Cawley, Luke. The Myth of the Non-Christian: Engaging Atheists, Nominal Christians and the Spiritual But Not Religious. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2016.
I was thrilled when InterVarsity Press sent me a review copy of Luke Cawley's book, The Myth of the Non-Christian: Engaging Atheists, Nominal Christians and the Spiritual But Not Religious. The title alone is intriguing. And I was fairly pleased with the arguments and resources with the pages of this work.
Crawley, the director and co-founder of Chrysolis, is a contextual apologists who seem to desire a shift in the conversation of present-day apologetics. He argues that, "learning to engage with the three groups of this book will aid you in your conversations and interactions with a significant percentage of people around you" (25). In addition, his aim is that his readers will "learn to be contextual apologists" (25). The three groups--which Crawley argues are the three largest groups of US people who are not followers of Jesus--are atheists, nominal Christians (that is, those who are part of the social structure of the Christian faith but not actually believers), and the spiritual by non-religious.
Many of his points in the beginning chapters are made through stories and examples. On the upside, this helps bring life to his argument and keeps the book interesting. The down side however, is that the stories require a lot of assumptions that Crawley depends upon. Not every college campus is the same. Different areas get into spiritual conversations more freely than others. Some cultures in the US (like Utah) are highly influenced by non-Christian belief structures that will influence all of these groups differently than the examples offered. But the stories are still helpful and keep the book engaging.
The second half of the book is more like a resource book. It deals with the major questions and objections to Christianity and how to engage in each of these three areas. This is where the book holds its value. These chapters become much less story driven and for more instructional. They are though provoking and provide some helpful framework in which the reader can contextualize his or her own apologetic. For these chapters alone, anyone seeking to engage the lost in these groups should probably read this book.
Unfortunately, Crawley spend a lot of time arguing against calling the people in this group non-Christians. He contends that nobody calls themselves a non-Christian so we should not use the term. This is non-sense. People don't call themselves "lost" or "lost sheep" either, but Jesus doesn't hesitate to call them that when he said he came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Of course calling someone a non-Christian might be identifying them differently then they self-identify, but it's not an untrue statement, nor is it going to be offensive (unless the person believes he or she is a Christian). And at the same time, it will also help draw important distinctions that may need to be drawn. For example, members of the LDS faith (Mormons) deeply desire that I call them Christians, but by identifying them as non-Christians, important biblical distinctions can be made. It's not bad to refer to people who are not Christian as a non-Christian, although this is a minor point and not very relevant to the rest of Crawley's book.
Apart from my minor issues, I found this book both thought provoking and helpful. I do recommend this book to anyone who desires to engage lost people with the gospel (which should be every Christian). I have no material connection to this book, but I'll still encourage you to purchase it here.
* Looking for a good book to read, check out this list.