Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

Faith for This Moment ~ A Book Review

The great struggle of the Christian life is the internal conflict between being in the world, but not of the world. The polarizing existence of our society makes that conflict even much greater as Christians find biblical beliefs at odds with the secular ones being inculcated into our society. Rick McKinley of Portland, OR understands this great conflict and recognizes that he is not alone. The result is the recent release of Faith for This Moment, a book devoted to guiding Christians through this very difficult subject.
McKinley desires that his book be one that provides a “framework for understanding the moment in which we are living and to help us see within that moment the possibilities God has for us.” The book is constructed on the idea of exile; noting the theme of exile throughout Scripture he utilizes that as a symbol of the Christian life. Therefore, he spends the first portion of the book both explaining the concept of exile and defending his use of it. He indicates that like so many throughout Scripture (from the Israelites to Christ himself) Christians of today exist as exiles in a foreign land with the propensity to be both impacted and influenced by the culture around us. He finishes off the final six chapters of the book outlining five practices that should define the Christian life in light of this exile, including obedience, hospitality, generosity, Sabbath, and vocation. He indicates that these five practices are important because of their threefold power, which is to transform us, preserve our identity in a secular culture, and the power to be a blessing and witness to those around us.
The author’s emphasis on making an impact for Christ by setting ourselves apart from the world is to be appreciated. He recognizes the need to be available to unbelievers in a way that only Christians can: by loving them with Christlike love through action. His writing conveys a certain quality of heart that seeks to see people drawn into a deeper relationship with Christ.
Yet, despite this heart attitude and his repeated use of the phrase ‘biblical’ I am left questioning if McKinley is really sticking to Scripture or not. Among those concerns and questions, the following six are the most concerning aspects in which he seems to misconstrue concepts:
  • Misconstrues Faith: Early on in the book, he shares of a Muslim man who practiced his faith in the way he dressed in public. In doing so, he immediately he equates this man’s public life with his private life without knowing him. As a result, he misses the connection of the heart and seems to define faith in Christ only by our appearance to others.
  • Misconstrues Christians: Perhaps the misunderstanding of faith comes from an incorrect diagnosis of Christianity. He seems to define Christianity by an outward behavior and not an inward commitment, and thus defines a Christian as anyone who simply says Christ exists without actually following Christ.
  • Misconstrues Exile: The author gives a partial definition of exile as a period when the “promises of the past and the shape of the future had to be evaluated in terms of a new experience without the traditional self-validating structures, such as the monarch and the state . . .” As a result of this, he indicates that exile is essentially a loss of identity. I hate to be too critical as this is only a partial definition, but while emphasizing human ability to distort and disrupt our ability to live it out it seems to miss the point that God’s rescue is that identity the defines us and we are capable/commanded to continue in it in spite of our circumstances.
  • Misconstrues the Promises to Israel: As many people do, he has adopted the promises devoted to Israel for himself and the church of today (consistent with others, the most notable example is Jeremiah 29:11). I am compelled to bring this up only because I noted it in another review several weeks ago, for the sake of consistency, am sharing the same concern here.
  • Misconstrues Church History: As McKinley shares about the Roman Empire, he indicates that because they were a ‘Christian’ nation, missions was not a center of the church because it was connected to their military conquests. I am inclined to dispute this, but admittedly, I need to do more research. However, the claim is bold enough, that citation of sources or an explanation of how he reached that conclusion is necessary here.
  • Misconstrues Conversion: Finally, the author appears to misconstrue conversion.  First off, he relies heavily upon the concept of repentance but proclaims that it means to turn around because there is something better, something new. He seems to cheapen repentance by transforming it into a way to glorify ourselves through supposed humility without acknowledging the offense is against God. Further complicating his issue of conversion is not only what it means to repent, but also conversion itself. He writes in one example that a group of believers discovered the need ’to be continually converted by the Spirit of God.’ Perhaps he means we need ongoing conviction so that we can continually be transformed into Christ’s image, but that’s not the words he writes. He says that we need to be continually converted as though one’s first commitment to Christ is not sufficient for salvation.
Apart from these areas, there are several other areas of concern, but these represent much of what is found throughout the book.
Reading Faith for This Moment left me with a works-oriented view of God’s grace and my response to him (although the author never directly advocates this view). His point of needing to be believers of action who love others is well-taken, but he never stipulates how far he would take that. The indication of the book is action is more important than our faith, and therefore it would seem that compromise for the sake of ‘loving’ others would be OK. Again, this is another view he does not directly advocate, but his emphasis almost suggests it, and so perhaps clarification would be well-utilized in this particular case.
A book like this is needed because Christians are struggling how to live out their faith in a continually hostile world, but this isn’t the book for Christians to read on that subject. There are too many concerns that many readers may fail to distinguish when reading it through. Therefore, Faith for This Moment is not a book that I would recommend.

To learn more about this book or purchase a copy, click here. For an alternative, I would recommend Dr. Albert Mohler’s book Culture Shift as a starting point on this subject, which you can purchase here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost to me for the purposes of review. However, my review was not influenced in any way by the author, publisher, or any other person associated with this book and it is the direct result of my reading of it.

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