair amount of bitterness about certain aspects of our church up-bringing by the time we are ready to leave college. In many ways this is understandable and justifiable. On this side of the New Jerusalem there is a lot to be found wanting in the church. It makes sense that as we get older and have more experiences that we learn to be dissatisfied with the way things are.
Andy Byers’ new book Faith Without Illusions intends to be a helpful guide in evaluating the factors that cause cynicism in the church, while also proposing biblical alternatives to cynicism. “Cynicism,” Byers writes, “arises from an embrace of reality.” But, it is an, “embittered embrace of reality,” because it comes from experiences that often hurt. Cynicism is a brokeness that leads us to be “contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives.” As a hyper-critical person myself, I have learned that existing this way for too long can stifle your ability to form relationships with others, especially with others who are different, and can cause a good amount of loneliness. Not to mention, bitterness suffocates prayer and worship.
Byers’ book is divided into two parts. The first is titled, “Pop Christianity: What Makes Us Cynical.” He describes five problems in the church that lead to disillusionment. In second section, Byers provides five Biblical alternatives to bitter cynicism in response to these factors. In the next post, I will look at the first section.
I have received a promo copy of this book from Intervarsity Press.