Book Notes: Everything You Know about Evangelicals is Wrong / Churched

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Notes on two books I’ve read recently:

Everything You Know about Evangelicals Is Wrong (Well, Almost Everything): An Insider’s Look at Myths and Realities Steve Wilkens & Don Thorsen Baker Books, 2010

Evangelicals appear to be in a perpetual identity crisis. Several recent books seek to reclaim the center of evangelical identity in order to renew the movement and reform our practice. While most of these books focus on what evangelicals are, Wilkens and Thorsen take the apophatic route, which means they seek to describe evangelical identity by letting us know what is not essential. Hence chapter titles like these:

  • Evangelicals are not all mean, stupid, and dogmatic
  • Evangelicals are not all waiting for the rapture
  • Evangelicals are not all anti-evolutionists
  • Evangelicals are not all inerrantists
  • Evangelicals are not all Calvinists

The main point of the book is that evangelicalism is varied. Granted. But who is this book for? Is it for the outside world that doesn’t understand evangelicals? Is it for evangelicals who think more narrowly about evangelical identity? Is it for disaffected evangelicals who feel they are out of the mainstream of conservative evangelical thought?

Because the authors want to clarify what evangelicalism is not, the tone of the book sometimes sounds like they’re saying, “We’re evangelical, but we’re not like those embarrassing evangelicals over there.” Though there is some helpful analysis in this book, I was disappointed that the conclusion sums up evangelical identity in the Great Commission. (What Christian group would deny the priority of the Great Commission?)

Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess Matthew Paul Turner Water Brook, 2008

I’m not a big fan of memoirs, but if you’re looking for a light-hearted read that also contains some good lessons, you might enjoy this one. Turner’s upbringing in an independent Baptist church and school resembles my own. While our theological outlooks differ today, I appreciate the way Turner can poke fun at his early church experiences while maintaining respect for the well-intentioned people who taught him the faith. Turner also employs a self-deprecatory style of humor that goes over well.

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