Book Review: "Good News for Anxious Christians" by Phillip Cary

In the ever-shifting landscape of American Evangelicalism, it seems that many people are attempting to […]

Todd Brewer / 3.23.11

In the ever-shifting landscape of American Evangelicalism, it seems that many people are attempting to correct what they perceive to be failures in the system. Everyone thinks something is wrong and whatever it is, it needs to be fixed now.

Within this debate, Phillip Cary’s book “Good News for Anxious Christians“, provides an unique diagnostic of both ourselves and the state of modern evangelicalism. As a professor of philosophy at a leading evangelical university, Cary hears from his students how the “new Evangelical theology” has translated into the core beliefs and practices of our youth. What he finds are people who worry all the time about the inadequacy of their Christian life. His students are dogged by the never ending questions of: “Am I doing it right?” or, “What’s wrong with me?”. Cary suggests that this anxiety is propagated by the very beliefs modern evangelicalism. His students demonstrate the end result of all those sermons, bible studies, and mission trips. Cary seeks to both repudiate this harmful theology and articulate his own comforting alternative.

Consequently, Cary has organized his book around “ten practical things your don’t have to do.” This list includes such common clich├ęs as: giving God control, finding God’s will, hearing God speak, letting God work, or applying it to your life. The goal in each chapter is to release anxious Christians from that which harms and inhibits true faith and maturity while also promoting a life of true discipleship. If evangelicalism and its me-centered subjectivism has led to a paralyzing anxiety, then a steady diet of the sufficiency of Christ alone will lead to genuinely Christian faith, hope and love.

Cary writes cogently without either dense technical jargon or patronizing condescension. If I find fault with Cary’s otherwise welcome book, it is that he has written a book for anxious Christians. Restricting the intended audience has sharpened the overall argument of the book, but it also has the shortcoming of addressing Evangelical Christian problems without reference to the underlying, more universal, issues. Consequently, one could quickly become lost without a familiarity with the current American Evangelical landscape.

Despite these mild criticisms, “Good News for Anxious Christians” covers many relevant themes and issues in a way that is very sympathetic to the theological vision here at Mockingbird. If you’re an anxious Christian in need of relief, a burnt-out Evangelical leader who has run out of tricks, or more importantly, a former Evangelical (still practicing Christian or otherwise), then this book is written for you as a way to better understand the problems of modern Evangelicalism while offering a way to move forward. It is a needed restatement of the Christian gospel as the medicine to save us from ourselves and our misguided anxiety.