Review of GOOD FAITH by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
David Kinnaman is president of Barna Group, a leading research and communications company that works with churches. Along with his co-author Gabe Lyons, Kinnaman and Lyons use a host of polling data to build the case that Christians are viewed as extreme and irrelevant by American society.
Kinnaman and Lyons then go on to describe, based on their own investigations, the best way for churches to fulfill their historic mission of following the teaching of Christ while benefiting society and relating to a society given that they are painted as extreme and irrelevant. Churches ought to continue to contribute to the betterment of society as a whole through their charitable work.
Every church that I have been a part of over the years has, of course, done this to some degree (my wife and I have had fellowship with many different denominations in Canada), but now a church’s participation in a charitable event either alone or in partnership with others will almost never be recognized as such by the media. The church’s involvement will either be unrecognized altogether or the charitable activity will be treated as if it is unrelated to the church’s main mission (of course it is not). The message for me is to recognize this charitable connection in other church organizations and to point it out, since the media will not.
For me the most helpful discussion was found in Chapter 7 on how to respond to modern secularism which works to banish all religious expression from the public square on the grounds the very presence of religious expression would be offensive to some members of the public. Kinnaman and Lyons advocate on behalf of a view by John D. Inazu which is called Confident Pluralism or Principled Pluralism. A metaphor of a potluck dinner is used to explain this concept. Everyone is able to bring their best and favorite dish to the potluck, but no one is required to try any dish. So everyone, regardless of their World View is allowed to participate and present their best in the public sphere but no one is required to subscribe to that view or participate in whatever activity that view engenders. This has been helpful for me but means we all need to champion access to the public sphere for all views, not just our own.
In summary, I had some points of disagreement with the authors, but I appreciated their data-driven approach to the subject. Their description of Principled Pluralism as a common ground in the public sphere was most helpful. I very much recommend this book to others.
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